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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Chavez Continues Anti-American Outbursts; U.S. Military Stretched to Breaking Point

Aired September 21, 2006 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: Tonight, outrage after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez delivers a new outburst against the United States and President Bush. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, among out guests here.
Our military, stretched to the breaking point, fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a global war on terror. We'll have a special report on U.S. military readiness.

And Congress rushing to pass tough new border security legislation, including a 700-mile fence with our 2,000 mile long border with Mexico. It turns out it could be years before that new fence is built along our border, if at all. We'll have that special report and a great deal more ahead right here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Thursday September 21. Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill tonight are furious about the increasingly bizarre and outrageous behavior of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during his visit to New York. One day after calling President Bush, "the Devil", Chavez today said the president is a sick man.

House Minority Leader Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi says Chavez is simply a thug.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad is also here in New York City blasting U.S. policy around the world, and even questioning evidence about the existence of the Holocaust. Today, Ahmadinejad insisted his country does not want nuclear weapons and he said he loves everyone, including Jews.

Christine Romans is here tonight on his latest verbal assault on President Bush and the United States. Aneesh Raman reports on the Iranian president's determination to ignore global criticism of his nuclear weapons program and deadlines to end it. Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon on our military's increasingly difficult struggle to maintain troop levels and readiness in Iraq and Afghanistan. We turn first to Christine Romans.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Chavez playing to, frankly, and adoring crowd in Harlem today for more than two hours, unrepentant and still slamming President Bush.


ROMANS (voice over): Thundering applause in Harlem, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez throwing kisses to the crowd, to cheers of this town loves you. A classic performance from Venezuelan's president, part socialist revolution, part Hugo Chavez book club. A day after famously calling President Bush, El Diablo, still hurling insults.

HUGO CHAVEZ, PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA (through translator): He is a sick man full of complexes, very dangerous because he now has a lot of power.

ROMANS: He called Bush a cowboy and an ex-alcoholic. Overshadowing an event meant to show solidarity with America's poor. He's expanding his discounting heating oil program giving 100 million gallons of oil to 459,000 American families. Earning cheers and applause from the 500-plus at a historic church in Harlem.

A crowd that included anti-war protesters, neighborhood school children, Native American tribes, and actor Danny Glover, who called Chavez a visionary.

Chavez, slamming capitalism and the U.S. embargo on Cuba, while pledging support for Iran's nuclear program and Bolivia's coca production. And speaking, he said, directly to the American people.

CHAVEZ (through translator): We are not the enemy of the United States. This is a lie. We are friends of the American people and you here are representing these people. We want to work together with you and cooperate.

ROMANS: He said Native American tribes and American blacks are the true owners of American land. The survivors of a European massacre 500 years ago. A genocide, he said no one wants to talk about.

Not everyone was so enthusiastic about Chavez's theatrics. And Harlem's Congressman Charlie Rangel, said he appreciates the discounted oil, but not the vitriol.


ROMANS: Chavez, invoking everyone from Simon Bolivar, to Jesus Christ to Mark Twain, and Abraham Lincoln -- and God. Lou, he says yesterday, after he called Bush the Devil at the U.N., he is not afraid, as some of his associates have said, about being killed. He says, he has God on his side.

DOBBS: He certainly has the United States on his side. It's a great country to permit that kind of talk from any -- any person, within our borders. God bless America. Thank you very much, Christine Romans.

DOBBS: Tonight, we want to show the face of class. Congressman Charlie Rangel has no illusions about President Chavez or his expressions. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES RANGEL (D-NY): You don't come into my country, you don't come into my congressional district, and you don't condemn my president.


DOBBS: House Minority Leader Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi also blasted Chavez. She said Chavez has demeaned himself and demeaned Venezuela.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) MINORITY LEADER: Hugo Chavez fancies himself a modern-day Simon Bolivar. But all he is, is an everyday thug.


DOBBS: The Bush White House is trying to ignore Chavez and his remarks. One reason for the administration's silence may be the fact that Venezuela is one of the country's largest oil suppliers. Venezuela is the fourth largest source of our crude oil imports, after Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

And CITGO is 100 percent owned by the Venezuelan government, is one of the country's largest gasoline producers and marketers.

Another strong critic of this country is President Ahmadinejad of Iran. He's also this New York City. He is also blasting the United States. President Ahmadinejad today declared he loves everyone in the world, including Jews. Even though he has called for the destruction of Israel. The Iranian president also denied he has any intention of building nuclear weapons. Aneesh Raman reports.


ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT (voice over): Whatever you think of Iran's president, this week you simply could not ignore him. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was everywhere, gracing the cover of "Time" magazine, delivering a prime time address at the United Nations General Assembly.

And for a man who rarely gives interviews to Western journalist, a sit down with NBC, a day later, with CNN. And if by today you'd thought he was done, there was more, a press conference at the United Nations filled with words of compassion, for a people whose country he has called to be wiped off the map.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): I'm not anti-Jew. Jews are respected by everyone like all human beings. And I respect them very much.

RAMAN: It was all an aggressive attempt by Ahmadinejad to challenge the U.S. definition of Iran as a state sponsor of terror and to challenge the image of its president as a man intent on gaining a nuclear weapon. Something all week he denied. So did it work? His closest audience was, of course, New Yorkers. And while they got the message, they weren't dropping their guard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a fascinating thing in this world of PR, how he presents himself, as just this normal guy, the son of a blacksmith, I believe, and a family man. I just hope it's not a ticking time bomb, what he's got going on behind closed doors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very passive regarding the U.N. General Assembly meeting, but when he started speaking about the Jews, I felt very strongly that this is something that should not be tolerated.

RAMAN: A point of view that echoed at this pro-Israel rally this week. Thousands pouring out to condemn the past statements of Ahmadinejad, that Israel be wiped off the map, that the Holocaust was a myth. Hundreds of Iranian Americans, too, came out to demand Ahmadinejad step aside.


RAMAN: And, Lou, the media blitz wasn't supposed to be over yet. Columbia University, here in New York, had invited the Iranian president to speak there tomorrow. That had already sparked protests. That now that event has been canceled both sides say due to logistical reasons -- Lou.

DOBBS: Logistical reasons. All right. Aneesh, thank you. Aneesh Raman, reporting from the United Nations.

New concerns tonight that the U.S. military does not have enough troops to fight wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the global war on terror. The Pentagon says it cannot reduce the number of troops in either Iraq or Afghanistan until next year, at the earliest. The rising strain on our Army and the Marine Corps could possibly cause lasting damage to our military and vulnerability for this nation. Barbara Starr reports from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT (voice over): New fears that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may stretch the force more than anybody expected. In Iraq, the military now plans to keep about 145,000 U.S. troops in place until spring, at least.

GEN. PETER PACE, CHMN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We're not comfortable right now with the reduction in the size of our force.

STARR: In Afghanistan, there are now no plans to bring home any of the 20,000 U.S. troops in the foreseeable future. With simultaneous wars, and no immediate prospect of cutting force levels, how long can the military keep it up?

THOMAS DONNELLY, CTR. FOR STRATEGIC & INT'L. STUDIES: These guys are running as hard on the conveyer belt simply to keep up with the pace of operations.

STARR: The Pentagon had hoped to bring 30,000 troops home from Iraq by the end of the year. On Capitol Hill, concern about the new reality.

REP. DIANE WATSON, (D) CALIFORNIA: We need to be sure that we have a game plan for Afghanistan, as we need an end-game plan for Iraq. Our military needs further support.

STARR: The key problem? Army active duty and National Guard forces already are being sent back to the combat zone, sometimes within months of coming home. The solution? Either increase the size of the Army or call up the National Guard more often, or send troops back to the front line with even less time at home to rest and train for the next round of combat.

But even if more troops are sent, usable equipment is in short supply, thousands of vehicles and weapons are worn out. The Army and National Guard say they urgently need $38 billion to fix or replace vehicles, weapons and gear. The Marine Corps says it needs $12 billion.

GEN. PETER SCHOOMAKER, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: A lot of pressure that are placed upon (INAUDIBLE) equipment and on the force (ph).


STARR: Lou, senior military officials tell CNN that they expect to see a major announcement ordering a fresh round of troops to the war zone sometime in the next several weeks, but not likely until after the November elections, Lou.

DOBBS: Barbara, thank you very much. Barbara Starr reporting from the Pentagon tonight.

In Iraq, insurgents have killed two more of our soldiers. One soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad yesterday, another soldier killed in Al Anbar Province; 49 troops killed in Iraq so far this month. And 2,692 troops have been killed since the beginning of the war.

Straight ahead, lawmakers demand a new fence along our southern border. But will it ever be built? We'll have that special report and answer that very important question. A governor reverses course on e- voting amid rising concerns about threat to our democracy from paperless voting.

And the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton joins us here to talk about the sudden new resurgence of relevance at the United Nations, thanks to the Bush administration. That and a great deal more, straight ahead. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The House of Representatives tonight is once again demonstrating its commitment to tough border security with the unanimous passage of a bill outlawing border tunnels. And Boeing today won a multi-billion dollar contract to build a so-called virtual fence on both our northern and southern borders. Lisa Sylvester, tonight, reports on Washington's continued insistence on using untested virtual fence technology. Casey Wian reports on today's action in Congress to outlaw border tunnels. We begin with Lisa Sylvester in Washington -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: Lou, it's a $2.5 billion-program called the Secure Border Initiative. That is designed to use cameras and computers to stop illegal immigration. But critics say it's full of holes.


SYLVESTER (voice over): Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the latest strategy to secure U.S. borders.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, SECRETARY, HOMELAND SECURITY: This is about a solution, which we believe is going to do the job.

SYLVESTER: The new virtual fence relies on sensors and cameras. But the U.S. government has actually been down this road before. In the 1990s, a similar program called the Integrated Surveillance Initiative, that was replaced with the American Shield Initiative. This one's called the Secure Border Initiative.

CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: It's all the same thing, namely more border patrol agents, and more technologies, sensors, cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles. That's the right approach. The problem is time, after time, money has been wasted because the contract has been mismanaged. And I, frankly, am skeptical that this time around the Department of Homeland Security will do it right.

SYLVESTER: A DHS inspector general report in December found about half of the 500 cameras were never installed; 60% of the sensor alerts were never investigated. Of those that were, only 1 percent led to arrests.

Senator Jeff Sessions wants a real fence. Congress overwhelmingly voted in favor of constructing a fence four times in the last four months, but still has not pushed through legislation for the president to sign.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, (R) ALABAMA: I think there's a concentrated effort by a group of people in this Congress to give the appearance of voting for barriers at the border, while at the same time undermining the reality of that situation.

SYLVESTER: There are concerns that even with the new fencing law, it could be years before groundbreaking because of insufficient funding and environmental concerns.

JACK MARTIN, FED. FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: The environmental concern is basically a point of leverage to try to keep a wall or a fence from ever even being built. SYLVESTER: For now the United States is left with a virtual fence that some say is an invisible fence.


SYLVESTER: The Senate approved nearly $2 billion to construct a new fence. But according to Senator Jeff Sessions congressional negotiators are already talking of cutting that figure, and moving the money to other DHS projects. So the U.S. Congress could end up passing a fence bill with absolutely no funding -- Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa, a devastating report on this situation. Half of the cameras never installed, 60 percent of the alerts never responded to, and all of those resulting in one prosecution.

SYLVESTER: One percent of all -- of those that were investigated led to arrests. That's exactly the point. They go through this whole thing. that's why many people feel this is a big Kabuki dance. They have this press conference, they announce this, but then absolutely no results come from this, Lou.

DOBBS: The failure of this administration and this Congress, particularly in the Senate, to enforce our security at the borders and the ports is just -- it's shameful beyond belief. And why the august body at the U.S. Senate does not listen to men like Senator Jeff Sessions, who speaks straight and thinks correctly, is beyond me.

Lisa, thank you very much for that excellent report. Lisa Sylvester reporting from Washington.

That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight. Which do you think would better secure or borders? A fence, or a virtual fence? Cast your vote at We'll have the results here later.

Congressman James Sensenbrenner, the author of the tough border security legislation that passed the House last year, is hailing an important new report on illegal immigration. The Law Library of Congress says strong enforcement of illegal immigration laws can cut illegal immigration. How about that?!

Congressman Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says, quote, "This study refutes the canard promoted by the illegal immigrant lobby here that the legislation's efforts to prevent illegal immigration and control the border, cannot work."

As this nation's leaders continue to talk about heightened border security, the number of clandestine border tunnels being discovered is rising. The latest border tunnel was discovered on the U.S./Mexican border just Monday. Congress today took important action, quick action to crack down on the construction of these tunnels which, to this point, had not been against the law. Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: More than three dozen tunnels have been discovered under the U.S./Mexico border since 9/11. Another was found underneath the Canadian border. The often elaborate tunnels are sometimes used to smuggle illegal aliens in the United States. But mostly drugs and other high value targets.

REP. MARK SOUDER, (R) INDIANA: A high value target is in the eyes of the person willing to pay. Yes, cocaine, heroin and the general things move through. But a high value target can also be a terrorist; a high value target can also be someone who's dealing with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

WIAN: But criminal penalties against those who build tunnels are weak and ineffective. So the House has voted to close those loopholes. The bill makes border construction tunnel a crime punishable by 20 years in prison, it also doubles the sentence for whatever illegal activity the tunnel facilitates. And allows authorities to seize assets.

Though the bill has bipartisan support, some Democrats continue to complain about the Republican strategy of refusing to include amnesty for illegal aliens in border security legislation.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, (D) MISSISSIPPI: We need a comprehensive border, security and immigration plan, not a piecemeal plan.

REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, (R) CHRM., JUDICIARY CMTE.: We hear complaints all the time about the fact the Republicans aren't acting. We're acting today. We acted in December. We acted last week on the fence. We see the Democrat actions, all they do is say, no, no, no, no.

WIAN: One leading Democrat even took the time to read "The New York Times" on the House floor. He speculated that border security bills are responsible for Congress' low approval ratings.

REP. JOHN CONYERS,( D) MICHIGAN: So, I don't know if we're doing what the people really want.

REP. J.D. HAYWORTH, (R) ARIZONA: My good friend, John, has it exactly bass akward, to use a Southwestern expression. The reason the congressional ratings have dropped is because our friends in the Senate move forward with this so-called comprehensive bill.

WIAN: Two bills already passed by the Senate include new penalties for border tunnel construction.


WIAN: Despite the complaining from some Democrats the border tunnel bill passed the House 422 to 0. There should be nothing standing in the way of, at least, this bill becoming law, Lou.

DOBBS: Congressman Thompson and Congressman Conyers apparently reconsidering their perspective. Perhaps even moving as some other of our elitist political leaders are doing to some attempt to align themselves with the American people on this issue.

Casey, thanks a lot. Casey Wian reporting from Los Angeles. Still ahead here, the White House claims victory after today's compromised deal on the treatment of terror suspects. We'll have the latest for you.

The presidents of Iran and Venezuela, at it again today. Once again slammed the United States and President Bush. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton will be here to put it all in perspective.

And the governor of Maryland is concerned about unreliable electronic voting machines he's demanding drastic last-minute action before Election Day. We'll tell you all about it and a great deal more, straight ahead.


DOBBS: Democracy at risk, and new developments tonight in electronic voting machines in Maryland. The recent primaries were such a debacle and disaster that the governor is now arguing that the state should altogether scrap the entire electronic voting system and return immediately to paper ballots. Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT (voice over): $106 million for electronic voting machines in Maryland and the governor is basically calling them worthless. He wants the state to revert to a paper ballot system for the in November elections. But the election administrators says that is crazy. They fought publicly about it.

LINDA LAMONE, MARYLAND STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS: Whatever has happened in the past right now is irrelevant. We need to move forward.

GOV. BOB EHRLICH, (R) MARYLAND: Well, it's not irrelevant in the sense -- that's not pointing fingers -- this is why not have just a paper system, the old system, ready for backup.

LAMONE: You're assuming that the voting system is not going to work, that has never proven to be the case.

PILGRIM: Maryland is fully electronic with no paper trail. And the Maryland primaries last week were a litany of what can go wrong with electronic machines. Machines malfunctioned, election workers were flummoxed by breakdowns and missing access cards. New problems are found every day.

Just yesterday, they learned about votes that have not been counted in Prince Gorges County. One week after the primary, they still had to crack open the machines to retrieve the vote records. Many voter groups say a paper ballot is the only way to make sure of a secure election.

AVI RUBIN, AUTHOR, "BRAVE NEW BALLOT": All the disadvantages of fully electronic systems, namely potential for widespread rigging in an undetectable way, don't exist in the paper counterparts. PILGRIM: Maryland wouldn't be the first state to revert to all paper ballots. This year, Governor Bill Richardson pushed for and signed a law that changed New Mexico's patchwork of voting systems into an all-paper ballot system, saying he wanted to restore confidence in the elections.


PILGRIM: The election administrator says she wants to analyze the problem and force Diebold to fix the system. But the governor says, no, he wants to call a special session at the Maryland General Assembly to change the law and call for paper ballots, Lou.

DOBBS: So the governor is still in charge of that state, not the election supervisor?

PILGRIM: Let's hope so.

DOBBS: Kitty, thank you very much. Kitty Pilgrim.

Time now for some of your thoughts.

Diane in Pennsylvania is concerned about the reliability of e- voting. "On the November elections and the new electronic voting machines I'm choosing to vote by absentee ballot, that way there will be a paper ballot of my vote."

Tony in New York: "It makes no sense to have machines with no paper trial. It makes even less sense why Congress hasn't fixed this problem."

Pat in Chicago reacting to opposition for photo identification requirements in order to vote. "Lou, it is amazing. A photo ID is required to get on an aircraft, to buy a drink, rent a car, etc cetera, but the Democrats don't think a photo ID should be required when we perform the most important, patriotic and civic duty of our citizenship, i.e., voting in an election."

Send us your thoughts to We'll have more of your thoughts here later.

Next up, the White House and Republican senators reach a deal on the treatment of terror suspects.

Also tonight, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton joins us here to discuss the rising outrage in this country over Hugo Chavez, Ahmadinejad of Iran and the United Nations itself.

Wal-Mart sending shock waves through the drugstore market. We'll tell you why. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Wal-Mart today announced an aggressive new effort to cut its prices on generic prescription medications. Beginning tomorrow, Wal-Mart will slash prices on nearly 300 generic drugs in its Florida stores. The price of some medications will be cut in half to as low as $4 a prescription. Wal-Mart says it hopes to expand the program to as many states as possible next year.

Also tonight, House and Senate Republican leaders tentatively agreeing to a plan that would allow Americans to bring cheap prescription drugs back from Canada. The Associated Press reporting this deal would allow American to carry up to a 90-day supply of medication back into the United States without having it confiscated by customs. The deal would not allow Americans to continue to purchase cheap prescription drugs from Canada over the Internet.

Health officials tonight say they may be close to finding the source of E. coli contaminated spinach. Officials are now focusing their investigation on nine California farms, narrowing their investigation after finding what they called the smoking gun, in this case, a bag of contaminated spinach found in the home of a consumer.

Officials continue to warn all consumers in this country not to buy or eat any fresh spinach until this investigation is completed. One person has died. More than 100 people have been sickened by this outbreak in 22 states.

In Orange County, California tonight police are searching for suspects after a massive marijuana bust. Officials confiscated as many as 20,000 marijuana plants near an exclusive gated community in Mission Viejo. Street value, more than $12 million. Officials say this is a large-scale operation, possibly the work of a drug cartel.

As this broadcast reported last week, there is rising concern that Mexican drug dealers and rings are establishing marijuana growing operations throughout California, hundreds of miles, of course, from the U.S.-Mexican border.

NASA tonight says the just-completed mission of the Space Shuttle Atlantis was a complete success. Atlantis touched down early this morning at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission was extended an extra day on concerns that pieces of the shuttle might have broke off and damaged the spacecraft. Today's landing was absolutely perfect. NASA's next shuttle mission and launch will be Discovery. It's set for mid-December.

An Episcopal church in California tonight announced it will defy the Internal Revenue Service and it's ongoing battle over its tax exempt status. Pasadena's All Saints church says it will not turn over documents demanded by the IRS.

As this broadcast reported earlier this week, the IRS is investigating an anti-Iraq war sermon at the church in 2004 on the even of the U.S. presidential election. The IRS says churches cannot retain their tax exempt status if they deliver political sermons from the pulpit. The church says the IRS is violating its free speech rights. The church says it's read to fight the case in court.

There's new evidence tonight that illegal aliens are taking jobs from American citizens. A new study conducted by Northeastern University says an increase in illegal alien workers in a state leads to rising unemployment for young, native-born workers. And the Bush administration tonight continues to argue that illegal aliens are working in jobs that Americans won't or aren't doing.

The Bush administration and Republican rebels in the Senate tonight reached a deal on the treatment of foreign terror suspects. One of the key issues, whether or not CIA officers could use tough methods or torture, if you will, to interrogate suspected terrorists in U.S. custody.

Andrea Koppel has the report from Capitol Hill -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, after three days of intense behind closed doors negotiations between three renegade Republican senators and the White House, they have both announced -- both sides have announced that they have reached an acceptable compromise.

Among the issues that have been one of the top sticking points for the administration was the fact that the -- what is known as Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits among other things outrages upon personal dignity, they said that was just too vague. They wanted the Senate and the House to clarify this so that interrogators out in the fields would not worry about being prosecuted for war crimes.

Now, in order to do that, what the senators say they have done is rewrite U.S. law in a way that doesn't violate U.S. obligations under the Geneva Conventions. Senator John McCain, one of those leading this opposition to the White House, declared himself satisfied.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The agreement that we've entered into gives the president the tools that he needs to continue to fight the war on terror and bring these evil people to justice. I also believe that it's consistent with the standards under the Detainee Treatment Act and there's no doubt that the integrity and letter and spirit of the Geneva Conventions have been preserved.


KOPPEL: The other sticking point had to do with whether or not classified intelligence might be provided to detainees if it's provided to the jury. The White House was adamant that classified information not be provided, according to the compromise.

The only instances in which a summary of classified information would be provided, so as long as sources and methods aren't revealed, is if, according to Senator Lindsey Graham, a defendant faces either a long prison sentence or faces death.

Now, Lou, this is -- we are far from out of the woods at this stage. It still has to go through the Senate and it faces a tough battle in the House where the House Armed Services chairman, Duncan Hunter, made very clear tonight that he is not signing off right now on the classified intelligence part of the deal that these Republican senators have struck with the White House -- Lou.

DOBBS: Andrea, thank you. Andrea Koppel reporting from Capitol Hill.

President Bush said the agreement preserved the CIA's ability to question the most dangerous terror suspects. President Bush also said his administration will now be able to create military commissions or tribunals to try terrorist suspects.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The agreement clears the way to do what the American people expect us to do: to capture terrorists, to detain terrorists, to question terrorists, and then to try them. I hope the Congress will send me legislation before it wraps up their business next week.


DOBBS: The president clearly asking Congress to send him the legislation before adjourning for the midterm elections.

New poll numbers out today show President Bush's popularity rising. Congressional Republicans are also seeing a slight lift with the general election now less than seven weeks away.

Bill Schneider has the latest numbers for us. Bill, first, why are we seeing a bounce for the president here? What's changed?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the evidence actually is a little bit mixed on this. There are three polls taken since the president spoke to the nation on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. And two of them do show President Bush's numbers going up.

His approval rating is at 45 percent in a "Los Angeles Times"/Bloomberg poll. "USA Today"/Gallup poll has it at 44. Both of those numbers are about five points up. But the CBS News/"New York Times" poll you see there in the middle show 37 percent, which is really no change over the last month.

So the answer is maybe they've gone up a bit, maybe they haven't. But notice, in every one of these polls, a majority of Americans continues to disapprove of the president's job performance. He's still in a politically weak position leading the Republican Party into the midterm election. He'd have to be over 50 percent approval to really help his party.

DOBBS: Bill, the president obviously not on the ballot but members of Congress certainly are. What are the polls saying there?

SCHNEIDER: Not very good, Lou. The polls on Congress are actually quite dismal. In the "New York Times"/CBS News poll, only 25 percent of Americans say they approve of the job Congress is doing. Look at that. Sixty-one percent disapprove.

It's even lower when people are asked whether they think most members of Congress deserve to be reelected. That's 12 percent, one in eight. Now, here, remember this. People don't vote for most members of Congress. They vote for their own representative. And when they do, typically they say, throw the bums out, except for my guy. He's pretty good.

Well, in this case, that same poll shows that only 42 percent of Americans, fewer than half, say their own representative -- that's up at the top there. Forty-two percent say their own representative deserves to be reelected. Slightly more, 47 percent, say give someone else a chance. When voters are ready to turn against their own representative in Congress, you know that Congress is in a lot of trouble.

DOBBS: They're in a lot of trouble. Who's got the best prospect here, the Democrats or the Republicans at this stage?

SCHNEIDER: Well, all we can say is national conditions favor the Democrats and continue to even in those polls that show Mr. Bush getting a little bit of a bounce. They all show Democrats somewhere around eight or 10 points ahead of Republicans when voters nationwide are asked who would you rather see control Congress. That's not a prediction, because there are a lot of local factors.

If it's a national election, the Democrats win. So what the Republicans are saying is we're going to turn it into 435 separate local contests and make every contest about the local representative and the local issue, not national issues.

DOBBS: Bill Schneider, as always, thank you.


DOBBS: Coming up next, he's one of the only voices of reason at the United Nations. U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, joins us here.

The latest development in the case of the black students told to ride in the back of a school bus by a driver in Louisiana. We'll have that story and a great deal more. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made a mockery of civilized discourse this week during their respective speeches at the United Nations. But there were no disappointed expectations. Both men remained in New York City today, took continued delight in criticizing this nation's leadership. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, who I suppose, Ambassador, was in some way hosting these gentleman. You have had quite a week.

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I wouldn't say we were hosting them although we are the host country. Well, one of the things that these kinds of remarks show is exactly what the attitude is we face around the world and at the United Nations. And I want to say, some of these things are not new. These are not problems that have developed in the past few years. This is the surfacing of problems that have existed before, but have not been articulated quite this way.

DOBBS: Specifically which?

BOLTON: Well, I think the anti-Americanism of Hugo Chavez and the personal attacks on President Bush are just not serious. I mean it's undignified for a world leader to act like that. I know many Americans are very frustrated. We've gotten a lot of calls. But, you know, we have to rise above this and try and treat the issues on their merits, not get engaged in a debate with Mr. Chavez.

DOBBS: Well, Mr. Chavez getting, as Christine Romans reported here, I mean there was a leftist love-in in Harlem today. Cornell West is there, Danny Glover. All sorts of groups brought in thanks to the Venezuelan government from around the country to hold hands. What's your reaction to that?

BOLTON: Well, you know, Chavez is seriously trying to interfere in the affairs of a number of Latin American countries. This, what he's doing up here is kind of peanuts compared to some of his activities elsewhere. That's why his alliance with Fidel Castro, fueled by oil revenues in Venezuela's case, is something we need to take seriously.

DOBBS: And take seriously, Ahmadinejad, you obviously are taking seriously and Iran. He says he loves all people, the man who said he wanted to wipe Israel off the face of the map, denied the Holocaust ever occurred, today declaring that loves everyone today, including Jews.

BOLTON: Yes, it's a charm offensive, Ahmadinejad style, but the fact remains, they have still declined to suspend all of their uranium enrichment activities in defiance of a Security Council Resolution.

DOBBS: You're doing what about that? Are we going to see more extensions, more talk? This multi-lateralism doesn't seem to be working out particularly well right now.

BOLTON: Well, I think what the president's doing is showing, not only have we gone the extra mile by allowing the Europeans more time to negotiate, we've gone an extra several miles. But it underlines that we are determined to try and resolve this peacefully. The time for sanctions will come unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment.

DOBBS: Even though Russia rejects any sanctions, China as well?

BOLTON: I think the rubber will meet the road on that when we put the text of a resolution down. There's a lot of rhetoric beforehand.

DOBBS: "Time Magazine" has Ahmadinejad on its cover and also an article, "What War With Iran Would Look Like." I believe that's the title of the article or close enough. Are we headed for war with Iran? BOLTON: Well, I hate to say this, being here in this building, but I haven't read that issue of "Time" yet. I would say this, we are not looking to use military force. What we're looking to do is isolate Iran, put economic and political pressure on it if it declines to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. That's the objective.

DOBBS: And ambassador I've got to ask you, your boss, the president of the United States questioning the relevancy for some years now of the United Nations, bestowing great relevant on the Augusta Institution, this is an embrace, conversion of both philosophy and attitude on the part of the Bush administration. What happened?

BOLTON: Well I think in his speech to the General Assembly what he wanted to do was use that forum, which is an important forum, many people watch very carefully what he says, to speak directly to the people of countries like Iran, Syria and Sudan. Going over the heads of their leaders to promote the benefits of liberty and democracy.

DOBBS: Much as Hugo Chavez and Ahmadinejad were doing while in New York?

BOLTON: Well, you know, in the case of Ahmadinejad and Chavez, they could also go over to Central Park, a few blocks away, and exercise their free speech there. It's too bad they don't let their own people have free speech.

DOBBS: Let me ask you ambassador, the idea that we have from Iran, from Venezuela, there is one influence on the part of the United Nations that I've always found particularly troublesome and it seems that each administration, Democrat or Republican, has trouble with it. And that's proportionality.

A nation the size of Iran, Venezuela, Israel, all seemingly the same size, with the same population, the same strategic prominence, at least in the national media and seemingly in the policies of each administration. How can we avoid a lack of proportionality and the onset of some perspective?

BOLTON: Well, you know, I think the biggest issue at the United Nations, in terms of influence by the United States, putting our point of view across, is the disjunction between contributions and voting power. We're one of 192 countries in the General Assembly. We pay 22 percent of the assessed budget. The lowest 97 contributors to the U.N., a majority, contribute less than 0.03 percent. We contribute 22 percent.

DOBBS: Ambassador John Bolton, good to have you here as your interesting week winds down.

BOLTON: Indeed. Glad to be here

DOBBS: One man is profiting from the rants of Venezuelan president Chavez at the United Nations. Since President Chavez held up Noam Chomsky's "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance," are you ready, he recommended it. Said it's absolute must reading. Thousands of people taking him apparently very seriously about the recommendation. The Chavez book club is working. The book languished at number 167,772 at sales rankings until President Chavez spoke. The book is now in the top ten at both and Barnes and Noble. Publisher of Metropolitan Books has ordered an additional printing of 25,000 copies. President Chavez at a press conference said one of his greatest regrets was he did not have a chance to meet Chomsky before his death.

We are happy to report to you tonight Chavez was exaggerating his demise. Noam Chomsky is very much alive and very much active in his both literary and political efforts.

A reminder now to vote in our poll. Which do you think would better secure our border, a fence or, as the Bush administration would have it, a virtual fence. Cast your vote at We'll have the results here in just a few moments. Still ahead, the latest developments in the case of bus driver who ordered black students to the back of the bus. We'll be talking about a community trying to heal.

And the Navy retires one of its most famous fighter aircraft after nearly four decades of service, the F-14. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour here on CNN, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Thanks very much, Lou. Pakistan's president is now saying the United States threatened to bomb his country back to the stone age if he didn't cooperate after 9/11. New information coming in. We have the story.

Plus, blasting President Bush again in a talk to a crowd of cheering supporters in Harlem, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez calls Mr. Bush a devil. Chavez gets blasted by key Democrats.

Also, Senator George Allen breaking his silence for the first time about a decade's old family secret. His emotional interview with me coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

And Bill Clinton talking to the White House -- taking the White House to task, that is, on Iraq. We'll find out why he now says the president made up his mind to go to war before 9/11. It's another CNN exclusive. All that, Lou, coming up in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

DOBBS: Looking forward to it, Wolf, thank you.

This broadcast has been reporting the case of a white school bus driver who forced nine black students to sit at the back of her bus. Residents of Couchatta, Louisiana remain outraged over their school board's refusal to this point to even apologize to those children and their parents. Tonight, the Justice Department continues its investigation into the matter. Bill Tucker reports from Couchatta, Louisiana. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Red River Parish is almost 60 percent white, but you would not have known that Saturday night as 200 people gathered at the Will of God Ministries to air their grievances. There were only eight white people in attendance at the meeting with the Justice Department representative.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My family will do anything to resolve this problem that we've got, but let's remember, it's not us, it's those children.

TUCKER: Not one school board member attended. The superintendent wasn't there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see any of the leaders, that this problem exists with, here. So how do you solve a problem when the people in authority to be held accountable is not here?

TUCKER: The mothers of the children were there, despite what one of them describe as an atmosphere of fear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I teach them truly, you ain't got nothing to be scared of. You go out, you play, and you do what you've been doing as normal.

TUCKER: It's necessary because people have been harassing her and her children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This battle was fought and won. And now we're back again. So that means that somewhere down the line, we became complacent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We weren't vigilant. We didn't go to the school board meetings, we didn't keep up with what was happening to other people's children in a school system. If you give people an inch, they will take a mile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As long as you fight for justice, you're going to have a fight on your hands. But keep fighting. We're only asking for justice.

TUCKER: At the conclusion of the meeting, the group voted to demand the firing of anyone involved in the bus incident, and they also want the school board to formally apologize to the students and pass an official condemnation of racism.

(on camera): Officials from the Justice Department made it clear that this meeting was not an end but merely a beginning. Further meetings will be scheduled at times and dates to be announced later.

Bill Tucker, CNN, Couchatta, Louisiana.


DOBBS: Still ahead here, we'll have more of your thoughts and the results of our poll tonight. Plus, the Navy retires the last of the Tomcats. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The Navy is retiring one of its most famous fighters, the F-14 Tomcat, after nearly four decades of service. The Tomcat served from the Vietnam War to the war on terror in a variety of missions -- air defense to ground attack. The Tomcat, easily identifiable by anyone who ever watched the movie "Top Gun." Only one other country, by the way, will have Tomcats in service -- Iran. The shah of Iran bought the aircraft back in the 1970s.

The results of our poll tonight: 88 percent of you say that a fence would better secure our border than a virtual fence.

And we've got time now to take a look at a few of your thoughts about our special report about illegal aliens working in a chicken plant in Stillmore, Georgia.

Kathy in Wisconsin wrote to say -- "Lou, Stillmore, Georgia should find a way to assess Crider Poultry, where illegal aliens were found working, for the $1 million in damages to that town's infrastructure caused by the stress of those illegal aliens crowding as many as 40 people into one residence. It's laughable that Crider Poultry needs instruction -- in this case by ICE -- on how to spot illegal documents used by illegal aliens. What idiot thinks they don't know what they were doing?"

And Jerry in Florida has an opinion about President Chavez's antics and his visit to New York, saying -- "We Americans are known for our generosity and welcoming attitudes toward guests to our country. So I think we should show our courtesy and offer Hugo Chavez a nice cup of shut the hell up."

We love hearing your thoughts. Send them to us at

And that's our broadcast for tonight. We thank you for watching. Please join us here tomorrow. For all of us, good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.