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Lou Dobbs Tonight

President Bush Reaches Out To Democratic Party; Rumsfeld Acknowledged He Is Disappointed At Progress of Iraq War; President Bush Met With Mexico's President-Elect Felipe Calderon; Ken Mehlman May Step Down; Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein Interview

Aired November 09, 2006 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the uncertainty is over. Democrats have won control of the U.S. Senate. Senator George Allen admitting defeat and conceding, giving Democrats their razor-thin majority in the Senate.
We'll have complete coverage tonight.

And Mexico's president-elect, Felipe Calderon, meets with President Bush at the White House. The government of Mexico determined to push its amnesty agenda in this country and to stop construction along any fence along our southern border.

That special report and a great deal more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Thursday, November 9th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

Democrats tonight control both houses of Congress for the first time in more than a decade. The Democratic leader in the Senate, Senator Harry Reid, said it's time for a change. Senator Reid declared that Democrats can work with the Republicans.

Earlier in the day, President Bush called for a new bipartisan tone in Washington. The president met with the two top Democrats at the White House, or at least those who will be. The president said the American people have made their decision and he respects the election results.

Dana Bash reports from Capitol Hill on the momentous shift in power in the nation's capital.

Suzanne Malveaux reports from the White House on the president's early efforts to reach out to the Democratic Party.

And Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon on the increasing likelihood of a major change in U.S. strategy in Iraq.

We turn first to Suzanne Malveaux at the White House -- Suzanne. SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, of course the question is, is just how long this honeymoon is going to last. Earlier today, we saw President Bush. He put in a call to Senator Harry Reid to congratulate him, also to tell him he's looking forward to having breakfast with him tomorrow here at the White House, along with Dick Durbin, to discuss compromise on issues to try to get something done in the next couple of hours.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Out with the old and in with the new. Over breakfast, President Bush consoled the Republican losers. Over lunch, he congratulated the Democratic winners.

On the menu, pasta and chocolate. But the president's counselor joked today Mr. Bush would be eating crow.

The president and incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to put their bitter partisanship behind.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We won't agree on every issue. But we do agree that we love America equally, that we're concerned about the future of this country, and that we will do our very best to address big problems.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), DEMOCRATIC LEADER: We've made history. Now we have to make progress.

MALVEAUX: But the atmosphere of bipartisanship was pierced by two political lightning rods. Before lunch, Mr. Bush came to the Rose Garden with his cabinet to challenge the current Republican lame-duck Congress to complete unfinished business, including one controversial measure.

BUSH: Another important priority in the war on terror is for the Congress to pass the Terrorist Surveillance Act.

MALVEAUX: That would authorize the administration to wiretap phone calls between people in the U.S. and suspected terrorists overseas without a warrant. Justice Department officials say Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will make a series of appearances in the coming days to urge the Republican Congress to push it through.

Then later, Mr. Bush re-nominated John Bolton to be U.N. ambassador. The president has been unable to get Bolton's nomination through the current Republican-led Senate. His chances are considered even slimmer when Democrats take control.


MALVEAUX: And today, Lou, we also heard from the Democratic senator Joe Biden, who is poised to actually be in charge of that committee of the nomination of Bolton, and he essentially saying that that nomination was going nowhere. There are also some Republican senators who spoke out today saying it is not likely they're going to take up that controversial issue in the lame-duck session -- Lou. DOBBS: And when does the honeymoon end?

MALVEAUX: It's anyone's guess, Lou. It could be as early as tomorrow. We'll see how the week ends out.

DOBBS: Suzanne, thank you very much.

Suzanne Malveaux from the White House.

As Suzanne just reported, President Bush today asked Congress to complete work on several bills that are important to this administration before the end of the year. But the president's list of priorities has some notable omissions.

President Bush made no mention of any new measure to tackle illegal immigration and border security. President Bush had nothing to say whatsoever about closing the gaping holes in our border and port security, neither did he promise any legislative effort to stop the escalating war on our middle class.

And President Bush failed to address the failure of our public school system, a school system that has failed to educate an entire generation of Americans.

Another major omission, our soaring international trade deficit and this country's addiction to foreign producers.

These are all critically important issues that face the nation. They all require urgent action from both the White House and the Congress either this year or the next.

The Democrats tonight are promising quick action when they take control to address those issues. They now control the Senate, as well as the House, after winning a tight Senate race in Virginia.

Senator George Allen today conceded defeat after a bitter struggle with his Democratic challenger, James Webb. Webb won the election by fewer than 10,000 votes, giving the Democrats 51 seats in the Senate.

Dana Bash now reports from Capitol Hill on the implications of the Democratic victory -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the seismic shift in power does mean the Democrats control both houses of Congress for the first time in 12 years. And that means that after it became official, Democrats wanted to celebrate. In fact, minutes after it became official they walked out to a park just across the street from the Capitol and addressed a rowdy crowd, claimed victory.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: It's time for a bipartisanship. It's time for a change.

(APPLAUSE) It's time for bipartisanship. It's time for open government, transparency. And it's a time for results.


BASH: Now the shift in power means that Democrats, not Republicans, control the agenda up here. And Democrats immediately pledge to make good on some of their campaign promises.

As Senator Harry Reid, the soon-to-be Senate majority leader said, that Democrats promise to do something about healthcare, make it more affordable, do something to create energy independence, in his words, education, deal with that, and the staggering deficits here in Washington. Now, those are all the things Democrats say they want to do, but the reality is that Democrats are taking control of the Senate by a razor-thin margin, by just one vote. And, of course, 60 votes is generally is what is needed to get anything past the Senate.

So Republicans really do still have the ability to block pretty much anything that they want to. And, of course, President Bush, the Republican president, still wields a veto pen. So this new era of Democratic control, despite the fact that Democrats and Republicans are talking about bipartisanship, it does not necessarily mean the end of gridlock -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, we shouldn't declare the end of gridlock or its installation until at least we see what happens with the system of checks and balances being in place with the new year.

Dana, thank you very much.

Dana Bash from Capitol Hill.

The Democrats are demanding an urgent change of direction in Iraq. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today acknowledged that he is disappointed at the progress of the war in Iraq. This one day after he resigned.

Rumsfeld's acknowledgment heightened some expectations that the Bush administration is considering a major shift in U.S. strategy in Iraq.

Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now that he's a short-timer, even outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld admits the current strategy in Iraq is not working.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It has not been going well enough or fast enough.

MCINTYRE: In an exchange with students at Kansas State University, Rumsfeld urged perseverance and resolve as adjustments to the strategy are made by the man nominated to replace him, former CIA director Robert Gates, who is one of 10 members of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group charged with finding a way out of Iraq.

The options include stay the course, which is already seen as failing; strategic redeployment, pulling the troops back perhaps as far as Kuwait, as advocated Representative John Murtha and other Democrats; more U.S. troops, which U.S. commanders say won't help in the long term; and partition along sectarian lines, something the White House has labeled a nonstarter.

So the most likely options appear to be a phased withdrawal under a carefully planned timeline to force the Iraqis to step up.

LAWRENCE KORB, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I think basically unless we start a phased withdrawal, the Iraqis will never make the political compromise that's necessary to create an Iraq that's worth fighting and dying for.

MCINTYRE: And engaging Iraq's neighbors, Iran and Syria, something commission group co-chairman James Baker says he's open to but is vigorously opposed by hard-liners.

FRANK GAFFNEY, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: Will we be negotiating with enemies like the regime in Iran in the hopes that they'll somehow help us solve the problem they're creating in no small measure in Iraq? And I think that's going to be a mistake, potentially very strategic and longstanding dimensions.

MCINTYRE: Also taking the long view is lame-duck Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, who insists America is on the right side of history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you were going to give yourself a letter grade for your performance as secretary of defense, what grade would that be?

MCINTYRE: Oh, I'd let history worry about that.


MCINTYRE: Meanwhile, the Senate confirmation hearings for Robert Gates are now set for the beginning of December, and the recommendations from that Iraq Study Group are expected about the beginning of January -- Lou.

DOBBS: Jamie, thank you very much.

Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.

Coming up here next, President Bush and Mexico's president-elect meet to discuss their amnesty agenda for illegal aliens and whether this nation will have open borders with Mexico.

That special report coming up.

And millions of Latinos voted in these midterm elections, many of them supporting measures to tackle illegal immigration and our border security crisis.

That report.

And what could be one of the most serious failures of e-voting machines on Election Day. Charges that machines wiped out 18,000 votes in one congressional district.

That report and a great deal more straight ahead. Stay with us.


DOBBS: President Bush met with Mexico's president-elect, Felipe Calderon, in Washington today. The issue of illegal immigration and border security on the agenda, both leaders pledging cooperation over border issues. Calderon has compared the building of that proposed border fence to the building of the Berlin wall.

Lisa Sylvester has our report.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a picture Mexico's president-elect is glad to see, Democrats in control of Congress. Felipe Calderon also has an ally in President Bush, whom he met on his first official U.S. visit since being elected.

BUSH: I assured the president-elect that the words I said in the very Oval Office that we sit about a comprehensive immigration vision are words I still believe strongly.

SYLVESTER: Calderon, invigorated by today's election results, is moving ahead, lobbying for the amnesty agenda, a guest worker program, and the further opening of U.S. borders. Topping Mexico's to-do list, trying to kill a border fence between the two companies.

FELIPE CALDERON, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF MEXICO (through translator): We want to foster our trade relationship, our economic relationship even more.

SYLVESTER: Mexico envisions an economic relationship with its northern neighbor in which it provides cheap labor and the United States provides the investment capital. That's a scenario that benefits Mexico and corporate America but comes at a grave cost to American workers.

So far, Mexico and big business have controlled the debate, keeping tough enforcement measures from taking effect.

JOHN KEELY, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: Mexico City, precisely because it has received no pushback from our State Department and especially the Bush administration, has felt like it's had carte blanche to just go in and dictate U.S. immigration policy.

SYLVESTER: Critics worry now more than ever Mexico will be unbridled in influencing U.S. immigration policy.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SYLVESTER: Congress approved the border fence bill. It was signed by President Bush. But with Democrats now controlling the purse strings on Capitol Hill, the chance of getting the money to ever build that fence is dimming -- Lou.

DOBBS: And President Bush was fairly salivating as he discussed the prospects of a better relationship with a Democratic Congress than he had with a Republican Congress. It will be interesting to watch the dynamics in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Lisa, thank you very much.

Lisa Sylvester.

Fresh off his victory in Tuesday's election, California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is in Mexico City tonight meeting there with Mexican officials to discuss trade. The trip funded by taxpayer money and donations from California businesses.

Governor Schwarzenegger is also expected to discuss immigration issues with Mexican officials. And Schwarzenegger meeting with outgoing president Vicente Fox today. He will meet with President- Elect Calderon tomorrow.

Later in this broadcast, I'll be talking with Professor George Grayson, one of the country's leading experts on Mexico. He has just met with President-Elect Calderon in Washington.

And an estimated 79 million people voted Tuesday. That is the highest overall voter turnout in a midterm election in more than two decades. In addition, Democrats drew more votes than Republicans in a midterm election for the first time since 1990.

Preliminary analysis shows 40.4 percent of the voting age population cast ballots. That's up from 39.7 percent in 2002. It doesn't sound like much, but it was enough to do far better than previous midterms for the past almost two decades. The previous midterm high was 42.1 percent. That back in 1982.

Another significant indicator, nearly a quarter of those under age 30 went to the polls this year, up sharply since 2002. Analysts say the increase in the youth vote did come into play in the Democratic sweep.

Many predicted that recent border security and illegal immigration proposals would inspire Hispanics to vote and to determine which way they would swing. But tonight, the analysis of exit polling of Latino voters contains more than just a few surprises for you.

Casey Wian joins us now with the very latest -- Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, many open borders advocates are claiming the Latino vote helped sway the midterm elections away from Republicans, but it is not that simple.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WIAN (voice-over): The conventional wisdom is that Latinos reacted negatively to efforts by some Republicans to secure the border and reject amnesty for illegal aliens. In fact, 69 percent of Latinos did vote for Democrats. But the issue of illegal immigration was only slightly more important to Hispanics than to all voters.

ELIZABETH GARRETT, USC LAW PROFESSOR: You can't talk about a monolithic Latino vote. Cuban-American vote very differently than Mexican-Americans, who vote very differently than Puerto Rican- Americans, and that even among those groups you have very different voting patterns. So, I think one of the most interesting developments in modern-day politics has been the rise of Latino power in politics, the increasing influence of Latino voters, but also the diversity of the Latino vote.

WIAN: About eight percent of midterm election voters were Hispanic, and they do make up the fastest growing segment of the American electorate. Latino get-out-the-vote efforts focused on amnesty for illegal aliens.

REV. IGNACIO CASTUERA, TRINITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: Immigration is a national and international issues. And we need to make sure, A, that one is deported anymore, that families are kept together or brought together here when they're already here.

WIAN: But plenty of Latinos support border security. In Arizona, for example, four anti-illegal immigration ballot measures passed with the support of nearly half of the state's Latino voters.

Earlier this year, protesters took to the streets to oppose border security legislation. Their slogan was, "Today we march, tomorrow we vote." And their goal was to register a million new Latino voters by Election Day.


WIAN: But they fell about 850,000 voters short, and their new target date, Lou, is Election Day 2008.

DOBBS: Well, that's a target date for a lot of people in this country.

Casey, thank you very much.

Casey Wian from Los Angeles.

Coming up, it may not have been a disaster, but e-voting was far from trouble free Election Day.

We'll have that report.

And a new legislative era is about to begin in this country. We'll have a report as Democrats prepare to take control of the House and the Senate for the first time in 12 years.

And the chairman of the Republican National Committee is on the way out.

We'll have that story, a great deal more.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: The result of a tight congressional race in Florida is involving now electronic voting machines. It could be that those machines malfunctioned. It's unclear whether that occurred. If so, it dropped thousands of votes. And right now, it is impossible for anyone in that congressional district to tell, apparently.

Kitty Pilgrim has our report.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The charge is the electronic voting machines malfunctioned and dropped more than 18,000 votes for congressional candidates. Republican Vern Buchanan issued a statement claiming victory by a razor-thin margin, 368 votes.

"The votes have been counted. The people have spoken. And I am honored to be your next congressman."

Buchanan claims the machines didn't drop votes. Some people decided not to vote for congressional candidates, even though they voted for other issues on the ballot.

SALLY TIBBETTS, BUCHANAN CAMPAIGN: I can't explain it, other than it appears that a number of voters for whatever reason decided to skip over this race. But there's no reason, to my knowledge, to believe that there's any malfunction of the machines or any fraud or abuse.

PILGRIM: But Democratic opponent Christine Jennings says her office got calls on Election Day from voters complaining that the machines were not registering votes for her. She wants a recount.

The problem is, these touch screen machines don't have a paper trail.

KINDRA MUNTZ, ALLIANCE FOR FAIR ELECTIONS: The candidates need to know that the elections are fair. All the voters need to know that their votes are counted as cast (ph). It's a perfect example of why we need voter-verified paper ballots and mandatory random audits of elections.

PILGRIM: Jennings' lawyer is asking the voting machine company for help.

KENDALL COFFEY, ATTORNEY FOR JENNINGS CAMPAIGN: We intend to reach out to ES&S, and we hope that they will also be candid and forthcoming in assistance. I would like to think that they, too, would want to get to the truth and that they, too, would want to know if there were any problems with their system. (END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now, for the time being, this race is still undecided. ES&S today said this entire process is the responsibility of the county and they are only there to assist. Now, the county programmed the machines, they say, and the county, they say, has the responsibility to determine what happened -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, I mean, this is a lot of votes. It's 13 percent of the total.

PILGRIM: It is a lot.

DOBBS: Do they have any sort of historical analog with which to judge if this is an aberration?

PILGRIM: There's an interesting comparison. On the absentee ballots, the under-vote is 2.6 percent. On the touch screens, the under-vote is 13 percent. So it doesn't even match up in this election.

DOBBS: And no one has compared this to previous -- recent previous elections?

PILGRIM: It's about 10 times higher than is normal.

DOBBS: Well, there would be, as they say, a clue for the good election officials in Florida.

Thank you very much, Kitty Pilgrim.

Well, time now for some of your thoughts.

Kathy in North Carolina said, "The American people have sent a message to the president and all branches of government: you work for us."

Mitch in Florida, "Hey, Mr. President, can you hear us now?!"

And Greg in California, "Now this new Congress has to prove that it is not like the last do nothing Congress. Only time will tell. Let's just hope that we really are moving forward and placing our country back in the hands of its rightful owners... the people."

Reggie in Texas, "I think the election was a triumph for the American people, not one party. They should hold the Democrats accountable for their actions in the coming years as Republicans, and punish them in a similar fashion if they miss the mark. Government should be run by 'We the people,' not lobbyists and big money."

Send us your thoughts at We'll share more of your thoughts later here in the broadcast.

Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my new book, "War on the Middle Class". And now for more thoughts on this shift of power on Capitol Hill and the affect on America's middle class, please go to our Web site,, and you can scream "Hallelujah!" when you read it, if you wish, or something else if you don't.

When we continue, Democrats have taken control of Congress. They promise to make college and healthcare more affordable for middle class Americans. How about that? But will they deliver?

We'll have the special report.

And I'll talk with two of the nation's most distinguished experts on Congress. They say it has failed us. They have a bold new plan to help turn Congress around.

Democrats, get ready to listen up.

And one day after the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, word of a new shakeup in the Republican political ranks.

John King will have that story for us on the future of the GOP.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: For the first time in 12 years, Democrats control both the House and the Senate. President Bush has called for both sides to work together, but the Democrats could be looking at the power of committee chairmanships to set policy.

And a key Republican is leaving his job.

Bill Schneider reports on the possibilities of something called bipartisanship -- do you remember that -- between the new Congress and President Bush.

Andrea Koppel reports tonight on the new Senate committee chairmen and the power that they will wield.

John King tonight reporting on the political fate of Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman.

We begin tonight with Bill Schneider in Washington -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Lou, there are two ways of looking at what the voters here have created. You could say they voted for divided government, or for government of national unity.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Bush seems to want a government of national unity to succeed.

BUSH: It's in the national interests of the United States that a unity government, based upon a constitution that is advanced and modern, succeed.

SCHNEIDER: Except that he was not talking about the United States; he was talking about Iraq, where warring sects have to figure out how to work together -- same as here.

PELOSI: Democrats are ready to lead, prepared to govern, and absolutely willing to work in a bipartisan way.

SCHNEIDER: Can it happen? There is reason for hope. The Democratic majorities in the House and Senate include a lot of newly elected moderates, like Heath Shuler of North Carolina, a former Washington Redskins quarterback who was courted by the Republicans, and Brad Ellsworth, an Indiana County sheriff who signed a pledge not to raise taxes.

In the Senate, there is Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Jon Tester of Montana, and Jim Webb of Virginia, who used to be a Republican, and was President Reagan's Navy secretary. And Joe Lieberman will still be around.

How accommodating will Republicans be? Moderate Republicans have diminished in number. Representatives Jim Leach and Nancy Johnson of Connecticut were defeated. So were two moderate Republican senators, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Mike DeWine of Ohio.

Will Republicans move further to the right? Not if they got the message of the election. Republicans lost because they abandoned the center. Independents voted Democratic by the biggest margin ever recorded.

The election also provides an alternative model of a Republican who moved to the center, and thrived.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: We fight over our causes, but, in the end, we find common ground. This is the California way. The voters have endorsed it. I embrace it.


SCHNEIDER: If unity government is going to work in Iraq, the various parties will have to disarm their militias. Now, some steps toward ending the political arms race might be a good idea in this country, too -- Lou.

DOBBS: You know, the question does arise though, Bill, and I don't mean this entirely facetiously. We'd just gotten through with a unity government in this country. Do we really want it with a different label on it?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the idea is a unity government between the two parties would be quite different from a unified government completely controlled by one party. At least that's what the voters seem to want.

DOBBS: All right. Bill Schneider, thank you very much. With the change in majority comes a change in committee leadership. The powerful posts of Congress will soon be in Democratic hands, and its power the Democrats are anxious to wield.

Andrea Koppel reports.


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats and the White House have been at odds for years.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: I don't think the president has come to grips with reality.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I believe that that record is dismal.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Sir, the president has acted as a divider, not a uniter.

KOPPEL: But, come January, Democrats will be able to do more than just criticize. With the majority in the Senate, they will chair all committees and control the agenda.

That puts the gavel back into the hands of senior Democrats like Joe Biden, who will be at the helm of Senate Foreign Relations. That doesn't bode well for John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, whose nomination was opposed by Biden and Senate Democrats last year.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Your boss, the president and the vice president, I don't think they, in this -- quote -- "year of diplomacy," really think diplomacy is all that consequential.

KOPPEL: Today, the White House resubmitted Bolton's nomination to the Senate. Biden's response? John Bolton is going nowhere.

Iraq will top the agenda of Senator Carl Levin, poised to lead the Senate Armed Services Committee.

LEVIN: We have got to begin a phased reduction in American forces by the end of this year.

KOPPEL: While Vermont's Patrick Leahy, who will chair the Judiciary Committee, has blamed the Bush White House for nominating judges who are too conservative and out of the mainstream.

LEAHY: Many see this as part of a concerted and partisan effort to pack the courts and tilt them sharply out of balance.

KOPPEL: Meanwhile, the Democrat with the most seniority, West Virginia's Robert Byrd, will head the powerful Appropriations Committee, which controls congressional purse strings. He's railed against the Bush White House for misplaced spending priorities.

BYRD: This administration has ignored urgent matters, such as the crisis in healthcare for our elderly. This administration has been slow to provide adequate funding for Homeland Security.


KOPPEL: And, speaking of Homeland Security, a senior Democratic leadership aide tells CNN that, despite grumbling among some Democrats, the newly reelected Democratic senator from Connecticut, Joe Lieberman, an independent, will chair the committee of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee -- Lou.

DOBBS: OK, Andrea, thank you much. Andrea Koppel.

That brings us to the subject of tonight's poll. Do you believe that there will be less or more partisanship with a Democratically- controlled House and Senate? More of less, cast your vote at We'll have those results later here.

Following the Democratic victory, a key Republican appears to be leaving his post, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

John King joins me now and has the latest for us -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATL. CORRESPONDENT: Lou, this is not a done deal, and we're told it's possible Ken Mehlman could decide on the end to stay on. But more than a half dozen now senior Republican sources telling CNN this evening that Mr. Mehlman has told his close associates that he is all but certain to leave that post at the end of the year.

Now, we want to be clear, there's no pressure from the White House on Mr. Mehlman to leave, and there is no dissatisfaction with his performance in the midterm elections. Yes, Republicans took a drubbing but there's no one -- no one substantial anyway -- in Republican politics that I know of pointing a finger at Ken Mehlman. In fact, they're saying they believe he did the best he could in a very difficult environment.

Instead, Lou, what friends of Mr. Mehlman and associates are telling us, that he was in involved in both of the Bush campaigns. He's been at the RNC sometime now and he simply believes it is time to move on. And we know that because he is close to making this decision, close to making it official, anyway, we are told that the White House is already actively looking for someone or perhaps a combination of people to take the top jobs at the Republican National Committee.

And, again, this is not because of any dissatisfaction and it is part of something, I think, we will see more and more of -- I know we will see more and more of -- in the next coming weeks and months. As Mr. Bush enters the seventh and the eighth years of his presidency, you will see a number of changes. We're told to look for perhaps two or three changes in the cabinet early next year, and other top officials as well, Lou, simply deciding it's time to move on.

DOBBS: Time to move on. There was an interesting moment in the president's news conference after the election when he asked about reading contest with Karl Rove, seemed to be expressing more than just a sense of humor when he said he was working harder than Karl Rove and therefore had less time to read.

He later recanted and said Karl Rove is a much faster reader. But he seemed a little piqued, if you will, at that point on Karl Rove. Any truth to it?

KING: Oh, I think it was a joke from the president. By all accounts, inside the White House, it was a joke from the president that, look, they're disappointed they lost, Lou, and the president said he took some of the blame and I'm sure Karl Rove would say that he takes some of the blame, Ken Mehlman would say he takes some of the blame. They had a very tough year and they lost.

There are some people, I will tell you, who say that perhaps Karl Rove would leave before the end of this administration. Others say, no, he'll be there until the final second on the final day. If he wants to be involved in 2008, he would obviously have to step out at some point.

DOBBS: Let's move over to the Democratic side here quickly, John. Do you think Democrats are likely to try to move toward the center after this election when they take power in January?

KING: It certainly depends on your definition of the center. But one thing is crystal clear; there are a number of conservative Democrats in both freshman classes. You have anti-abortion, pro-gun, people who oppose same-sex marriages. People who have signed pledges not to raise taxes coming into the Democratic caucuses in both the House and Senate.

And now some say this will be a leadership challenge especially for the lady you're looking at right there, the incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is individually clearly among the more liberal members of Congress.

But there's also, Lou, a potential, most Democrats believe, to make this an opportunity. It's the Republicans, they say in the last Congress, that brought up issues like flag burning and same-sex marriage and abortion. They say the Democrats have no interest in bringing those issues up for national debate anyway.

They want to focus on bread and butter economic issues and if they start to move in that direction, there will be more conservatives around to raise their hand and say you can't do that. I can't go home and run for reelection for that.

DOBBS: I'm certainly not among those who can divine precisely what the American people want based on a midterm election, but I certainly hope that at least, in part, that that vote was an expression that everybody's just about had a bellyful of wedge issues as a deflection and a distraction from the profound issues that confront the country.

We can hope, can't we, John?

KING: We sure can, Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, John King from Washington.

Up next, new leadership in Congress may be no panacea for struggling working people in this country. I'll be talking with two congressional experts and the authors of an important new book, whether they anticipate real action on behalf of this nation's middle class working people.

And President Bush and the president-elect of Mexico say they can do just about anything when it comes to illegal immigration and border security. We'll find out what's going on. I'll be talking with someone who's just met with Mexican President-Elect Felipe Calderon here next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The Democrats have a historic opportunity to listen to the voters and to change the way in which Washington works. Will they?

For that, we're turning tonight to two men who are absolutely experts on the inner workings of government and Congress, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. They're the co-authors of the book, "Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track."

Gentlemen, good to have you here.

Tom, let me turn to you first. There's no one, I think in the country who would argue that it's broken -- perhaps a couple of people -- but do the Democrats have an opportunity here to fix Congress, the way it works and to really achieve something?

THOMAS MANN, CO-AUTHOR, "BROKEN BRANCH": They have an extraordinary opportunity. The public has spoken out loud and clear. They're mad as hell. Part of it is associated with the culture of corruption, the acquiescence to the executive, the presidency, the failure to do their job.

And so now, if they're smart, they will seize the opportunity, pass a really tough ethics and lobbying bill, and restore that institution to what the framers had in mind, to actually deliberate, to talk, to debate, to legislate.

DOBBS: To achieve.

MANN: To achieve.

DOBBS: Norm, the idea that we can push back and, as the two of you have written in your book -- can we push back those lobbyists, can we rid this country or -- that's asking for too much -- can we diminish substantially the influence of corporate America through its lobbyists in Washington, D.C. so that the House of Representatives can, once again, become the people's House that once again, the United States Senate become a deliberative body with the common good and the national interest as its focus?


DOBBS: I am. I truly believe, so are the American people.

ORNSTEIN: Yes, absolutely. And, you know, that's a good part of the critique we have in the book. The fact is, you can't eliminate them. We shouldn't eliminate them, the right to petition for redress of grievances is in the Constitution.

But you can build some boundaries around the kind of inordinate influence that has been there. And you can start with earmark reform and with, as Tom said, tough lobbying reform and an ethics process with teeth.

It's not just the lobbyists, it's members of Congress and other elected officials who have shaken down lobbyists for money in a system that hasn't worked very well, either.

There is an opportunity here to do something. Some Democrats would prefer to just turn this around and become the beneficiaries, but an awful lot, including the leaders, I think, are determined to make some changes and we're going to be on their backs.

DOBBS: We're going to all be watching very carefully. And I -- hope springs eternal. I hope we'll see a departure from history. But whether it's the Democrats controlling Congress or for the past 12 years, Republicans, these have not been men and women who have distinguished themselves in pushing back the largess of government, the spoils of victory, as they see it.

Do you have any instinct as to what the Democrats -- we know many of the likely chairmen of these committees -- what their likely impulse will be?

MANN: Actually, they have learned something, the veteran Democrats, from this 12 year experience. I means, one, of course, they've been embittered by their treatment, but they've also become appalled at the way in which the House and the Congress as a whole has fallen into ill repute, the ways in which so much of the process is manipulated behind closed doors by people outside the Congress itself.

And they speak now sincerely about doing business differently. Now, will they hold to that? I think initially, you'll see them try very hard. The question is whether they sustain it over time. That's why it takes a vigilant public and people like us, the three of us who are willing to go after them when they seem to fall back on old patterns.

DOBBS: You know, the fight will be individualist, continual and constant.

But the only argument I had with your book, gentlemen, which is a terrific book, is you identified only one branch as broken there. You could have expanded that, I think, a little.

But the idea that voters -- I mean, I love the fact that everyone is trying to divine exactly what the American people said as they spoke on November 7th. I think it's a highly presumptuous thing to do, for anyone.

But the idea that the middle class in this country has functioned basically without representation now for certainly two decades, special interests carving them up. They've been sliced and diced with socioeconomic, demographic labels and identification so that at the end, the middle class in this country, which I consider the foundation, is basically told, go to hell. Do you think that there is an impulse in this leadership and in this democratically elected Congress now and Senate to change that?

ORNSTEIN: Yes, I do, actually, Lou. And I do in part for self- preservation purposes. The Democrats have a one-vote margin in the Senate, what may end up being about 15 in the House. A lot of precarious districts there.

Now having taken over after 12 years for the most part in both houses, they've got a very important opportunity to show that they can behave differently.

They can deal with the dysfunction that's been there, you're right, in more than one branch, including doing some serious oversight. They can broaden it this beyond just simply a focus on the ideological extremes, to go back to the middle. They can get some legislating done, and they've got every interest in doing so, because if they don't, then the voters are going to respond and we don't know exactly what they said, except they did say, you're out of there. And they can do that again in two years.

DOBBS: Tom, the two most important structural, operational reforms that the Democrats could bring to both the House and the Senate, in your opinion, to make it a function -- government function far better?

MANN: One, a return to regular order, allowing committees to meet, allowing members to participate in writing legislation, of allowing amendments on the floor of the House, of having real conference committee committees in the open, and allowing members to actually have time to read that legislation before they vote on it. It would make a huge difference.

DOBBS: Isn't that a revolutionary concept, that these people should actually read legislation that they're about to pass?

Norman Ornstein, thank you very much.

ORNSTEIN: You bet.

DOBBS: Thomas Mann, thank you.

The authors of the important book, "The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track."

One way might be a House-cleaning, and it turns out a Senate cleaning, as it were, based on the people's votes there.

MANN: Amen. DOBBS: Thank you both.

Still ahead here, Mexico proved once again today it will not stop trying to meddle in the national affairs of this country. I'll talk with one of the nation's most respected experts on Mexico. He's just met with Mexico's president-elect. He'll be here next.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Coming up in a few minutes, THE SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, what are you working on?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Lou. There's a political earthquake here in Washington, a seismic power shift. Democrats take control of the House and the Senate. The nail-biter in Virginia and Montana finally come to an end as well. Republicans in both states conceding defeat.

Also, political indigestion? President Bush welcomes Nancy Pelosi for lunch at the White House.

And while the cabinet lines up in the Rose Garden, the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is off on a speaking trip in Kansas. This, the day after he was forced out of office.

We're covering all sides of this unfolding story. All that, Lou, coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Wolf. Looking forward to it.

As we reported earlier, President Bush meeting with Mexico's president-elect today. My next guest, one of a small group of scholars who met with the president-elect, Felipe Calderon, yesterday. Joining us now is George Grayson, professor at College of William and Mary, and a renowned expert on Mexico.


DOBBS: It's good to have you here.

Is there a chance we're going to see something different in the person of Calderon than we have seen from Fox?

GRAYSON: Well, the expectations are quite low for Felipe Calderon, because he won by such a narrow margin. And six years ago, when Fox won, the expectations were sky high. And it turned out that Fox couldn't organize a one-car funeral.

While Calderon is much more focused, he's much smarter politically, and he's also had experience in congress and knows how to build coalitions.

DOBBS: With all of that said, the policy of Mexico toward this country, that is exporting its poor and trying to bring as much hard currency into that country as they possibly can, with billions of dollars in remittances and billions of dollars in drug money and of course billions of dollars in trade?

GRAYSON: Lou, that's what I call the Mexican mantra. And I think the Mexican elite is really embarrassed by the fact that in a country that has such a cornucopia of wealth, they're not able to provide a decent living for half their population.

And so yes, you hear from Calderon the same refrain, is that Mexicans are crucial for the well-being of the U.S. economy, and that walls create confrontation, not cooperation.

DOBBS: To make another judgment, there is a view in this country that Mexico is the poorest nation in Latin America rather than the wealthiest, a view that if only the government of Mexico could be assisted, half its people would no longer live in poverty. But there is absolutely, at least -- and I would like you to straighten me out on this -- I see no impulse whatsoever on those elites to do anything about the abject poverty which they permit to be imposed on 50 million Mexican citizens?

GRAYSON: I think the hope, Lou, is that Calderon lost to Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who's a messianic populist. And he's now running around Mexico making speeches against any possible appointment or program that Calderon might propose. And it's just possible -- and this is a long shot -- that Mexican nomenklatura may realize that if Calderon doesn't accomplish reforms to improve the lot of the have- notes, that they may have another messiah, a second coming of Andres Lopez Obrador in six years. It's a long shot, but it's a possibility.

DOBBS: George Grayson, thank you very much.

GRAYSON: Thank you.

DOBBS: A reminder now to vote in our poll. Do you believe that there will be less or greater partisanship with a Democratically- controlled House and Senate? More or less? Cast your vote at Those results coming up in just a few minutes now.

"60 Minutes" correspondent Ed Bradley died of leukemia in New York today. Bradley began his career at CBS News as a radio stringer in Paris in 1971. Bradley reported on the Vietnam War, and later became the White House correspondent for CBS News.

In 1981, Bradley joined the staff of "60 Minutes."

Bradley was 65 years old.


DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight: 56 percent of you say there will be less partisanship with a Democratically-controlled House and Senate. May you be correct.

Time now for more of your thoughts. Lee in Arizona: "As a lifelong, 67-year-old Republican, I was sure glad to see one of President Bush's rubber stamps run out of ink."

And Hank in New Jersey: "Lou, thank God the people have spoken. Now all we have to worry about is whether the politicians are listening."

Tara in Massachusetts: "The party that is willing to work for the American people and put Americans first and protect American interests and our economy will win in 2008."

Greg in Texas: "Lou, it seems that just when Donald Rumsfeld might run into opposition and be held accountable by the new Congress, the cut and run policy became attractive. What happened to stay the course?"

And Lois in Iowa: "Why can't we go to one party, the American Party, where candidates run on issues and are judged by their strengths and ability to perform the job. No more sleazy campaign ads, no more lobbyists and special interest groups, no party thinking and acting like they're better or above the law. Simply Americans, for Americans, by Americans."

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at Each of you whose email is read here receives a copy of my new book, "War on the Middle Class."

Thanks for being with us tonight. Join us here tomorrow. For all of us, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. THE SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blitzer begins now -- Wolf.