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Lou Dobbs Tonight

More Troops to Iraq; While in Vietnam, Bush in Vietnam Urges Patience in Iraq War, New Team, Old Faces in Congress; "Fast Food Nation" Deals With Important Issues

Aired November 17, 2006 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, more of our troops, more money for the war in Iraq. The Democrats may want troop reductions, but clearly the Pentagon does not.
Fifty-seven thousand more of our troops are heading to Iraq early next year. Those troops to replace those being rotated out, maintaining current levels. The Pentagon may ask for more than $100 billion. That on top of the $70 billion already approved.

Why is the governor of New Mexico inserting himself into the case of an illegal alien trying to prevent her deportation, using her 7- year-old as an outright political pawn?

And a new film opens tonight, "Fast Food Nation." Screenwriter Eric Schlosser, who wrote the book, and director Richard Linklater, who directed "Slacker," "Dazed and Confused," will be here. We'll be talking about the greed of corporate America and its impact on middle class jobs.

All of that and a great deal more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Friday, November 17th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

The Pentagon today announced that 57,000 of our troops will be deployed to Iraq early next year. Troop levels, however, the Pentagon claims, will remain at current levels.

Halfway around the world in Vietnam, President Bush also talking of war, but a war of 30 years ago, saying his presence in Vietnam showed two nations can move past their difficulties.

Jamie McIntyre reports on the Pentagon's latest move to shore up our forces in Iraq.

Ed Henry tonight reports on the president's mission to Vietnam.

The GOP today choosing its House leaders. And Andrea Koppel reporting on the familiar faces of the new Republican leadership.

We begin tonight with Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon -- Jamie. JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, it's no surprise that the U.S. is planning to send more troops to Iraq. After all, if they are going to maintain the current troop levels as they say they are going to do, they need to send fresh replacements.

Today they announced some of the units will be going, and one of the significant things is that for some of these troops, it will be either their second, in some cases, third tour of duty. In fact, some of the troops that will be going back to Iraq next year from the 3rd Infantry Division, the same troops that led the charge into Baghdad in March of 2003.

In addition, there will be five combat teams sent from Fort Lewis, Washington; from Fort Benning, Georgia; also from Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and Fort Stewart, Georgia. Those are the active-duty troops, brigades that will be getting their deployment orders.

In addition, there will be some 27,000 active-duty troops in a support role and 10,000 guard troops as well. Again, for a total of a 57,000 troops going to Iraq next year to replace troops that will be coming home.

And again, the Pentagon says this is part of their plan to maintain the current force level in Iraq for the foreseeable future. That could change, of course, if things were to get better in Iraq. Something that we don't see any sign of at the moment -- Lou.

DOBBS: Indeed, Jamie. Jamie, any indication from the Pentagon on precisely which units will be rotated out of Iraq?

MCINTYRE: I don't have the list in front of me, but that's -- that's a known factor. Those are the troops in Iraq who were there for about a year. They are counting the days until they can come home. Some of them have been extended, as you know.

DOBBS: Right.

MCINTYRE: And one of the things that you see in this, the Army had a goal of keeping about two years -- giving them two years before they had to go back. They're not anywhere close to that goal.

DOBBS: Right.

MCINTYRE: A lot of these troops are going back after just barely having a year off back in the United States.

DOBBS: And many of them guardsmen and reserves, on top of everything else.

Jamie, thank you very much.

Jamie McIntyre, from the Pentagon.

Insurgents have killed another of our servicemen in Iraq. A task force lightning soldier attached to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division killed by enemy fire during combat in the Diyala Province, northeast of Baghdad.

2,864 of our troops have now been killed in Iraq since this war began.

The cost of the war in Iraq continues to rise. The Pentagon is considering requesting at least another $127 billion for Iraq. That is on top of the $70 billion already approved this year. It would be in addition to the total of $469 billion appropriated.

In perhaps the understatement of the year, Senate Budget Committee chairman, Senator Judd Gregg, said the war has been an extraordinarily expensive undertaking, and he was talking only about the money.

Robert Gates, named to replace Donald Rumsfeld as the next defense secretary, says he'll make Iraq his top priority when confirmed. Gates, on Capitol Hill today, seeking support from senators of both parties. Gates is expected to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on December 5th. Democrats, as of now, are not opposing his nomination.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Unless comes up untoward in the hearings, which I don't expect, he should be confirmed. The one thing he has going for him, as we mentioned, is we want the chance to take place very quickly.


DOBBS: Until his nomination, Gates was a member of the Iraq Study Group. That report will also be released in December.

DOBBS: President Bush is in Vietnam tonight. He is there to attend the Asia-Pacific economic summit and to push for free trade visits, so-called. But Iraq overshadowing his visit. President Bush today compared Iraq to Vietnam himself, and he urged Americans once again to be patient in Iraq.

Ed henry has the report -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, White House aides insist the president is not looking back at the war overall. He's looking forward at this new friendship being formed with Vietnam. A lot of pomp and circumstance upon the president's arrival here in Hanoi. The president also looking forward at this raging economy here in Vietnam.

But it's still an awkward time, as you note, for him to be visiting Vietnam just as he's trying to chart a new course for the war in Iraq. Critics charging the president failed to learned lessons of Vietnam, has gotten the United States in another quagmire.

The White House insisting there are many differences between the two conflicts, including the fact that the Iraqi people have chosen their own government, that they've ratified their own constitution, unlike Vietnam, still here under communist rule. But the symbols of war are unmistakable all around us here in Hanoi.

The president himself noting that he found it striking to drive by the area where Senator John McCain's Navy plane was shot down before he was taken in as a prisoner of war. And the president himself, during an appearance with the Australian prime minister, John Howard, was asked whether there were any lessons from Vietnam, as he looks at the conflict in Iraq.

Here's what he said.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll succeed, unless we quit. The Maliki government is going to make it unless the coalition leaves before they have a chance to make it. And that's why I assured the prime minister, you know, we'll get the job done.


HENRY: Now, a lot riding on this summit, because coming out of the last elections is the president's first real chance on the world stage to show he still has clout. He got off to a bit of a shaky start because he wanted to come here with a Vietnamese trade deal. That fell through because fellow Republicans on the Hill did not deliver it for the president.

He also, though, wants to talk about the North Korean nuclear crisis. That puts him in a more favorable light, trying to bring together Asian allies here united against Pyongyang.

Also, the president in a series of a bilateral and trilateral meetings in the next few hours, where he wants to hit that North Korean issue hard -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed, thank you very much.

Ed Henry reporting from Hanoi.

And Iraq the dominant issue of the midterm election. It may as well have been on the minds of GOP leaders as they decided on their new minority leadership. Despite their poor showing in the midterms, the party rejected the idea of any changes at the top.

Andrea Koppel reports.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), INCOMING MINORITY LEADER: I'm pleased to introduce the new Republican team.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But in the end, this new team had a couple of old faces at the top of the roster. Ohio's John Boehner, the current majority leader, overwhelmingly defeated Indiana conservative Mike Pence to become his party's next minority leader. And Missouri's Roy Blunt, who is wrapping up his second term as the vote-counting whip, also beat out his challenger, Arizona's John Shadegg, to hold on to his job as minority whip in the 110th Congress.

Both leaders pledged to work hard to return the GOP to the majority.

REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MINORITY WHIP-ELECT: In the last 10 days, our conference has come together with an appreciation for the opportunity to redefine who we are, to provide the kind of alternatives that we want to provide to look toward the future. Frankly, to get rid of the bad habits that we may have developed in 12 years in the majority.

KOPPEL: Both Shadegg and Pence are leaders of a group of over 100 House conservatives. They pushed rank and file to vote for a clean slate and campaigned on the premise their party had not just lost its majority, but that it had lost its way. Supporters said their defeat sent the wrong message.

REP. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: It's just easier to move forward having people believe that you are serious about reform if you have new leadership.

KOPPEL: But other lawmakers who backed Boehner and Blunt said without House Speaker Dennis Hastert and former majority leader Tom DeLay at the helm, it's already a different landscape.

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R), TEXAS: We're going to be a different conference than we were in the 109th Congress. Just by definition, we no longer occupy all the -- all the big chairs over at the building across the street. But I think Leader Boehner is capable. Roy Blunt certainly has the institutional knowledge and is a great vote counter.


KOPPEL: And at the end of the day, it was those qualities, say Republican leadership aides, that made Boehner and Blunt the more attractive candidates. That and the fact that they had spent the last couple of years visiting about 300 districts campaigning for members, many of whom returned to Washington this week for the first time in the minority over the last 12 years.

And also, Lou, unsure of the fact that they wanted to make another big change -- Lou.

DOBBS: What, again, Andrea, were those great qualities that brought Boehner and Blunt a return to leadership?

KOPPEL: It was the fact that both of them are known quantities. Boehner has only been leader for the last 10 months, but they say they've been pleased with the fact that he has -- with what he has done thus far.

They also don't want -- don't want to blame him, Lou, for the fact that their party had so much corruption in the last number of months, and they say that Blunt is a great whip. He's a great vote counter. DOBBS: All right. Well, you know, that complicated math that's involved in counting votes, one understand why that would be a precious commodity there on Capitol Hill.

Andrea, thank you very much.

Andrea Koppel from Capitol Hill.

Coming up next, the governor of New Mexico sends a letter to President Bush, and by doing so, inserts himself into the center of a messy controversial deportation battle.

We'll have that report.

Corporations trying to obey the law in hiring illegal aliens find themselves the subject of protests by unions, by workers, by illegal aliens.

And one bank is making big profits on student loans to this country's beleaguered middle class students. Some people in Congress have noticed, and they are actually outraged.

We'll have that report, all the days news.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight the governor of New Mexico appealing to the president to grant amnesty to an illegal alien. Casey Wian has the incredible story of a 7-year-old boy who is demanding a say in the immigration policy of this country and playing the part of political pawn.

Christine Romans reports on a crackdown on illegal alien workers in North Carolina, where, remarkably, a company that is finally obeying U.S. immigration laws is being challenged by its illegal alien workforce and a union.

We begin with Casey Wian -- Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, politicians from the United States and Mexico are joining the effort to stop the deportation of a criminal illegal alien.


WIAN (voice-over): Saul Arellano, the American-born son of illegal alien Elvira Arellano, traveled to Mexico this week to seek support for his fugitive mother in the United States.

SAUL ARELLANO, SON OF ILLEGAL ALIEN: I'm going to tell them to tell President Bush to stop the deportation (ph) to my mom.

WIAN: While speaking to Mexican lawmakers, won a new supporter back in the United States. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson wrote to President Bush pleading for leniency in the case.

His letter reads, "Seven-year-old American citizen Saul Arellano is currently leading an international effort to save his mother from deportation." But the campaign is really being led by activists who support amnesty for all illegal aliens.

Richardson goes on to state their case, writing, "The Arellano case puts a spotlight on the danger of not acting on a comprehensive immigration plan. Inaction puts our most vulnerable citizens, the estimated three million American citizen children of illegal immigrants, at risk."

In fact, the Arellano case is galvanizing supports for efforts to deny birthright citizenship to children of illegal aliens, so-called anchor babies.

MICHELLE DELLACROSE, MOTHERS AGAINST ILLEGAL ALIENS: This is a crisis that we are facing. It's an invasion to our country of illegal alien children. And by way of these innocent children being put on to the lap of American people, we are being subjected with paying all of their costs.

WIAN: Eighty-eight U.S. congressmen co-sponsored a bill last year to deny citizenship to the children of illegal aliens. It died in committee.

Governor Richardson's letter concluded with a request that the president consider granting Elvira Arellano parole to remain in the United States so that her son may be continued to be raised as the great American he has already proven to be. His mother remains in a Chicago church, openly defying an order of deportation issued after her conviction for Social Security fraud.


WIAN: Elvira Arellano was deported once in 1997. She returned to the United States illegally. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says she must now deal with the consequences of her actions, but, Lou, ICE has made no move to arrest her.

DOBBS: Well, if I can do some math, had she not returned after deportation, her young son would not have been born in this country, is that correct?

WIAN: That is correct, Lou. Although I'm not sure whether she met the son's father in the United States or in Mexico.

DOBBS: I don't want to explore too far back the relationship. But the idea that Bill Richardson -- who's a very smart politician and a good fellow -- is playing politics with this, the fact that the amnesty first crowd, the comprehensive immigration, trying to absolutely extract every ounce of sentimentality and emotionalism on this issue, appearing before the congress of Mexico, and young Saul didn't mention a word to that Congress while he had their attention that perhaps the people of Mexico and their government might worry about the people of Mexico. Say the 50 million Mexican citizens who live in abject poverty, the corrupt and incompetent government of Mexico that doesn't seem to understand the concept of sharing the wealth of the wealthiest nation in Latin America.

Kind of odd, don't you think, Casey?

WIAN: It sure is. And it's awful odd that many of the supporters of the Arellanos continue to use young Saul as a pawn in this political battle. In fact, some of the supporters in Chicago have come out against using this boy for the political purposes -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, and the idea that she would sit there in that church, taking refuge and ostensibly -- well, not ostensibly. She said straight out that she wanted to stay with her son, and then send him off to Mexico to engage in what is the best, transparent and pathetic politics.

Casey, thank you very much.

Casey Wian.

In Tar Heel, North Carolina, get ready. Hundreds of workers at Smithfield Foods have walked off the job there. Those workers are protesting a crackdown on illegal alien workers at the port processing plant.

Christine Romans now reports on the incredible backlash U.S. companies face from their illegal alien workers and open-borders advocates.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Meatpackers walking out for a second day at Smithfield Foods Tar Heel plant. Workers, unions and religious groups outraged that Smithfield found 140 workers with questionable Social Security numbers and fired 50, who, after two weeks, couldn't verify their legal status.

LEILA MCDOWELL, UNITED FOOD & COMM. WORKERS: The reason this company fired these workers was because there's been increased activity amongst the workers standing up for their rights.

ROMANS: But Smithfield says an ICE raid six months ago prompted them to take a harder look and accuses the union of using the incident to organize.

DENNIS PITTMAN, SMITHFIELD FOODS: We are trying to comply with the government's request to help them eliminate undocumented workers. We had to submit the Social Security number of every employee in all of Smithfield nationwide.

ROMANS: Companies like Smithfield have been criticized by human rights groups for dangerous conditions and low wages. And critics say industries like meat packing and construction have long enjoyed profits from decades of illegal alien workforces. Supporters of immigration law enforcement say they see a new era of seriousness in enforcing federal immigration law.

REP. SUE MYRICK (R), NORTH CAROLINA: They are doing exactly what they are supposed to do, and they shouldn't be made a bad guy in this situation.

ROMANS: Government workplace enforcement is up. A focus moving away from fines and toward criminal prosecutions. More companies are getting the message.

In San Jose, California, Cintas put six workers on unpaid leave when their Social Security numbers turned up bogus, something that prompted a warning letter from the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee.


ROMANS: Congressman Bennie Thompson sent a letter to the Cintas CEO warning him against potential discrimination. Now, it is illegal to knowingly employ illegal aliens, and there is nothing more color blind, Lou, than a Social Security number. When that match comes back negative there is no color involved.

DOBBS: And there is -- well, there are maddening, frustrating issues facing this country, but nothing really tops illegal immigration in this country. Bennie Thompson, who stands to chair the House Homeland Security Committee, having the effrontery to send that letter is absolutely idiotic.

ROMANS: Cintas says that letter came right out of the blue. No phone call saying, what's going on there, what are you doing, give me some background on this. He said it was a letter that fired off a warning right away.

DOBBS: Talking about discrimination, when in point of fact, laws of the United States are being violated. That company trying to move into conformity and he sends an intimidating, threatening letter to a company like that?

I mean, he ought to be ashamed of himself, and at the very least, he owes the American people and that company an explanation. And, indeed, the Homeland Security Department, because he is actually trying to impede the enforcement of those laws.

Smithfield facing protests from illegal alien workers, protests from a union? What in the world are they doing?

ROMANS: And meetings this afternoon with the Catholic Church, Lou, to talk about the issue.

DOBBS: The Catholic Church again?


DOBBS: Who in the world does the Catholic Church in this country think it is?

ROMANS: A little bit of everybody involved in this.

DOBBS: Unbelievable. At what point will reason and sense take hold?

Well, we'll keep trying and let everybody know when that does happen. I don't suspect anyone's holding their breath right now.

Christine, thank you very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

DOBBS: Christine Romans.

That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight. Our question is simply, do you believe Smithfield Meat Packing is racist and discriminatory in requiring that employees have valid Social Security numbers? We're just curious what you think. Yes or no?

Please cast your vote at We'll have the results later in the broadcast.

We'll send them along to Bennie Thompson, who has shown himself to be amazingly qualified for the post of chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

We hope, Congressman, that you'll come here and perhaps -- we'll give you all the time you want, and you can explain what in the world you're thinking.

Still ahead here, two more blatant examples of corporate America putting the bottom line ahead of the common good and the national interests. Shareholders warn a leading U.S. technology company its conduct in communist China is putting the United States at risk.

And the nation's largest student loan provider padding its pockets while students, middle class students all around this country, are struggling to afford college.

We'll have that special report.

And it worked for California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Can taking the middle way work for GOP political hopefuls in '08?

Stay with us.


DOBBS: A surprise at Cisco Systems' annual shareholder meeting. Are you ready? A group of investors voted for a resolution that calls on the company to stop helping communist China monitor its Internet and spy on Chinese citizens.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The communist Chinese regime spies on its people through the Internet. Now some Cisco shareholders say they don't want a part of that. Boston Common Asset Management, with $3.5 million of the stock, demanded at the annual meeting Cisco not help stifle human rights in China.

DAWN WOLFE, BOSTON COMMON ASSET MANAGEMENT: Own the shares and use your voice as an owner in the company to take concerns to management.

PILGRIM: Cisco wants Chinese business badly. Two years ago, Cisco CEO John Chambers told a Beijing audience, "What we are trying to do is outline an entire strategy of becoming a Chinese company."

U.S. Congressional leaders who held hearings on this issue this year say it's about time.

REP. CHRIS SMITH (R), INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I'm thrilled that the people, the shareholders for Cisco, which is one of the worst violators, frankly, and have actually enabled the dictatorship in the People's Republic of China to establish a really horrific dragnet working hand in glove with the secret police there...

PILGRIM: Author Ethan Gutmann has been monitoring communist crackdown on dissidents through the Internet since 2000.

ETHAN GUTMANN, AUTHOR, "LOSING THE NEW CHINA": I don't know why it's taken actually this long for this issue to get the kind of traction that it needs. A lot of people have...

LUCIE MORILLON, REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS: Reporters Without Borders welcomes this resolution. It got 29 percent of the vote, which is unprecedented.

PILGRIM: The organization keeps a list of 30 investment groups that monitor U.S. companies' involvement with repressive regimes.


PILGRIM: Now, Cisco today said it would continue to sell products worldwide to a variety of countries, and they also say they comply with international laws. Congress will take up the hearings on the issue again in January -- Lou.

DOBBS: Yes, and so does Microsoft, so does Yahoo!. The list goes on of companies.

PILGRIM: It's pretty much boilerplate response.

DOBBS: Complicit in what is outright suppression of human rights in China.

And John Chambers, the CEO of Cisco Systems, I really want to be fair. I know you said you wanted to be a Chinese company, so I would like you to come on and join us here, and have a live interview and discussion about why you suddenly want to be a Chinese company and why you're not behaving as an American company.

You remember that thing, rights? You know, that's part of the American part. I'd like to hear what the Chinese part is.

John Chambers, the invitation's open.

Thank you, Kitty Pilgrim.

It just makes your blood boil. I mean, it's disgusting.

But you know what? It's encouraging that a group like Boston Common has the integrity and the drive to push through. That is a very hopeful sign for this.

PILGRIM: It certainly is. And previous resolutions have not passed by such a good margin, so they are very encouraged about that.

DOBBS: Excellent. Kitty, again, thank you.

Time now for some of your thoughts.

Gary in Ohio, "Lou, why is it they keep calling it free trade when the middle class pays for it with lost jobs or lower wages to compete with third-world countries?"

John in Arizona, "Let me get this right. China is not a threat, the world is flat, our borders are wide open, Wal-Mart is good for the American economy, and GM and Ford can't figure out why Americans prefer Japanese cards made in America to American cards made in Mexico and China. I think we're in a real pickle, Lou."

And I think you're right. Send us your thoughts at We'll have more of your thoughts here later. Each of you whose e-mail is read on this broadcast receives a copy of my new book, "War On The Middle Class."

Coming up next, higher education slips further from the reaches of our middle class, while the nation's largest student loan provider is celebrating on Wall Street. What's wrong here? People are beginning to notice, and they are going to take action.

An inside look at the toll illegal immigration takes in the meat processing industry, and the toll on middle class workers -- the toll of corporate greed. I'll be talking about the makers of the new movie, "Fast Food Nation," which opens around the country tonight.

And a distinguished group of Washington insiders join me to discuss the next strategic moves for the Democratic Party, and more. Stay with us.


DOBBS: You have to borrow money nearly every time if you're a middle class American trying to pay for the skyrocketing costs of even public education in this country, higher education. The incoming Democratic Congress is trying to take aim at the banks that are profiting and profiting hugely while middle class students, their families, struggle with the resultant debt.

Louise Schiavone reports.


LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Higher education, the ticket to success the ticket to debt. Whose fault is that? The institutions that charge tens of thousands of dollars of tuition, or the lenders who are making profits off the loans? At the center of the storm, Sallie Mae.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It's interesting that Sallie Mae, that provides the great bulk for the student aid, their stock was $3.17 nine years ago. It's over $50 now -- over $50. Quite a rise because of the profits that they've had over the years. The student loan programs works brilliantly for the banks but not for the students.

SCHIAVONE: The government created Sallie Mae in 1972. Now an independent bank, it manages over $100 billion in loans. The bank's preferred rates begin just under seven percent and where the government doesn't guarantee the student borrower, the rate goes higher. Critics say that's just wrong.

MICHAEL DANNENBERG, NEW AMERICAN FOUNDATION: In 2005, "Fortune 500" listed Sallie Mae as the second most profitable corporation on its "Fortune 500" list. Microsoft was 18th that same year. People are getting rich off the student loan system thanks to taxpayer support. And meanwhile middle class families are struggling with more and more debt that's harder and harder to repay.

SCHIAVONE: Sallie Mae told CNN, quote, "More than 10 million students and 6,000 schools have chosen to do business with us, because we provide lower-cost loans and better service," end quote.

CHARLES GABRIEL, PRUDENTIAL FINANCIAL: Democrats are politically pretty close to the four-year colleges. That's one of the reasons I think that you don't have hard questions asked about accountability for the inexorably rising costs of tuitions.

SCHIAVONE: With the vast majority of students dependent upon student aid, after four years at a public institution, the average student owes the government close to $16,000. The average private school student owes more than $18,000.


SCHIAVONE: Lou, this is where it really hurts. The College Board estimates an average four-year public institution costs about $13,000 a year. A private institution now approaches about $30,000 a year -- Lou.

DOBBS: What's particularly aggravating on top of all that's aggravating about this is those public institutions are already taxpayer supported and the costs just keeps coming down. Louise, thank you very much. Louise Schiavone from Washington. The greed of some in corporate America and corporate America's utter disregard for many in the middle class are combining to be sort of set out in front of us all in an important new movie opening nationwide tonight. The exploitation of illegal aliens by corporate America, another of the issues explored in "Fast Food Nation."

It is a dramatic story of a white-collar marketing executive portrayed by Greg Kinnear, investigating contamination of meat used in the company's best-selling hamburger. "Fast Food Nation" also stars Ethan Hawke, Wilmer Valderrama, and Kris Kristofferson, written by Eric Schlosser and directed by Richard Linklater who directed as well, "Dazed and Confused," "School of Rock," and "Slacker." A scene now from "Fast Food Nation."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think they would knowingly sell us contaminated meat?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, come on, workers are getting their arms cut off over there. You don't know who you are dealing with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't. Please help me. I was at the plant. It seemed clean to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they show you the kill thrower (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I saw a lot of things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'd remember it.


DOBBS: Joining me now, Eric Schlosser and Richard Linklater. Gentlemen, good luck to have you here. Good luck with this movie. You take on some really important material, dramatically.

Eric, let me ask you, since last we've talked, you've had an opportunity now to watch your work move to the screen. Rick's going to be on trial here. How did he do?

ERIC SCHLOSSER, AUTHOR, "FAST FOOD NATION": He did really well. I'm very proud of the film. It's very rare that you get a very tough, uncompromising look at what's happening in the country right now. And very few films are willing to take on these issues in an honest way.

DOBBS: This is a bit of a departure for you. Why did you take this on? This is heavy stuff.

RICHARD LINKLATER, DIRECTOR, "FAST FOOD NATION": Well, I've always wanted to make a film from a workers' perspective. I was an offshore oil worker for two-and-a-half years. I always had crappy jobs at restaurants and that's kind of my view of the world but it's rare Hollywood wants to portray that.

DOBBS: We'll have to compare crappy jobs as you put it. LINKLATER: Yes.

DOBBS: The idea that this issue of the exploitation of illegal immigration by this fictional meat-packing plant coincides with our reporting on Smithfield, on a number of other companies, is that pure coincidence?

SCHLOSSER: It's not. I mean, Smithfield is just one company of many that are doing the same thing, and it's hard for me to see Smithfield as the victim in the case that you reported today. I mean, Smithfield has been deliberately recruiting immigrant workers because they are less likely to join a union and now all of a sudden they are shocked -- absolutely shocked -- that this sort of thing is going on in their plant.

This is really about the efforts of this -- workers at this plant to form a union in terrible, terrible working conditions and you can find these same working conditions in Colorado, in Texas, and Nebraska. And what's tragic, this was a good, middle class job 25 years ago. This was a union job. You were a meatpacking worker, it was like being an auto worker. You had a decent life.

These companies deliberately recruited in Mexico, they set up their own bus services to Mexico, they brought in illegal immigrants as strike breakers, and now suddenly they are shocked that this is going on.

DOBBS: Rick, the idea that you would take on a as a dramatic project, this movie, I mean, what did you -- what were you thinking? You said you wanted to represent the worker.


DOBBS: But there are some powerful other themes in this movies.

LINKLATER: Certainly. I want to put a face to it. I think people can have that human connection with these workers. To me -- you know, I live in a border state, Texas, and it just bothers me these issues that these people are an abstract, political -- you know, it's just a political issue, but these are real people.

You know, and these are worldwide, global -- we have this global, borderless economy now that our government and these companies have signed off on, and it seems to me we are punishing these workers for just responding to global free market forces.

DOBBS: When you say these workers, you're talking about the illegal aliens who are who are...


LINKLATER: Well, the undocumented workers who are coming in after our companies, you know, broke the unions...

DOBBS: Right. LINKLATER: ... took away the benefits and lowered the wages and then they are sitting back going, you know, Americans don't want to do this work. But they used. They used to.

DOBBS: I hate that. When I hear President Bush say there are jobs Americans won't do. It's the lousiest message.


LINKLATER: They used to when you paid them and you had benefits and you could raise a family.

SCHLOSSER: One of the fact is, there are jobs that immigrants won't even do. The turnover rates at these meatpacking plants are close to 100 percent a year, which means even among the poor, desperate immigrants, the entire work force is quitting or being fired each year.

DOBBS: You know, meatpacking jobs have dropped just about 50 percent in pay -- a little more than 50 percent in pay -- over the past 25 years because of illegal aliens coming in and being recruited and, as you say, being put in those jobs.

But the real victims here, aside from a society and a nation trying to build a standard of living, the American dream, provide a better life, economic -- people forget. The foundation of the country is equality, equality of educational opportunity, economic opportunity. There's no shortage of victims here.

SCHLOSSER: Yes. Absolutely. The first victims are the workers who are being hurt and mistreated, and the second victims are the communities that have to pay for this poverty. They have to pay for the healthcare of injured workers who have been fired.

If this was a stable workforce like it was 25 years ago with decent wages, there wouldn't be any problem, and this industry has no excuse, because they can't move these factories overseas. Their biggest cost are the hogs or the cattle, and they are not going anywhere.

DOBBS: And obviously this is not -- this is a metaphor for industry at large in this country. Corporate America has reached a point at which it's, you know, succeeded through the political system in putting our middle class in direct competition with the cheapest labor all over the world, whether it's exporting a job or importing illegal labor.

You get the last word.

LINKLATER: I feel like they own our system. You know, I mean, it seems that way to me.

DOBBS: Just because they spend about $2.5 billion on elections?

LINKLATER: That's where all the money is. There's this wink, wink, nudge, nudge thing going. Instead of arresting workers in Smithfield, why not arrest the CEO? See what kind of -- they know what they are doing.

DOBBS: It's an interesting proposition to end with. A fascinating movie, and "Fast Food Nation," we thank you, Eric, for being here. Rick, thank you very much.

LINKLATER: Thanks for having us.

DOBBS: We wish you all the best. My hat's off to you. A very tough, important issue. You've got great people in it with Ethan Hawke, Greg Kinnear, Kris Kristofferson.

LINKLATER: Bruce Willis has a -- he plays a heavy for the company so...

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

SCHLOSSER: Thank you.

LINKLATER: All right. It was fun.

DOBBS: Coming up next, I'll be talking with three of the sharpest political analysts in the country about what the Democrats should be doing. You know, they're not even in control yet, and our analysts have already figuring out what they should be doing.

And senior political analyst Bill Schneider has done some figuring of his own. He says members of the Republican Party could learn something from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Something about a middle way. Imagine that, a middle way in the United States of America. It seems to be working. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Joining me now, former White House political director, Republican strategist, Ed Rollins; "New York Daily News" columnist, Michael Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize winner; and Democratic strategist, Robert Zimmerman, member of the Democratic National Committee.

Let me start with you, Robert. You're due. It turns out that Nancy Pelosi didn't get the leader that she thought she would.

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, she didn't, but she got a stronger coalition to govern the Democratic caucus as a result of it, though, and I think she'll be a stronger speaker because now there is a real coalition of the different segments of the Democratic caucus, and that's the critical point. You know, when you have a majority of -- so narrow...

MICHAEL GOODWIN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Are you going to let him get away with that?


ZIMMERMAN: When you've got such a narrow majority, you need everyone on board and that can really be very humbling. DOBBS: It seems to be mounting each day as each election comes in, finally decided. You're taking exception to something Robert said?

GOODWIN: Well, I just thought -- I will leave a few scraps for Ed, too, to bang away on. But I thought that really what it showed was a very poor judgment on her part, to back Murtha who, A, has a terrible reputation for corruption; and, b, so out of step with the country on Iraq that I think that she could go there really shows that she may not be ready for this job, so that was a big mistake to start with.



DOBBS: Those were his scraps.

ROLLINS: The concern, you know, and I don't underestimates your abilities and I don't think long term it's going to make a whole lot of difference, but short term, it's going to empower those chairman which I keep telling you about who were there 12 years ago and many of them are on the side of Hoyer. And they've broken her in the first test.

And, obviously, she can't count votes very well, and I think to a certain extent she's not going to be the powerful speaker that you may have needed to get out of the box initially, and we'll just have to wait and see.

DOBBS: You know, you -- let's just put this in some context, how would you contrast her at this point with, say, that powerhouse Dennis Hastert?

ROLLINS: Dennis Hastert is no longer there and that's...

DOBBS: We have a new world.

ZIMMERMAN: I think the real critical issue here is that obviously while she lost this round, as a result, the Democratic Caucus is coming together because they have to preserve the majority and Congressman Murtha changed the dialogue in America on the Iraq war.

DOBBS: What if I said to you, Michael Goodwin, I see the Democrats, despite everything said here -- the Democrats chose to resist orthodoxy and embrace choice and change and democracy.

GOODWIN: I think it's absolutely -- it says a good thing about the Democratic Caucus as a whole. It says a bad thing about the leadership of it. I mean, this wasn't even close. This was a route. So...

DOBBS: What happened to the Republicans, Ed? Mike Pence.

ROLLINS: Obviously, they can't count either. DOBBS: This seems like such a simple mathematical exercise.

ROLLINS: I learned a long time ago, you count votes, you don't make the challenge. And I think the reality here is the conservatives thought they needed to be changed. I think most of the members didn't think they need to be changed. I think the most important part of this election, to me, was Tom Cole's election as the Congressional Committee chairman. Tom is the best political guy we have in the House. He ran the congressional committee before he became a member.

DOBBS: That leaves you Boehner and Blunt.

ROLLINS: That's OK. They're a good spokesperson in the minority, and they will be much more effective than they have been, and I think the reality -- because they don't have Hastert and they now have the mechanic that can basically come back.

ZIMMERMAN: Boehner and Blunt equals status quo, and they are on the same team that gave us promises for ethics reform and let us down. They let us down on homeland security.

ROLLINS: Now, you are turning it...


DOBBS: The election is concluded. We have to break for just one moment. We'll be back with Robert Zimmerman as he further skewers the Republican debris left in the wake of November 7th.


DOBBS: We'll be back with our panel here in just a second, but, first, coming up at CNN at the top of the hour, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.

Is it time for the United States to start talking to Iran and Syria about helping stabilizing Iraq? Key U.S. figures advising the president right now may be doing just that already. Will President Bush be next?

The comeback kid, Senator Trent Lott here in "THE SITUATION ROOM." The White House did not stand by him four years ago. Will he stand by the White House now? We'll ask him.

And an unappetizing delivery to the United States Supreme Court. Home-baked cookies laced with rat poison. We'll unveil the plot.

All that, Lou, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Wolf.

Returning now to our panel, back with Ed Rollins, Michael Goodwin, Robert Zimmerman. Iraq -- you wrote in your column this week, Michael Goodwin, "it is often said that the key to a stable Iraq is a political settlement there. Before we demand that of the Iraqis we must be able to meet that same standard here."

Do you agree with Michael?

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely. It may shock Michael and it may help his credibility, but I disagree with him profoundly, because I really do think it's the credit of the Democratic leadership joined by many Republican leaders like Chuck Hagel and Senator Warner that have changed the dialogue. This cannot be an open-ended engagement.

DOBBS: Well, he thinks you've jumped the gun, you Democrats, on Iraq.

GOODWIN: Well, I think that Carl Levin's plan, for example, to have the troops come out in four to six months -- we saw with Abizaid the other day, none of the military people think that's a good ideas. Now, I think the question is...

DOBBS: At least none of them at that particular hearing.

GOODWIN: That's right. They may be changing too. But I think it's important that we do have a bipartisan consensus as to what we do in Iraq. I think that's what the election was about and now we need to get it and I think it would be a mistake for the Democrats to run whole hog on their own plan without waiting to see what the Iraq Study Group and without getting the president to work with them.

DOBBS: That almost had sort of Solomon-like qualities to it.

ROLLINS: It did have Solomon-like quality, and I would hope that people will listen to Michael beyond the "Daily News" readership. I think the seriousness here is we have a president who is still hell- bent forletter (ph) to finish the war, and I think the messages coming out of Vietnam the last two days, which -- whoever put them there ought to be shot.

And I know he has got to go for the Asian conference, but to put him there and basically say there's lessons we learned out of Vietnam, and the lesson we learned out of Vietnam is you never go into a long, engaged battle without public support. But to say -- and I think what he has said, is that he is going to stay there. I mean, we're not -- in his mind, we're not backing away, and I think the...

ZIMMERMAN: Well, I think there's a real difference here, and with all deference to Michael as one of our nation's leading journalists I respect so much, I think the fundamental approach Mike is taking is wrong, and that is, we have to first recognize the solution to Iraq is going to be a political one, and it has to be one that allows to fight the war on terror where it is.

DOBBS: Since these gentlemen have not been kind with you, let me add a certain degree of...


DOBBS: ... disagreeability. No, no. But in this sense, I noticed the Democrats here, not as enthusiastic about their critiques of policy and the conduct in the war. And I'm not making a value judgment about it, but I'm asking a question.

It seems that with the onset of responsibility for resolution, we're seeing some more timidity than temerity on the part of the Democrats initially. And, by the way, that may be wise, because I don't think there are any simple solutions personally, and I've been extremely critical of this conduct.

ZIMMERMAN: I'm aware of that, but the point is, the Democrats have, I think, changed the entire dialogue in the country on the war in Iraq. The Democrats recognize the fact that this war is not helping make America more secure and it has destabilized the Middle East region and tragically it's empowered Iran.

DOBBS: Let's assume that we accept all of that.

GOODWIN: Yes, that's what I would say.

DOBBS: What do we do?

ZIMMERMAN: We realize that a military solution is not the answer but a political solution, one that brings stability to the region. The Baker-Hamilton Commission is an important step...


ROLLINS: And the idea that we're going to bring Syria and Iran without knowing what either of the two terrorist-sponsoring countries are going to even bring to the table is absurd, I mean, is absurd.

DOBBS: But only one of them is a member of the axis of evil.

ZIMMERMAN: And by the way, you also recognize too that now you see Republicans joining Democrats and recognizing there has to be a dialogue. In fact, Ambassador Satterfield acknowledged that Iran has to be part of the discussion.


ROLLINS: It's one thing to have discussion. It's one thing to have dialogue. It's another thing to basically say we're going to have a political solution. We don't know what's going to be on the table. Right now...

ZIMMERMAN: We have to make that a goal.

DOBBS: My God, if we have lost 3,000 American lives in Iraq, when a political solution is obtainable, I think we're going to have a lot of national dialogue on this entire war, its conduct, and its eventual resolution. Because if there's a political solution, why are we losing some of the very best people in this country in that conflict? ZIMMERMAN: And our soldiers have fought heroically and make us all very proud. It's the military and civilian leadership that should be held accountable.

DOBBS: Well, I think there's no question about that. The only issue to me is, 150,000 of our troops there, if it takes 300,000 to protect the lives of -- for security, to achieve the goals, is that a...

ZIMMERMAN: It's going to take the Iraqi government.

DOBBS: But hypothetically, if the Iraq Study Group were to recommend that, do you think Republicans and Democrats would support doubling the troops?

GOODWIN: Well, I think that's the point of the column that you cited, Lou, is that there has to be an agreement here before we can impose one there. And until we get one here now -- because of the election, because of how badly things have gone, I think Democrats and Republicans need to come to some consensus as to what we will support.

DOBBS: All right. We're out of time. Gentlemen, thank you. We leave it with, unfortunately, the question that faces the country, the ambiguous nature of the future with a lot of uncertainty, while our young men and women are in harm's way. Robert Zimmerman, thank you very much. Michael Goodwin, Ed Rollins, as always, thank you.

Still ahead, the result of our poll tonight. More of your thoughts. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Now, the results of our poll. This is a good one. Ninety-nine percent of you voting to say Smithfield meat packing is not racist and discriminatory in requiring that employees have valid Social Security numbers. Look out, Washington. Sense is descending on you.

Time now for more of your thoughts.

Matt in California: "Dear Lou, I just want to thank you. I spend all day with a shovel in my hand screaming at the radio and all its spinning. It's nice to come home, crack open a beer and hear someone make sense."

And Carol in Texas: "I'm a casualty of the war -- the war on the middle class. Viva la Mexico. I don't think so. Viva la middle class that paid for all the services illegals are receiving."

And Judy in Minnesota: "Regarding today's commentary, all I have to say is right on. We Americans allowed our legislators to take our government away from us. I hope they got the message that we sent last Tuesday."

And Russ in Illinois: "Lou, it could be possible that I missed it, but why didn't the ACLU fight the town of El Cenizo, Texas with the town council declared Spanish as the official language. Isn't that discrimination against the local minorities. Seems like the ACLU is actually the Alien Civil Liberties Union."

Send us your thoughts at We thank you for being with us tonight. Please join us tomorrow and Sunday, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, for "LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK." Good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.