Return to Transcripts main page

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Defense Secretary Nominee Robert Gates Showered With Plaudits For His Candor; Serious Doubts About Abilities Of Iraqi Units; Goodyear Tires May Be Sending Manufacturing Overseas And Cutting Jobs; British Going Head To Head With Russians Over Assassination Of Former Russian Spy; Rep. Duncan Hunter Discusses Iraq War, Border Security; George Mitchell Interview

Aired December 05, 2006 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, defense secretary nominee Robert Gates says the United States is not winning the war in Iraq, and all options, he says, will be on the table.
We'll have complete coverage from the Pentagon, the White House, Capitol Hill and Baghdad.

And an astonishing admission by the Department of Homeland Security today. The department says the United States has "effective control" of only 284 miles of our 2,000-mile-long border with Mexico. And the department admits it can't even define what effective control means.

We'll have that special report, all of the day's news, a great deal more, straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, December 5th.

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

Defense secretary nominee Robert Gates today delivered a bleak, blunt assessment of the direction of the war in Iraq and U.S. strategy. Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that confirmed his nomination today and sent it to the full Senate for a vote that the United States is not winning and there is a risk of regional conflagration. Gates emphasized that our troops are winning every battle they fight, but his comments in the overall progress on the war are in sharp contrast to the Bush administration's repeated assertions that the United States is winning.

Tonight, the Senate Armed Services Committee, as I said, voted unanimously to confirm Gates' nomination.

Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon on Gates' blunt assessment. And Ed Henry reports from the White House on whether Gates is on a collision course with the Bush administration before he even assumes office.

Ben Wedeman reports tonight from Baghdad on whether Iraq's military and police will ever be able to fight insurgents and terrorists without American support.

We turn first to Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, in his Senate testimony today, Bob Gates told the senators that President Bush understands that the strategy in Iraq isn't working, otherwise he wouldn't have been offered the job as defense secretary.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): Robert Gates was showered with plaudits for his candor from the senators, especially for his candid admission the U.S. is not currently winning the war.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), INCOMING ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: Your acknowledgment that we're not winning in Iraq, frankly, is a necessary, refreshing breath of reality that is so needed.

MCINTYRE: But after a lunch break, Gates said he wanted to revise his remarks to make clear he didn't think American troops were failing.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: I certainly stand by my statement this morning that I agreed with General Pace that we are not winning but we are not losing. And -- but I want to make clear that that pertains to the situation in Iraq as a whole.

MCINTYRE: For the most part, Gates navigated the committee's concerns by telling senators what they wanted to hear, while avoiding commitment to any specific option for Iraq.

GATES: I'm willing to consider all alternatives.

MCINTYRE: The only thing Gates flatly ruled out was a fixed timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. And he gave a qualified endorsement to ideas outlined by the man he's replacing.

GATES: It seemed to me that some of the options that Secretary Rumsfeld put forward are exactly among those that need to be considered in considering the path forward.

MCINTYRE: But with the benefit of hindsight, Gates criticized Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's initial war plan as flawed.

GATES: There clearly were insufficient troops in Iraq after the initial invasion to establish control over the country.

MCINTYRE: Gates warned failure in Iraq could draw Syria, Iran, Turkey and even Saudi Arabia into what he called a regional conflagration.

GATES: My greatest worry if we mishandle the next year or two, and if we leave Iraq in chaos, is that a variety of regional powers will become involved in Iraq and we will have a regional conflict on our hands.

MCINTYRE: But Gates' biggest promise was to listen and to be an independent voice.

GATES: Senator, I am not giving up the presidency of Texas A&M, the job that I've probably enjoyed more than any other I've ever had, making considerable personal financial sacrifice and, frankly, going through this process to come back to Washington to be a bump on a log.


MCINTYRE: In giving up that dream job, he will trade compensation that totaled over a million dollars a year for a job that pays $183,000 and comes with the tough assignment of fixing the U.S. strategy in Iraq. If confirmed, Gates says he will first go to Iraq and meet directly with U.S. commanders, and he said perhaps they'll be more candid with him as defense secretary than they might have been when he was just a member of the Iraq Study Group, meeting with them earlier this year -- Lou.

DOBBS: Jamie, thank you very much.

Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.

When Robert Gates arrived for his confirmation hearings he was not sworn in today, unlike most other people who give testimony before congressional committees. Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Senator John Warner said Gates was not sworn in on purpose. Senator Warner said he made that decision out of respect for Gates and the expectation he would tell the truth.

The White House today insisted Gates' testimony does not put him on a collision course with the administration. But whatever the White House says, it is clear Gates has a very different perspective on the war in Iraq than the president and other members of his administration have to this point at least expressed publicly.

Ed Henry reports from the White House -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the president is obviously thrilled that Robert Gates has cleared this first hurdle in the confirmation process, but the White House is already in an uncomfortable position because of that blunt assessment from the nominee.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: ... suggests is, number one, I know that you want to pit a fight between Bob Gates and the president. It doesn't exist. Read the full testimony and you'll see. The second thing is that it is really important to realize that there's a lot of stuff going on.

HENRY (voice-over): A White House thrown on the defensive by a defense secretary nominee who's not always reading from the same talking points as the president.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: We are not winning the war in Iraq, is that correct? GATES: That is my view, yes, sir.

MCCAIN: And therefore, the status quo is not acceptable?

GATES: That is correct, sir.

HENRY: At a press conference two weeks before the midterm elections, the president gave the opposite answer when asked if the U.S. is winning in Iraq.


HENRY: Tony Snow insisted that in his broader answers, Robert Gates was on the same page as the president.

SNOW: He proceeded to talk about the very challenges the president has been discussing in terms of developing capability on the Iraqi side, have an Iraq that can sustain, govern and defend itself. So what you may have are two guys who are looking at different definitions. I don't know. And I don't want to try to read their minds.

HENRY: But reading the tea leaves on the Iraq Study Group's report due out Wednesday has become sport in Washington.

SNOW: Let's just wait and see what happens. I think the idea -- this narrative of somehow somebody challenging the administration, that, I don't think, is the attitude of people who are involved here. This is not an insurgency. It is a commission.

HENRY: Leaders in both parties are trying to prod the White House into using the report and the Gates testimony as springboards for a change in course.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: I'm optimistic. I feel confident that the president and his team will take into consideration that report.

LEVIN: I think Dr. Gates' comments were even clearer than what the press reports, in terms of the Iraq Study Group, in terms of the need to not only consider all options but to change direction in Iraq.


HENRY: The president and James Baker had lunch alone today just off the Oval Office. A courtesy heads-up about the report that will arrive tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m.

The president will be briefed by all 10 members of the Iraq Study Group about their recommendations. But the president is not going to react to the official assessment and recommendations. Instead, he wants to take a few weeks to take a look at that, review it, but also weigh it against some separate administration reviews that are being conducted right now -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed, thank you very much.

Ed Henry from the White House.

Against the backdrop of the politics and political maneuvering in this nation's capital city, the realities of war in Iraq. Three more of our troops have been killed in Iraq. Two of our soldiers killed by insurgents. A third soldier killed in a vehicle accident.

Seventeen of our troops have been killed so far this month in Iraq, 2,907 troops killed since the war began. Another 22,057 of our troops wounded, 9,890 of them so seriously they could not return to duty within three days.

Insurgents also launched new attacks against Iraqi civilians today. Car bombs, mortars, gun attacks killed 45 people in Baghdad alone today. Iraqi police also found the bodies of 60 murder victims.

The U.S. military today said the Iraqi government, not our troops, will be in charge of security in the entire country by the fall of next year. But there are serious doubts about the loyalty, the adequacy of training, and the leadership of Iraqi units, and their ability to fight insurgents and terrorists.

Ben Wedeman reports from Baghdad.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than three and a half years after the U.S.-led invasion, the Iraqi army and police are supposed to be increasingly taking the lead while American forces provide backup. But the performance of Iraqi security forces has, at best, been mixed.

The Iraqi police have failed to establish basic order despite billions of dollars and millions of man hours spent on training. And the police force is widely believed to be infiltrated by the insurgents and militias and plagued by widespread corruption.

The army has fared only slightly better, suffering from high levels of desertion and lacking strong leadership, with many U.S. troops frustrated by what sometimes appears to be a lack of motivation.

LT. COL. ROSS BROWN, U.S. ARMY: They didn't do too much work yesterday, they didn't do too much work the day before. They haven't done too much work since they've been here.

WEDEMAN (on camera): And while the focus is on fixing Iraq's security forces, some military analysts are convinced the real problem lies with Iraq's government, which is so divided among rival sectarian groups and parties that it simply cannot provide the leadership necessary to bring Iraq back from the brink of catastrophe.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE) DOBBS: We'll have much more on U.S. strategy in Iraq ahead here. The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee joins us. He met with President Bush today. Congressman Duncan Hunter among our guests.

Also, the Department of Homeland Security now says a guest worker program is the only way to secure our borders and resolve our illegal immigration crisis.

We'll have that report.

And corporate America intensifying its war on our middle class, exporting thousands more jobs to cheap overseas labor markets.

That report.

And Russia saying it won't allow the extradition of any suspects in the assassination of a former KGB agent in England.

We'll have that report and a great deal more still ahead here tonight.


DOBBS: The wife of a Georgia state senator who went into hiding trying to avoid deportation can, it turns out, remain in this country. Sascha Herrera, the wife of Georgia legislator Curt Thompson -- he's a Democrat -- disappeared last week after federal agents tried to send her back to Colombia. Her husband, a strong supporter of illegal alien rights, says it was all a mix-up in the paperwork. And a judge today agreed and set her free.

The Supreme Court today ruled a Mexican national convicted in South Dakota on drug charges and deported to Mexico can return to the United States as a permanent resident. The high court said that first-time simple drug possession is a misdemeanor under federal law and does not require deportation.

Today's decision, we are told, makes it easier for legal immigrants convicted of drug possession to avoid deportation. About 7,000 people deported last year for drug offenses.

The Department of Homeland Security tonight says it has what it calls "effective control" of only 248 miles of our 2,000-mile long border with Mexico. Just under 15 percent. If that's not bad enough, the Department of Homeland Security says it can't even define what "effective" control means.

Later here, we'll have a special report on that and on whether the United States will ever have an effective strategy to secure our borders.

NASCAR, the name itself an all-American icon. NASCAR has a deal with another American icon, Goodyear Tires. But this icon may be sending more of its manufacturing overseas and cutting jobs and benefits for America's middle class workers. Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): NASCAR has been an American institution for 53 years. The drivers, the fans, the cars a symbol of America. But the tires, that could be a different story in the future.

Goodyear has an exclusive contract to make NASCAR tires. The United Steelworkers Union accuses the tire company of slowing driving American jobs out of the country to China and eastern Europe. At a dinner marking the end of the NASCAR season, steel workers protested.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you mess with the steel workers, it's going to be a bad year for Goodyear.

SYLVESTER: Fifteen thousand United Steelworkers walked off the job in October over retiree health benefits and job security after Goodyear said it would close a Texas plant. Meanwhile, Goodyear has ramped up investments in China, where workers are paid 42 cents an hour.

LEO GERARD, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES STEELWORKERS: The reality is that the economic trading system is bankrupting America. The economic trading system is showing companies like Goodyear a roadmap out of town.

SYLVESTER: The steelworkers say three years ago they accepted pay cuts and other concessions that boosted last year's after-tax profits to $230 million.

GERARD: As a result of that, Goodyear's had an economic turnaround. Their stock price is up, so it means the stockholders did well. The senior management, the president, the CEO and the board and lots of others paid themselves big bonuses. So they've done well.

SYLVESTER: The striking steelworkers have not done well. Their jobs went to replacement workers.

Goodyear declined an interview request, but in a statement said, "We are increasing our domestic production of tires every day and we are importing more tires every day from our global manufacturing base. All of those tires meet Goodyear's same high standards of quality."


SYLVESTER: Goodyear's Tyler, Texas, plant will close in June, 1,200 workers there will lose their jobs. And it's the second Goodyear plant closing in just three years -- Lou.

DOBBS: Goodyear acknowledging that they're importing those tires from their plants overseas, where, as you point out in that report, they're paying workers 42 cents an hour. This is somebody's idea of free trade. Whose idea is it? SYLVESTER: Well, this is definitely free trade and globalization, and we see how the American workers are getting hurt. What the steelworkers are saying is they shouldn't have to compete with workers who are making 42 cents an hour -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, don't tell the elites of this country or the people who run Goodyear or the people who run any number of companies in corporate America. They think it makes perfect sense to put our middle class in competition with the lowest wage workers in the world.

Thank you very much.

Lisa Sylvester.

And a programming note. Please join us tomorrow -- Thursday evening, rather, for a special edition of this broadcast. We're holding a town hall meeting in Buffalo, New York, "War on the Middle Class," 7:00 p.m. Eastern, Thursday.

We'll be reporting from Buffalo, New York. It is a city certainly on the front lines of the war on this country's middle class. We will air that town hall meeting Thursday, a special report, 7:00 p.m. Eastern from Buffalo.

We've reported here extensively on this administration's plans to give control of U.S. airlines to foreign interests. Tonight the giveaway has been blocked, scrapped by the Department of Transportation suddenly in the face of congressional and industry opposition and more than a little tough opposition coming from the viewers of this broadcast being relayed to their representatives in Washington.

The proposal would have allowed foreign investors to make decision about U.S. routes, fares, what planes to buy, where those aircraft would be maintained. And, of course, those planes that could be used in time of war would be under the control of foreign ownership.

The proposal came about in the name of free trade. You guessed it, so that U.S. carriers could acquire landing rights in Europe. European airlines already have landing rights in this country.

The proposal came about in the name of free trade. You guessed it. So that U.S. Carries could acquire landing rights in Europe. European airlines already have landing rights in this country. Good news to report for a change on some of the idiocy that grips some of our political elites and certainly some of the people in this administration.

Coming up next, the Department of Homeland Security tells Congress it will cost more and take longer to protect our borders.

We'll have that special report.

And Mexico's new president says he'll tackle violence and corruption. The problem is, he's already got so much of it, it may be a nearly impossible task.

We'll have that report.

And the British going head to head with the Russians over the assassination of a former Russian spy in London.

That report and a great deal more coming right up. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight, an assassination by radioactive poisoning is sparking a new cold war between Russia and Great Britain. The Russian government says it has nothing to do with the slow radiation murder of an ex-KGB agent, Alexander Litvinenko, in London last month. The Kremlin has promised full cooperation in the murder investigation, but today refused a request by the British to extradite any suspects.

Meanwhile, in London, investigators have found traces of Polonium-210 radiation in a dozen sites where Litvinenko ate, drank or stayed before his assassination. Three British Airways aircraft were also grounded because they were suspected of having been used to transport the radioactive substance that ultimately killed Litvinenko.

Officials did find low levels of radiation in two of those aircraft. All, however, have since been cleared for safe travel.

Right now, Scotland Yard officials are in Moscow investigating the assassination.

Jennifer Eccleston reports tonight from London -- Jennifer.

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, British police have come across significant challenges into the investigation of former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko. And despite assurances from Moscow that they will cooperate, there seems to be limit to that cooperation.


ECCLESTON (voice-over): Scotland Yard detectives in Moscow to interview several people who met Alexander Litvinenko around the time of his poisoning in early November. On the first full day of their investigation, one that British authorities say could take weeks, a major snarl. Despite Kremlin pledges of full support, the country's prosecutor general says Russia will not expedite possible suspects.

YURI CHAIKA, RUSSIAN PROSECUTOR GENERAL (through translator): If they want to arrest them it would be impossible. They are citizens of Russia, and the Russian constitution makes that impossible.

ECCLESTON: The Russian prosecutor general adds that any one who is questioned will be questioned by Russian prosecutors. The British will simply be allowed to listen in.

One of the people investigators are expected to speak to is the former KGB officer-turned-businessman, Andrei Lugovoi. He and another former agent met Litvinenko at London's Millennium Hotel the day Litvinenko became ill.

The Millennium Hotel tested positive for radiation exposure, and Lugovoi claims that he, his wife and children also tested positive. He is currently in a Moscow hospital. Any attempts to link him to Litvinenko's death, he says, is a set-up.

According to British media reports, Lugovoi visited the British embassy in Moscow last week to deny any involvement. Today the embassy was tested for possible contamination.

ANJOUM NORRANI, UNITED KINGDOM EMBASSY (through translator): A group of experts have arrived in Moscow from London to check the embassy building for radiation. These are just precautionary measures, like those undertaken in several public places in London.

ECCLESTON: A dozen sites in London have now been tested, as well as several airplanes that traveled the Moscow-London route since November 1st, when Litvinenko is believed to have been poisoned. Twenty-two days later, Alexander Litvinenko died in a London hospital. His organs ravaged by a rare radioactive isotope called Polonium-210.

From his death bed, the ex-spy-turned-Kremlin-critic accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of responsibility for his poisoning. An accusation the Kremlin has denied.

A number of Litvinenko's associates continue to blame active and rogue agents within Russia's federal security services, the FSB, Litvinenko's former employer. A former FSB colleague, Mikhail Trepashkin (ph), through his lawyer, expressed his eagerness to talk to British investigators to make the case that Litvinenko was a victim of an FSB death squad set up to liquidate Kremlin opponents.

Trepashkin is currently serving a prison sentence for exposing state secrets. Russia's prison service ruled out any prospects of a meeting between the ex-spy and British investigators.

(on camera): A prison spokesman said somebody sentenced for disclosing state secrets will not continue to be a source for foreign states.

There may be limits to the Kremlin's pledge of full support.

Jennifer Eccleston, CNN, London.


DOBBS: And we should explain British government regulations require that the faces of those investigators be blocked out.

British doctors are certain that Litvinenko died as a result of the radiation poisoning from Polonium-210. They have completed the autopsy of Litvinenko, and the autopsy results will not be made public until the criminal investigation is completed.

Let's take a look at some of your thoughts now. Mark in New York wrote in to say, "Given the recent statements of the president, the former secretary of defense and their national security adviser, America has one less commodity to export, the truth."

And Robert in California, "When the immigration service supervisor Schowfield admitted that he had falsified documents for people seeking U.S. citizenship, the U.S. attorney, Chuck Rosenberg, said, 'Those who compromise the integrity of our national immigration system betray the confidence of the American people, and their actions are shameful.' I wonder if this statement would apply as well to employers who hire illegal aliens."

I wonder also if it would apply to those who refuse to enforce our immigration laws and to secure our borders.

"Lou, I'm afraid to ask, but the new citizenship test, it is in English, isn't it?"

E-mail us your thoughts at We'll have more of your thoughts here later in the broadcast.

Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my book, "War on the Middle Class."

Up next, the Department of Homeland Security admits our borders are broken. Officials say they can only secure 15 percent of our border with Mexico.

South of the border, in Mexico, a new president promises to stamp out corruption and violence amidst corruption and violence.

And what's the plan for Iraq? A congressman who's running for president should know. He talked with President Bush about that very issue today. Congressman Duncan Hunter joins us here.

Stay with us for all of that and a great deal more straight ahead.


DOBBS: A top stories tonight, the defense secretary nominee, Robert Gates, today delivering a blunt, bleak assessment of the progress of the war in Iraq, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee the United States is not winning in Iraq.

The U.S. military today said Iraqi forces will take control of the security in all of Iraq by the fall of next year. There are, however, serious doubts Iraqi troops and police have the training, leadership or will to do so.

And the nominee, Bob Gates, confirmed by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

There is rising outrage tonight over efforts by another major American company to export thousands of American middle class jobs to cheap overseas labor markets. Goodyear tire the latest in a series of major corporations to intensify the outright war on our middle class. The Steel Workers Union protesting and rejecting the policy.

In other important news tonight, the Department of Homeland Security today admitted it cannot define what controlling our borders actually means. Let me repeat that. The Department of Homeland Security cannot confidently define what controlling our borders means.

And on the other side of the border, Mexico's new president says he will try to control violence and corruption.

Bill Tucker reports on our government's latest plans to secure our broken borders. Christine Romans tonight reports on what the new president of Mexico says he'll try to do to control what's becoming outright chaos in his country.

We begin with Bill Tucker with a report on the lack of progress in securing this country's borders -- Bill.

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, as we've been reporting on this program for years, control of our border with Mexico essentially doesn't exist. Now the Department of Homeland Security is tying control of our southern border to what it calls an urgent need for a temporary guest worker program.


TUCKER (voice-over): The Department of Homeland Security admits in a report to Congress that we only have effective control of 14 percent of our southern border. To get tighter control, DHS is calling for the completion of its virtual fence project, known as SBI Net, costing more than $8 billion.

DHS is also saying a temporary worker program is essential. Quote, "It will relieve the mounting pressure on the Border Patrol and help to sustain the important progress that we're making in securing our borders. It is also going to send a determent message to would-be border crossers that there is a regulated system for finding work in the United States."

Congressional critics call that outrageous.

REP. JOHN CULBERSON (R), TEXAS: There is no urgent need for a guest worker program. There is a urgent need to secure the border and protect this nation against not only common criminals and gang members coming across, but terrorists.

TUCKER: Even with a guest worker program, DHS says control can't be achieved for another five years at least. Here's what that means. DHS apprehends on million people along the southern border every year.

The Border Patrol says that for every one they catch, another two to three make it across. That means an additional 10 to fifteen million illegal aliens will enter the country during that five years. Critics point out that securing the border can be much more immediate. JIM GILCHRIST, MINUTEMAN PROJECT: Our government and our society is so resilient, we can literally do whatever we want overnight. All that's necessary is to accept the challenge, to take this bull by the horns and set out on a campaign to enforce our immigration laws.

TUCKER: But there doesn't appear to be the will to do that.


TUCKER: Just as there doesn't appear to be the will to crack down on employers that illegally hire those workers.

And, Lou, that's already against the law.

DOBBS: When we talk about will -- and let's be clear -- the will of the American people is absolutely straightforward. They want illegal immigration stopped. They want the borders secure. The lack of will is on the part of the political elites in Washington operating at the behest of their corporate masters to bring in a little more cheap labor.

It's remarkable. We talk about the absolute sham that the Department of Homeland Security is. Michael Chertoff, secretary of DHS -- yes, I said your operation and what you're doing in this country and to this country is an outrage and you ought to be ashamed.

But this sham, to sit there and to say to the American people that the only way to secure the border is to have a guest worker program? Of all the mendacious, outrageous, politically-inspired claptrap that could flow from that department -- and it is loaded with it -- I can't imagine topping it.

And the idea of not being able to defend? To define, rather -- defend or define controlling our border? What is in the world is that about?

TUCKER: Well, I spoke with him about that today. And I said -- they told me, we lack the methodology to define control. And I said, what does control mean? And they said, well -- and they couldn't give me a definitive answer of what control means, Lou.

DOBBS: That's absolutely outrageous. Control? How about this, DHS? Just a quick stab at it, OK? That means the United States government is in control of who and what is permitted to cross that border. Does that work for you, DHS? Come on. You've got some big brains there. Try to wrap them around that one.

Bill Tucker, thank you very much.

That brings us to the subject of our poll. Do you believe, as the Department of Homeland Security suggests, the answer to the immigration and border security crisis in this country is a guest worker program? You've got to love the idiots who run that department. Yes or no. Cast your vote at My comments are in no way meant to, in any way, influence your vote, I assure you. In addition to protecting our borders, our Department of Homeland Security is also trying to stop fraud and corruption, in many cases by its own employees. This just doesn't stop with the DHS.

A report by the department's inspector general says there were 321 arrests in a six-month period. Some of the crimes cited federal air marshals smuggling drugs, immigration officials demanding sex for visas and Transportation Security Agency screeners stealing from inspected baggage.

Agency supporters say that the number of offenses is small for a department of its size. And the arrests show -- are you ready? This is their conclusion: The arrests showed that oversight is improving. Hallelujah!

Mexico tonight -- let's turn to Mexico. It's on the brink of chaos. Felipe Calderon, its new president, taking over as president of a country that is a rich oil producer, the wealthiest among nations in Latin America, and half of its citizens living in, at best, poverty. And as crisis simmers in Oaxaca and drug crime explodes across northern Mexico, Calderon has to decide which problem he may try to deal with first.

Christine Romans reports.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mexican President Felipe Calderon promises to fight drug crime and corruption.

FELIPE CALDERON, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO (through translator): You can be sure that my government is working hard to win the battle against crime.

ROMANS: He has a lot of work to do. Here, the ambush truck of elite Mexican law enforcement, four dead, four wounded. In Calderon's hometown, dozens of police among the 500 murders there this year, 15 reported beheadings. It's a vicious drug war for trafficking routes in the west, murders spilling into the north of the country and even touching the glittering beaches of Acapulco.

Seven journalists have been killed this year in Mexico. Reporters Without Borders says only Iraq is more dangerous for the press.

In the southern state of Oaxaca, a message to tourists. For six months now, buildings burning, homemade rockets in the streets in a town paralyzed by leftist protests of state government corruption. Their message is resonating. Poverty tops 40 percent. Economic development depends on sending its poorest and least educated to the United States. This from the world's 10th largest oil exporter.

GEORGE GRAYSON, THE COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY: The problems are enormous. They're mountainous. He, though, seems to be committed to cracking down on delinquents, on criminals. And that's the major concern of most Mexicans, that they're not safe in their homes, in their workplace, in their schools, and in the streets.

ROMANS: He says Calderon must resolve the crisis in Oaxaca but first establish his legitimacy after such a slim victory after his leftists opponent in July, evidenced in his bruising swearing-in ceremony.


ROMANS: His failed opponent has promised a parallel government, and the hardcore of his disappointed supporters are vowing to push ahead with their leftist agenda, those supporters even establishing a shadow Mexican Consulate in Chicago, Lou.

DOBBS: So now there are two consulates in Chicago, one for Calderon's government and one for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador?

DOBBS: We'll see if it's more symbolic than anything else, but it just -- it shows sort of the tenor, I think.

DOBBS: So Mexican politics as well as drugs and poverty, and all of its problems being exported to this country. I'm glad we can participate. I'm sure the open borders activists and all of those so deeply, deeply committed to illegal immigration in this country are thrilled. I don't know how the people of Chicago might feel.

Thank you very much, appreciate it, Christine Romans.

On Capitol Hill, the nominee for defense secretary grilled in the Senate today on the eve of a report from the Iraq Study Group. Washington preparing to craft a new strategy for Iraq? Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee went to the president today and gave them their recommendations. Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter is a 2008 presidential hopeful. He joins us tonight with his thoughts on the Iraq war, our border security crisis.

Let's turn first -- first of all, Mr. Chairman, good to have you with us.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: Good to be with you.

DOBBS: How was the conversation with the president today?

HUNTER: Well you know it was good, and he's in the receive mode right now. He's got the ISG Group coming up with their recommendations. We had some great members of Congress talking to him about their ideas with respect to Iraq. My own recommendation is that we take the 33 Iraqi battalions that we've already trained and equipped, Lou, and move them into the fight, rotate them into combat operations.

That matures them as a force. And it hastens a time when American troops can pull out of there. So we all had our recommendations. I think we should get behind the president. When he accumulates these recommendations from a number of different groups, he's going to refocus on this policy, probably come up with some changes. I think it's going to be Iraqi heavy. I think it's going to mean sending in more Iraqi troops, using them to patrol the streets, having embedded American trainers accelerate the training operation. I think we're going to be home sooner than you think, Lou, because the second stage in this process is always standing up the security apparatus.

We've got some Iraqi battalions that are doing very well right now, fighting hard. I think the president is going to come up with a new angle, a new approach in the next several weeks.

DOBBS: I don't think he has, do you, the luxury to do otherwise?

HUNTER: Well, you know, I think we should get behind this commander in chief. And I don't think we should supplant his leadership with this ISG.

DOBBS: Congressman, this commander in chief, this president, frankly, with his lack of candor and straight forwardness has not made it easy for Americans to accept his leadership. Would you not agree?

HUNTER: No, I don't agree with that, Lou.

DOBBS: His nominee to be defense secretary said straightforwardly today in his judgment that U.S. forces are not winning in Iraq. That is something that this administration would not acknowledge, in fact asserted the inverse, when the facts are clear.

HUNTER: Well, Lou, the point isn't to kill Iraqis. The point is to stand up.

DOBBS: I understand the point. The point is not to kill Americans and the point is to achieve objectives, which frankly have not been clearly stated by this administration. Would you not agree with that as well?

HUNTER: Well I can tell you what I state.

DOBBS: Oh, absolutely.

HUNTER: And I say we're in the second phase of this three-step process, which is stand up a force that can secure the country and protect the government. That's always tough, Lou. It's always the toughest part.

DOBBS: Yes, I couldn't agree with you more. In terms of accepting leadership, it's always easier with a clearly-stated objective, strategy to achieve the goal, and progress toward that goal. I think you would agree -- well, would you agree that that is rather ambiguous, at best, at this point?

HUNTER: No, I don't think it's ambiguous. I think the goal is clearly stated. I think that everything right now, Lou, depends on the standup of the Iraqi forces. If they were in charge of Iraq right now, we'd have C-130s deploying out those airfields right now. That's what everything else depends on. And we've got some that are doing very well and others that need to get into the fight. Let's get them into the fight and stand them up.

DOBBS: Congressman, let's turn to the issue of border security. A department of this government that I think is about as horrendously led, about as much of a political sham and joke and so critical to the welfare of 300 million Americans today said despite the fact that it has the obligation to secure our borders, that it can't define how to control -- define control of borders. What is your reaction to that?

HUNTER: Lou, that is an incredible statement. And we do control the border in San Diego. We built that border fence, that 14-mile double fence. Nobody comes across that thing illegally when you've got the border patrol on that fence.

We knocked down the cocaine smuggling, the people smuggling by over 90 percent. We extend that border fence by law, which the president signed and sent to the Department of Homeland Security. The San Diego fence is extended 700 miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The Department of Homeland Security better look at the language that I wrote into that bill. It said shall build the fence, it doesn't say it's a goal, it doesn't say that it's something they should look at, it's a suggestion. If they build that fence, I don't care how they define security. They'll have security if they move the San Diego border fence, which people can't come across, we'll start having some security. They need to build it.

DOBBS: They need to build it. But the Democratic leadership -- and they will be in charge -- say they're not going to fund it and in point of fact, make it very clear. They don't want it built.

HUNTER: We've already got quite a few dollars that are funded right now. We've got over a billion dollars that's available for that fence and I think it's going to be a mistake for this administration -- you know, the "Washington Post" said after we passed the fence bill that we didn't really mean it. Well, let me tell you, I meant it and I wrote it. And lots of other Republicans meant it. Peter King meant it, chairman of the homeland security committee. Jim Sensenbrenner did. We're going to build that fence.

DOBBS: All right, we'll mark that down and how soon will it be completed? We've got to go real quick.

HUNTER: Well, you know, we can do it in 12 months if we use a lot of contractors and we do it in big pieces of the fence at the same time, we can do it, Lou.

DOBBS: We'll talk in a year on that issue among others.


DOBBS: And many times I'm sure before that on a host of others. Duncan Hunter, thank you for being with us.

HUNTER: Thank you, my friend. DOBBS: Up next, John Bolton resigned as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Will his replacement defend American's interest as vigorously as he did at the United Nations? Will his partisan environment that led to a recess appointment and ultimately his resignation, will it be able to permitted to obscure what was a clear record of success? Stay with us, I'll be talking with former peace envoy Senator George Mitchell about Iraq, Bolton, the Middle East and more, when we come back.


DOBBS: The United States faces dangerous new challenges overseas. Defense Secretary Nominee Robert Gates today saying this country is not winning the war in Iraq. At the same time, Iran, North Korea still defying the world over advancement of their nuclear weapons programs. All this as the United States is losing its ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, announcing his resignation yesterday.

Joining me now, former Senator majority leader, George Mitchell, former peace enjoy to both northern Ireland and the Middle East. Good to have you with us.


DOBBS: Senator, let's start with a situation in Iraq. It is deteriorating by any definition. It has almost become a national game among some, at least, to try to decide whether or not this is a civil war, whether we're winning or losing. Give us your read of the facts. They seem straight forward at least to me. I'm curious what you think.

MITCHELL: I think it clearly is a civil war by any historical definition of that term. But I think less important than the precise terms you used to describe it is the realistic assessment that it isn't working.

Violence is increasing. The government has not been able to establish itself, the government there, as the unity government that it was intended to be. Indeed it's just the opposite now, breaking down along sectarian lines. And so I think it's very clear that a change is necessary. And I believe, Lou, that a change is coming.

DOBBS: That change, perhaps, will be facilitated by the Iraq Study Group, its recommendations, its assessments. Perhaps by a defense secretary nominee who says all options are open to the degree we find out whether or not that is true -- it seems we'll find out whether he will have the office rather quickly. But also, a president who is beleaguered on this -- on the issue of the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the global war on terror.

No one has more experience as a diplomat on that region than you. Give us your assessment of what the likely prospects are for U.S. policy and the likely results in the Middle East, if you would. GEORGE MITCHELL, FMR. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, first, of course, there is easy answer. There is no course that's free of risk and assured of success.

But I believe a fundamental error made by the administration made -- beginning several years ago was to concentrate all of our effort, our attention, our manpower and our resources in Iraq to the virtual exclusion of other problems in the area.

There is an intersection of conflicts there. The Sunni/Shia split, Lebanon, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- and particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is the central concern.

Lou, one out of five persons on earth is Muslim. One out of five Muslims is Arab. Both numbers are going to increase dramatically in the next half century because they are by far the fastest growing populations on earth. And the central concern they have is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Even if Iraq suddenly, miraculously achieved success now -- well, the president said we wanted it three years ago -- there would be not stability in the region until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.

DOBBS: And at the same time, this government is making it clear that there's a likelihood that the United States government will be reaching out to both Syria and to Iran. President Ahmadinejad of Iran says Israel will disappear from the face of the earth. At the same time, he's saying he wants to be helpful.

Square that up for us in terms of U.S. policy.

MITCHELL: Well, a lot of it is for domestic political consumption. Remember, a lot of the things our political leaders say are intended for domestic political consumption and don't seem to make sense overseas.

But let me say what I think it should be: not just approaching Iran and Syria in isolation. I think it has to be a regional approach. And you have to deal with the other issues in the region and recognize the tremendous problems that exist.

I think we can make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on the Syrian-Israeli differences, on many others, obviously not easy, not quickly. But I think we ought to move in the direction of broadening this, doing what we can to mitigate what has turned out to be a disaster in Iraq, but make it a broader issue.

DOBBS: Let me ask you this. The support of the United States for Israel is immutable. The dependence of the United States and European nations primarily upon Middle Eastern oil is rising. To what degree would the policy, the conflict, the war, the confusion that is resulting from the U.S. policies that have been pursued so far in the Middle East, been eliminated by an independence of Middle Eastern oil on the part of this country? MITCHELL: It is the most important strategic issue facing our country over the next few decades. It is very clear that the hundreds of billions of dollars, the thousands of lives that we've lost have been -- resulted from the fact of our oil dependence. It is the most important strategic issue we face over the next 20 years.

DOBBS: George Mitchell, any interest in -- as your name has been put on a list of those who the president would like to succeed John Bolton as U.N. Ambassador?

MITCHELL: If my name's on the list, it's got to be a mile long, Loud, because I don't think it's likely the president is going to pick a Democrat like me. I think he's got the right, and he should have the right to pick someone of his own party...

DOBBS: You're a Democrat?

MITCHELL: ... closer to his own views.

Oh, yes, yes. Very proud of it.

DOBBS: Indeed. As you should be.

Thank you very much, Senator George Mitchell, former majority leader of the Senate, envoy to Northern Ireland and to the Middle East.

Thank you.

MITCHELL: Thank you.

DOBBS: A reminder to vote in our poll. Do you believe, as the Department of Homeland Security suggests, that the answer to our immigration and border security crisis is a guest worker program?

Just love to know what you think. Yes or no. Cast your vote at We'll have the results here in just a few moments. I promise to send them along to DHS just as soon as they're compiled.

Stay with us.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, the United States, not winning the war in Iraq. So says the man who wants to be the new secretary of defense. Why does it sound like he's at odds with the president? We'll take a closer look.

Fidel Castro, a no-show on his birthday, fueling lots of speculation about his health. We'll take a closer look at U.S. plans for Cuba the day Castro dies.

Plus, Big Brother is watching what you eat in New York City. It bans trans fats in restaurants. Will this change the way the rest of the country eats?

Also, a former president's tears. We'll look at the relationship between President Bush and his father.

All that coming up in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

LOU DOBBS TONIGHT continues in one minute.


DOBBS: We apologize for not being able to bring you our interview with Congressman Silvestre Reyes, the chairman of -- the soon-to-be chairman of the House of Intelligence Committee. We will broadcast that interview here tomorrow.

Now the results of our poll. Ninety-three percent of you saying the answer, as DHS suggests, to the immigration and border security crisis in this country is not a guest worker program.

And, yes, we are going to send that along to DHS, who's peddling that kind of nonsense.

Time now for more of your thoughts.

Richard in Florida: "When we finally have a person with some common sense in the United Nations, Washington runs him off. There's nothing that our administration or Congress touches that isn't now broken. 'Politician' has become a dirty word."

John in California: "Congress needs a grammar lesson. They don't know the difference between the prepositions "for" and "to". They are supposed to be doing things for the American people, not to us."

John in Indiana: "Who knew that I've been living my life the wrong way. I though if you broke the law, there were consequences, not rewards."

And Joe in Florida: "Why are they worrying about those lost files at the Citizenship and Immigration Service? They are going to be getting 20 million new ones."

Indeed, they are, it appears. We'll see.

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at

Thanks for being with us. Please 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.