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Lou Dobbs Tonight

New Baghdad Violence: Security Operations Intensifies; Deadlock in Congress on Iraq War Resolutions; Bush's Budget

Aired February 05, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, the U.S. military is intensifying its security crackdown in Baghdad after the worst insurgent bombing of the entire war. Is this crackdown too late to stop all-out civil war in Iraq?
We'll have a special report for you tonight from Baghdad.

And a top Bush administration official blasts critics of the White House plan to form a North American union without the consent of Congress or the American people in a speech -- you guessed it -- in Mexico City.

We'll have that special report, much more. And we'll be reporting to you tonight on a perfect storm in public education in this country.

All the day's news straight ahead here tonight.

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

Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

U.S. troops in Baghdad tonight have begun what could be the decisive battle of this war. The first U.S. reinforcements are deploying in the Iraqi capital, trying to stop the spiraling violence. The deployment comes two days after insurgents killed nearly 130 Iraqis in a massive truck bombing.

On Capitol Hill, supporters and opponents of that troop increase are escalating their political opposition. Republican leaders tonight threatening to block any vote on a Senate resolution that criticizes the president's conduct of this war.

Michael Ware tonight reports from Baghdad on the tremendous challenge that faces our troops in Iraq.

Andrea Koppel reports from Capitol Hill tonight on the political showdown.

And Suzanne Malveaux reports from the White House on the president's massive new budget. Much of it for the war in Iraq.

We turn first to Michael Ware in Baghdad -- Michael. MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad today, a city of more than five million people craving security, the violence continues unabated. Following the weekend's devastating truck bomb attack in a crowded marketplace, that killed more than 128 people, the capital awoke today to 25 more bodies found on its streets. Most likely the victims of sectarian violence.

This was followed by a five-hour spree of violence in which 27 more people were killed by at least five car bombings, mortar attacks, shootings and roadside bombings. All of this as the city awaits for the Baghdad security plan to deliver stability.

With 21,500 American reinforcements expected, only one brigade, about 3,200 troops, have been activated so far. They have begun moving into the city, creeping through operations as they begin to, not only secure neighborhoods, but attempt to hold them, putting American forces in place where they're expected to stay.

A dramatic change from previous plans. However, this surge, as President Bush has described the Baghdad security plan, is merely mutation of the previous battle of Baghdad known as Operation Together Forward, the military's plan to reclaim the capital from the death squads, militias and insurgents who hold this population in a stranglehold.

Meanwhile, elements of the Iraqi government have criticized the American military for failing to institute the new security plan quickly enough, crediting the Americans with creating a security environment that has allowed these vicious attacks to continue -- Lou.

DOBBS: Michael Ware from Baghdad.

Insurgents have killed six more of our troops in Iraq, two other troops have died of noncombat-related causes.

Fifteen of our troops now have been killed in Iraq so far this month, 3,098 killed since the beginning of the war. 23,279 wounded, 10,342 of them so seriously they couldn't return to duty within three days.

The U.S. military is revising its helicopter tactics in Iraq after admitting that enemy fire, not accidents, caused four helicopter crashes over the past two weeks in which 21 Americans were killed. Three of the downed helicopters were from the U.S. Army. The fourth operated by a private security contractor.

The political battle on Capitol Hill over the president's conduct of this war has reached a pivotal point. Republican leaders tonight are resisting a Senate vote on a resolution that would criticize the president's troop increase. Democrats are furious. They say the Republican tactics are nothing less than obstructionism.

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

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, today was supposed to be the day that the Democratically-controlled Senate began the most comprehensive debate about the Iraq war to date. And until late last week, that debate was supposed to focus exclusively on one bipartisan, non-binding resolution criticizing opposing the president's plan to send thousands more troops to Iraq. But Republicans are in the process right now of blocking this move on the floor of the Senate until Majority Leader Harry Reid agrees to bring at least two Republican alternatives into the mix.

Neither side has blinked. And so, at least for the moment, no debate, no votes. It's a stalemate.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Their actions aren't driven by getting votes on Republican proposals. They're not being driven by votes on Republican proposals, they're driven by desire to provide political cover.

The minority can't rubberstamp the president's policies in Iraq anymore. So they have decided to stamp out debate and let the president's actions in Iraq proceed unchecked.


KOPPEL: And so what is next? Well, both sides are pointing the finger of blame at the other. At the moment, we have Senator Harry Reid, who is saying, at least threatening, not to bring up what's known as the Warner-Levin amendment, at least for the time being, because next week, Lou, unless the Senate agrees to pass a stop-gap funding measure, the federal government wouldn't have money to continue because, as you know, Republicans fail to pass the 2007 budget last year -- Lou.

DOBBS: Andrea, how does the resolution stand tonight?

KOPPEL: The Warner-Levin resolution?

DOBBS: Correct.

KOPPEL: At the moment, it has a majority of -- or we should say a large number of Democrats who support it. And perhaps anywhere between seven to 10 Republicans.

But the question is, Lou, whether or not they would have the 60 votes necessary to cut off debate. And nobody at the moment knows.

DOBBS: And as to that debate that has been long promised in the Senate over both the policy options facing the United States and Iraq and the consequences of those policies, where do we stand there?

KOPPEL: At the moment, Lou, there will be no debate. I just learned that the vote has happened on the floor. It's 49-47.

So by the slimmest of majorities -- rather, they didn't obviously get the 60 votes needed to cut off debate. Harry Reid, as I've said, is threatening not to bring in measure to the floor. But this could all be bluster. Both sides are supposed to have press conferences within the hour.

DOBBS: All right. Thank you very much.

Andrea Koppel, thank you.

Congressional Democrats tonight are blasting the president's budget as well, saying the president's new budget is filled with what they call dent and deception. President Bush wants the Congress to approve a budget of just under $3 trillion for next year. More than one-fifth of that is for the Pentagon for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Suzanne Malveaux reports now from the White House.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's our money, and President Bush wants to spend almost $3 trillion of it. It's a staggering figure that's hard for any of us to imagine. But consider this -- after you crunch all the numbers, it's estimated that total cost for the war and terror will approach $800 billion within the next two years. President Bush says the increases he's seeking in the new budget are justified.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And our priority is to make sure our troops have what it takes to do their jobs.

MALVEAUX: The breakdown: more than $93 billion additional dollars for this year's war operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, on top of $70 billion already approved.; more than $140 billion for 2008; and an 11 percent increase in the Pentagon budget. Mr. Bush insists the country can afford to boost military spending while balancing the budget in five years without raising taxes, a claim members of Congress, now controlled by the Democrats, quickly dismissed.

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: That's why I say this budget is a combination of deception in debt in a way that's disconnected from reality.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: The day of the blank check for the president and the war is over.

MALVEAUX: The president's budget aims at paying for the military increases by cutting out more than $95 billion in other areas over the next five years, including sharply reducing or eliminating more than 140 government programs for a savings of $12 billion, and squeezing $78 billion out of Medicare and Medicaid, health programs for elderly and poor.

ROB PORTMAN, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, they are now more than half of the budget. And what he president proposes is actually less than a one percentage point reduction in Medicare over five or 10 years.

MALVEAUX: The president's budget asks for considerably less for war costs in 2009. Just $50 billion. And it requests no money for the year after that. But officials admit that could change if things get worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We really don't know what war costs will be, but we think there will be war costs.


MALVEAUX: And the president rejected this suggestion that he was trying to set a timetable for ending the war or indicating when U.S. troops would come home -- Lou.

DOBBS: This is an extraordinary budget, Suzanne. It amounts to just about $10,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States. And it is also, just as awesome as that number is, it's also just as certain that this Congress will approve it, correct?

MALVEAUX: Well, there's certainly going to be a lot of debate about this. We have seen Democrats speak out very forcefully today that they're not going to approve this budget. There are even some Republicans who have been speaking out as well.

We anticipate this is going to be a real tough battle here. And then perhaps there might be some emergency spending measures if they don't negotiate, come up with some sort of negotiation, even a government shutdown. But as you say, Lou, the Democrats very wary of -- seeming like they're not going on support the troops or reject any kind of funding for the military -- Lou.

DOBBS: Suzanne, thank you very much.

Suzanne Malveaux from the White House.

Coming up right here, the Bush administration defends its plans for a North America union. The defense, of course, was not in Washington, D.C., nor in this country, but rather in Mexico City. We'll have that special report.

Also tonight, local law enforcement agencies defying the illegal alien open borders lobby. They're actually helping to deport criminal illegal aliens now from the country.

We'll have that story. Is it a national trend?

And new details of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's demands to use military aircraft at taxpayer expense. It turns out Congresswoman Pelosi wants access to a small airliner.

We'll have that and a great deal more straight ahead.


DOBBS: The Bush administration's budget proposal today calls for increases in funding for border security, among a lot other things. Among the president's requests, hiring 3,000 new Border Patrol agents, a third more than requested last year. Also in the requests, more money to upgrade cameras and sensors on the border, the so-called virtual fence. The new budget also calls for more money to end Catch and Release by spending more to detain and deport illegal aliens. But we'd been told that Catch and Release had ended. So this raises some interesting questions.

The president also proposals spend more for improved airline and port security.

New evidence tonight that a plan to identify illegal aliens in county jails around the country is now working. The number of inmates flagged for deportation has now doubled since immigration checks were instituted by Los Angeles-area law enforcement. And Los Angeles is far from alone.

Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): More than 25 percent of the inmates in Los Angeles County's jail system are illegal aliens. Last year, Sheriff Lee Baca decided to do something about that. He deployed eight screeners to determine the legal status of prisoners in L.A. County jails.

In the first year, the number of criminals referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation has nearly doubled to 5,829. Another thousand were sent to deportation proceedings before being convicted of a crime.

SHERIFF LEE BACA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: I believe it's making the streets safer, because we have a lot of crime here. And we're not only the illegal capital -- illegal immigrant capital of the nation, we're also the crime capital of the nation. And we have over 500 gang members. And many of the gang members are illegal immigrants.

WIAN: Neighboring Orange County expects to transfer about 10,000 criminal illegal aliens to federal authorities for deportation this year. Sheriff Mike Carona scoffs at claims by so-called immigrant rights groups that helping ICE deport criminals will cause otherwise law-abiding illegal aliens to fear cooperating with local law enforcement.

SHERIFF MIKE CARONA, ORANGE COUNTY, CALIF.: The undocumented community is preyed upon the career criminals who are also undocumented. They know that they're not going to report crimes. I can't imagine anybody, whether you're a foreign national or you're an American citizen, that wants criminals in their community.

WIAN: In Harris County Texas, the murder of a Houston police officer allegedly by an illegal alien was a new factor in a new sheriff's department policy adopted four months ago. Deputies now ask inmates a simple question: "Are you in the United States illegally?" More than 2,000 have answered yes.

JOHN MARTIN, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS, SHERIFF'S DEPT.: We've not been surprised at the numbers of illegal immigrants in the area. However, we have been somewhat surprised at the number that readily admit, yes, they're in the country illegally.

WIAN: It's a question a growing number of local law enforcement are willing to ask.


WIAN: And it's one reason Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported 190,000 illegal aliens last year, a 12 percent jump from the year before. Nearly half of those illegal aliens, Lou, were convicted criminals.

DOBBS: And the idea that we're starting to see local law enforcement begin to ask a very simple, straightforward question, "Are you illegal," something that others have suggested is a violation of their rights.

WIAN: Absolutely. Local law enforcement agencies are tired of paying for the cost of jailing these illegal aliens. It's a job the federal government has been unable to do to keep them off of local community streets. So local law enforcement is going to cooperate with ICE and try to get them out of the country any way they can, Lou. And sometimes all it takes is asking a simple question.

DOBBS: And we should point out the number of illegal aliens in our jails, estimated anywhere from 20 to 30 percent, are prisons, both state and federal. These are only estimates because -- and this is correct, Casey -- they do not ask that simple question.

WIAN: They don't, Lou.

DOBBS: All right.

Casey, thank you very much.

Casey Wian form Los Angeles.

Congressman Duncan Hunter continues his efforts tonight to win a pardon for imprisoned Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos. The two are serving lengthy prison sentences for the shooting of an illegal alien Mexican drug dealer. The drug dealer was granted immunity by federal prosecutors to testify against the two agents.

Hunter is sponsoring legislation for a congressional pardon for Compean and Ramos. He's now collected 79 signatures from Republican members of Congress. To date, not a single Democrat has signed on.

Hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens could be affected by a new Justice Department plan to expand a DNA database of people arrested by federal authorities. That plan, as reported by "The New York Times," was authorized as part of the Violence Against Women Act, a law to protect women from sexual crimes. But in an amendment allows illegal aliens detained by federal authorities to have their DNA collected.

A Justice Department official said the goal is to make DNA sampling as routine as fingerprinting for anyone detained by federal authorities.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in the southern Mexico City of Oaxaca over the weekend. Those demonstrators marched to renew their eight-month-old protest against the regional governor. The protesters, a mix of teachers, union members and leftist groups, have been protesting the actions of Governor Ulises Ruiz, who they accuse of outright corruption.

Federal police broke up the group's occupation of the city center in November.

Coming up here next, talks are under way to integrate the economies of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and to create something called the North America Union. Congress has no say in the matter, neither do you or any other voter.

We'll have that special report.

The president's authority to fast track free trade deals expires at the end of June. Senator Byron Dorgan is among those who doesn't want it renewed. He'll be joining us here later in the broadcast.

And the Democrats vowed they would govern differently, but perhaps not when it comes up to giving up some very high-end perks. Perhaps exceeding some of those perk levels.

We'll have a report for you, a great deal more, straight ahead.


DOBBS: The Bush administration tonight is pushing, rather publicly now, its Security and Prosperity Partnership, a plan to "integrate the economies" of the United States, Mexico, and Canada by the year 2010. You're thinking, you didn't vote for that, your congressman didn't vote for that, your senator didn't vote for that. You're correct.

It is a very ambitious plan for three very different economies and nations. It's moving forward without congressional oversight, in many cases congressional knowledge, and certainly not the approval of the American people. Nor, for that matter, the Canadian people, nor the Mexican people.

Christine Romans has our report.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In Mexico City, from the Bush administration, a rare acknowledgement of concerns about its Security and Prosperity Partnership.

CARLOS GUTIERREZ, COMMERCE SECRETARY: We have three different countries. They are three different sovereign nations. They have their own laws, their own culture, their own history, their own governments. And within that framework we can build a stronger Western Hemisphere without pampering with local and national sovereignty.

ROMANS: The commerce secretary denies an outright plan for a single currency or a European-style American union. Instead the goal is "harmonizing" hundreds of rules and regulations from health care, to trucking, to energy, to cut red tape and make companies more competitive within the three nations.

But critics see stealthy changes taking place deep within government bureaucracies with input from business and academia, but away from lawmakers and voters.

REP. WALTER JONES (R), NORTH CAROLINA: All this is about is about open borders, open borders between Mexico and America, America and Canada. Open borders without any controls, and there's no telling what could happen to this country that would be detrimental to the future of America.

ROMANS: But Gutierrez says security comes first.

GUTIERREZ: The priority must to be keep those out who want to do harm, but to ensure that we can continue the flow of more goods and the flow of job creation across our borders.

ROMANS: Numerous SPP documents reveal a goal of moving people and goods more easily among the three countries.


ROMANS: According to SPP documents released through Freedom of Information requests, architects of the SPP are aware that they've got a little bit of an image problem.

Congressman Jones says he thinks there's an image problem for a reason. He's written to the White House now twice about detailed questions about the SPP. He says he's been ignored on this.

DOBBS: Well, this White House is ignoring and has ignored Congress in nearly every instance in which it doesn't get a rubber stamp. The idea that Carlos Gutierrez, the commerce secretary, is talking about this in Mexico City and not addressing it publicly before Congress, the fact that all of these things are happening behind closed doors, I mean, why is there not some greater sense of what's going on, on the part of this government?

ROMANS: Congressman Jones points out that there's a Web site at the Commerce Department. He says he doesn't want a Web site. He wants to sit down and find out what this is all about. Trade, these things belong in the arena of Congress. And he'd like it see some oversight there.

DOBBS: I have to say that what we're watching here and what you've reported and all of our colleagues have been reporting on with the so-called North America union, and in a few other quarters, the American people have every reason to be very concerned. The suggestion that these -- these corporate and business elites, and now we can include some of the luminaries of geopolitics, George Schultz and others, meeting on these issues behind closed doors, without the approval or the knowledge the American public is ridiculous.

And we're going to continue to focus on it and get to the bottom of it.

Thank you very much.

Christine Romans.

We invited, by the way, Commerce Secretary Gutierrez to be -- to join us this evening. He wasn't available to join us tonight. We sincerely hope that the commerce secretary will find it convenient to join us here, because I would really like to know, and I'm sure that you would as well, just what in the world the Bush administration thinks it's doing carrying out this kind of policy without the approval of the American people or the United States Congress. There is still that little thing called a Constitution that does affect all of these -- these movements on the part of this government toward a security and prosperity partnership.

That brings us to the subject of our poll.

Do you think the American people should have a say? Perhaps a national referendum before the United States continues to pursue so- called integration meetings with Canada and Mexico? Yes or no?

We would love to know what you think. Cast your vote at We'll have the results upcoming.

Time now for some of your thoughts.

Richard in Illinois said, "Lou, I can't believe that not one Democrat has signed the petition to give the two Border Patrol agents a full pardon. I hope the American public can see the writing on the wall that these Democrats have an agenda that supports illegals and they will do anything to get the Hispanic vote in 2008."

And Jack in Utah, "Two and a half million dollars to close off the tunnels between the United States and Mexico? I didn't know a couple of sticks of dynamite cost that much."

And Ken in Tennessee, "Two and a half million dollars to fill in a tunnel? How about $50 worth of explosives to collapse it? Can anyone in this government think at all?

You better think about that before you decide you want that answer.

And Carol in Ohio, "Thanks for the link on your Web site that tells us how senators vote on key issues. I've been keeping a very watchful eye on this and find it to be a very useful tool for determining how I vote in 2008."

And we will continue to even expand those tools for you on the Web site.

Send us your thoughts at More of them coming up 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."

New audio recordings tonight of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The good governor compares the Mexican border fence to the Berlin Wall. And he expresses sympathy for illegal aliens.

The recordings were made during staff meetings. They were obtained by the "Los Angeles Times." And amongst the things the good governor said, "We always looked at the (Berlin) Wall as kind of like the outside of the wall is the enemy...Are we looking at Mexico as the enemy? No, it's not...These are our trading partners."

The governor also said he believes Mexicans have trouble assimilating because they're so close to their own country. He had a lot more to say, and we're going to have some more of his quotes here coming up in the next 15 minutes.

Coming up next, however, ice cold winds and plunging temperatures are causing an arctic freeze across much of the country. We'll have the latest for you.

Also, time is running out on the president's fast track trade authority. Senator Byron Dorgan says, great. And he wants to defeat any attempt to extend the policy. He joins us.

A Lear jet simply not big enough for the new speaker of the House. We'll be talking about the latest on the request for special privileges. The lady of the house. Stay with us.


DOBBS: In the last half hour, Senate Republicans blocked the debate on a resolution criticizing the president's troop increase in Iraq. Democrats immediately said they would seek a new way to force President Bush to change his strategy in Iraq.

In other news tonight, damage assessment and cleanup under way in central Florida where tornadoes killed 20 people. The National Weather Service says there were three tornadoes that touched down early Friday with peak winds above 155 miles an hour. Federal disaster assistance's is now on its way to residents of four Florida counties. The cost of the storm is estimated at about $70 million.

Much the northeastern United States tonight is in the grip a bone-chilling arctic cold wave. Wind chills, low as 42 below zero, closing schools in states around the Great Lakes. The dangerous cold also brought heavy snow in northwestern New York. Whiteout conditions forced the closure of the New York Throughway, and Amtrak shut down some of its passenger service.

A key ruling in the CIA leak trial is being hailed as a victory for the national news media. The judge in the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby says he'll release audio recordings of Libby's secret grand jury testimony. The release would come after jurors finished listening to those tapes. Defense attorneys objecting, saying it would seriously threaten Libby's right to a fair trial.

Former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, has joined of what is a growing list of Republicans in the race for the Republican nomination. Giuliani filed a statement of candidacy for president today. The latest Opinion Research Corporation poll shows Giuliani leads the pack on the Republican side, beating out Senator John McCain, with Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney running a distant third and fourth.

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, can now fly in style at your expense. Speaker Pelosi has been granted authorization to make use of military aircraft whenever she sees fit.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's clear skies for Nancy Pelosi. The Pentagon is providing the House speaker with an Air Force plane large enough to accommodate her staff, family, supporters and members of the Californian delegation when she travels around the country.

Not everyone is happy with the Democrats' jet-setting style, paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.

DAVID KEENE, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: It's better than flying first-class on United or American. This gives her the opportunity to use the plane as a conference area, where she can get members of her delegation together and plot strategy or politics or talk about legislation, do whatever she wants.

SYLVESTER: Since 9/11, the House speaker has been authorized to fly on a military aircraft for security reasons. The position ranks right behind the vice president in the line of succession.

But according to report, Speaker Pelosi has pressed the Pentagon for more than her predecessor Dennis Hastert enjoyed. Pelosi wants routine access to a larger plane. It includes 42 business class seats, a fully-enclosed state room, an entertainment center, a private bed, state-of-the-art communications system and a crew of 16.

Hastert, who only had to travel to Illinois, used a smaller jet that seats 12 and has five crew members and none of the amenities.

REP. PATRICK MCHENRY (R), NORTH CAROLINA: What I disagree with is a special privilege and a special right given to the speaker of the House that has never been afforded to any member of Congress in our nation's history. In essence, asking for Air Force One-like accommodations. But instead of being called Air Force one, we could call it Pelosi One.

SYLVESTER: Pelosi's office did not return our calls, but her spokesperson told the "Roll Call" newspaper that the speaker wanted a plane that she could fly nonstop, given the busier congressional schedule. And the Air Force determined, quote, "Pelosi's safety would be best ensured by using a plane that has the fuel capacity to go coast- to-coast."


SYLVESTER: According to reports, Speaker Pelosi requested the use of a military plane to attend a retreat in Williamsburg, Virginia, last week. That's 150 miles or a two-hour drive from Washington, D.C. That request, by all accounts, was denied.

Representative Patrick McHenry says if Pelosi is really concerned about global warm, maybe she should consider the same mode of transportation that her colleagues took to attend that retreat, a bus -- Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa, let me see if I've got this right. She wants a plane that accommodates 42 people, private stateroom. And the reason is because she wants to be able to go nonstop from Washington to the West Coast? My goodness, she could have done that in the plane that Hastert was using.

SYLVESTER: That's exactly correct, Lou. You've got that. It would be 42 people, and clearly she won't be the only one on this plane. She wants to have members of the congressional delegation. And her critics will say, look, this is a very nice perk that she can share with her colleagues and use as leverage, should she need to.

DOBBS: Well, it's really a fascinating thing: 42. She could take a circus with her, for crying out loud. All right, thank you very much, Lisa Sylvester.

Coming up next, they call it a perfect storm. Education levels stagnant, few jobs will have higher requirements and there will be more competition for so-called lower-level jobs. We'll have a report for you. And what it all means for America's already embattled middle class, and it doesn't mean anything good.

The president's fast track authority would expire at the end of June if Congress doesn't act. The president wants it renewed, but there are some Democratic senators who actually think that the Constitution should be followed. Byron Dorgan among them. He's our guest here later in the broadcast. Stay with us.


DOBBS: To president's authority to push through trade negotiations without congressional approval will expire at the end of June, so-called fast track authority. The president wants it renewed, but a group of Democratic senators now say they will oppose such an extension.

One of the senators joins us here tonight. He is Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota.

Senator, good to have you here. SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Hi, Lou, good to be with you again.

DOBBS: Let me ask you, Senator Max Baucus holding forth in an op-ed piece, saying he absolutely thinks you've absolutely got to go ahead with fast track authority. What in the world, after 30 consecutive years of trade deficits under this so-called fast track authority, what makes Senator Baucus or anybody else thinks that this makes any sense at all?

DORGAN: You know, I don't know. I mean, it's almost as if facts don't matter. We are drowning in trade debt, shipping American jobs overseas, putting downward pressure on American wages. It's unbelievable to me. I mean, this has been such a spectacular failure.

I'm going to try very hard to stop fast track here in the Senate. I didn't believe Bill Clinton should have gotten it. He didn't. I don't believe that the current president should have fast track, and we ought to take this trade system back in a way that says we insist and demand that we stand up for this country's economic interests and for this country's jobs for a change.

DOBBS: You wrote a letter to President Bush, co-signed by what, six senators, who joined you in that letter.


DOBBS: Do you think you have enough support? Do you think you will have, to stop this? The president, as you know, is already aggressively campaigning for this, because this president thinks free trade somehow approximates a reasonable public policy, despite $5 trillion in trade debt and record deficit upon record deficit.

DORGAN: Yes, well I don't know. You know, the last trade agreement, another bad one called CAFTA, Central American Free Trade Agreement...

DOBBS: Right.

DORGAN: ... that passed the Senate by 55-45. Since then, we've gotten about six or eight new Democratic senators, most of whom, I believe, will vote against these trade agreements and vote against fast track. If that's the case, we'll stop fast track here in the Senate.

DOBBS: Do you think there will be an actual debate of facts? Because the idea that the United States Senate, this president -- I mean, I frankly -- on economic policies, certainly, I have literally given up on this president in terms of, and his administration, looking at the facts and dealing with them straightforwardly and honestly in trade practices and in trade policies.

As I said, 30 consecutive years of trade deficits. As you point out, a mounting trade debt. How in the world do we proceed here? And the Constitution, by the way, that little thing called the Constitution, does lay the responsibility for these agreements on the legislative, not the executive.

DORGAN: Absolutely. Trade belongs to the legislature, according to the Constitution.

But, you know, I don't know what would persuade someone to think there's failure if $800 billion a year doesn't persuade us. It's just -- it is just almost avoid a fact. It's sloganeering. Fast track, fast track. I'm for trade and plenty of it, but I darn well insist it be fair to this country for a change.

And let me make one other point.

DOBBS: Sure.

DORGAN: Wages and salaries are what American workers get for their income. It's the lowest percent of GDP since it started to keep score in 1997. Corporate profits, highest level ever. I mean, that tells you the story, it seems to me.

DOBBS: It certainly tells you one of the reasons that this Senate and this House should be taking a very hard look at what is going on. And one would hope they will.

I am a person who is obviously an optimist. But I've also got to be shown. I hope that the leadership of both houses will make certain that happens. I know you're going to do your part, Senator Dorgan.

Let's talk about the vote just now, on the resolution for -- on the president's conduct of this war. Your thoughts?

DORGAN: Well, there was a filibuster this afternoon, just about a half an hour ago. And so we didn't get the votes for the motion to proceed, but it's a very simple proposition. On a bipartisan basis, Senator Warner, Senator Levin have a resolution that says we don't support deepening our involvement in Iraq.

DOBBS: Right.

DORGAN: General Abizaid two months ago came to the Congress, said, "I called every commander in Iraq and said, 'Should we bring additional troops?' They all said no." Why, because they said if we do it, the Iraqis will feel they don't have to do it.

But this is their country, not ours. Saddam Hussein was executed. They have Constitution. They have a government they voted for.

DOBBS: Right.

DORGAN: Now will they provide for their security? Because our soldiers can't do that for any length of time.

DOBBS: Well, let me ask you, Senator. Can -- is there any expectations that -- because after all, Iraq was one of the -- if not the principle issue by which Congress changed control and the Democrats were given an opportunity. Is the Democratic party saying here that, in the Senate, that there will be no debate on the public policy options in Iraq and the Middle East, nor a discussion and debate, full debate, on the consequences of those policies taken?

DORGAN: No, we're trying to get the debate. It's the Republican caucus that have voted in unison to prevent the debate.

Let me -- one more point if I might.

DOBBS: You bet.

DORGAN: Negroponte, the head intelligence guy in this country, testified two weeks ago, said the greatest terrorist threat to this country, the greatest terrorist threat, is al Qaeda. And it is in a secure hideaway -- the leadership is in a secure hideaway. Those are quotes in Pakistan.

If that's the case, if that's the greatest threat and we have 21,000 soldiers to be able to be deployed somewhere, why not go after and eliminate the leadership of al Qaeda, if they're the greatest terrorist threat to our country? That's what we are ought to be doing, in my judgment.

DOBBS: It certainly would seem to be the priority, but then again a lot of people have forgotten the name Osama bin Laden, as well.

DORGAN: Osama been forgotten these days, you know? He's still talking to us from a secure hideaway...

DOBBS: Right.

DORGAN: ... according to our intelligence chief. Let's go eliminate the greatest threat to this country, and that's the leadership of al Qaeda.

DOBBS: Senator Byron Dorgan, we thank you very much for being with us. As always, good to talk with you.

DORGAN: Good to talk.

DOBBS: Coming up next, a shocking new study shows our public education system failing our middle class, as we've been saying on this broadcast for some time. We'll have that report. And a very special guest as well to talk about what he calls a perfect storm that is a disaster for our schools. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Governor Schwarzenegger of California continues to have some problems with audiotapes that seem to lose his -- leave his control. And certainly something is happening there in Sacramento.

The governor actually focusing on some problems caused by illegal immigration, being certainly far more candid than he is in public, saying a number of things. He lashed out at the federal government's 1986 amnesty program, saying it has, expletive deleted, the American people, because border protection is lax and people who hire illegal aliens aren't punished.

The governor hasn't been quite that forthcoming publicly. The governor also said, farmers -- quote, "Farmers have cheap labor, and they're laughing all the way to the bank," end quote.

Coming up at the top of the hour, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, tell us all about it.

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

John Edwards, he's running for president and says he has a prescription for universal health care coverage. But is raising taxes on the rich a good idea? John Edwards right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM"?

Plus, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama may battle for the African-American vote. Some African-Americans are warning though, don't take our votes for granted. We'll have a live report.

And America's mayor, Rudy Giuliani, takes another step on the road to the White House. And the Reverend Al Sharpton greets the news with a sharp barb. He's coming up in the next hour.

Plus, just how big is the Bush budget? All those zeros can be something of a tongue twister. Jeanne Moos will have a special report on that.

Lou, all that coming up, right here on "THE SITUATION ROOM".

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Wolf.

The Education Testing Services is out with a chilling report about what is simply a failing public education system in this country. The study forecasting a decline in the quality of life for millions of middle-class Americans because of the decline of public education.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three trends in America create a perfect storm for economic disaster: inadequate literacy rates, a changing economy that will require high levels of education, and an influx of low-skilled workers, fueled by immigration.

IRWIN KIRSCH, EDUCATIONAL TESTING SERVICE: We expect that this storm will continue to gather strength over the years and will lead to widening inequality and threaten the standard of living in this country.

PILGRIM: It's going to take a high level of education to be competitive in the job market for the next decade. Forty-six percent of employment growth will be in jobs requiring college level skills. Once in those jobs, employer sponsored training will boost those employed educated workers to higher levels, but the unskilled and the undereducated will flounder in the job market.

Until 2015, immigration will account for more than half the country's half the population growth, so unskilled workers will have increasing competition for low paying jobs.

ARTHUR ROTHKOPF, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: The problem can be dealt with, but it has to be dealt with through our education system and by families taking responsibilities for what's going on.

PILGRIM: Some education specialists say changing the curriculum or teacher compensation can help, but showing kids that college is accessible is the best way.

TONY LEWIS, DONNELL-KAY FOUNDATION: There are kids out there who, when they hit ninth grade, take a look around them and say, "You know what? I'm not going to college." I think we have to give those kids some kind of relevant pathway. And I think when you do, they actually come out and say, "You know what? I can do this."

PILGRIM: ETS is planning on meeting with national and government leaders to find solutions to their perfect storm.

Kitty Pilgrim, CNN.


DOBBS: The title of this disturbing report is "America's Perfect Storm: Three Forces Change Our Nation's Future" Joining me now is Kurt Landgraf. He is the president and CEO of the Educational Testing Service.

Good to have you with us.


DOBBS: This -- this is a disaster. We have been reporting on this broadcast, I think as you know, about the failing public education system in this country, but to see it quantified in terms of -- and if we could, go to the illiteracy graphic that shows the way the population breaks down by literacy. If we can have that.

Adult literacy levels. The fact that we have -- just the two lowest levels. We're talking about over half the population of the country. What in the world can we do about that?

LANDGRAF: We have 100 million people who don't have the skills, the literacy skills or the mathematical skills for the economy of the 21st century, and that's going to get worse, Lou.

DOBBS: Say that number again.

LANDGRAF: Over 100 million people in the age of 16 to 65 who are in the work force who don't have numerical skills for the work force.

DOBBS: Right. LANDGRAF: And that's going to get worse, because in 30 years, we estimate there will be another 50 million people who will be exactly in the same place.

DOBBS: And at same time, you're saying you expect 30 million people will fall into the two lowest proficiency levels by 2030 unless things change.

As we go around this country, we've got half of the black students in high school dropping out. We've got half of the Hispanic students in this country dropping out.

What in the world are we going to do? We've got a federal government who wants to talk about No Child Left Behind, and aside from the benefits of it and certainly there are some, it is not an emergency response to what you're describing and clearly defining and empirically demonstrating is a national crisis.

LANDGRAF: It is exactly why we call a perfect storm, because it's the combination of a failing educational system in preparing people for the work force, a changing demographic in this country, and an economy that's only -- that's not creating traditional middle class jobs, which causes this crisis.

This is, in fact, going to be a disaster unless there's intervention and something is done to change the status quo and the path forward.

DOBBS: All right. The public education system is, in my judgment, the great equalizer in this society of ours. It is absolutely critical to the American dream, the American way of life. What can we do to turn this thing around and to do it quickly?

LANDGRAF: I think it's a return to common sense. It's absolutely critical that we do something. That's what we hope there this report, that this will be a wake-up call. People will look at the reality of where we are.

Return to common sense. Start kids earlier in school. If they need nutrition, give it to them. If they need English language, try to give it to them. Return to the basics: mathematic, reading and writing. Without a good start, that and nothing else works.

DOBBS: Why in the world is the NEA, the National Education Association -- the federation of teachers. Why aren't they helping on this? They're the two largest national associations. Why in the world isn't the federal government doing this? Why aren't state departments of education focusing on common sense? Because parents have been saying this for years.

LANDGRAF: I think they're trying. But what I think has been lost is this a local problem and needs to be addressed based on the reality of the local issue.

DOBBS: OK. Kurt Landgraf, we thank you for being here. Education Testing Service. We thank you. It's an alarming report. People want to see it online. They can go to where?


DOBBS: Throw those W's in front it.

All right. Thank you very much.

Still ahead, more of your thoughts and results of tonight's poll. Stay with us.


DOBBS: And the results of tonight's poll. Ninety-eight percent of you say the American people should have a say, perhaps a national referendum, before the United States government and this administration continue to pursue integration meetings, so-called, with the governments of Canada and Mexico, business, and of course, government.

Time now for one more e-mail. Betty in Arkansas saying, quote, "Perhaps Nancy Pelosi finally realized all the maintenance on American Airlines are being outsourced to wherever and decided flying military is the only safe way to fly."

That's a thought.

We love hearing from you. Send your thoughts to us at We thank you for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow.

For all of us, good night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.