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Lou Dobbs Tonight
Standoff on Iraq; Bush Vs. Democrats; Pelosi's Bad Trip?
Aired April 03, 2007 - 17:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, President Bush and congressional Democrats are escalating their showdown over the conduct of the war in Iraq. The president calls Democrats irresponsible. Senator Harry Reid says the president is misleading the American people.
Also tonight, Speaker Nancy Pelosi defying the White House. She's in Syria, a country the United States declares is a state sponsor of terrorism.
And the crisis over poisonous pet food in this country imported from communist China is intensifying and widening. Is there a risk that contaminated food ingredients could be entering our human food chain?
We'll have that story, all of the day's news, and much more straight ahead here tonight.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, April 3rd.
Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.
President Bush today declared that some of our troops will stay in Iraq longer than scheduled if Congress refuses to pass a war spending bill without conditions. Senate Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid insists our troops in Iraq ill not run out of money, as the president suggests. Senator Reid said it's time for a change of direction in the conduct of this war.
Ed Henry tonight reports from the White House and the president's determination to stand his ground.
Andrea Koppel tonight reporting from Capitol Hill on the Democratic political strategy in this showdown.
And Brent Sadler reporting tonight from Damascus on Speaker Pelosi's controversial visit to Syria.
We turn first to Ed Henry at the White House -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the president today dug in deeper, firing a shot across the Democrats' bow.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HENRY (voice over): The tulip tree in the Rose Garden may have been in full bloom, but the president's message was anything but flowery.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress's failure to fund our troops on the front lines will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines, and others could see their loved ones headed back to the war sooner than they need to. That is unacceptable to me.
HENRY: With Vice President Cheney looking on from behind a shrub, the president chided Congress for taking its spring recess before finishing work on war funding bills that call for U.S. troops to start leaving Iraq.
BUSH: Democrat leaders in Congress are bent on making a political statement. Then they may need to send me this unacceptable bill as quickly as possible when they come back. I'll veto it, and then Congress can get down to the business of funding our troops without strings and without delay.
HENRY: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid quickly made clear he is not backing down.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: He has been very uncompromising, and that's the reason we're in the quagmire we're in, in Iraq. He should become in tune with the fact that he is president of the United States, not king of the United States. And he has another branch of government, namely the legislative branch of government, that he has to deal with.
HENRY: Reid charged the president is misleading the country because U.S. troops will not run out of troops until July, and vowed to eventually force an end to the war.
REID: I do not believe there should be a single drop of American blood, additional blood, shed in Iraq. I do not believe there should be another head injury in Iraq of an American soldier. Let the Iraqis handle their own country.
HENRY: But the president hammered Democrats, noting only 40 percent of the surge troops have made it to Baghdad.
BUSH: I believe not only can we succeed, I know we must succeed. And so I decided to -- at the recommendation of military commanders -- decided to send reinforcements, as opposed to leaving Baghdad and watching the country go up in flames.
HENRY: I pressed the president on conservative columnist Bob Novak's charge that Mr. Bush is the most isolated president he has ever seen in 50 years of covering Washington. Mr. Bush sidestepped that question -- Lou.
DOBBS: Thank you very much. Ed Henry.
Democrats tonight saying they have a clear mandate from the American people to force the president to change direction in Iraq, but it is unclear whether the Democrats can maintain their unity on the issue of the war if the showdown continues to escalate.
Andrea Koppel reports from Capitol Hill.
Andrea, what is the Democratic strategy in this confrontation?
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, there are a few things going right now. The first is it's a similar strategy to the one we saw before the November elections, and that is the Democrats give no ground -- attack, attack, attack.
We saw Harry Reid do that today. Just a few hours after Mr. Bush's Rose Garden press conference, there he was in Nevada saying, Mr. Bush, there's a new sheriff in town. There is no way that the Democrats are going to back down simply because the president is trying to cast Democrats in a negative light, saying all the blame is going to be on them.
Meanwhile, Lou, they also have to get through this compromise, this emergency war funding bill that the House and Senate passed. They have two different deadlines in there, not to mention two different pots of money that they need to merge together. So they've got a number of balls in the air at once.
DOBBS: Andrea, thank you very much.
Andrea Koppel from Capitol Hill.
The Pentagon is already making preparations for the possibility that any deadlock over the war funding legislation would last for months. CNN has obtained a memo from the Army Budget Office about the possible consequences of a continuing political stalemate.
The memo states, "The Army must take prudent action now with the limited flexibility available to extend the funding of mission essential services."
The Pentagon says operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will be exempt from any spending restrictions.
As Democrats and Republicans argue about the conduct of the war, insurgents killed another of our troops in Iraq. A Marine killed in Al Anbar Province, west of Baghdad.
Nine of our troops have been killed so far this month, 3,258 of our troops killed since the beginning of the war. 24,476 of our troops have been wounded, 10,931 of them seriously.
The Bush administration says Syria is supporting insurgents in Iraq and sponsoring terrorism, but that hasn't stopped Speaker Pelosi from visiting the Syrian capital of Damascus. Speaker Pelosi today arrived. She will meet later with the Syrian president.
Brent Sadler reports now from Damascus -- Brent.
BRENT SADLER, CNN BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF: Lou, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi touched off a political firestorm in Washington when she touched down in Syria, drawing a strong rebuke from President George W. Bush, who lashed out at what he calls the mixed signals a visit by such a high-ranking U.S. official sends to the Syrian leadership, a state sponsor of terror.
As the political storm intensifies, Pelosi stuck to her agenda, shrugging off the tirade of White House condemnation, calling her mission instead an excellent idea, and heading straight for an ancient neighborhood of old Damascus. She did what most visitors do her here, browsed the market, and toured the magnificent 1,300-year-old Omayyad Mosque.
Speaker Pelosi is not here to negotiate, but to listen, she says, and to gather facts, to step up diplomatic dialogue with Syria regardless of what her political opponents in the White House say -- Lou.
DOBBS: Brent Sadler from Damascus.
There are new hopes tonight that another adversary, Iran, may soon release 15 captured British marines and sailors that have been in captivity now nearly two weeks. The British marines and sailors were captured in the Persian Gulf after boarding an Iranian ship. British Prime Minister Tony Blair today said the next 48 hours will, in his judgment, be critical in determining whether those troops are released.
There's still no word tonight on the whereabouts of an American citizen reported missing in southern Iran. The American, a former FBI agent, has been missing since early last month. The State Department today said it sent a letter to the Iranian government asking for help in finding the American citizen.
Still ahead here, more on the political showdown. Three of this country's best radio talk show hosts will join me to tell us what their listeners are saying about the deadlock and the politics of war.
Also, new details in the case of a naturalized American citizen who allegedly sold some of America's most sensitive military technology and secrets to communist China.
And new concerns that tainted pet food ingredients from communist China may also have entered the human food chain in this country.
Our special report, a great deal more, straight ahead. We'll be right back.
DOBBS: It could be one of the biggest breaches of national security in a generation. A naturalized American citizen is on trial, charged with spying for communist China.
As Casey Wian reports, Chi Mak and four others are accused of stealing sensitive American military technology that could be used against the United States.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Chi Mak, a naturalized American citizen who spent decades as an unassuming engineer at defense contractor Power Paragon, is on trial for allegedly passing American secrets to the communist Chinese government. Federal prosecutors say Mak and four relatives were acting as agents of the People's Republic, trying to provide restricted documents about nuclear propulsion technologies for Navy submarines.
Defense attorneys say Mak was simply sharing non-classified information with colleagues in China.
RON KAYE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Even the government will not argue that Mr. Mak was selling anything to anyone. Mr. Mak was engaged in technological exchange. Mr. Mak was reaching out to other academics, to other engineers to share information from public conferences that were already in the international arena, and he never was looking for any kind of personal monetary gain.
WIAN: Prosecutors say the 66-year-old Mak was acting out of loyalty to his Chinese homeland and had plans to retire there.
MICHAEL PILLSBURY, PENTAGON CONSULTANT: There's an appeal that's made to Chinese-Americans that you need to help the motherland. The motherland is a poor country, it's developing, it needs to have advanced science and technology. So those of you who know about Western science must help the motherland out of a sense of shared goals.
WIAN: Tuesday, defense attorneys questioned FBI Special Agent James Gaylord (ph) about his extensive surveillance of Mak, his wife, and brother, including video and audio surveillance inside and outside Mak's home and car. The defense is attempting to show there are innocent explanations for Mak's copying, encrypting and distribution of documents foreigners are forbidden to see.
Military experts say the technology in question is not even in use by the United States military yet and could have given China an advantage in a future naval conflict over Taiwan.
WIAN: Now, one hurdle prosecutors must overcome, Mak gave a lengthy videotape statement the day of his arrest to which he denied wrongdoing. Two days later, he gave another statement under interrogation from investigators in which prosecutors say he admitted stealing military secrets and admitted loyalty to the government of China.
The only problem is, that alleged confession was not videotaped -- Lou.
DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much.
Casey Wian from Santa Ana.
Communist China is also at the center of a massive pet food scandal in this country. Tainted wheat gluten imported from China has been linked to the deaths of more than a dozen pets and has resulted in the recall of millions and millions of units of dog and cat food.
As Christine Romans now reports, lower inspection standards in China may be in part to blame.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's not just in pet food. Wheat gluten is a staple in the human diet, common in thousands of baked goods, like bagels and multigrain breads. It's a protein extracted from wheat that improves the rising ability in bread products and gives them a smooth texture. And it's common in Asian cuisine.
In pet food it's a source of protein that binds ingredients together. Tainted wheat gluten imported from China is suspected in the deaths of 15 pets and the sickening of hundreds.
MICHAEL DOYLE, CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY: We don't know where the problem started or happened, what the source was, and it's likely that we'll never be able to fully resolve what the original source of the problem was.
ROMANS: Doyle calls America's reliance on imported food out of control and says we must do a better job with imported food safety. The U.S. imports most of the wheat gluten this country consumes, primarily from Australia and Europe, but China is emerging as a growing producer.
In this pet food recall, a Canadian manufacturer said a Las Vegas buyer had sourced wheat gluten from China.
STEPHEN SUNDLOF, FDA CENTER FOR VET. MEDICINE: The source of that adulteration has been identified and removed from our system.
ROMANS: As the FDA has halted imports from the Chinese source, the Chinese company denounced the pet food recall as rumors. The Las Vegas supplier says no contaminated wheat gluten went to manufacturers of human foods.
The FDA has hundreds of inspectors on the case.
PAUL HENDERSON, CEO, MENU FOODS: We can't say with 100 percent certainty at this point, but we have no indication that any of that material did go into human food.
ROMANS: Meanwhile, pet food manufacturers today struggled to rebuild public confidence in their products. (END VIDEOTAPE)
ROMANS: We now import more food than we export, $10 billion more each year. Food safety experts have long been concerned that food inspections cannot possibly keep up with that explosion. The FDA inspects less than one percent of the imported foods that it oversees -- Lou.
DOBBS: You know, the level of food imports continues to rise. For the FDA to have no better inspection is an absurdity, and I think for many of us it's still vivid in our minds the statement by Tommy Thompson when he was secretary of Health and Human Services that for the life of him, he did not understand why there wasn't greater protection of the food supply in this country, because so much of it is vulnerable to terrorist acts.
ROMANS: This wheat gluten incident is interesting as well, because wheat gluten is not something that the FDA says is usually at risk for contamination. Well, this just shows you how something from some far-flung producer in China can have such a huge impact.
DOBBS: It also -- the FDA, with its many problems as a federal regulatory agency, for it to even think it has standing to say what is immune or invulnerable to tampering or tainting is absurd. They're not even inspecting a percent of the food imported. And that is no way discharging its responsibility to public safety and to public health.
Christine, thank you.
Fascinating. And we're going to continue to follow this story, obviously, very closely.
Millions of pet treats are also being recalled because of salmonella contamination. United Pet Group is voluntarily recalling all of its Dingo chicken jerky treats for cats, dogs and ferrets. Traces of salmonella found in samples of the chicken treats. One dog is reported to have become sick.
Treats were sold at several stores, including Target and PetSmart.
Two more china-related recalls to report to you tonight. This time it's children's toys.
Millions of toy bracelets and key chains, all of them made in China, are being recalled because of high levels of lead. Four million so-called Groovy Grabber (ph) bracelets have been recalled. Those metal band bracelets are decorated with a number of designs, including smiley faces and Chinese symbols.
And close to half a million metal key chains are being pulled from Dollar General Stores. More than 80 percent, by the way, of all children's toys in this country now are imported from, you guessed it, China.
Up next here, Senator Hillary Clinton losing some support among voters in a critically important primary state. Is there trouble ahead for her candidacy?
On the Republican side, the top three candidates raising millions of dollars, but who is the Republican frontrunner with the voters? We'll be telling you.
And a bipartisan bill is in the works to help curb the flow of cheap labor into the United states.
Those stories, a great deal more, straight ahead.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: A new poll shows the race for the Democratic nomination tightening in the state of New Hampshire. The CNN-WMUR New Hampshire poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire shows Senator Hillary Clinton in the lead, but her support slipping from 35 percent in February to 27 percent now. Senator Clinton appears to be losing some support to John Edwards and to Al Gore.
Edwards' share of the vote went from 16 percent in February to 21 percent now. Gore has moved up to 11 percent. Senator Barack Obama remains essentially unchanged at 20 percent.
In a record-breaking quarter for presidential campaign fund- raising, Senator Obama still hasn't announced just how much he has raised. "The New York Times" reported today the senator has collected more than $20 million in donations. Senator Obama is expected to release his report sometime this week.
So far, Senator Clinton is leaving candidates of both parties. She has raised $26 million. In addition, she has released another $10 million, $10 million that was left over from her Senate re-election campaign last year.
In the crowded Republican field for the presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, the top fund--raiser. Romney raising more than $20 million, well ahead of second place Rudy Giuliani, with $14 million. Senator John McCain is third, $12.5 million.
So, just who is the current GOP frontrunner?
Bill Schneider tries to answer the question.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): And the Republican frontrunner is?
KATON DAWSON, SOUTH CAROLINA REPUBLICAN PARTY: Right now there isn't a frontrunner. SCHNEIDER: The frontrunner was supposed to be John McCain. He's been mending relations with conservatives he used to pick fights with, like Jerry Falwell and George W. Bush.
But McCain's had some problems lately. He's no longer first in the polls. His fundraising puts him in third place among Republicans. McCain's trip to Iraq this week has tied him even tighter to President Bush's war policy.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It certainly seems that we are on the right road.
SCHNEIDER: Rudy Giuliani is the frontrunner in the polls, but he's number two in fundraising.
RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We only started like January 27th. We ended up with a lot of money.
SCHNEIDER: What happens if you're running third in the polls, but first in fundraising, like Mitt Romney?
Your campaign gets a second chance.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's time to have somebody go to Washington who knows how to change things for the better.
Romney is a Republican.
Are Republicans looking for change?
DAWSON: I would think that the message of change is resonating along with what the vision is for the next eight years.
SCHNEIDER: Romney is a Washington outsider who can sell change. McCain's mistake may have been to jump aboard Bush's ship just when it was about to run aground.
A lot of Republicans are unhappy with all three leading candidates. They're hoping to entice one more contender into the field.
DAWSON: I've certainly seen a lot of excitement for Senator Thompson. We know him. We watched his record in Washington and I think that he'd be a very viable candidate.
SCHNEIDER: Conservatives longing for another Ronald Reagan are wondering -- could Fred Thompson play that role?
(on camera): Usually the Republican race is an orderly succession, while the Democrats have a free-for-all. This time the Republican race looks more wide open. Bill Schneider, CNN, Washington.
DOBBS: Up next here, the country's best talk radio show hosts join us to give us their assessment of this campaign, what their listeners are saying.
Also, Congressman Charlie Rangel, the powerful chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, will be here. We'll be talking about the war in Iraq. We'll be talking about trade policy. And we'll be talking about his new book, "And I Haven't Had a Bad Day Since."
And two leading senators announce a plan to end one of corporate America's most conspicuous assaults on middle class working men and women, the H1B visa program.
We'll have that story, a great deal more, straight ahead.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: We report here almost every night the war on our middle class, but wages are stagnant and quality jobs are disappearing in this country faster than many people believe. All of this, of course, with a devastating affect on our families.
As Kitty Pilgrim now reports, our middle class is being hit hard.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): New Year's 2000. A celebration, but for the typical American family, that was the turning point, when the average family income, around $54,000, started to fall. Real wages stagnated that year, and income declined. Now down about 3 percent, or $1,600.
Even with two incomes, families are struggling. Working women are now earning 42 percent of family income.
ELLEN GALINSKY, FAMILIES AND WORK INST.: Families are running as fast as they can to try to stay in place. It's not that they're running to get ahead. It's that they're running to stay in place.
PILGRIM: What went wrong? Since World War II, the average American working family could count on seeing its income rise along with the economy. The U.S. economy is still the most productive in the world -- better than Japan, the U.K., Canada and Europe. More working-age Americans are employed and work longer hours than in any other developed country.
But suddenly that's not paying off.
DEAN BAKER, CENTER FOR ECONOMIC POLICY AND RESEARCH: The United States really stands alone in having just an incredibly dysfunctional health care system. We pay more than twice as much per person as the average in other wealthy countries.
For those of us who have health care, it's important, because that's money we don't get in our paycheck. Policy really plays a very important role, so it's not just are we looking around and going, oh, isn't this horrible, what happened?
PILGRIM: Baker also says the huge trade deficit is causing the loss of American jobs and puts downward pressure on wages.
PILGRIM: Now, not all Americans are suffering. Since 2000, half of the gains in the economy have gone into corporate profits and the top tier wage earners. It's the middle class Americans who are no longer participating in the economic gains -- Lou.
DOBBS: And that report focussing on the number of hours that working men and women in this country are putting in, as compared to most of their European counterparts, the American worker today is working nearly a month longer, despite basically stagnant wages over the last three decades -- nearly a month longer in terms of total hours than 30 years ago. It's crazy what's happening in many respects. And then we have idiots talking about raising productivity and making the American worker productivity -- more productive. Just asinine talk.
Thank you very much, Kitty Pilgrim.
Two key Senators, one Republican and one Democrat, today working towards stopping another assault on middle class working men and women. The H1B visa program. That's the one that Bill Gates, the world's richest man, just loves.
As we've reported here many times, the H1B program has been abused by corporate America in its search for cheap foreign labor to replace middle class workers.
Bill Tucker reports on new efforts to pass this bipartisan legislation that would end that.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senators Durbin and Grassley aim to fix the H1B visa program for a straightforward reason.
RON HIRA, ROCHESTER INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: Right now too many American engineers believe that this program is really a scam, that it's a way to undercut their wages. It's really a cheap labor program to outsource jobs.
TUCKER: From Iowa, Senator Grassley released this statement. Quote, "Plain and simple, this bill is about protecting the American worker."
Troubles with the H1B visa program have been well-documented on LOU DOBBS TONIGHT and in studies by the Office of Management and Budget, the GAO, and the inspector general of the Department of Labor.
What the bill would do is tighten the rules and oversight of the program. Every employer seeking to hire an H1B worker would have to pledge that they looked for a qualified American first. Just to be sure, the employer would be required to post the opening on the Department of Labor web site for 30 days for everyone looking for work to see.
On top of that, every company who has hired an H1B worker would be listed on the DOL's web site, along with the positions hired.
And the definition of prevailing wage would change: from whatever the employer wants to pay to a median of all the workers in that occupation. Employers laying off workers would have to wait 180 days before they could apply to hire an H1B visa worker.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Senator Grassley and I believe our first obligation is to American workers to make sure they have an opportunity to bid on these same jobs, to be paid a decent wage for performing these services.
TUCKER: And in the minds of some, it's chances are slim to none.
JON MIANO, ATTORNEY: This bill obviously has an uphill path to face, because the industry has controlled H1B legislation and has been able to block any reform attempts over the years.
TUCKER: Reform legislation introduced in the House for the past two years ended up buried in committee and never saw the floor.
TUCKER: Which is why there is already a concerted grassroots campaign underway to inform American workers, to get them actively involved to support the Durbin-Grassley Bill, and, Lou, that in hopes that they can rally the support of their senators.
DOBBS: Well, their senators certainly should be aware of the support of all the working people.
I love what Senator Durbin said, that they're going to take it as their first obligation being to American workers.
DOBBS: You don't hear that very often in Washington, D.C. Americans first? I mean, this is a -- this is a corrosive idea. I mean, that can actually spread and be deleterious to a lot of these so-called corporate policies that pose as legislation. You know, it's sort of display making to think they don't have a chance for this.
You know, it's sort of dismaying to hear you say that they don't think they've got much of a chance with this. This is a Democratically-led Congress.
TUCKER: Unfortunately, Pascrell, two years in row, a Democrat in the House has introduced similar legislation. This is a little tougher. It was buried in committee, never came out of committee, so that a lot of people think the Bill Gates of the world are going to prevail on this issue, Lou.
DOBBS: Well, you know, we're going to hold out hope here. I mean, this Congress did pass an increase in the minimum wage. The Senate hasn't done anything with it, by the way, unfortunately. And we -- I keep waiting for the leadership of this Congress to do something about that.
I hope that we don't end up having to say that Democrats are bought and paid for to the same extent as the Republicans were in the previous Congresses. But we'll see. Hopeful, but not optimistic. How's that?
Bill Tucker, thank you very much. At least it's a step in the right direction, and God bless them. Putting the American worker first. I just can't -- I love to hear that. Even -- I hope I would even like it better if they actually did something about it.
That brings us to the subject of our poll. Do you believe every employer seeking to hire an H1B worker should have to pledge they've sought a qualified American, and should first post that opening on the Department of Labor web site? Yes or no. Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll have the results here just a bit later.
By the way, all that's required now is you just have to post that job opening in the H.R. department at some quiet, dark corner of the corporate recesses. You don't have to really tell anybody about it, so that would be kind of nice. I wonder why that is. We'll think about that.
There's new information tonight on just how much the pharmaceutical industry is spending to buy influence on Capitol Hill. The entire pharmaceutical industry -- are you ready -- spent nearly $182 million on lobbying from January 2005 through June 2006. Drug companies and their trade groups alone accounted for $155 million of that total.
The pharmaceutical industry employed an outright Army, just about 1,100 lobbyists, to push their interests on Capitol Hill. That's right. That's about two to each elected official on Capitol Hill.
In point of fact, the pharmaceutical industry spent more than any other industry lobbying Capitol Hill.
Last year, alarming new research, by the way, suggesting youth drug testing is unreliable, because so many young people have figured out ways to cheat the tests.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital in Boston say young people often dilute their urine samples. Our youth also abusing drugs that are not easily detected by those tests. Makes you wonder why our youth, abusing alcohol and drug -- drugs in this country, could outsmart our researchers, but then that may be another question for another night. Those researchers say our young people are even turning to the Internet for advice on how to cheat on the tests. Note to researchers, turn to the Internet on how to figure out how to improve your tests. Don't be dummies.
Well, turning to another issue. Nine illegal aliens, all of them from Latin America, were arrested Monday by Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, police. The men were turned over to immigration and custom enforcement agents for processing. Among the possessions on those men, Maryland driver's licenses and Bank of America credit cards.
Maryland, of course, one of the states that has not enacted Real I.D., a national standard for driver's licenses. Real I.D., of course, would prevent illegal aliens from obtaining driver's licenses.
And Bank of America, of course, has been all ginned up and excited about marketing credit cards to illegal aliens. They look at it as a community service. Bank of America, by the way, finds it isn't breaking the law. In fact, they say they're just reaching that underserved market, and they even maintain they're meeting the spirit of the law.
Still ahead here, Congressman Charlie Rangel, the powerful chairman of the ways and means committee, joins me. He's the author of a new book, "And I Haven't Had a Bad Day Since". He joins us here.
And the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is in Syria. The president calls her trip there counterproductive. We'll find out also how three of the nation's leading talk show hosts feel about all of this and a great deal more next. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Congressional Democrats say they'll fight any presidential veto of their war spending bill by introducing additional legislation to cut funding for our troops in Iraq.
Joining me now, one of the nation's most powerful Democrats, Congressman Charlie Rangel. He's the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He is also the author of the new book, "And I Haven't Had a Bad Day Since: From the Streets of Harlem to the Halls of Congress".
Congressman Charles Rangel, good to have you with us.
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D-NY), AUTHOR, "AND I HAVEN'T HAD A BAD DAY SINCE": Always good to be with you, Lou.
DOBBS: I have to say, before we go on to the business of the day, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your book. It's -- you're a heck of a storyteller. Most importantly, you got a heck of a story to tell. I mean, what a remarkable life. It's a terrific read. Why did you decide to start to write a book?
RANGEL: Well, I was at a party, and someone was there with a well-known Democrat, and they said, "Rangel..." DOBBS: You hang around well-known Democrats?
RANGEL: Well, you know the guy, Bob Shrum. I never thought I could put pieces together, but people ask me how did you get from here to there? And it looks like a miracle.
I remember recently one of the guys in the outfitter had to help. I didn't remember who the heck he was. I still don't remember his face. But I knew that he was trained with me, he went overseas with me, he was in combat with me, and he was getting a hard time from the V.A., and I said, "It probably does (ph)." And he said, "The V.A. said all they need is a call from you."
So I called, believing the guy made up the story, and said, "Oh, my God, you know him."
"Yes, we're going to" -- I invited him down to the Congress to have lunch, and it was fascinating. It took two hours. I said, "By the way, Emeril, how long did you know that I was in the Congress?"
He looked at me, and he says, "Rangel, this is embarrassing to say, but you were such a screw-up. It was hard for me to believe it was really you."
And, you know what I said? "I can understand that." I mean, I was a high school dropout, no future, didn't care. Fearless.
DOBBS: You learned to care. You pointed out your grandfather made all the difference in terms of your direction. I always -- I love the idea that he was an elevator operator and, in a building filled with lawyers, and he decided that his grandson might just think about that. You give him great credit.
You know the other fellow I found fascinating, and you only mention him briefly. You talk about a first lieutenant by the name of Lamar Smith.
RANGEL: Oh, my God, yes.
DOBBS: Who on the ship over to Korea, taught you how to fire for effect and to use -- to use the tools of the trade as an artillery man. He was quite an influence at a very short span in your life.
RANGEL: He was. I thought he was an old man. I was 18. He couldn't have been more than 21, and he ignored me for so long. And for him to have embarrassed me to let me know how little I knew, he must have cared.
DOBBS: Right. Well, and, unfortunately, like so many others, he lost his life in that war.
You tell wonderful stories, fascinating stories, and I know tough stories for you in combat and throughout the whole experience.
But turning to today, all I can think about as I read your book is how many young Charlie Rangels are not going to have the opportunity you did. Kids, poor kids who want to be part of the middle class, working parents, trying to make their way through the American dream.
Because we're -- as we just reported, the pharmaceutical industry spending a fortune to lobby and to have influence over you guys in Congress. The previous Congress actually writing -- credit card companies actually wrote the bankruptcy bill, parts of it.
Do you think kids are going to have the same opportunity you did? You had -- you were up against more odds than nearly anyone, but do you think kids are going to have that opportunity in the generation ahead?
RANGEL: I think it's got to change. I'm optimistic.
First of all, I had no opportunities. I joined the Army. There was no war. I joined an Army that people stood out hope for the future. I joined the Army where unskilled people could still get a job.
RANGEL: I joined an Army where my grandfather was a big shot, and so -- and he never finished high school.
These kids today, there's something broken with the system where the only way to do is to go to college. If two-thirds of them don't go to college, they go into the street. And what it's costing our society in terms of lost productivity costs, in terms of drugs, crime, unwanted children. It's terrible.
The reason I think it's going to change is because I'm the chairman of the ways and means committee. I know you think I've lost it, but I got together with Republicans on the committee. I've gotten together with -- with Hank Paulson, secretary and treasurer from New York, and I said, you know, I'm not a bleeding liberal, but it just seems to me that the fabric of America we're losing. If our kids are not able to get an education, if they can't afford to go to college, if high-tech is going to take over, if people are going to lose work, if towns are going to close, how can we think that we can maintain our superiority in the private sector?
Their fiduciary responsibility is not to the flag and not to the country. It's to the shareholders. And they have to participate to make this a stronger country. Education has to be the basis.
DOBBS: Absolutely. The great equalizer in this...
RANGEL: And I think Americans are going to get it, because we are really going backwards. Our kids are being chewed up.
DOBBS: Are we going to go backwards on fast track authority? Are we going to give that -- are you going to give that to the president of the United States, cede more power from the Congress of the United States to the executive? RANGEL: I'm glad you see how we've got to give it. Most people don't know that constitutionally the responsibility for trade policy is in the Congress.
DOBBS: Article I, section 8.
RANGEL: Exactly. And so if we have the power of authority -- of attorney and 535 negotiate, we can give a limited power. If we get a policy, and we're working on that now, that calls for protection of American workers -- again, you're shocked -- to protect those that are in business, to educate the community, there's no reason why we can't get limited authority.
DOBBS: Well, I'll just make -- I'll lobby you. I'd sure like to see it the way it used to be.
There's a committee in the Senate called the finance committee and one over in the House. The only one named in the Constitution, as you point out in your book, the ways and means committee. It used to represent domestic interests in all trade negotiations. I'd sure love to see a return to that. Something for you to think about when...
RANGEL: We are working on that now, and I have the cooperation of the ranking Republican on the ways and means committee.
DOBBS: Charlie Rangel, it is always great to have you with us. Outstanding book. I urge everyone to read it. A great -- great American story, and the terrific new powerful chairman of the very powerful ways and means committee.
RANGEL: That makes me feel awkward. Thank you so much.
DOBBS: Great to have you here.
Coming up next, Senator Hillary Clinton, the top fundraiser among the Democratic hopefuls, but how is she doing with the voters? Just one of the topics we'll be talking about with three of the country's best talk radio talk show hosts. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Joining us now, three of country's best radio talk show radio hosts: Steve Cochran, WGN in Chicago; Peter Boyles, in Denver. Good to see you. And Mark Simone, WABC radio in New York City. Thank you all for being here.
Peter, let me start with you. The president today said that he's going to definitely tell the Democrats that he's going to veto it and he's going to make it stick. What do you think?
PETER BOYLES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I don't know if he has the strength to do it right now. The country doesn't seem to be much in favor of the war in Iraq. They hold the purse strings.
Henry Kissinger comes out and says, "Look, it can't be won." History tells us back to the times of Winston Churchill, writing about the problem in Mesopotamia and sort of Alexander the Great, who's had a rough go, everybody else in Afghanistan.
I don't think he can do it. Although it's so hard to judge the country right now, but I think it's going to be a tough road for him.
STEVE COCHRAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Yes. Well, the Senate -- Senator Durbin was on the show, I don't know, a few days ago, and we talked about this. He'll veto it, and they don't have the vetoes to override it.
So this is what it is, and it was actually refreshingly honest to hear the president say what he said today, because this is all about politics, and it's incredibly offensive because, again, what's at risk here are the people that are actually doing the heavy lifting. And that's the men and women doing the fighting.
MARK SIMONE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, he'll veto it and then reality will show up, which means that the Democrats will not cut funding for the troops. Hillary Clinton will vote for funding. Barack Obama will vote for it. Joe Biden will vote for it. It's a simple reality.
Nobody wants to be stuck in the mud, though, with our wheels spinning in Iraq, but I think most Americans don't have the heart to just give up and leave. There's got to be some solution somewhere in the middle that someone has to come up with.
DOBBS: Does it strike anyone as strange that in all of this debate, in this discussion that's been going on now since this Congress convened, that we really have not heard a lot of public debate between the Republicans or the Democrats, between the White House and Congress, on what are the consequences of policy choices that are made?
What are the real politic consequences? If we are to withdraw by, let's say, as early as the beginning of April next year, what are the consequences? If we just maintain, stay the course, I believe is the instruction?
BOYLES: Dwight Eisenhower faced that in Korea, and he told the American people that's enough, and I will end this, and he did. And he got -- ended combat and got the American G.I.s out.
You were just speaking to Congressman Rangel, who I think had a tremendous story to tell about that. The rest of it I don't know.
SIMONE: But you have to remember, if we pull out and it's just absolute chaos and a bloodbath and who knows what, how does a Democrat candidate -- Democratic candidate going to run with that going on at the same time?
DOBBS: Well, if that's true, though, Mark, how can a Republican candidate run, given that there is blood and chaos today in 2007? SIMONE: Because a Republican will argue, "I wouldn't have pulled out that fast. I would have found another solution." Not that that's reality, but that's...
DOBBS: I just don't -- I don't see one as being any more difficult in a moral equivalence sense than the other. Steve?
COCHRAN: Well, the agendas -- it's all about agendas, you know. We look at folks like the president of the United States and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.
These are three of the most obstinate, stubborn, aggravating, annoying people on the planet. I wouldn't want to be on a reality show locked in a house with them. And I'll tell you that. I'd vote all three of them off right at the same time. And three people who never are more convinced that they're right and most of the time are wrong.
So to answer your question, I think you'll start hearing about it when it meets the agenda of the people involved, and that's really what is so offensive about this.
When I get e-mails from military families and parents, they're really disheartened at the disconnect. And part of the disconnect from us is the regular citizens about why doesn't this matter more to people and why aren't we demanding that the children in Washington get in the same playpen and figure it out?
SIMONE: Because it's like a Rubik's cube that nobody can solve and you just lose interest in it. Somebody has to come up with something, a partitioning plan, some kind of Dayton accord, something, rather than just abandoning it.
BOYLES: Wars have to have aims. The Second World War had a clear aim: end the despots in Rome, Berlin and Tokyo.
I have to ask you, what is the -- what is the aim of this war? Why does the same young man walk that street again? Very brave, fine, young man who walked that street yesterday. Why does that continue? And I can't listen to the president say that there's an aim to this because it's changed, I think, four times.
DOBBS: I was giving a speech one evening a couple of weeks ago at Vanderbilt University. A young lady asked a question from the audience that I thought is one of the most salient and relevant questions. How will we know when the war on terror, as it's styled, is over?
Let me ask you, all three, that question. Mark?
SIMONE: Well, you may not know, but that's no reason to stop fighting it. You know, it's like the war on drugs. It's something that will never end.
DOBBS: Maybe that's the answer. I don't know. Steve Cochran?
COCHRAN: Well, there is -- in general, I agree with that. There is no real end. It's one of those things. It's the cockroaches that end up still being around at the end of the nuke.
Terrorists will always be out there. That's one of the reasons it's so aggravating and such a difficult fight. You have to continue to fight, but it's got to be a little more cohesive fight, and everybody has to be on the same page.
It's stunning when you think about where we were a couple of weeks and a few months after 9/11, as opposed to where we are now where nobody in Washington talks to anybody. As a matter of fact, Nancy Pelosi talking to the Syrians is actually a much closer relationship than she has with the White House.
BOYLES: Look, terror is a tactic. Terror is simply a tactic. Terror has been used since the time of Irish revolution.
We are against a fanatic group of religious fanatics in the war -- in our war. It is not a war on terror. That's as stupid as saying a war on drugs. I don't know how you win a war against a word.
DOBBS: I agree with you.
SIMONE: Al Qaeda is not a word, though. It's a specific group.
BOYLES: But who are they? They're not...
DOBBS: Peter's point is exact. It is a war against radical Islamists. It is not a war against terror. That's like saying it's a war against a bomb or a war against a bullet.
SIMONE: It's a war against terrorists, and they do exist, and you've got to try to find as many as you can.
DOBBS: I don't think there's any question about that, which leaves open the question of why in the world we don't secure our borders and ports.
DOBBS: But, anyway, we'll leave that to another day for a discussion. Peter, thank you very much.
BOYLES: Thank you.
DOBBS: Steve. Thank you, Mark, as always.
SIMONE: Thank you.
DOBBS: Gentlemen, appreciate it.
Coming up next, the results of our poll. We'll tell you how many of you think every U.S. employer seeking to hire an H1B worker should be required to pledge they've sought a qualified American worker first and should first post that opening on the Department of Labor web site instead of that dark recess of the H.R. department in some corporate wasteland. Stay with us.
DOBBS: The results of our poll now. Ninety-seven percent of you say every employer seeking to hire an H1B worker should be required to pledge they've sought a qualified American and should first post that opening on the Department of Labor web site.
We have time now for some of your thoughts.
Ann in Texas: "I have recently applied to become a naturalized citizen. I believe when you want to become an American, part of you must change, including the language you speak. The United States speaks the English language. If you want to stay, learn it. Speak it, live it!"
Those are very profound words. We thank you for sharing you with that with us. We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at LouDobbs.com.
And we thank you for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow when among our guests will be the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, who says Iran will not give up its nuclear weapons program voluntarily. We'll be talking about that and the future in the Middle East.
For all of us, thanks for watching. Good-night from New York. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins right now, with Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.
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