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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Lebanese Politician Killed in Beirut Bomb Blast; Is Gaza on Brink of Civil War?; Iraq Mosque Explosion

Aired June 13, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, the Middle East exploding in violence from Beirut to Gaza to Iraq. What is the role of Syria and Iran in this widening violence? One of the world's leading authorities on the Middle East and Islam, Professor Fouad Ajami, joins me to answer those questions and whether regional war could be at hand.
We'll have complete coverage from Beirut to Jerusalem to Baghdad.

Also, the Bush administration appearing to shift policy, as well as deadlines, on the war in Iraq.

We'll have that report from the White House.

And the pro-amnesty lobby thought a train ride to Washington would be a victory lap. But the so-called dream train appears to be a local, rather than an express.

And damning evidence of a worsening crisis in our public schools around the country. In one city a new report shows only one fourth of that school system's students are graduating.

All of that, all of the day's news, and much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Wednesday, June 13th.

Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

A new wave of violence in the Middle East today. Violence that could destabilize the entire region.

A huge bomb killed an anti-Syrian lawmaker and nine other people in the Lebanese capital of Beirut.

Radical Islamist gunmen in Gaza today overwhelmed more Fatah strongholds in what appears to be an all-out Palestinian civil war.

And terrorists in Iraq attacked one of the Shia community's most important shrines for a second time, raising new fears of even more sectarian violence.

We turn first to Brent Sadler in Beirut -- Brent. BRENT SADLER, CNN BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF: Thanks, Lou.

This explosion that happened on Beirut's seafront this day, killed Walid Eido, who is a strident opponent of Syrian politics in Lebanon. He was killed, along with his eldest son, two bodyguards, and six passersby in a powerful blast that shook the western sector of the city.

Now, this is the latest in a series of bomb blasts to have targeted Beirut over the past several weeks. The others had been less deadly. This has been the heaviest loss of life in a single explosion since the 2005 assassination of former five-time Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Indeed, these scenes today were reminiscent for very many Lebanese of the shocking aftermath of a bomb that killed Hariri. And Eido was very much a supporter, a close ally of the assassinated prime minister, Hariri, as well as Hariri's son and political heir, Saad Hariri, who leads the parliamentary majority in parliament that keeps basically Fouad Siniora, the prime minister here, in power. Siniora, of course, strongly backed in his office by the U.S. administration.

Now, Saad Hariri said several hours after the blast that it really was Syria once again, he alleges, that's behind this blast, the fifth Lebanese MP, basically anti-Syrian, to be killed in the last two years. Hariri also says it's also time for the international community to take even stronger action against Syria.


SAAD HARIRI, LEBANESE OPPOSITION LEADER: There should be more pressure on Syria. This regime is exporting terrorists to Lebanon as it is exporting terrorists to Iraq.

It is killing Lebanese members of parliament, Lebanese people, as it's killing Iraqi people, American soldiers, and all kinds of people. This regime is a terrorist regime, and it must -- and the world must know that this regime has to be punished.


SADLER: Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is now calling on Arab nations to do more to help stabilize Lebanon as its security forces face continuing bomb attacks, while at the same time the Lebanese army confronts Islamic militants holed up in a north Lebanese Palestinian refugee camp at a time, Lou, when Lebanese themselves fear that there could be even greater violence and multiple threats on many fronts -- Lou.

DOBBS: Brent, thank you very much.

Brent Sadler, the -- reporting from Beirut.

Hamas gunmen today won a series of new victories in Gaza. The Hamas gunmen blasting strongpoints still controlled by forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. At least 30 people killed in today's violence.

Atika Shubert reports now from Jerusalem on the escalating Palestinian conflict.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Gaza under siege, as Hamas forces launched an all-out offensive against Fatah for control of the Gaza Strip. Hamas seems to be winning, taking over Fatah positions north of Gaza City, ordering Fatah forces to surrender weapons or face further attacks. And in the south, Hamas militants used a tunnel underneath a Fatah base in Khan Yunis to detonate a bomb, destroying the compound and killing a number of people.

In Gaza City, the sound of gunfire continued uninterrupted throughout the day, punctuated by mortar and rocket attacks. A few braved the streets to demand an end to the fighting. The response: unidentified gunmen opened fire on the demonstrators, killing one person, injuring more than a dozen others.

Palestinian president and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas says that Gaza is on the brink of collapse.

(on camera): Israel is watching with increasing trepidation, fearful that the chaos in Gaza may draw it back into the territory and that the violence may spread to the West Bank. This time the fighting may continue until either Hamas or Fatah is completely defeated, with Palestinian civilians caught in the middle.

Atika Shubert, CNN, Jerusalem.


DOBBS: And terrorists in Iraq today launched a new bomb attack against a major Shia mosque northwest of Baghdad. That bombing the second attack against that shrine in 16 months. The previous attack led to a wave of violence that pushed Iraq to the verge of full-scale civil war.

Hala Gorani has our report now from Baghdad.


HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Iraq's famous Samarra mosque is now almost a pile of rubble. A year and a half ago, the golden dome of this Shiite holy site was blown up, setting off a deadly spiral of sectarian strikes. This time, bombers took out the two golden minarets of the Askariya mosque.

Gunmen and Iraqi forces began battling at the mosque around dawn. The bombers struck shortly after.

U.S. military commanders tell CNN they have no doubt this was an inside job. The explosives were smuggled into the shrine, according to them, with the help of security guards there to protect the mosque.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blames Sunni extremists and al Qaeda, but is also calling for restraint.

NOURI AL-MALIKI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): And we must have a strong reaction, but it has to be against those who stand with the Saddamists, the terrorists, and al Qaeda organization, and that the hands of all the civilians should be with the security forces in order to face all of the challenges ahead of us.

GORANI: The question tinged with fear, will this attack once again inflame sectarian conflict in Iraq, Sunni against Shia, Shia against Sunni? To try and stop it, a curfew was imposed starting at 6:00 p.m. local time throughout major cities in the country. But there are reports of shootings in some neighborhoods and concern reprisals for the attack will only make this situation worse across Baghdad and beyond.

Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said in a statement, "There is no Muslim who will do such an act at all, but it is the hidden hands of the occupation that wish us evil." Translation, the Americans are responsible directly or indirectly for the devastating attack that obliterated this holy Shiite shrine.

This is not what the Americans wanted to see. The increase in coalition troops and the Baghdad security plan, all designed to secure volatile parts of the country, have not produced the desired effect. And this brash attack will make any effort to pacify the country that much harder.

Security forces are moving in on Samarra, trying to limit violent reprisals and counterattacks as the country holds its breath, facing the real possibility of further sectarian carnage.

Hala Gorani, CNN, Baghdad.


DOBBS: A top U.S. diplomat today directly accused the Iranian government of supplying weapons to insurgents in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told CNN that Iran is also delivering weapons to terrorists in Gaza and Lebanon. Burns is the first U.S. official to link the Iranian government to attacks on our troops.

Joining me now, one of the world's leading authorities on both the Middle East and Islam, Fouad Ajami. Professor Ajami is director of Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University, also author of "The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq."

Welcome, Fouad. Thank you for being here.


DOBBS: It is at best a difficult day in the Middle East. Let's turn first to the violence in Beirut.

Is this tension between pro and anti-Syrian forces within Lebanon going to move to further violence?

AJAMI: I think you've said the story well. From the Mediterranean, Beirut, all the way to the Gulf, you see that order hangs by a very slender thread. And in Lebanon we know what we know.

I mean, the Lebanese a couple of years ago held aloft banners that read, "It's obvious, isn't it?" when Prime Minister Hariri was killed. So it's obvious.

DOBBS: Right.

AJAMI: The Syrians are trying to sabotage Lebanon. We expelled the Syrians out of Lebanon two years ago. They are trying to come back. It's very dangerous to be an enemy of Syria in Lebanon, and this is underlined time and again.

DOBBS: As we turn to Gaza, it is, as you have said, what it appears to have been for 50 years. But the violence is escalating when it appeared there was the possibility of seeing Palestinian leadership emerge and be directed.

Is that a lost hope?

AJAMI: Well, you have this region. I mean, this is the best way to situate it.

It has -- I once said, this is a place where you have god, guns and gold. I mean, the intersection of money, religion, violence. And I think the Palestinian world bears this out.

The Iranians have made themselves a factor in Palestine. They've armed Islamic Jihad. They've armed and financed Hamas. And there's a fight between Fatah and Hamas.

So here you have a Palestinian prime minister who belongs to Hamas and a Palestinian president who belongs to the PLO. And you have this fratricide among the Palestinians in close proximity to Israel.

DOBBS: Professor Ajami, U.S. policy appears to be absent in both Lebanon and in Israel, Gaza. To what degree is that an accurate observation, and to what degree should it be rectified?

AJAMI: Well, I'm not sure really we're absent. In fact, the shadow of American power lies over the region. In many ways you can see the region as a contest between American power trying to maintain the slender order, and the forces of chaos and the forces of violence represented by the Iranians and the Syrians and others.

We're damned if we do and damned if we don't. If we leave the Middle East, if we quit the Middle East, it succumbs to violence. If we're present in the Middle East, we become the target of opportunity for all concerned.

DOBBS: Targets of opportunity we are. We have now almost 160,000 American troops in Iraq. As you say, our force, at least, our presence in the Middle East, is casting a shadow rather than light over the region.

To what degree can we rectify shadow to light and emerge from this with both a positive result for the region and ourselves, if at all?

AJAMI: Well, with Iraq being the pivotal point, if you will, of this American presence, I mean, I think we have to understand soon General Petraeus is going to come with a report. As a professor, I always say he's going to come with a report of incomplete.

Some progress has been made in Iraq, but we're still deeply engaged and deeply committed in Iraq. And there's no easy way out of Iraq. And this is really -- I don't think has changed much.

DOBBS: That does not sound like an incomplete that will be acceptable to the American people.

AJAMI: Well, the American people I really don't think -- you know, we wish we could quarantine the lands of the Middle East. I mean, this is -- in many ways it seems like a cursed region. But there we are. We are committed there.

Our oil is there. Our presence is there. Our prestige is there. And it's -- we are drawn into the affairs of this region, and we remain so.

DOBBS: Very quickly, what should we infer from Nicholas Burns pointing directly to the evidence that says categorically that Iran is supplying both the forces -- the insurgent forces within Iraq and the Taliban?

AJAMI: Well, it's an amazing thing. I mean, the Iranians had a regime, the Taliban, whom they hated and dreaded. We decapitated that regime for them. And they had Saddam in Iraq. And we decapitated Saddam.

This is a peculiar form of Persian thank you, if you will. There we are, we removed their enemies, and they're supplying the Shia extremists in Iraq and the Sunni extremists in Afghanistan.

It tells you something. They are determined to bleed us in that region and to drive us out and to divert the attention and the danger and America's wrath away from them. And this is really what they're doing in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

DOBBS: Professor Fouad Ajami, we thank you very much for being here.

AJAMI: Thank you.

DOBBS: Coming up next, the White House appears to be shifting policy as well as deadlines in the war on Iraq.

We'll have that special report.

Also, congressional Democrats planning to escalate their confrontation with the White House over the firing of U.S. attorneys.

That report.

And a top Pentagon official saying communist China is trying to hide the true extent of what is a tremendous military buildup.

We'll have that special report, a great deal more, straight ahead.

We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Insurgents in Iraq have killed three more of our troops. Two soldiers killed in Baghdad, a Marine killed in Al Anbar province, west of the Iraqi capital.

Thirty-four of our troops have been killed so far this month, 3,513 of our troops killed since the beginning of the war. 25,950 of our troops wounded, 11,667 seriously wounded.

The commander of our troops in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is due to deliver a report in September assessing the progress of the troop surge strategy. President Bush has repeatedly said that report will help determine the future of American strategy in the conduct of this war. But the White House apparently has taken a new and different view.

Ed Henry has our report from the White House.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After weeks of the White House promising a major September progress report on the increase of U.S. Troops in Iraq, Spokesman Tony Snow is trying to dial that back.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What I would suggest is rather than it's sort of a pivotal moment, it's a -- it is the first opportunity to be able to take a look at what happens when you've got it up and running fully for a period of months.

HENRY: The president repeatedly said the opposite last month in a Rose Garden news conference.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This summer is going to be a critical time for the new strategy.

HENRY: Mr. Bush added General David Petraeus' progress report will be so important, insurgents will try to kill as many as possible to influence the debate.

BUSH: And, so, yes, it could be a bloody -- it could be -- it could be a very difficult August.

HENRY: Snow faced a barrage of questions about whether he's pulling back expectations.

QUESTION: Well, now you're saying it's not a pivotal moment. I mean, you don't seem on the same page with the president on that one.

SNOW: No, I (INAUDIBLE) characterizations. I'm just -- I think when he's talking about a critical moment, because it allows people, again, to take a look at what's happening with the security plan.

QUESTION: He has said we'll know whether it's working in September.

SNOW: OK. But what I'm -- OK.

QUESTION: Is that what you think...

SNOW: No, I think my concern is that the expectation that seems to be raised is that suddenly in September there -- there may be an expectation that the report says, OK, all the problems are solved. No.


HENRY: The Democratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, jumped on Tony Snow's comments, given what she believes to be a lack of progress in Iraq. Pelosi said she's not surprised the White House is now trying to push back the date for a report card -- Lou.

DOBBS: Ed, straightforwardly, this is a definite change of direction and import assigned by the White House to September and General Petraeus's assessment of the surge strategy. Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, wouldn't be more direct than that?

HENRY: No. But given clearly what the president himself said a few weeks ago, it certainly seems like a clear shift in what the White House has been saying in terms of setting this up in terms of expectations.

It seems like they want to dial it back a little bit because they're facing a lot of pressure. There's a big expectation, not just among Democrats on the Hill, but as you know, Republicans on the Hill as well have been hearing from the White House, you know, calm down, give us a little more time, wait until September. So they've been holding their fire.

Once they start hearing that maybe September's not decision day, that could get some people on the Hill in both parties upset -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, you are covering not only the White House, but a house of mirrors, as our colleagues on Capitol Hill.

We thank you for your efforts to keep the record straight.

Ed Henry from the White House.

HENRY: Thank you.

DOBBS: Time now for some of your thoughts.

Cynthia in Pennsylvania, "Any senator voting for any part of amnesty is, in my opinion, thumbing his or her nose at every American who died for this country -- its freedom, its character, and its values."

Debra in Kansas said, "Lou, this government can't process passports, but they're going to check backgrounds on 20 million illegal immigrants? Give me a break."

Barbara in Connecticut, "Lou, your editorial today on the amnesty bill sums it up perfectly. Unfortunately, there is no one in this administration with the guts to tell the president to back off. If someone did, he wouldn't listen."

"He has given a whole new meaning to the word 'arrogant'. Sadly, I don't think we will see in our lifetime -- I'm about your age -- reversal of all the damage done in the past six years."

We'll have more of your e-mails here later in this broadcast. And you can read my column entitled "Give it a Rest, Mr. President" on and

Up next, the investigation into the firing of federal prosecutors reaching deep into the White House. Former Bush aides subpoenaed to testify before Congress.

And amnesty advocates, they're on the train to Washington. We call it here the A train, the amnesty train.

And Janet Murguia of La Raza, the largest Latino advocacy group in the country, joins me.

Stay with us for all of that, a great deal more.

We're coming right back.


DOBBS: The investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys reaching deep into the White House today. Congress has issued subpoenas for two former aides in the president's inner circle. Those subpoenas could set up a constitutional confrontation between the White House and Congress.

Dana Bash reports from Capitol Hill.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a dramatic turn that raises the legal and political stakes of the fired prosecutors controversy -- the first Congressional subpoenas for two former top presidential aides and for sensitive White House documents.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: It's now up to the president. Is he going to cooperate with an investigation that has really rocked the Justice Department, brought out facts that we have never seen before or are they going to continue to stonewall?

BASH: The subpoenas demand testimony by next month from former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and Karl Rove's former deputy, Political Director Sara Taylor. Both could shed light on whether the federal prosecutors were fired for political reasons.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is an oversight that has been missing in the Congress for a couple of years.

BASH: The aggressive move sets up a constitutional showdown. The White House argues presidential aides must be protected from revealing internal deliberations to Congress.

SNOW: At this juncture, you know, it's clear that they're trying to create some media drama and I'll leave it at that.

BASH: Democrats investigating why eight U.S. attorneys were fired insist they have no choice. The House Judiciary chairman says the "bread crumbs of their investigation lead straight to the president's inner circle."

If the former White House aides refuse to comply with the subpoenas, this could be a lengthy legal fight. But experts say political disputes like this tend to be resolved without the courts.

TIM HEAPHY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I mean both sides have some kind of an incentive to work it out. It doesn't necessarily make either side of these fights, particularly the administration, look good, in the public view, in the political arena.


BASH: Now, the question is, why didn't Democrats subpoena Karl Rove, the White House official they really suspect is behind these fired federal prosecutors and this whole controversy? The answer Democrats give, Lou, is that they're building their case, and the best way to find out what Rove's role was is to first question those around him -- Lou.

DOBBS: All right, Dana. Thank you very much.

Dana Bash from Capitol Hill.

Also in Washington today, the House of Representatives passed a new gun control bill. The National Rifle Association and gun control advocates worked together on this legislation. The NRA, in fact, supporting and endorsing the bill.

The legislation a response to the deadly rampage on the Virginia Tech campus. This new bill would make it easier to keep guns out of the hands of anyone who is mentally ill.

Up next here, the pro-amnesty lobby's plans for a victory lap to Washington have been derailed. And we'll have that special report on the A train.

Also, a rising backlash against the Bush administration's plans to allow potentially unsafe Mexican trucks to operate all across the United States.

And scathing new criticism of our public schools in this country and the failure of many to educate an entire generation of children.

We'll be talking with the author of a damning new report on our public schools.

Stay with us for all of that, a great deal more.

We'll be right back.


DOBBS: The Catholic Church and amnesty advocates and lobbyists today taking a new approach to further their amnesty agenda, organizing an amnesty train -- legal immigrants lobbying for illegal aliens. They will be aboard the A train, riding the rails to Washington to take their case to Congress.

Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): All aboard the amnesty train.

CARDINAL ROGER MAHONY, L.A. ARCHDIOCESE: American people want immigration reform, and they want a path to legal residents for the 12 million people.

WIAN: It's another political stunt by the Catholic Church, labor organizations, and others seeking to blur the distinction between legal immigrants and illegal aliens. The Dreams Across America tour's stated purpose is to share personal stories, dispel myths, and provide real facts about the need for immigration reform. But some of those hard facts are at best incomplete. For example, a survey showing 81 percent of Americans believe that no one in their family has lost a job to an immigrant. But organizers don't mention the negative impact of illegal immigration on wages.

On taxes organizers say so-called undocumented workers pay $7 billion a year in Social Security taxes. But they neglect to mention the billions of dollars state taxpayers spend on education, health care and other benefits for illegal aliens. This supporter claims her landscaping business will fail without amnesty.

CATHY GURNEY, DREAMS ACROSS AMERICA: Without fair and comprehensive immigration reform in our country we soon won't have access to legal workforce, which will result in having to close down our business, and I will leave 60 families without an income.

WIAN: Organizers say all of the 100 immigrants on board the four Washington, DC-bound trains have legal status in the United States.

SAMINA FAHEEM, DREAMS ACROSS AMERICA: Right now it is impacting my Latino brothers and sisters most. I want to stand with them. Because as a Muslim it is my duty to stop injustice.

WIAN: But some came here illegally including Luz Diaz who was brought across the border by her Mexican mother as a small child.

LUZ DIAZ, DREAMS ACROSS AMERICA: We are here because we love this country. We are here because we want to build this country, and now that we're here we should be having the same liberties.

WIAN: Diaz served in the Navy Reserves and is now a U.S. citizen with a nursing degree.


WIAN: Organizers hope stories like hers will help persuade lawmakers to give legal status to the 12 to 20 million illegal aliens now in the United States. So far, Lou, they have not succeeded.

DOBBS: Yeah. That's sort of a strange approach, to use legal immigrants to make a case for illegal immigration and amnesty. Bizarre thinking, even by Cardinal Mahony's standards.

WIAN: Yeah, there's a lot strange about this effort. The organizers insist with a straight face, I might add, that this effort has nothing to do with any particular piece of legislation, they're not trying to influence law in any particular way, they're just trying to share stories to influence the American public and give them a better view of immigrants, Lou.

DOBBS: Well, I don't think that the American public has demonstrated any lack of understanding of the importance of immigration or the importance of immigrants and the appropriateness of welcoming those more than 2 million folks who come here legally every year through our immigration system.

The issue is illegal immigration as far as I and a whole lot of other folks can discern. But it's I'm sure a nice train ride for everybody, no matter what. Thank you very much. Casey Wian.

Other pro-amnesty groups are continuing to push for the resurrection of the grand compromise on immigration. Joining me now is one of the leading supporters of that grand compromise, Janet Murguia. She's president and CEO of the National Council of la Raza. Good to have you with us, Janet.

JANET MURGUIA, PRESIDENT, LA RAZA: Thanks, Lou. It's good to be here.

DOBBS: Well, the president has said the status quo isn't acceptable. Senator Kennedy says basically bad legislation is better than what we have now. And the president says he'll see us at the bill signing. And what do you think? MURGUIA: Well, I mean, I think it's important for us to continue to try to bring this bill back. I think that it is a comprehensive approach. I think the American people have said today, a Bloomberg/"L.A. Times poll came out that said the majority of Americans and two thirds of Republicans want to see a comprehensive solution like is in the Senate bill. So there is, I think, a will among the American people to see a comprehensive approach work. We should bring that Senate bill back, finish up. The Senate shouldn't quit on it. We should finish this up and move it over to the House.

DOBBS: Well, Janet, let me just say to you, the Pew Research Center poll, which is in my judgment probably the most reliable amongst the polls I've seen, that and the Gallup poll, the immigration bill currently in Congress, oppose it 34 percent, favor it, if we could show this -- if we could. There it is. Favor 27 percent, oppose 34 percent, don't know enough, 16 percent, undecided 26 percent.

Again, a very high number of people who don't know enough or are undecided. The Gallup poll, as you know, three to one opposing that legislation. And a high number of people who simply don't know enough, again, 58 percent. So when people suggest that there's some desire for this legislation, it doesn't conform to any poll that I've seen that makes any sense at all.

But what is clear to me, Janet, is that you talk about comprehensive immigration reform, the president talks about it, Senator Kennedy talks about it, for crying out loud Senator Kyl is talking about it.

But you know what? They're not talking straight, are they? Because if you're going to have a comprehensive immigration legislation, wouldn't you want to have a comprehensive legislative process? Public forums, public hearings, research and rigorous, rigorous fact finding.

And this government, neither through the Congress, nor the executive branch over two years has had the courage or the intelligence to put forward that kind of effort. And still they're hiding facts, they're hiding truth, and they're hiding behind rhetorical flourishes that are 21 years old. This nonsense of bringing people out of the shadows is precisely the language of 1986 and the advocates of that amnesty bill that got us into exactly this situation, right?

MURGUIA: Well, Lou, I think you and I disagree in some respect because ...

DOBBS: We always have.

MURGUIA: Well, I want you to understand that, you know, the senate did bring up a bill last year. This is their second effort. There's been a lot of discussion, a lot of debate. We need to finish the job ...

DOBBS: Debate? MURGUIA: Yes.

DOBBS: Debate? They rammed that bill through last year with this president and the Republicans and the Democrats -- the Republican leadership and the Democrats last year. This year they were told to go stick it effectively. Let me just show you one thing ...

MURGUIA: Lou, can I just have a few -- a minute just here?

DOBBS: Sure.

MURGUIA: It's your show, but let me just have a minute.

DOBBS: Join us.

MURGUIA: Lou. This is a bipartisan bill. It's not a perfect bill. And it's been a very difficult process. The Senate ...

DOBBS: Difficult? Janet, give me a ...

MURGUIA: ... last year were on the track here. We need to get ...

DOBBS: Janet, you and I have known each other too long to talk by each other. You said bipartisan.

MURGUIA: That's right.

DOBBS: It's difficult, it's not perfect. My gosh, we know that. What I ask you about is where is the research? Where is the Congressional Budget Office? Where in the world is this administration's commitment to truth and fact-finding on the impact, the fiscal, societal impact of this legislation?

You and I both know this administration and this Congress is hiding from the truth and they don't want the American people involved. There hasn't been a single public hearing on this legislation.

MURGUIA: Well, I think there's been a lot of discussion, a lot of debate ...

DOBBS: By whom? The secret authors of this legislation?

MURGUIA: We've got a consensus on the fact that this seems to be a comprehensive solution ...

DOBBS: I'm sorry. Who's got the -- whoa. Wait. I missed that bulletin.

MURGUIA: Mm-hmm.

DOBBS: Who agreed to that? What consensus are you talking about?

MURGUIA: Well, when you can bring Senator Kyl and Senator Kennedy together, two people who are on the opposite extremes, a Democrat, a Republican, when they can come together and say, look, we need to make sure that there is ...

DOBBS: You know, forgive me, there's another view here, Janet. I mean, there are 280 middle-class Americans in this country, 300 million Americans, who are saying what are you talking about?

MURGUIA: Well, there is support among the American people to get a solution, they want a comprehensive rational, fair and orderly solution to this. And this bill is our best chance for moving forward and not accepting the status quo. We know that the current system isn't working, Lou. We've got to move forward. This is not a perfect bill. We need to let the House have a crack at this. And see what comes out of conference.

DOBBS: Let me give you an idea of what happens with this not perfect bill and the debate that you're talking about. Here's what Senator Trent Lott had to say about amendments to the bill. You remember there were killer amendments last week and, you know, a real heartfelt bipartisan effort there. Well, the Mississippi Republican, Senator Trent Lott, Senate whip, Republican whip, said amendments to this bill would simply disappear once that bill goes into conference. Quote, "No big deal -- you pitch those before you get to the Rotunda."

You want to sit there and tell the American people that this is meaningful debate and this isn't political theater arranged by the elites on both parties and socio-ethnocentric interest groups? Come on.

MURGUIA: We need to let the legislative process move forward, and we have to make sure that as it moves forward we take into account all of these perspectives. Again, the fact that ...

DOBBS: How about the perspective of the American people?

MURGUIA: Well, of course.

DOBBS: They're the only people not represented in this. You were there. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was there in those secret meetings as the Senate is authoring this. Where in the heck were the American people?

MURGUIA: I don't know what you're talking about in terms of secret meetings. That wasn't anything we were a part of.

DOBBS: You weren't in any way involved in any part of the crafting of this legislation? Your input wasn't sought?

MURGUIA: There have been a number of voices ...

DOBBS: I know. But I'm asking about yours, Janet. La Raza's.

MURGUIA: There's a broad coalition that's involved. Bipartisan. Representing a lot of different voices. And they're all trying to ...

DOBBS: All right. Give me just one example of working men and women in this country and their representation and their families. American citizens.

MURGUIA: Well, I happen to represent a number of working families through our organization. The Chamber of Commerce represents business ....

DOBBS: Well, pardon me ...

MURGUIA: The Catholic Church ...

DOBBS: You know what? I'd like to see somebody just committed just to those folks and not to, if you will, open borders and amnesty.

MURGUIA: Well, I don't support open borders, and our organization does not support open borders.

DOBBS: So would you accept, then, border security as a condition precedent to any attempt at reforming existing U.S. law?

MURGUIA: Border security must be a part of this solution. And it is a part of this equation in this bill. But it cannot stand alone.


MURGUIA: We have quintupled ...

DOBBS: Why? You and I both know that comprehensive is just another way to bury border security and port security ...

MURGUIA: No. Lou, border security and enhancements around the border and interior security are all part of this bill that's on the Senate floor. We need to move forward in a balanced way that just has border security and enforcement alone. We've quintupled our efforts to help in border security the last 10 years. That alone won't work.

We need to have a comprehensive solution that addresses the current undocumenteds that are here, the future flow of workers, and the employer work site enforcement. All of that has to be part of the equation if this is going to be a workable solution. That's in the Senate bill. It's not perfect. But we need to move that legislation forward.

DOBBS: Janet?

MURGUIA: Mm-hmm.

DOBBS: You get the last word. And I appreciate you being here. Good to talk to you with you.

MURGUIA: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Janet Murguia. The head of La Raza.

Coming up, communist China's rapidly growing military, it is posing a threat and challenge to the United States. And what is the Bush administration doing about that? Why, they're paying for it with their policies.

Disturbing -- you're actually paying for it. Disturbing new numbers on the failure of our public school systems in this country. In one of our major cities. It is our national catastrophe, a national embarrassment. The graduation rate there, just 25 percent. We'll have those details. And we'll be reporting from that city next week. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Top Pentagon official today accusing communist China of concealing a tremendous build-up in its military. That official telling the House Armed Services Committee that Beijing is rapidly modernizing its strategic nuclear forces and developing space weaponry. Kitty Pilgrim has our report.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): China says its defense budget grew 18 percent this year to $45 billion. But the U.S. military says that number is really between 85 and 125 billion dollars. At a congressional hearing Defense Department officials say that because of China's secretiveness ...

RICHARD LAWLESS, DEP. UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We the Department of Defense and more broadly the United States government are put in the position of having to assume the most dangerous intent.

PILGRIM: China is developing 10 varieties of ballistic missiles, some of which will be able to strike the continental United States. Nine-hundred missiles are directed at Taiwan. China is building new missile bases and a new nuclear submarine class. The Navy is also working to develop an aircraft carrier. China is using its $232 billion trade advantage for military build-up.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, (R) CA: China is cheating on trade right now. They are buying ships and planes and military equipment with American trade dollars. And a large portion of the American defense industrial base is moving to China. Do you see a problem there?

LAWLESS: Sir, I think we see a huge issue here.

REP. WALTER JONES, (R) NC: China has taken advantage of our economic woes and our trade policies of sending more jobs overseas and more dollars overseas.

PILGRIM: There are also indications China is working on technology warfare, designed to disrupt American computer systems and other key capabilities.

MAJ. GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: They have seen and watched. They watched the Desert Storm. They watched every war we've done since that time.

PILGRIM: Congressmen also questioned China shooting down a satellite last January and worried about competition in space. (END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: Now China's financial hold on the United States is a big concern. A $200 billion trade surplus, a trillion dollars in currency reserves gives China a clear advantage in the discussion of any issue with the United States. Lou?

DOBBS: You might also add to that list of advantages that China has is a committed, highly intelligent and strategic leadership that is making the United States look like a cadre of fools in any negotiation or discussion between the two countries, whether it be trade or whether it be geopolitics.

PILGRIM: China's goals are very, very focused and directed.

DOBBS: Kitty Pilgrim, thank you very much. That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight. Our question is, "Is it rational for an administration to warn against China's military build-up while at the same time supporting trade policies that pay for that very build- up?"

Yes or no? Please cast your vote at We'd love to hear from you. We'll have the results upcoming.

Next, a shocking new report about the quality of public education. Incredibly, more than three quarters of one school system, their students failing to graduate.

We'll have more on that $54 million lawsuit over a pair of lost suit pants and what this astonishing case is saying about justice, at least in the District of Columbia if not the United States of America. Take a nausea pill. You're not going to believe it. Stay with us.


DOBBS: An astonishing, disturbing new report giving failing grades to this country's public school system. The "Education Week" report shows more than a million students will fail to graduate this year. The Detroit school system receiving the lowest grade of all. Astonishingly, less than one quarter of the students in Detroit graduate.

The report also says now more than ever our students need at least some college education to succeed in this country. Joining me tonight, Christopher Swanson. He's the director of the Editorial Projects and Education Research Center. And it is good to have you with us, Chris.


DOBBS: These numbers, if we could just -- people need to see these numbers just to -- i mean, look at these numbers. I mean, they are astonishing. Cleveland, 34 percent. Detroit, 24. New York, 45. Baltimore, 34.6 percent. Dallas, 44 percent. This is a superpower? Denver 46 percent. Los Angeles 45. Milwaukee 46. Philadelphia 49. Miami-Dade County 49%. Chris, this is one of the most disturbing reports I have ever seen. What in the world is going on?

SWANSON: Well, you know, I think what we're seeing here from our research -- and unfortunately, it's not new, and we hope people will continue to pay attention to this issue. Our large urban districts in particular are struggling. It's very common to find the largest urban districts in our country graduating at best half of their students. And as we see, in some cases it's far lower than that.

You know, I think that really speaks to the challenge of getting students to graduate from high school at a time where it's more important than it's ever been in order to provide opportunities for our young people to have a successful career and for the United States in general to be competitive in the world.

DOBBS: Well, Chris, there's something going on. I mean, why in the world in Detroit -- and by the way, we want to point out, we also had a statement from the Detroit school system, and that statement basically says that you way understated their graduation rate.

In fact, they are asserting that they're actually -- let's put that up. The actual graduation rate for 2003 to 2004 is close to the national average. They say their graduation rate is 67.9 percent. Now, you reported the graduation rate in Detroit at under 25%. What in the world is going on there? Who's right, you or the Detroit public schools?

SWANSON: Well, we can't claim that we're perfect, of course, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find an objective observer in Detroit who would say that their graduation rate is 67, 68 [percent. I think what we have in many cases is that when we're looking at these rates, this 67 percent, that's probably a rate the state is calculating for Detroit. And in many cases the cities will see these rates and say, well, that must be true. But I think one of the gut checks here is to go and talk to principals ...

DOBBS: Well, wait a minute, Chris. Can I just say something to you straightforwardly? Because you know, the parents of those students in Detroit are just like me as a parent or anybody else in this country. You know, they work hard. They expect when the school system says our graduation is 69 percent they mean just about 70 percent of the students graduate from their institution.

And parents, like me and those in Detroit and around the country, when somebody says 25 percent graduate, we expect 25 percent to be the number. There's no -- I mean, somebody's lying, whether intentionally, whether unintentionally, whether because of some weird rationalization, education-speak, arcane language or concept. I don't know. But parents expect to know. Which is it, 25 percent or 69 percent?

SWANSON: I would say it's closer to 25 percent. And the reason ...

DOBBS: But why in the world would Michigan -- and by the way, we've encountered the same thing, Chris, as you know, with the school systems. The California Department of Education, the state department of education when it comes to Los Angeles schools. Why in the world aren't they held to a standard of candor, honesty, forthrightness, directness that they would expect of their students and the parents of the students in their school system?

SWANSON: That's a good question. The states have to calculate a graduation rate. It's part of No Child Left Behind. But there's no real guidelines about how they have to do that. And Michigan, like many states, is doing it in a way that unfortunately gives misleading results.

DOBBS: All right. Let me ask you this one. Why isn't the president of the United States in Detroit, Michigan tonight talking about getting that situation turned around? Why isn't the president of the United States, why isn't the congressional delegation in that town right now trying to turn that around?

SWANSON: That's a good question. You know, on the bright side, if there is a bright side here, when you look at the national agenda, high schools are very high on the agenda when people are talking about what to do in reauthorizing No Child Left Behind. And graduation rates has been a very important part of that issue. So my hope is that as we continue to look at high school reform people will continue to pay attention to graduation rates and part of what we'll do is take a really close, hard look at how the states are calculating their rates and what the stakes are that are being attached to those numbers.

DOBBS: Well, Chris Swanson, you're doing incredibly important work to enlarge the body of public knowledge on what is happening with our school system, particularly in those cities. We hope you will come back. As I said, this broadcast will be going to Detroit next week to cover what I think is a national crisis, whether it is expressed in terms of the 25 percent graduation rate in Detroit or 70 percent national average for all public schools around the country. Chris Swanson, we thank you for being here.

SWANSON: Glad to be here, Lou.

DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour, THE SITUATION ROOM and Wolf Blitzer. Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much, Lou. Coming up, a story you may want to see before you take your next flight. Airlines could experience some of the worst flight delays ever this summer. We're going to tell you why and what's being done to keep it from happening.

Also, the showdown over illegal immigration heating up. We're going to have the latest on a raid in Oregon on alleged illegal workers.

And newly released White House e-mail could shed some new light on the firings of those eight U.S. attorneys. Our Brian Todd has been combing through the e-mail. We're going to tell you what he's learned. All, that Lou, coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

DOBBS: All right, Wolf. Thank you very much.

Now back to the judge who went to court to sue his dry cleaners. As we've reported and just last night Washington, DC Judge Roy Pearson became very upset when his dry cleaners lost a pair of his suit pants. The judge sued him, the head of the dry cleaners, he and his wife, for $54 million. On the witness stand the judge broke down and he cried about the tragedy of those missing trousers. But the real victim is our legal system and our courts of justice.


PHILIP K. HOWARD, CHAIR, COMMON GOOD: Justice in America today is literally out of control. I mean, why not sue for $54 billion or trillion dollars? Judges have to exercise a measure of common sense when they're running the courtroom.


DOBBS: Well, the judge in this case, the one presiding over the good judge who brought this case, is completely out of control. Phillip Howard also says this case has probably cost the cleaners $100,000. The court has just adjourned. We can expect a judgment in this awfully important case sometime next week.

Coming up next, we'll have the results of tonight's poll and more of your thoughts. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight, 93 percent of you say it is not rational for an administration to warn against China's military buildup while at the same time supporting trade policies that pay for that buildup.

Time now for one last thought. David in Indiana. "Three guardsmen were charged for helping illegals enter the United States of America. My two senators and congressmen have been helping illegals for years. When will they be charged?"

We thank you for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. For all of us, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. THE SITUATION ROOM begins now with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf?