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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Hillary Plays Terror Card; Wal-Mart Partly Responsible For Dangerous Chinese Imports?

Aired August 24, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: Some lawmakers are actually listening to voter complaints about the federal government's failure to secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws. Imagine that. We will have a special report.
Also, the nation's largest retailer and discounter, Wal-Mart, tries to reassure consumers that its products are not only cheap, but also safe. But is Wal-Mart partly to blame for the flood of possibly dangerous imports from communist China? We will have a special report.

And presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton plays the terror card in her election campaign, but will Clinton's tactics backfire and help the Republicans? Three of the nation's best political analysts will be here to discuss that and other issues.

All that and much more straight ahead tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Friday, August 24.

Live from New York, sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Lisa Sylvester.

SYLVESTER: Good evening, everybody.

A top U.S. commander in Iraq, Major General Rick Lynch, today publicly challenged Republican Senator John Warner, who called for some troop withdrawals from Iraq this year. General Lynch declared that any withdrawal of troops from his area before Christmas would be -- quote -- "a giant step backwards."

At the same time, General Lynch issued a new warning about Iran's efforts to kill our troops in Iraq. General Lynch said 50 Iranians and Iraqis working for Iran are operating in his battle space south of Baghdad.

First, Jamie McIntyre reports on the fight over troop withdrawals from Iraq -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lisa, you would think that a proposal to bring a small number of U.S. troops home in time for the December holidays would be popular, but it's not popular among some U.S. commanders in Iraq.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): With more than 160,000 troops in Iraq, Senator John Warner believes the mission could spare a few thousand just to make the point that the U.S. is not staying indefinitely.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The first redeployment, hopefully, the troops would get home by Christmas.

MCINTYRE: But U.S. commanders in Iraq insist they need every American group now on the ground to hold on to hard-won gains because the Iraqi army can not yet fill their shoes.

MAJOR GENERAL RICK LYNCH, U.S. MILITARY COMMAND IN BAGHDAD SENIOR SPOKESMAN, U.S. ARMY: I have got some great Iraqi army units in my battle space and we are working transitions there but there's still such a detailed, complicated fight going on, that it's no time between now and Christmas to move some coalition forces out.

MCINTYRE: But General Lynch's forces are on the front line south of Baghdad. Aren't there any troops anywhere in Iraq that could be sent home? Sources close to the top commander in Iraq tell CNN that General David Petraeus has not ruled out recommending troop cuts when he reports to Congress in two weeks. But he's playing his cards close to the vest.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is preparing options for next year under the hopeful scenario that deep-force cuts can be made then with as many as 60,000 troops coming home.

"The Los Angeles Times" reports outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace favor such a cut, but General Pace issued a written statement calling the report purely speculative, adding he will provide his advice privately to the president. The White House has politely thanked Senator John Warner for his suggestion, but made no promises.

GORDON JOHNDROE, NATIONAL SECURITY SPOKESMAN: He's certainly a respected senator. But right now the impossible thing is listening to what our generals on the ground have to say.


WARNER: They are perfectly willing to reject it. If that is what they want to do, reject it. But at least I have spoken out with clarity and cleared my own conscience.



MCINTYRE: And as for that published report suggesting that General Peter Pace favors deep cuts in U.S. troop levels next year, General Pace's office has issued an even stronger denial late today, saying the story is wrong, that General Pace has not decided anything, and he's made no recommendations -- Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Jamie McIntyre reporting from Washington, thank you very much for that report.

A leading House Republican is also breaking with President Bush on the issue of Iraq. Congressman Peter Hoekstra, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said the U.S. strategy to create a democracy in Iraq is flawed. Congressman Hoekstra told Michigan Public Television that the idea of democracy in Iraq is -- quote -- "a stretch." But Congressman Hoekstra said he does not support a timetable for the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.

In Iraq, insurgents killed two more of our troops in separate attacks; 68 of our troops have been killed so far this month; 3,726 of our troops have been killed since this war began; 27,506 troops have been wounded, 12,340 of them seriously.

A rising number of our troops in Iraq are being killed by sophisticated roadside bombs supplied by Iran. Today one of our top commanders in Iraq, Major General Rick Lynch, gave new details about the scale of Iran's meddling south of Baghdad. General Lynch said his troops are now actively targeting Iranian agents.

Barbara Starr has our report.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The top U.S. commander for central Iraq detailed a growing Iranian campaign to smuggle in weapons, train fighters, and kill American troops.

LYNCH: We are finding Iranian-made munitions and weapon systems throughout our area.

STARR: Major General Rick Lynch told reporters he's searching for members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard he believes are operating in central Iraq.

LYNCH: We assess that there are 50 or so Iranian and Iraqi operatives working for Iran in our area, about 20 of which who we are actively targeting.

STARR: Lynch says, since April, his troops in the area have suffered 48 attacks from Iranian-made explosively formed penetrators.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One hundred and forty-two EFP plates.

STARR: Those armor-penetrating bombs have killed eight U.S. troops.

LYNCH: There are several significant features associated with the 48 EFPs we found in MND-C which are unique to Iranian design, manufacture and distribution methods. We're doing things like looking at tool marks on these EFPs and the source of the explosives and the manufacturing capability.

STARR: And there have been 66 attacks with precision rockets, killing five U.S. troops. This captured insurgent video shows three dozen Iranian rockets lined up to be fired at a U.S. operating base, just one example of what commanders say is Iran's training of Iraqi insurgents to fire rockets and mortars with greater precision.


STARR: General Lynch says now the best hope for stopping the flow of smuggled weapons is a new series of checkpoints being built along the border with Iran. All trucks, all vehicles coming into Iraq from Iran will now be checked for contraband -- Lisa.

SYLVESTER: We would certainly hope that would at least work. Thank you very much, Barbara Starr, reporting from the Pentagon.

The new House defense appropriations bill contains $3 billion of earmarks for congressmen's pet projects, or, in other words, to put it plainly, pork. Taxpayers for Common Sense says the bill contains an astonishing 1,339 earmarks.

Today, one of the top Democrats on Capitol Hill, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, strongly defended his party's widely criticized effort to reform earmarks.

Jessica Yellin reports.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Call him the front line of defense for Democrats. In an op-ed in "The New York Times," Congressman Rahm Emanuel said Democrats made major changes to those pork barrel spending tools called earmarks. Democrats never promised to eliminate earmarks. We promised to reform them, he writes. And brags, "That was a pledge we kept" -- this from a congressman who has requested more than $174 million for pet projects this year alone.

Bucking conventional wisdom, Rahm Emanuel defends all that special funding. He says not all earmarks are created equal. And, in fact, "Most members believe it is their prerogative and their duty to channel federal resources to important public purposes."

Government watchdogs say that argument is preposterous.

TOM SCHATZ, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS AGAINST GOVERNMENT WASTE: Earmarks by themselves are a corrupting influence, regardless of what Congressman Emanuel might think. There's no good earmark.

YELLIN: He argues, funding for projects is supposed to be doled out by government agencies, not elected officials.

The Democrat-led Congress has made some reforms. Now, every time a member sponsors an earmark, it's a matter of public record. And they can't benefit financially, nor can their spouse.

Emanuel also boasts that Democrats cut earmark spending in half this year. But there's no way to confirm it. Still, Democrats, just like Republicans before them, rely on earmarks to get business done. Case in point, in March, the Democratic House passed an emergency war spending bill. Although it was eventually vetoed, they inserted billions of dollars of pork in it, including $25 million for spinach growers, $74 million to store peanuts, and $252 million for a milk program for dairy farmers.

What does any of that have to do with Iraq? Nothing.

SCHATZ: Earmarks corrupt the process. It's not a lot of dollars, but it's a form of legalized bribery, where members of Congress get influenced by special interests in order to receive a few dollars.

YELLIN (on camera): Congress is not even close to finishing its spending bills, so we have yet to see how much money will go to earmarks this year.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, Capitol Hill.


SYLVESTER: As we reported, the new House defense appropriations bill is full of pork. And, not surprisingly, the most powerful congressmen on the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee are responsible for the most earmarks.

The subcommittee's chairman, Democratic Congressman John Murtha, leads the group with 48 earmarks worth just over $150 million. The subcommittee's former chairman, Republican Congressman Bill Young, was second with 52 earmarks worth $117 million. But Congressman Young did not stop there. Taxpayers for Common Sense says he also co-sponsored other earmarks worth $27 million.

Still to come: a battle between one state and the federal government over how to crack down on criminal illegal aliens.

Bill Tucker has the story -- Bill.

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lisa, there is change coming to the state of New Jersey, and the state's attorney general wants to be in control of it, not overwhelmed by it. We will have the details coming up, Lisa.

SYLVESTER: We will check back with you in a moment.

Also, a rising number of our lawmakers are finally paying attention to our border security and illegal immigration crisis. Former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak speaks out in public for the first time since she was charged with assaulting a rival in a love triangle. You won't want to miss that.

And extreme weather grips much of the country, from flooding in the Midwest to extreme heat. We will have complete coverage.


SYLVESTER: Senator Elizabeth Dole, like other members of Congress, is meeting with constituents during the August recess. She met with North Carolina sheriffs yesterday to hear their concerns about the federal government's failure to enforce immigration laws.

And, as Casey Wian reports, the senator wants federal training for local sheriffs to help enforce those laws.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): North Carolina sheriffs say they are tired of criminal illegal aliens, such as this alleged repeat illegal border crosser, charged with drunk driving and felony death by motor vehicle after a crash in June.

STEVE BIZZELL, JOHNSTON COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA, SHERIFF: Yes, we have got a problem. We have got a problem with illegals that are committing crimes, murder, rape, robbery, driving drunk. You name the crime, it's occurred. Enough is enough.

DONNIE HARRISON, WAKE COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA, SHERIFF: We need to know who is legal and who is illegal. And we are after the ones that's committing the crimes in our counties.

WIAN: Senator Elizabeth Dole promised the sheriffs she would push for more money for the government's 287-G program, which trains local law enforcement to help efforts to deport illegal aliens who commit crimes.

SEN. ELIZABETH DOLE (R), NORTH CAROLINA: This is a program where people can be trained in a few weeks to literally begin the process with regard to illegal aliens after they have been picked up for a crime. What I found out from the ICE people was that they don't have the money that they need to move forward with 287-G.

WIAN: So far, 26 law enforcement agencies in a dozen states have joined the program; 457 officers have been trained, and turned over 22,000 suspects to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for possible deportation.

This year, the federal government spent just over $5 million on immigration training for local law enforcement. The White House is requesting $25 million, nearly five times as much for next year. Pro- amnesty group, such as the League of United Latin American Citizens, say they oppose -- quote -- "involving city police in immigration matters. This is the role of the federal government."


WIAN: ICE says, however, it needs the help of local law enforcement officers, who are often the first to come in contact with foreign-born criminals and immigration law violators who pose a threat to national security or public safety -- Lisa.

SYLVESTER: And, Casey, as we know, Congress has failed to act. So many locals and state governments seem to be stepping in in their absence; isn't that right?

WIAN: Yes, absolutely. And they are desperate for this training to give them the legal authority to help enforce immigration laws. So far, Congress and the White House have not provided enough money for ICE to train all of the local agencies that want training. Hopefully, that will be rectified soon -- Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Casey Wian, thanks for that report.

Well, there are new questions today about New Jersey's announced crackdown on criminal illegal aliens. New Jersey's attorney general took action Wednesday ordering all police in the state to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

But, as Bill Tucker reports, New Jersey wants to control exactly what information is turned over to ICE.


TUCKER (voice-over): The arrest of an illegal alien and the murders of three college kids in Newark, an illegal alien also out on bond for assault and child rape, was the turning point in New Jersey.

Before then, it was don't ask and don't tell on the question of illegal immigration. That changed this week.

ANNE MILGRAM, NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY GENERAL: All law enforcement officers throughout the state effective immediately are expected that when they make an arrest for an indictable offense or driving while intoxicated, that they will make that report during the arrest booking process to immigration, the prosecuting agency and the court.

TUCKER: The announcement won cautious praise from a coalition of groups who favor cracking down on illegal aliens.

DAVID MARLETT, PROAMERICA: I think it's a great start. We are cautious about fully endorsing how wonderful this is. We still have a sanctuary city, that being Newark, where these crimes happened. It will be interesting to see how this actually plays out, how much the local police enforcement agencies feel comfortable acting on this directive.

TUCKER: The caution is because of this paragraph in the directive telling law enforcement who are exercising federal immigration and enforcement authority, also known as 287-G, they can only do so -- quote -- "unless and until the officer has arrested an individual for violation of an indictable offense or for driving while intoxicated under state law."

That is an attempt to limit the use of 287-G, which many people, including the mayor of Morristown, New Jersey, calls improper. He wants to use the federal authority to check anyone processed into his jails or put under arrest in his town.

Attorney General Milgram admits she is limiting the use of the authority, but adds that she does like using it to check prisoners being processed into state jails.


TUCKER: And some lawmakers in the state are moving to tighten other parts of the process. State Senator Shirley Turner has introduced legislation that would require that illegal aliens post their full bond to be released pending trial, instead of the 10 percent that they are currently allowed to do.

SYLVESTER: But, Bill, this sounds like this could be a model for other states. Will this program be effective? Do you think this will work?

TUCKER: Well, no one knows the answer to that, except to say that, in New Jersey, heretofore, it's been a free run for illegal aliens. No one has asked. No one has challenged. And there's been no immigration enforcement in the state at all. So, it will be interesting to see what happens as the state moves forward, even in its limited fashion.

SYLVESTER: All right, Bill Tucker, thanks for that report. Keep us up to date.

Time now for some of your thoughts.

Rick in Nevada: "I am not outraged that the Mexican senate supports Elvira Arellano. I am outraged at the way our president and our Congress have abandoned the American people on all of America's important issues."

Mike in Oregon: "Elvira Arellano must be out of her cotton- picking mind, blaming the U.S. for her stupidity and using her kid so she can live here. She has no one to blame but herself, and she has no right to be here in the first place."

Maria in California: "Why didn't the church in the Elvira Arellano case get hauled into jail for aiding and harboring an illegal alien? I thought that was a felony, too."

We will have more of your e-mail a little later in the broadcast.

Coming up: The nation's largest retailer promises to take steps to ensure the toys it sells are safe. Can they keep that promise? We will have a report.

A former astronaut accused of attempted kidnapping, battery and assault of a romantic rival was in court today. You will hear what she had to say.

Stay with us.


SYLVESTER: The unusual journey of former astronaut Lisa Nowak. She's accused of stalking a romantic rival in now the infamous NASA love triangle case.

John Zarrella reports from today's pretrial hearing in Orlando.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Former astronaut Lisa Nowak apologized to the other woman.

LISA NOWAK, DEFENDANT: I would like her to know how very sorry I am about having frightened her in any way and about the subsequent public harassment that has besieged all of us.

ZARRELLA: Nowak's statement came at the end of a pretrial hearing where Nowak, the accused, and Colleen Shipman, the victim, were both present, seeing each other for the first time since an alleged love triangle between the two women and shuttle astronaut Bill Oefelein came to a head.

Nowak allegedly attacked Shipman with pepper spray at the Orlando Airport. During the hearing, Nowak's attorney argued that the monitoring device his client is forced to wear is unnecessary, that she is not a threat. On the stand, Nowak promised to stay clear of Shipman if the ankle bracelet is removed.

NOWAK: I can absolutely say that I will not go to Brevard County.

ZARRELLA: Next on the stand, Colleen Shipman, saying there is a comfort level knowing Nowak is being monitored, but admitting she travelled to Houston to visit her boyfriend, going to the same city where Nowak lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Shipman, did it make you feel better that you knew that she couldn't come near you or be around you?

COLLEEN SHIPMAN, U.S. AIR FORCE: Absolutely. When I'm home alone and there's nobody there with me, it is a comfort.

ZARRELLA: Much of the hearing's testimony came from police officer William Becton. Nowak's attorney, Donald Lykkebak, wants evidence collected, the B.B. gun, the mallet, and the interview Becton conducted with Nowak after her arrest thrown out, saying she never really agreed to talk without an attorney.

DONALD LYKKEBAK, ATTORNEY FOR LISA NOWAK: And you asked for that commitment of her to speak to you without advising her of her constitutional rights, known as the Miranda warning; isn't that right?

DETECTIVE WILLIAM BECTON, ORLANDO POLICE: I wouldn't say that's totally accurate.

ZARRELLA: Lykkebak has maintained that the stories his client wore a diaper when she drove from Houston to Orlando were preposterous. On the stand, officer Becton testified he found three soiled diapers in her car.

BECTON: She said that she used the diapers in order to pee, so that she didn't have to make as many stops.

ZARRELLA: The judge has yet to rule on any of the issues. Nowak's trial is set to begin next month.


SYLVESTER: That was John Zarrella reporting from Orlando.

Coming up: Potentially dangerous imports from communist China are flooding into this country. Are big U.S. retailers and discounters partly to blame? We will have a special report.

Also, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton uses a political tactic that could have come from Karl Rove's playbook. We will have that story.

And the flooding misery in the Midwest intensifies, even as other parts of the nation suffer from extreme heat. We will have complete coverage.


SYLVESTER: The nation's largest retailer today responded to growing consumer outrage over millions of dangerous toys imported from communist China. Just in time for the Christmas shopping season, Wal- Mart unleashed a public relations offensive to convince skeptical and angry shoppers that its products are not only cheap, but also safe.

Christine Romans reports.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wal-Mart has no time to lose. There are only 123 shopping days until Christmas. Orders have been placed. Ships are already filled with the products destined for America's toy boxes. So, Wal-Mart promises more testing, more checking, more dialogue, and more selection of toys from across the world. Eighty percent of toys in this country are now made in one country, China.

In a statement, the company's merchandise manager for toys says: "We have heard parents' concerns over recent recalls. And we're working hard to be their advocate, ensuring everyone involved in the toy business plays their part in improving standards."

Wal-Mart's critics scoff at that. They say Wal-Mart's relentless and legendary drive to squeeze lower prices out of its suppliers is a big part of the problem.

DAVID NASSAR, WAL-MART WATCH: You can't tell somebody to produce something at bargain-basement prices and then not take responsible steps to ensure that the product is safe for the consumer. And that's -- Wal-Mart has avoided that.

ROMANS: As costs are squeezed out of the process...

MARY TEAGARDEN, THUNDERBIRD SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT: To continue to do it at a cheaper and cheaper price, you cut corners. And, as you cut corners, you might, oh, let's eliminate a little testing here. Let's eliminate a little bit of quality control there.

ROMANS: Indeed, don't just blame China.

URVASHI RANGAN, "CONSUMER REPORTS": I think the problem goes deeper than that. We have got problems with import inspections here at or own borders, but there's also problems with quality control systems in the manufacturing.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, Wal-Mart also says it -- quote -- "stands ready to help leaders in China with any new testing or standards."

But, since Wal-Mart already imports more from China than most countries, its critics wonder what has taken so long.


ROMANS: Wal-Mart is asking suppliers to resubmit all of the safety documentation for toys already on the shelves and the toys being shipped right now. It is hiring its own testers, independent testers, to do an additional 200 tests on toys for safety each day.

SYLVESTER: But, Christina, that seems like a drop in the bucket when anyone who has been to a Wal-Mart, especially during the Christmas season, certainly they're not testing even a fraction of all of the toys that they have.

ROMANS: I'm not sure how much of the toys they will be testing. The branded manufacturers are already doing some of their own testing. But as we've seen, the branded manufacturers, the big name toy brands are having recall problems.

Wal-Mart is going to do some extra testing with independent contractors. They're going to test them 200 extra a day, but with 200 products a day -- three billion toys on the shelves, there are a lot of toys out there.

SYLVESTER: Meanwhile, there are also a lot of anxious and worried parents at the same time.

ROMANS: That's exactly right.

SYLVESTER: Christine Romans, thanks for that great report.

Critics say the Consumer Product Safety Commission is not up to the task of keeping our family safe by keeping dangerous toy imports from Communist China out of the United States. Earlier today, I spoke with two consumer product experts about what needs to be done to keep dangerous toys and other products from coming into this country.


ED MIERZWINSKI, U.S. PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP: Congress needs to allocate more money and more enforcement power to the CPSC in general. And then particularly at the border, we need independent third party investigations and laboratory testing of all imports. Consumer groups, including "Consumer Reports" and U.S. PIRG have called for a list of reforms that need to be done. The government has to play a role. When Congress gets back, were confident that the Consumer Product Safety Commission and t safety of imports will be high on its list.

SYLVESTER: Urvashi Rangan, I want to pick up with you.

The "Consumer Reports," your group Safety Block, has some tips for what parents can do, because, really, that's what's at the heart of this. Parents want to know what can I do to protect my children?

What sort of advice do you give to parents?

RANGAN: Well, at this point, parents need to take stock of what they've got in their children's toy chest already. You also want to cross-reference that with some kind of recall site. is a good place to start. You can also sign yourself up on a Web site and get e-mails sent to you when there are recalls of specific toys.

You want to make sure that the toys that you have in your chest don't have peeling or chipping paint off of them. You want to make sure that all of those types of toys are out of reach, especially for children under the age of two, who often put these things into their mouths directly.


SYLVESTER: We'll have more on how you can protect yourself and your family from dangerous imports and what the government should do to keep dangerous products from being imported on LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK this Saturday and Sunday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

And that brings us to the subject of tonight's poll -- should the federal government suspend all imports from China until manufacturers prove they are safe, yes or no?

Cast your vote at

We'll bring you the results a little later in the broadcast.

Severe weather and flooding is taking its toll in Wisconsin and Illinois.

In Wisconsin, floods destroyed at least 40 homes and caused $45 million in damage. It has been the wettest month on record for parts of Wisconsin.

And in Illinois, severe thunderstorms knocked out power in Chicago and led to hundreds of flight cancellations and delays at O'Hare Airport.

Jim Acosta is in Silver Lake, Wisconsin, just north of the Illinois border.

And he joins me with the very latest.

Bring us up to date -- Jim. JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Lisa.

There is some good news to report. Throughout the day today, we've seen the sun coming through the clouds. And as that occurred, we have seen floodwaters receding in this part of Southern Wisconsin.

That is good news for the people in Wisconsin, bad news for people in Illinois, because the water that has gone over its banks of the Fox River in Southern Wisconsin is now heading into Northern Illinois. So that's what those folks will be dealing with.

And as these floodwaters are receding, we're talking to numerous homeowners and residents out here who are facing a very difficult cleanup task.

We talked to one woman earlier today who was just on the verge of closing on her house. It is now filled with water.


ACOSTA: You were planning on closing on this home next month.


ACOSTA: What's going to happen?

BROWN: I'm not quite sure what's going to happen right now. This is the first home I've ever tried to purchase and it's a little disheartening at the moment. I have water under the crawl space. I have water in the garage.

ACOSTA: You don't typically have a water view here.

BROWN: No, I didn't purchase lakefront property.


ACOSTA: And forecasters are calling for as much as an inch of rain in parts of Southern Wisconsin and the Chicago area overnight. That is not enough to really cause serious concerns for people in both of those areas, but still, along the Fox River and other areas of Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin, people will be keeping an eye on these flood banks -- on these riverbanks that have gone over, because as this flood moves south, it will be causing headaches for people down river -- Lisa.

SYLVESTER: All those folks in Wisconsin, Jim, they just can't catch a break, with more rain on the way.

Thank you very much, Jim, for that report.

Well, floodwaters began to recede in parts of the Midwest today. In Ohio, one of the hardest hit states, some residents returned to what is left of their homes. But forecasters are predicting more rain, as we said, and that could lead to more flooding.

WPFG's Ronnie Dahl is in Ottawa, Ohio and she joins me now with the very latest -- Ronnie.

RONNIE DAHL, WTVG CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you we have been out here over the last couple of days and the water is starting to recede.

In fact, the Blanchard River crested about 5:00, but it's still expected that the water levels are about seven feet above the flood stage at this time.

Some neighborhoods have been able to get back into their homes. But there are dozens ands dozens of others in this small community of 4,300 that are still under water. And by under water, I'm not talking just a couple of inches. We saw some areas that the floodwater was well above the chest area.

We were able to get out in a front loader today. That's how they are getting around this area, to try to rescue some of the homeowners that are stuck in their homes, because, you know, they haven't had a flood like this here in Ottawa since 18 -- or, I'm sorry -- 1913.

So they thought that, OK, we're pretty used to this river flooding. We can handle anything Mother Nature brings our way.

Unfortunately, though, many of them did not find that they could do so. More than 500 people have been evacuated. The American Red Cross is here this evening. They have three shelters up. They are also handing out disaster kits for those that can make it back into their homes so that they can begin the cleanup effort.

Now, the city is under a level three emergency.

And what that means is police are asking people, if you do not need to be in this community, please do not add to their relief efforts by coming into this area. They are asking people, as well, if the water has not receded near your home, do not get into a boat. Do not get in a kayak to try to make it out. They understand that people are very eager. They want to see the damage, what's left of their possessions.

But they are saying don't do it. They have had to have several water rescues in this area this afternoon -- Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Ronnie, it looks pretty tough there. You know, we see the pictures, we see people in boats. We saw that submerged van.

What happens next, at this point?

DAHL: Well, I can tell what you happens is in about 30 minutes they are going to implement a curfew. It will start from 7:00 p.m. Until 6:00 aamm. That is going to be pretty much for the downtown area of Ottawa, to try to keep the residents out and going into the evening hours.

Once the water recedes and like you said, they are expecting some rain, but they are hoping that it will not hit this area. They're hoping that the water will recede over the next day or two. And then once that happens, the city will bring in a lot of dumpsters and things to that area so that the residents can start the cleanup effort -- Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Ronnie Dahl reporting.

Thank you very much for that report.

Extreme heat is adding to the misery caused by torrential rains and flooding throughout the nation's mid-section. High temperatures today continued to broil the Midwest and South. In Tennessee, temperatures in some cities were over 100 degrees for thirteenth day this month. More than 50 people have died due to the extreme heat.

Strong winds today stoked a wildfire burning in Florida's Everglades. The 21,000-acre fire spread thick, black smoke across some residential areas of Miami-Dade and Broward County. No homes are near the fire. Officials monitored the blaze, but plan no action. They'll just let the fire burn itself out at this point.

In California, firefighters gained the upper hand over a massive wildfire that has been burning since July. And some Santa Barbara area residents are finally being allowed to return to their homes. The fire in the Los Padres National Forest has burned over 363 square miles. Improved weather conditions have changed the direction of the fire away from populated areas. At least some good news there.

Still to come tonight, Senator Hillary Clinton plays the terror card on the campaign trail.

But will this political tactic backfire?

And hunting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan in Heroes, our weekly tribute to the men and women in uniform who serve this country.


SYLVESTER: Health insurance dominated the presidential election campaign today. Republican hopeful Mitt Romney unveiled a plan that promises tax breaks and other incentives to help the 45 million Americans without health coverage. But under the proposal, only six million Americans could eventually sign up for private health insurance. The plan falls short of the universal health care that Romney instituted in Massachusetts while he was the governor there.

John Edwards came out blasting the plan, saying if universal health care is good enough for Massachusetts, it should be good enough for the rest of the country. Edwards also attacked the current Medicare prescription drug plan that prohibits the government from negotiating with drug companies for lower prices. Edwards says that's "insane."

And tonight, the first reaction to Senator Hillary Clinton's comments on a possible political reaction to a potential terrorist attack on the United States.

During a New Hampshire campaign stop yesterday, the Democratic contender said a possible terrorist assault would "automatically give the Republicans an advantage again in next year's presidential vote." Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Christopher Dodd had this to say about Clinton's remarks: "Frankly, I find it tasteless to discuss political implications talking about a potential terrorist attack on the United States."

Joining me now with more on Senator Clinton's remarks, among other topics, our esteemed political panel, Republican strategist and former White House political director, Ed Rollins; Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Michael Goodwin with "The New York Daily News" and Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman from Washington, D.C.

We appreciate you all being here.

Thank you very much.

Now, let's start first, Ed, with you.

Your reaction to Senator Hillary Clinton's comments that this would essentially -- a terrorist attack would give the Republicans the edge.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I thought it was a silly remark. I mean, I think there's some truth to it in the sense that Republicans obviously have handled these things far better than her husband did or -- but I think she was trying to show she can be tough.

I just thought it was -- it was -- it was just an ill conceived remark and I don't know why she made it.


Michael Goodwin, were you a little surprised by that remark, especially because she has, in the past, accused Republicans of trying to play this -- this fear card.

MICHAEL GOODWIN, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Right. Right. And I don't -- and it's unlikely it was spontaneous. So she -- let's assume that she calculated somehow how this would play and what it would sound like. She must have thought that it would help her. And I tend to agree with her in that sense, that I don't think another attack -- and God forbid we should have one -- I don't think it would help the Republicans at this point because they -- there's so much unhappiness with the war and speculation that the war has made us less safe and made us more of a target.

So -- but I'm not really sure what she was up to, except that she must have thought it would be good for her.

SYLVESTER: Robert, Senator Dodd essentially said that is -- it was tasteless, that she sounds like she's somehow trying to capitalize and use this to her advantage.

Do you agree with that?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think what's tasteless is President Bush, during his one of his Republican fundraisers, giving out pictures of himself in action during 9/11. And what's tasteless is the way the Republicans used tragic scenes post- 9/11 in their campaign commercials.

I think what Senator Clinton was saying was long overdue, because it was a wake up call for Democrats to understand the Republicans are going to try to exploit fear as a campaign tactic. They did it successfully in 2002.

And even John Kerry and George Bush both agreed that in 2004, the bin Laden tape that mysteriously appeared the week before election day was the decisive factor.

But I think Mike Goodwin has got a very important point. The Republicans have so -- have lost such credibility in terms of national security and in terms of fighting the war on terrorism, I don't believe they're going to have the same impact.

ROLLINS: Now that you're...

ZIMMERMAN: But her comments still, nonetheless, it was a good wake up call.

ROLLINS: Now, my good friend, who is not at the beach this weekend, is down in Washington at the Democratic National Committee meeting. And I assume those are the talking points.

But I think the critical thing here is...

ZIMMERMAN: Those are the reality, Ed.

ROLLINS: Well, the reality is that the Democrats leading the Congress are at 18 percent, so there's exactly not overwhelming support by the public on their issues.

ZIMMERMAN: Ed, I think it's the -- Ed, I think it's the Congress which is at 18 percent. And the big question is going to be who will be held accountable for the Congress' failure to be act -- for the Congress' failure to show leadership?

Will it be the Republican minority, who has been road blocking most major initiatives or the Democrats trying to produce change?

ROLLINS: You have 218 votes in the House.

You can you move anything you want to. And you have 51 votes in the Senate. You can move anything you want to.

So I think the bottom line...

ZIMMERMAN: Except for the...

ROLLINS: Well, just let me make my point. I mean the bottom line is that...

ZIMMERMAN: Yes, sir. ROLLINS: know, it just -- you're at 18 percent. The country doesn't feel the Congress, which they voted to change to your party, is making the kinds of things that they need to be doing.


ZIMMERMAN: But you know what?

That constitution does get in the way and 60 votes are needed to override a veto.

SYLVESTER: All right, Michael Goodwin, we're going to have to get this real -- back on track really quickly here.

GOODWIN: All right.

SYLVESTER: and it's up to us right now.

GOODWIN: All right.

SYLVESTER: OK, Democratic candidate John Edwards -- he didn't actually name names, but he essentially made, oh, what I would think is a pretty pointed reference to Hillary Clinton.


SYLVESTER: Let's hear what he had to say yesterday.


JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The American people deserve to know that their presidency is not for sale, the Lincoln Bedroom is not for rent and lobbyist money can no longer influence policy in the House or the Senate.


SYLVESTER: Michael, it's clear that John Edwards is trying to do something to shake things up a little bit.

GOODWIN: Right. And, look, I mean last week we were talking about Michelle Obama, whether she went after Hillary Clinton. I think they're all going to go after her. They have to because, A, she's way ahead in the polls. She does have very high negatives and they -- it's the only way to kind of bring her down is drive up her negatives and remind people of what they don't like about her, remind them about the past of the Clintons, the unfavorable things.

So it's everybody reaching for kind of a straw to lift themselves up with. I don't think, ultimately, it helps this late in the game. I think we know Hillary Clinton. And I think we know John Edwards.

So I think he's shooting blanks on this one.

SYLVESTER: Robert, does this whole strategy that we saw, this sort of negative go after, remind the voters, essentially, of the Clinton years, will this strategy work for the other Democratic candidates?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, you know, I don't want to make Mike Goodwin too nervous, but I'm agreeing with him again on his...


ZIMMERMAN: ...on his point and that simply is I find it inexplicable that John Edwards would choose to attack the most popular Democrat in the country, President Clinton, as a strategy to secure the Democratic nomination, especially when Iowa, which is such a critical test for John Edwards, has an absolute abhorrence for negative politics.

SYLVESTER: But this is a presidential race, after all. I mean it's a...

ROLLINS: And in spite of Robert's comments about the former president, who is a very popular Democrat, which may say something for the state of the Democratic Party, but at the end of the day, there were a lot of things for sale, like Lincoln Bedrooms and what have you. And they were notorious fundraisers. And I think, to a certain extent, that's some of the things that I think are causing some people some real concern about whether you're going to have a -- we're going to have a third term of Clinton or Mrs. Clinton is going to be someone different.

SYLVESTER: Now, it's not just Democrats...

ZIMMERMAN: Versus the Bush administration and the -- if I just may say, Ed, versus the Bush administration, that put every government contract for sale to the highest contributor.


ROLLINS: Oh, Robert, that's the second mistake tonight.

First of all, there's not 60 votes in the constitution. You can't find it anywhere. And everything is not for sale.


SYLVESTER: You know, it's not just...

ZIMMERMAN: The Lincoln Bedroom was for rent, I believe.

SYLVESTER: Yes, right. Exactly.

ZIMMERMAN: It was for rent.


SYLVESTER: For rent. Let's clarify these things.

ROLLINS: We still own it.

(LAUGHTER) ROLLINS: The taxpayers.


All right, you know, it's not just Democrats who are essentially throwing a little mud. Also, Republicans, they've started attacking each other to some degree.


SYLVESTER: Mitt Romney, especially over the issue of immigration.

Mitt Romney released a new ad attacking Rudy Giuliani, essentially New York, a sanctuary city.

We have a portion of that ad and we can play a clip of that now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Immigration laws don't work if they're ignored. That's the problem with cities like Newark, San Francisco and New York City, that adopt sanctuary policies. Sanctuary cities become magnets that encourage illegal immigration and undermine secure borders.


SYLVESTER: You love the music. You love the voice, everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was getting obnoxious.

SYLVESTER: The voice-over.


SYLVESTER: Now -- now, the Giuliani campaign fired back and said, "Hey, look, when Mitt Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, there were at least three cities that had sanctuary policies.


SYLVESTER: Will this issue resonate with voters?

GOODWIN: I don't think so, not for Mitt Romney's benefit, because I think what's interesting about the Republican primary right now is you have Thompson, Giuliani and Romney, all of whom have a lot of liberal issues vis-a-vis the conservatives in the Republican primary votings. And right now, they're all kind of scrambling to distance themselves from their past. You mentioned Romney in terms of health care, Giuliani in terms of immigration. They're all trying to run away from the past, attack each other's past.

So I'm not sure how far it's going to get any of them among the conservative voters in the Republican primaries.

ROLLINS: I think that most Republicans are astonished that Rudi Giuliani is leading overwhelmingly in most of the polls because of the many stances that he has that certainly conservatives object to.

So you're going to see more and more part of people reminding them of -- about his positions on guns, his positions on immigration and the other things as this campaign goes forward.

SYLVESTER: And Robert Zimmerman, your thoughts?

ZIMMERMAN: You know, both Giuliani and Romney have taken flip- flopping to and Olympic art form. They could spend the entire campaign debating themselves...

ROLLINS: Talking...

ZIMMERMAN: ...regarding the different positions they have taken on illegal immigration.

ROLLINS: We liked you better from the beach.


ZIMMERMAN: I'm coming home soon, Ed.


SYLVESTER: Well, for all of us who -- we obviously are not at the beach, we're going to have to end this here.

But I appreciate your time, Ed Rollins, Michael Goodwin, Robert Zimmerman.


SYLVESTER: thank you very much, gentlemen.


SYLVESTER: Coming up at the top of the hour, "THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER -- Wolf.


Just as President Bush makes travel plans to mark the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans mayor is blasting him, he's blasting Washington. Wait until you hear what the mayor has to say about the city's recovery, why it's going so slowly.

The NFL brass has some important news for quarterback Michael Vick. We're going to tell what you happened in court today. All of that coming up.

And a major embarrassment for the White House. You won't believe how much a high-powered Republican lobbying firm here in Washington is getting paid to try to undermine Iraq's current leader.

Plus, the side of Mother Teresa none of us has had ever seen before -- why she stopped praying and doubted her faith. All of that, Lisa, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

SYLVESTER: Thanks, Wolf.

And a reminder now to vote in tonight's poll -- should the federal government suspend all imports from China until manufacturers prove they are safe, yes or no?

Cast your vote at

We'll bring you the results in just a few minutes.

Coming up next, this week's hero. The story of Major Chris McKinney and his unwavering dedication to serve this nation in Iraq and Afghanistan.


SYLVESTER: Time now for our weekly tribute to the men and women who serve this country in uniform.

Major Chris McKinney is a lawyer by training, but he has spent much of his career hunting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and prosecuting dozens of terrorists.

Phillippa Holland has his story.


PHILLIPPA HOLLAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Major Chris McKinney enjoys a hero's welcome home.



HOLLAND: But McKinney, a lawyer currently in private practice, is more than the average role model for his kids. A former FBI agent, he's made a career of going after the bad guys. He investigated the embassy bombers in Kenya and Tanzania and pulled victims from the Pentagon after the September 11 attacks. Then back to back tours of Afghanistan and Iraq with the Kentucky National Guard.

MCKINNEY: With my government service background, my legal background and my experience as an infantry officer, they wanted me to work with special operations command.

HOLLAND: In Afghanistan, he helped train the national police. In Iraq, he kept conduct raids for IEDs and other insurgent weapons, making sure that evidence was gathered correctly for prosecution.

MCKINNEY: And you may have been shot at going into the premises. Then outside, if some of the neighbors didn't like what we were doing in their neighborhood, they might start taking shots at us, as well.

HOLLAND: The Army says McKinney himself prosecuted 80 terrorists at Iraq's central criminal court.

MCKINNEY: Every individual we had for prosecution had been involved with either some type of IED making, sniper activity or other activity that had injured or killed coalition, Iraqi or American forces.

HOLLAND: The Army awarded McKinney the Bronze Star for his service.

MCKINNEY: I will serve probably until Uncle Sam tells me to quit serving. I enjoy it that much. I enjoy being a public servant and I enjoy giving back to the community.

HOLLAND: He says he couldn't do it without his family's support.

TERRI MCKINNEY, MAJOR MCKINNEY'S WIFE: It's hard. It's hard, at times, because I have to take the entire ball and run with it, you know, because he's off saving the world, so to speak. But at the same time, we want him to be there.

HOLLAND: But for this father, it's all in a day's work.

MCKINNEY: I got used it just saying daddy is going to go get the bad guys, sweetheart. And that was easy for me to just relate it to my son in the same manner. I mean you're talking about a, you know, a little guy that believes in superheroes and everything else. And I think it's good for him to know that that's what daddy is trying to do.

HOLLAND: Phillippa Holland, CNN.


SYLVESTER: Thanks for being with us tonight.

"THE SITUATION ROOM" starts now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.