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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Eighteen Arrested on Drug Smuggling Charges at JFK Airport; Imprisoned Border Patrol Agents Being Maltreated?

Aired October 16, 2007 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: disturbing charges that two former Border Patrol agents serving long prison sentences for doing their jobs face harsher conditions than suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay. Those agents shot and wounded an illegal alien Mexican drug smuggler given immunity by the Justice Department to testify against them. We will have that special report tonight.
Also, rising concerns that terrorists could sabotage U.S. commercial aircraft being sent to cheap foreign labor markets for maintenance. Lawmakers now say the outsourcing of those aircraft repairs is a threat to safety standards for American fliers. We will have the story.

And a remarkable teacher tonight, we will introduce you. He believes our public school system can be saved from disaster. Rafe Esquith, author of "Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire," he says our public schools may be irrelevant, but our children can still be motivated.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Tuesday, October 16.

Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

Russian President Vladimir Putin today made a new effort to challenge American interests in the Middle East and the rest of the world. In his first visit to Iran, Putin warned the United States not to use force to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program. Russia has strengthened its ties with Iran over the past few years. Moscow has supplied Tehran with sophisticated air defense missiles, and Russia is helping Iran build that first nuclear power plant.

Aneesh Raman reports now on today's summit meeting held in Tehran -- Aneesh.



Vladimir Putin did not mince words today, voicing strong support for Iran. (voice-over): They spent the day side-by-side two presidents challenging the West by affirming Iran's right to nuclear power.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): When it comes to the nuclear issue, the Iranians are cooperating with Russian nuclear agencies to reach a peaceful objective and all the countries involved that express their idea that peaceful nuclear activities must be allowed.

RAMAN: Russia is, of course, a veto member of the same U.N. Security Council looking to sanction Iran, again, over its year-long defiance of a U.N. deadline to stop enriching uranium. The chances of that now seem slim. And with close to $1 billion deal in place for Moscow to build Iran's first nuclear power plant, the Russian president warned the world against attacking the Islamic republic, vowing that no Caspian Sea country would be used to hit another, a veiled reference, it would seem, to Azerbaijan, where the U.S. is rumored, according to the Associated Press, to be considered as a staging ground for any possible military action against Iran.

It all seems a Putin-style slap in the face for the Bush White House. But why now?

MARK BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Two themes dominate the mind-set of the Kremlin today. First, they're delighted that America is bogged down, as it is, in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, second, the Kremlin has an exaggerated notion of Russia's own importance.

RAMAN: By any measure, this was a historic trip, the first one since 1943 of a Kremlin leader. Back then it was Joseph Stalin sitting side-by-side with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, three allies eager to end World War II.

(on camera): This time, a much different message from Vladimir Putin, one of support for Iran and, in turn, one of great concern for the West.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Cairo.


DOBBS: The Iraqi government today launched an urgent diplomatic effort trying to stop Turkey from launching a military incursion into northern Iraq.

The Iraqi prime minister said he will send a top-level delegation to Ankara to discuss the crisis. Turkey has massed 60,000 of its troops along the border with Iraq. The Turkish government is threatening to attack Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. The United States is calling upon Turkey to show restraint.

The Pentagon tonight is making contingency plans for what might occur should Turkey not show restraint and conduct that incursion into Iraq. U.S. military officials are telling commanders to consider alternatives to the strategically important Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. Much of the air cargo for our troops in Iraq passes through that air base.

Barbara Starr has the report from the Pentagon.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): CNN has learned a military warning order has been issued to air crews across Europe, telling them to be ready to move if Turkey follows through on threats to cut off U.S. access to Turkish airspace, bases and border crossings, which carry 70 percent of U.S. cargo into Iraq.

For the first time, senior U.S. military officers are openly discussing just how serious the crisis has become.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL CARTER HAM, DIRECTOR OF OPS, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: If the flow of those materials were to be disrupted, it would have not only a significant effect on the U.S. military operating in Iraq, but it would have a significant effect, commercially, to Iraq as well.

STARR: The Bush administration also is struggling to explain why it's not moving against Kurdish rebels, the PKK, who are launching attacks into Turkey from northern Iraq.

HAM: Some of it is intelligence related to say where and when are they, are they posing a specific threat that we need to counter immediately?

STARR: Turkey reminds the U.S. the PKK is a designated terrorist group operating out of Iraq, a country where the U.S. has more than 160,000 troops fighting terrorists.

For now, the U.S. is encouraging Iraq to step up the dialogue with Turkey, in hopes of keeping the Turks from invading with their 60,000 border troops to chase down the PKK.

TOM CASEY, SPOKESMAN, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: I think our main concern is that unilateral military action isn't the way to deal with the threat of posed by the PKK.


STARR: And there are also growing economic implications. Oil prices today rose to record levels, over fears that the fighting on the border could disrupt oil supplies coming out of northern Iraq -- Lou.

DOBBS: Barbara, thank you very much -- Barbara Starr from the Pentagon.

President Bush today giving the communist Chinese government a very public diplomatic slap across the face, ignoring Chinese objections and meeting privately with the Dalai Lama at the White House. However, White House officials did refuse to allow photographers to take any pictures of the two together.

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, will receive the Congressional Gold Medal tomorrow. China, which invaded Tibet more than half a century ago, says the United States is interfering with what Beijing calls its internal affairs. The White House said it believes the meeting will not harm U.S./Chinese relations.

A rising number of U.S. lawmakers are expressing concern about a business deal that would give communist China access to vital U.S. defense technology. Eight members of Congress have now called upon the Bush administration to block a proposed buyout of 3Com because a Chinese company is participating in that deal.

3Com provides the Pentagon and other government agencies with secure network wireless technology. Lawmakers say the founder of the Chinese company is a former PLA army officer who may still have links with the Chinese government and the Chinese military.

Our nation's airlines may be trading security for profits. Some U.S. airlines are now, unbelievably, contracting with foreign companies to provide passenger security checks. A congressional investigation didn't identify the airline's testimony today before a House committee, but that information is ready to be released.

Lisa Sylvester has our report.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The airlines that you fly have found a way to cut costs: outsource. From the plane's maintenance to screening against terror watch lists, that work is increasingly being done by foreign companies. Congressional critics worry it's compromising safety and security.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: What I can't figure out why there is no sense of agency about foreign repair stations, especially in light of the fact that we have now non-certified foreign repair stations that are doing significant work.

SYLVESTER: A Transportation Department inspector general report found that nine major air carriers it reviewed outsourced 34 percent of heavy maintenance in 2003.

By 2006, 67 percent of significant maintenance for those airlines was contracted out. The report says a full third of that workload went to foreign providers who are not required to use FAA certified mechanics or meet other basic standards.

LARRY WILLIS, AFL-CIO: You have drug and alcohol testing standards mandated when aircraft are repaired in this country, but overseas those standards do not need to be applied, even when those individuals are working on U.S.-registered aircraft.

SYLVESTER: The Transportation Security Administration said it's working on closing the gaps, but insists it has other security measures are in place. KIP HAWLEY, DIRECTOR, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: As you know, there are layers that are in place, so it is not completely uncovered. It's part of the layer and risk management that we look at.

SYLVESTER: But that's not the only thing some airlines are contracting out. The Transportation Security Administration requires air carriers match the names of passengers against terror watch lists. Some airlines have opted to rely on outside foreign companies to screen passengers.

CATHLEEN BERRICK, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE: Some carriers contract out with foreign countries and the foreign countries are actually doing the name matching. So, obviously, there's concerns there.

SYLVESTER: The Transportation Security Administration says the contractors are held to the same standards as the airlines that do the work in-house, including following confidentiality rules.


SYLVESTER: Still, the Transportation Security Administration favors taking over the job of matching passenger lists from the airlines. It's also working on new guidelines and standards for airlines that use foreign repair stations.

But TSA has been a little slow getting around to that. Congress mandated that the TSA have those new rules in place by August 2004. The TSA still has not issued those guidelines -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, the TSA is not doing its job. It is at the same time attempting to provide some, perhaps, improvement in terms of outsourcing terror watch lists.

But the idea -- Senator Claire McCaskill put it -- the idea of outsourcing 67 percent of heavy maintenance for American airlines, U.S. airlines, and half of that maintenance going to foreign repair stations that are unregulated, do not have to make, as you reported, federal -- meet federal standards, is Congress going to do anything about this absurdity?

SYLVESTER: It is extremely frustrating. And the more that members of Congress realize just the scope of this, of how much it has increased, Congress is looking at trying to close that loophole. And one of the things they're doing is requiring the TSA come up with those new standards and fulfill that requirement for that rule that they were supposed to do back in 2004 -- Lou.

DOBBS: It is becoming extremely clear that one of the greatest travesties in this country in terms of regulation was deregulating the U.S. airline industry nearly 30 years ago. They have made a mess of it. They continue to make a mess of it, and, really, frankly, appear not to know how to run an airline, the number that are in bankruptcy, outsourcing critical jobs. It's disgusting.

Thank you very much, Lisa Sylvester, reporting from Washington.

Coming up next here, federal agents break up a massive drug trafficking ring at one of the country's largest airports.

Kelli Arena will have that story for us -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, all conveniently hidden on U.S.-bound commercial flights. And, even more scary, the scheme was not very complicated.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Kelli Arena will have the story upcoming here.

Also tonight, charges that two former Border Patrol agents already betrayed by the Justice Department and the government they served are receiving worse treatment in prison than suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay. We will have that report.

And Democrats stepping up their political offensive against President Bush on the issues of children's health care and insurance, but will Congress be able to override the president's veto? We will have that special report, a great deal more, up here next.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: A major drug bust today following up on an exclusive report that we brought you last July on Colombian drug traffickers using the Dominican Republic as a major transit point to ship their drugs into the United States.

Federal officials today smashed that international drug trafficking ring at JFK Airport in New York City.

Kelli Arena, who first reported on this story from the Dominican Republic back in July, has the latest developments for us -- Kelli.

ARENA: Lou, tonight, 18 people are in custody, 10 of them employees at JFK Airport in New York, for their alleged role in smuggling heroin and cocaine from the Dominican Republic to the United States.

Immigrations and Custom Enforcement says that employees from Delta, American Airlines and the food services company Aramark were involved in the scheme.

Now, here is how it worked, Lou. Airport employees in the Dominican Republic allegedly hid drugs in luggage, placed them on commercial flights, and then over on the U.S. side, the bags were relocated to what officials are calling a safe area, where they wouldn't be checked.

Officials say that the defendants used lookouts to watch for officers. Now, the feds have been investigating this for two years. They say they have confiscated cocaine, heroin and ecstasy with a street value of more than $2 million.

And, Lou, as you mentioned, the Dominican Republic has become a major transit point for drugs to the U.S. The most recent figures show that about 10 percent of U.S.-bound cocaine is now shipped right through that country.

DOBBS: OK, Kelli, thank you very much. Good job. We appreciate it -- Kelli Arena reporting from Washington.

Well, federal lawmakers today demanding a new investigation into the case of those imprisoned former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. The two former agents have now spent 272 days in federal prison. And they are there because an illegal alien drug smuggler they shot was given immunity by the Justice Department to testify against them.

As Casey Wian now reports, lawmakers say those two former agents are being held in far more difficult and harsh conditions than suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After nine months behind bars, the fight to free former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean is intensifying. They're serving 11- and 12- year federal prison terms for shooting and wounding a Mexican drug smuggler in Texas more than two years ago.

Congressional supporters say the agents were either wrongly convicted or received unduly harsh punishment. Now 46 lawmakers have written to attorney general-designate Michael Mukasey, demanding he investigate the agents' prosecution and treatment in prison.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're in solitary confinement and being treated worse than those prisoners -- than the terrorists are being treated in Guantanamo Bay. This is outrageous. The administration, the president of the United States is responsible. And if this new attorney general won't even look into it, he shouldn't be attorney general.

WIAN: Bureau of Prison officials say the former agents are in solitary for their own protection. Ramos was badly beaten by inmates during his brief stay in the general population.

Lawmakers displayed a chart showing how Guantanamo detainees receive privileges not available to the former agents, who spend 23 hours a day in their cells.

Congressman Louie Gohmert is a former Texas district judge.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: What we want to see is fairness. What we want to see is justice. And when you look at the case and the way it was handled, the way it was tried, it appears clearly there was great injustice.

WIAN: The chief prosecutor says the agents were given a fair trial, that they shot someone they knew to be unarmed and running away. The Texas border security group called Eyes on the Border disagrees. It will soon air these television ads urging a presidential pardon for Ramos and Compean.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far the president has refused to give these two agents the same consideration he gave his friend Scooter Libby, when he commuted his sentence before he served any time in prison.


WIAN: And criticizing their treatment in prison.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The treatment that is inhumane and worse than the treatment terrorists receive at Guantanamo Bay. And they call this justice in America.


WIAN: Ramos and Compean are appealing their convictions. Oral arguments are scheduled to begin the first week in December.


WIAN: Meanwhile, congressional supporters are pleading with the Justice Department to release the agents on bail, perhaps allow them to wear ankle monitors, so they can be home with their families for the holidays.

So far, the administration has not budged -- Lou.

DOBBS: This administration, in my opinion, is one of the most disgusting in this country's history on a whole, whole series of issues and the way it's comported itself.

But this is disgusting. And it is a travesty of justice, what has happened to these two men and their families. And for this administration to remain silent, to stonewall and to display no conscious and certainly no remorse for the conduct of this administration and, particularly, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, in connection with these two men, it is -- every American should be ashamed.

This president should throw up every morning when he awakens until this is taken care of. He should be sick to his stomach at what has happened here, here and in so many other parts of this administration and U.S. policy.

Casey, thank you very much -- Casey Wian from Los Angeles.

We're going to keep you posted on what is an outrageous miscarriage of justice. Let's take a look now at some of your thoughts.

Dino in Wisconsin wrote in it say: "Dear, Lou, we have two Border Patrol agents in jail for doing their job, and our Congress is spending its time on a foreign issue that is 100 years old," referring to the Armenian genocide, the Turkish genocide of Armenians during World War I. "I think it's a side effect from the Chinese drugs."

Linda in Texas: "Lou, let's see. We reward FDA officials with a bonus for not doing their jobs, and we put Ramos and Compean in prison for 12 years for doing theirs. Only in America."

And Melissa in Illinois: "So, if the FDA needs to pay bonuses to keep employees from jumping to the private sector, this means that teachers should expect hefty bonuses, too? Great news for educators."

Don't we wish.

We will have more of your thoughts here later in the broadcast. Send us your thoughts at

Coming up next, ups and downs in the race for the White House, celebrations in some campaign headquarters tonight and despair in others.

And new outrage over a plan by New York's governor plan to hand over driver's license to illegal aliens. A rising number of critics and opponents, they now say this measure is much more than a major security threat. We will have that story for you and a great deal more.

Stay with us. We will be right back.


DOBBS: Opposition to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's proposal to give away driver's licenses to illegal aliens is rising. Republican lawmakers trying to stop the governor by blocking funding for the plan, they're being joined by Democrats.

And, as Kitty Pilgrim now reports, there are new warnings tonight that massive voter fraud could be the result should the governor have his way.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Get a license and register to vote at the same time by checking a box, and sign a pledge that you're a U.S. citizen. Governor Spitzer's plan to issue licenses to illegal aliens is raising concerns about voter fraud.

JUAN CARLOS POLANCO (R), NEW YORK CITY BOARD OF ELECTIONS: What we're doing today is issuing licenses to potentially illegal aliens and granting them identification which is accepted universally in the state of New York for purposes of registering to vote. PILGRIM: On Election Day, the usual procedure is to show a driver's license to the Board of Elections for identification. But now, driver's licenses in New York for U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens in the United States on a visa look identical. And, now, so will licenses for illegal aliens.

Governor Spitzer sent a memo on September 24, telling DMV clerks to take off the markings on temporary licenses issued to non-citizens.

Their licenses used to read temporary visitor, along with a visa expiration date. Not anymore. And the Board of Elections can not tell looking at the license if the person voting is a citizen or not. A hearing in Albany asked the DMV commissioner what the Board of Elections should do at the polls.

DAVID SWARTS, COMMISSION, NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES: For the Board of Elections to make the assumption that if someone presents a driver's license that those individuals are eligible to vote because they have citizenship is wrong and it's not consistent with the law.

MARTIN GOLDEN (R), NEW YORK STATE SENATOR: So, is there a new policy coming out or is there legislation coming out to help the Board of Elections define how they can identify people that are going to vote, sir?

SWARTS: We clearly will work closely with the Board of Elections, but, again, it's their responsibility.

PILGRIM: Last year, nearly a quarter of a million people's voter registration applications were received through DMV.


PILGRIM: And Governor Spitzer's office says the driver's license is only used for proof of identification and voters must affirm that they're citizens. And the penalty for fraud is four years in prison and a fine of $5,000. The governor's office points out the DMV never checks citizenship status during motor voter registration, but that hardly explains away the problem -- Lou.

DOBBS: Yes. And that isn't really the DMV issue. That's the Board of Elections issue. And the second part of that this is, this governor is fully aware of what he's doing and the crisis that he's creating. And he's doing it to create precisely what these legislators in New York are now saying is the likely result.

He knows that voter fraud will be the result and is taking not a single step to assure that it will not, correct?

PILGRIM: We asked them why they took the temporary off, and they said it's pejorative.

DOBBS: It's pejorative.

This is the biggest bunch of idiots. Eliot Spitzer and this cadre of fools that he has in Albany to perpetrate this on New York State citizens and this country, he should, in my opinion, ought to be run the heck out of Albany. He is a disgrace. And if the people in New York want to put up with his nonsense, God bless them, but I can't imagine. And most polls are -- the most recent polls showing 72 percent are absolutely opposed to this piece of lunacy.

It is -- it truly is disgraceful.

Kitty, thank you very much -- Kitty Pilgrim.

Time now for our poll tonight. Do you believe the federal government will act to stop concerted efforts around the country, by the way, not just in New York, to register millions of illegal aliens in advance of the 2008 election, yes or no? If you doubt there is such a thing as voter fraud, you get ready for 2008. We're looking at a Pandora's box about to open. Cast your vote at We will have the results here later.

Up next tonight, ups and downs in the presidential race, one candidate a clear front-runner, not many downs for her, another slipping.

And a return signal for radio host Don Imus, as he recovers from a storm of controversy and just really annoys his critics. Good going, Don Imus.

And Democrats accuse President Bush of being cruel and heartless over children's health care. Republicans say that kind of talk is political theater and utter nonsense.

We will have more on that and a great deal more on the day's news next here. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Tonight, a new battle in Congress over children's health care. Democrats charging that President Bush is cruel and heartless for his veto of legislation that would give health care to millions of American children. But Republicans accuse those Democrats of staging political theater in the run-up to Thursday's vote to override the president's veto. The Republicans say that measure adds tens of billions of dollars to the federal budget over the next five years -- money that is unacceptable.

Jessica Yellin has our report.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Capitol Hill, the lines are drawn. In one corner, fighting for children's health insurance, rock star Paul Simon.

PAUL SIMON, MUSICIAN: I'm here today to ask those of you who supported the veto to reexamine your conscience, to find compassion in your heart for our most vulnerable and sweetest citizens.

YELLIN: Joining him, little children.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: There's kids with AIDS and they need a lot of help.

YELLIN: And, of course, the Democrats -- who have until Thursday it win enough votes to override the president's veto.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The moment of truth is approaching. We have 48 hours.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: There's a tiny minority standing in the way of enacting this bill.

YELLIN: In the other corner, Republicans, who say they're not heartless, they're fighting for a less expensive bill.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: I think this bill was designed to be vetoed. I think it was designed to create this political fight.

YELLIN: But a fight that uses pictures of cute kids against Republicans is making some in the president's party very uncomfortable.

REP. TOM DAVIS (R), VIRGINIA: I think health care is going to be at the top of the agenda for the American people. I don't think you want to be on the side saying we're for less health care.

YELLIN: Adding to the heat, ads like this one -- running against those who oppose the bill.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: George Bush just vetoed Abbi (ph) and Josh.


YELLIN: Republicans insist they have the votes to uphold the veto. But opponents say that vote will haunt them come election time.


YELLIN: Now, Lou, Democrats privately acknowledge that they probably don't have enough votes to override the president's veto. But even they if they lose, don't expect this issue to go away. They plan to bring it up again, and they're not in much mood for compromise. Today, Senator Harry Reid said at most he'd allow for some minor tweaks in language if, in his words, it would help the president save face -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, Jessica.

Jessica Yellin from Capitol Hill.

Three presidential candidates are showing they have at least one of the skills needed to be president, perhaps. They spent more money over the past three months than they brought in. Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney all were in the art of deficit spending. Obama and Romney spent more on television ads than their rivals.

Today's GOP fight was between Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani. Thompson said, "I don't think the mayor has ever been a conservative."

Thompson pointed out that Giuliani even sought the Liberal Party nomination when he was running for mayor of New York City.

Giuliani, for his part, countered that Thompson has no executive experience.

And Senator Chris Dodd is fending off a couple of complaints. First, his critics charge that his presidential campaign is interfering with his role as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. That committee held only 33 hearings this year, as opposed to 55 under its previous chairman. And the senator's plan to raffle off Red Sox playoff tickets to donors hit a major league snag. Baseball officials say the giveaway violates its ticket policies. Senator Dodd said he'll go to the game anyway. He just may have the time. A CNN poll out today shows the senator would receive only 1 percent of the vote.

Well, could the long and hard-fought campaign for the White House be over before primary voters cast their first ballots?

The latest CNN poll out today showing more and more voters are rallying behind their party's frontrunners.

Bill Schneider now reports on why there are celebrations at the campaign headquarters of Senator Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani.


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (voice over): Fred Thompson got into the Republican race with great expectations.

FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A stronger nation, a more prosperous nation and a more united nation. And that's why I'm running for the presidency of the United States.

SCHNEIDER: And sure enough, just after he got in last month, Thompson and Rudy Giuliani were just about tied for frontrunner. But since then, Thompson has taken a lot of flack for a lackluster campaign.

THOMPSON: I see no reason to believe that we're headed for -- for an economic downturn. SCHNEIDER: The new CNN poll by the Opinion Research Corporation shows Thompson's support dropping. He's now running second, barely ahead of John McCain. Giuliani is still in front.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton continues to gain support. She led Barack Obama by 23 points last month. She now leads the Illinois senator by 30 points. A majority of Democrats favors Clinton, whereas fewer than a third of Republicans favor their frontrunner, Rudy Giuliani. Expectations are building fast.

Who do voters expect to win the Democratic nomination?

Clinton, 64 percent -- four to one over Obama.

Who do voters expect to win the Republican nomination?

Giuliani, 50 percent -- nearly four to one over John McCain.

And who do voters expect to win the election?

Forty-five percent say Clinton. Only 16 percent expect Giuliani to get elected. Nobody else gets more than 10 percent.

So now it's Clinton who faces great expectations. Here is one reason why. Asked if they would vote for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate for president, voters prefer the Democrat by 13 points. But look what happens when you pit the two frontrunners against each other -- Clinton leads Giuliani by just two points -- statistically, a dead heat.


Mainly because Giuliani does eight points better than a generic Republican.


SCHNEIDER: Rudy Giuliani is trying to sound more and more like a typical Republican in order to get the nomination. But, you know, voters don't see him as a typical Republican, and that makes him look stronger as a general election candidate -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, that is -- I think most people would be surprised to see that there's only a two point difference between Giuliani and Clinton...


DOBBS: a perspective run-off right now between the two. That's -- that is really surprising.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, it looks like a real cliff-hanger. But, of course, the more Giuliani goes to the right to get the Republican nomination, the less he -- the more problems he might have running against Hillary Clinton. And don't forget there is a threat of a third party candidate entering that race -- a conservative candidate who would take votes away from Giuliani.

DOBBS: Bill Schneider.

Thank you very much.

Are there any problems for Senator Clinton that you might see -- just to keep it fair and balanced? SCHNEIDER: Let's keep it fair and balanced, and let me say if the polls start to show that she's in serious trouble, if she starts losing to Giuliani, then a lot of Democrats might have second thoughts about her.

DOBBS: All right.

Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

Bill Schneider.

Up next, more on Senator Clinton's runaway campaign train for the Democratic nomination.

Can those other Democratic candidates catch up?

I'll be talking about that and the latest poll numbers with three of the best radio talk show hosts in the country.

And later here, the amazing story of a teacher out in California who is an incredible teacher and who has some very important thoughts about our public schools.

Stay with us.

We're coming right back.


DOBBS: Joining me now, three of the country's best radio talk show hosts.

Joe Madison, WOL in Washington and X.M. Radio.

JOE MADISON, WOL, WASHINGTON, D.C.: Good evening, Lou.

Thank you.

DOBBS: Charles Goyette, KFNX in Phoenix, Arizona.

Good to have you all with us.


DOBBS: And here in New York, CNN nationally syndicated columnist, radio host, WVON in Chicago, CNN contributor Roland Martin.

Good to have you here, Roland.


DOBBS: You'd better believe it.


DOBBS: You're not leaving much leisure time there.


DOBBS: Well, let me turn to you, if I may, first, Charles.

The idea that this race is over for the Democrats. Senator Clinton has a 30 point lead. I mean, my gosh, more than twice the lead over Barack Obama.

Is that over?

GOYETTE: It looks to me like she's the presumptive nominee in terms of money and in terms of the way that she's polling. In the Democratic Party -- all right, let's get the Democratic candidate out there and everybody knows who she is. And then let the fight -- the slugfest continue on the Republican side, right, Lou?

DOBBS: All right -- well, it's -- it looks like it's going to continue.

Do you think it's going to mean a hill of beans, Joe Madison?

MADISON: Well, an old politician once told me that overnight can be a lifetime in politics. So let's be very careful, because we've got regional primaries. We still have Iowa. We've got South Carolina. It depends on -- now that these candidates know she's as the perceived frontrunner, they may come on stronger than ever. And she now will be attacked by these other Democratic candidates. So I'm not ready to have the other candidates throw in the towel right now.

DOBBS: Roland, are you surprised that the latest CNN poll shows two points separating Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton if they were to run -- if they were to be the two candidates right now?

MARTIN: No, I'm not surprised because, frankly, I think the mainstream media has been salivating at this notion of having Giuliani and Clinton oppose one another in November.

I'm also not buying, necessarily, into this whole issue that she is so far ahead of everyone else, that this race is over. You certainly have three months. And as Joe said -- let me tell you something -- she -- because she is so far ahead, if she doesn't win Iowa, all of a sudden it becomes a chink in the armor. If she doesn't win New Hampshire, all of a sudden it becomes wait a minute, I thought she was the inevitable candidate.

And so, again, if there's a movement anywhere in those first four states, it's not -- it's no longer a position that somehow she is going to run away with it, then people will begin to question whether she's actually...


MADISON: And she has to win by a commanding lead.

MARTIN: Yes. MADISON: This is not the...

MARTIN: It can't be close.

MADISON: can't be razor thin now.

DOBBS: You guys aren't trying to manage expectations, are you, here now?

GOYETTE: Lou, somebody said that Hillary is so far ahead, she's going to start running attack ads against herself just to make it interesting.


DOBBS: Well, one fellow who doesn't need to do anything -- it's being done for him -- and that's Governor Eliot Spitzer in New York, Charles. This -- this guy is out of control. He's giving away drivers' licenses to illegal aliens. He's decided to open up the State of New York to voter fraud, wide open.

GOYETTE: Well, here in Arizona, it's like somebody -- somebody breaks into your house illegally and then you give him a certificate of occupancy, right?

I mean this is the -- drivers' licenses -- we went through this in Arizona. The governor of Arizona said, say, three or four years ago, she said, well, I would pass such a bill to give illegal aliens Arizona driver's licenses.

DOBBS: Sure.

GOYETTE: The voters went nuts. Now, the Republicans were in favor of it. The Democrats were in favor of it. Our senators were in favor of it. Everybody wanted to give illegal aliens a driver's license but...

MADISON: Really?

GOYETTE: ...the people -- and they whipped up an initiative here in the state. Proposition 200 says it is a misdemeanor for public officials to issue any government services from the State of Arizona without proof of citizenship.

MADISON: I was going it check to see how strong Lou's heart was, Roland, and say, you know, I support the governor on this one and then...

DOBBS: Go for it.


DOBBS: You know I wouldn't want you to do anything but...


MARTIN: And, what?


MARTIN: ...and he's going to string you up in...

MADISON: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Real quick, I know -- I asked...


DOBBS: You know, the devil...

MADISON: I actually...

DOBBS: The devil made you do that, didn't he?

MADISON: I actually was sitting here, Lou, thinking, can you impeach the governor of New York for high crimes and misdemeanors?

I'm wondering, can he be impeached for this?

DOBBS: Well...

MADISON: Because he ought to be.

DOBBS: As you know...

MADISON: He really should be impeached.

DOBBS: I think the man -- first of all, I think he ought to be just be -- frankly, he's just disgusting to me in the way he is purporting himself on this and a host of other issues. And this is a man I thought did a good job as attorney general.

MADISON: Well...

DOBBS: I tell you, he is just showing parts of his anatomy that I, you know, I didn't think he would be so eager to reveal.


MARTIN: Lou, in Illinois, when the -- both houses, when they passed a bill allowing for it -- it wasn't a driver's license, but it was some sort of certificate.


MARTIN: listeners went nuts. I mean they just went nuts.


MARTIN: The Black Caucus supported a sort of a deal they did with the Hispanic Caucus.

DOBBS: Right.

MARTIN: I think what the governor -- here's what you do. You don't step out as a governor and do it yourself by executive order. What you do is you say, hey, general assembly, you make the decision.

DOBBS: Oh, you mean act like...

MARTIN: Because...

DOBBS: At least act like it's democracy?

MARTIN: Because -- yes. Because those are the people who the voters put in. And you put the onus there. You don't just make an arbitrary decision.

DOBBS: Oh, no. And as one who actually worked on the Motor Voter Bill years ago when I ran the NAACP political department...

DOBBS: Right. Right.

MADISON: ...let me tell you, the voter fraud is extremely real.


MADISON: This is an insult to people who have supported that Motor Voter law.


MADISON: It's an insult to it.

DOBBS: People need to go back and check why we put together Motor Voter...

MADISON: Absolutely.

DOBBS: ...and the possibility (INAUDIBLE) -- and this sure ain't it.



DOBBS: Let's go to one other thing real quick here, because I've been ignoring it here for a couple days. My friend, Don Imus, he's coming back. He's going to be on WABC, Charles.

Knowing quite a few of his critics, some people very upset about it.

I'm delighted.

What are your thoughts?

GOYETTE: Well, it's not exactly my cup of tea. I mean I liked juvenile humor and name calling a lot when I was an adolescent. I don't think it will do anything to elevate the public debate.

DOBBS: You and Madison are kicking me around here tonight, aren't you? GOYETTE: Hey, we haven't seen you in a while, Lou.


MADISON: Who else have we been able to kick around?


DOBBS: He just kicked me around, again, didn't he?

MARTIN: Yes, he did.

DOBBS: Your thoughts on this?

MARTIN: You know, Lou, I think, first of all, he is going to be the most watched radio talk show host guy in the country. You're going to see advertisers not necessarily gravitate to him. You're also going to see, frankly, I think the people who will be going on the show, journalists and others, who are going to sort of be a little standoffish to see how he comports himself. That's going to be the real issue...

DOBBS: Yes...

MARTIN: ...did he actually learn his lesson or is he going to return as you say, to the 14-year-old behavior?

MADISON: I hate -- look, my position is very simple. The only reason Don Imus is back on, because he's marketable. That's the only reason.

DOBBS: Because what?

MADISON: He's marketable.

MARTIN: He can make money.


MADISON: He's marketable. And I'm not a fan. I think what he did was absolutely wrong. He's back.

DOBBS: Oh, let me be clear...


DOBBS: What he said, as I said at the time...


DOBBS: ...was stupid. It was inexcusable. And I think that the reaction to him and the action of MSNBC and CBS Radio was equally inexcusable and disproportionate.

MARTIN: And that's where we would disagree. DOBBS: Well, and I've got to say, this man -- and people have got to remember this. I don't care what your position is. He has done as much, if not more, than anyone I know in media to do good things for the community. This is a man involved in...

MARTIN: But, Lou, but I will never...


MARTIN: I can never accept that one, because when I hear Nelly, as a rapper, say the exact same thing about a blood drive when he swipes a credit card through a woman's butt, what you do as charity will not excuse your behavior. If you (INAUDIBLE)...

DOBBS: Oh, I didn't say excuse it...

MARTIN: No, but I...

DOBBS: I just said it should be kept in proportion...

MARTIN: I understand.

DOBBS: ...and perspective.

MARTIN: But if he does...


MARTIN: ...act like a grownup on the other side.

MADISON: He needs a conscience check.

DOBBS: I agree. I think he handled himself like a man.

What do you think?

MADISON: Well, I think...

MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE) sound like a real man.

MADISON: I think...


MARTIN: ...sound like a real man calling (INAUDIBLE) names.


DOBBS: When I've taken responsibility for it is...

MARTIN: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely.

DOBBS: ...what I'm talking (INAUDIBLE)...


MADISON: I won't be listening, I'll be doing my show. So I'm not worried.


DOBBS: And I'll be listening.

MARTIN: I'm on the -- wait a minute. All three of us are on the air at the same time.

DOBBS: You mean all three?

I think -- aren't all four of us on?

GOYETTE: I'm a morning guy.

MADISON: I'm a morning guy.

MARTIN: I'm a morning guy, yes.

MADISON: Yes, 6:15.

DOBBS: I've got my producer, Kevin Burke, just screaming at me to shut up. So I'm going to that and say thank you, Joe.


DOBBS: Thank you, Charles.

MARTIN: ...didn't talk for three minutes.


DOBBS: Roland, thank you.

MARTIN: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: And according to the three of you, I probably ought to shut up for (INAUDIBLE)...

MARTIN: No, no, no, no.

DOBBS: Thanks, gentlemen.

Coming up next, respect and hard work -- teacher, author Rafe Esquith says that's the key to ending our crisis in our public schools. He is a terrific fellow. I want you to meet him.

Please stay with us.

We'll be right back.


DOBBS: "THE SITUATION ROOM" is coming up at the top of the hour.

Wolf Blitzer will have that for us -- Wolf.


Straight ahead, an apparent slap in the face to the Bush administration. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, stands with the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and against demands Iran stop its nuclear activities. And Putin even uses his historic trip to Iran to warn against any attack on Iran.

Also, once a pariah for sponsoring terrorism, including the bombing of a U.S. airliner, Libya has now changed its ways. And the reward, among other things, a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Why some are still outraged.

And it's never happened before -- the United States Marine Corps opening the first Marine-run high school -- a public high school.

Are they using it to recruit high schoolers to join the military?

Should parents be concerned?

All that and a lot more coming up, Lou, right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

DOBBS: Well, parents ought to be concerned, Wolf, because you know about public education in this country. I'm not sure they ought to be worried about the Marine Corps there.

Be nice and work hard -- that's what a unique fifth grade teacher tells his students is the key to classroom success. He lives it and practices it.

Rafe Esquith has been teaching fifth graders at the Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles for the past 22 years. His classroom manner has gained international recognition, his success, international awards.

Esquith shares his insights on successfully educating children in his latest book, "Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire".

Joining us tonight from Los Angeles.

Rafe, good to have you here.


DOBBS: We are in a disaster nationally in public education. Public education, for me, is the great equalizer, as I have been saying for years.

How is it you're able to succeed where public education at large is failing, literally, hundreds of thousands of our students?

ESQUITH: And capable students, Lou.

DOBBS: Yes. ESQUITH: It's failing them because we have incredible red tape, absurd testing that is taking away any creativity or joy or initiative from a child. I've been able to succeed by working around the system. I won't leave the system, but I've written this book to try and show other teachers that rather than fighting with people, we have to focus on the children to educate them.

DOBBS: Well, let me ask you about this, because here in New York, for example, we have schools -- high schools, 5,000 -- not elementary schools, but we have 5,000 people sitting in a high school. We know that half of the Hispanic students, half of those black students are going to -- nationwide just about half -- are going to drop out of high school.

What does Rafe Esquith say can be done to stop this horrible waste?

ESQUITH: Of course. Well, the children are not motivated to learn because what they're learning is boring. We have to make their lessons relevant to their lives. My students are highly motivated. They show up -- Lou, they show up at 6:30 in the morning because they can't wait to come to school because they...

DOBBS: And let's talk about your students. Your students, many of them don't even speak English.

ESQUITH: Well, they do after they learn Shakespeare with me.

DOBBS: Right.

ESQUITH: They, you know, I have...

DOBBS: But when they begin...

ESQUITH: No, not when they begin. But I have extremely high expectations for them. And I create a culture where they know that their work is going to not just help them for the test at the end of the year, but for the rest of their lives. That's where we fail, Lou. We keep measuring by the test at the end of the year. The real measurement is where are these children 10 years later?

DOBBS: Yes. You know, we are the instant gratification society, the throw-away society.

ESQUITH: Exactly.

DOBBS: We're not giving teachers -- quality teachers like yourself, wonderful teachers, the opportunity to teach as they should and take the time. And we're throwing away, literally, in this throw- away consumer society of ours...

ESQUITH: And, Lou -- you know, Lou...

DOBBS: ...hundreds of thousands of young lives.

ESQUITH: Not only that, Lou. But very good young teachers are so discouraged by the system that they're leaving it in droves. And everybody loses when that happens. We have to be supporting all these good, young teachers and mentoring them, not with red tape, but real educational ideas that will help them do better in the classroom.

DOBBS: Rafe, I'd like to talk more about this. I hope you can come back with us next week. We want to continue talking about this. I think you're one of the people that -- one of the people we need to be talking with.

Can we talk you into that?

ESQUITH: Well, we'll try. Next week, The World Shakespeare Company is coming to visit my class.

DOBBS: That's right.

ESQUITH: So I'll be busy.

DOBBS: That's great.

ESQUITH: We're excited.

DOBBS: Well, we wouldn't want to, in any way, impinge on that.

But over the next couple of weeks, if you can find time, we'd sure appreciate it.

ESQUITH: I'd be happy to.

Thanks, Lou.

DOBBS: And all the best.

Thanks for being here.

Rafe Esquith.

ESQUITH: Thanks, man.

DOBBS: Coming up next, the results of our poll.

We'll be right back with that.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight overwhelming -- 95 percent of you say the federal government will not act to stop concerted efforts nationwide to register millions of illegal aliens in advance of our 2008 elections.

We thank you for being with us tonight.

Please join us here tomorrow.

We want to remind you, on November 5th, this broadcast begins at a new time, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

For all of us here, thanks for watching.

Good night from New York.

"THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER" begins right now -- Wolf.