Return to Transcripts main page
Lou Dobbs Tonight
Colombia Trade Deal Stalled; New Warnings about Iran; Real I.D. Backlash; Katie Couric Likely to Leave CBS News
Aired April 09, 2008 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, HOST, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: Wolf, thank you.
Tonight a major setback with the Bush administration and its face-off with Congress over so-called free trade. The battle could influence the outcome of the critical Pennsylvania primary. We'll have complete coverage here tonight.
Also rising divisions in the Republican Party as corporate elites try to import even more cheap labor to replace American workers. We'll have that story.
And a new threat to the American dream, our middle class as our economy worsens. Many banks are now ending their student loan programs. We'll have that special report, all of that, all the day's news and much more straight ahead here tonight.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Wednesday, April 9. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.
The issue of so called free trade today dominating politics in Washington and on the presidential campaign trail. Senator Clinton today insisted she remained strongly opposed to the Colombian free trade deal even though her husband and her former chief strategist support the agreement.
House Speaker Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi today declared she will stop that deal. Pelosi said she will block a congressional vote on the Colombia free trade agreement, which would offensively kill it.
We have extensive coverage tonight we begin with Elaine Quijano at the White House -- Elaine.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the Bush administration argued this deal would have helped a critical U.S. ally in South America, but Democrats refused to budge even as the White House tried to ratchet up the political pressure.
QUIJANO (voice-over): A stinging defeat for President Bush after he tried this week to force a congressional vote on a Colombian free trade deal within 90 days.
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We think this is an awful precedent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we're pretty fired up about it though.
QUIJANO: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is vowing to push for a change in House rules that would indefinitely delay a vote on the trade deal.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: It's not a question of changing it. Nobody said we were changing the agreement. We said we were changing the timetable.
QUIJANO: Yet even after Bush aides conceded the administration was outmaneuvered, President Bush dispatched an army of cabinet secretaries to object anyway.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have no stronger friend in Latin America than Columbia. What will it say if the United States turns its back now on Colombia.
QUIJANO: Fresh off a meeting with President Bush Pelosi argued The White House must do more to address the U.S.' economic troubles before Democrats can take up the trade agreement.
PELOSI: We cannot consider that unless we address the economic insecurity of America's working families.
QUIJANO: But the Bush administration argues the deal will benefit the U.S. economy in the form of more jobs for U.S. exporters.
HENRY PAULSON, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: This is very significant. It's very significant economically.
QUIJANO: Still sensitive concerns by organized labor this election year, Democrats also contend Colombia has not made enough progress fighting violence against trade unionists. The White House sharply disputes that and officials point out Colombia's pro-American government stands in stark contrast to Venezuela's vehemently anti American Hugo Chavez.
QUIJANO: Meantime House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argues that if a vote were to be taken on the deal now it would not pass, a point the White House also disputes. Spokeswoman Dana Perino saying she accused Democrats essentially of trying to kill this deal without having their, "fingerprints on it" -- Lou.
DOBBS: Well their fingerprints in fact are all over it and the vote will take place tomorrow, is that correct, Elaine?
QUIJANO: That's correct. And we do expect the word is that essentially this would delay indefinitely a vote on the matter. Now Nancy Pelosi said look if there are good faith negotiations that continue at some point later this year, we're certainly open to revisiting that. But of course many people are saying what this move will do tomorrow is effectively ensure it's dead for this year -- Lou.
DOBBS: Elaine, thank you -- Elaine Quijano from the White House.
Senator Clinton today put the issue of so-called free trade at the top of her campaign agenda. Senator Clinton emphasized her opposition to free trade deals with other countries, in part because of their devastating impact on American workers. But she acknowledged major differences with her husband on the very important issue of free trade.
Brian Todd has our report from Washington.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She demoted her chief campaign strategist for working behind the scenes to promote a free trade deal with Colombia, an agreement Hillary Clinton is very much against.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No trade deal with Colombia while violence against trade unionists continues.
TODD: She can't demote her husband. And former President Bill Clinton has long supported free trade with Colombia. Does he have closer connections? Since leaving office Mr. Clinton has met often with current and former Colombian presidents.
According to Hillary Clinton Senate financial disclosure records, her husband was paid $800,000 for four speeches he gave in Latin America in 2005. The sponsor, Gold Service International, is widely reported to support the Colombian free trade agreement. A campaign official tells CNN those speeches had nothing to do with the trade deal. Senator Clinton says there are no mixed signals.
H. CLINTON: I opposed NAFTA. I have a long record of being on a different attitude toward trade than my husband does. I don't think any married couple I know agrees on everything. We disagree on this.
TODD: But Hillary Clinton has said that if she becomes president, her husband would be a roving ambassador and analysts say questions may follow the Clintons about his influence in areas like Colombia where they appear not to agree.
STUART ROTHENBERG, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": Her problem is she cannot make Bill Clinton go away. No matter what, even if she's president, even if she stakes out a position, there will be some questions. What does former President Clinton think? What is he advocating behind the scenes? What is he telling her? How much influence does he have?
TODD: Bill Clinton and adviser Mark Penn are not the only people within the Clinton campaign linked to the story. Campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson is on a leave from absence from a D.C. lobbying and communications firm hired by the Colombian government to promote the free trade deal.
Now Wolfson tells us he never had contact with the Colombians and he says he's had no conflicts with the firm's client since taking his leave more than a year ago, but Wolfson does maintain an equity stake in that firm worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and Lou, this is not the first time questions of this nature have come up with the Clintons.
Two years ago, when we reported on Hillary Clinton's opposition to that deal for Dubai Ports World to take over operations at major American ports, we also reported that Bill Clinton had gotten paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for speeches that he had made in Dubai and that the government of Dubai had donated at least a half a million dollars to Bill Clinton's library. At the time a Clinton spokesman said his dealings with Dubai were not relevant to her stand against that deal and they said the two of them were in lock step on that issue -- Lou.
DOBBS: I remember that Dubai Ports World deal rather well. It's interesting. I think we should also -- it's so interesting in fact I think we should point out that lobbyists take up senior positions on the campaign staffs of all three of the major candidates running for president, don't they?
TODD: They sure do. We were checking into some of that earlier in the campaign. Lobbyists have prominent positions in all three major campaigns, Democrat and Republican. Analysts say that's just the way business is done in this town. It's almost impossible to avoid it, but it is a fact. And it lends a lot of questions to how these candidates would act when they're in office.
DOBBS: That would be like bank robbers saying, this is just the way you rob a bank.
DOBBS: That doesn't seem to offer much in the way of enlightenment or resolution. It is the way it is, but it is certainly the way it is despite the best wishes and the passionate desire I think on the part of the American people to change it. You would like, one certainly hopes that you would like to see a little change in the way we do business in that town.
Thanks a lot, appreciate it, Brian Todd.
On Capitol Hill President Bush's conduct of this war in Iraq faced new criticism today. House Democrats challenging the U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus to say when our troops can be withdrawn.
During his testimony General Petraeus said progress in Iraq remains fragile, as he put it. He said Iranian-backed terrorist groups are posing the largest long-term threat to Iraq.
Jamie McIntyre has our report from the Pentagon.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gun fire on the streets of Sadr City as Iraqi soldiers battle Shia militias, militias the U.S alleges are funded, armed, trained, and directed by Iran's Quds force. It's these Shia factions dubbed special groups by the U.S. military that General David Petraeus now sees as a bigger problem than al Qaeda.
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: Unchecked, the special groups pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq.
MCINTYRE: It is Iranian expertise General Petraeus charges that has increased the lethality of recent rocket and mortar attacks into Baghdad's fortified green zone launched from nearby Sadr City. Just this week, two U.S. Army officers, Colonel Stephen Scott and Major Stuart Woofer (ph) were killed and 17 other U.S. personnel wounded in a deadly accurate rocket attack that hit a gym inside the secure compound.
And it was Iranian-backed militias that embarrassed Iraqi troops in Basra, forcing a halt to the offensive ordered by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. On a recent visit to Iraq, Iran's Shia President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad professed to support al-Maliki's Shia majority government, but U.S. officials say Iraqi leaders are now clearly recognizing the threat.
RYAN CROCKER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: That's not what is happening and the events in Baghdad and Basra in recent weeks have put that into very sharp contrast.
MCINTYRE: But some in Congress argue the war has boosted Iran's power and influenced not just in Iraq but in the region.
REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS CMTE.: Maliki is propped up in parliament by the pro Iranian factions when we are talking about trying to broker things, like with the Sadr group; it seems that Iran again has the upper hand.
MCINTYRE: So as U.S. commanders ponder future troop cuts, they're keeping a very wary eye on Iran. General David Petraeus has all but ruled out a second surge, a tacit admission there are not enough trooping for that, although he has hinted that further reductions after July saying there are four or five places he may be able to cut back with the caveat, of course, conditions permitting.
And Lou, Iran is a very big reason that those conditions do not yet permit additional troop reductions.
DOBBS: It took two days of testimony on Capitol Hill before the House and the Senate to say basically, we won't know what we're going to know until July?
MCINTYRE: You're seeing is that there is a great deal of uncertainty about how things are going to go. General Petraeus doesn't want to make any promises because he knows they may not come true.
DOBBS: Did anyone in either the House or the Senate ask how a four-star general commanding troops of the world's only super power could be frustrated by insurgents in a nation of 25 million people over the course of time that now has reached beyond the duration of World War II?
MCINTYRE: Nobody phrased it that way. But certainly there was a lot of discussion about how this insurgency has tied down U.S. troops and how the (INAUDIBLE) have had to change to deal with that and basically comes down to the idea that they have to protect everywhere in Iraq. The insurgents can attack wherever they want. That's the nature of insurgencies.
DOBBS: Indeed it is and that hasn't been unknown to us or since the Vietnam War I believe.
All right, thank you very much, Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.
Insurgents in Iraq have killed four more of our troops over the past two days; those soldiers killed in separate roadside bomb attacks; 17 of our troops have been killed so far this month; 4,029 of our troops have been killed since this war began; 29,676 of our troops have been wounded; 13,249 of them seriously.
U.S. counterterrorism officials today said a top al Qaeda commander was killed in Pakistan. The terrorist, Abu al-Masri, helped plan the subway bombings in London three years ago. Al-Masri was also involved in a failed plot to blow up Trans Atlantic airliners in 2006. Al-Masri died several months ago of natural causes. One official described him as, "a very bad guy."
Still ahead, an escalating threat to working men and woman and their families in this country.
Lisa Sylvester will have our report -- Lisa.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, business interests wanted to import even more cheap labor from overseas. The issue has split Republicans, some support big business, some saying secure the borders first -- Lou.
DOBBS: We know which group this broadcast would like to see prevail on the issue. Lisa, thanks, we look forward to your report.
Also rising anger in Los Angeles over that city's refusal to crack down on illegal alien gangs and huge protests against communist China today as the Olympic torch is paraded through San Francisco. We'll have the very latest for you and a great deal more.
Stay with us. We're coming right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: A positive development in the House of Representatives tonight. House Republicans are divided over whether or not to give away more foreign worker visas to this country. Some Republicans are pushing to bring more cheap foreign labor into the country. But here's the good part. Some other House Republicans say that our borders should be secured first. How about that for a development?
Lisa Sylvester reports.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Thousands of foreign low-skilled laborers come to the United States to work in seasonal jobs. It's part of what's known as the H-2B program. There's an annual cap of 66,000 workers, but that's not enough as far some businesses are concerned. They're looking to renew an exemption that in previous years allowed them to bring in thousands more workers than now allowed.
REP. CHARLES BOUSTANY (R), LOUISIANA: I have got seafood processors, crab facilities, shrimp facilities, crawfish facilities that need these temporary workers to come in at peak times and it's critical. Otherwise these businesses will fail.
SYLVESTER: The issue has split Republicans, those backing corporate interests and those pushing for tough immigration enforcement. Congressman Brian Bilbray says before we bring in more cheap labor on a temporary basis how do we know they'll actually leave when their time is up. He says there is no adequate worker verification system and Americans are fed up with illegal immigration and Congress' failure to secure the border.
REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CALIFORNIA: Washington isn't willing to prove to the American people that they'll do the right thing first, and earn the trust of the American people on immigration before Washington continues to ask America to trust Washington one more time.
SYLVESTER: The H-2B visa expansion was part of the Senate's failed comprehensive immigration reform bill last year. This year Democratic leaders are still pushing for changes in immigration law. They're keeping the H-2B bill from coming to the floor unless it includes temporary visas for illegal aliens.
SYLVESTER: The H-2B visa program has also ignited a debate over whether Americans would step in and do these labor job if foreign workers were not brought in. Members of Congress who favor tougher border control say they would if wages for higher -- Lou.
DOBBS: And, also of course, what the good congressman from Louisiana didn't say is that China now dominates the shrimp market in this country and many, if not all around the world. That's how much China has done to simply dominate the market. We're talking about purely a marginal business when it comes to the American shrimping business. It's ridiculous. SYLVESTER: That's indeed the case, Lou. And Representative Boustany is saying that many of these businesses that they're afraid that they will fail if they don't get more workers. Of course on the other hand, you've got the immigration reform patrol group that they say that this is more cheap labor and more of the same.
DOBBS: And there's no question about it. It is precisely that. Lisa, thanks. Lisa Sylvester from Washington.
Time for our poll: Do you think any of these presidential candidates will stand up for our middle class in the face of corporate interests should they be elected?
Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'd love to hear from you on this question.
And the parents of a Los Angeles teenager are fighting back tonight after their son was shot and killed. The suspect in his murder, an illegal alien gang member, now the victim's family is demanding the city of Los Angeles stop its protection of illegal aliens from arrest and deportation.
Casey Wian has our report.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jamel Shaw, Jr. was a 17-year-old Los Angeles high school student and star running back who caught the eye of Stanford recruiters. But he was gunned down near his house last month police say by Pedro Espinosa (ph), a 19- year-old illegal alien gang member. He's pleaded not guilty to murder charges.
Jamel's family and friends are of course devastated, but also outraged because Espinosa was released from county jail on unrelated charges a day before their son was killed. Shaw's family appeared at a Los Angeles City Council meeting Tuesday.
JAMEL SHAW, SR., FATHER: My son was murdered by someone that was not in the country legally and he was a documented 18th Street gang member that I'm sure was in a database and when he was released, he was released into the community.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would like to give a shout at to my son...
WIAN: Jamel's mother is an active duty sergeant in the Army.
ANITA SHAW, MOTHER: My son while I as in Iraq was murdered by a illegal alien that is a gang member and me serving the country, serving the state, serving the United States I think that's an awful shame.
WIAN: Jamel's family stresses they don't want to increase tensions between blacks and Latinos. But they do want change specifically that Los Angeles end its policy of forbidding police officers from apprehending known illegal alien gang members, unless they are caught committing another crime.
JUDY MOORE, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: Do you know who the gang members are? Get rid of them, send them home. They don't belong here.
WIAN: City Council members were not permitted to respond directly at the meeting, but later a few promised to consider ways to modify the LAPD policy known as Special Order 40. Others said it would unfairly target the Latino community.
ED REYES, LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL: It will cause division because our economy isn't ready for that. I think we will suffer more. Our sense of community I think will be shattered.
WIAN: Police Chief William Bratton supports Special Order 40. Saying he doesn't want illegal aliens to fear cooperating with police. At the same time a family, minus a son and big brother still grieves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He asks me every day, dad, I miss Jazz (ph). You know, he -- he wants his brother. All he talks about every day is he wants to invent a time machine, because he wants to go back. We want him back. But we can't get him back. And it hurts every day.
WIAN: Now federal and local law enforcement are also investigating why Espinosa was not flagged for deportation during his four-month jail stay on charges of brandishing a weapon and resisting arrest. One reason, Lou, may be that he simply lied about where he was born during his previous arrest -- Lou.
DOBBS: No, the liars are the city officials of Los Angeles, Casey. For that city councilman to stand there and tell that grieving family that the economy isn't ready for the enforcement of immigration laws. And for Bill Bratton, the chief of police -- I've known Bill Bratton and I want to say this Bill Bratton -- for you to sit there and defend your Order 40 against a family that is trying to struggle and to cope with the loss of one of their family members, you know is irresponsible and it's disgusting politics.
And I think every one of you in the city of Los Angeles, running that city, supporting a sanctuary city and trying to excuse what happened to that family I think it is contemptible and I think you are something less than any of us would want any public official to be in any quarter of this country. Casey, that is one of the most infuriating stories, one of the most difficult stories I'm sure for you to report. I don't know what to say.
WIAN: The only thing you can say, Lou, is there now appears to be growing support in the city of Los Angeles from many sectors, including some on the City Council who are going take another look at Special Order 40 the way it is implemented and perhaps, perhaps we can get it changed -- Lou.
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Casey Wian reporting from Los Angeles. Up next, why it may become even more difficult for middle class families to pay for college education for their children, we'll have that report.
And protesters take the Olympic torch relay to a different place in California. We'll have a live report for you from San Francisco.
And grounded, more than 100,000 American Airlines passengers scrambling to change their travel plans after hundreds and hundreds of American Airlines flights have been canceled. We'll have that story and a great deal more.
Stay with us. We're coming right back.
DOBBS: A credit crisis is spreading to the student loan market now. Lawmakers rushing legislation through Congress trying to erase federal loans but qualifying for a private student loan is almost impossible. College costs are soaring, students are running out of ways in which to finance their college education.
Kitty Pilgrim has our report.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cindy Pretamps (ph), a senior in high school is learning about federal loans for college because she doesn't quality for private loans, she will need to rely exclusively on government loans. Federal loans which top out at $23,000 for four years don't cover tuition at many public colleges. And private college tuitions are simply out of the question for most students who have to rely exclusively on federal loans.
RICHARD VEDDER, CTR. FOR COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY & PRODUCTIVITY: College costs have been going up seven percent, eight percent a year. Student loan payments haven't been -- from the federal government haven't been going up quite so fast so kids are having to resort more and more for private lending.
PILGRIM: But private lending is drying up partly because of a tightening credit market, partly because the once secure student customer has become a delinquency risk. Lenders like CIT Group have recently stopped offering student loans and TERI, a nonprofit that guarantees private student loans has filed for bankruptcy. The CEO says students are facing a tighter credit standard.
WILLIS HULINGS, EDUCATION RESOURCES INST.: A lot of the borrowing that is going to be (INAUDIBLE) for people who have very high levels of credit. There may be some people who are not going to get approved this year who would have been approved before. Additionally there is going to be some people who don't get enough money or the rates that they do pay are going to be higher.
PILGRIM: Student loans have a default rate of four to five percent within the first two years after graduation, but that default rate often doubles a few years after that time as students fail to find and keep jobs.
PILGRIM: Two bills are currently working their way through Congress to raise the federal lending limits from $22,000 to about $31,000 for a four-year college. Those measures are expected to be signed into law within a few weeks. This is unusually quick movement in Washington as the credit worries ripple through the student loan industry -- Lou.
DOBBS: Well the student loan industry, I mean, this Congress, this Democratic Congress has no excuse for permitting this to happen. We've seen it with Sallie Mae, the student loan programs. This administration is indifferent. Congress has to take the initiative and they're not doing it.
And the presidential candidates, where are you? Just as you are in sanctuary cities, you're quiet, you're accepting and you're pedaling more nonsense, all three of you. Thank you very much for running for president, thanks for nothing.
PILGRIM: This is critical for students. Half of them need loans. Half of them take out loans, at lest half.
DOBBS: All right, Kitty, thank you very much. Kitty Pilgrim.
Time now for some of your thoughts.
John in Georgia: "Hi, Lou, I'm 55 years old and I've worked for an IT company for 25 years. My department will be moving to India within the next six months. I'll start training Indian workers soon. Why don't these people just come clean? Outsourcing is because of cheap labor, more profit and they don't care about U.S. workers."
You have got that correct.
Robert from California: "I read today the military has developed a hand-held lie detector. I was wondering if they planned to unveil it at Congress or the White House. Seems to me either one of these two locations would be the perfect testing ground."
And Mark in Nevada: "Lou, my wife and I have been registered Independents since 2003. We can't stomach either party and what they're doing to our country; out of control spending, open borders, and one-way trade agreements. Keep up the good work."
We'll have more of your thoughts here later. And please join me on the radio, Monday through Friday each and every afternoon for "The Lou Dobbs Show". Go to loudobbs.com to find local listings for "The Lou Dobbs Show" on the radio.
Up next, the chairman of the homeland security committee, Congressman Bennie Thompson. He apparently doesn't want security among the border with Mexico. Congressman Thompson will be among my guests. And the author of the Real I.D. Act, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner will tell us what he thinks about the refusal of many states to comply with the law.
And police are taking unusual measures to protect the Olympic flame in San Francisco. We'll have a live report for you. You won't believe it. I love San Francisco.
We'll be right back.
DOBBS: Public backlash and demonstrations against the Beijing Olympics. Tonight's closing ceremony for the Olympic torch relay in San Francisco has now been canceled. Earlier, San Francisco city officials changed the relay course trying to avoid clashes with anti and pro communist China demonstrators. The Olympic torch briefly disappeared into a warehouse and then reemerged on a bus.
Dan Simon is in San Francisco and Dan has the latest for us on what has been at the very least a very bizarre day even by San Francisco standards -- Dan.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, it was a very chaotic scene to say the very least. Let me tell you where I am. I'm in Justin Herman Plaza and there were thousands of people who came here to watch the closing ceremony for the torch relay, and they stood here for hours, and then just a short while ago, somebody came on the loud speaker and said, it would not in fact occur.
So at this point we believe that the torch is now at the airport. There will be some sort of closing ceremony there and then the torch will leave town and head to Buenos Aires. Really a strange situation here in San Francisco, Lou.
DOBBS: All right. Thank you very much. Strange indeed.
As the Beijing media are reporting that everything is just terrific along the path of the torch relay. Dan Simon reporting from San Francisco.
Today, American Airlines canceled more than 1,000 flights of its flights to carry out more safety checks. This is the second consecutive day the airline has grounded its fleet of MD-80s. American Airlines sayings it's checking the wiring on the aircraft. American is expected to cancel even more flights tomorrow.
Southwest, United and Delta Airlines have all canceled flights over recent weeks to conduct safety inspections, all of this happening of course against a backdrop of three airlines going bankrupt over the past week and a half.
Coming up here next, Barack Obama's pastor problem not going way.
And the chairman of the homeland security committee, Congressman Bennie Thompson on why he doesn't want our borders secured. And Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner on what he thinks about the backlash of his Real I.D. Act.
We'll have all of that and a great deal more straight ahead. We'll be right back.
DOBBS: Congressman Bennie Thompson is the chairman of the homeland security committee and he's leading an effort to block construction of a fence that is ordered by law to be built along our border with Mexico.
Congressman Thompson argues the Department of Homeland Security is breaking the law trying to stop illegal aliens and drug smugglers from entering this country. Congressman Thompson is good enough to join us tonight to argue this view from Capitol Hill.
Mr. Chairman, good to have you here.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: I'm glad to be here, even though your premise is absolutely wrong.
DOBBS: Let's get to that. I say the Department of Homeland Security should be securing the homeland and doing it fast. You as the chairman of Homeland Security Committee in the House should be making that job easier, not more difficult.
THOMPSON: Let me tell you how I've made it more easy, Lou.
THOMPSON: As a Democratic chairman, I pushed through $3 billion for border security. We have 15,000-plus agents working along the border going towards 16,000. That's what we have to do. We have equipment. We have all those things going on. But you know we have to follow the law.
DOBBS: We have to follow the law and the law does permit Secretary Chertoff to carry out waivers on those laws to get it done. And in point of fact, as you know, the United States Congress laid down a law that this fence would be built.
It is, by the way, I think it's demonstrably effective unlike some of the people who are signing on with this amicus curiae that will be filed with the Supreme Court apparently over the next week. The fact is it must work because they're fighting hard against the fence, Mr. Chairman.
THOMPSON: Well I think what people want to do is to follow the law. Some of those waivers do way with the clean water act, they'll do away with clean air; they'll endanger cemeteries, religious institutions. So there are some things that we've had in law for years that we need to protect. What I'm trying to do, along with others is to say to the secretary, just follow the laws. We've given you the money. All you have to do is carry out the law. DOBBS: It's that a hollow and false order because you know it can't be done expeditiously and effectively because it could be tied up in court for literally decades, Mr. Chairman, and isn't it also true that your committee has not once taken into consideration 25 million pounds of waste and damage to the environment along the border with Mexico? There's been no step taken or any step urged by your committee for either the border patrol, customs, the bureau of reclamation, the Department of Homeland Security to do anything with that.
In point of fact, we're sitting here waging a war on illegal drugs along that southern border. Let's leave illegal immigration out of it. That obviously is a point that apparently is favored by the members of the 14 congressman who are going to be advancing their interest.
The fact is that Mexico remains the primary source of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and marijuana into this country and your committee continues to permit those drugs to enter the country. It's not all of the fight of the war on drugs. It's an important, just absolutely vital element of necessarily combating those drugs.
THOMPSON: Well Lou, I want you to understand one more time, my committee gave $3 billion towards border security, more than in the history of the committee before I became chairman. I've made border security a priority.
Now for your information, we're talking about the waiver on building the fence. We're not talking about any of those other issues. I have for you, since you have sometimes difficulty understanding --
DOBBS: I have limited comprehension, I couldn't agree with you more.
THOMPSON: I have 36 items that the waiver would do. If we've used these laws to build dams, to build nuclear plants, to build power generation facilities, military bases, why can't we use the same laws to do the fence? That's what I'm saying, follow the law. We need to protect the property rights of citizens.
DOBBS: I'm saying it straightforwardly. Your committee and everyone opposing the construction of the fence is putting the lives of young Americans at risk because you're not fighting with every resource at your disposal those people who would bring those illegal drugs into this country and the majority of those drugs are entering across that border.
THOMPSON: Well, Lou --
DOBBS: Well? That's what you say to the death and destruction of all those young American lives?
THOMPSON: All you have to do is look at the fact. On my committee, we've made money, appropriated and authorized for it. We've done the right things. We've put more people, more equipment but we need a border security plan. We need a strategy. That strategy could include physical barriers.
It also should include more boots on the ground, but it also should include technology. But it has to be a strategy. It shouldn't be run out there and ignore property rights of individuals. This is a country of laws. What we need to do --
DOBBS: A country of laws? You haven't secured the border. 95 percent of the cargo coming into ports is uninspected and you're telling me we're a nation of laws?
THOMPSON: That's right and you know why? Because I passed the Law House Bill One.
DOBBS: I do know why, because you and your Democratic colleagues and your Republican colleagues refuse to represent the will of the majority in this country and to look after national interests and the common good rather than special interests.
THOMPSON: Again, you have it wrong, Lou. If you read the law, we're requiring within five years 100 percent cargo screening.
DOBBS: Right. That will be what, 12 years after September 11? I got say I think every Democrat and every Republican on Capitol Hill should be proud of what you've done for the American people.
THOMPSON: We passed a law requiring 100 percent screening. We're doing it, moving forward with it. I think you need to give the people the facts. We identified screening as a problem. We're about the business of fixing it. If we required it today, commerce would stop. And so what we've done is worked with the business community. And others that try to get it right. Within the period of time.
DOBBS: All that's left are the irresponsible American citizens that are vulnerable and will remain vulnerable apparently for 12 years after September 11. That makes us the fools?
THOMPSON: Well, I said nothing about fools. There you again, Lou, misrepresenting the facts. I think you misled.
DOBBS: In my misguided and misled fashion, sir, I think the government of the United States should be able to secure the borders and defend the people some seven years after we were attacked on September 11th.
THOMPSON: I agree. We've allocated more money to border security since I was elected than in the history of this business. So if you look at the facts, Lou, you will see that we're moving toward that. We still need a border security plan. If you look where we have fences, we have to come up with a plan for tunnels. We have to make sure that we have enough men to support the fence.
DOBBS: Mr. Chairman, if that is persuasive to you and that leaves you satisfied then there's not much more than I can say. We're going to have to agree to disagree. I appreciate you being here. I hope you're come back. We've used up a lot of time. I appreciate it.
THOMPSON: I came on your show because I think the other side needs to be told.
DOBBS: I appreciate it. You bring that other side every time, you're more than welcome.
THOMPSON: Thank you.
DOBBS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Congressman Bennie Thompson.
Up at the top of the hour, the "ELECTION CENTER" and Campbell Brown.
Campbell, what do you have going on?
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well Lou, at the top of the hour we're going to talk about what's been going on in San Francisco, the Olympic torch causes chaos and raises questions about how far our current or would be president should go in criticizing China.
We're also going to see if General Petraeus has the Democrats doing an about face on Iraq, no matter how reluctantly.
Plus, polygamy and politics, everybody's talking about this raid in Texas. We're going to look at whether some of the country's most power leaders overlook polygamy in their home states.
Lou, all that at the top of the hour.
DOBBS: Thank you, Campbell. Appreciate it.
And a reminder to vote in our poll. The question tonight: Do you think any of the presidential candidates will stand up for the middle class in the face of corporate interests?
Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results upcoming.
Next, race and politics. What the Obama campaign was overheard saying at a Michelle Obama event and much more and Congressman James Sensenbrenner on what happened to his Real I.D. Act.
Stay with us. We're coming right back.
DOBBS: Six states are defying the Real I.D. Act, the law that sets a federal standard for driver's licenses. Those states have already passed laws that said they will never comply with Real I.D. Driver's licenses from Maine, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Montana and Washington will not be accepted as federal identification and that means that those citizens will not be boarding aircraft for those driver's licenses nor entering federal buildings.
Congressman James Sensenbrenner, the author of that law, he joins us tonight from Capitol Hill.
Congressman, good to have you with us.
REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: Good to be with you again, Lou.
DOBBS: What's the deal? Are these states going to be able to get away with it? Is the Real I.D. law in fact so -- has it been cut to pieces?
SENSENBRENNER: No, it hasn't been cut to pieces. When the citizens of the states find out they're going to have to spend $97 to get a passport in order to get on an airplane I think that the legislators and the governors who are complaining about the Real I.D. Act coming into effect are going to have faces as red as my tie.
DOBBS: Well you know I was talking to a number of folks who are opposed to it. Amongst the issues is the idea that the federal government created an unfunded mandate. How do you react?
SENSENBRENNER: The estimate when the Real I.D. law was passed in February of 2005 said it would cost the states $100 million to comply. Congress has appropriated those funds. Now I think the governors are going to use it as unilateral revenue sharing. That wasn't part of the deal.
I renewed my driver's license in Wisconsin and it took me about two minutes once I got up to the window but I brought along my proof of legal residence in the United States. This is not a cumbersome operation. We do use driver's licenses for I.D. and unless we make those state driver's licenses worth something, after the next terrorist attack, there will be a big move to have a national I.D., which many people including me are opposed to.
DOBBS: Let me ask you something. I just talked with, changing subjects a bit, talking with Chairman Congressman Bennie Thompson, the border patrol announcing a 17 percent drop in apprehensions at the U.S.
What is going on at this border? Why is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee quite comfortable in fighting the Department of Homeland Security in creating a barrier at the border to stop human smuggling, trafficking, what is going on in congress?
SENSENBRENNER: Elections do have consequences. The Mexican government is blowing a fuse at the thought of having a fence on the border. There's a reason for that. Because Mexicans now send more money back to Mexico from the United States than the government earns from selling oil to us and other people around the world. It's an entire issue of economics.
The fact of the matter is that where the fence has gone up, it's worked. We are able to patrol more miles with fewer officers where there's a fence. That means we can redeploy those officers along stretches of the border where the terrain makes it impossible to build and patrol the fence.
DOBBS: Congressman James Sensenbrenner, as always, good to have you here. Thank you.
SENSENBRENNER: Thank you. DOBBS: Coming up next, Senator Jay Rockefeller blasting Senator John McCain's performance in the Vietnam War. We'll have all of the day's political news with discuss and analysis from three of the very best political analysts in the country.
Stay with us. We'll be right back.
DOBBS: And this just in to CNN, "the Wall Street Journal" reporting tonight that CBS News anchor Katie Couric is likely to leave CBS early next year well before her contract expires in 2011. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that Couric, who anchors the CBS Evening News of course, could step down soon after the presidential inauguration. Her departure, if confirmed, would follow two years of what would have been record low ratings and discord at the "CBS Evening News."
Turning now to our panel, three distinguished analysts, "New York Daily News" columnist and Lou Dobbs top contributor Errol Louis, syndicated columnist and LOU DOBBS TONIGHT contributor Miguel Perez and Democratic strategist, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT contributor, Robert Zimmerman, also a Hillary Clinton supporter and as we refer to him, well, we'll just leave it at superdelegate.
Good to have you with us.
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thanks for the pass.
DOBBS: The idea that Senator Jay Rockefeller would make these statements and if we may show our audience at home. "McCain was a fighter pilot who dropped laser guided missiles from 35,000 feet. He was long gone when they hit." If we may have this. "When they get to the ground, he doesn't know you have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues," and what is your reaction to that?
MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Cheap shot. This is what we ask all of our pilots to do and I don't think that, you know, it's fair at all.
DOBBS: How about you, Errol?
ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Well, just inaccurate too. I don't know that there were laser guided bombs back then.
DOBBS: It turns out they weren't laser guided at the early stages of the war when Senator McCain was fighting for his country.
LOUIS: He did indeed find out what happens on the ground. When he was shot down and when he got to the ground he was bayoneted and taken into captivity for five years so it's not just factually inaccurate but kind of a monstrously wrong ...
DOBBS: Why -- Senator McCain says that the statement from the campaign saying that they don't agree with what Senator Rockefeller said. Senator McCain's campaign says that's not adequate. Senator Obama has to apologize for this one.
LOUIS: Yes, I think the trouble that surrogates have caused throughout this campaign, especially in the last few weeks, it almost suggests there should be a gag order on all of them. Don't do us any favors. Don't go out and freelance for the campaign.
ZIMMERMAN: It's worth noting that Senator Rockefeller did call and apologize to Senator McCain. Clearly it was inappropriate and overheated rhetoric. It doesn't change the fact that Jay Rockefeller is one of the great members of the U.S. Senate and with great bipartisan respect.
DOBBS: Oh, by the way, I think -- I have always liked Senator Rockefeller. I think he is a terrific public servant. I was think that was an absolutely idiotic, stupid, reprehensible thing to say and I don't think giving it a pass is inadequate.
ZIMMERMAN: He apologized.
DOBBS: I understand he apologized but he's talking about a man serving his nation in uniform. That was an ignorant remark. Can we agree on that?
ZIMMERMAN: We both agree on that.
DOBBS: Let's see if we agree on the next one.
Reports today that the advance team for Michelle Obama at a Pittsburgh event -- her coordinators were for calling for more white people to be among those sitting behind Mrs. Obama. All I could think about is all the old people who were sitting behind Senator Clinton over columnists made much over the course of the early stages of this campaign.
How ignorant is that?
ZIMMERMAN: Well, this one we don't agree on totally. In fairness to the Obama team obviously every event that you see a candidate up there is engaged in staging. Staging goes back to the Boston tea party in our country. Probably even before that.
DOBBS: Oh for crying out loud. Please don't bring in the Boston tea party. Now, look, I'm in a generous mood tonight but I'm not in that generous a mood.
ZIMMERMAN: But let me just make -
DOBBS: Let me say this, OK?
DOBBS: You disagree but my point is if we had reached the point where the unifier has to be sprinkling racial diversity behind himself or his wife must do so or we have to worry about ageism on the part of Senator Clinton, who by the way is not the oldest candidate in this race, I mean we're reaching a level of stupidity in the Democratic Party that is becoming breathtaking because this is supposed to be a party of diversity. It's supposed to be a party of some sense, is it not?
ZIMMERMAN: It is a party of diversity and you're seeing a level of stupidity nationally in both parties. But that's --
DOBBS: No, no no. Not --
ZIMMERMAN: Let's just --
DOBBS: Right now --
ZIMMERMAN: OK. We'll talk about the Democrats for a second. Let's talk --
DOBBS: McCain isn't even engaged yet so we can't really get to the stupidity we know that is to follow.
ZIMMERMAN: But in every presidential event that you see, you see standing behind the candidates people who are young and old and of all backgrounds. They didn't just accidentally happen to be there. It goes back -- this is part of the political process.
DOBBS: All right. How about this -- Lanny Davis writing in today's "Wall Street Journal that Senator Obama has many unanswered questions about his Reverend Wright saying, "Clearly Mr. Obama does not share the extremist views of Reverend Wright. He is a tolerant and honorable person. But that is not the issue. The questions remain: Why did he stay a member of the congregation? Why didn't he speak up earlier? And why did he reward Reverend Wright with a campaign position even after knowing of his comments?"
What do you think?
ZIMMERMAN: I think if he doesn't answer these questions now, the Republicans are going to make him answer these questions. This cuts to the core of who is most electable. And if he doesn't respond to it, he's not going to be able to be electable.
PEREZ: Lanny Davis is spinning just like he usually does. But -- this time he's right. I really think that there is concern still over why Mr. Obama didn't walk out of that church. And I think, you know, obviously Mr. Lanny Davis is doing it because he supports Clinton, but this time he's right.
LOUIS: I think voters are considering this asked and answered when you look at the polls, which reflect something about where the voters are on this. Obama has opened up his widest lead and most sustained double digit lead in the national polls over Senator Clinton.
Apparently people want to hear more about student loans and the problem with the mortgages and the crisis in Iraq than they want to hear about this question. Because in that article, Lanny Davis doesn't --
DOBBS: So you think it's over?
LOUIS: Well, he doesn't add anything new. Those who want an explanation have been asking for it for weeks. What they've gotten, if it's not adequate, I don't know if demanding more is going to get it for them.
DOBBS: Well here is the answer. The answer is -- Clinton, 50 percent, Obama, 44 percent in the latest Quinnipiac University poll closing the margin in the critical primary state of Pennsylvania.
And our poll results tonight -- 83 percent of you say you don't think any of these presidential candidates will stand up for our middle class in the face of corporate interests. And guess what? Again the reason I say yours -- you are all the smartest audience in television news.
Thanks for being with us.
Thank you very much, gentlemen.
The "ELECTION CENTER" and Campbell Brown starting right now -- Campbell.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxantshop.com