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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Time Horizons for Troop Cuts; McCain Focuses On Top Issues; FDA Is Clueless To the Cause of the Salmonella Outbreak; Middle Class Living On Plastic

Aired July 18, 2008 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Wolf, thank you.
Tonight, Senator Obama preparing to go to Iraq as part of a visit to the Middle East and Europe. Will he finally acknowledge the huge success of the surge strategy? We'll have complete coverage tonight.

And Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, will he ever acknowledge that our borders are insecure? He says they're more secure than ever. But Secretary Chertoff has a blunt new warning about the radical Islamist terrorist threat from Europe to this country.

And tonight, more people becoming ill in the nationwide salmonella outbreak, the FDA's bungling and incompetence on food safety for American consumers simply staggering and it goes on, all of that, all the day's news and much more tonight with an independent perspective straight ahead.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Friday, July 18th. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

Compelling new evidence tonight of the success of the surge in Iraq. The White House today said it's working on what it calls a general time horizon for more troop withdrawals. The White House announcement comes as the number of our troops killed in Iraq each month continues to fall. Senator Obama a strong opponent of the surge strategy is now expected to go to Iraq very soon.

Senator Obama will be accompanied by what now appears to be a huge media contingent, including three network news anchors. We have extensive independent coverage here tonight.

And we begin with Barbara Starr at the Pentagon -- Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, for years now, of course President Bush has said that troops would come home based on conditions on the ground. Today, there is a new definition of what that all means.


STARR (voice-over): With the last of the surge brigades pulling out of Iraq and July on track for the lowest troop casualty rate of the year, suddenly President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki are talking about when to withdraw U.S. troops. The two governments were hoping to reach a new security agreement this month. But Maliki, needing to appear independent from Washington, is pressing the U.S. to set a time frame, if not a timetable, for getting most if not all U.S. troops out.

SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Certainly from our perspective, there are certain things that we'll need to see and of course the Iraqis have certain things that they need and certain things that their political system will need.

STARR: So the new word in Washington is not timetable, but time horizon. According to a White House statement, the two leaders have agreed that improving conditions should allow for the agreement now under negotiation to include a general time horizon for meeting aspiration goals such as the resumption of Iraqi security control in their cities and provinces and the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq.

But a U.S. official familiar with the talk says the U.S. does not want to sign any agreement with firm withdrawal dates and specific troop drawdown levels. Still, the U.S. knows Maliki may have different ideas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is exercising his prerogatives.


STARR: Lou, still perhaps a long way to go between all of these words, time frames, timetables and time horizons while all the diplomats try and figure out what it all means. Lou.

DOBBS: Barbara, thank you very much.

Barbara Starr from the Pentagon.

The White House insists its policy on Iraq has not changed. The Bush administration saying it will not accept what it calls arbitrary dates for troop withdrawals. The administration also saying it's not reversed its policy on Iran after agreeing to talks with Tehran over the weekend.

Elaine Quijano has our report from the White House -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, on Iraq officials here acknowledge a change in the language with the phrase time horizon, but they insist this is not a change in policy because the goals are still conditions based. Still until this point, the Bush administration has been loath to talk about any kind of timeframe at all.

Now though with the success of the surge the Bush administration clearly more comfortable talking about this. Now on Iran a major shift, the Bush administration has said all along it would not engage in direct nuclear talks with Iran unless that country suspended its uranium enrichment program. Tomorrow in Geneva, a senior U.S. envoy, William Burns, will sit at the table with Iran's top nuclear negotiator as well as the foreign policy chief for the European Union.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that spurs will not be there to negotiate. Instead he will listen according to Secretary Rice to the Iranians' response to a package of economic incentives presented by the Europeans and strongly supported by the United States.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: He will go to affirm that the United States fully backs the package. By the way, I signed the letter transmitting that package. And he will receive the Iranian answer. He will also make very clear that there will be no negotiation in which the United States is involved until there is a suspension of their enrichment and reprocessing.


QUIJANO: Now also on North Korea, Secretary of State Rice will be meeting with her North Korean counterpart. The State Department announced just today she will be meeting next week on the sidelines of an Asian summit and Lou already critics saying this is yet another sign of a shift in the Bush administration's foreign policy. Lou.

DOBBS: Elaine, thank you very much -- Elaine Quijano from the White House.

The fatality rate for our troops in Iraq has now fallen to the lowest level of the entire war as a direct result of the surge strategy, a strategy that Senator Obama has opposed and one which Senator McCain has sponsored. Seven of our troops killed in Iraq so far this month, comparing with 79 troops killed in the whole July last year; 4,122 of our troops killed since this war began; 30,409 of our troops wounded; 13,508 of them seriously.

Well Senator McCain today focused on economic policy, the number one issue for voters in this election campaign. McCain trying to present himself as a defender of working men and women and their families as our economy slows further. But the senator still insists the so-called free trade is best for this country and good for the American people. Dana Bash has our report. Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, while Barack Obama is overseas, aides to John McCain say he will try to provide a contrast by spending a lot of time talking about what voters care most about at home -- the economy. But still get his digs in on Obama's foreign policy.


BASH (voice-over): A tour of G.M.'s Michigan design center to get a firsthand look at the company's efforts to develop its first battery-powered car.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will do everything that I can to support this industry. BASH: John McCain is trying to beef up his economic credentials and carry an empathetic message to hard-hit Michigan voters.

MCCAIN: The manufacturing loss here in Michigan has been profound. It's been deep. It's been painful.

BASH: But one voter was more interested in matters abroad and asked a pointed question about his plans for Iran and Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We lost Vietnam. You said you knew how to win wars. We didn't win there. And I don't know if winning wars is necessarily something that a president wants to do or should do.

BASH: She got an eight-minute answer. McCain saw a chance to get some licks in ahead of Barack Obama's trip to Afghanistan.

MCCAIN: I'm glad he's gone to Afghanistan, for the first time. He's never been to Afghanistan. And I'm astonished.

BASH: And Iraq.

MCCAIN: Senator Obama apparently is going to sit down for the first time -- for the first time ever with General Petraeus, our general over there.

BASH: That's part of McCain's week-long attempt to stop Obama from using his trip abroad to burnish his foreign policy credentials. Now McCain is paying to do that, airing this new TV ad in 11 battleground states while Obama is overseas.


NARRATOR: Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan. He hasn't been to Iraq in years. He voted against funding our troops. Positions that helped him win his nomination. Now Obama is changing to help himself become president.

BASH (on camera): A spokesman for Obama called the ad, quote, "patently misleading and negative." Now it is pretty tough stuff to air while Obama is overseas but he the McCain camp says Obama slammed McCain when he was abroad earlier this year, so they insist it is fair game. Lou?


DOBBS: Dana Bash reporting from Washington.

Senator McCain first to propose an end to the ban on offshore oil drilling and President Bush lifting the executive band an offshore drilling this Monday. He then challenged the Democratically-led Congress to do the same. After the president's announcement, crude oil prices have tumbled every single day, crude oil prices today closing at $129 a barrel. That is the lowest price level since the 6th of June and the biggest weekly decline in crude oil prices in history, clear evidence that even the possibility of beginning offshore oil drilling in the future would benefit working men and women and their families very, very soon.

Still ahead, more people becoming ill from salmonella. Your federal government still has apparently no idea about the source of this outbreak.

And middle class Americans are running up huge credit card bills trying to pay for basic necessities. We'll have a special report on our war on the middle class. You don't want to miss it. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: The tomato industry tonight reeling from the actions of the FDA. The FDA now says it's OK to eat tomatoes after three months of warning Americans to stay away from them. Industry losses are expected to be $250 billion, the FDA unable still to tell the American people what caused the massive salmonella outbreak and where it originated. More than 1,200 people officially and 43 states now and the District of Columbia have been sickened and there is the estimate that as many as 30,000 to 40,000 Americans have become ill as a result of the salmonella outbreak.

Louise Schiavone has our report.


LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The tomato industry is picking up the pieces, its products finally cleared after the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control spent weeks warning consumers they could get sick eating round red, roma and plum tomatoes, all along not a single tainted tomato was ever found.

TONY DIMARE, V.P. DIMARE FRESH: It is just like a witch hunt with really no direction. You know the whole process has been just a whole of debacle of how it's been managed.

SCHIAVONE: The DiMare Company is one of the nation's top tomato growers, re-packers and distributors.

DIMARE: At its height, sales at the farm and some of our distribution repacking end were off as much as 60 percent.

SCHIAVONE: Now even with tomatoes off the suspect list, growers say they are looking at lower than usual prices due to lingering public doubts. An Associated Press/Ipsos poll taken at the end of last week before the FDA cleared tomatoes found that when asked how worried are you that you or a member of your family might get sick from eating fresh tomatoes or other produce, nearly half of those surveyed said they were worried. On a 55-acre field in California's San Joaquin Valley, another member of the DiMare family is looking at a good crop hoping prices will recover along with public trust.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to farm these tomatoes. I'm going to grow to the best of my abilities and make sure that I'm doing everything I can to not only produce a good crop, but to produce a good safe crop for everybody to eat.

SCHIAVONE: Invited by LOU DOBBS TONIGHT to comment on growers' criticism, the FDA has not responded. Meanwhile, the count on new infections is up, the CDC now reporting 1,237 cases across 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada.


SCHIAVONE: Lou, as the week ended, federal and state investigators were still chasing after the elusive salmonella Saintpaul, with heightened testing in special peppers and avocados underway in North Carolina and Texas -- Lou.

DOBBS: This is one of the most incredible stories, I think, in the history of regulation by the federal government. The fact that the FDA still has no clue what is going on and it's still being funded and treated as if it's a valid part of the U.S. government. It is beyond me why we're even bothering with this agency.

What do they do?

SCHIAVONE: Well, to hear them tell it, they inspect food and drugs and they keep Americans safe from foods and drugs that are not reliable, that are tainted and so on. But we're looking at this outbreak of salmonella Saintpaul, the first case reported April 10th, 1,237 case times 30 or 40. I spoke to somebody last week who said they think it's more like times 80. But whatever it is, even if it's times 30 or 40, it's spectacular. And now they're looking at avocados and serrano and jalapeno peppers. It's almost comical, except for the fact that people have been so sick.

DOBBS: They've been sick, the industry and businesses devastated by this action. It's just incomprehensible that we cannot find some accountability for this agency and those who are leading it. Apparently, apparently in this election year, neither Senator Obama nor Senator McCain will be asked a question about it by the national news media.

Congress won't be doing much besides a few people. It's just stunning what is happening. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. We'll continue to follow this story. As to where it leads us, that's anybody's guess at this point.

The AP/Ipsos poll also found most Americans want the federal government to do more to protect consumers from unsafe foods. Eighty percent supporting stricter safety standards for fresh produce and strong support for an issue that we report on here extensively, country of origin labeling, 86 percent of those polled support country of origin labeling which would allow produce to be tracked to its source (INAUDIBLE) has actually been in law for the past five years, but the food industry and their lobbyists don't want it.

Those special interests and lobbyists have been blocking it and very effectively, too, in both Democratically and Republican-led Congresses. That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight. Do you believe the FDA will ever find the source of the salmonella outbreak? We'd love to just hear what you think. Give us your response at Yes or no. We'll have the results here later.

And up next, the rising cost of energy bringing new interests to a domestic fuel source; could natural gas be an important way out of this crisis, at least in part? We'll have the story.

And our struggling middle class running out of choices just to pay bills, many now being forced to take a very risky approach, we'll have that special report and more still ahead. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Up next, Senator Obama going to Europe and the Middle East with a huge media entourage. Is the media really in the tank for Senator Obama? Will he convince voters he will stand up for U.S. interests? Stay with us. We'll answer that next.


DOBBS: Many middle class Americans now find themselves forced to use credit cards just to pay their bills. But the consequences of overusing those cards have left some families even deeper in debt, in fact, facing bankruptcy. And new rules to protect consumers face a lot of resistance from lobbyists and special interest groups. Kitty Pilgrim has our report.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Life on plastic, these days people are using credit cards for basic daily necessities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Using the credit cards for gas or you know just dipping into that overdraft in the bank account you know because it's hard to make ends meet these days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This crunch it was more like once in a while. Now it's pretty much almost every day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The credit card bills, it's scary to think about how those are going to get taken care of, but it's a necessary means to an end.

PILGRIM: Gas prices up nearly 40 percent in the last year. In the last three years, a loaf of bread is up 34 percent, eggs up 68 percent, a gallon of whole milk, up 21 percent. Studies in the past have found people generally cut back on using credit cards during a recession as they give up luxuries like vacations and dining out. But this time is different says Professor Todd Zywicki, who studies credit card usage.

PROF. TODD ZYWICKI, GEORGE MASON LAW SCHOOL: This has come on very suddenly, so it's not likely that it's something that people were planning ahead for. People might be using credit cards to try to bridge the gap, as it were, and hope that it's a short-lived sort of thing. PILGRIM: Some families just are not making it. Personal bankruptcies have increased 30 percent in the first half of this year. For the first time ever, the Federal Reserve has proposed rules on credit cards.

LAUREN SAUNDERS, NAT'L CONSUMER LAW CENTER: The Fed has proposed some rules to ban some unfair and deceptive credit card practices and the rules are surprisingly good but they're getting a lot of pressure from banks to weaken them.

PILGRIM: The Fed has an open comment period until August 4th to hear from credit card users with complaints.


PILGRIM: Now according to the National Foundation for Credit, three-quarters of people surveyed said they do not expect their income to keep up with inflation. And 15 million adults are either getting calls from collectors or seriously considering filing for bankruptcy, Lou.

DOBBS: Well 2.5 million Americans are facing foreclosure. Thank you very much, Kitty -- Kitty Pilgrim.

Well as working men and women in this country find themselves deeper and deeper in debt, the credit card companies are seeking new customers and increasingly they're looking toward college campuses. Eighty percent of college students say they've received direct mail from credit card companies. That according to a recent survey by the U.S. public interest research group.

A quarter of those surveyed say they received an average of four phone calls a month from credit card companies and those efforts have paid off. Two out of three students in college have at least one credit card. Students say they're using their credit cards to pay for tuition and day-to-day expenses. A quarter of those surveyed say they've fallen behind and paid at least one late fee, as far as they know.

Well time now for some of your thoughts. Del in New Jersey said, "After Barack and the three anchors complete their European summer tour, will they be releasing an album and selling t-shirts? These campaigns and mainstream media reporting have reached the height of absurdity." I couldn't agree with you more. But it's just going to just get better and better.

Jim in Michigan: "Keep up the good work. You're the only voice of reason left on television. The only choice people have in this election is tweedle dee or tweedle dumb!"

Yvonne in Texas said, "How much longer will Ramos and Compean, the former border patrol agents now in prison, have to remain in prison? Obviously this administration is not going to do anything about this appalling miscarriage of justice. You deserve a medal for keeping people aware of their suffering." Well, a lot of people deserve something for keeping them in prison. I wish we could award them their appropriate desserts.

We'll have more of your thoughts here later in the broadcast. It's now been seven months since the appellate court heard arguments on their appeal.

Up next, Senators McCain and Obama just can't resist the temptation to pander to ethnocentric special interest groups. We'll be talking about that and other important issues with three top political analysts.

And Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, he is on the defensive, even as he touts what he says are big improvements in border security. We'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion. Here again Mr. Independent, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Welcome back.

Senator Obama is preparing tonight to make his first visit to Afghanistan and his second visit to Iraq. The senator trying to convince voters he would be a more effective commander in chief than Senator McCain. For his part, Senator McCain says Obama is refusing to acknowledge the huge success of the surge strategy in Iraq. Senator McCain today focused on the economy. McCain saying he has a plan to help hard-pressed working men and women and their families, but McCain still insists his so-called free trade agenda will be good for working Americans and good for the country.

More people have become ill in one of the biggest salmonella outbreaks in this country's history. More than 1,200 people officially have become sick, as many as 30 to 40,000 are considered possibly having been sickened in the salmonella outbreak. The FDA still doesn't know the origin of the outbreak more than three months after it began.

Alarming new evidence tonight that drug and illegal alien smugglers are resorting to more desperate measures to sneak their cargo into this country. Authorities this week disrupting several brazen efforts to smuggle cocaine, marijuana and illegal aliens into the United States. Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mexican authorities this week intercepted a homemade submarine smuggling cocaine bound for the United States. Its Colombian crew claimed to be fishermen who were forced to make the journey by drug traffickers who threatened their families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We were captured back there, they brought us to the mountain where they have us the submarine and said that we had to go and take the submarine wherever they told us. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We didn't know what was onboard because we never saw it, it was sealed.

WIAN: A secret compartment, this one filled with 2-1/2 tons of marijuana, was also discovered on a catamaran after it ran into engine trouble near San Diego. One suspect was arrested onboard the boat, four others in a Mercedes SUV were apprehended by San Diego police while waiting for the boat. ICE says three of the suspects are Mexican nationals, the others, U.S. citizens.

Near San Antonio, Texas, four people are being charged with holding 26 illegal aliens for ransom in a trailer home. The suspects allegedly forced some of them to strip to their underwear to discourage escape.

CHIEF HOWARD WILLIAMS, SAN MARCOS, TX PD: People who were holding these people were calling family members saying, "Bring us money or we're going to kill your family member."

WAIN: Also in Texas, more than a ton of marijuana was discovered in a trailer bearing the logo of energy service giant, Halliburton. The driver of this truck pulling the purported trailer Halliburton trailer was arrested, two others escaped.


WIAN: Ironically, one of Halliburton's subsidiaries has a contract with the federal government to build detention facilities for illegal aliens in case of a national emergency. Halliburton says the markings on the marijuana smuggling trailer were fake -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well, at least that part's reassuring. I mean, it's not getting any better on the border, is it?

WIAN: These incremental gains that we've seen, these gradual gains in border security have not done much to stem the flow of drugs and illegal aliens across the border. The smugglers are just getting more resourceful -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Casey. Casey Wian.

On Capitol Hill this week this week, Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, was touting progress by his department in securing the nation's borders. Secretary Chertoff said there is substantial improvement in conditions, as he put it, along our border with Mexico. But as Lisa Sylvester now reports, there's still a lot of work to do before the Bush administration can claim "mission accomplished" on the border.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, nearing the end of his term, defended his agency's record, 330 miles of fencing built along the southern border, more than 100 employers who hired illegal aliens prosecuted this fiscal year and deportations are up. MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECY: Our deportations have risen steadily in each of the last fiscal years, and to date, we're on track to exceed last year's record.

SYLVESTER: But some Democratic lawmakers say statistics aside, the Department of Homeland Security is still struggling to secure the borders nearly seven years after the 9/11 attacks.

REP BENNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: Congress has provided unprecedented funding to DHS for border security and immigration enforcement and yet DHS has failed to develop a comprehensive strategy to guide its border security activities.

SYLVESTER: A virtual fence along the Mexican border, much touted by the administration, has run into numerous problems. The test project 28 in Arizona is still not quite ready for primetime.

REP LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: We're paying to have it redone, I mean, that's the reality of the situation on that project.

SYLVESTER: And similar operational problems are cropping up on another section of the virtual fence in Tucson. Then there's the program known as "U.S. Visit," that is supposed to track when foreign visitors visit and leave, it's also the target of critics. The government collects finger prints on entry, but not on exit. That means DHS cannot verify that travelers with expired visas actually leave the country. Five of the 19 9/11 hijackers had overstayed their visas.


Secretary Chertoff also mentioned new threats. Terrorist groups are deliberately focusing on using western Europeans who don't have criminal records to try to slip into the United States. And what is terrifying is that Chertoff said there is no guarantee that they will catch them every single time -- Lou.

DOBBS: Always good news from the Department of Homeland Security. All right, Lisa, thank you very much. Lisa Sylvester reporting.

The governor of Illinois says he may send state troopers or even the National Guard to help fight surge in violent crime in the city of Chicago.

Governor Ron Blagojevich says crime in Chicago is simply out of control. This Spring, nine people killed in 36 shootings during just one weekend, 26 students killed since last Fall. The governor also suggesting hiring retired police officers and state troopers would help out during the summer months, when there's typically an increase in violent crimes in Chicago, in particular.

Well, up next, the United States has vast reserves of natural gas. Could those reserves be the key to solving at least most of our energy crisis? We'll have that report. And Senator Obama to visit Europe and the Middle East. Will this establish his foreign policy credentials or his media credentials? Three of the nation's leading political analysts join me, next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Joining me now, three of the sharpest political minds in the nation, CNN contributors, as well, showing you just who sharp they. Ed Rollins, former White House political director, former campaign chairman for Mike Huckabee. Michael Goodman, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, "New York Daily News." Robert Zimmerman, Democratic strategist, Democratic National committeeman, Democratic superdelegate, super-fellow, good to have you here.


DOBBS: You're going to have to get over that if you're going to stay on this program.

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely.

DOBBS: Well, speaking of elitist, where's your candidate? On his way to the Middle East and to Europe and is going to have a good time; three network anchors with him. You got to be proud.

ZIMMERMAN: Well, I'm proud of him for...

DOBBS: Shouldn't you have pared this down to just like one network anchor so there wouldn't be all of this discussion of the obvious liberal bias?

ZIMMERMAN: You'll have to speak to your colleagues in the industry. I mean, the fact that John McCain wasn't covered when he travel today Columbia and Mexico by most of the networks, I thought, was reprehensible. He was on a presidential trip and I wanted to see the country...

DOBBS: I know how emotional involved you get with Republican candidates.

ZIMMERMAN: I'll tell you why I feel that way. Because I want to see John McCain travel around the world advocating outsourcing jobs and free trade, I think -- objectively speaking, of course.

DOBBS: Absolutely.

MICHAEL GOODWIN, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: And talking about Czechoslovakia.

DOBBS: They just completely missed that ampersand.


The idea that we were watching this spectacle, I mean, what is your reaction to this -- Michael. GOODWIN: Well, it really is a high-stakes trip for Obama. I mean, look, particularly if he's going to Iraq and Afghanistan, as we think he is, and perhaps very, very soon. There's a lot riding on it because, as you reported earlier, he opposed the surge. How is he going to deal with that when he faces the soldiers, when he faces the commanders and says, well...

DOBBS: You think he's going to face them?

GOODWIN: He's going to have to if he's going to meet with the troops -- if he's going to go there, he's got to have a meal with the troops, he's got to meet with Petraeus. What is he going to say about the surge...

DOBBS: What do you expect Petraeus to say to him? He's going to be very respectful and polite and professional, so will our troops. Our troops are not going to engage this man in a political confrontation, for god's sake.

GOODWIN: I don't think it will be a confrontation, but I think Obama is going to come away, I think, somewhat stunned by the energy and the commitment of the troops and the commanders for a battle that he's effectively declared isn't important and was a mistake.

DOBBS: Well, has now declared. This is a new development. Has now declared.

ED ROLLINS, FMR HUCKABEE CAMPAIGN MGR: Well, equally as important. He's already restated his former position that first he's going to go to fact-finding, go to Iraq, hear what the commanders on the ground said. And now last week, because the Democrats are beating him up because he moved a little bit to the center, that he's back to his old position again of pull out, pull out now and drop the weapons and run.

I think he's going to have the same experience most high school kids have when they go to Europe for the first time. It'll be exciting. I'm not sure he'll learn very much. And I think that it's going to turn out to be a campaign show and it may not be a very good one.

ZIMMERMAN: Let's just point out, of course, strategically; Democrats have got to overcome the national security issue, like Republicans have, like McCain does on the economy. But the reality here is that Barack Obama, I'm sorry to disillusion you, Michael, has met with them Petraeus, had met with our military leaders at Congressional hearings, it's John McCain who hasn't had hearings in Afghanistan.

DOBBS: No, he hasn't met with general Petraeus.

ZIMMERMAN: I think he -- Petraeus testified in front of his Senate committee, I believe he did.

GOODWIN: You give a speech, ask a question and then leave.

ZIMMERMAN: No, I think in face he engaged in...

DOBBS: If you want to call that a meeting.

ZIMMERMAN: But the important point is Barack Obama's shown a much more pragmatic approach to address the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war...

DOBBS: So, (INAUDIBLE) open this up to how many hearings have been held, think of the engagement that Senator McCain can brag of. I mean...

ZIMMERMAN: Oh, absolutely. But the more important point is John McCain has changed his mind and now supports the Obama position of sending troops into Afghanistan because they're needed there to fight the Taliban and to fight al Qaeda...

DOBBS: Wait a minute, I got to interrupt you, because this is important to me personally, because when somebody says something that Senator Phil Graham, former Senator Phil Graham says about the American people, namely that they're a bunch of whiners -- I want to interrupt with this news just in to CNN. And I hate to take this personally, but I do. I have to announce that the McCain campaign has just announced that the former Senator Phil Graham is stepping down from the McCain campaign.

GOODWIN: Friday night bad news.

DOBBS: Yeah, well you know, that's -- I happen to look at that as great news.

GOODWIN: Right, I know, but...

DOBBS: Because anyone who talks about the American people that way shouldn't have been kept in that campaign, Ed, in my opinion, two seconds.

ROLLIN: I never would have to begin with. Remember he was the architect of the Enron deregulation program while his wife was sitting on the board.

DOBBS: He was also vice chairman of the investment bank, UBS, which is being investigated, which is now shutting down its Swiss banking accounts for some estimated 19,000 accounts, in which billions of dollars are expected to have been denied the U.S. Treasury as a result. I don't want to hear from this man again. I really don't.

ROLLINS: Well, the only problem, tough, is he's the one guy who John McCain has listened to on the economy for a long period of time, so you know...

DOBBS: You think that's a problem? This guy -- you think this guy...

ROLLINS: No, no, no. I'm saying the problem is McCain, who needs very strong people...

DOBBS: Well, maybe he'll find...

ROLLINS: That's my point. My point...

DOBBS: He could go out and get a sophomore in high school and get better judgment.

ROLLINS: He needs to get better judgment. And this is more -- you know, this is just not an aide, he was the national chairman, he was the chairman of this committee, he has been from the beginning and was going to be the treasury secretary.

GOODWIN: Well, and I -- I mean, I don't know...

DOBBS: That's scary. Henry Paulson, right now. That would be a great way to step it up. Phil graham, for crying out loud.

GOODWIN: This may well be about the whiners thing or it may be about UBS. I mean, don't forget what happened this week in the Senate, just yesterday. So, that may be some connection here, we don't know...

DOBBS: I'm going to assume it's because this man had the temerity to accuse the American people of being whiners. That is not the kind of fellow that -- well, as a fellow Texan, I'll put it this way -- no, better not put it that way. Yes Robert, say something nice about Obama...


ZIMMERMAN: First I want to thank the McCain campaign for making this announcement right now. But the important point is the fact that it took this long, I think, says...

DOBBS: By the way, does Obama still have his -- what's the name of...

ROLLINS: Jim Johnson (ph).

DOBBS: No, no, no -- Johnson left. What's the name of the fellow who met with the Canadians to tell them that he was just kidding about the NAFTA discussion?

ROLLINS: Goldstein. There were 300 people -- 300 people listened today as his advisers on national...

ZIMMERMAN: That's a very interesting point, Ed...

ROLLINS: You know, what I want to know, he's got someone that's smart who knows the world, but not one of them met his...

DOBBS: Goolsby, that's it, Goolsby. Is he still there? Do we know?

GOODWIN: Yes, yes, yes.

ZIMMERMAN: The difference is Barack Obama separated himself very strongly in that. But, your point is interesting. Out of the three...

DOBBS: Well, that may be your definition of the difference. It isn't one for me. His remarks really pertained to the integrity of the public statements of his candidate, Phil Graham's comments went to the integrity of the American people.

ZIMMERMAN: Look at the bright side.

DOBBS: I am looking at the bright side. I'm delighted the man's gone.

ZIMMERMAN: As Ed pointed out, Barack Obama has, according to the "Times," 300 foreign policy advisers...

DOBBS: Why couldn't you just step in there and save him all that trouble? I mean, somebody -- 300? What do they do?

ROLLINS: He's the Hampton's adviser. That is not a foreign country. You and I may think it's a foreign country.


ZIMMERMAN: And someone's got to be there giving advice, somebody's got to do the job.

GOODWIN: Well, I'd like to -- so Robert doesn't filibuster this issue to the end. But, the question of this foreign trip, Lou, and I think it is a high-stakes issue because of a recent poll finding that found that only 37 percent of the country thinks Obama is very patriotic. And among the things that he could do over there...

DOBBS: What percent?

GOODWIN: Thirty-seven percent versus 73 percent for McCain. That's all people.

DOBBS: Well, Senator McCain is mostly trying to get...

GOODWIN: That could turn out to be a very significant issue and when he goes abroad, if he badmouths American policy, the president even...

DOBBS: Obama?


DOBBS: My god, what makes you think he would do that?

GOODWIN: This could come back to hurt him among the domestic audience that would be watching those three anchors.


ZIMMERMAN: You're right, it's a high-stakes trip by every measure, but the more important point is this also is a trip that can really establish the fact that the world community wants a change in direction, wants...


I think it will be very...

DOBBS: ...Europe for who we want to be president...

ZIMMERMAN:'s important...

DOBBS: This is the kind of nonsense that is coming across right now in the national media who are totally in the tank for Obama. He is going to be engaged by the populace of Europe, therefore we should elect him president.


DOBBS: That's utter madness.

ZIMMERMAN: No, what's madness is we need a leader overseas who's going to be respected by the world...

DOBBS: We need a leader right here, partner. We need a leader right here.

ZIMMERMAN: And we can't lead right here unless we're respected in the world community. On the go-it-alone-policy...I have to be honest with you.

DOBBS: I got to be real honest with you, that is a stretch that I don't -- well anyway...

ROLLINS: This started out to be a fact-finding thing, and as I said, it's now become a campaign...

DOBBS: I think McCain's right about one thing.

ROLLINS: That's what he said. That's what he originally set out, he's going to go to Europe and meet with leaders, going to hear more about Iraq, Iran and I think to a certain extent it's become a big, big...

DOBBS: What do you think people in Europe -- let me turn if I may to this issue, Ed. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, the majority leader of the Senate and Barack Obama, the presumptive presidential nominee of your party, all have said no offshore drilling. Nance Pelosi was most vocal of all, in point of fact. Meanwhile, three-quarters of the American people say they do want it. In the four days since President Bush -- who I've never accused of doing many things right -- lifted just the executive ban on offshore oiling and crude oil prices have dropped by 11 percent, nearly $20 a barrel in four days. Where in the world is the Democratic Party going to go on this issue because it seems clear to me -- and I will predict right now, your party, your presidential candidate, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are going to have to change their sition on this immediately because American working men and women and their families are getting murdered by this. ZIMMERMAN: There's no question they're getting murdered by it. The issue is who's...

DOBBS: Then let's fix it.

ZIMMERMAN: You don't fix it until you bring the price of gasoline...

DOBBS: Oh bull.

ZIMMERMAN: Excuse me, the price of a gallon of gasoline down until you...

DOBBS: How are you going to do that if you don't bring down the prices of crude oil?

ZIMMERMAN: You open up our natural reserves, that's one option of the table...

DOBBS: Our natural reserves? Out strategic petroleum reserves?

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely.

DOBBS: Free our oil?

ZIMMERMAN: Not all of it, but you can give some of that (INAUDIBLE). Also, I've worked on this issue professionally.

DOBBS: We're going to be right back, because I want to hear Robert Zimmerman explain this to me and to you. I really do. First, a reminder to vote on our poll. The question is: Do you believe the FDA will ever find the source of the salmonella outbreak? Yes or no? Is that a Republican FDA? Is it? We'll have the results for you here, later. I did that just for you, Robert. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: We're back with our (LAUGHTER) -- our political strategists and analysts. I don't mean to laugh at that.

ROLLINS: You did, Lou, you did.

DOBBS: I apologize for that. I'm trying to make sense out of...

ROLLINS: You couldn't give us a compliment. You just could not get it out.

DOBBS: You know, you're very presence is intended as a compliment and for one for which I'm grateful. What in the world are we doing in this country right now when there is this sense that we were talking about Czechoslovakia, and the presidential candidate who twice has been able to separate the concept into the two current nations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let alone spell it. DOBBS: Well, I don't want to try to spell it. But, and at the next time another fellow is on his way to the Middle East, and the first time, even as a senator within his purview and responsibilities as a U.S. senator has never been to Afghanistan, yet holding forth on policy at the presidential level. I mean, what are we doing in this country that we produce this?

GOODWIN: Well, this is one place, Lou, where had he held a hearing in the Senate on NATO role in Afghanistan, which is the subcommittee he chairs, and Hillary Clinton blew the whistle on that the first time, he might know a little more about Afghanistan.

ZIMMERMAN: A fair point. And the response of the Obama camp is, had McCain attend any hearings on Afghanistan? Maybe he'd be more prepared to address that issue, too. Bottom line is...


DOBBS: Oh, don't say it again.

ZIMMERMAN: Another point is, it's actually true, he didn't attend any hearings on Afghanistan.

ROLLINS: But you can't say he's not an expert on Afghanistan or the war or...

ZIMMERMAN: Yeah, he's been consistently wrong and of course reversed his positions about sending troops to Afghanistan.


DOBBS: Whoa, whoa, whoa, I believe he is sponsor of the surge strategy in Iraq, is he not?

ZIMMERMAN: That's right, he is.

DOBBS: Why in the world has Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barack Obama not been quick to at least say, and compliment sincerely, the change in direction and the result? Because it is saving -- no, no, let me finish this -- finishing it means saying these words -- it is saving American lives. And that is critically important and transcends partisan politics.

ZIMMERMAN: And every Democrat to their credit has applauded the military for their achievements...

DOBBS: I'm not talking about the Democrat. I talked about Pelosi, Reid and Obama. Not every Democrat.

ZIMMERMAN: ...praise the military...

DOBBS: I'm not talking about praising the military. It was John McCain who sponsored that change in strategy.

ZIMMERMAN: The problem with that argument, Lou, is that it hasn't changed the direction we're going in Iraq. And that's the problem. And while we...

DOBBS: I don't know what to say to that.

ROLLINS: It's created a stability that's allowed the government to basically do a...

DOBBS: To invite in Senator Barack Obama for a second visit.

ROLLINS: They're now basically saying we can get along without you. That's major progress. A year ago they couldn't do that.

GOODWIN: We're losing more soldiers every month.


DOBBS: I want to know this, what is going to happen on the issue of energy? Because we are facing a credit crisis, a housing crisis, a foreclosure crisis, and working men and women are getting clobbered by these outrageously high gasoline bills.


Excuse me. No, I'm going to finish this sentence and then I'd like you to deal with the issue. What in the world is the Democratic Party going to do about it? What are we as a nation going o do about it?

ZIMMERMAN: That's the more important point. And you're seeing some very creative ideas put out there by T. Boone Pickens, that both parties should be listening to and responding to.

DOBBS: By the way, T. Boone Pickens will be my special guest here Monday evening.

ZIMMERMAN: He's got a very innovative idea. And Al Gore had a very courageous proposal, as well.

DOBBS: Yeah, he wants us to be off carbon fuels in 10 years.

ZIMMERMAN: And it's a great goal and we should all be striving for it.

DOBBS: I applaud -- you know, I just plaud him. I want to give him another award. He's got a -- what has he got? He's got a Academy Award, he's got a...

ZIMMERMAN: Grammy, an Emmy and Nobel Peace Prize.

DOBBS: Let's get him another one.

ZIMMERMAN: He deserves it.

DOBBS: Absolutely.

GOODWIN: Look, there is a similarity, actually, between the war and the oil situation because in both cases, the Democrats are refusing to change in the face of changing facts and when you do have gasoline approaching $5 in many parts of the country, and the states -- some of these states now want to do offshore drilling, they would benefit from it, we would all benefit from lower gas prices.

DOBBS: It's matter of national energy gas policy. We have got to act.

GOODWIN: Absolutely.

DOBBS: This transcends Democrats, Republicans.

ROLLINS: But the problem is, the Democrats have made it partisan and at this point in time they have made it partisan. There's nothing on the table that they're willing to do.

DOBBS: ...point blank it isn't happening.

GOODWIN: That's why Bush is lifting the executive order on offshore oil. Forces the Democrats to make a decision.

DOBBS: We're out of time, guys. I would love to hear more from Robert Zimmerman.

ZIMMERMAN: I would love to share more on this one.


DOBBS: Come back next week, all right? Robert Zimmerman, thank you very much. Michael Goodwin, Ed Rollins, thank you.

Coming up next, "Heroes," our weekly tribute to the men and women who serve this nation in uniform. Tonight, former Army Staff Sergeant Scott Lawson, we'll be telling you about his courageous mission in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: And now "Heroes," out tribute to the men and women who serve us all in this nation's uniform. Tonight, we introduce you to former Army Staff Sergeant Scott Lawson. Four years ago he led a weapons squad into the Iraqi city of Fallujah to root out al Qaeda terrorists. Philippa Holland has his story.


PHILIPPA HOLLAND, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In his work boots and hard hat, Scott Lawson blends right in with his fellow construction workers. He's part of a team with a goal to accomplish, yet what happened on a house-to-house search for members of al Qaeda, will make him stand out forever. Lawson was in charge of an Army weapons squad in Fallujah with orders to enter a maze of darkened houses to kill or capture insurgents. CNN Baghdad correspondent, Michael Ware, then writing for "Time" magazine imbedded with Lawson's platoon on the mission.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: When Lawson and the others of the platoon went into that house, al Qaeda lay in wait. They set an ambush under the stairs, drawing the young soldiers into the house, and waiting until they were just six feet away in a narrow corridor before they opened up with machine guns from behind a fortified bunkered position.

HOLLAND: Driven out by heavy gunfire, the soldiers reground. Lawson's squad leader asked for volunteers to join him and root out the enemy. Lawson, armed only with a pistol and 30 rounds, stepped forward.

STAFF SGT SCOTT LAWSON, U.S. ARMY (RET): It was just me and him. And he was going to go in and I said, I can't let you go in by yourself and I wasn't letting him go in there by himself and die. I mean, that's what we thought was going to happen. So much is running through your head, it's like, am I going to come back out of this house? What's going to happen?

That night it was hectic, crazy. You lose your mind a little bit. You try to keep yourself sane. But there's not much you can do when you have bullets whizzing all around.

HOLLAND: As Lawson provided cover, the squad leader killed two al Qaeda terrorists and then moved to a second floor. By the time the fight was over, there were as many as six al Qaeda terrorists dead.

Today, Lawson works for a contractor in suburban Detroit. Soon he will marry his fiancee. Four years after Lawson left Fallujah, he's still modest about his bravery.

LAWSON: The owner of the company, he calls me a hero every time he sees me. It's kind of funny. A lot of the guys I worked with I never really knew. I felt like I did my job over there. That's what I went over there for.

HOLLAND: Philippa Holland, Reporter: CNN.


DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight -- 90 percent of you say the FDA will never find the source of the salmonella outbreak.

Let's take a look at some of your thoughts now.

Larry in Los Angeles said: "Now that Bill Gates has retired, do you think you can get Steve Ballmer to explain why they need more guest worker visas? After 50 years as a Republican, I just re- registered Independent"

Norman in Florida said: "Hi, Lou. I'm not a bitter person. I read my Bible, I believe in guns and our way of life and that this recession is not in our heads. That's why I'm now an Independent. Thank you."

Well, thank you, and congratulations.

And Hal in Kansas said: "Lou, The FDA needs to be more than a pipeline of scientists. They need people with guts to supervise them and put some common sense back into our government agencies."

And Jim in New York: "Lou, keep up the good work. It seems that you are the only one looking out for our interests. I wish I could say the same about our elected officials."

We all do. Believe me.

Send us your thoughts at

We thank you for being with us tonight. Join us here tomorrow.

For all of us, thanks for watching. Good night from New York.