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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Issues of Race in Politics Still Conflicting; Obama Heckled at Rally: Anthrax Suspect Commits Suicide; Are the Drug Cartels Winning?; Congress Goes on Summer Vacation

Aired August 01, 2008 - 19:00   ET


Tonight Senators Obama and McCain talk about race on the campaign trail as the economic crisis worsens and employers cut more jobs. No new ideas on the economy from Congress. (INAUDIBLE) members of Congress going on summer vacation without passing legislation to deal with soaring gas prices.

And troubling new evidence that Mexico is losing the war against violent drug cartels. A top Mexican government official abruptly resigns as the violence spreads to this country. We'll have all of that, all the day's news, much more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Friday, August 1st. Live from New York, sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: Good evening everybody.

Grim news on the economy today, employers cut jobs for the seventh month in a row in July; 51,000 jobs were lost last month. The unemployment rate hit a four year high, 5.7 percent. Now, as the economy worsens, Senator Obama and McCain again talked about race on the campaign trail one day after the McCain campaign accused Obama of playing the race card. We have extensive coverage.

We begin with Dana Bash reporting from Washington.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They appeared grateful that he came, but most of the National Urban League meeting sat silently as John McCain urged them to look beyond Barack Obama's inspiring words.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's one thing he always delivers is a great speech. But I hope you'll listen carefully because his ideas are not always as impressive as his rhetoric.

BASH: Just a few weeks ago when McCain spoke before another black audience, the NAACP, he went out of his way to praise Obama.

MCCAIN: Don't tell him I said this, but he's an impressive fellow in many ways. BASH: Not this time.

MCCAIN: Senator Obama continues to defer to the teachers unions instead of committing to real reform, and he should start looking for new slogans.

BASH: Every one of McCain's hits on Obama was greeted with awkward quiet. It wasn't until McCain used his favorite crowd warming trick, Q&A, that the atmosphere changed. Not that the questions weren't tough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you decide to vote against Martin Luther King's birthday as a holiday?

MCCAIN: Let me answer that one, if I could, because I was wrong...


MCCAIN: Because I was wrong.

BASH: He sparred with the crowd for more than 20 minutes and heard a lot of anger about his opposition to affirmative action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why in America where there are disparities, alarming disparities in employment between management, between income, wealth, health, would you want to eliminate programs that document that so we understand where we are and can plan for where we need to go?

MCCAIN: Affirmative action is in the eye of the beholder. I think the United States of America has reached a point where we should provide equal economic opportunities for all Americans.


BASH: And McCain got no questions from that largely African- American audience about the fact that his campaign accused Obama of playing the race card, which dominated the campaign trail just yesterday. But later this afternoon, Kitty, McCain was asked about it at a presence conference. He defended and repeated the charge, but then he quickly insisted he wanted to move on -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Dana Bash. Thanks, Dana.

Well, Senator Obama was also under fire today on the issue of race. Several hecklers interrupted a speech by Obama in Saint Petersburg, Florida, and those hecklers saying Obama has ignored the needs of African-Americans. Suzanne Malveaux has our report.



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a rare campaign moment. Barack Obama interrupted by a small but persistent group of hecklers.


OBAMA: Hold on a second. What's happening there?


OBAMA: Thanks. Hold on a second.

MALVEAUX: Three men holding a banner and two white female supporters shouted what about the black community? A Secret Service moved in, the crowd drowned out the protesters.


MALVEAUX: Obama won their silence by promising them they'd get their chance.

OBAMA: Just relax. You'll have a chance.

MALVEAUX: During the question and answer period, the heckler unleashed a heavy charge that Obama failed to respond to perceived attacks against the black community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attacks like the killing of Sean Bell by the New York Police Department and Jarvon Dawson (ph) right here in Saint Petersburg by the Saint Pete police and the Jena 6 and Hurricane Katrina and the list goes on.

MALVEAUX: Obama addressed his criticism point by point.

OBAMA: Jena 6, I was the first candidate to get out there and say this is wrong. When Sean Bell got shot, I put out a statement immediately.

MALVEAUX: But Diop Olugbala, a member of a group that advocates issues of concern to Africans and African-Americans wasn't satisfied. Obama tried another approach.

OBAMA: I may not have spoken out the way you would have wanted me to speak out, which gives you the option of voting for somebody else. It gives you the option to run for office yourself.


MALVEAUX: In the end, Olugbala said he appreciated Obama addressing his concerns, but added that the candidate failed to win him over.

DIOP OLUGBALA, HECKLER: I'm not going to vote for him because he has not shown me any evidence that he's going to do anything to benefit my community.


MALVEAUX: In a rare move for a candidate, Obama spent 10 minutes in the back and forth trying to provide that evidence to this heated voter -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much -- Suzanne Malveaux.

Well, later in the broadcast, we'll have much more on race and the presidential campaign. We'll have a special report on the worsening economy, also the impact of so-called free trade on middle class Americans.

Well, there are stunning new developments tonight in the investigation into the deadly anthrax attack seven years ago. The main suspect in the case, Army scientist Bruce Ivins committed suicide this week. The anthrax mailings killed five people. They sickened 17 others back in 2001. Kelli Arena has the report.


KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Bruce Ivins killed himself, the net was closing fast.

DALE WATSON, FORMER FBI COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: This case had been going on for a long period of time. It shows that this case is not necessarily dead or closed by any means.

ARENA: The government has released no details of its case, but sources say at the time of his suicide, the government was set to indict Ivins and seek the death penalty. His neighbors say he had been under suspicion for months.

BONNIE DUGGAN, NEIGHBOR: We started noticing the surveillance probably a year ago.

ARENA: So what led investigators to Ivins? Sources say a scientific examination showed the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks originated here, at the Fort Detrick Army lab in Maryland, where Ivins worked for more than three decades. The twisted irony here is that Ivins was a top microbiologist who was developing an anthrax vaccine. Officials say the FBI was looking in to whether Ivins released the anthrax as a way to test his vaccine. His lawyers say it was stress, not guilt that caused Ivins to kill himself.

They contend "he's innocent, that he fully cooperated with the government". Another irony, according to sources, Ivins even helped analyze some of the anthrax found in letters used in the attacks. The Justice Department is being tight lipped saying "investigative documents remain under seal and that it has to brief victims and families before the public." One of those victims is former Senator Tom Daschle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm angered by the fact that we've been so left out in the dark really and unaware of what the circumstances are. I think we are owed more than that.

ARENA: Several officials say the FBI may soon close the investigation into the attacks that killed five people indicating Ivins was the lone suspect.


ARENA: But there are skeptics from members of Congress to anthrax victims who say the government may be wrong. It mistakenly focused for years on another scientist, Steven Hatfill, who successfully cleared his name. Those doubters say that Ivins won't have that opportunity -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much -- Kelli Arena.

Well, as Kelli just reported, the Justice Department reached a settlement worth nearly $6 million with Steven Hatfill in June. Now Hatfill claimed the federal government violated his rights when his name was leaked to the media. Then Attorney General John Ashcroft called Hatfill a, quote, "person of interest" in 2002, and Hatfill was never charged in this case, strongly denied any involvement in the anthrax attacks.

CNN has learned of another nuclear mishap in the military, this time in the Navy. Now, two weeks ago, the Navy found that the nuclear attack submarine, the USS Houston, was leaking a tiny amount of radioactive water. That water may have been leaking to months. Officials insist that the amount of radioactivity was negligible. This is the latest in a string of incidents involving nuclear equipment and weapons in our military.

Mexico's violent drug cartels used disturbing new tactics in the war against the Mexican government. How big a threat is this war to the United States? We'll have more in a moment.


PILGRIM: Mexico's government tonight is having little success in controlling the raging violence from its warring drug cartels. Corruption and resignations are hampering the government and some cartel members and corrupt officials have fled to the United States and that's raising concerns that the violence will escalate on this side of the border.

Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another execution style murder in Mexico. The shooting of a Jalisco family Wednesday bore all the usual signs of a drug cartel hit, except that three of the six victims were children, a 7 and 8 -- year-old girl and a 15- year-old boy. Experts on the drug war say Mexico's cartels are increasingly targeting innocent civilians.

PROF. GEORGE GRAYSON, COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY: It is taking the war to a new level. And what the cartels are attempting to do is to strike fear in the heart of politicians, in the heart of the police, and also in the hearts of the military.

WIAN: Grayson says Mexican President Felipe Calderon's 19-month crackdown on drug cartels is now being hampered by instability and defections among his top crime fighters. Noe Ramirez, who served 20 months as head of Mexico's organized crime bureau, resigned Wednesday. This spring, he traveled to Arizona and promised cooperation with the United States on border crime.

NOE RAMIREZ, FORMER MEXICAN DEP. ATTY. GENERAL (through translator): We believe that together as a united front, we can bring together all of our assets and resources to cause a real positive impact on these problems.

WIAN: Now a growing number of Mexican law enforcement officers are fleeing across the border. The AFI is roughly Mexico's equivalent of the U.S. FBI. This week in Los Angeles, the top AFI commander in the border town of Mexicali, was arrested with his wife by the DEA and Los Angeles police and charged with possessing money in connection with drug trafficking. They haven't yet entered a plea.

Several days earlier, Mexico's "La Cronica" reported that two AFI agents were gunned down outside a restaurant in Mexicali. They were killed in an SUV which belongs to the AFI commander now in custody on drug charges in Los Angeles.


WIAN: The dead agents were recently transferred to Mexicali from Jalisco, the same state where the family of six was killed earlier in the week. Law enforcement authorities are not saying how or if any of these events are related, but they are clearly more evidence that Mexico's drug wars are spiraling out of control -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: It certainly it. Thanks very much -- Casey Wian.

Well, the Senate left today without reauthorizing a critical law in the fight against illegal immigration. It's the E-Verify program. The House yesterday passed the employee verification measure by an overwhelming margin, but Republicans in the Senate want quick approval, but there could be an effort by Democrats to add a proposal that could lead to an increase in the number of foreign workers.

Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House lawmakers agreed to extend the employment verification system another five years. The vote, 407 to two, Congressmen Bob Filner and Ron Paul the only two to vote against it. The voluntary program allows companies to verify a potential employee is authorized to work in the United States by using Social Security records. E-Verify is scheduled to sunset in November. Supporters had hoped for a 10-year extension, but settled for five years.

REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CALIFORNIA: Just something as simple as having a system to where an employer can check that a name and a number matches is not asking very much from Congress and even that seems to be heavy lifting for some of the people around here. SYLVESTER: The fight now heads to the Senate, 13 Republican senators sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid asking for a quick reauthorization. But Democratic Senator Bob Menendez would like to tie the extension of the program to changes in the visa law. He wants to recapture unused visas from past years and roll them over for use in future years.

Menendez saying, quote, "we must couple the E-Verify effort which is good for business with policy that is also good for families." But the group Numbers USA, which favors immigration restrictions, says there are no unused visas and that this is a back doorway to increase the total number of visas handed out annually.

JIM EDWARDS, NUMBERS USA: This is a bold faced attempt by Senator Menendez to increase the permanent employment based visas by half a million plus.

SYLVESTER: Congress is now taking a five-week break while the clock is ticking. Time is running out for the E-Verify program.


SYLVESTER: Now, there were members of the House who had originally opposed E-Verify, but in the end voted for reauthorization. Representative Bilbray says election year politics has something to do with it. He says many lawmakers wanted to take something back to their district no matter how small to say, see, we are doing something on immigration -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much -- Lisa Sylvester.

Well, by all measures, E-Verify is an example of a federal program that actually works. More than 69,000 employers currently use E-Verify to determine that new employees are authorized to work in the United States. Now, so far this year, those employees have checked more than four million potential employees.

The Department of Homeland Security says E-Verify is virtually error free. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said legal workers are verified instantaneously 99.5 percent of the time and that half a percent of the mismatches are usually resolved within two days.

Well, Congress is going on vacation without passing important legislation to help middle class Americans. We'll have a special report.


PILGRIM: The biggest salmonella outbreak in this country in a decade worsens. Lawyers file the first lawsuit since the outbreak began. We'll have the details next.


PILGRIM: An unusual protest on Capitol Hill today. House Republicans refused to leave the floor even as Democrats began to head out the door for a five-week recess. And we should note this is their second summer break this summer. The Republicans want to stay and vote on the energy bill and that bill could help struggling middle class Americans.

Carrie Lee has our report.


CARRIE LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sun is shining, the weather is fine. And members of Congress are out the door, gone until September. But those members will likely run into less than sunny constituents over their break as three out of four Americans now say gas prices are causing a financial hardship.

After dozens of hearings and months of heated debate, Congress did not pass a single piece of energy legislation before leaving. Republicans and nearly 70 percent of the American public support offshore exploration. Democrats say oil companies should drill on lands they already lease. Each party blames the other for failing the American public.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: Republicans are going to continue to hold the Democrat majority here in Congress accountable. We've watched them bring sham bills to the floor and do everything they can to block a vote on our all of the above energy plans.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Republicans continue to stand with the failed policies of the Bush administration; they continue to stand with the oil companies.

LEE: Congress did send a product safety bill to the White House late Thursday, but a ban on toxic chemicals and toys won't kick in until after the holidays. And President Bush signed a major housing bill on Wednesday behind closed doors.

It gives aid to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but a bailout could cost taxpayers over $1 trillion. And it will only help about 400,000 homeowners who are up-to-date on payments. That's less than a tenth of the 5.5 million loans that could default by the end of next year.


LEE: And the fight for an energy plan took a dramatic and unusual turn today. Take a listen to this.




LEE: (INAUDIBLE) adjourned the House before noon, turned off the television lights. These are Republicans you hear chanting vote, vote, vote. That's right, CNN Radio was there telling us Republicans stayed on the floor for quite a while talking about gas prices, bashing Pelosi for denying a vote on offshore drilling and Democrats for leaving town without an energy vote.

There was a good sized group of civilians watching, as well. Republicans of course happy to talk to them and reporters showing they were willing to work and stay to get this done. And the same move happened basically in 1995 when the new Republican majority did not want to pass the Clinton budget and the government shut down, but Kitty they didn't stay past 30 minutes. This apparently went on for quite a while...


LEE: ... so what a way to end the session.

PILGRIM: Well it's a fitting way given the sort of progress that Congress has made, but thanks very much. Carrie Lee.

LEE: Sure.

PILGRIM: Well it is not clear how much legislation Congress will pass when it returns in September. Both the House and Senate go back to work after Labor Day. The House resumes voting on September 8th. But it adjourns on September 26th, so that means that members of Congress can campaign for re-election and that means the House will be in session for only 15 days for the rest of the year. The Senate has not made its calendar public.

Well, it's time now for tonight's poll. And do you believe Congress should stay in session until it passes legislation to deal with soaring gasoline prices? Yes or no? Cast your vote at We'll bring you the results a little bit later in the broadcast.

We do have time now for some of your thoughts.

Martha in North Carolina: "Personally I think we should give Congress a permanent vacation. Anyone leaving on this so-called vacation at such a desperate time for our country should be given their pink slip."

Gerald in Tennessee wrote to us: "Not only should the FDA officials be fired, they should be prosecuted as rigorously as Ramos and Compean for dereliction of duty. They certainly did more harm to the American people than the officers did to a drug smuggler."

John in Pennsylvania: "The FDA gave out 35 million in bonuses during 2007. Another waste."

We'll have more of your e-mails a little bit later in the broadcast.

Well, there's evidence tonight the salmonella outbreak is widening. The Centers for Disease Control is reporting 10 new cases bringing the official number to 1,329 across 43 states. The actual number of cases could be as high as 40,000. The Food and Drug Administration this week finally admitted what we've been reporting for over a month. The source of this country's salmonella outbreak is Mexico. But the agency is refusing to admit mistakes in handling the outbreak.

Louise Schiavone has the very latest details.


LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The most severe salmonella outbreak in a decade may have made several thousand sick, ravished the tomato industry, and raised questions about food safety in America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're scared. Been very scared to buy just about any kind of vegetable, even fruits right now I've been afraid of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was concerned when they -- I found out that they hadn't proven that it was tomatoes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It can be difficult to make a good choice.

SCHIAVONE: These Central Park picnickers like everyone else are still trying to digest why it took the government several months to find any actually contaminated food and how it should affect their own choices. Seattle attorney Bill Marler is filing the nation's first outbreak lawsuit on behalf of a Colorado man sickened by an imported jalapeno he bought from Wal-Mart.

BILL MARLER, PLAINTIFF'S ATTORNEY: Wal-Mart sold contaminated food to my client. One of the questions I'd like to ask Wal-Mart is, you know, where do you factor in food safety into you know driving those prices low.

SCHIAVONE: Wal-Mart told LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, quote, "food safety is top priority. Our thoughts are with our customer. Rest assured that we took immediate action and worked with our suppliers and stores to remove impacted products from our shelves as soon as we were made aware of the FDA's concerns around jalapenos."

This former FDA associate commissioner says country of origin labeling is a good start, but not a cure-all. More important he says is FDA inspections of foreign food sources like the Mexican farm where salmonella Saintpaul was detected.

WILLIAM HUBBARD, COALITION FOR STRONGER FDA: The FDA inspectors found conditions that are not a surprise. They found wild animals and domestic animals in the irrigation ditches that provide the water to the plant and they found poor sanitation facilities for the farm workers.

SCHIAVONE: That farm like thousands of other Mexican farms supplying the United States as well as many farms in this country was never inspected.


SCHIAVONE: But Kitty, inspectors cost money, resources the Bush administration has not asked Congress to provide until recently. And regardless of the final shape of it, all agree that reform is long overdue for the nation's food safety system -- Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much -- Louise Schiavone.

Well, last night, we reported on the different types of felonies committed by members of Congress. And in that report, we misidentified former Congressman Bill Janklow as a Democrat. Janklow was, in fact, a Republican congressman from South Dakota. He resigned after he was convicted of manslaughter in the death of a motorcyclist in a traffic accident.

Congress goes on vacation without voting on legislation critical to middle class Americans. We'll have that report.


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: News, debate and opinion, and Independent view. Here again, Kitty Pilgrim.

PILGRIM: Well, more disturbing signs of this country's troubled economy. Unemployment is now at a four year high, 5.7 percent. Businesses have cut jobs for the seventh straight month. And at the same time, there's alarming new evidence of something we've been reporting here for years, our so-called free trade policies are failing middle class Americans. Bill Tucker has our report.


BILL TUCKER, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Our economy lost 70,000 manufacturing jobs in June and July, alone. Since December, 271,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost.

PROF PETER MORICI, UNIV OF MARYLAND: The manufacturing job losses have been accelerating even though we have a smaller manufacturing base. Automobiles certainly is losing jobs, but we're losing jobs in other durable goods industries, largely because we can't export into the fast-growing Asian markets.

TUCKER: We can't export to Asia, but we do import. The U.S. Trade deficit with Communist China more than tripled since China entered the world trade organization, from $84 billion in 2001, to $262 billion in 2007. As those hundreds of billions of dollars were pumped out of the American economy, so were millions ever jobs.

In their analysis of trade, wage and labor, the Economy Policy Institute found that our trade practices cost us more than two million jobs, 44 percent of the workers who lost their jobs were workers with no college degree, posing a big risk to our economy.

ROBERT SCOTT, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: Seventy percent of American workers don't have a college degree, that's 100 million workers. Are we going bring them off, are we going to write them a pension check and tell them to go away and get a college degree? I don't think so.

TUCKER: Twelve states lost more than two percent of their total jobs to trade, according to the analysis, Idaho and New Hampshire led the country, each losing 2.5 percent or more. Two-thirds of the jobs last were manufacturing jobs and many of those jobs, roughly 200,000, were jobs held by scientists and engineers within manufacturing. A college degree provided no protection, outraging those who speak on behalf of industry.

SCOTT PAUL, ALLIANCE FOR AMERICAN MFG: Thirty-one percent of the jobs that we've lost to China occurred among workers who have a four year college degree, and more than half a million of the jobs occurred in the computer and electronics sector, and advanced technology.

TUCKER: The very jobs that we have been told are the future of the American economy.


Not, according to this report by the non-partisan EPI, one-third of the workers who lose their jobs will not find another job, and among those that do, the jobs will pay less, about $8,000 a year less, stripping $19 billion in wages out of the economy. That's what it did in 2007, the single strongest source for job growth now? Government. And Kitty, the taxpayer base is eroding.

PILGRIM: That's right, and state and local governments may have to start cutting jobs as the economy trims the tax base.

TUCKER: It is what they call a non -- the cycle is not good, feeds on itself and it caves in on itself.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Bill Tucker. Disturbing report.

Well, lawmakers, today, went on vacation without completing work on a critical proposal to protect consumers from abusive practices by credit card companies. Now a House committee, last night, approved a credit card holder's bill of right, but the full House adjourned for its August recess before voting on the measure. The failure to pass a law leaves credit card companies with the freedom to change fees at anytime.


(voice over): Deceptive practices by some credit card companies have helped put Americans deep into debt. Credit card agreements often say the companies have the right to change the terms of the agreement at any time for any reason. A day late payment can result in a $30 to $40 late fee, and a hike in interest rates applied retroactively to the entire balance. Subprime credit cards are offered to people with bad credit histories, but it's a trap.

TAMARA DRAUT, DEMOS: At the end of the day, you get let's say a credit line of $200, but 150 is taken up with fees. It's a lucrative piece of the credit card business, it's a growing piece of the credit card business, and it's just completely deceptive and unfair to the consumers.

PILGRIM: When you sign that credit card statement, you usually sign away your right to go to court if there is a dispute. Most credit card companies hire their own arbitration firms to settle disputes. One study, by Public Citizen, found consumers lost 94 percent of the cases of arbitration against their credit card companies. Not a surprise, because the arbitration company is hired by the credit card company.

TAYLOR LINCOLN, PUBLIC CITIZEN: Oftentimes just using the card constitutes acceptance of the agreement, so this arbitration clause will be buried in the fine print, one of those five or six page credit card agreements printed in six point type.

PILGRIM: Legislation in the House would ban the most egregious of these practices by credit card companies, like double cycle billing and would give consumers 45 day notice before any interest rate hike.


Now, this bill will now go to a full House bill this fall after congress's summer recess.

Insurgents kill five NATO troops in Afghanistan in one day. Why can't we send reinforcements to Afghanistan immediately? Well, General Grange will join us next.


PILGRIM: It was a deadly day FOR NATO troops in Afghanistan. Roadside bombs, today, killed five NATO troops in the east of the country. There's no word yet on whether those troops were American.

Twenty of our troops were killed in Afghanistan last month. That's almost twice as many as the number killed in Iraq in July. Four-hundred and seventy-eight of our troops killed in Afghanistan since the war began, 2,290 of our troops wounded, 1,438 of them seriously.

The casualty rate for our troops has risen sharply in Afghanistan. The military says the number of insurgent attacks in eastern Afghanistan has increased 40 percent in the past year.

Well, joining me now for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, General David Grange, and he is the president and CEO of the McCormick Foundation, one of the country's largest public charity. He also lectures on leadership at Army bases around the country and is a nonpaid board member of a security company that has Pentagon contracts.

General Grange, thanks for joining us. Let's start with Iraq, if you don't mind. It is the lowest level of deaths in July, in the entire war. President Bush has said that if the level of violence continues to go down, that troop cuts can be made in Iraq. What's your assessment of how many troops we could bring out of Iraq by the end of the year? BRIG GEN DAVID GRANGE (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yeah, I hate to give numbers, because numbers never hold true. But, I'm sure that they have it broken down by battalions and brigades, so anywhere from 500 to 3,000 type man units at a time. And it's just going to depend on the conditions, it always does. And I can tell you that the military, more than anybody, would love to have the rotation of troops come back sooner than later, to use them for other contingency, but also for morale.

PILGRIM: Well, you know, General Petraeus has said he's conducting a 45 day review of security conditions in Iraq to determine about troop cuts. Do you think that we will have an answer to that unknowable question in a short period of time?

GRANGE: You know, he may provide his assessment to his chain of command, his leaders, earlier than the 45 days, if he feels comfortable with that. There's going to be tremendous pressure for him to do that, tremendous pressure. But I think he'll hold his own on giving the advice as he see it is on the ground at the time he thinks it's appropriate regardless of the fallout, but there will be tremendous pressure to shorten that window up.

PILGRIM: As we mentioned before we introduced you, there twice as many of our troops killed in Afghanistan than in Iraq, at least five NATO troops on the first day of this month. Where do we go in Afghanistan, what's the vision for Afghanistan at this point, how bad is it and what do we need to do there?

GRANGE: You know, I don't know if -- I've heard recently an articulated end state or finish set of conditions for Afghanistan for the effort to say, OK, we've accomplished what we want in Afghanistan. I don't think it's going to be one of those tickertape parade type win or lose events, it's going to be conditions to a certain level. In other words, we're going to meet conditions that are acceptable to us where we feel that it's appropriate then to start pulling out. But right now, unless there's some type of augmentation, and not just military, but other elements of power, it's going to be tough to achieve whatever they come up with.

PILGRIM: There's discussion of putting more troops in Afghanistan. Center Jim Webb today told the "Financial Times" that the U.S. should think long and hard about sending reinforcements to Afghanistan without determing what they want to accomplish in Afghanistan. Do you agree with that assessment?

GRANGE: Well, I think you have to know what you're trying to accomplish, of course. I mean, the reason for the war should be understood before you start applying resources against that effort. I do think that troops need to be -- more troops need to be sent there, I believe the commanders on the ground who requested it. But also other elements like the economics and that. It doesn't do any good to surge troop levels without surging the other requirements like the political processes, trying to turn around the poppy crop situation, corrupt officials in the Afghanistan government, economic advancements for the people themselves and you have almost 90 percent based on agriculture type society. So, I think the instincts should are articulated, but I do think it needs resourcing and soon.

PILGRIM: All right. Thanks very much, General David Grange, thank you.

A reminder now to vote in tonight's poll. Now, do you believe that congress should stay in session until it passes legislation to deal with soaring gas prices? Yes or no. Cast your vote at We'll bring you the results in just a few minutes. Also, please join Lou on the radio Monday through Friday for THE LOU DOBBS SHOW; go to to find the local listings for THE LOU DOBBS SHOW on the radio.

Senator McCain accuses Senator Obama of playing the race card. Three of the country's top political analysts will join me to discuss that and much more.


PILGRIM: Joining me now are three of the sharpest political minds in the country. We have CNN contributor, Ed Rollins, he is a former White House political director and former campaign chairman for Mike Huckabee. We have Keith Richburg, New York bureau chief for the "Washington Post." We have Michael Goodman, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist of the "New York Daily News" and also a CNN contributor.

Gentlemen, thanks for joining me. You know, we sit here today with pretty bad economic news, unemployment reaching a four year high, unemployment rate as 5.7 percent; we've had an entire week of campaigning that really didn't discuss this much at all. Ed, do you think that the candidates are missing the boat, here?

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think they're definitely missing the boat. If someone could connect ordinary voters and convince them that I have the plan or I have the desire to move this thing forward, I think they'll make great progress. I think they're all afraid of it. I think they don't have any clear cut plans and I think, as you see, McCain's all over the place, Obama's all over the place. He came up with an idiotic thing today to basically tax the oil companies to pay for, you know...

PILGRIM: When I read that, I have to say...

ROLLINS: It just doesn't add up, so I think time they throw something out, it didn't work so she back away from it.

PILGRIM: Yeah, I guess he advocated a $1,000, you know...

ROLLINS: Rebate.

PILGRIM: Subsidy for Americans, and then to tax the profits on the oil company to pay it.

ROLLINS: And it certainly won't past until next year when he becomes president.

PILGRIM: The whole thing -- OK -- Mike. MICHAEL GOODWIN, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Well, look, I -- absolutely right, they're not touching the scope of the problems and that's the problem is that the problems are so big that their solutions are so puny, and so they get fanciful, you get something like, oh, let's have a windfall, let's have a giveaway, when we have real economic problems that took a long time to get here, it's going to take a long time to get out. But the sooner we start with serious issues about how to address the deficit, trade, oil, those sorts of things, I mean, that's how we're going to get out of this, not by a quick fix. And I think both candidates, whose ever president, is going to have a very hard time because they haven't built a consensus for a program.

PILGRIM: Doesn't it trivialize it, though, to just say oh, maybe we'll give you $1,000 for your heating bill next winter and not really address the underlying structural issues with this economy -- Keith.

KEITH RICHBURG, WASHINGTON POST: Well, yeah, I think that's absolutely true. But, you know, on the other hand, I have to say that, you know, being conspiratorial, I'm not sure this is all an accident. I mean, the McCain campaign knew this was the week that we were getting earning reports coming out, jobless reports coming out. So, what do they give us, a Britney Spears/Paris Hilton ad and today a Moses ad. I mean, you know, and so Obama's camp is in the position of having to respond to these things and not really go out there and talk about these issue on the table.

PILGRIM: You know, we were talking about the sort of lack of substance in the campaign this week and we had a lot of discussion about very nebulous things. Well, we have the McCain camp accusing Senator Obama of playing the race card. Let's play for our viewers the comments that generated that whole discussion.


BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We know what kind of campaign they're doing to run. They're going try to make you afraid. They're going it try to make you afraid of me.



They're going to say, you know what, he's young, inexperienced and he's got a funny name. Did I mention he's black?


PILGRIM: Now, he's clearly playing a bit with the audience, but then the McCain campaign jumps on it and says he's playing the race card. What do you think of that?

ROLLINS: Well, he had been better if he had said I'm young and inexperienced and he's old and experienced. You know, and sort of let it go with that. You know, I think to a certain extent it's an underlying issue. Everybody's afraid to get out there and talk about it, everybody assumes, at least in the chattering class that we're all a part of that one of the reasons Obama is not moving forward is that there is some underlying racism that's there and I think that it's one of these things where the gas so on the floor and everybody's afraid of lighting the match and setting the room on fire.

GOODWIN: You know, look, I mean, but it's true that Obama is trying to get black turnout raised in states that are traditionally Republican. Georgia, for example, they're getting a massive registration drive in the hopes of taking Georgia. So, the racial issue, he is using it go to his advantage when it is to his advantage. So, I thought that line was an unfair one. I don't think McCain has ever suggested that the reason to vote against Obama is because he's black.

RICHBURG: I agree. Look, when I was with Obama still during the primaries in South Dakota, he says that when he's in a place that's a largely white state and he's saying basically -- he's not saying specifically that John McCain will do this, he's saying take a chance on me, don't believe them when they say it's risky. And he's kind of making the leap saying, yes, it is risky, I realize that, most of you probably never voted for a black candidate before. That's what he's saying.

PILGRIM: You know, you referenced this other ad. And this is a McCain ad which was released and it's sort of mocking senator Obama from some of things that he said on the campaign trail. Let's play that for our viewers.


OBAMA: This was the moment when the rise in the oceans began to fold and our planet began to heal.

MOSES: Behold his mighty hand.

ANNOUNCER: Barack Obama may be the one, but is he ready to lead?


PILGRIM: I mean, this has...

ROLLINS: See, this is the modern campaign trick. They're not spending millions of dollars to put this on the air, this is something they throw out there and hope gets picked up on something like this. They're having fun in a way and sort of playing with the new politics, the new techniques of politics. But, that's not a that's not a serious campaign effort and neither was the one they threw out the other night.

PILGRIM: It will probably get more hits then it.

ROLLINS: It will get hits by many nonvoters. It will be a 14, 15-year-old hits -- and they'll love it and they'll think it's...

PILGRIM: Wrong demographic. RICHBURG: I would say, though, he's got to careful because, you know, too many of these things and it starts to look like he's trivializing this campaign. There are big issues out there and he's putting out these ads and I think that's the danger.

GOODWIN: I think can he get away with it in the summer. I think that's certainly not an ad you would see in the fall in the general election. You can you see it now, it's kind of, no one's really paying that much attention. Everybody's a little bit tired of politics, I think, after the long primary. So, it's this enter lewd session we have right now after the primary, before the general. You get away with it, I agree, that you can't do it too many times.

PILGRIM: It's August. It's August.

Let's look at a couple of polls. And I think they're very interesting because they're so tight. We have the "USA Today"-Gallop poll of registered voters and we have Obama leading 47 to McCain's 44 percent and then when you look at likely voters, you have McCain at 49 percent and Obama at 44 percent. What strikes me is that it's extremely tight. It still is -- Keith.

RICHBURG: You know, I think we can't ignore the elephant in the room. He's black. You know, we have to say it's a real leap for a lot of people to make that judgment. There are a lot of undecided. I think despite this long grueling primary with Hillary Clinton, most people don't know who he is. He's got a funny name. He's young.

PILGRIM: They don't know who he is?

RICHBURG: A lot of people haven't tuned in to politics yet and they probably won't until around Labor Day or so, and they want to know more about him, they want to know are these rumors about him true, does he really say the pledge of allegiance, you know? I think once we engage -- I think, the only poll that really is going to count are the ones after the conventions and after the debates. But, you know, I think it's a sign that he's got a lot of work to do to close the sale. He hasn't close that had sale yet.

PILGRIM: This big splashy overseas trip, a lot of attention and still you're getting such tight numbers.

GOODWIN: I think one of the interesting things is Obama, he's not the incumbent, of course, but the race is something of a referendum on him. Do you like him or not? McCain is almost kind of the default pick if you don't like Obama. So I think it's very much about Obama, it's his to win. I think he's clearly the frontrunner. He should win, it's a big Democratic year. Democrats are almost certain to pick up big numbers in both houses of Congress, but it's all about Obama and he hasn't closed the sale, that's why he hasn't gone over 50 yet.

PILGRIM: But it strikes me that with the Republican baggage on the Bush administration that they're actually still that tight.

ROLLINS: He's not -- first of all, there's always a base in either party. I mean, Bush still has a base that still supports him and will to the bitter end. The base is somewhere around 39 percent to 44 percent, depending on the polls. McCain has that. McCain has 85 percent, 90 percent of Republicans who say they're for him. Obama has most of the Democrat base. What's still out there is the Independent. Pew had a poll yesterday in which 56 percent think swhee have a third party, 56 percent, that's a giant, giant number. So, I don't think people have settled in on this. The Independents, people who are Independents, don't make up their mind until late and certainly aren't making up their mind at this point in time.

PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Ed Rollins, Keith Richburg, Michael Goodman, thank you.

Still ahead, she turned tragedy into triumph, the inspirational story of one young soldier. Stay with us.


PILGRIM: Now "Heroes," is our tribute to the men and women who serve this country in uniform. Tonight, we have the story of former Army Lieutenant Melissa Stockwell. She lost a leg in Iraq following a bomb explosion, but Stockwell is not letting that hold her back. She's heading to Beijing to compete in this summer's Paralympic games. Philippa Holland has her story.


ARMY LTNT MELISSA STOCKWELL, U.S. ARMY: We had five people in our Humvees, no door, no armor or anything and we started out as usual and we were about 10 minutes in to our ride and our Humvees went under an underpass and we hit an IED. My leg was severed, immediately it was gone.

PHILIPPA HOLLAND, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Most military men and women leave their loved ones at home, with you Army Lieutenant Melissa Stockwell's husband, a fellow U.S. soldier, was also stationed in Baghdad.

STOCKWELL: He got there just in time for me to wake up from my surgery and having him being the first person that I saw was a -- I mean, it was, honestly, it was lifesaver.

HOLLAND: Stockwell underwent 15 surgeries to her left leg and a year of rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, but spirit and determination have been the strength behind her recovery.

STOCKWELL: People ask, well didn't you ask yourself, what if your vehicle had doors or what if this? You know, there's not a point to asking yourself what if this, what is that, because the point is, you can't go back and my leg's not going to grow back, I'm not going to get my leg back, so it is what it is and I kind of decided to choose that path early on and just kind of move on with things and just see where life brought me.

HOLLAND: Life has brought her here to the Olympic training facility in Colorado Springs and a place on this year's Paralympic team.

STOCKWELL: At this point in my life, I couldn't be happier.

HOLLAND: After learn to go walk again, slipping in to the water came naturally. The competitive drive returned for the lifelong athlete. Nearly four years to the date of that life-changing day in Iraq, Stockwell qualified for the U.S. Paralympics team.

STOCKWELL: That was a great day. I felt so good, and I got in the water and I was ahead of everyone and I heard my family cheering in the last 100. And, just -- I don't know, coming into the wall, I -- the crowd went crazy and I looked up at the time clock and I didn't believe my eyes because it was -- it was -- I mean, I don't know, much better than I expected. I was very emotional, kind of told myself about, I guess, how far I'd come and just being able to go and represent the U.S. is a huge honor for me.

HOLLAND: Philippa Holland, CNN.


PILGRIM: Well we wish her the best of luck in Beijing. Stockwell is the only female veteran from Iraq representing the U.S. on the paralympic team. And after competing, she says she will return to her career with a prosthetics company in Chicago. We wish her the very best.

Tonight's poll result -- 94 percent of you believe Congress should stay in session until it passes legislation to deal with soaring gasoline prices.

We have time for some more of your thoughts.

Joe in North Carolina wrote to us: "Today my wife and I changed our registration to Independent. She was a Democrat, and I was a Republican. God bless you, Lou, for all you do. You are a great American."

And Pam in Pennsylvania: "More than the FDA needs to be fired in this administration, but I guess you have to start somewhere."

And James in Montana wrote: "Lou, if both border patrol agents had worked for the White House they would have never spent a day in prison. Too bad they are not friends of the President."

Burton in Kentucky wrote: "Dear Lou, Congress is getting ready for five weeks of vacation. Why don't they just take off all 52 weeks a year and find another line of work?"

We love hearing from you. Sends your thoughts at

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us tomorrow.

For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. Up next, Campbell Brown with an "ELECTION CENTER" special, looking at the crumbling infrastructure around us -- "Roads to Ruin: Why America is Falling Apart" -- starts right now.