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Lou Dobbs Tonight
Bailout Package; Fight to the Finish; Obama's Amnesty Agenda; North American Union; $50 Billion Question
Aired December 19, 2008 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf.
Tonight, President Bush promises the auto industry up to $17 billion of government loans. Whatever happened to the idea of moral hazard? We'll have complete coverage tonight.
And Governor Blagojevich of Illinois says he'll fight to the finish to prove he's innocent of charges he went on a political corruption crime spree. We'll have that live report for you from Chicago.
And tonight, President-elect Obama has nominated an outspoken pro amnesty open borders advocate to be secretary of the Department of the Labor. We'll have a special report on what that appointment will tell us about the president-elect's agenda on illegal immigration and border security. We'll have all of that, all the day's news and much more from an independent perspective straight ahead here tonight.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT; news, debate and opinion for Friday, December 19th. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. President Bush today defied members of his own party and ordered carmakers -- offered carmakers emergency loans beginning with $13 billion for General Motors and Chrysler. The president saying it would be irresponsible to allow the automobile industry to collapse.
The president's announcement came just over a week after the Senate refused to support a bailout of Detroit. In return for the loans, the government is demanding the carmakers and the United Auto Workers union introduce sweeping reforms. Dana Bash has our report from Washington.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The beleaguered president said he had no choice but to spend billions in taxpayer dollars to rescue U.S. auto companies from bankruptcy because that would crush the already bad economy.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are not ordinary circumstances. In the midst of a financial crisis and a recession, allowing the U.S. auto industry to collapse is not a responsible course of action.
BASH: The Bush administration will immediately give $13.4 billion in loans to two auto companies on the brink of ruin, four billion to Chrysler and 9.4 billion to General Motors. In return, they must drastically restructure to prove financial viability. If Chrysler and GM can't show by March 31st they can be profitable for the long run, they would have to pay back their government loans and then face certain collapse. In Detroit, the relieved CEO of GM expressed confidence he can meet the government's deadlines.
RICK WAGONER, GENERAL MOTORS CEO: We are more energized than ever now that we have the funding support we need to do the rest of our plan.
BASH: The president is bailing out Detroit with funds already approved for Wall Street. Money he did not want to use, but had no choice after fellow Republicans in Congress blocked his auto rescue plan last week. Those Republicans are now furious he went around them, issuing an avalanche of blistering statements.
REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: All we're doing with this now is kicking the can down the road another three months with no prospect for a solution at that point.
BASH: Congressional Republicans are most concerned there is no hard guarantee auto companies will adequately restructure. The Bush plan does lay out conditions like slashing wages and benefits by next December and limiting executive compensation. But it will be Barack Obama's administration that will decide whether automakers meet enough conditions to keep government loans.
BASH: Obama applauded the president's decision to help the auto companies and warned executives not to squander their chance at reform. Now throughout the weeks of intense debate on this Obama has refused to spend his political (INAUDIBLE) and on intentionally stayed on the sidelines. But now this falls squarely in Obama's lap though he will be the one to decide whether to choke Detroit's lifeline.
DOBBS: And the one ultimately he'll have to decide what it means to prove viability. Talk about an ambiguous expression and condition. It couldn't be more ambiguous, could it?
BASH: It couldn't. I mean they said that there is a business term and formula to have net positive profits, but in conference call after conference call, Lou, with Treasury officials and White House officials, they made pretty clear that it is ambiguous and that the discretion is going to be left to the person who is going to be in charge of this inside the government. And again that will be somebody who is appointed by Barack Obama.
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Dana Bash, with the good news that the automobile industry, General Motors and Chrysler, with a bridge loan to set their businesses in order.
As Dana just reported, the White House is demanding sweeping concessions from both General Motors and Chrysler insisting the companies become viable, whatever that means, by the end of March. But those concessions don't include any provisions to stop the exporting of American jobs to cheap overseas labor markets, outsourcing and the government isn't insisting that those car makers buy components in this country. In failing to make those demands, the government could be undermining its own objective to keep automobile industry jobs both stable and growing.
President-elect Obama today sidestepped a reporter's question on how he plans to keep well-paying middle class jobs in this country. The president-elect missed an opportunity to repudiate the so-called free trade policies that have cost this country millions of jobs, four million manufacturing jobs, just since 2000. Instead, the president- elect called for what he called reciprocity in our trade relationships.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we are trade with a country and they are sending their goods into the United States, we better be able to sell American goods in their country as well. That on both sides of the border we end up having labor and environmental agreements that are enforceable so we don't have a race to the bottom but instead the standards of living of all workers are raised.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: The remarks raised some concerns in some quarters that the president-elect will do anything at all to roll back the faith- based trade policies Republican and Democratic administrations. Major developments tonight, by the way in the legal and political battle over charges that Governor Blagojevich tried to sell the president- elect's now vacant Senate seat. The governor is speaking in public for the first time about the scandal.
He declared he's done nothing wrong. Said he'll fight to the finish to prove he's innocent. Gary Tuchman has our report from Chicago. Gary, the governor, obviously, came out fighting today. What's his strategy?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, his strategy is to battle like the golden glove boxer he once was. When the day started today, we thought Rod Blagojevich was going to have a news conference. Instead, he just made a statement, which might be a good thing for him because at news conferences, reporters tend to ask questions.
But we did learn a little bit from the statement. We learned that the governor believes he's the honest one. His detractors are the dishonest ones and that he, quote, "believes he hasn't done anything wrong."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. I intend to stay on the job, and I will fight this thing every step of the way. I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong. And I'm not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: Well this political lynch mob that the Democratic governor talks about consists of perhaps all of the Republican legislators, which is not a big surprise. But also consists of maybe all the Democratic legislators and the Democratic lieutenant governor, the Democratic attorney general, the Democratic House speaker.
He really doesn't appear to have any allies whatsoever. If he does, they're not speaking. So it's not clear how he can govern this state effectively. Even Richard Nixon had friends. So at this point he says he's not leaving. But the fact is it's out of his hands.
Impeachment hearings are under way right now. It's very possible he'll be impeached and then convicted and removed from office whether he likes it or not. What he does have going for him are a couple of good lawyers who are also planning to continue the fight -- Lou.
DOBBS: I think we should also in all fairness point out it's possible that he won't be impeached as well, Gary. You know, I was talking with Steve Cocchal (ph) of WGN today. I though it was sort of a striking piece of political theatrics that he's quoting Roger Kipling's poem "If."
And I then learned that he had used this -- well, this poem and Kipling a number of times throughout his career. So it's interesting to see the approach that he's taking.
TUCHMAN: I think the most impressive part of this new conference whether you like him or not is that he knew it by heart. He didn't look down at any notes when he said that. But I'll tell you about the impeachment and conviction, Lou. You're right. It's possible he won't be, but they voted unanimously, the House of Representatives, to conduct these impeachment hearings and there really is literally nobody in the legislature speaking out saying, hey, I like this guy.
Give him a shot. There's just so much negativity coming out of there that, like I said, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, they had allies. This guy doesn't appear to have any.
DOBBS: Well, he's a fellow who needs a friend right now. Gary, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Appreciate it, Gary Tuchman.
More questions tonight about Caroline Kennedy's aggressive push to be the one who succeeds Senator Hillary Clinton, those questions being raised in a number of quarters. Caroline Kennedy, of course, wants to replace Senator Clinton who has been nominated to be President-elect Obama's secretary of state.
Kennedy has won the energetic support of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It turns out however Bloomberg's support for Kennedy may go even farther than originally was obvious. The Bloomberg administration has granted Kennedy an exemption from a law that requires board members of charities to disclose details of their finances and pay.
Now Kennedy is the vice chair of the fund for public schools. At the same time, New York City records show that Kennedy did not vote in a number of elections. This is a separate issue including for the U.S. Senate back in 1994.
Well coming up here next, arctic weather freezing much of the country from the Midwest to the eastern seaboard. We'll have the latest.
Also rising concerns the Obama administration could be supporting a North American Union and outrage after the president-elect chooses an outspoken pro-amnesty open border's advocate to be labor secretary. We'll tell you about that next. Stay with us. We're coming right back.
DOBBS: The president-elect naming California Congresswoman Hilda Solis to be his secretary of labor, the supporters of immigration law enforcement raising concerns about her statements on both illegal immigration and her pro-amnesty record. Casey Wian has our report.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President-elect Obama has chosen California Democratic Congresswoman Hilda Solis to lead what he calls an ineffective Labor Department.
OBAMA: The Department of Labor has not lived up to its role either as an advocate for hardworking families or as an arbiter of fairness in relations between labor and management. That will change when Hilda Solis is secretary of labor.
WIAN: Solis is the daughter of immigrants from Mexico and Nicaragua and a California legislator and as a congresswoman she supported a higher minimum wage, union rights and fair trade, not free trade.
REP. HILDA SOLIS (D), SECRETARY OF LABOR NOMINEE: I'll work to strengthen our unions and support every American in our nation's diverse workforce.
WIAN: But her apparent definition of who is an American is raising concerns among advocates of border security and immigration law enforcement. Several Internet sites opposed to illegal immigration have posted a statement they claim Solis made in 1996 to a voter registration group that, quote, "we are all Americans whether you are legalized or not."
Solis' office referred calls to the Obama transition team which did not immediately respond to our request for comment. Two years ago, Solis praised supporters of expanded rights for illegal aliens who marched in opposition to a proposed border security and immigration law enforcement bill. The pro-enforcement Federation for American Immigration Reform said in a statement, "President-elect Obama's selection of a labor secretary who has steadfastly opposed protecting American workers from the impact of millions of illegal aliens in our labor force is yet another blow to hard-working families who desperately need those jobs." FAIR says Solis has supported Social Security benefits and driver's licenses for illegal aliens and opposed stricter workplace ID laws to prevent illegal aliens from obtaining jobs.
WIAN: Solis has also been a staunch critic of LOU DOBBS TONIGHT for our stance on illegal immigration and border security. Prior to her nomination, Latino lawmakers, including Joe Baca (ph), Democrat of California, said Obama's agenda might face legislative roadblocks if he didn't appoint more Latinos to his cabinet -- Lou.
DOBBS: She's an interesting choice. You know the odd thing is that it's critical she is of me. We probably -- we do agree on the issue of fair trade. We do agree on the importance of having a countervailing influence to run away corporate power. I mean, it's sort of interesting.
But when she moves to the point of saying, as she did, that we are you know that we're all legal, and all Americans, whether we are legalized or not, I mean that's bizarre. And it's going to be an interesting choice of labor secretary. But then again, you know, Elaine Chao (ph), the current labor secretary, has been nothing but a toady for multinationals and the Chamber of Commerce, so perhaps we have historic countervailing influences here with her nomination. Casey, thank you very much. Casey Wian.
Well a U.S. company accused of using false Social Security numbers to hire hundreds of illegal aliens today agreed to pay $21 million in fines. IFCO Systems will pay what is now the largest settlement ever for violating immigration laws. The Justice Department raided 45 IFCO sites back in 2006. They arrested more than 1,200 people. In 2005, more than half of the company's 5,800 workers -- just half, had invalid Social Security numbers.
Well another announcement today by President-elect Obama giving new life to the North American Union, a plan by business and political elites to tear down the trade barriers among the United States, Canada and Mexico and to create a NAFTA superhighway, all of which to be done without the approval of Congress or the American people. President- elect Obama named a diehard free trader and NAFTA supporter to be his U.S. trade representative. Bill Tucker has our report.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ron Kirk (ph) is President-elect Obama's pick to be his front man on trade. Kirk made his name in politics serving as mayor of Dallas, where he was known as a staunch supporter of free trade agreements, NAFTA in particular. He was a big proponent of a trade corridor for Mexico up through Texas. A road he once referred to as a NAFTA freeway. His nomination was welcomed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. Advocates for a change in trade policy are not so happy.
LORI WALLACH, GLOBAL TRADE WATCH: There's clearly been a gap between president-elect Obama's pledges to the American public, to truly transform our failed trade policy and some of the very important economic appointments he's made who represent people who helped implement or at least support the failed status quo.
TUCKER: Congresswoman Phil Hare (ph), a Democrat from Obama's home state of Illinois issued a statement expressing his disappointment saying quote, "I have concerns about Mayor Kirk's vocal support for NAFTA and unfair trade with China. Mayor Kirk previously has said he wants to make Dallas the capital city of NAFTA. But for every Dallas, there are dozens of Galesburgs, a place President-elect Obama knows well."
Maytag, the appliance maker, was once the largest employer in Galesburg, Illinois, until it moved 1,600 jobs to Mexico. Critics say the appointment falls in line with others by Obama and they don't like what they see.
ALAN TONELSON, U.S. BUSINESS & INDUSTRY COUNCIL: If you look at President Obama's economic team, they have all been enthusiastic supporters of outsourcing focus trade policy agreements that have exported not only good jobs from American shores but high-value technology intensive production.
TUCKER: Our current trading policies have created a near $1 trillion deficit and have been blamed for the loss of millions of American jobs that have moved to low-wage countries.
TUCKER: Now the apparent contradiction in Obama's words and actions has activists on another front worried. Last February, Obama pledged that he would resume the security and prosperity partnership talks between Mexico and Canada that President Bush initiated. He also said the talks will be transparent. Those opposed to the North American Union say that now, whether he will or will not deliver on that promise, becomes something they doubt. Lou?
DOBBS: Well, this is, you know, this is early on. The president-elect is starting to look like a bit of -- it's starting to look when it comes to trade, as Lori Wallach, the public citizen pointed out, Global Trade Watch, I mean the old boss is starting to look a lot like the new boss when it comes to the issues of off shoring, free trade. This is troubling indeed.
TUCKER: It is. And all those people in the piece tonight, Lou, are people who are inclined to support him, who are people who want to be on his side. And they are reluctant in their sort of reservations about what he's doing with Kirk. DOBBS: Well, it is extraordinary, an extraordinary appointment. But I'm sure that we'll find out some others were extraordinary too, just as we have with previous presidencies. Thank you very much, Bill Tucker.
Time now for our poll tonight, the question is are you hopeful there will be a change in our trade policy or do you think under the Obama administration it will just be more of the same? We'd like to hear from you. Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.
Russian warships tonight in Cuba for the first time since the end of the Cold War nearly two decades ago. The Russian flotilla led by a destroyer is the latest example of Russia's increasing challenge to American interests in the Western Hemisphere. Russian warships last month were in Venezuela, which also has a strongly anti-American government and a Russian warship recently sailed through the Panama Canal, the first time that a Russian warship has gone through the Panama Canal since the end of World War II.
Up next, severe winter weather ripping across the country leaving travelers stranded. We'll have the very latest for you.
And why were warning signs ignored in the $50 billion Madoff Ponzi scheme? We'll have that special report next.
DOBBS: A winter storm ripping across the Midwest and the Northeast tonight. That storm blasting Chicago, snow and ice piling up, two inches of snow in already snow-covered Chicago, hundreds of flights canceled at Chicago's airports, heavy snow making for treacherous travel on the highways in Milwaukee. That storm there dumping a foot of snow on the city and shutting down Milwaukee's airport.
As much as 10 inches of snow expected to fall in the Detroit area before the storm ends tonight. Another two inches of snow expected over the weekend. That winter storm also pounding the northeast. Snow and freezing rain a major problem for drivers in New Jersey and other states in the region, the storm causing delays in Newark, New Jersey's international airport, delays up to almost six hours.
Regulators tonight trying to unravel Bernard Madoff's massive $50 billion Ponzi scheme, the scandal, which could be the largest ever, has wiped out the life savings of many and even entire charities and foundations have lost all of their money. But did Madoff work alone? Kitty Pilgrim has our report.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The $50 billion question -- how did Bernard Madoff defraud investors of that much money without anyone noticing? Jeff Davine is a partner at California firm Mitchell Silberberg Knupp (ph), but was a former special assistant U.S. attorney for the IRS and specializes in charitable organizations. He thinks the boards of some of those institutions were negligent and there may be lawsuits against directors.
JEFF DAVINE, SILBERBERG KNUPP: You just can't delegate away your responsibility. You can certainly get people to help you, to advise you, to assist you, but ultimately, as they say, the buck stops here. The buck stops with the board of directors.
PILGRIM: Financial experts say people overlooked the details of Madoff's investments because he relied on an aura of exclusivity. Madoff was also a well-known donor on the charity circuit which to some made him above reproach or scrutiny. Ezra Merkin (ph) and his Ascot partners put all their funds, $1.8 billion, with Madoff without apparently asking hard questions about how those funds were being invested. Now, a former prosecutor says more people may be charged in this investigation.
BRAD SIMON, SIMON AND PARTNERS LLP: The feds are going to be casting a very wide net. They know that it was impossible for Madoff to have carried out a $50 billion fraud scheme by himself. So they are going to be looking at the people who bought charity money to him and they are going to be looking at the funds who invested with him.
PILGRIM: Simon says failure to disclose relationships and some of these financial transactions may result in charges of conspiracy.
PILGRIM: Now financial attorneys like Simon say not everyone can plead ignorance. There were red flags such as returns that averaged 10 percent or more through all kinds of market conditions and the fact that Madoff did not charge fees to some of the funds to direct investments to him. That was also a tip-off, they say, Lou.
DOBBS: That he pay fees for the reference?
DOBBS: I mean that would be something of, well, a problem, I would think, for most folks. There are a lot of problems here. One of them is, you know again, just the larceny in the heart of those who are defrauded, too, because in some cases people were sitting there expecting 15 percent year in and year out returns. They knew better in many cases...
PILGRIM: Too good to be true was too good to be true.
DOBBS: You bet. All right, what else certainly true, too, is that the SEC and the regulators absolutely derelict on this. But again, it's $50 billion. You know, I feel for the people who have been defrauded here, the charities that are going to -- you know who have been hit so hard. But again, we are watching on Wall Street trillions of dollars ripped out of the hands of millions of investors.
And there doesn't seem to be a great passion on the part of either Congress or the president or even the president-elect to get to the bottom of it. Criminal charges, I mean that's, in many cases effectively, the sub-prime mortgage market was a massive fraud perpetrated by people who certainly knew what they were doing, orchestrating the activity and to this point who have gotten away with it. And that is disgusting.
Kitty, thank you very much -- Kitty Pilgrim.
Coming up next do charges of conflicts of interest and favoritism in the push to appoint Caroline Kennedy to the Senate? What is the problem?
And new evidence of President-elect Obama's amnesty agenda, we'll be talking about that and more. Four of the country's top political thinkers join me.
And we'll be examining rising concerns that an Arab state could sell U.S. nuclear technology to Iran. What's wrong with that? We'll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion. Here again, Mr. Independent, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Welcome back. President Bush today met with Palestinian leader, Mahmud Abbas. The president said progress has been made in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, but there are no signs of the peace is near. The future of the peace process and other regional issues will soon be in the hands of the Obama administration.
Joining me now, Fouad Ajami, professor of Middle Eastern studies at Johns Hopkins University.
It's great to have you with us, Professor.
FOUAD AJAMI, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Thank you very much, Lou.
DOBBS: Even the discussion of the peace process sounds somehow just out of date. It seems just so irrelevant.
AJAMI: Very retro. In fact, you know, grant George W. Bush credit. He actually moved away from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the end, he ends up saying some words about it as he's leaving out of town. I mean, it's not really very persuasive. The legacy of George W. Bush is not in Palestine, because he actually stayed away from that conflict and rightly so. His legacy is Iraq, Afghanistan, the broader war on terror and his attempt to reform the outer Islamic world. And that's really where he puts his effort.
DOBBS: And that legacy, you make it sound as if you think it will be that historians will be kind to him.
AJAMI: Well, you know, I'm reminded the time that Richard Nixon left office in disgrace, the legendary (ph) Henry Kissinger trying to console him, said to him, (INAUDIBLE), Mr. President, history will be kind to you, kinder than your contemporaries. And of course, not to be fooled, Nixon said, it depends on who writes the history. So, it depends on who writes the history of the Bush presidency. DOBBS: Even if history is extraordinary critical of him, I would expect that will be kinder than his contemporaries.
AJAMI: Well, in fact, I mean, George W. Bush leaves convinced that he did the right thing. He kept us safe, so he liberated 50 million Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq and he tried, in some way, to bring reform to that very difficult world in the Arab-Islamic world and he leaves that to Barack Obama to contend with.
DOBBS: He also leaves -- we won't get into a debate on Iraq and Afghanistan, right now. But he's also leaving, apparently, with the idea that he can transfer U.S. nuclear technology to the United Arab Emirates.
AJAMI: You know, this United Arab Emirates is a very mysterious place, very inscrutable place. We like to think of them, they are on the side of the angels. I mean, they are Arab moderates, they are a sort of monarchic set of principalities. But, in fact, the largest trading partners of the UAE is none other than the Islamic Republic of Iran.
And the second most important emirate in the so-called United Arab Emirates - Dubai is a veritable extension of the Iranian economy. And so if we are really doing business with the UAE, we have to be careful about what exactly...
DOBBS: Why is this president, in the waning hours of his presidency, trying to transfer U.S. technology -- as you know, I have been critical of this president and his administration on nearly every front for years, now. But this is reaching a level of mindless irresponsibility that is remarkable even for this administration and this president.
AJAMI: Well, as you know, I've been here before with you, and I am kinder to him and to his legacy than you are. But I think usually presidents begin to do all kinds of unreasonable things at the very end, hyper-activism. They understand that Air Force One is going to another person, the White House is going to another person, power is slipping away, attention is slipping away. So you begin to say, all right, what should we do? And in fact, here, what you've done, not only in the United Arab Emirates, you also transferred and we have agreed to a massive transfer of nuclear technology to India, even though India is not signatory of the NPT, so we go and we say we don't want proliferation of nuclear technology...
DOBBS: If we had to witness that as this Congress at least is providing oversight. This president now, in the case of the Emirates, trying to do so unilaterally, individually, independently with executive order and without any hesitation, carry out proliferation which he pledged in his administration to stop.
AJAMI: Both the Congress and President-elect Obama will have a lot to say about this. I mean, this is like a midnight -- this is a recess appointment, if you will. This is trying to get something done in the final hours of their administration. I don't think they will be... DOBBS: To get what done? Nuclear proliferation is not something that one should get -- I mean, one should ever do and secondly, it's -- well, anyway, to go to the other point that you made -- Dubai. This country is in absolute economic shambles, right now.
DOBBS: And it doesn't seem this administration is paying attention to what is happening or the possible impact on his policies as, such as they were, in the Middle East.
AJAMI: Well, Dubai, it's another story, altogether. You are talking about a bubble. You are talking about a pretense potantian (ph) village, in many ways, and it has been living off Abu Dabi, the richer Emirate, next door, and so the hype of Dubia was sooner or later going to find its reckoning.
DOBBS: Fouad Ajami, it's always -- it's great to have you here. Look forward to talking with you soon. Thank you
AJAMI: Thank you.
DOBBS: Up next, a defiant governor of Illinois vowing to fight, fight, fight. And will the Bush bailout really save Detroit? I'll be joined by four of the best political analysts to assess that, here next. We'll be right back.
DOBBS: Joining me now, four of the best political analysts in the country. Democratic strategist, CNN contributor, Robert Zimmerman; "New York Daily News" columnist Errol Louis, also CNN contributor, host of the "Morning Show" on WWRL, here in New York City; Professor Carol Swain, professor of political science law at Vanderbilt University, and CNN contributor, as well, and in our D.C. Bureau, Beth Frerking, senior editor for Politco.com.
Thank you all for being here. Let's start with the appointments by the president-elect to be -- first, Ron Kirk from Dallas, an inveterate free trader and fan of NAFTA. And I thought that the president-elect had in the campaign suggested he was going to review NAFTA and suddenly he's appointing Ron Kirk to -- well, I mean, to be a charged up and raring to go kind of NAFTA guy who wants a trans- Texas or trans-America NAFTA corridor.
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I assume that's for me.
DOBBS: Oh, absolutely. You are the leading representative of this.
ZIMMERMAN: then you're got Congresswoman Solis, who has taken a position, who's nominated for secretary of labor, who has taken a very strong fair trade position. And you've got Janet Napolitano for Homeland Security. The point simply is here, it's not these individuals who are going to set the policy, it's going to be the president. And his biggest challenge, in my opinion, is going to be one, to lay out a clear direction for fair trade and stick with his campaign promises which were, I think, very important and encouraging to the American worker. And likewise, we're seeing out of this economic crisis we're living through, I think an administration that's got to be solutions based to get it to really make its mark.
DOBBS: What do you think, Errol?
ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: I read the appointment of Ron Kirk as a sign that the administration is not going to do very much on trade, at least in the first four years. I mean, it doesn't seem to be -- he's nowhere near the stature of the other appointees and, that's no disrespect to the former Dallas mayor, but it's just not somebody who's the heft and the kind of power. It's not somebody who was announced early on, it's not someone who is going to be at the stlifs administration's first 100 days or the next 100 days.
DOBBS: Any thoughts, Carol?
PROF CAROL SWAIN, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: I think the last two picks were diversity picks and that we have to be vigilant as voters. And, otherwise, I think that we are in a lot of trouble. So, it's not a time for us to let down any as far as vigilance.
DOBBS: All right -- Beth.
BETH FRERKING, POLITICO.COM: Well, you know, I agree with Errol. I think these are sort of -- and not to put a bad thing on it, but more B-list appointments. I think the one of Ron Kirk, especially as said, I just don't think that's going to be at the top of the agenda. And I also think that he was being seen as making a lot of more, sort of, moderate appointments, and I think Solis is seen as sort of an answer to a little bit more to the left tilt, you know, meeting some promises he had made to those folks.
DOBBS: Well, look, you know, I think that she's absolutely -- I mean, she has been critical of me on the issue of illegal immigration, I can return the favor. I think she is absolutely irresponsible on the issue of illegal immigration and border security. But on the other hand, her pro-union positions are -- represent a countervailing influence to what we've seen the past eight years and that is an absolute toady and supplicant in the secretary of labor's office in the form of Elaine Chao, serving multinationals the Chamber of Commerce and to hell with the worker. So, I mean, we also have that at work here, as well, do we not?
ZIMMERMAN: It's important to remember historically that any incoming president makes their first national -- first time makes their national security appointments, then puts in their finance team...
DOBBS: I know their order.
ZIMMERMAN: So, my point is, I would not look at these because they are coming at the end to be less significant. I think the key to Obama's presidency is going to be economic recovery and that means making sure he stays with a fair trade agenda. DOBBS: I would like to hope that he would stay with a fair trade agenda. First we got to see the creation of one. I hope you're right about that, Robert, but it's very difficult to see it, right now.
The idea that these are B-list appointments, you know, with the A-list appointments we have secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, we have the release this week of those donors from the Middle East. Does this trouble you at all that we are watching Saudi Arabia bankrolling terrorism and this -- also a presidential library? By the way, not just the presidential library of William Jefferson Clinton, but also H.W. Bush, and I am sure George Bush. Is -- everybody just reacting like this is business as usual in this country.
LOUIS: I don't want to believe that 10,000 or even a $1 million contribution from some foreign amir is going to sway the president of the United States on national...
DOBBS: How about (INAUDIBLE)...
LOUIS: Well, I don't know that there is a price, to be honest with you. I mean, I think though that if there -- I just can't see it. I mean, I think to close the loop, you'd have to find President Clinton, ex-president Bush, doing something that they wouldn't otherwise do, taking the position that they wouldn't otherwise take.
SWAIN: But, how do we know?
LOUIS: Well, now we do know. We know what to look for, we know where a conflict might arise.
DOBBS: What do you think, Beth?
FRERKING: Well, I think basically the fact that we're able to see these donors, that's what's important. I mean, this is all about, you know, sunshine acts in transparency and the fact we can even talk about it here tonight and talk about who are those donors, what could they possibly do, that in, itself I think is very important. And we're going to watch it and we're going to see what Hillary Clinton does when she's in office. I think she's probably going to be extraordinarily careful in any decision she makes with that out there.
DOBBS: Maybe I'm not being clear. I'm not suggesting, here, or even that concerned, that Senator Clinton, as secretary of state will in any way betray her trust or her responsibility. I'm talking about the fact we may have had presidents for some number of years, who have been betraying the trusts of the country in accepting money, either through their own foundations or their libraries. Why in the world should we permit the intrusion of foreign money? That in and of itself is a conflict, is it not?
SWAIN: But, wasn't there foreign money in the election? I mean, we don't know how much money came from overseas and so it is an influence. And I think we should be concerned about it. ZIMMERMAN: I think in fairness, by law, all contributions to American campaigns have to be by citizens, but I think here you raise a very...
SWAIN: But it wasn't in this election.
DOBBS: The issue that Carol is pointing out, I believe, is that we don't know where some of the money came from because it was done through credit cards and that's an issue for both campaigns.
ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely. I think here what's important is, obviously, there's a very valid issue to raise about whether individuals should be making donations or corporations or foreign governments into presidential libraries. What I find interesting is why is Bill Clinton getting these questions yet no one asked George Bush, Sr. to disclose the money behind his library and his son was the president. I think there's a dual standard, there.
FRERKING: Well, I think that may change with this, Robert. I mean, as far as I'm concerned, we ought to be seeing all of these donors to every library not just Democrats or Republicans...
LOUIS: It's not just donations. I mean, when you hear that former president, before he died, Ronald Reagan, went and spoke to, I think, an Amway convention for $1 million for one speech. Now, that's unseemly. I don't think people want their presidents out there hustling money like that from corporations, domestic or foreign.
DOBBS: Well, what was the net worth of the Clinton's in the last disclosure -- $109 million?
LOUIS: Doing pretty well.
SWAIN: They're doing all right.
ZIMMERMAN: And earning every nickel.
DOBBS: OK, we're going to be back with Errol Louis and folks, I want you to take his temperature when we come back, here.
And later, an outpouring of support for a family caught up in this nation's economic crisis, and it has -- if not a happy ending, certainly some happy developments to report to you. We'll be right back with our panel. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Well, let's go to -- Beth, let's start with you. Caroline Kennedy and her anointment as the successor to Senator Clinton. Done deal or not?
FRERKING: You know, I don't know if it's a done deal. We're starting to see the New York press, which is well known for being a very tough state of journalists, and they are starting to look into things like charitable exemptions -- or exemptions regarding... DOBBS: Beth, I want to give a shout here to Michael Gormley of the "Associated Press" doing research on those trust relationships with Michael Bloomberg, with the ethics board, I mean outstanding reporting. And I'm sorry to interrupt you, but I just thought it was such an impressive piece of work.
FRERKING: No, and I think we're just going -- we're going to see more of that. I mean, I You know, if there is an anointing, it's not going to happen in the press. I think people are going to ask questions about her. We've already seen a lot of debate. I think there are also concerns among the New York Congressional delegation, but that's a little harder for them to talk about in case in fact she gets appointed. I think it's going to be a very interesting next couple of months -- next month to see what David Patterson does.
DOBBS: Carol, your thoughts? I mean is it time for domestic politics to be just goosed in America because this is it at about its ultimate, isn't it?
SWAIN: I think that I would like to see some of those other candidates to get publicity and the media to begin to actually begin to do its job and...
DOBBS: You mean like Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general?
SWAIN: No, I'd like to see the other candidates that would be good choices, some of the names that have not surfaced.
DOBBS: OK. You got a name, here -- Errol.
LOUIS: I got a bunch of names. You know, well, Fran Drescher who played "The Nanny" on television, she's put her own name forward. The Green Party is putting forward Ralph Nader. You don't have to actually be a resident of the state until you are appointed.
SWAIN: Well, can you do better than that?
LOUIS: Oh, I can do -- I think we can do a lot better. Shirley Ann Jackson, and this is not somebody that is coming up thought the normal clubhouse circuit, but she is the president of upstate Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She's been considered, she's been approached for political office before. This might be her moment. She's extraordinary.
DOBBS: Shirley Ann Jackson. Dr. Jackson is one of the most impressive people I've talked to on the issues of education in this country. Her -- her administration -- this is a woman of immense accomplishment and achievement. The state, in my opinion, could not do better than Shirley Ann Jackson in that post and I hope that Governor Patterson gives her a very strong look.
ZIMMERMAN: Well, I think, referring to Shirley Ann Jackson, it points to the fact that we have a wide spectrum of individuals who have served the state in a number of different ways, in academia, in labor, in public service. It's an open field.
DOBBS: Do you have a name?
ZIMMERMAN: I've got a lot of names, but I'm trusting Governor Patterson to keep an open mind and do the due diligence to make the right choice.
DOBBS: All right. With that, I say thank you very much, all of you, each and every one. And coming up at the top of the hour, Campbell Brown, NO BIAS, NO BULL.
Campbell, what have you got?
CAMPBELL BROWN, NO BIAS, NO BULL: Hey there, Lou. In a few minutes, a high stakes act of political defiance. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich finally talking about his arrest on corruption charges and the demands that he resign. Unbelievable political theater today, if you saw it. We're going to play his entire statement for you and take a NO BIAS, NO BULL look on whether he can really hang on.
Also, your tax dollars at work. Washington is loaning billions to Chrysler and GM, after all. We'll ask whether this bailout can really save Detroit's auto industry and if Washington will ever get our money back.
And the holiday is almost here, just as people are heading to the airports, winter hits in all its fury. And we'll have all the latest weather reports and forecasts from around the country too -- Lou.
DOBBS: Fury and beauty, as well.
BROWN: Yes, absolutely.
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Campbell Brown.
Please join me on the radio Monday through Fridays for the Lou Dobbs show. Go to Loudobbsradio.com to get your local listing for the show.
And up next, how you have helped a family struggling in these subeconomic times. We will have a heartwarming update on the Stiffler family of Ohio. God bless you, each and every one. We'll be right back.
DOBBS: We want to bring you an update on a story we reported on this month. The Stiffler family of Mansfield, Ohio, like so many other families, unfortunately, all around this countries, facing tough economic times this Christmas season. The family lost their home to foreclosure after both parents lost their jobs. But after our report aired, a remarkable outpouring from our audience for support of this family.
Lisa Sylvester has the story.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tina Stiffler didn't know where to turn. She and her husband were both laid off from their jobs and the bank had foreclosed on their family home in Mansfield, Ohio. During an interview with CNN, she described her dire circumstances.
TINA STIFFLER, LAID OFF WORKER: I can't even buy them winter boots right now because every penny I've got has got to go either in groceries or in the gas tank. So, I don't, you know -- right now it's just so unbelievably hard.
SYLVESTER: Christmas was around the corner, the Stiffler family had to move out of their house about it endst week. Tina Stiffler called a local homeless shelter, but they were full. What she needed was an angel.
Many miles away in Nashville, Tennessee, Jeff Rolquin and his family, Mary Jane Schirber, saw that story on CNN.
JEFF ROLQUIN, ANGEL IN NASHVILLE: This hilt home as soon as the CNN story aired and it kind of hit me in the heart, you know, having my own children.
SYLVESTER: Jeff, working with his wife and three kids, worked diligently, even as time was running out, until they found a landlord willing to give the Stiffler's a free place to stay, a roof over their heads for 2-1/2 months, some time to find new jobs with Jeff paying their utilities. The Stiffler family is now in their new apartment. And Christmas came early this year for the Stiffler kids. Presents from Jeff and his family, a Christmas tree, and new snow boots for all the kids.
STIFFLER: He just saw a clip on the television and said I want to help that family. His kids said we want to do this. And he did it. How do you say thank you to that? I will never be able to thank him enough.
SYLVESTER: Jeff and Mary Jane, it was a chance to show their own kids the true meaning of Christmas.
ROLQUIN: And everybody took a role in this. And, you know, it's really all about Christmas.
MARY JANE SCHIRBER, ANGEL IN NASHVILLE: For me, things like this are what make Christmas special. So, it just warms your heart when you can actually make a difference in someone's life.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): And Jeff really put time, effort and energy into helping this family who he had never met. You know, but the sad thing, Lou, is that there are so many other families like the Stiffler's, with the economy that it is. The United Way in Richland County, Ohio, where Tina lives, says they've actually run out of housing funds for families in similar situations - Lou.
(END VIDEOTAPE) DOBBS: Well Lisa, thank you very much. A heartwarming story. And for more on the Stiffler family, go to our Web site, loubobbs.com. and a reminder, in the spirit of this Christmas season, there are families like the Stifflers, unfortunately, all over this country. If you can, give what you can to your local United Way. Do what can you for folks who need it. We'll try to do our best here, as well.
The results of our poll tonight, 72 percent of you say it will be more of the same when it comes to trade policy under the Obama administration. We'll see about that.
And finally tonight, we would like to welcome a new member of our team here, technical director, Chris Brown and his wife Lisa welcoming their first child, a baby boy they named Luke Martin Brown, born Saturday night, a healthy six pounds, 13 ounces. The whole family doing great and we couldn't be happier for all of you. Congratulations.
And we thank you for being with us, tonight. Please join us tomorrow. For all of us, thanks for watching. Good night from New York. And for myself, I just want to say Merry Christmas, happy holidays, happy Hanukkah and happy New Year. Campbell Brown NO BIAS, NO BULL starts right now.