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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Urgent Situation; Falling Short; Bank Failure; Border Drug Wars

Aired January 27, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, President Obama meets face to face with Republican critics of that massive stimulus package, one day before a critical House vote on the legislation. We'll have complete coverage for you tonight.

Also, we'll begin going through this stimulus legislation, line by line to show you what almost a trillion dollars buys, who it benefits, and just how stimulative is it, our special coverage, "Lou's Line-Item Veto" tonight.

Also tonight, gun sales have soared since the election of President Obama. Gun owners all around the country are concerned about the threat of a new assault on their freedom to buy and own guns. We'll examine charges of outright pro-Obama bias in much of the national media as well, all of that, all the day's news, and much more, straight ahead, here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Tuesday, January 27th. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. President Obama today went to Capitol Hill seeking Republican support for the almost $1 trillion economic stimulus package. President Obama said the United States faces an urgent situation that it is time, as he put it, to put politics aside. But Republican and independent critics of that legislation say the plan falls well short of its goal to give the economy a massive boost over the next two years. Republicans say the package simply has too much spending and not enough tax cuts. Dana Bash has our report from Capitol Hill.


DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barack Obama spent two hours and 37 minutes at the Capitol entirely with Republicans.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't expect 100 percent agreement from my Republican colleagues, but I do hope that we can all put politics aside and do the American people's business right now.

BASH: The new president's walk across the aisle and the House and the Senate a carefully choreographed move to show he's making good on a promise for bipartisanship. But several GOP lawmakers said that behind closed doors, the spirited discussion and critical questions did not lead to much common ground for his nearly $1 trillion economic stimulus plan.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: The bill that House Democrats will bring to the floor tomorrow will literally be a catchall of traditional pet programs and more government. The only thing it will stimulate is more government and more debt, and the president heard that message today.

BASH: Mr. Obama got an earful from several GOP lawmakers complaining they've been shut out by his fellow congressional Democrats. Several told him his tax cuts were not deep enough and misdirected. One Republican lawmaker complaining his plan gives tax cuts to Americans who don't pay income tax. On that, Mr. Obama would not budge. One GOP source saying he responded "feel free to whack me over the head, because I probably will not compromise."

OBAMA: There are some legitimate philosophical differences with parts of my plan that the Republicans have, and I respect that.

BASH: The reality is Mr. Obama didn't have much of a shot at changing GOP minds. Before he arrived, CNN is told, that House GOP leaders urged their rank and file to vote against his stimulus plan, even moderate Republicans tell us they're wary.

REP. JIM GERLACH (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Not intending to be a rubber stamp for any particular president regardless of whether they are Republican or Democrat.


BASH: But before Mr. Obama arrived, he did force House Democrats to make one concession to Republicans very upset about what they call excess spending, and that is to do away with $200 million for contraception programs. But, Lou, beyond that in terms of his meetings here, we're told he really didn't make any concrete promises on answering some of the Republicans' concerns though he did say he would go back and talk to aides especially on one specific GOP gripe and that is there aren't enough tax cuts for small businesses in his plan. Lou?

DOBBS: Well, we're starting introducing tonight Dana, a new segment on this broadcast called "Lou's Line-Item Veto." We're going to go through much of the stimulus package in the days ahead, focusing on, amongst other things, how contraception and abortion became an economic policy at least in the minds of the House leadership.

But, I'm curious, isn't there some concern there on Capitol Hill that there -- that perhaps beyond partisanship that Congress has a responsibility to at least read the legislation and have a significant understanding through analysis of its impact or lack thereof?

BASH: Very much so especially among Republicans and frankly even some Democrats who are saying that this is happening very fast, they understand, because Mr. Obama is saying, we need a stimulus and we need it now for the economy. But, they're saying, hold on a minute, we want some time to read it. It's not going to happen in the House, because they're voting tomorrow. But in the Senate they are taking a little bit more time and certainly by the time this process is over, probably by mid-February, Republicans and Democrats are hoping that they will get a lot more time to read and to put their ideas forward in this. And maybe even change it a little bit.

DOBBS: I mean that's sort of odd to say that the Republicans are the ones concerned about constitutional responsibility. Certainly the Democrats share that. Give us a sense, if you can, Democrats and Republicans opposing or for it, how many of them do you suppose have read the about 600 and almost 50 pages of legislation?

BASH: That is a very hard question to answer.

DOBBS: I know.

BASH: My guess...

DOBBS: But I thought I'd take a shot at it, Dana.

BASH: My guess, Lou, to be honest with you, not very many at all.


BASH: Probably those actually on the committee, committees, I should say, that wrote this and probably not many. Maybe we will actually be -- be blessed and be lucky and some of them are taking the big, thick bill home tonight and reading it before they go to sleep tonight.

DOBBS: And I will not follow that up by asking you how many do you suspect would do that. Dana thanks a lot -- Dana Bash on Capitol Hill.

The White House tonight says it is confident that at least some of those Republicans will be supporting this legislation whether they've read it or not. But it's unclear how many Republicans, if any, will actually be voting for the plan tomorrow. Ed Henry has our report now from the White House. Ed, did President Obama sway any Republicans as far as we know when he went to Capitol Hill?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, it really looks like he did not. But in fairness to him, as Dana just reported, a lot of these Republican leaders already before he started the lobbying on the Hill were coming out and saying they didn't support the bill and they didn't want their colleagues to support it. So, they sort of had their minds made up already and sort of playing out the way a lot of these battles play out, which is that each side is sort of going to their corner and deciding based on party lines.

That's not what this president wanted, certainly not for his first piece of legislation, certainly not for a signature piece of legislation dealing with the economy, this $825 billion bill. He wanted this to be an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in both chambers. It still could get there. I stress could. But in this early stage, it's very clear he hasn't won very many Republican votes at all. Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, will not be pinned down on exactly how many Republican votes they're expecting.

And so what I think we're going to see tomorrow is that the House is very likely to pass this stimulus bill, mostly with just Democratic votes and what the White House is hoping for is that when it goes to the Senate and it goes into a conference committee and they go through all their processes over the next couple of weeks, there will be some things added and some things taken out and they hope the final product will get a lot more Republican votes. But right now they don't have them, Lou.

DOBBS: You know as we're standing here and reporting on this in horse race terms, Republicans and Democrats and so forth, I wonder to what degree -- and I'm going to make this purely rhetorical, things might be different if we were reporting on actually the constitutional responsibility of the United States Congress when it comes to the legislation, particularly of the import of some $1 trillion that will have, one hopes, a significant influence to the good on the lives of Americans, but there is no reporting, it seems, on that except on this broadcast.

Ed, I want to turn to new evidence tonight, that the recovery package may not deliver as much stimulus to the economy this year and next, as the White House is, of course, claiming. What is -- what have you got to tell us?

HENRY: Well, you'll remember last week there was an initial analysis from the Congressional Budget Office saying that less than half of the stimulus plan would actually be paid out over the first 18 months, so not likely to stimulate the economy. The White House fired back that this was just looking at a snapshot, only part of the bill and that there needed to be a fuller analysis.

Well now the CBO in the last 24 hours has put out a new report that basically says that 52 percent of the money will be spent out over the next 18 months, that some 64, 65 percent of the bill will be paid out over the first two years. That's better news for the president but it still falls short of what they are promising.

The White House is saying that this bill will have 75 percent of it paid out over the first 18 months and that that is what is going to sort of turn this recession around and stimulate the economy. It's not there yet.

DOBBS: So, that's an overstatement on the part of the OMB and the White House of only over 50 percent over the course of that 18 months, is that right?

HENRY: Well, they are saying now, one official told me today that the 75 percent is a goal and that this is still a work in progress, as you know as Dana was reporting and that various...

DOBBS: The obligatory...

(CROSSTALK) DOBBS: The obligatory White House spin and that's wonderful, you know just absolutely wonderful. We're going to also be pointing out, Ed Henry, the fact that all of that money, no matter how much of it is ultimately approved will be borrowed money, and we're going to tell you, ladies and gentlemen at home, you're not going to believe what that's going to cost to borrow that amount of money -- Ed Henry from the White House as always, thank you very much.

HENRY: Thanks, Lou.

DOBBS: The Congressional Budget analysis shows the stimulus plan also falls short on promises made by House Democrats to cut taxes by $275 million. The Congressional Budget Office saying tax cuts between this year and 2019 -- think about that -- 10 years' worth will amount to $212 billion. Nearly all of those cuts will come this year and next, however.

The CBO says federal spending will increase by more than $600 billion over the next decade. That includes an extra $27 billion to extend unemployment benefits desperately needed this year and next. And later here in the broadcast, as I said, we'll begin going through this stimulus legislation line-by-line, "Lou's Line-Item Veto." We'll find out exactly who is benefiting from the plan as best we can determine. You can be sure that you're not going to be learning that from your members of Congress. We'll have more on that next.

The lobbying industry appears to be immune from this economic slowdown, however. In fact, lobbying last year surged to a new record, $3.3 billion, think about this, $3.3 billion spent to lobby -- to lobby -- 435 congressmen and women, 100 senators and one president. Well that from "Congressional Quarterly's Money Line" (ph) and one reason for the surge in lobbying money of course all that lobbying by corporate America, special interests on the tax-payer funded bailouts. The lobbying effort expected to reach a new frenzy this year as lobbyists try to influence the almost $1 trillion stimulus plan.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on his first full day on the job today announced new rules to restrict the activities of lobbyists on his department. Geithner promised to crack down on lobbyists who are trying to influence the Treasury's $700 billion so-called TARP Program, Troubled Asset Relief Program. Half of that money will be now in the charge of Timothy Geithner as secretary of Treasury. Geithner declared political influence will not interfere with future bailout decisions. How reassured are we?

Coming up next, gruesome new developments in the raging war by Mexico's drug cartels, a startling new illustration of the threat to the United States, also an abrupt change of course by Citigroup on that $50 million airplane they said they were going to keep despite the fact they needed $45 billion of taxpayer money just to stay open.

And you won't believe what passes for stimulus spending in the Economic Recovery Plan. We'll be going through that package line-by- line, our new segment "Lou's Line-Item Veto" as we explore this legislation here next. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Well, an example tonight of what we on this broadcast call a gut check, Citigroup having a change of heart on its new $50 million corporate jet. Gut check -- that is an effort to see whether or not the national values and ideals can be held up by business leaders or political leaders or anyone in this country who has to make a choice between expediency, greed, and say our national values.

Citigroup had been planning to upgrade to a $50 million private jet made by France even after receiving $45 billion in taxpayer dollars in order to stay in business. The White House and some members of Congress sharply critical of the plan, last night Senator Carl Levin of Michigan said quote, "To permit Citigroup to purchase a plush plane, foreign built no less, while domestic auto companies are being required to sell off their jets is a ridiculous double standard."

The White House confirms that a Treasury official advised Citigroup not to buy that plane. Citigroup today amending its earlier statements to say, quote, "we have no intent to take delivery of any new aircraft." Senator Levin, a gut check, you did good. We appreciate it.

And alarming new evidence tonight that the same executives who were in charge when this country's banking system nearly collapsed remain in charge of those banks, an Associated Press review of more than 200 banks in this country all around the country found that nine out of every 10 top executives remain on the job even as their banks receive government bailout money to stay in operation. This includes top executives of banks that were the top lenders of risky sub-prime mortgages including the CEO of Wells Fargo.

Banking industry experts warn that this could be a record year for bank failures. Three American banks have already collapsed this year, more than two dozen banks closing last year, one of the banks the Silver State Bank in Nevada.

In our special report tonight, Drew Griffin of CNN's "Special Investigations Unit" along with the investigative Web site ProPublica examines the events that led to the collapse.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Far from the strip, far on the edge of North Las Vegas is this piece of dirt. How much would you pay for it? At one time a little-known Vegas bank bet the house on it. Now, the house, the bank, and those bankers are gone. So is the boomtown era of this gambling Mecca where former Bank President Tod Little said anyone with some capital could call himself a banker.

TOD LITTLE, FORMER CEO, SILVER STATE BANK: It didn't take a rocket scientist to run a bank in this town in the last 10 years and do well.

GRIFFIN (on camera): You said a monkey could do it. LITTLE: A trained monkey.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): This is a rare, very rare, inside look behind the collapse of a big regional bank, Silver State Bank whose name has been scraped away with the bust of the housing boom. When you hear what Silver State was doing, you may wonder if the trained monkeys running the bank Tod Little referred to were trained at all. Current banker Bill Martin says the warnings were ignored.

BILL MARTIN, CEO, NEVADA 1ST BANK: It had all worked last year and the year before and the year before, so, they just kept doing it.

GRIFFIN: Want an example? Take a look at this project, a proposed casino far off the Las Vegas strip, a strip of dirt where one of Silver State's big loan customers was investing heavily.

(on camera): Silver State was financing a boomtown in Las Vegas, with no town and certainly no boom. This vacant piece of property was collateral for a $24 million personal loan. All of it now just remains a big pile of dirt.

I mean to me, a layman right, I'm not in the bank business. It's just -- it's made-up money. That land is not making anything.

LITTLE: Yes. And you're not missing the mark on that. You're absolutely correct.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Doug French is the person who made that loan as Silver State Bank's vice president of commercial real estate lending. He's not in Nevada anymore. He's now in Alabama teaching finance. We sat down with him so he could explain why he made such bad loans, including the loan on that strip of dirt near the Las Vegas speedway.

DOUG FRENCH, FORMER CHIEF LOAN OFFICER: At the time when the loan was conceived and made, that was very valuable land.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Are you sad for what happened?

FRENCH: What's that?

GRIFFIN: Are you sad about what happened?

FRENCH: I'm very sad. I'm very sad. It's very humbling.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In September 2008, Silver State Bank was seized by the federal government.

(on camera): Do you look back and say, oh, we made some really bad mistakes, preventable mistakes.

FRENCH: Sure. Absolutely.

GRIFFIN: Who should pay for that? FRENCH: Well, I think the shareholders of Silver State Bank, of which I was one, have paid, have paid dearly.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Actually Securities and Exchange Commission records show French sold $1.8 million of Silver State stock before he left, on top of his salary and bonus. Now, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is left covering $550 million. Another 20 million in unsecured deposits have simply vanished. Silver State is one of 25 banks that failed in 2008. Many bankers believe 2009 will be worse.


GRIFFIN: And what makes this even worse, Lou, beyond the warnings ignored from banking regulators, that loan officer, Doug French, was ignoring his own warnings. He wrote about this in a magazine article a year ago, telling his readers that Las Vegas' construction party was going to end in what he called a bad hangover. Despite that prediction, Lou, he and Silver State just kept on loaning.

DOBBS: They kept on loaning, Drew. I mean that's an astounding report. What is the reaction of the regulators? Where is law enforcement? Has there been an investigation of outright fraud here?

GRIFFIN: That's what I keep asking. And what is troubling is that the banking regulators knew this was going on, went in and told them to keep closer tabs on the books, but the explanation we're getting -- not on camera -- from the feds is that they didn't have the tools to actually go and correct this bank's mistake. The only tool they have is actually to go in and close it down after the fact.

It's -- it's mind-numbing to see. I mean you have a $48 million loan on a piece of dirt, which they loan another $24 million on top of, so the guy can cover other loans that are already failing. Just that one loan stream is ridiculous.

DOBBS: Drew, thank you very much, extraordinary year, and this, as you suggest, likely to be equally so if not worse. Drew Griffin, thank you very much.

Coming up here next -- just what is in that more than 600-page stimulus, economic stimulus legislation? You may be surprised. We're going to go through that stimulus package line-by-line, "Lou Dobbs' Line-Item Veto". We'll have a few thoughts about a few of the ideas in there.

And a shocking new example of the utter brutality of Mexico's out-of-control drug cartel wars. That special report is next. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: There are gruesome new developments tonight in Mexico's deadly drug cartel wars. A suspect known as the stew-maker has confessed to disposing of hundreds of bodies for one of the violent drug cartels. This comes as the Mexican government is demanding more help from the United States to fight the drug wars. Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Spanish, he's known as el Posolero (ph), the stew-maker. Mexican officials say Santiago Mesa Lopez (ph) has admitted to disposing of more than 300 bodies for a drug cartel by dissolving them in vats of acid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): His method was to put the cadavers in a water-filled container with caustic soda for a period of 24 hours until the body had completely disintegrated. For doing this job, he got $600 per week.

WIAN: Sunday Mexican officials paraded Mesa Lopez (ph) and two other suspects in front of reporters and said they would have family members of suspected victims shown photographs to help identify missing loved ones. The next day heavily armed men fired more than 200 rounds at the police station in La Mision (ph), the Baja, California, town where the stew-maker was arrested.

Trucks stolen from the United States were found abandoned nearby. It's the latest example of the cross-border nature of Mexico's drug cartel wars, which claimed the lives of an estimated 5,700 people last year. Mexico's ambassador told The Associated Press his government wants the United States to do more to stop the illegal weapons trafficking that is arming Mexico's drug cartels.

ARTURO SARUKHAN, MEXICAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: I think the press right now, the flow of guns, weapons into Mexico is critically important. If President Calderon's policies to roll back organized crimes are to be successful, we need to defang the power of the drug syndicates to inflict damage upon our state and local police forces. And the best way we can do that is for real ratcheting up of the United States' capabilities of shutting down the flow of weapons.

WIAN: Sarukhan acknowledges Mexico could also do more, with more thorough and frequent searches of vehicles arriving from the United States.


WIAN: The Mexican ambassador also said he's hopeful that a legalization program for Mexicans living illegally in the United States will be enacted soon. And, he said, illegal immigration should stop, adding Mexico is losing too much human capital. But he also says, building more fencing along the border sends a dreadful message, Lou.

DOBBS: A dreadful message. He's worried about a fence some short of 700 miles and, by the way, has just 69 miles more to be completed, and is not worried, apparently, about nearly 7,000 of his citizens being murdered in these drug cartel wars, 300 bodies, rampant violence, a government is corrupt and is now reeling in defense against the drug cartels, and he's worried about a border fence? WIAN: Yes, it's sure interesting when they say that illegal immigration should stop, they're actually saying publicly that it's actually hurting Mexico, but efforts by the U.S. to control the border through fencing and other means are often met, as he said, with indignation from Mexico, Lou.

DOBBS: Extraordinary. The just simple hypocrisy and obfuscation of this, because there is a genuine desire to stop the flow of drugs, again Mexico the principal source in this country of methamphetamines, heroin, cocaine and marijuana, that would require border security. If the Mexican government truly wants to shut down those -- that flow of weapons which they allege come from the United States, then why not insist upon border security from their perspective, that is south of the border, and to join the United States in securing that border? Wouldn't that seem to be straightforward and apparent to both sides in this issue?

WIAN: You would think so. And it's clear that both sides can do more in terms of preventing weapons from crossing the border. There's almost no inspections on the Mexican side of the border and most of those weapons that are coming across are being hidden in vehicles that are driven into Mexico without inspection, Lou.

DOBBS: And let me be clear, right now, and the Obama administration has been in office, congratulations, one week. It is far too soon to criticize them for the policies that were carried out throughout the Bush administration, but if they continue with those policies, there's going to be a great explanation required as to why we are effectively in this country, through our policies, saying that the young people who are devastated by drugs in this country, all people who are victims of addiction, are simply acceptable levels of collateral damage in the war on drugs, which we are, for whatever reason, whether it is incompetence, the fantasy of ideology, or simple corruption failing to fight effectively. Casey, thank you very much. Casey Wian.

Up next here we'll begin going through the stimulus legislation, nearly 650 pages. Now your congressman and your senator likely haven't read that, but they're going to vote on it very soon. We have read it. Join us for our next segment, "Lou's Line-Item Veto". You'll be surprised at some of the things we've found already.

Will congressional Democrats break with the president on his calls for bipartisanship? Three of my favorite radio talk show hosts join us.

And compelling new evidence of most of the media's outright love affair with President Obama, the author of a provocative new book on a very important issue joins us here next. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Compelling new evidence tonight about bias and partisanship in much of the national media, specifically in its coverage of the presidential election, Bernard Goldberg is the author of a provocative new book on the issue. That's a good thing, by the way, provocative. It's called -- I love this title, "A Slobbering Love Affair, Starring Barack Obama, A True and Pathetic Story of the Torrid Romance between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media." You ticked off a lot of people with that title.

BERNARD GOLDBERG, AUTHOR: One should not be Barack Obama. This is not bashing the president. It's bashing the media that slobbered over him in a different way than they ever slobbered over a democratic candidate before.

DOBBS: Do you know how much reaction, criticism I got, last year as I said from the beginning -- actually in January of last year, the heated democratic primary, I was talking about the national media having gone into the tank as I put it --


DOBBS: -- for Barack Obama. People went nuts. It was staring you in the face what was happening.

GOLDBERG: That's the point. It is incredibly obvious. People don't have to believe me, because I say the media was in the tank for Obama. And, by the way, they went this time. What they did this time was brand new. This isn't about media bias. This is about media activists, just like this judicial activism, there's media activism. I'm not the only one saying. There are impartial studies that conclude that --

DOBBS: Vaguely?

GOLDBERG: Not even vaguely, that conclude that the coverage was overwhelmingly positive about Obama and overwhelmingly negative about McCain.

DOBBS: At one juncture last year and I give "The Washington Post" credit that they acknowledge they have run three times as many front-page articles on Barack Obama than John McCain. "Time" magazine seven -- at one point, it certainly is beyond that now, but seven covers for Obama, two for McCain. It went on and on throughout the national media.

GOLDBERG: And I think -- I think liberals don't quite understand that they're not the only ones who understand the historical significance of what happened here. People like me get it. We're happy about that. But Barack Obama would have never been slobbered over if he were -- if -- let's put it this way, if the first black president who was inaugurated just the other day were a conservative republican. No slobbering for a conservative republican.

DOBBS: I think that's probably true. But to me the real issue -- and I know it is for you, as you look at it ideologically here -- but the idea is the national media shouldn't be slobbering over anybody.

GOLDBERG: That's right.

DOBBS: Whether conservative or liberal. GOLDBERG: Absolutely. The real danger -- this book would be funny if it weren't serious. The examples are, they are laugh-out- loud funny. And the people keep giving me new material, the people in the mainstream media.

DOBBS: You amongst other things highlight an election poll from the Pew Research Center, who do reporters want to see win the election.

GOLDBERG: It was a simple question they asked. Who do most reporters -- who do they want to win the election.

DOBBS: If I say they wanted to see Obama win.

GOLDBERG: That was broken up between democrats and republicans and independents wanted to see Obama win.

DOBBS: You write about Governor Sarah Palin. Her treatment by any definition, one can't help but contrast what also happened with Caroline Kennedy, who, by the way, is a darling of a number of national liberal news organizations, yet she was rejected. And the differing sort of -- you know, as a matter of fact we saw "The Washington Post" do a story, literally the morning that she was rejected, or withdrew, however you want to construct it, about the glass ceiling in politics.


DOBBS: It was amazing!

GOLDBERG: Listen, whether you like Sarah Palin's politics or not -- and I understand that she wasn't, you know, a favorite of a lot of people. That's -- I have no problem with that.

DOBBS: So what.

GOLDBERG: Yes. But the disease that broke out in parts of America after she was put on the ticket, Palin derangement syndrome, this is a mental disorder --

DOBBS: Right.

GOLDBERG: -- was out of all proportion to anything she did to any of us. She may not have been ready to be vice president. I'm willing to accept that. But the hatred, it --

DOBBS: It was venomous, because she did something unforgivable in the United States, circa 2008 and '09, she was not part of any orthodoxy. She was independent, individualistic and lived her life according to her precepts.

GOLDBERG: The people that hated her most were liberal feminists. Here's a person who is a governor -- go ahead.

DOBBS: Who didn't win an election. We appreciate you being here. We're going to take one more look of the great title. Bernard Goldberg presents, "A Slobbering Love Affair" starring Barack Obama. We appreciate it. Good luck with the book.

Up next here, President Obama meeting congressional republicans on the eve of a vote that doesn't require the republican votes. I'll be talking with three of the best radio talk show hosts next.

Billions and billions of dollars of pork hidden in that economic stimulus package. Imagine that. We'll be going through that plan right in our new segment, "Lou's Line Item Veto." Tells you what I think about a little of it. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: President Obama wants the House of Representatives tomorrow to pass economic stimulus legislation and the senate shortly thereafter to do precisely the same thing. But, in fact, very few of the senators and congressmen and women have even read hr-1, the legislation. There is considerable partisan posturing, of course, about the so-called economic stimulus package. Republicans say it won't work. Democrats say, well, it may not work, but we have to do it anyway. But, again, neither partisan side truly knows what the legislation contains, nor has there been a serious, rigorous economic analysis of the legislation and its likely impact. Republicans and democrats are doing what they do too often in Washington, playing partisan politics rather than focusing on their constitutional requirements, particularly of our congress to provide responsible oversight of the executive and to function as a co-equal branch of government rather than devolve to the level of a no-nothing rubber stamp that will cost taxpayers more than a trillion dollars. Money that no one can assure will have any substantive stimulative effect on this economy.

We're going to independently tonight, and in the days and evenings ahead, examine the legislation, to determine where much of the money will go. We'll have a bit about who's getting it and who isn't and why. Well, we begin tonight with "Lou's Line Item Veto," and as part of that first, Kitty Pilgrim reporting on some of the many projects in this legislation that in the minds of at least one watchdog group will neither create jobs nor stimulate economic growth.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The economic stimulus plan is supposed to generate jobs immediately to get the economy going. Hundreds of pages of projects, an $825 billion, it's raising real worries.

RYAN ALEXANDER, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: We've got real concerns in terms of the, you know, just how thoroughly congress is evaluating all these idea. They're trying to do too many things at once. It would be better to do the couple things we know work, that you can definitely pass right away.

PILGRIM: On their line-item veto list, taxpayers for common sense would have $1 billion for the 2010 census, some of it to hire and train workers, taxpayer for common sense says it's not stimulative. $50 million for repairs to NASA facilities for storm damage from hurricanes. Taxpayers' view, it looks like a backdoor special-interest earmark. $4.5 billion to make military facilities more energy efficient. President Obama says it's part of his plan to make America independent from foreign oil, taxpayer says it won't generate enough civilian jobs. Another $2.8 billion to spur rural broadband projects. Telecom companies say they can put people to work digging trenches and installing fiber optic cable. Taxpayer says it's a worthy project, but not likely to stimulate jobs immediately. Overall the white house is saying the stimulus spending will create or preserve 4 million jobs, many in infrastructure.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think you have a hard economic argument to make that paving a road or fixing a bridge doesn't create jobs.

JOAN CLAYBROOK, PUBLIC CITIZEN: They have to be things that inspire the public trust. Because if the public thinks that there's a waste of this money, there's going to be real I be really be a revolt.


PILGRIM: Taxpayers for Common Sense say they favor projects that repair infrastructure that's already in place because the jobs are generated quickly. But projects that have to be designed and built from the ground up, for example, they say take too long. Lou?

DOBBS: It is clear that not much forethought that gone into this almost trillion dollar plan. It is -- it is remarkable in -- and if anything else, the fact that 650 pages and this president -- and let's leave aside whether or not it is a correct or incorrect plan, whether it is a democratic or republican plan. But for this president to stand up and say to congress, precisely what George W. Bush said to congress five months ago, that is just pass it, don't think, don't act, don't be responsible under your constitutional duties, is, to me breathtaking.

PILGRIM: I don't know how you can possibly get through the whole thing and analyze the numerous projects that are in there and make a decision and analyze it properly.

DOBBS: What we have going on is right now the reflexive, both national media, and the partisans, left and right, republican and democrat, trying to respond enthusiastically if they are democrats, what the president wishes, and republicans with intransigence if they're in opposition to this. Meanwhile, no one is empirically examining the impact or the issues or what will be the result, the consequence, of these public policy decisions about to be taken in the House of Representatives.

PILGRIM: You know, in speaking to people today, we've had very, very little clear analysis of what they thought of individual projects.

DOBBS: That's why we are doing precisely this, our jobs. And you did yours terrifically. Thank you, Kitty Pilgrim.

Well, I urge you to consider what we are reporting here tonight and what we'll be reporting in this segment throughout. This legislation will spend a trillion dollars of taxpayer money, just little more in point of fact. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the $825 billion that the government doesn't have, well, that's going to require some more borrowing, you know, the stuff that got us into this condition. And borrowing that money means there will be an additional 40 percent burden as a result of this legislation on the American taxpayer. More than $300 billion in interest will have to be paid.

I urge you tonight to let your congressmen and congresswomen and your senators know what you think about this spending bill. That's what it is. It is spending legislation. Borrowing more money and adding debt, which is, as I said, exactly what helped get us into this economic mess in the first place. Let your representatives and senators know your feelings about the passage or rejection of legislation without their profound understanding and assurance that it will work rather than add to what is already a level of national debt that some critics say will leave future generations of Americans effectively bankrupt.

The main telephone number for the capitol switchboard by the way is 202-224-3121. That phone number at the white house is 202-456- 1111. We have those numbers as well with their links to your elected representatives on our website

And we ask you to join us tomorrow as we examine other elements of this extraordinary stimulus legislation, so-called, as the hundreds of billions of dollars are sprinkled around for such things as climate research and the study of global warming as stimulus spending. We'll be taking a look at those programs, among others. You'll find fascinating how many jobs will be created and how they will stimulate the economy or won't. We'll have that tomorrow. Please join us.

And time for our poll tonight. The question is -- do you believe congress has a responsibility to read, to analyze, to understand, to apply critical judgment to legislation that it votes upon, or should they simply do what any president tells them, as they did with President Bush, five months ago, and what it appears they will do as a result of the kind request of President Obama. Cast your vote at We'll have the results here later.

Up next, President Obama meets with republicans, trying to talk about his stimulus plan in a persuasive way. Were they having any? We'll tell you next.

And the Blagojevich tapes are released. Will they help the Illinois governor in his impeachment? Three of the country's best radio talk show hosts join me next. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Joining me now three of my favorite radio talk show hosts. In Kansas City, we're joined by Chris Stigall of KCMO, great to have you there anyway. In New York Errol Lewis, WWRL, John Gambling, WOR. Gentlemen, thank you for being here. How about this? John, we have a stimulus package no one has read, I shouldn't say no one. Very few people in the senate or congress have read and they want few act. This is like George Bush.

JOHN GAMBLING, WOR: I flipped through a couple pages today. I have to tell you the most amazing part of this bill, 650 pages long. Something whatever it happens to be, happens to have on each and every page numbers that you even in high math courses they don't give that many zeros. Just amazing, for projects that I don't know that anybody really understand what they're for. It's just money. They took a pot of money in Washington, suggested you, you, you, take whatever you need out.

DOBBS: Do your listeners want this, irrespective, the legislature has read it?

ERROL LOUIS, WWRL IN NEW YORK: As far as the reading it can be done. 600 pages. 535 members. I'm a little geeky myself. I went plowing through it. What my listeners are saying they want something that is going to work. And if, if spending money to get something going is going to work, then they're going to like it. The minute it looks like it is not going to work they're going to turn on the administration.

DOBBS: Where do they go for a refund?

LOUIS: There will be no refund.

DOBBS: Chris, what do your listeners think?

CHRIS STIGALL, KCMO IN KANSAS CITY: Latest numbers today, a fresh poll on the way down here, Lou, 60 percent of the country, not nuts about more government spending. That's the thing -- going into the presidential election the one thing in a very bipartisan way the country spoke out and said we're not excited about this massive government spending. I'm telling you, somebody would win major points if they dared step up and say -- no. And right now, no one can figure out how to say no.

GAMBLING: I had Charlie Rangel on just yesterday, the man behind this or one of the principles. I asked the congressman, what is your biggest fear with the stimulus package? There was a slight pause and he said that it won't work. Then I said, what do you do then? And he didn't, there is no answer.

LOUIS: But those are the stakes. When you see that just yesterday over 60,000 layoffs were announced. It was all blue chip names, Microsoft, Harley Davidson, Caterpillar, and you're -- if you have a choice between doing something however rushed and ill-conceived it may be and just kind of hoping it will resume at some point.

DOBBS: Is it the choice, Errol?

LOUIS: In the short term?

DOBBS: We were told in September, weren't we, Chris, that the sky will fall if we don't see this happen. The $700 billion.

STIGALL: By the way that was -- Lou, that was 400 pages. A 400- pager by the way. No we don't know where half of that went.

DOBBS: Actually, started at 2 1/2 pages as I recall.

STIGALL: Thomas Dole said today and I thought it was brilliant, he said in a column with the stroke of a pen in your next paycheck, you could have less taxes taken out. That could affect you real-time, within a week, within two weeks. End of the month. The stimulus package, congressional budget office said it is not going to take effect even in partial chunk until the end of 2010.

DOBBS: I've got to take a quick break. Let's go to Campbell Brown. Her show at the top of the hour.

Campbell, what's up?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Lou, coming up in a few minutes we'll take you behind the scenes of President Obama's unprecedented meeting today with Capitol Hill republicans. He wants their backing big time as congress prepares to vote on his economic rescue package tomorrow. We're going to tell you where they're willing to give an inch. We'll have more on that.

Tonight my interview with embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. He sat down this afternoon as his state legislature was working to kick him out of office. Blagojevich was feisty, defiant as ever. You're going to want to see what actually left him tongue-tied. All coming up top of the hour, Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Campbell.

Reminder to join me on the radio Monday through Friday, on the Lou Dobbs Show, tomorrow's guests, David Smick author of "The World is Curved" about what is happening to the global economy and most importantly ours, Mark Taylor host of the morning show in Lincoln, Nebraska. There are exceptions to this downturn. We'll be focusing on some of those. Join me on WOR in New York, 2:00 to 4:00 eastern. And check your local listings to get "The Lou Dobbs Show" in your area.

We'll be back with our radio roundtable next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: We're back with our panel. Chris Stigall, Errol Louis, and John Gambling. This is what Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, had to say, we wish the president, President Bush well. But will not have to carry the political burden we carried the last two elections.

Real quickly your thoughts, Chris?

STIGALL: Oh, my -- Mitch McConnell. He needs to remember that he barely eked out a win in Kentucky. It wasn't President Bush. He, like McCain and every other republican that signed off on the first stimulus package everybody hated, that's why Kentucky barely put him back in office again. He needs to remember that.

DOBBS: His wife, Elaine Chow was the labor secretary for Bush for eight years. What? What's the big protest here?

STIGALL: He has done pretty well by George Bush.

LOUIS: That's gratitude for you. As I recall after '04 close election there were a lot of grateful republicans who were glad for what Karl Rove and George Bush did in pulling out an unlikely win.

DOBBS: Are the republicans going to do anything here besides say no?

GAMBLING: They're waving their hands a lot. They're making a lot of noise. I don't think so. I think they all believe that they have to, you know hitch themselves to this democratic spending bill and this president as best they're able.

LOUIS: They're salivating all over the goodies. Believe me --

DOBBS: Mark Halperin of "Time" magazine came out with a comment today, talking about the fact that many house republicans went over to pose with pictures with President Obama as wanted to talk to him about the stimulus package. Thank you, appreciate it as always. Thank you.

Tonight's poll results -- 99 percent of you say that congress does have a responsibility to read, to analyze, and actually apply critical judgment to legislation that it votes upon. White house, here comes the vote total. We'll send it your way. Join us here tomorrow.

Campbell Brown "NO BIAS, NO BULL" starts right now -- Campbell?