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Lou Dobbs Tonight

State of the Nation Speech; Legalize Marijuana?; Freedom of Speech

Aired February 24, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight, President Obama preparing for his first speech to a joint session of Congress. President Obama expected to move away from the rhetoric of fear and to embrace again the politics of hope. We'll have complete coverage.

And tonight the Reverend Al Sharpton intensifying his campaign against the "New York Post", many say Sharpton trying to use the power of government to restrict freedom of speech, particularly at the "New York Post". Al Sharpton joins me.

And tonight also a startling proposal to help the state of California end its massive budget crisis, one of the state lawmakers there suggesting California legalize marijuana and tax the users. We'll have a special report on whether that makes any sense at all. It is, after all, California. We'll have that, all the day's news and a lot more straight ahead here tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT: news, debate, and opinion for Tuesday, February 24th. Live from New York, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening. President Obama tonight delivers his first speech to a joint session of Congress. Administration officials say his speech will focus on the economy and will strike what they call an optimistic tone. Earlier Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Capitol Hill declared he hopes the recession will end later this year.

But Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee that a full economic recovery could take as much as two to three years. Dan Lothian has our report from the White House on what the president is expected to say tonight.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the president prepares to address a joint session of Congress, the economic picture is sobering -- mounting job losses, a housing meltdown, consumer spending on life support, and a credit crunch. Senior advisers say Mr. Obama will mix sober talk with an optimistic tone.

CHRISTINA ROMER, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: He's like a doctor, right? He's -- the patients in his office, he is going to tell us the truth. We have a serious problem. But the important thing is he has a plan, there's this treatment and we will get better and I think that is the ultimate message of hope that he is going to give.

LOTHIAN: And one prescription that the president is expected to highlight is the $787 billion stimulus package.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Getting tax cuts to the American people and creating jobs. The bill has already done that. But you'll hear him talk tonight about financial stability, about a housing plan for responsible homeowners that have played by the rules.

LOTHIAN: The president will also touch on energy independence, education reform, and health care, all components of the administration's overall economic agenda. Senior aides say Mr. Obama will only deal briefly with foreign policy issues like Iraq and Afghanistan. The president's address will be closely watched by Americans who are looking for some good news.

When asked in a recent CNN Opinion Research poll if Obama's speech will make you feel more confident about the economy, 62 percent said likely, 37 percent said not likely. High expectations for a president who after a month in office still has an approval rating of over 60 percent, despite stumbling on some cabinet appointments and a blow to bipartisanship, Mr. Obama gets high marks from some political observers.

ALLAN LICHTMAN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I would give Obama an "A" in policy accomplishment for getting the biggest spending bill through the Congress in history in just a month.


LOTHIAN: Now, Lou, in case you're wondering, Professor Lichtman gave the president a "C" for those bungled cabinet appointment and an "I" or an "incomplete" on foreign policy. Now the White House has released some excerpts from the president's speech tonight.

He's expected to say in part quote, "(INAUDIBLE) economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken, though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this. We will rebuild. We will recover and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before. The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation."

And Lou, one final note. The president is also expected to talk about wanting to work with Republicans, this bipartisanship which he has been talking about so much. He wants to work with Republicans in dealing with this crisis.

DOBBS: All right, Dan. Thank you very much -- Dan Lothian from the White House -- that optimistic tone, of course, well long overdue in the minds of many.

Joining me now for more on the president's speech tonight, what he is expected to say, our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. Candy, do you believe the president's optimistic rhetoric as we expect it to be tonight will be convincing to most Americans, especially on the issue of the economy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well first of all, it is going to be coupled with a warning that this is going to take time. That the economy is in such deep trouble at this point and it will take more time and this, of course, is Barack Obama, the president, looking to keep the American people behind him.

So in the short run, I seriously doubt this is going to suddenly bring consumer confidence up to the extent that people will go out and buy and believe that the economy is now rolling. Nonetheless as you say, it's been something that people have been complaining about, saying how can you expect consumer confidence which then will lead to consumer purchases to go up when the president, the chief person in the United States on the economy is constantly out there saying it's really, really bad and it's going to get worse before it gets better.

DOBBS: Yeah, the American people have been listening since last September to some of the most god awful negative rhetoric from their nation's leaders whether in Congress or President Bush from September forward, whether it be candidate Barack Obama from the summer forward to President Obama over the past five weeks, talking down markets, talking down economies. No intelligent person could have expected a result any different than what we've seen in both the markets and the economy, given that tone of rhetoric.

Now, Candy, the Republican Party has chosen Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana to give the rebuttal to the president's speech tonight. Why did the Republican Party choose him for what is a very high profile appearance?

CROWLEY: Well, quite frankly, they want to introduce him to the American people. Rightly or wrongly, the Republican Party is seen by many Americans as a party of rich, old white men, that they have this governor, the first American Indian -- first American of Indian descent to own a governorship in any of the 50 states is a conservative, so he fits very well into where the Republican Party and Republican leaders think they ought to go and that is back to fiscal responsibility.

So you will hear Governor Jindal tonight. Also, like President Obama, talking about how Americans can get through anything, but you will also hear what we've heard for the past couple of days from Governor Jindal and that is real criticism of the stimulus package. This is an excerpt from tonight where he will say "Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt. Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It's irresponsible."

So you will hear some tough talk from Governor Jindal because while he may be a new face in the Republican Party, he is referred to as an up and comer. There are people who think that he may run in the next presidential election, so while you may see someone new and someone different, this is a very down the line conservative Republican.

DOBBS: Now, I like that line. The question, however, can be extended a bit. Who among us would borrow money from our children as we have since last September with the Bush administration and now the Obama administration, would we borrow money from our children to give away to rich people on Wall Street and corporate America and particularly the banking industry? It gets to be a little unseemly at best in the minds of many. Candy, thank you very much. Candy Crowley.

The Obama administration tonight appears to be on the verge of announcing it will withdraw most of our troops from Iraq within the next 19 months. A 19-month timetable, of course, would be a few months more than President Obama's campaign promise of withdrawal of all of our combat troops in 16 months. But the new plan would leave as many as 50,000 of our troops in Iraq compared with 140,000 of our troops who are there now. Today, one of our troops was killed by an Iraqi policeman in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul; 4,250 of our troops have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of this war.

On Capitol Hill tonight, the Senate finally voting to confirm Hilda Solis as labor secretary. The Senate voted to confirm her 80-17 after more than a month of delays because she faced questions about her work for a group that is helping unions organize workers. She was also challenged because of her husband's failure to pay some of his taxes.

The Senate's number two Democrat, Senator Dick Durbin, is urging his colleague, Senator Roland Burris, to resign. Durbin met with Burris today. They talked about the ongoing controversy of Burris' appointment by the now impeached former governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich.


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: I told him that under the circumstances, I would consider resigning if I were in his shoes.


DOBBS: Well Burris tonight says he isn't going anywhere. Burris is under investigation as to whether or not he purged himself when testifying before an Illinois House panel deciding on the Blagojevich impeachment.

Members of Congress tonight at it again, ignoring public outrage over earmarks and pork barrel projects. They've added literally thousands of earmarks now to a $400 billion bill that would fund the government for the rest of this year. There are more than 8,000 earmarks in that legislation that will cost taxpayers about $8 billion.

You may recall this is precisely what Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid said wouldn't happen. This is precisely what President Barack Obama promised would not happen. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, however, saying he wants almost $1 million to make Las Vegas more environmentally friendly and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a strong critic of earmarks, is receiving exactly the same amount for a convention center in Myrtle Beach in his home state of South Carolina.

President Obama, who blasted earmarks, has not said what he thinks of all of this. We'd like to know what you think, however. We want to know what you want to hear in the president's speech tonight. The poll question is do you think it's time for President Obama to shut down the rhetoric of fear and start focusing on the positive steps to economic recovery?

Yes or no. Cast your vote at We'll pass along your thoughts to the president before he talks tonight.

Up next, new details about what happened to Flight 1549 as it successfully crash-landed in the Hudson River.

And a startling proposal to legalize marijuana, you see that's part of the very clever effort in California to end the state's budget crisis. We'll explain that next.


DOBBS: The New Jersey State Senate last night passed legislation that would legalize medical marijuana. The bill was proposed by Democratic State Senator Nicholas Guitary (ph). The legislation will allow chronically and terminally ill patients to grow marijuana or have it grown for them at authorized treatment centers. The bill now goes to the State Assembly. If they pass it New Jersey would become the 14th state to legalize medical marijuana.

Tonight lawmakers in California are considering an alternative to help pull the state out of its financial crisis. They are considering legalizing and taxing marijuana. How about that for a fiscal miracle? Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Marijuana is an estimated $14 billion a year illegal business in California. It's the state's largest single cash crop. Bigger than fruits, nuts, and field crops, such as hay, cotton, and rice combined. California Assemblymen Tom Ammiano Monday introduced a bill to legalize the cultivation, sale and use of marijuana by those over 21. It would also tax and regulate marijuana sales in a similar manner as alcohol in an effort to ease California's financial crisis.

TOM AMMIANO, CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY: We need to capture some of that income for many, many worthwhile causes that have been hurt here in California, including drug abuse programs.

WIAN: Supporters claim it would save up to $1 billion a year in law enforcement costs. California's tax collection agency estimates legalizing and taxing marijuana would raise at least $1.3 billion a year and cut the drug's street price in half. But that same analysis predicted legalizing pot would lead to increased consumption of between 32 and 40 percent, depending on the taxes imposed. Calvina Fay is a former drug policy adviser to the Bush administration.

CALVINA FAY, DRUG FREE AMERICA FOUNDATION: The advocates for it claim that it would raise some taxes that would help the budget but it -- they totally ignore the fact that the cost to society would be a lot more. I mean, there's not anybody that denies that if drugs are legalized, more people will use them and they will use them more often.

WIAN: Marijuana is illegal under federal law. Ammiano a long time San Francisco gay activist who played himself in the movie "Milk" says he expects the Obama administration will relax those laws. The White House however referred reporters to a statement during the presidential transition that Mr. Obama, quote, "is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana."

Mexican drug cartels are increasingly active in California's illegal marijuana trade, even using remote state and national parks as growing operations. Advocates of marijuana legalization say it would cripple cartels financially. Opponents predict it would lead to more violent confrontations over the drug trade in this country.


WIAN: A spokesman for the California Peace Officers Association told "The San Francisco Chronicle," quote, "the last thing our society needs is yet more legal intoxicants. We've got enough social problems now when people aren't in charge of all five of their senses." Lou?

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

The budget crisis in California could mean early release for thousands of inmates. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department says it may have to close two of its jails to meet a projected $71 million budget shortfall. That would mean the early release of about 4,000 inmates there and as many as 600 people employed by the county's sheriff's office could lose their jobs.

The State Department has issued a new warning to Americans planning travel to Mexico in the wake of the escalating drug violence along the border. The U.S. State Department is warning Americans to avoid the state of Durango where much of the deadly violence has taken place. It's also recommending that Americans only visit tourist areas. More than 6,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drug wars last year and schools recommending that students, in no way, think about going to Mexico in any part of it for spring break.

Up next, the man at the center of the latest battle over who controls what you see and what you hear. Reverend Al Sharpton joins me for a discussion of race and the First Amendment.

And a new account of what happened to Flight 1549 and that miracle on the Hudson. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: NASA's latest space launch and latest mission was supposed to last two years. Instead it lasted a little more than two minutes. A new global warming satellite plunged into the icy waters off Antarctica today just minutes after it was launched. The $280 million satellite had been designed to measure the earth's carbon dioxide levels. The rocket carrying the satellite malfunctioned, failed to reach orbit and ended up in Antarctica.

Well two dramatic water rescues today, the first in Camel Rock (ph) off California's north coast. A 17-year-old surfer was caught in a rip tide. The Coast Guard rescued him by helicopter. And wild video now from Camp Verde, Arizona, where a couple was discovered holding on to a tree after their ATV was swept away by the flood waters. The unusually warm weather has melted snow in Arizona raising water levels. Rescue crews managed to pull the couple to safety.

And dramatic new details tonight about U.S. Airways Flight 1549's emergency landing in the Hudson River, the crew of the flight, the air traffic controller, who communicated with Captain Sullenberger today testifying before a House subcommittee and for the first time the air traffic controller talked about his role and the landing, including how he felt when the pilot radioed him that the aircraft was going in to the Hudson.


PATRICK HARTEN, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: I asked him to repeat himself, even though I heard him just fine. I simply could not wrap my mind around those words. People do not survive landings on the Hudson River and I thought it was his own death sentence. I believed at that moment I was going to be the last person to talk to anyone on that plane alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was clear early on that the only place that was large enough, wide enough, smooth enough to land a jet airliner was the Hudson.


DOBBS: And, of course, all five crew members and all 150 passengers aboard Flight 1549 survived the crash without any serious injury.

Tiger Woods is back. The world's best golfer, perhaps history's best golfer, returns to the links tomorrow, less than a year after his knee surgery. Tiger Woods is playing in his first tournament in eight months. He underwent major reconstructive surgery shortly after winning the U.S. Open in June. Today Woods confessed he's just a little nervous about returning to play once again.


TIGER WOODS, GOLFER: The day I'm not nervous is the day I quit. To me, it's -- nerves are great. That means you care. I care about what I do and I take great pride in what I do, so of course I'll be nervous. That's the greatest thing about it is to feel that, to feel that rush.


DOBBS: Well, that rush, Woods now has won 14 major titles, four more to go to tie Jack Nicklaus, five more for the record.

Let's take a look now at some of your thoughts. Paul in Ohio wrote in about moves in Congress to restrict gun ownership. "At a time of such economic turmoil and with so many important tasks before Congress I find it amazing that the legislative branch has the audacity to consider limiting our constitutional rights."

And Betty in Massachusetts said "Thank you for helping to make the American people aware of the infringements on our freedoms. Americans need to ban together to fight for our rights."

And Paula in Iowa said "Lou, the refusal of the liberal media to stand up for the 'New York Post' is just one more of the many proofs that the liberal media is primarily an ideological agent for the political left." We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts to

Up next here your right to buy and to own guns at risk, a congressman who is demanding strict new rules again your constitutional rights joins me. And the battle over race, politics, freedom of speech, Reverend Al Sharpton is my guest here next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The free speech fight over a cartoon in the "New York Post" is escalating despite an apology by the "New York Post" well owner, chairman, Rupert Murdoch. That cartoon showed police officers shooting a chimpanzee, an attempted parody of the political fight over the economic stimulus plan. Reverend Al Sharpton organized protests demanding the firing of the "New York Post" editor and the cartoonist.

Sharpton says Murdoch's apology doesn't go far enough. He wants the Federal Communications Commission to review its policies allowing Murdoch to own multiple media properties in the same market. Reverend Al Sharpton joins me now. Good to have you with us.


DOBBS: The idea of first this cartoon. You say it's racist. Others have said -- and I have to put myself among them -- insensitive, bad judgment and frankly a lame cartoon, but racist? There is no doubt in your mind it's racist?

SHARPTON: I feel that the inferences in the cartoon certainly speak to the racial stereotype of blacks and monkeys when we (INAUDIBLE) raised the statement we asked them to clarify. They chose not to last Wednesday. They chose to attack us for raising the issue.

So we could not -- when you have a -- two policemen standing there shooting a chimpanzee and you have one there the economic stimulus package on the chimpanzee that's laying there shot, what is the connection? The only connection that we could see, which is why we asked them if we were wrong, explain that is that the symbol of the economic stimulus package was President Obama who happens to be the first African-American president. What other way do you connect the dots here?

DOBBS: Here is the way I connected the dots.

SHARPTON: All right.

DOBBS: I saw him talking about writing the economic stimulus package. President Obama wasn't writing it. Nancy Pelosi was writing it. Harry Reid was writing -- Capitol Hill. I took it quite a different way. And, by the way, after -- I talked to folks in my newsroom and one of my young black colleagues said when I asked who is offended by this, who saw any of what you had raised, one hand went up, but it was a young black colleague and so you have to be sensitive to that.

So I think it was insensitive, but what I saw there was a horrible cartoon. My first reaction is what in the heck is funny about a chimpanzee being shot when there is a woman lying in the hospital whose face has been ripped off.

SHARPTON: I agree with that.

DOBBS: You know I mean that's what...

SHARPTON: But again, Lou, whether you look at it your way or my way they responded by in many ways just saying we're not going to explain. Y'all are just trying to get publicity, which is insane. And I think that that raised other questions how they do business. Let's not confuse saying to the FCC who is considering waivers for them with the cartoon. Once you start looking at a situation, you begin to say, wait a minute, why are they getting exceptional access to media properties here? You have to remember now, we're not talking about their right to be heard. They're asking for extraordinary right. They want to own more than one television station and more than one newspaper in the market. People in the community have a right to say, well, wait a minute if you're going to give them something exceptional, we want to you review how they do business. They don't have a constitutional right to dominate the market.

DOBBS: I think that's right. And in terms of antitrust, it was very clear up until the 1996 telecommunications law, that they would have been severely constricted in that. But you're calling for the firing of the cartoonist, calling for the firing of the editor in chief and you specifically asked for the S.E.C. to come in and do this in response to the cartoon.

SHARPTON: We called to them to reprimand. If you look at the statement, the editor and the cartoonist on Thursday. We never felt with the S.E.C. until we started looking at the fact that it is even hard to question them when they own media entities here that are not even going to fairly explore what the controversy is about. We never said the S.E.C. forced them to fire anyone. When -- what we said to the S.E.C. is --

DOBBS: No, no. You were calling for the firing.


DOBBS: You were calling for the S.E.C. to investigate it as a result of --

SHARPTON: My objection to the S.E.C. is that the statutory requirements to get a waiver, that one has diversity of opinion, that's part of the statute, that one does business well with the community, which is why you bring community groups to testify, they don't meet, has nothing to do with the cartoon. That's not what we're raising to the S.E.C.

DOBBS: They were just conflated over a sequence in time. You said they ignored you.

SHARPTON: Just like you. When you were complaining about Reverend Wright's sermons you started looking at other sermons. Whether I agree with you or not. I started looking at other practices of Newscorp so at least I'm as intelligent as you, Lou. Once I start looking, I keep looking.

DOBBS: Well, I think that that's appropriate, so long as they are not conflated. That's one of my reactions to what you were saying.

SHARPTON: I think you're right but I want the S.E.C. to look at the statutory requirements for a waiver and have us argue why we feel they don't fit that statutory requirement.

DOBBS: You would agree that it would be an impingement on the spirit of first amendment in the country if you're asking government to come in because of exercise of free speech which is the right.

SHARPTON: That would be wrong. I remember when a policeman once, and you'll recall this, did a terrible mocking of the dragging of a black man in Jasper, Texas. People have the right to be offensive. People have the right to be racist. But they do not have the right to, therefore, dominate the market and violate the statutory requirement and expect us not to raise though questions.

DOBBS: One of the questions raised is where was Al Sharpton when the New Yorker came out, New York magazine came out with that, what many people considered a highly offensive cover portraying Michelle Obama and Barack Obama at that time, not president and first lady, as terrorists. It was supposed to be satirical but a lot of people were offended.

SHARPTON: Including me. I said that on my national show. The New York magazine is not trying to dominate the media market. Again, let's not mix apples and oranges.

DOBBS: When you say dominate, we can go to a lot of other outlets. New York City is blessed by the presence of three cable news networks.

SHARPTON: And two newspapers and cable news network.

DOBBS: Exactly.

SHARPTON: That is called dominating.

DOBBS: But they are called outlets.

SHARPTON: Lou Dobbs doesn't own the newspaper and your show. We are talking the owner of the "The Wall Street Journal," the "New York Post," the Channel 5 and Channel 9 and a cable network and we're not supposed to say wait a minute, S.E.C., this gives them a whole lot of influence here that we need to look at how you let them expand according to your procedures. Let's not deal with the cartoon, let's deal with your procedures.

DOBBS: And you understand why people perceive this as being a political reaction on your part? For example, last June, the "New York Post" went after you with a front page article talking about your, I believe, the expression was extortion of corporate America.

SHARPTON: And they was found to be untrue. And if it was about that, then why didn't I go after them? I'd have to be guilty of the worst delayed reaction in history if they hit me last June and I just responded last February. I guess I subconsciously made the cartoonist convenient put that in, hog wash. Come on. They did this. They are getting nailed on the cartoon, but now there are other questions, totally independent of that, they have to answer to the S.E.C.

DOBBS: If they are independent of them, that's terrific. But you can understand how someone, again with my limited intelligence, would have conflated those things since they all occurred within three days of each other?

SHARPTON: Yes. I would also understand with your exceptional intelligence would say whether or not one has a political motive or not, you do have to follow the statutory requirements for a waiver and if you can't answer them, then maybe Reverend Sharpton and others are correct. How can you do this if you don't follow the statue? You certainly can't argue first amendment right gives me the right to own more than what you can get without a waiver.

DOBBS: You have the right to object, protest, whatever you want. Would you -- do you think it's appropriate to call for the firing of the cartoonist and the editor here?

SHARPTON: I think we have the right to say they should reprimand them.

DOBBS: You know what?


DOBBS: If you're not calling for their firing, if you're not calling for -- the parallels here have to be almost, you know when you recall back to the Mohammed cartoons in Denmark and suddenly there is a Fattah in which people want to have, you know, jihadists -- SHARPTON: No, no one is talking -- first of all, it was a protest all very nonviolent and nobody is calling for anybody to be harmed. Nobody is called for some everybody is calling for respect here because they are use city councilmen said we advertise the city of New York and we don't want to advertise in something --

DOBBS: Absolutely. Entirely.

SHARPTON: That is what -- this is not nowhere comparable to that kind of behavior. But, again, that is separate from what we're talking about the S.E.C. if they fired the cartoonist, we would still raise the same questions of statutory law on the S.E.C. because they do not have the right to dominate the market without following the statutory requirements.

DOBBS: A different issue, a separate issue. And as far as you're concerned then the controversy, the call for firing of the cartoonist and the editor then --

SHARPTON: Is a separate issue. No.

DOBBS: You reprimand --

SHARPTON: They ought to reprimand them and what Mr. Murdoch did not do in his apology. He said it won't happen again but he hasn't outlined how it won't let it happen again. Does he leave the same instruction in place? You say I did wrong, I'm sorry, let's move on, you say how do we know we move on? Maybe I'll keep looking at Lou Dobbs and he'll come on and explain to you why people should believe that, with the same process and same personnel in place, it won't happen again.

DOBBS: Well, you know, at this point, having issued two apologies, because you're talking about the sequence and having it stirred up. As I recall, the Post did apologize, was it not, on Thursday, the day after?

SHARPTON: No. The media reaction was that we would just publicity opportunists and the day after that, they said we're sorry but not sorry to the opportunists and today he made a personal apology.

DOBBS: And that has to please you. It may not be adequate but it pleases you?

SHARPTON: Oh, I think it showed leadership but it would show more leadership if he explained why this can't happen again. He said the buck stops there so that's what we're asking.

DOBBS: That reaction on publicity, Al Sharpton isn't adverse to publicity?

SHARPTON: Al Sharpton, part of what you do as a leader of the civil rights group is get all of the publicity you can on an affair. You're on every day. No one knows better than you that publicity matters when you try to get your calls heard. DOBBS: Make sure on the right side of it and always leaving that first amendment alone because I love that!

SHARPTON: I'm sure that we will always respect first amendment since we use it every day but we don't try to dominate a market with it. We use it as an execution to get a pass on dominated the markets.

DOBBS: You moved beyond the first amendment and you and I are fine.

SHARPTON: Well, then we're fine.

DOBBS: You got it.

SHARPTON: All right.

DOBBS: Reverend Al Sharpton, thank you very much.

SHARPTON: Thank you, brother Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Brother Al Sharpton. Thank you, sir.

SHARPTON: We can go through this all night!

DOBBS: Well, you know? I've got a producer who says no.


DOBBS: Al, we can go through it tomorrow night, though.

SHARPTON: Thank you.

DOBBS: Thank you.

Up next, President Obama's first speech to a joint session in congress and the best radio talk show hosts in the country will join us and new efforts to restrict your rights to own a gun. Congressman Bobby Rush joins me here next. We'll have a full and frank exchange of views on that issue next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: A major new effort in congress to your rights to own a handgun. Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois has re-introduced legislation that would require the legislation of all guns sold in this country. Congressman Rush joins us tonight from Capitol Hill.

Congressman, good to have you with us.

REP. BOBBY RUSH (D), ILLINOIS: Lou, it's so good to be with you. I even want to call you my brother.

DOBBS: All right. And you're mine.

RUSH: Yes, sir. DOBBS: And, you know, even though you're kind of messing with Second Amendment rights here, but I'm going to hope that maybe you and I can talk tonight and I convince you to leave the Constitution alone. Can we do that, or is that just a little optimistic on my part?

RUSH: I tell you, Lou, I am just a vigilant defender of the Constitution. I know how important the Constitution is. I don't want to infringe on anybody's constitutional rights. Certainly, I don't want to infringe on their Second Amendment rights. But there is something also called the right of those who are victims of crimes, particularly in urban centers, the right that they have to ask their government to try to enact programs to end the carnage in our communities. I think their rights shouldn't be denied also.

DOBBS: Let's take that up, if we may, Congressman. I want to turn, first, to the legislation that you've reintroduced. The bill says, in part, and if we could put this up so our audience could read it. "Gun violence in the United States is associated with the majority of homicides, over half the suicides, and two-thirds of non- fatal violent injuries."

You know, Congressman Rush, how will registering guns stop the kind of violence you're talking about?

RUSH: It certainly might not stop it, but it certainly can impede the stampede toward the kind of atrocities that you just mentioned. We can have a nation with more sane, common sense gun laws, and that is what we're trying to do, you know? We're not trying to get people to register every gun that they have or their sporting rifles or their rifles that's been passed down to them from generation to generation.

DOBBS: Right.

RUSH: We're saying let's register every handgun. And I think that that's something that certainly most Americans probably would be in favor of. I think that certainly most of those who are in my district and in my city and my state would be in favor of.

DOBBS: People may not realize this, you lost a son to gun violence.

RUSH: Yes.

DOBBS: Some 10 years ago. So this is not exactly an abstract issue for you. I'm sorry, go ahead.

RUSH: It's not an abstract issue, but I am not the only victim. My family is not the only victim.

DOBBS: Sure, you're not.

RUSH: Look, Lou, just this past weekend in Chicago, on a street corner, three young people, less than 18, they -- none of them were 18 years old, gunned down. I think the youngest one was 13. You have another part of the country, an 11-year-old young boy, kills his pregnant, soon to be stepmother, you know.

Look, these young people have access to the most lethal weaponry that we have ever invented, and there's no remnants -- or no semblance of trying to control them, trying to restrict them.

I'm just asking that guns, that handguns be registered in this country. And we enforce automobiles, which has a multiplicity of uses, and we enforce the registration of automobiles through what they call the VIN number, the vehicle...

DOBBS: Right.

RUSH: ... identification number. We should be able to register handguns with a GIN number, gun identification number. That's just common sense.

DOBBS: Congressman, I appreciate you being with us. I hope you'll come back.

RUSH: I certainly will.

DOBBS: I'd like to discuss a couple of other issues that I think, personally, my belief is that would be far more effective in stopping gun violence, and that is the issues of poverty, the issues of education, the issues of family values in this country, and community values. But that's for another time and we appreciate, Congressman. I know you've got to go to take your seat in the Congress. But I just want to say thank you.

RUSH: Let me just say, Lou, I'm always available and I would love to discuss those issues. OK.

DOBBS: We'll do it.

RUSH: Thank you.

DOBBS: Thank you, Congressman. Congressman Bobby Rush.

Up next, President Obama is with to deliver his first speech to a joint session in the United States congress. I will be joined by a radio talk show host who is here next and we will discuss what is likely to be heard. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Joining me now, three of my favorite radio talk show hosts in all the country in Portland, Oregon, from KXL and Westwood One, Lars Larson, good to have you with us. Here in New York the host of the morning show on WWRL, CNN contributor Errol Louis, good to have you with us.

ERROL LOUIS, WWRL: Good to see you, Brother Lou.

DOBBS: From WROL -- Brother Lou -- New York, friend and colleague as well, John Gambling.

JOHN GAMBLING, WROL: Good to see you, Lou.

DOBBS: I like it. It is my night to be brother. We ought to all start calling each other brother.

GAMBLING: That had to be the first time you were called Brother Lou.

DOBBS: Not the first time by any stretch of the imagination, maybe the first time Al's called me Brother Lou. Let's start with the address tonight and what you expect, John, from the president. We're told early on that it's going to be a realistic assessment but we'll also hear maybe a return to the rhetoric of hope from the president?

GAMBLING: Well, I think that's certainly welcome on every front. This whole thing is weighing down on everybody, and every turn. I certainly hope that the president will do that. I think, however, what we are told we are going to hear tonight about reducing the deficit by the end of his presidency in the first term of his presidency from what $1.3 trillion to $530 million whatever it might be, I think it's somewhat schizophrenic. Here we are, we have pumped $2 trillion into this economy to stimulate it, whether it is foreclosure, T.A.R.P., whatever it might be, and now he wants to ratchet back the dollars that he wants to take dollars out of the economy that would otherwise be a stimulus aspect.

DOBBS: Yes, what do you think, Errol?

LOUIS: That's right. The reality as I said on this show, stimulus is about spending and for those who turned no into deficit hawks all of the sudden or used that as an excuse to oppose the package he's trying to make up some ground with them. He's emphasizing what the pro-stimulus people said all along, this is temporary, not about creating jobs the next 24 years but getting through the next 24 months.

LARS LARSON, KXL IN PORTLAND: This is the guy who promises he's going on a diet tomorrow but tonight having a big piece of chocolate cake.

DOBBS: Sounds like my kind of diet

LARSON: Doesn't make any sense, spend the money, sink us into debt. I admit the Bush administration did the same thing but this is on a scale Americans have never seen before and the president needs to put a happy face on things tonight. He went from the hope and change candidate to the doom and gloom president. I guess now we go back the other direction.

DOBBS: I've been saying he sounds Bushian. I mean from September we've had President Bush to January 20th and President Obama talking down the markets and the economy. We know we have a problem. How about some solutions?

GAMBLING: You might have seen that today on Wall Street after Bernanke talked about maybe this thing is going to end by or start to end by the end of the year and the market went up, what, 235, 250. DOBBS: So we're going to be back with our panel in a moment but first, coming up at the top of the hour, Campbell Brown with "NO BIAS, NO BULL."

Campbell, are you ready?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: I am ready, Lou. Are you ready? We're a little more than an hour away now from, of course, President Obama's first speech to the joint session of congress. Lou, you guys have been talking about it, he's also talking to the country, a nation looking for any sign of hope in the midst of a relentless economic crisis. The question, can he strike the right tone tonight?

We're going to have a preview, the best political team on television in a few minutes. We'll also look at the republicans' rising star who has been tapped to deliver his party's response, why he's calling the president's handling of the economy irresponsible. All ahead at the top of the hour. We'll bring you the president's address live as soon as it starts, Lou.

DOBBS: Super, thanks, Campbell. Reminder, join me on the radio Monday through Fridays, go to Lou Dobbs radio to get the local listings in your area, and join me on WOR Monday through Friday morning and afternoons we got it covered, don't we John? We'll be right back with out panel. Stay with us.


DOBBS: We're back with our panel now. I want to go out to Lars Larson. The president's poll ratings are just plummeting here. He's broken -- gone below 60% for the first time in his five weeks in office. What do you make of it?

LARSON: The fact is Americans are discovering buyers' remorse, realizing the man who sold them on hope and change and it was a great sales pitch, the problem was a lot of us were saying, and you were, too, Lou, what in the world is behind the slogans and there wasn't much back there and I think we're realizing that now and now that message is spreading beyond the conservative talk show hosts out to the mainstream of America. They're saying there isn't anything here.

LOUIS: Well, conservative talk show hosts then, you gentleman know very well going at this 24/7 since the day after the inauguration, and I'd be surprised if the numbers didn't change. You get the full-throated cry, people making wild accusations a Marxist takeover of the government, everything's going to hell in the government.

DOBBS: Didn't say Marxist, socialist, started by President George W. Bush.

LOUIS: Indeed and at some point he has to answer back. Tonight I think it will be part of how he starts to fight back.

GAMBLING: Are you blaming us conservative talk show hosts for the decline to move the meter on the president of the United States? LOUIS: Sure.

GAMBLING: It might have something to do --

DOBBS: I'm hurt, I'm an independent.

GAMBLING: It might have to do with the fact he said one thing during the campaign and had to go 180 degrees the other way.

DOBBS: Gentlemen, we got to go. Appreciate you all being here. Lars, thank you very much. Errol, thank you. John, thank you.

GAMBLING: Thank you, my friend.

DOBBS: See you in the morning.

Tonight's poll results, 89% say it's time for the president to shut down the rhetoric of fear and start focusing on the positive steps to economic recovery. Thanks for being with us tonight. Campbell Brown "NO BIAS, NO BULL" starts right now.