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Lou Dobbs Tonight

North Korean Threat; Taking on Iran; Governor's Affair; Pay Hike; More People on Welfare

Aired June 24, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf. Good evening, everybody.

The Obama administration tonight faces escalating crises overseas on two fronts -- security forces in Iran today intensified their violent crackdown on pro democracy protesters and demonstrators at the same time North Korea threatened to wipe out the United States once and for all. The warning comes as the United States considers boarding a suspected North Korean arms shipment on the high seas.

And a stunning announcement by South Carolina's Governor Mark Sanford who disappeared for four days -- he declares today, I've been unfaithful to my wife. And in our "Face Off" debate we'll examine whether social networking sites and citizen journalists have made traditional media Obsolete.

We begin with breaking news on North Korea's increasingly aggressive threats. The North Korean government today declared it's ready to wipe out the United States. This latest threat comes as North Korea continues its preparations for new missile tests off its eastern coast. Meanwhile a U.S. destroyer and spy planes are tracking the North Korean freighter that's suspected of carrying weapons or even nuclear material to Burma. One U.S. official today said North Korea appears to be testing the new Obama administration. Kitty Pilgrim has our report.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The rogue North Korean dictator makes a wild threat to wipe out the United States -- the Pentagon response.

GEOFF MORRELL, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I don't even know how to -- how to even respond to such silliness. I don't -- wipe the United States off the map for what and with what.

PILGRIM: Nevertheless, the situation is dangerous and fluid. In recent days the U.S. has taken some steps by monitoring missile activity in North Korea. Secretary Gates has moved the FAD (ph) antimissile defense system and X-Ban (ph) radar to Hawaii for fear North Korea may fire a Tapadong-2 (ph) missile for the island in July. And a U.S. destroyer is trailing a North Korean ship believed to be transporting arms to Myanmar in violation of U.N. sanctions. Some in Congress say we need to do more.

REP. MICHAEL TURNER (R-OH), ARMED SERVICES CMTE.: I know this administration is basically taking the view that we'll just continue to talk and make statements from Washington instead of rallying the international community to address this important issue.

PILGRIM: Last night President Obama spoke to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (ph) of Australia by phone and the Pentagon is calling on our all allies to help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea is that this is somehow being made a U.S. responsibility. The world spoke through the United Nations. This is a collective concern. And there are now collective responsibilities and authorities given us to and we hope it doesn't just fall on us to exercise.

PILGRIM: The president said earlier this week.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's be clear. This administration and our military is fully prepared for any contingencies.

PILGRIM: The Obama administration last week pledged "significant serious enforcement" of sanctions. Today it said no decision had been made to board the North Korean flag vessel. That decision they said would be made collectively with allies.


PILGRIM: While some in Congress are agitating for increased funding for missile defense systems others are saying North Korea should be put back on the list of countries who are state sponsors of terrorism. Lou.

DOBBS: Any sign that other nations will be sending their ships to interdict the North Korean freighter?

PILGRIM: The Pentagon today said that there were other navies who were concerned but that was about as far as they would go.

DOBBS: Thank you very much. Appreciate it -- Kitty Pilgrim.

The United States has more than 28,000 troops in South Korea, most of them Army and Air Force. The Army contingent includes armored aviation artillery air defense brigades. Commanders are placing all of those troops on a heightened watch condition at the end of last month.

Turning now to the crisis in Iran -- government security forces there today broke up an anti-government demonstration in the capital of Tehran and did so violently. Hundreds of people had gathered near the parliament building but heavily armed security forces attacked those demonstrators. One witness said the security forces beat people like animals.

Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei (ph) says the government will not yield to demands from annulment of the election. CNN has learned that President Obama sent a letter to Iran supreme leader requesting dialogue and engagement weeks before the presidential election, but Iran's supreme leader did not reply. And as we now know the Iranian government is being accused of rigging the election. Dan Lothian reports from the White House -- Dan, what is the White House saying about this letter?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well yes, you know while official sources in Iran are confirming this, the White House stopping just short of confirming that President Obama did send that diplomatic letter, if you will, to Iran's supreme leader. What an official here did confirm is that since these disputed elections, all overtures are essentially on ice.

Now what this administration is trying to do in answering this question about the letter is sort of laid out in broad terms saying that the Obama administration is engaged -- in trying to engage with Iran. But I'll tell you when you listen to Robert Gibbs today, I asked him a question about you know specifically what was in that letter. Here's how he answered it.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think, as each of you know, the administration has indicated a willingness to talk with the leadership in Iran, and have sought to communicate with the Iranian people in a variety of ways. But I am not going to -- not going to get into anything other than the notion that you all understand the president has spoken throughout the campaign about being engaged.

LOTHIAN: And is that communication (INAUDIBLE) continuing at this time?

GIBBS: There has been no communication with Iranian officials since the election.


LOTHIAN: So, while not talking now, the administration says its policy of trying to establish a dialogue with Iran over its nuclear program has not changed. Lou.

DOBBS: Any sense of irony there at the White House, that this letter was revealed and without rather than through the State Department which is run by the very same woman who, as a candidate for president had criticized exactly this approach?

LOTHIAN: Certainly you can say some irony here. But you know, if you read behind the lines -- between the lines there what the White House is saying, I mean they are essentially admitting to it, Lou that they did write this letter, but clearly want to do it on their terms.

It's sort of not connecting the dots. It's being connected in Iran not being connected just yet here at the White House but the theme -- the overall theme that they're trying to put out there is that we're still trying to engage Iran, will continue to do that, because they think it's important especially when it comes to the nuclear program. DOBBS: All right, thank you very much -- Dan Lothian at the White House.

We should note that CNN has offered an open invitation to the Iranian government at any time to come on our air and to answer questions about the events taking place in Iran. So far CNN's offers to the Iranian government have gone unanswered.

In Iraq today terrorists killed more than 60 people in another major bomb attack. A bomb exploded in the market area of Sadr City today. The attack comes days before U.S. troops are due to be withdrawn from Iraqi towns and cities leaving security to the Iraqi government.

President Obama says our troops will stop all combat missions in Iraq by the end of August next year. President Obama did not mention Iraq once during his White House news conference yesterday nor Afghanistan.

Up next here, a tearful announcement by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford as he admits he has been unfaithful to his wife.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hurt a lot of different folks and all I can say is that I apologize.


DOBBS: New details emerging tonight. We'll have the very latest for you on the governor's scandal and some Wall Street bankers -- well some are calling it another scandal. They will receive huge salary increases if the leadership of Citigroup has its way. By the way, they exist because of $45 billion of your taxpayer money. We continue in one moment.


DOBBS: Well, an admission from Republican Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, it turns out that we now know why he was missing for days, having left the state of South Carolina with no one in charge and apparently no one with the knowledge of where he was. Today, the governor publicly apologized for misleading his family, his staff and those who voted for him and admitted to having an affair. Our Jessica Yellin has the report.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After triggering a national guessing game over his disappearance, Governor Mark Sanford admitted, yes, he'd skipped town to be in the arms of a mistress.

GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The bottom line is this. I've been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a -- what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. YELLIN: From the governor who repeatedly called himself a man of faith, there were recriminations.

SANFORD: I hurt her. I hurt you all. I hurt my wife. I hurt my boys.

YELLIN: Tears and quite a few details about how his eight-year e-mail relationship with a female friend in Argentina recently ignited.

SANFORD: About a year ago, it sparked into something more than that. I have seen her three times since then during that whole sparking thing.

YELLIN: The jaunt to Argentina was doubly confusing since just yesterday Sanford's staff announced they had made contact with him and he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, which does not stretch to Argentina. The governor admits he misled his staff.

SANFORD: I would also apologize to my staff, because I as much as I did talk about going to the Appalachian Trail -- that was one of the original scenarios that I'd thrown out to Mary Neal (ph) -- that isn't where I ended up and so I let them down by creating a fiction with regard to where I was going.

YELLIN: His only justification human frailty and exhaustion after fighting over the stimulus package.

SANFORD: What I have found in this job is that one desperately needs a break from the bubble.

YELLIN: Sanford's wife Jenny admits the two just separated. In a statement she writes "to maintain my dignity, self-respect and my basic sense of right and wrong I asked my husband to leave two weeks ago", but she said "I believe Mark has earned a chance to resurrect our marriage."


YELLIN: And Lou on the political front the governor says he is not resigning. South Carolina Republicans still seem to be working out what's best for their party and their state. Sanford already had frosty relations with state Republicans, and you know this can't help -- Lou.

DOBBS: One would think not. It is also interesting that the governor ranked his wife third in that list of those he had wronged. I suppose that was just an accident. Any thought?

YELLIN: He clearly did not have a prepared statement and was speaking sort of extemporaneously. There were a number of surprising comments he made in the course of his ongoing statement today.

DOBBS: The reference to the sparking thing, sort of an extraordinary use of language, I would think. YELLIN: I'm going to stay away from commenting on that one, Lou. I included it because it was noteworthy, but I think it speaks for itself.


DOBBS: And as always you have used superb journalistic judgment and we thank you so much -- thank you Jessica Yellin.

Well the second time in little more than a week that a Republican has confessed to an extramarital affair -- a leading Republican. Last week (INAUDIBLE) Senator John Ensign admitted to a year-long affair with one of his campaign staffers. He resigned his position as the fourth ranking Republican leader. Both Senator John Ensign and Governor Mark Sanford were considered as possible Republican candidates for the presidency in 2012.

Democrats also have had a share of politically damaging admissions. Last year, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned after he admitted hiring prostitutes and illegally paying a prostitute to cross the state line and in August former North Carolina Senator John Edwards admitted to lying repeatedly about his extramarital affair while preparing to run for president.

Well on Wall Street tonight a stunning plan to increase the base salaries of some at Citigroup -- a company that owes the American taxpayers some $45 billion. Today Citigroup announced it may raise the salaries of certain employees by as much as 50 percent. Bill Tucker has our story.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reports of a pending 50 percent pay hike at Citigroup created a buzz on Wall Street, Main Street and in Washington. Senator Chris Dodd who chairs the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs issued a short terse statement saying "they just don't get it."

Citigroup reacted by downplaying any pending adjustments saying, quote "Any salary adjustments are not intended to increase total annual compensation, rather to adjust the balance between fixed and variable compensation." In other words, the bank says there will be more salary and less bonus. A spokesman says such an adjustment will bring Citi in line with what its competitors are doing and admits it will help the bank keep the best of its roughly 300,000 employees.

No one would be specific about how many employees have left the bank but one official described it as significant. With seven million people thrown out of work since December of 2007 when the recession began not everyone is sympathetic.

JIM REDA, COMPENSATION EXPERT: It probably would not be a bad idea if a lot of these people went to a private company and then started gambling with other people's money besides the taxpayers.

TUCKER: Corporate watchdog groups say given that the taxpayers own a third of the company...

BETH YOUNG, THE CORPORATE LIBRARY: I think it's right to question whether this is the best use of taxpayer funds given the amount of money that the government has already sunk into this company, which you know has not had a good track record.

TUCKER: For the moment Treasury is keeping its distance saying quote "we are not going to be dragged into the day-to-day operations of private companies where the government has invested taxpayer money." Although some compensation experts believe Treasury certainly was not in the dark.

ALAN JOHNSON, JOHNSON ASSOCIATES: I think the reality is that the Treasury is heavily involved. They obviously knew about this ahead of time.

TUCKER: Citi had no comment on any conversations with Treasury.


TUCKER: And this afternoon President Obama entered the fray and issued a pledge that his administration will strike the right balance on executive pay, but like Citi, Lou, he wasn't very clear about what the right balance exactly is.

DOBBS: So, in other words the pay czar isn't czaring (ph) on this one?

TUCKER: That would be right.

DOBBS: OK and meanwhile a company that would only exist because of $45 billion from the United States taxpayer...

TUCKER: Right.

DOBBS: ... is going to move ahead without comment, without explanation to the public and the Obama administration is doing precisely the same thing?

TUCKER: That really does sum it up.


TUCKER: The bank says we're not ready to talk about it.

DOBBS: Thank you very much -- Bill Tucker. Appreciate it.

And I'll have a few thoughts about this -- pay raises for Wall Street and where is your government? Follow those comments -- follow me on Twitter @loudobbsnews.

And coming up here next, a new push in Congress to tax your health benefits -- also more and more families being hit by this recession. They're turning increasingly to welfare and to food banks for help.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not joking. There was a time where I didn't know what we were going to do and how we were going to eat.


DOBBS: That story just ahead.

And an 82-year-old Texas woman risks her life to save her dog. We'll have her heroic and touching story next.


DOBBS: New efforts on Capitol Hill in an effort to, well, end the political standoff over the president's controversial health care reform. Senators now say there is growing support for a new tax on employer-provided medical benefits to help pay for those reforms. It's an idea that President Obama strongly criticized as a candidate when it was first proposed by Senator John McCain. Today in a White House meeting with governors, President Obama insisted the current health care system is unsustainable.


OBAMA: There's a recognition that when you have premiums doubling three times faster than wages, when you have businesses seeing 25 or 30 percent increases in terms of their health care costs for their employees, when you look at Medicaid budgets and what that is forcing governors to do in terms of making choices about trying to still fund higher education and the other things that are going to make states competitive, there's a recognition that we have to change the status quo.


DOBBS: Tonight the president will hold a town hall meeting on health care at the White House. That event will be broadcast by ABC. It is one of three programs that the ABC Network is broadcasting from the White House today. The prescription for health care -- "Prescription for America" is the title of the health care special.

Turning to the recession, it is forcing many of our working families to turn to the federal government for help and to state government, to just about everyone for help because nearly five million more people are on food stamps this year compared to just a year ago. Lisa Sylvester reports tonight on one family's struggle.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dave Cowan is a single parent raising his 9-year-old in California. Until four months ago, dad and son Bono, named for the U-2 star, lived a fairly carefree middle class life, then Cowan lost his job of 12 years as the sales manager at a motion picture industry lighting company. Now he's among those who rely on the Burbank Temporary Aid Center, a food pantry he never thought he would need. DAVE COWAN, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: If I'm hungry I'm going (INAUDIBLE) I don't want that sandwich. I'm going to save the bread and meat for, you know for Bono, so you know make sure that he goes first and so that's really how it works.

SYLVESTER: Many middle class families are in the same boat. According to the Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service, there were 5.2 million more people around the country receiving food stamps in March than for the same month last year. In Florida, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Vermont, the food stamp rolls are up more than 30 percent and 23 of the 30 largest states have seen a jump in the number of people receiving cash welfare payments up for the first time since President Clinton was in office, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

BARBARA HOWELL, BURBANK TEMPORARY AID: What we found is a growing middle class that is now having to turn for help where they've never had to ask for help before. They're people who have been laid off. They're upside-down on their mortgages. Just a myriad of circumstances and they are newly in need.

SYLVESTER: Dave Cowan says he tries to stay positive for his son's sake. One lesson he's taken away?

COWAN: There's no stereo typical type of what being homeless or being close to homeless is. It's not the guy on the corner you know with the sign begging for change or with the dirty jeans. You know, you would never know just by looking at somebody what they're dealing with.


SYLVESTER: And Dave Cowan says every day, he gets up, he goes to the library to use the computer there to search for jobs and to send out his resume. He had one job interview this week but said there were 500 people applying for the same position. Lou.

DOBBS: Yes, that is a heartrending story and unfortunately Dave and his family are far from alone. Thank you very much -- Lisa Sylvester from Washington.

Other stories we're following tonight -- in Iowa a well-known high school football coach was shot and killed this morning. Police say a 24-year-old former player barged into a weight room and shot Coach Ed Thomas (ph) several times. Thomas (ph) was in the weight room at the time with about 20 other students. None of the students were injured. The alleged shooter has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

In Miami, a car driven by a teenager collided with a police car today. Both cars plunged into a canal. The police officer was responding to a burglary call with lights on and sirens on. Police and some onlookers pulled both drivers and a police dog out of the canal. All three are expected to be OK. Police say it was an accident and haven't filed any charges. In Garland, Texas (ph), 82-year-old Dorothy Davis fought off a pit bull to save her dog. Davis and her pet schnauzer (ph) Cuda (ph) were on their morning walk when a pit bull jumped Cuda (ph). Davis grabbed the pit bull's collar, but the dog knocked her to the ground. She ended up wrestling with the pit bull, lying on top of it and refusing to get up until the dog calmed down. The vet said that was a bad idea.


DOROTHY DAVIS: He said you don't ever break up a dog fight. I said when it's my dog, I do.


DOBBS: Said like a true Texan. She has some scraps and bruises but we are pleased to tell you that both Dorothy and Cuda (ph) will be OK.

Up next, Governor Mark Sanford's declaration he's been unfaithful to his wife sending shock waves through the Republican Party, also the rising influence of social networking has many wondering whether traditional journalism is entering a phase of obsoletes (ph). That is the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight.

And a troubling new report that marijuana is more harmful than previously reported. We'll have that story and a great deal more straight ahead.


DOBBS: Well Iran has blocked foreign news media from covering the election demonstrations. The ban has restricted professional journalists from reporting on the protests, nearly all of them, and covering the governor's crackdown on those protesters, but people around the world reading reports, seeing dramatic video of what is unfolding in Iran.

Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube all providing a way for the Iranian's story to be told. And that's the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight and the issue is will social networking sites and citizen journalists ultimately replace traditional journalism.

Joining me now Robert Thompson (ph), professor of Television Radio and Film at Syracuse University -- good to have you with us -- Micah Sifry -- he is the author and co-founder of the Personal Democracy Forum -- good to have you with us.


DOBBS: Well I think I have to start Robert by saying I kind of hope that you win this debate, but I have a feeling also the odds are against you. What do you think? Robert, can you hear me?

ROBERT THOMPSON, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: Oh, yes. Well you know, certainly deputizing people to

DOBBS: By the way, traditional media is off to a good start here, Robert.

THOMPSON: But certainly these people act as deputies. It's just like we used to use eyewitnesses. Sometimes people are places where journalists can't be. And I think that makes perfect sense that we would use those things. But I think if we expect that these pictures coming out of Iran and people with these first-hand accounts are going to take the place of professional reporters, good journalists who are putting this stuff into context, I think that's a really big mistake. I mean, just because libraries came along and we have books that children could look at, that didn't mean that professional teachers suddenly became obsolete because someone could look at the books.

MICAH SIFRY, PERSONAL DEMOCRACY FORUM: Sure. You know, I don't think this is an either/or choice, actually. Anybody can commit an act of journalism. I think that's what we're learning now. You don't have to be a professional to be in a place where you can find out and report something important. We still have to put things through a process of verifying.

DOBBS: I have to say one thing if I may. Being an eyewitness and being a journalist are two different things.

THOMPSON: Are two different things, absolutely.

SIFRY: I would argue that today, many more people have the capacity to report, analyze, fact check. You don't have to have a degree. You don't have to be certified. You don't have to have a credential from a news organization. We are certainly seeing that from Iran. We're seeing citizen journalists play this role in the coverage of the last election here in the United States. We're seeing it in their ability to question politicians when those politicians don't want to be questioned like Secretary Rice being asked by students at Stanford about her position on those torture memos, a question that she was not asked by traditional journalists, because they were afraid of losing access to her.

DOBBS: And I think that's a terrific point. I should point out that I'm one of those people watching events unfold, like Iran and other sources on Twitter, on other networking sites, and this network, CNN, is using those citizen journalists, and those accesses and they are being converged here professionally.

But the idea that -- of access, that Micah just introduced, Robert, the idea that there is a traditional set of journalists who are becoming a little hide bound because of an orthodoxy that's being established in power centers and the establishment versus the citizen journalists and all of the applications, the wonderful new applications in social networking particularly, this is having -- this, to me, seems if not to be a tremor, at least a thunder clap, that presages a bit of a quake.

THOMPSON: Right. Well, first of all, if it's between someone saying -- Twittering or taking pictures on cell phones or anything. And we should simply take the stuff that comes out of the traditional news media, that of course would be a silly approach.

But I think we have to be careful. We call them citizen journalists. They are citizens but they are not necessarily journalists. Holding up a cell phone and bearing witness does not make you a journalist. You know, if we would have had cell phones or Web sites back in the civil rights era, we would have gotten some interesting stuff coming out of Central High School, coming out of some of those protests. But the work and the due diligence that were done by professional journalists during that time, if that hadn't happened, that story would have gone down a very different road.

DOBBS: You know, that's an interesting question, and I'm going to ask this of both of you. When you talk about civil rights, I think of some terrific journalists who worked at the time but it is the imagery of the reporting that I remember, the photojournalism that I think brought that story broadly to America at a time when it was -- many parts of this country were unaware of the sins that were being committed in other parts.

SIFRY: It was people in the London tunnels who were the first to report about the bombings that took place there just a year or so ago. And they had cell phone pictures. Sometimes that witness is the first draft of journalism.

But I think they're -- again, I don't think this is an either/or question, and there's certain kinds of things involving many more people in helping sift information. I'll give you an example. Congress has a thousand page bill on energy and climate that they are going to push through this Friday. No one has had the time to read the bill, even members of Congress.

DOBBS: May I interrupt you as a journalist? They have not taken the time. They have the time.

SIFRY: The bill isn't even available for everyone to read. It's only going to get posted 24 hours before a vote. Most members won't have time to read it. Like that provision for AIG that got through --

DOBBS: Like the stimulus bill, like every major piece of legislation, I just want to be clear about this. The reason the Senate and the House are not reading the legislation is not because they don't have time, but rather as an exercise of power they possess, that's a choice being made consciously.

SIFRY: But, OK, We, citizens should be demanding that Congress be posting legislation online so we can all read it in advance of a vote. And I'm not saying this replaces the work of professional journalists who understand the issues and can sift, but they don't have time to read a thousand pages in 24 hours either but they can ask their readers to help them.

DOBBS: But you're talking, Robert Thompson, about an empowerment. There is a condescension, I think, in the traditional media, if I can put it this way. I don't know if you disagree with that or not. And there's a level that occasionally within social networking, and if you will, the fascination with the new applications of technology that suggest that participation is the same thing as journalism. Or bearing witness, is the same thing. They are really -- they are all quite different. Robert, you get -- your summation, if you will.

THOMPSON: Yes, well, I mean it's true that the images are what we remember, but those pictures need a thousand words. They need thousands of thousands of words. I remember the images from the Vietnam War as well. But I needed to have it explained as to why we were there and how it was going and all of the rest of it. I have spent all of yesterday going through hours and hours of YouTube videos from Iran and Twitters and all the rest of it. And while I saw a lot of imagery that gave me something that the traditional media can't do, because in this case there's banned, there's very little about the actual situation that was going on.

What I learned was, wow, there are a lot of people out at -- getting beat up. That's not unimportant. Those are important images to come through. But I'm still saying if we have really the depth of traditional professionalized journalism that is the form of the depth of professionalized education, and I think that is a very, very bad sign for a republic.

DOBBS: All right, you get the last word, Micah.

SIFRY: Well, my last word is it's not an either/or choice. I think we're going to see a hybrid form and best journalists today are collaborating with their viewers, with their readers and enhancing their stories and involving more people in the process of sifting information, digging out what needs to be paid attention to.

And right now, some of the best journalism that's being done on Iran is being done by bloggers, it's being done by people who are aggregating information and helping us make sense of it and not just people who Robert would call traditional journalists.

DOBBS: And by the way, some of the best thinking that I have seen, frankly, has been by those coming to us from what has been -- would be people normally labeled as technologists, who are bringing the -- if you will, the intellectual sort of -- the landscape of all that is happening which, for a traditional journalist like me, is fascinating, because they understand the channels of communication as well as what needs to be communicated and to be able to bring them together. You mentioned the word "hybrid." I think it's an exciting period and wonderful period.

SIFRY: If I can get a last word in, that's what we're talking about at Personal Democracy Forum this Monday and Tuesday here in New York. It's the future, and it's upon us and it's a very exciting time to be involved in this.

DOBBS: Micah, thank you very much. Robert, thank you. We appreciate both of you gentlemen being here.

Join us for tomorrow's face off debate. The issue is, is Republican Party dead if it doesn't change? Can the party make a comeback from the losses of 2006-2008? That's the subject of our face off debate here tomorrow. Please join us at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

A new report tonight showing a tremendous increase in the use of marijuana in North America over the last decade. The United Nations report also warning that marijuana is much more harmful than previously reported and people are seeking treatment in record numbers. Louise Schiavone has our report.


LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): About two thirds of all the marijuana seized worldwide is seized in Mexico and the United States. Narcotics officers on the front lines say it's a seriously underestimated problem.

RONALD BROOKS, NATL. NARCOTICS OFFICERS ASSN: Drug abuse in America is a bio-chem attack. It's our own home-grown terrorism. It's keeping kids from achieving their potential. It breaks up families, it fuels crime. It is truly the mother's milk of gangs because it's where they get their funding.

SCHIAVONE: Last year, says Brooks, millions of marijuana plants were eradicated on public land, much of it cultivated by heavily-armed Mexican drug cartels. A report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime finds that while opium and cocaine production are declining globally, marijuana seizures in North America are rising. More than 3.5 million kilograms of marijuana was seized in North America in 2007 according to the U.N. study, roughly 2.2 million in Mexico and about 1.5 million in the United States.

And while there's an ongoing debate of therapeutic use of marijuana for the seriously ill, doctors advice that marijuana can damage the brain.

DR. DENISE GREENE, PSYCHIATRIST: Long term side effects of chronic marijuana use, psychologically, are depression, and anxiety. So anyone who certainly has unrelying psychiatric illnesses should not be using marijuana on top of that.

SCHIAVONE: The U.N. report says marijuana is more harmful than commonly believed. Narcotics officer Brooks said today's marijuana is deliberately cultivated to pack a punch that is 10 times stronger than it was in the '70s.


SCHIAVONE: Lou, doctors tell us that marijuana can trigger an earlier onset of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in teenagers with a predisposition for them. For the general population, marijuana can be associated with psychosis, impaired memory and Lou, there are studies examining the correlation between consistent marijuana use and Alzheimer's Disease later in life.

DOBBS: And the source of -- the origin of that report is the United Nations, that's worth repeating, I think. Louise Schiavone, thank you very much, appreciate it. Well, it's also worth repeating that Mexico remains the major source of marijuana, methamphetamines, cocaine and heroin into the United States. A bail-out bank ranks 50 percent pay raises. Is Wall Street out of touch with the rest of the United States of America?

And Governor Sanford's shocking admission not to mention the almost week-long abandonment of his own state and family. We have a lot to talk about in our political roundtable next. And that's what is going to happen.


DOBBS: Well joining me now are Republican strategist, former White House political director and CNN contributor, Ed Rollins. Political analyst and contributor to the "Huffington Post," Keli Goff, good to have you with us. And Democratic strategist, CNN contributor, Robert Zimmerman.

Robert, let me ask you first. Because you probably would know the least about a South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford --


DOBBS: How much delight is there in the Democratic Party over the fact that another contender, at least early on, for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination has gone under.

ZIMMERMAN: In fairness, there's a lot of sorrow for his family. In political reality, there is a great deal of, I think, I think a great deal of delight in seeing the hypocrisy and fraud of the right wing exposed, their deceit.

DOBBS: You've moved well beyond that empathy moment.

KELI GOFF, HUFFINGTON POST: I've always been one of those who felt that as a citizen and as a voter, what goes on in someone's private life is their private life, as long as the law isn't being broken. However, I'm not a big fan of hypocrisy. But the bigger issue here if someone cracks under the pressure of having an affair and becomes extremely exhausted, as he noted, that he has to take a leave, my concern is what happens if, god forbid South Carolina --

DOBBS: We should explain something, Keli, if I may. He was exhausted from being in the public eye in his duties of governor, not exhausted from the affair.

GOFF: Right. Thank you for clarifying that. He described extreme exhaustion today during that news conference. I thought to myself, if this is what you cite as exhaustion, if this is what you cite as extreme pressure, then goodness forbid if there is a terrorist attack. That to me is the bigger issue as leader of government that he's disappearing and leaving the state.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: First of all, the stupidity of this man is just beyond me. GOFF: We agree on something.

ROLLINS: This is a guy that's been playing around with running for president, creating a presidential pact, the whole nine yards. Meanwhile, this affair is going on for a period of time.

The idea that in modern day, he could leave his state without telling anybody, not letting a lieutenant governor, who's a Republican. He has a Republican legislature. He may get impeached. He violated the law by leaving the state without basically passing it on. I'm sorry. My point is this was a foolish act and it's ended his political career. He's now done, history.

ZIMMERMAN: But, that's all a side show, his exhaustion, even his political career. The more important point is I am fed up with the right wing trying to tell me -- people like Senator Larry Craig or Governor Sanford or Senator Ensign, Congressman Foley, telling me what I -- defining me as an American, telling me what my family should be like and using the government to try to define my moral values. They're frauds and we have got to stand up to the country and put an end to this -- people who use religion --

ROLLINS: You've had none of yours like your former president who basically was impeached or Jefferson or a variety of other sources.

ZIMMERMAN: Or Eliot Spitzer.

ROLLINS: Or Eliot Spitzer.

ZIMMERMAN: But there's a big difference.

ROLLINS: What is the difference?

DOBBS: Real quickly, what is the difference?

ZIMMERMAN: Bill Clinton didn't try to use the government to tell me how to live my life or to tell women what rules they had over the health of their own bodies or to define rights of gay Americans. That's the difference. These right-wing fanatics who hold office in the Republican Party have tried to -- have used their position and abused their office to discriminate against people under moral grounds. They are the one whose reflect the immorality that is destroying America.

ROLLINS: I hope you feel better.

ZIMMERMAN: Thank you Ed, I do.

ROLLINS: It's not a valid point but I hope you feel better.

ZIMMERMAN: I didn't think you would give me that point.

GOFF: I think it's valid, I just think it's secondary. I think again, the idea that we have a leader who would disappear and leave his state to abandon thing, just abandon the state, and then -- I think it's ridiculous. ROLLINS: It's an issue of judgment. Go ahead.

DOBBS: May I? Now we've got Sanford --

ROLLINS: It's still "The Lou Dobbs Show."

DOBBS: But it really shouldn't be the Governor Sanford show because some proportion is appropriate here. All right, we've talked about this because it occurred today. This is, after all, a man who has just destroyed his own career, harmed mightily and disappointed mightily his family. It's a shame.

Now, let's move to the things that matter most, to nearly everyone and we're going to do precisely that. And by that I mean Iraq, I mean North Korea, I mean health care reform. I mean a nation that's $13 trillion in debt and we have a government that keeps on spending. We'll be back in just a moment.


DOBBS: Well, the White House has withdrawn its invitation to Iranian diplomats to attend Fourth of July festivities at global U.S. embassies. The move comes after the revelation that President Obama had sent a letter, before the election, in Iran, to the supreme leader which was ignored, apparently.

Is there some irony that we -- in all of this, that the same woman who criticized him for that approach, his secretary of state, is now being noticeably absent from at least, in public, the Iranian issue?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, obviously, a lot of irony in -- much of what you said. But the reality is, as secretary of state, she advised the president. The president articulates foreign policy so I can't fault her for doing an excellent job and doing the job properly in that respect. The bigger issue is going to be the way we're seeing the Iranians come together and keep this revolution alive.

DOBBS: Keli, let's turn quickly if we may to that news conference yesterday in which obviously two reporters and Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post" in his column was amongst the few voices in the national media to point out that it was two of those questions were pre arranged. What's your reaction?

GOFF: Well look, I think that there has been overwhelming criticism brewing -- I shouldn't say overwhelming, actually, that's too strong a word.

DOBBS: Depends on what the object of that sentence is.

GOFF: Well, I was going to say even in the criticism that the administration has gotten in terms of health care and the publicity surrounding that, with some saying another network -- I don't know if I'm allowed to say their name.

DOBBS: ABC. GOFF: ABC, thank you for saying it.

DOBBS: You're welcome, ABC.

GOFF: Is too much sort of in cahoots with the administration. And that criticism has been there since the campaign.


GOFF: Well, just in general, that there's always been this perception somehow that the president is getting some free ride.

DOBBS: Well, let me ask you this. What do you think of this title for a broadcast emanating from the White House on ABC for an entire day, three broadcasts, "Prescription For America." Does that seem free of bias to you? Or fair and balanced as you put it?

GOFF: Look, I wasn't in the room when the title was selected. I can't speak to someone else's motives.

DOBBS: Were you in the room?

GOFF: I think it's a good title as an author.

ROLLINS: Not right now. The bottom line is "The Huffington Post" who basically was told they can get to ask a question, so they asked one on Iran and they were called on and obviously it was your publication. I don't think that's --

GOFF: I know that.

ROLLINS: But, you're right. I don't think that's an open press conference. I think an open press conference should be the president gets to go out, make a five or 10 minute speech and then he answers questions from anything. They are trying to manipulate press conferences and they've had four of them and they've done this in each one. And maybe they get away with it. They're trying to basically structure with great cooperation from the national media. They're all very happy to do a day in the life. It's about ratings, for these networks. It's all about ABC ratings, it's all about NBC ratings. It's all about CBS ratings.

DOBBS: I should include, since you've done that, I have to include, CNN is interested in ratings as well.

ROLLINS: I'm sure they are. And the truth of the matter is, the biggest ratings you get right today is you've got a very popular president. You give him free form and it's free form.

DOBBS: And I should be clear that the president of this network is insisting that we stay middle of the word, irrespective what others choose to do. You get just about 20 seconds.

ZIMMERMAN: OK. Very simply, while I certainly recognize the media's positive coverage of Barack Obama, it was the same during the Bush administration. DOBBS: Thank you. We got to go. Thank you, Robert Zimmerman. Still ahead, we'll have some of your thoughts, stay with us.


DOBBS: Time now for a few of your thoughts.

Nancy in Texas said: "Didn't the American people say no to amnesty? Wonder what part of this our government doesn't understand. Guess we'll have to tell them again. Keep up the good work."

And, Ray in North Carolina: "What's the problem with the South Carolina governor missing for four days? Our former governor of North Carolina was missing for the last four years of his term."

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts to Each of you whose e-mail is ready here receives a copy of my book "Independents Day" and a reminder to join me on the radio Monday through Friday for the "Lou Dobbs Show," 2-4 p.m. each afternoon on WOR 710 radio in New York City. And go to, to get the local listings in the show for your area. Thanks for being with us tonight. Join us tomorrow and for all of us, we thank you for watching.

Good night from New York. Now, Campbell Brown.