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Lou Dobbs Tonight
Sotomayor Takes it all Back; Judging Sotomayor; Sotomayor and Illegal Immigration; Sotomayor and Roe v. Wade
Aired July 14, 2009 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf. Good evening, everybody.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor reverses course on her assertion that a wise Latina woman usually makes better judgments than a white male. This the latest example of what some are calling a confirmation conversion by the Supreme Court nominee -- also Judge Sotomayor faces a barrage of questions on issues facing the Supreme Court including gun rights and illegal immigration. Tonight we examine her responses, assess whether she should be confirmed, she will be.
And House Democrats move closer to an all-out investigation into the policies of former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney on the CIA and their mission to kill Osama bin Laden. Tonight we ask whether an investigation is warranted, whether Democrats are playing politics with national security. That and more in our "Face Off" debate tonight.
We begin with Judge Sonia Sotomayor today acknowledging for the first time that her wise Latina woman comment was a mistake. On the second day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearings Judge Sotomayor declared she does not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging, but Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee appeared unconvinced that Judge Sotomayor has truly changed her position.
The ranking Republican on that committee is Senator Jeff Sessions and he said he is very troubled that Judge Sotomayor repeatedly made the wise Latina woman statements over a decade. Candy Crowley has our report from Washington.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A wise Latina could more often than not make a better judicial decision than a wise white man. OK, she takes it back.
JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: It was bad because it left an impression that I believed that life experiences commanded a result in a case, but that's clearly not what I do as a judge.
CROWLEY: Seriously, it's not what she meant.
SOTOMAYOR: I want to state up front unequivocally and without doubt I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know it's been a long day and...
CROWLEY: And so it was that Sotomayor tried to shut down the parsing of her most famous sentence, not that that worked.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: But do you understand, ma'am that if I had said anything like that and my reasoning was that I'm trying to inspire somebody...
CROWLEY: Now, on some of the more controversial issues when you look over the 17-year record of Sotomayor, there is very little to indicate how she might vote on the Supreme Court on issues from gun rights, immigration, abortion, and post-9/11 antiterrorist policy. Whenever she was asked questions about that, Lou, there was sort of a standard response, and that is that she couldn't get into it because those questions might end up before the Supreme Court. Lou?
DOBBS: The Ginsburg rule so-called in full effect and the political theater not only stage but somewhat staid in the minds of many, is that correct?
CROWLEY: Yes. There's not anything that you and I would call fireworks. Usually even if everyone's really polite to the witness, they're kind of mean to each other. There is none of that and part of that reflects really the Republicans' desire to make this a rather high-minded look at judicial philosophy without looking like the party of no, which Democrats try to tag them as, and without, you know, frankly trying -- without trying to offend or without offending what is a growing population, a growing voting population and that's Hispanics.
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Candy. Appreciate it. Candy Crowley. Appreciate it.
As Candy just reported the judge today reversed course on her controversial remarks that a wise Latina woman usually makes better judgments than a white male. The judge said her comments were a play on words that fell flat as she put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOTOMAYOR: I want to state up front unequivocally and without doubt I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: The judge's remarks today might come as a surprise to many of her supporters who strongly defended her when the controversy first broke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have a problem with it. It's not -- it's not the right thing to say. It's not the right thing. But I don't think she meant it that way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think if you look at the context of the longer -- longer speech that she makes, I don't -- I think what she says is very much common sense in terms of different experiences that different people have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think she'll stand by the entire speech, although the specific sentence there is simply saying that people's experiences matter and we ought to have some diversity of experience on the court, and I think that's accurate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Her defenders abandoned today and it is clear that Judge Sotomayor has retreated again on a key issue.
Another big issue in the confirmation hearing today, the judge's position on racial discrimination, an issue that was highlighted by her position in a case brought by white and Latino firefighters against the city of New Haven, Connecticut. Judge Sotomayor ruled against those firefighters in an appellate decision but her ruling was later overturned by the Supreme Court. Ines Ferre has our report.
INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the case that's become a lightning rod at Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Your decision in Richie vs. DiStefano (ph) has become very controversial. People all over the country are tired of courts imposing their will against one group or another without justification.
FERRE: Republican senators pressed her about the appellate decision on the New Haven firefighters' case later reversed by the Supreme Court. Twenty firefighters, 19 white and one Latino claimed discrimination after the city tossed out test results because no black candidates would have been promoted.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: You stated that your background affects the facts you choose to see was the fact that the New Haven firefighters had been subject to discrimination. One of the facts you chose not to see in this case?
SOTOMAYOR: No, sir. The panel was composed of me and two other judges.
FERRE: Sotomayor said the panel had based its decision on judicial precedent and the Supreme Court based theirs on a different legal standard.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: The circuit would be bound by the new decision of the Supreme Court, is that correct?
SOTOMAYOR: Absolutely, sir. FERRE: One legal expert had this view.
PROF. JONATHAN ADLER, CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIV.: I think she's spinning the case a little bit. I don't think that the case was clearly controlled by precedent as she had suggested and I don't think other judges that viewed the case saw it that way.
FERRE: Sotomayor said the panel had followed a thorough ruling by the lower court. She said the case was not about quotas, not about affirmative action.
FERRE: And Sotomayor was asked if she supports affirmative action. She said it should always first be a legislative determination. She also said that she hopes in 25 years race won't be -- won't need to be considered in any situation, Lou.
DOBBS: Implication clearly then that it must be considered now, is that her view?
FERRE: Well her view is that actually that in some forms -- in some cases race is considered and that the courts have said so, but she said that that's too protect the equal protection cause of the Constitution.
DOBBS: All right. Thank you very much, Ines. Ines Ferre.
Judge Sotomayor today repeatedly declined to give some senators direct answers to their questions. She defended that stance by declaring she does not want to prejudge any question that might become before her when she is confirmed as Supreme Court justice. However, one of the country's leading constitutional attorneys, Floyd Abrams last night said here on this broadcast that any Supreme Court candidate should be giving senators straight answers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLOYD ABRAMS, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: People who are up for confirmation are not as candid as they should be. I think we'd be a lot better off if senators would say I won't vote for individuals who are up for confirmation unless they give straight answers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: After watching these proceedings, there may be a -- well, an outcry to replace the so-called Ginsburg rule with the Abrams rule. Joining me now with more on that and other issues our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, author of "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court" (ph).
Jeffrey, you watched the whole thing. She has now retreated from two statements that amongst others, Senator Schumer said she would not alter in any way. I mean she has simply just thrown her most -- two most controversial remarks to the wind, hasn't she? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Lou, you know the song, "you got to know when to hold and know when to fold." She knew when to fold on this wise Latina comment. It is an indefensible comment on its own terms. She explained what she was trying to do. I thought she did a pretty good job of saying, look, this is what I think. I made an in artful (ph) attempt back in 2001 when I made the statement, but, you know, she did her best.
DOBBS: An in artful (ph) statement that she repeated over the course of nine years, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: Well, I don't know how many times she actually said it. It was several times.
DOBBS: No, but it was over nine years.
TOOBIN: But it was over several times. I think it was as she said a ham-handed attempt to say that Latinas had a place at the table in judicial -- in...
DOBBS: But why is there a separate standard because Lindsey Graham in the midst of what was a rather studied -- I don't know what we would call it -- plotting hearing today, you know, he said it straightforwardly. His career would be over had he said something similar about white males in the Senate.
TOOBIN: Well, you know, I think you put your finger on one of the key issues in all of American constitutional law right now, which is the law says you may treat a press -- formerly oppressed groups somewhat differently to achieve diversity. You can give black students an advantage in university admissions. You can under certain circumstances give black job applicants an advantage.
That is increasingly hard to defend and it is the current state of the law. There is no doubt that there are circumstances where you can give advantages to achieve the goal of affirmative action, but as today illustrated, that's hard to defend.
DOBBS: Hard to defend and obviously she's been given an exception by the U.S. Senate. She will be confirmed and perhaps by a significant margin including a large number of Republican votes, comparatively large. What will be her impact on the Supreme Court?
I mean we have more people running around from the administration, the Democratic leadership in Congress and indeed the liberals noteworthy in the legal profession saying this is really a very conservative judge. It makes you wonder if she's so conservative, why in the world would President Obama have appointed her? I mean this is -- the spin is really out of control here, isn't it?
TOOBIN: Well I think the spin is clearly wrong. She's not a conservative judge. She's appears to be a moderate liberal judge very much like David Souter, whom she will be replacing.
DOBBS: All right. TOOBIN: I don't think the balance on the court will shift very much. She appears to be a supporter of abortion rights, of affirmative action, of limits on executive power, much like David Souter.
DOBBS: All right, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you as always.
TOOBIN: OK, Lou.
DOBBS: Up next confirmation hearing today -- we'll also be examining her record on issues involving illegal immigration. You may be surprised by some of her rulings. Also Democrats preparing to investigate the CIA under President Bush and their mission apparently to kill Osama bin Laden. The Democrats aren't happy about that -- many happy Democrats on Capitol Hill, however, for other reasons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is indeed a happy day. Are you happy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a very exciting day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm delighted...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I almost feel like I'm one of the luckiest people in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: We'll tell you why the Democrats felt so excited, so delighted, so happy, so hyperbolic.
DOBBS: Joining me now Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center who says Judge Sotomayor has done a good job of not answering questions. And Nan Aron who is president of the Alliance for Justice who says Judge Sotomayor has been surprisingly forthcoming. Thank you both for being with us. Let me turn to you first, if I may, Nan. Forthcoming, she has reversed two of her most controversial statements. Did that surprise you?
NAN ARON, PRES., ALLIANCE FOR JUSTICE: Oh I think she came through with flying colors today. I think she gave very thorough answers to a wide range of questions. She was masterful. And I think in some respects didn't do what some of her predecessors, Alito (ph) and Roberts which came up with pat phrases. I have no quarrel with this. They evaded answers, avoided them, saying I can't answer because that issue might come up before me. I think...
DOBBS: Well, she said the same thing today though.
ARON: Oh, but I think, for instance, in the Richie case, she could well have said this is a pending litigation, it's going back down to the courts, I really can't answer it. And in fact, I think gave a very extensive response to it. DOBBS: All right. What do you think, Ed?
ED WHELAN, PRES., ETHICS & PUBLIC POLICY CTR.: Well Lou, she was masquerading as a judicial conservative. You had Senate Democrats yesterday criticizing Chief Justice Roberts for his umpired (ph) metaphor but...
DOBBS: I actually remember that vividly.
WHELAN: Yes, she -- Judge Sotomayor took that one step further saying all she does is apply the law to the facts, that's it, nothing further to be said. But what striking is she did actually repudiate very forcefully President Obama's empathy standard. That was good to hear.
But then when Senator Kyl (ph) walked her through the statements in her record that caused real concern about whether she has that commitment to impartiality, she denied what those statements plainly mean, statements that were carefully composed, reiterated over a period of years. So I think she has a lot she's trying to walk away from and one of the most striking passages was when Senator Schumer got her to claim that she was against the use of foreign international law and construing the Constitution, even though she said exactly the opposite in a speech just a few months ago -- really brazen.
DOBBS: Nan, your reaction...
ARON: I'm not -- I'm not sure she really said that. What she did say is that you don't use international law to base your decision. But I would say if you look at her 17 years on the court, at the District Court, the Court of Appeals level you find a very careful, meticulous, thorough, open-minded judge. And I think today her comments really reflected her decision-making on this.
DOBBS: All right, well what about the -- well, her decision apparently not to answer on the Second Amendment? She did precisely as you were suggesting as Judge Roberts saying you know that case may -- that my -- that issue may come before us on the court. I don't want to go too far into it after a rather extensive discussion with Senator Hatch. I mean it's hard to understand where she stands on the Second Amendment here. Where does she stand clearly forthrightly, Nan?
ARON: Well I think, in fact, she helped walk through what the law is on the Second Amendment and what she did discuss in great detail is the Heller (ph) case, decided by the Supreme Court recently, in which Justice Scalia specifically leaves open the question as to whether the Second Amendment applies to the state, and that appeared to be the issue in a case she had to decide and in fact she said because Justice Scalia left open that question...
ARON: ... I cannot make that determination at this point.
DOBBS: Ed Whelan? WHELAN: Lou, throughout the day she was picking and choosing what she would answer in a completely incoherent fashion. Let me give one stark example.
DOBBS: But wait a minute -- incoherent?
WHELAN: In order to try to show that she has some sort of sympathy for property rights she cited her work for a law firm in private practice which she represented owners of intellectual property.
DOBBS: All right.
WHELAN: But then when the topic came to the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, a cause to which she devoted her energy for a dozen years, a cause that "The New York Times" said she was actively involved in, supervised in litigation...
WHELAN: ... she said, oh, we were primarily fund raisers. You know...
DOBBS: As a member of the board of directors. You know I have to conclude this by again -- from last night talking with Floyd Abrams in a "Face Off" debate much like the one you two were kind enough to participate in tonight, he said that he believes -- you know, I'm going to attach this name to it. The Floyd Abrams rule, which is no senator should support or vote for any -- any nominee who does not answer their questions, and that might be a wonderful change, do you not both agree, to the Ginsburg rule?
DOBBS: Yes or no because we're out of time.
WHELAN: Yes it would be good to get straight answers...
WHELAN: We have not gotten that so far.
ARON: She has provided the answers.
DOBBS: Nan, I'm sorry.
ARON: I think in this instance she has been forthcoming...
DOBBS: No, but I mean do you believe it would be a good idea to do what Floyd Abrams suggested?
ARON: Well it all depends, but I think...
DOBBS: OK, we'll take it.
ARON: In this particular instance...
DOBBS: If you don't want to do yes or no, that's certainly one of the great things about this country. It's your right. Thank you both. Appreciate it.
WHELAN: Thank you.
ARON: Thanks so much.
DOBBS: I'm going to have a few thoughts about this (INAUDIBLE) news. Join me on the radio Monday through Fridays for "The Lou Dobbs Show" 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. each afternoon on WOR 710 radio in New York. Go to loudobbs.com to get the local listings for "The Lou Dobbs Show" in your area and you can follow me on Twitter.com, loudobbsnews -- please join me on Twitter.com.
Up next new insight into the judge's cases, her position on abortion. And Democrats want Bush administration officials investigated. They say the CIA kept secrets from them including a plan allegedly that included killing Osama bin Laden. That's the subject of our "Face-Off". And our poll question tonight, would you trust your senator or congressman with a secret? We'd like to know what you think. Yes or no. Vote at loudobbstonight.com and President Obama retreating from his earlier somewhat rosy forecast on the economy.
DOBBS: A new wave of grizzly murders sweeping across central Mexico following the arrest of a drug cartel leader. Mexican government officials said 12 federal agents have been tortured, killed, and dumped along a mountain road. More than 11,000 people including more than a 1,000 police have been killed since President Calderon declared war on the Mexican drug cartels two years ago.
Turning again to the Sotomayor confirmation -- Judge Sotomayor today talking about hundreds of cases that she had dealt with involving illegal immigrants -- supporters say she ruled mostly in support of federal law enforcement efforts, but some are questioning the judge's membership in an advocacy group that supports illegal immigrants and open borders -- Casey Wian reports.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Supporters of Judge Sonia Sotomayor say she has a proven track record of pro-law enforcement decisions on immigration cases upholding the deportation of illegal immigrants.
SOTOMAYOR: But I do know that in immigration cases the vast majority of the Bureau of Investigation cases are -- the petitions for review are denied, so that means...
SEN CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Right. The only point I'm making here, if some are seeking to suggest that your empathy or sympathy overrules rule of law, this is a pretty good body of law to look at.
WIAN: As a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals Sotomayor heard more than 150 cases involving illegal immigrants facing deportation. She ruled in favor of the government 84 percent of the time according to a study by University of Arizona Professor Chad Westerland (ph). Another study by the Democrats staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee found her rulings affirmed convictions in criminal immigration cases 92 percent of the time.
Yet there are parts of her record that concern advocates of strict immigration law enforcement. One is her membership in the National Council of La Raza (ph), a group its critics say favors expanded rights for illegal immigrants. In 2001 she spoke to the Brooklyn Law School and advocated more pro bono work on lawsuits involving abortion, illegal immigration, and welfare reform.
SESSIONS: Judge, I think it's consistent in the comments I've quoted to you in your previous statements that you do believe that your background will accept -- affect the result in cases and that's troubling me.
SOTOMAYOR: As I've indicated, my record shows that at no point or time have I ever permitted my personal views or sympathies to influence an outcome of a case.
WIAN: Yet in the portion of a University of Texas study of her record limited to immigration-related civil rights cases where she wrote the majority opinion, Sotomayor sided with the immigrants 61 percent of the time.
WIAN: So far immigration has been mostly a non-issue during the first two days of Sotomayor's confirmation hearings. It has only been mentioned twice, both times by Democratic Senator Schumer, Lou.
DOBBS: All right. Thank you very much. Casey Wian.
The judge's position on abortion an unanswered question going into her confirmation hearing -- no one on either side of the abortion debate really certain where she stands but today some answers were beginning to be shaped -- Kitty Pilgrim with our report.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's hard core pro life. KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This week Norma McCorby (ph) who was the Roe of the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade was one of the antiabortion activities arrested for disrupting the hearings opening session. She interrupted the hearing by shouting, "you're wrong, Sotomayor. You're wrong about abortion".
Although the protester's court case established a woman's legal right to an abortion, she has since converted to Christianity and has embraced the antiabortion movement. Reproductive rights are a huge issue in these hearings. Activist groups like the Center for Reproductive Rights say they need to hear more.
NANCY NORTHUP, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: We heard important things today about the settled law Roe v. Wade, about the importance for women's health but we need to hear more discussion about the most recent case in which the Supreme Court cut back on protections for women's health in the abortion rights arena. This is a critical issue for the country.
PILGRIM: Today in the hearings Sonia Sotomayor appeared to support the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established a legal right to an abortion. She also cited a 1992 high court ruling that reinforced the legal precedent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In your opinion is Roe (ph) settled law?
SOTOMAYOR: That is the precedent of the court and settled in terms of the holding of the court.
PILGRIM: In the past Sotomayor has written opinions that touch on reproductive rights but has not directly ruled on the issue. In meetings with senators before confirmation hearings she was quoted by Democrats as saying she had great respect for precedent, which many abortion rights activists took as tacit support for Roe v. Wade.
But in 2002 she actually sided with the Bush administration in the restriction of taxpayer dollars to groups that promote and perform abortions in other countries.
PILGRIM: Now, the Center for Reproductive Rights points out it's been 15 years since a pro-abortion rights president has had an opportunity to fill a Supreme Court seat. Lou.
DOBBS: So what is she? Is she pro-abortion or antiabortion?
PILGRIM: From what she said today, she says there's great respect for precedent and she also says it's an established law. That would seem to give tacit support to Roe v Wade, so...
DOBBS: So she is pro-abortion.
PILGRIM: She seems to be.
DOBBS: All right. Kitty, thank you very much -- Kitty Pilgrim. Up next, a political showdown over the CIA's secret plan to kill al Qaeda leaders it's escalating. A plan not implemented. We'll ask whether an investigation is warranted and into whom -- our "Face Off" debate tonight -- and Judge Sotomayor failing to satisfy some of her critics on the issue of gun rights. Those critics tonight are simply furious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With a firearm it's my constitutional right I can protect my family. And if Justice Sotomayor doesn't get that, she shouldn't be on the Supreme Court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Your Second Amendment rights next.
DOBBS: Supporters and defenders of the Second Amendment tonight have serious questions about Judge Sotomayor's record on the second amendment. A key ruling by the judge's second circuit court of appeals restricted second amendment rights on the state and local level. In an early ruling states that gun ownership is not a fundamental right. That has second amendment supporters very upset. Bill Tucker with our report.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It didn't take long for the subject of second amendment rights to come up in Judge Sotomayor's hearing.
SOTOMAYOR: Like you, I understand that -- how important the right to bear arms is to many, many Americans. In fact, one of my godchildren is a member of the NRA.
TUCKER: She went on to cite a Supreme Court issue as to whether the second amendment rights apply at the level much as freedom of speech and freedom of religion does.
SOTOMAYOR: The court expressly, Judge Scalia in a footnote, identified there was Supreme Court precedent that has said that that right is not incorporated against the states.
TUCKER: Sotomayor was referring to the case D.C. versus Heller in which the court found last year that individuals in D.C. have a right to own guns. Gun rights activists interpret that. Her interpretation is consistent with other rulings she's been a part of. In a decision in January handed down by the second circuit court of appears the court wrote, quote, the second amendment does not apply to the states. That judgment handed down six months after Heller infuriated gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: I think Justice Sotomayor in the Maloney case treated that recent Supreme Court Heller decision like some crazy old uncle that you can either listen to or simply disregard and she disregarded it.
TUCKER: Judge Sotomayor has legal allies on this point and conservative ones at that.
TUCKER: Sotomayor's comments predate that. She noted that, quote, the right to possess a gun is clearly not a fundamental right. Ironically a conservative judicial panel in the seventh circuit court of appeals in denying a challenge to Chicago's gun laws that past June also found that the second amendment is not a guaranteed right at the state or local level. That puts the seventh and the second circuit courts at odds with the ninth circuit which has ruled the gun ownership is a fundamental right. It appears to be sent down to the Supreme Court.
DOBBS: A lot of questions about whether or not she would recluse herself in such a case. We're leaning to a place where she's simply avoided the question. Bill Tucker, thank you very much.
Still ahead tonight, did the CIA lie to Congress? And if it did, should Bush administration officials be held accountable and prosecuted? Two members of the House intelligence committee join me for our face-off debate. Also Judge Sotomayor's own words, continuing reflect something of a confirmation conversion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOTOMAYOR: It's important to remember that as a judge I don't make law. Court of appeals is where policy is made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Well, she makes law, she doesn't make law. Why is the judge seeming to take back so money of what she said for years before she was nominated to the United States Supreme Court?
DOBBS: In what may be a prelude of full House of Representatives hearings on the issue, the House intelligence committee today told the central intelligence agency to provide documents about a plan that had been canceled, a plan to kill al Qaeda leaders. Democrats claim that that plan was kept secret from them, but intelligence officials said the plan was never put into operation and there is no requirement to brief lawmakers on that program. Did the CIA lie to Congress? Should former Bush administration officials be held accountable and prosecuted? That's the topic of tonight's face-off debate. Joining me the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, Republican from Michigan and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, a Democrat of California amongst those signing a letter to CIA director Leon Panetta earlier, asking him to recant an earlier a defense of CIA on the issue of misleading Congress. Thank you both for being here. Congresswoman, you want a full investigation into these charges. Why? REP. ANNA ESHOO (D), CALIFORNIA: I do. I think the -- I think that is really the main point because the national security act of 1947 requires, requires the executive branch to completely and fully inform the Congress, and we know through the CIA director, Leon Panetta, who followed the law and came and briefed us the day after he found out that this program had been in place since 2001 until June 23rd of this year that the Congress had very purposefully been kept out. Concealed was the word.
ESHOO: That the information was concealed. So I think that we have an obligation to the American people to not only investigate this but to establish the facts. I think that's the right thing to do.
DOBBS: Congressman, the Congresswoman makes the case that the Congress should be in full oversight of the CIA. Your reaction.
REP. PETER HOEKSTRA (R), MICHIGAN: Well, Lou, it's good to be with you and Ann, it's good to be with you as well.
ESHOO: Thank you, Peter.
HOEKSTRA: I think it's very clear here. If you go back to "The Washington Post" in October 21, 2001, they issued a report that says, you know, the president said do whatever is necessary to capture or take out the leadership of al Qaeda. We're going to allocate $1.1 billion. And it's going to be a CIA military and commando operation.
DOBBS: October 21st report by the Post?
HOEKSTRA: That's exactly right.
DOBBS: All right.
HOEKSTRA: So it appears that the American people knew about these kinds of efforts. Congress knew about these kinds offsets. It appears that ever since May 14 or whatever when speaker Pelosi said the CIA lies all the time, that that's the only message that's coming from my colleagues in the House here. The chairman of the intelligence committee now says the CIA lies all the time. Member of the committee now say Leon Panetta --
DOBBS: You know, there are Americans all over the country who say that's what the CIA is paid to do. They're paid to keep secrets. And there are indeed Americans saying if the CIA wasn't trying to kill Osama Bin Laden or al Qaeda leaders there would be something peculiar about that. Congresswoman, your reaction?
ESHOO: My reaction is the following. We have a solid obligation to protect the American people. It's called national security. And I just heard -- and I have respect for my colleague Peter Hoekstra. One of the shoddiest explanations of how the CIA informed the Congress. The CIA director, Mr. Panetta, came up and briefed us, and he said he stopped the program the day before. Now, there was never any notice. In fact, the CIA was directed. This is according to the directors. They were directed not to specifically, not to inform the Congress. Now, I think this lies in the face of the law. I think that we have to establish facts. This should not and is not partisan. God help us if we start playing partisan games with national security. The law is very clear. The full committee needs to know who, how, when, and what the program was. There's been a lot of public speculation about what the program is. I think the full committee needs to know all of it. And we are there --
DOBBS: Are you talking about public or private hearings?
ESHOO: Well, if it's secured -- if it's classified, rather, it would have to be behind closed doors.
DOBBS: And Congressman Hoekstra, let me ask you, during the entire period in which Republicans until 2006 were in charge of Congress was that there was a failure of oversight. And you know that -- the allegations. Now with them in charge, there seems to be the charge by the Republicans that they're being too aggressive. Where in the world is Congressman -- Congresswoman Eshoo said, where is the bipartisanship on these issues? Why is it a public battle? Why does it seem to be irrespective of the disclaimers part of the battle?
HOEKSTRA: Lou, I think we've always within aggressive on getting oversight done. I've challenged President Bush a number of times that he was forthright with the community and the American people as to what was going on in the intelligence committee. We have challenged the Democrats on the committee to do an investigation as to the killing of two American citizens. My constituents that might have participated on that based on the report of the CIA's own inspector general.
DOBBS: Do you believe there'll be a full hearing into the CIA?
HOEKSTRA: Well, as soon as we find out whether the facts warrant such an investigation. Remember, General Hayden, the former director of the CIA came out yesterday and said I was never told not to brief Congress. And the paid the line on this, Lou, is this is a program that never happened. We weren't briefed on a program.
DOBBS: I'm sorry.
HOEKSTRA: It was never executed.
DOBBS: Congresswoman, you get the last quick word, please.
ESHOO: I think the American people deserve to have a Congress that takes the word of national security as seriously as they do. This warrants investigation. And I hope and pray that the House intelligence committee will make the decision to do so, establish facts and deal with them.
DOBBS: Congresswoman, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Congressman Hoekstra, thank you very much. A reminder to vote on our poll. The question is would you trust your senator or Congressman with a secret? We'd like to hear your answer to this. We'll have the results for you in just a matter of moments. Up next, Judge Sotomayor retreating from her wise Latina comment. She's no longer making law. President Obama with pessimistic comments about the economy and that's not his only problem.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To poll our economy -- oh, goodness. Sorry about that, guys.
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DOBBS: We'll be right back.
DOBBS: The president who's well known for his reliance on teleprompter had a bit of a scare yesterday.
OBAMA: To -- oh, goodness. Sorry about that, guys.
DOBBS: And after that I assure you we shored up our Teleprompters here. That happened as the president was defending his stimulus package to a group of officials at the white house. One of the executive office buildings. The screens came loose, crashed to the floor shattering. He went on to finish his speech. Shattered glass at his feet and the audience in the palm of his hand. Well, we are now joined by three of my favorite radio talk show hosts from KARN in Little Rock, Arkansas, Dave Elswick, good to have you with us Dave. From WOLB in Baltimore, Larry Young, good to have you, Larry, and here in New York, WOR's John Gambling. John, good to see you.
JOHN GAMBLING, WOR IN NEW YORK: Thanks for having me.
DOBBS: Let's start, and Dave let me start with you. Sotomayor says she didn't mean it when she said she makes laws as an appellate judge. She didn't mean it when she said wise Latinas are wiser than white males. What's your take?
DAVE ELSWICK, KARN IN LITTLE ROCK: My take is she doesn't know what she believes, and that should worry anybody that she's going to be sitting on the Supreme Court. This is a woman who said, hey, my worries fell flat when she talked about being a wise Latina. If your words fall flat, why do you repeat them seven more times the exact same words? It seems to me she's trying to cover up to get herself confirmed.
LARRY YOUNG, WOLB IN BALTIMORE: I think what she was trying to do if she had it to do again, she would pull it back. I honestly believe that she understands correctly that she's going to get confirmed, she's trying to be politically correct, and I expect it's going to be 80/20. I am not concerned as of yet that she's going to have a difficult time getting her confirmation through this process regardless of what the Republicans and others might try to throw at her. GAMBLING: Well, I certainly agree with my colleagues here that I think there's no question that she's going to be confirmed. This train left the station months and months and months ago. Republicans are doing what the Republicans need to do and that is push back as hard as they can and as you know, politically here, and politically correctly here, they cannot push terribly hard. You know, this is the spoils of war. The president gets to choose the chief justices.
DOBBS: The house Democrats today releasing their $1 trillion health care plan. 1,008 pages long.
GAMBLING: Who is going to read it? Nobody and along with it, how to pay for it. And they're talking about raising taxes up to 58 percent. Almost 60 percent.
DOBBS: And Larry?
YOUNG: My biggest concern here is we're going to be concerned about the cost, that's fine. But the president said he's going to get it done by the end of august, certainly no later than Labor Day. I expect him to meet that obligation. The American public wants him to meet it. Public health care, health care is a major issue. Let's accept the fact we've got to deal with it. That was one of the major concerns, health care, this Congress is going to try to write something, the president's going to watch it. Between the two, we'll get a victory for people of this country.
ELSWICK: I've got to laugh at that last statement. You've got to be kidding me. Bottom line let me give you one word answers to this. Katrina, Medicare, how about social security, they're both going broke.
DOBBS: Two words, two words.
ELSWICK: Now we want to turn over our health care to the federal government, you've got to be kidding.
YOUNG: You might laugh all you want, but I suggest to you, you ask the American public anywhere you want the top five issues of the day. And if health care doesn't land in the top five, I would be concerned about the type of the person you asked the question of.
ELSWICK: If I say you should have a free dog, most Americans will say they want a free dog.
DOBBS: We're going to --
YOUNG: I won't take lightly the question of health care and compare it to what you just stated. I'll ignore that.
GAMBLING: Actually the question of health care when asked, when Americans are asked does not come in the top five.
DOBBS: All right. We're going to be right back with our panel as we sort out the top five and whose dog is doing what.
GAMBLING: To who.
DOBBS: We'll be right back with our panel.
DOBBS: A poll that the Democratic leadership and the House may want to look at as they consider their CIA investigation. 94 percent of this audience says you would not trust your senator or Congressman with a secret. That may be something of a head wind for the CIA. Let's turn first to -- let me go back to you, Dave, on the second amendment Sotomayor. Somewhat ambiguous in her responses today. Some would say that's putting it mildly.
ELSWICK: Well, I'm concerned with anyone who is going to sit on the Supreme Court that does not believe that the second amendment of our constitution does not give an American the right to keep and bear arms. Without the second amendment, it will no be long before we don't have a first amendment. The second amendment protects that from ever happening. And this woman scares me that she cannot adequately and clearly state her position on it.
DOBBS: Larry, CIA, do you believe that there should be an investigation of the CIA, apparently a program, allegedly designed to kill Osama Bin Laden and leaders of al Qaeda, what are your thoughts?
YOUNG: I definitely think there should be an investigation. Quite frankly anything Dick Cheney steps out for gets me concerned. So if he's behind it, made that request, I definitely want to see it investigated.
DOBBS: In fairness here Larry, CNN has received information from two reliable CIA sources that the vice president is getting "a bum rap" here on these allegations.
YOUNG: Lou, if that's correct, I'll pull back. But something inside suspicion or otherwise of Dick Cheney, this doesn't sit well with me. If it's true, I'll pull it back, otherwise, investigate to the fullest.
GAMBLING: What are we going to investigate, Lou? The program as I understand it was conceived and it was begun to be designed but was never implemented and what is the CIA -- if the CIA wasn't looking for Osama Bin Laden and spending as much money and resource and capital as they could, they weren't doing the job.
DOBBS: Resources and capital, resources and capital, $1 trillion budget deficit for the first time in history already, another second $1 trillion on the health care proposal today. This country is out of money. The president said nearly two months ago, Dave. I mean, we are moving toward a crisis of debt and deficits in this country.
ELSWICK: Everybody, you're on a roller coaster hang on. The big drop's about to come.
GAMBLING: I think it was --
DOBBS: Don't say that.
GAMBLING: I don't think most Americans understand that. I mean they read it, they hear you talk about it.
DOBBS: Debt levels?
GAMBLING: The debt levels. And what it truly means. I don't think they have a clue.
DOBBS: Well, who would blame anyone for being mind numbed, Larry, by these colossal numbers. These are abstractions that one can't begin to comprehend. I don't care if your IQ is 180.
YOUNG: That's one of the reasons why I feel so good about this particular president. He's cool, calm, collected, has an agenda. He's going off to sell it to the American public. We have to have --
DOBBS: I'm glad he's -- now for the rest of us can stay cool. All right.
GAMBLING: And now he has to buy a new teleprompter. Unbelievable.
DOBBS: Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it, Larry, thank you. John thanks you. Look forward to it.
And a reminder to join me on the radio Monday through Fridays for the Lou Dobbs show. Go to loudobbs.com for the "Lou Dobbs Show." You can follow me on Lou Dobbs News on twitter.com, as well.
And we thank you for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow. We thank you for watching, good night from New York, and now Campbell Brown.