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Lou Dobbs Tonight

President Holds White House "Beer Summit"; Health Plans Stalled; President Obama Approval Rating Down; Fighting Swine Flu; Extreme Weather Across the Nation

Aired July 30, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thanks. Good evening, everyone.

President Obama holding a beer summit at the White House with the two men at the center of a controversy over race that the president himself contributed to. We'll have the latest for you on that beer summit and whether this really is a teachable moment, as both the president and Professor Henry Louis Gates suggest.

Also, the Obama administration's efforts to reach a health care deal suffering another major setback -- new divisions, sharp divisions tonight among House Democrats. We'll examine this showdown in our Face-Off debate. "Face-off" debate.

And tumultuous weather sweeping the nation from torrential rain and flooding to extreme heat and drought. We'll show you what's happening to our weather this summer and we'll explain why.

We begin with the president's so-called beer summit at the White House. Over the past hour, the president and vice president, Joe Biden, meeting with Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge, Massachusetts police sergeant, James Crowley.

The president inviting them to the White House to drink beer after the national controversy over the arrest of Professor Gates by Sergeant Crowley. President Obama added to the controversy when he said the Cambridge Police Department acted stupidly.

The president later said he could have, as he put it, calibrated those remarks differently.

Dan Lothian has our report from the White House.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cold beer diplomacy at the White House. President Obama, Professor Gates, and Sergeant Crowley trying to get rid of a nasty hangover from a controversial and racially charged arrest.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is three folks having a drink at the end of the day and hopefully giving people an opportunity to listen to each other. And that's really all it is.

LOTHIAN: While the president has called this controversy a teachable moment, aides say no formal agenda, no after-action report is on tap. Just a dialogue around a Rose Garden table on issues like racial profiling.

OBAMA: This is not a university seminar. It is not a summit. It's an attempt to have some personal interaction when an issue has become so hyped and so symbolic that you lose sight of just the fact that these are people involved, including myself, all of whom are imperfect.

LOTHIAN: The White House says President Obama chose to drink a Bud Lite. Crowley, a Blue Moon, and Gates, a Red Stripe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, can we get you all to call the White House tonight?

LOTHIAN: This man protesting alone outside the White House doesn't think drinking beer at the meeting is appropriate because it sends the wrong message to the nation's youth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want him to hold up some orange juice, something that's healthful.


LOTHIAN: As you know, Lou, had they held up orange juice or water, for that matter, there would have been some controversy about the kind of water or orange juice that they chose to drink.

But, you know, the interesting thing about this, the White House really been pushing this meeting, but in the end, the media was kept about 40 feet back from the actual table. Didn't have a chance to ask any questions or hear anything about what's going on.

So, you know, interesting, that it's a teachable moment, but we weren't able to really hear what that teachable moment was. Kind of interesting. So it's very filling for the folks around the table, but not very filling for the media.

DOBBS: Most of the education taking place in the immediate days following that incident, it seems clear.

Dan, how long was the meeting? No one talking to the media afterwards?

LOTHIAN: Not at all. We understand that the meeting was roughly an hour or so. Their relatives were getting a tour of the White House, in the meantime, while that meeting was ongoing.

And no, no one spoke to the media at all. Again, you know, we were kept back, or the pool that went in to cover this was kept back some 40 feet. So too far away to hear anything or really to shout any questions.

We are told that Professor Gates might come out to the stakeout here at the White House, to the microphones and talk about what happened in the meeting. We're hoping that perhaps Sergeant Crowley will also come out as well.

But unless, you know, someone decides to come out and talk about what took place in the meeting, we probably will not hear a whole lot about what took place there.

DOBBS: Any discussion about the -- or concerns at the White House about the symmetry, if you will, of the meeting? You have president, his immediate underling, Vice President Joe Biden, and his buddy, Professor Gates, and one fellow by the name of Sergeant James Crowley.

LOTHIAN: Right. Well, you know, the White House clearly had some concerns about sort of the initial picture of where this was going to be held. It was going to be at a picnic table near the jungle gym right outside the Oval Office, drinking and chugging a beer, you know, in a playground was not a good image. So it was moved to that location.

In terms of -- you know, sort of what the image that comes out of this meeting, they see it as a positive. Despite the fact that everyone...

DOBBS: Imagine that. Imagine that.



And you know, we kept hitting them, it's like, well, coming out of this, how can you have a teachable moment if we don't -- all we get is this picture? And the White House says, listen, if you go back to when this event first started, this national controversy, and you had said at that point, all of these parties are going to sit down to the table together and have a beer at the White House, people are going to say, no wait, that could never happen.

So they believe that there is a powerful image just having them sit there at the table even if you can't hear what they're saying.

DOBBS: As I recall this idea came forth the second -- was it the second day after the controversy, first, the president making a statement, secondly, saying that he didn't understand what the surprise was, and by the third, suggesting recalibrating and perhaps getting together for the beer, which apparently they've now consumed.

Any idea about how many they drank?


LOTHIAN: We don't. I mean that is a question that I will certainly ask. I mean, certainly, I don't think anybody wanted to get drunk at that event, because that would not have been a good image. So I doubt that they were imbibing too much around the table. Perhaps just one. I'll get a count for you, though.

DOBBS: Appreciate it, Dan. And great reporting as always. We're just, by the way, looking at Professor Henry Louis Gates leaving the White House. These are live pictures that you're looking at right now, as the beer summit is wrapped up.

And as Dan Lothian reported, hoping that Sergeant James Crowley will step towards microphones and cameras and give a few comments, at least, to the waiting media to provide further education from what the president and Professor Gates have called a teachable moment.

And we are now told that James Crowley, Sergeant Crowley, has already left the White House. So that teachable moment turning out to be, well, far more constrained and limited than anyone, except perhaps the White House, had expected.

Dan Lothian, as always, appreciate it. Reporting from the White House.

A new opinion poll showing more Americans disapprove of the way President Obama has handled the Gates controversy than approve. The Pew Research Center poll showing 41 percent of Americans disapprove, 29 percent approve.

Meanwhile, the president's overall approval ratings have plunged. The Pew Research Center saying the president's approval rating is now 54 percent, seven percentage points lower than just one month ago.

And meanwhile, the latest "Wall Street Journal"/NBC News poll says only 53 percent of Americans now approve of the way the president is handling his job.

Both polls in line with other surveys and representing rapidly -- rapid deterioration in his public standing.

More evidence tonight that the president's health care plan will be delayed until the fall. Two leading Republican senators saying there will be no deal in the Senate before the August recess. Meanwhile, major new divisions tonight among House Democrats over health care legislation.

Dana Bash reports now from Capitol Hill.


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By cutting a deal to stop a health care revolt among conservative Democrats, party leaders ignited another one among liberal Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want a plan with a meaningful public option. And we can compromise no more.

BASH: In fact, 53 liberal Democrats signed a letter threatening to vote against their party's health care plan, calling the compromise Democratic leaders struck with their conservative Democratic brethren fundamentally unacceptable, saying, "This agreement is not a step forward toward a good health care bill, but a large step backwards." Their biggest complaint, that Democratic leaders watered down a centerpiece of their proposal, a government-run health insurance plan, and made it less affordable for consumers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will not be able to support nothing less, but real comprehensive health care that has a strong, robust public option.

BASH: Meanwhile, in the Senate, what had been good-natured bipartisan negotiations are becoming contentious. The issue, the president and Democratic leaders want to deal now, before the August recess, to help build much-needed momentum on health care.

But two of the three Republican Senate negotiators with the power to make or break that deadline are saying no.

Listen to Republican senators Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi in the halls of the Capitol.

SEN. MIKE ENZI (R), WYOMING: The bill is not ready for prime time, so I don't know any way that it can be completed today or next week and then we're at the August break. And it is important to get it right for America.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: There's a lot of tough decisions to make, you know. There's a lot of tough decisions to make, and they aren't going to be made real quickly.


BASH: And just moments ago, those bipartisan negotiations were pulled back from the brink of collapse. Those Republicans who had been bristling at White House and Democratic leadership pressure to get a vote before August recess, they just scored a victory, because the six senators involved in those negotiations just came out of a closed-door meeting and they said there would not be a committee vote before that August recess.

Instead, they are going to keep working, again, trying to find bipartisan compromise. That was announced by Democrats and Republicans -- Lou?

DOBBS: I'm sorry. For whom is that a victory?

BASH: It's a victory for the Republicans who were saying, we don't want to have just an artificial deadline. We want to keep working towards a bipartisan compromise. So the Democrats, at least the Democrats on the committee, have said, OK, we're not -- no longer are we going to pressure you. We're going to keep working towards some kind of compromise.

So for the Republicans who have been in there for months, who are worried today, very worried that Democrats were going to say, you know, sort of say, take a hike and we're going to do forward without you, that's, at least right now, no longer going to happen. DOBBS: All right. And they go off to their home states, the senators, and their home districts for the Congress, and they are likely to get an earful of what the polls show, Dana, to be really a significant opposition to health care legislation.

BASH: They are almost certain to get an earful. And as you well know, Lou, this is part of the Democratic concern, when you look at the politics of this. A big part of the Democratic concern that if there isn't at least some kind of deal, something that showed momentum before they left for August recess, it could make things a lot worse when they come back in the fall in terms of really trying to find that bipartisan compromise.

But, you know, look, I mean, the reality is in numbers, and the numbers here just aren't there for the Democrats if they don't have the Republicans with them. So Republicans have gotten them to agree to keep talking.

DOBBS: And they're having problems with numbers elsewhere as well, namely the Congressional Budget Office, which I'm sure that they'll be working on over that recess.

BASH: Yes.

DOBBS: Dana, thanks so much. Appreciate it as always.

Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, today blamed the media and Republicans for raising false expectations and setting an artificial deadline of implementation of health care legislation.

Senator Reid accused the media of creating what he calls artificial deadlines.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I think that you folks have created the deadlines, we haven't. The president three weeks ago, in his weekly address, said that we're going to have health care reform by the end of the year. And that's our goal and that is what we're going to do.


DOBBS: Senator Reid, apparently, has forgotten that it was President Obama, who for months has insisted that the full House and Senate pass health care legislation before the August recess and he had, by the way, throughout, the full support of the Senate majority leader.

He apparently also forgets the president's statement that the August 1st deadline, at least according to President Obama, was the people's deadline.

Rising concern tonight that the president's health care plan, should it go ahead, would make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain health care at taxpayer expense. Democrats today narrowly defeated another Republican amendment that was designed to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving Medicaid benefits. The defeat, 29 to 28.

That Republican amendment would have strengthened the identification requirements for anyone applying for Medicaid. It was defeated.

President Obama's former doctor tonight is strongly criticizing the president's health care plan. Dr. David Sheiner says the president's plan does not go far enough. He wants a so-called single- payer system that would be like the socialized health care systems in Canada and much of Europe.


DR. DAVID SHEINER, PRES. OBAMA'S FORMER PHYSICIAN: There are multiple problems with the present congressional health care reform proposals. But allowing private insurance to continue being involved is the most egregious. Is the single-payer message so dangerous it cannot even be discussed by Congress and the administration?


DOBBS: Dr. Sheiner will be my guest here tomorrow evening.

Many other Americans are highly skeptical about the president's health care plan. In fact, the latest polls show opposition to the president's health care plan rising. A CBS/"New York Times" poll shows 59 percent of all Americans believe the current congressional proposals on health care will not help them or their families.

Another poll, National Public Radio, showing 47 percent of Americans now opposed to health care overall and only 42 percent supporting it.

Up next here, a news conference about the president's beer summit. Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley.

Also, a summer of extremes for our weather. One meteorologist says this is one of the most amazing summers for severe weather he can remember.

And a swine flu outbreak is worsening and fast. There may not be enough swine flu vaccine. We'll have that story for you and the implications next.


DOBBS: Alarming new evidence tonight that there may be a severe shortage of swine flu vaccine. Production of the vaccine has been slow in this country, and now government officials who predict large outbreaks in the fall admit that there may not be enough vaccine for everyone.

Kitty Pilgrim has the latest.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Midsummer, school is closed, but in just a few short weeks, children will be packed together in classrooms and health officials predict widespread outbreaks of swine flu.

And there are still many things scientists don't know. Will it take one shot or two of a swine flu vaccine to inoculate people? Answer -- unknown. Will the brand-new swine flu vaccine have side effects? Answer -- unknown. Will there be enough vaccine? Answer -- unknown.

DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL: You know, vaccine production is somewhat unpredictable. What we are expecting is about 120 million doses to become available in October. There are a lot of things that need to work perfectly for that to happen.

PILGRIM: In case of production lags, the CDC has come out with a priority list of who gets the vaccine first. Basically, pregnant women and children. Dr. Stephen Moors, professor of clinical epidemiology at Columbia University, points out that clinical trials, where large numbers of people are inoculated, take weeks or months and yet have only just begun in this country.

STEPHEN MORSE, MAILMAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: The real problem is not going to be in these initial trials. I think it's going to be in the production phase, when we try to ramp it up to make enough for everybody.

There aren't that many companies able to make this and it's not easy to produce this in large quantities.

PILGRIM: In Europe, swine flu clinical trials are being fast- tracked to rush the vaccine on to the market. In the United States, the CDC says it will be vigilant about clinical trials, partly because of history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A swine flu epidemic may be coming.

PILGRIM: In the mid-1970s, a max vaccination for a different strain of swine flu turned up side effects that left some people paralyzed.


PILGRIM: Now one of the other great variables in this situation is how much countries will stockpile vaccines for their own use. The CDC is assuring the public there will be enough vaccines, but U.S. manufacturers make only about 20 percent of the flu vaccine needed for this country -- Lou?

DOBBS: One of the issues that we've been reporting on here, literally, for years. A critical component of the nation's public health, not in the hands of this country's government or corporations in this country. How can the CDC, the NIH, all these public health agencies, even begin to contend when they have no idea who will be making how much vaccine how soon?

PILGRIM: Yes. It's a really big issue that we don't have enough based in the United States. And when you talk to epidemiologists, they say, this is a real problem. That vaccines and influenzas won't go away and we really should have more production capacity here in the United States.

DOBBS: They won't go away, but the companies that make vaccines and the large pharmaceutical and biological companies have gone away.

PILGRIM: Yes, they have. And it's not cost effective for them to make them, they say, that the cost benefits are not enough to actually make them, but there really should be a more concerted approach to this.

DOBBS: Congress, weighing in on this, in any way investigating, trying to be in any way providing oversight?

PILGRIM: There really hasn't been any movement out of Congress on this. There is an advisory committee to the president that's currently in effect.

DOBBS: I guess there's some great irony taking up, if you will. A health care initiative while health care itself in the form of vaccines against drugs, they fear, would be a deadly flu, is not receiving any attention? Except by Kitty Pilgrim, and we appreciate it.

Kitty, thank you very much.

Global health organizations and the CDC stopping the recording of a number of swine flu cases. They say there's just too many cases to track and to report. According to the CDC's latest figures, however, released on the 24th of July, there were only 43,771 confirmed and, quote, "probable cases," of swine flu in the United States. More than 300 people have died of the swine flu in the United States.

I'll have a few thoughts about the CDC, swine flu, and the important issues of where have all of the American pharmaceutical companies gone. Join me on the radio, Monday through Fridays, for "The Lou Dobbs Show," 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. each afternoon on WOR in New York City.

Go to to get the local listings for "The Lou Dobbs Show" on the radio. And you can follow me on Lou Dobbs News on Up next here, a new report showing banks kept alive by taxpayer money still paying out billions of dollars in bonuses with taxpayer money.

So what happened to the president's promise to crack down on Wall Street? Wall Street compensation and regulation, and where's that pay czar? And what's that pay czar doing? Is that pay czar earning his pay?

And extreme weather across the country. Tumultuous weather from record heat to drought, non-stop rain and parts of the country. What's going on with the weather? We'll show you and we'll have explanations as to what's happened and what we can expect, here next.


DOBBS: Well, a good news to tell you about on the economy tonight. But let's turn to the extreme summer weather that we're having, all across this country. The Pacific Northwest suffering through triple-digit temperatures.

Seattle had its hottest day yesterday since it began keeping records back in 1891. And while the Midwest is in the middle of its coolest summer on record. What's going on?

Bill Tucker has our report.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sweltering heat in the northwest. Seattle at an all-time record, 103 degrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm used to hot grill, but hot weather in Seattle? Come on.

TUCKER: Portland, Oregon, 106 degrees. It's not just the northwest caught up in the extreme. The entire country is in the grips of an unusual weather pattern.

(On camera): It's all part of a jet stream scheme. The steam should be coming in to the northwest, nice cooler air here, big ridge and then a little bit of a trough there. This pattern hasn't looked anything like that this year. It's gone way up, way down, way up, and when it does that, the patterns change.

(Voice-over): And as that jet stream plunges south, south central Texas is literally drying up. Going into July, that part of Texas was the driest it's been in more than 50 years. This month, San Antonio and Austin posted the hottest 30-day period ever, according to the National Weather Service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the worst recorded drought in history.

TUCKER (on camera): The drought is so significant here, crops are dying and they're literally, the farmers and ranchers are getting rid of their herds because they don't have enough water and enough food to feed them or even get water to them in parts of the south Texas region.

(Voice-over): As the jet stream swings back up north, water becomes plentiful. Too much at times. As parts of Iowa, Arkansas, Nebraska, and Kansas, all the way up to the northeast, are saturated with rainfall and record cool temperatures.

In the past five days, four tornadoes have been recorded in New York and New Jersey, thousands of trees downed, power lost, homes damaged. But no lives lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just thankful it's all over, nobody got hurt.


TUCKER: Now one meteorologist at the National Weather Service told me that this summer has been one of the most amazing that he can remember. He expects that by summer's end, there will be thousands of new record lows. The number of record highs, he expects, will be far fewer, but significant, nonetheless, especially, Lou, if you're caught in one of those heat waves.

DOBBS: Sure, but the extremes more to the cooler side than the warmer side. And I've got to say, as a matter of personal experience, where I live, on a farm in Sussex County, New Jersey, we had tornadoes set down yesterday.

It was just -- the damage was amazing. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. But I mean this is the most extreme weather anyone can remember in my neighborhood in about three decades. It's something.

TUCKER: The tornado that landed near you was an F-2.

DOBBS: Well, that's a little stronger than what I even suspected. I thought it would be F-1, but looking at that damage, we're just very fortunate no one was hurt.

Thank you very much. Bill Tucker.

Well, this year New York went from June 1st through July 16th without reaching 85 degrees. Now that's the first time this has happened since the National Weather Service started keeping records on such things back in 1904.

At the other end of the country, Alaska didn't hit 90 degrees until July 8th, and that is the latest day for a 90-degree day in 15 years in Alaska.

Up next here. President Obama issuing a statement on the beer summit at the White House. Sergeant James Crowley, we're told, is about to hold a news conference and when he does, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT will be there live.

And more prominent media figures rallying to my defense as left- wing advocacy groups and left-wing media step up their attacks, their vicious, vicious, cowardly attacks on me. But we're going to hold up just fine. And we'll have the story for you next.


DOBBS: Joining me now to debate whether the president's plan will improve health care and lower costs, two congressmen with two very different views, as you want to happen with a debate. Congressman John Shadegg. He is Republican of Arizona. The congressman says the plan will not lower health care costs.

Good to have you with us.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler. He's Democrat in New York. He says he supports the president's plan.

Gentlemen, good to have you with us. Let's turn to the first issue.

First, I just would like to understand, Congressman Nadler, is this deadline, was it the people's deadline, was it the president's deadline, or is Senator Harry Reid absolutely right that the media imposed that deadline of the August recess?

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: No, I think the only real deadline is that we should do it in this Congress by the end of the year. Certainly, it would have been nice to have a bill pass both houses by the end of the recess, but the real fact that stopped it was that it was -- it even had the Commerce Committee voted out a bill a week ago. It takes about two weeks to unite the three bills, to get a score from the Congressional Budget Office, to go through the Rules Committee, put the proper notices. Just mechanically, it could happen.

DOBBS: So not happening. Congressman Shadegg, do you think the poll numbers, the American people in every single poll are rejecting health care as it stands right now and presented by this administration. The president's poll ratings are down. Is that playing a role, or is that irrelevant to the course of events for health care legislation?

REP. JOHN SHADEGG (R), ARIZONA: I think his poll numbers are down in part because of the bill itself. This bill is old think. President Obama got elected promising change. He said he was going to make Washington very different, get out the old forces and the old partisanship, and bring a new kind of view of the world to Washington.

I'm very sympathetic to that, even though I'm a Republican, but this bill is old think. Instead of bringing reform from the bottom up, empowering people and enabling them, enabling people with a pre- existing condition to get health care at the same cost as everybody else, covering all Americans, and empowering the average American to be able to buy their own health care plan, and those who don't have the money to buy it with some assistance from the government, this goes back to the way Washington always works. It's top-down, bureaucrat-heavy, and it's all kind of Washington (inaudible) control everything.

NADLER: With all due respect, that's a tissue of falsehoods from beginning to end.

SHADEGG: Oh, no it's not.


NADLER: I've read the bill. First of all, the president campaigned very specifically on this bill. Not the bill number, but the contents in the bill were gone through exhaustively in the Democratic primary between Hillary and Edwards and the president, and they all agreed, more or less, on it. And second of all, in the general election. This was debated. And what this bill says is, you can keep your current insurance...


NADLER: Let me finish, please. You can keep your...

SHADEGG: It's (inaudible) actually the exact opposite.

DOBBS: Gentlemen.

NADLER: You can keep your current insurance, especially if you're employed by your employer, but it will put requirements on the insurance companies. It will say no more conditions that you can't get insurance for pre-existing health care. No more out-of-pocket expenses above $5,000 a year for a single person or $10,000 a year for a family, even if you have a health catastrophe. If you lose your job, you'll be able to go and buy a new insurance policy, regardless of pre-existing conditions from private insurance companies, or from a public option.

DOBBS: Congressman Shadegg?

SHADEGG: The bill specifically says that every existing insurance plan in America, whether it comes from an employer or whether you buy it in the individual market, must change within five years. It grandfathers them, but only for five years. And at the end...

NADLER: The only change it mandates is that they can't refuse you coverage...


DOBBS: I promise you, you'll get plenty of time.

SHADEGG: No later than five years, it must meet literally dozens of federal requirements, not state requirements like they used to, but new federal requirements, many of which have been -- will have been created by a board that doesn't even exist yet.


DOBBS: Congressmen, I promise you both there will be plenty of time. I've just been -- well, I am just utterly wrong. Because we've just been given a two-minute warning. Sergeant James Crowley is going to be speaking before the cameras. I apologize.

NADLER: The requirements on these policies are exactly what I said they would be.

SHADEGG: No, they're not, Jerry.

NADLER: Namely...


NADLER: Namely, that they can't deny... SHADEGG: Every plan must change within five years...

NADLER: Sir, are you going to allow me to talk at all? Namely that they can't deny pre-existing coverage. They can't have...

SHADEGG: We're agreeing on pre-existing conditions. I said that to begin with. Don't misrepresent the bill.

NADLER: I am not misrepresenting the bill.

SHADEGG: Yes, you are.

NADLER: That's what the bill says.

SHADEGG: Read the language of the bill...

NADLER: I have read the language...

SHADEGG: It says every plan must change in five years, Jerry.

NADLER: Yes, within five years, they have to meet these requirements that I'm saying.

SHADEGG: Thank you.

DOBBS: Let me ask you, that being the case, and as we look at these poll numbers, on the handling of health care policy, Congressman Nadler, the president's approval rating, you all are going to be going back to your home districts there in Congress. There is, obviously, given these polls, there is great anxiety and concern and opposition right now to health care legislation.

NADLER: There is a great deal of falsehoods and lies being spread about this bill by the Republicans and by other interest groups, by the insurance companies who don't want to have to not to -- not discriminate against people based on...


NADLER: ... based on pre-existing conditions. There's a lot of money being spent against it. I think -- and the president's popularity is down not because of this, I think, but because of the economy generally.

But I think when people go home and they hear more -- when the members of Congress go home and they explain what's in this bill, which is essentially what the president promised during the campaign last year...

SHADEGG: A fine on businesses as small as two employees?

NADLER: There is not going to be a fine on employees...

SHADEGG: I welcome the American people learning what's in the bill.

NADLER: There's not going to be a fine...

SHADEGG: Yes, Jerry, there is. There is a fine on...

NADLER: No, there isn't. There isn't. There's no fine on small businesses. What there is, is...

SHADEGG: You obviously have not read this bill, Jerry. There's a fine on any small business...

NADLER: On the contrary.

SHADEGG: ... even down to two employees, if they do not provide coverage to their employees.

NADLER: That's not correct. That is not correct. What there is, is, what there is in this bill is...

SHADEGG: The American people need to read the bill, because you're not reading the bill I'm reading.

NADLER: The small businesses...

SHADEGG: That fine is in the bill, it's in the first 47 pages of the bill.

NADLER: Listen, you can say anything you want what's in the bill, but if you're not telling the truth about it and you don't let me correct you, it doesn't matter.

SHADEGG: I am telling the truth about the bill, and I don't appreciate you saying that. I want the American people to read the bill.

NADLER: Fine. What the bill says...

SHADEGG: If they read the bill, they'll find what I just told them.

NADLER: What the bill says is that companies above -- with an employment above $250,000 level -- and the Energy and Commerce version says above $500,000 level -- they have to, if they don't provide health insurance to their employees, have to pay into a fund to pay for health insurance for their employees.

SHADEGG: So you can see the point I just said.

NADLER: If their payroll is above -- no, I -- well, if they're paying more than $250,000 payroll or $500,000...

SHADEGG: You can have two employees and be paying more than $250,000 payroll.

NADLER: Yes, if each of your employees get $125,000.

SHADEGG: That's right, Jerry.

NADLER: Most employees don't.

SHADEGG: So a business as small...

NADLER: Most employees don't.

SHADEGG: ... as two employees can be fined under this bill if they don't offer insurance. That's what I said, and you said I was misrepresenting the bill.

NADLER: A business with only two employees, each making over $125,000, I assure you is giving those two employees health care coverage.

DOBBS: May I interrupt, gentleman?


DOBBS: I just had one question. First of all, I've got to believe that the audience of this broadcast is impressed that two congressmen have read the legislation when it's been very clear that so many congressmen and senators are not reading legislation. For example, John Conyers, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, saying that he couldn't understand why anyone would bother. We're delighted that you did and we compliment and commend you.

SHADEGG: Thank you.

DOBBS: But let me ask you this. The issue of -- and you raised this, Congressman Nadler, the lies, the president saying much the same thing, and distortions here. Definitively, what will the bill cost, and what will it actually save? We've heard the president's numbers. We've heard the Congressional Budget Office present quite a different perspective. What is the reality?

NADLER: First of all, the Congressional Budget Office was commenting on an earlier version of the bill. The comment on the later version of the bill with the public option was much better.

The bill is entirely paid for, with the exception that in the bill is a postponement or -- not a postponement, a cancellation of a reduction in fees to physicians, which we will do with or without the bill. That will cost about $245 billion over 10 years, with or without the bill. The bill itself is entirely paid for...


DOBBS: I have to say, Congressman Nadler, thank you so much. Congressman Shadegg, thank you so much. We appreciate you gentlemen being there. Obviously, Sergeant James Crowley, after attending the beer summit at the White House, now being introduced and about to step forward. He's holding this press conference at the AFL-CIA -- CIO, make that CIO -- headquarters in Washington, D.C. And we're going to listen now.

SGT JAMES CROWLEY: First, I would like to thank the police officers from Cambridge, from my hometown of Natick and from Massachusetts and across the country for your overwhelming support for me and my family during this difficult time.

During this ordeal, one of the challenges was to make clear to people across America what a difficult and challenging job police officers face every day. We had a cordial and productive discussion today with the president, the vice president, and Professor Gates. We have all agreed that it is important to look forward rather than backward. Issues important to all of us will form the basis of discussions between Professor Gates and me in the days and weeks to come.

Professor Gates and I bring different perspectives to these issues and we have agreed that both perspectives should be addressed in an effort to provide a constructive outcome to the events of the past month.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Also here with us, we have Dennis O'Connor, who is the president of the Cambridge Police Officers Association, and Alan McDonald (ph), who is a legal counsel, as well.

QUESTION: Did anyone apologize?


QUESTION: Sergeant Crowley, (inaudible). What was accomplished today around that table with the president and the vice president?

CROWLEY: I think what was accomplished was this was a positive step in moving forward as opposed to reliving the events of the past couple of weeks, and an effort to move not just the city of Cambridge or two individuals past this event, but the whole country, to move beyond this and use this as a basis of maybe some meaningful discussions in the future.

QUESTION: So Sergeant, When you talk about these discussions, was there some sort of plan for you and Professor Gates to be meeting again or meeting on a regular basis?


QUESTION: Can you tell us, you know, that you're going to have one meeting a week or you've already planned a meeting?

CROWLEY: We have already planned a meeting. The professor is heading back to the vineyard right now to spend time with his family. He and I are going to have a phone conversation in the coming days to lay the groundwork for that meeting that's already been discussed.

QUESTION: And you're going to meet -- do you know where you're going to meet or (inaudible).


QUESTION: Can you tell us?



CROWLEY: The venue is much too small to support all of us.

QUESTION: Are you going to meet in a house, or are you going to meet in a bar for a beer, you're going to meet at the governor's mansion?

CROWLEY: I think meeting at a bar for a beer on a second occasion is going to send out the wrong message. So maybe a Kool-Aid or iced tea or something like that. We do have a venue in mind, but again, that's also up for discussion.

QUESTION: What kind of things would you like to discuss with Professor Gates?

CROWLEY: I would like not only to discuss, but I would also like to listen to Professor Gates' perspective, and certainly he has the credentials to enlighten me a little bit, and I think that perhaps the professor, as he expressed to me, has the willingness to listen to what my perspective is as a police officer. And again, as I said in the statement, the difficult job...

QUESTION: Was anything solved today, Sergeant Crowley?

CROWLEY: Hold on just a second. I just want to finish that. The difficult job that police officers do every day. So the professor was quite receptive to that.

I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Was anything solved today, Sergeant?

CROWLEY: As far as -- well, we agreed to move forward.


CROWLEY: No, I think what you had today was two gentleman agreed to disagree on a particular issue. I don't think that we spent too much time dwelling on the past. We have spent a lot of time discussing the future.

QUESTION: Can you describe how the body language was, and how the tone was set? Because the people who saw the first couple of minutes said that (inaudible).

CROWLEY: Well, that wasn't the first we encountered -- the professor and I encountered each other while we were both on individual tours of the White House, and the professor approached me and introduced his family, I introduced my family, and then we continued on with the tour, but as a group. Two families, moving together, and that was the start. So it was very cordial.

QUESTION: Sergeant, can you share any words the president shared with you? CROWLEY: It was a private discussion. It was a frank discussion. I would rather not go into the specifics of what was discussed.

QUESTION: Did the president make any contributions to the discussion?

CROWLEY: He provided the beer.

QUESTION: Pretty much it?

CROWLEY: He contributed in a small part, but he really wanted to bring two people together to try to solve not only a local issue in Cambridge, but also what has become a national issue.

QUESTION: Did he...

CROWLEY: Hold on just one second.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you. The president has talked about this being a teachable moment. Did you learn anything? What did you learn through this?

CROWLEY: What have I learned from this? I learned that the media can find you no matter where you live. They did a good job of doing that.

I think that's the responsibility of Professor Gates and I in the coming weeks when we have these discussions to maybe learn from each other. Certainly, he brings a lot to the table, and I hope that I do as well.

QUESTION: Did the president express any additional regret over saying that the police had acted stupidly (inaudible)?

CROWLEY: The vice president was just a great man, it was nice, he was very nice with the children as well. We did share a few stories that were unrelated to the topic at hand.

I'm sorry, what was the first question?

QUESTION: Did the president express any additional regret over saying...?

CROWLEY: Parts of that conversation are private, and we understand that going into it, so I think it would be best to honor that agreement.

QUESTION: Can you just say on a personal level, what it was like to have this experience?

CROWLEY: I'm not really sure this is really happening. I'm still not -- having caught up with this. I'm going to need a few days off maybe just to reflect on the events of the past couple of weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Great, we want to thank everyone. QUESTION: Wait! I have one more question.

CROWLEY: Please. Yes.

QUESTION: You brought a letter from Sergeant Lashley to give to the professor (ph) (inaudible), did you not?

CROWLEY: I did not.

QUESTION: OK. It was my understanding that there was a letter that was delivered that Sergeant Lashley perhaps feels that Professor Gates may have caused irreparable harm, and (inaudible)?

CROWLEY: Sergeant Lashley has views on this event, just like we all do. Those are Sergeant Lashley's views, and I knew in the days before, Sergeant Lashley came out in support of my position, that he was going to be putting himself in a position of ridicule. Sergeant Lashley's statement, whatever it is, I haven't heard it, would speak for itself. It wasn't a message I relayed.

QUESTION: Can you talk, though, about the support that you've gotten from the police in Cambridge?

CROWLEY: The men and women of the two associations have been tremendous. They have helped provide protection for my family. I've gotten phone calls, e-mails, letters, things in the mail from the men and women of the police department, and I think this has brought us closer together as a law enforcement family, and I wouldn't want to leave out the incredible work that the Natick police department has done in ensuring the safety of my family. As you know, they have been barraged with the media, out in a small area of the town, and those men and women really deserve a lot of thanks, because they're protecting what is most important to me, my family.

QUESTION: What's your impression of the president?

QUESTION: How has your perspective changed on this?

CROWLEY: He's a very interesting man.

QUESTION: A very interesting man in what way?

CROWLEY: He's just a regular person sitting around a table having a discussion about an issue, and he just was very cordial. I respect the man a great deal.

QUESTION: Was there tension, or did you guys sort of, you know...

CROWLEY: There was no tension.

QUESTION: No tension.

CROWLEY: No tension.

QUESTION: Did you joke around and have an ordinary conversation, or was it business? Was it business?

CROWLEY: It was both. It was business, but discussing it like two gentleman instead of fighting it out either in the physical sense or in the mental sense, in the court of public opinion. So it was very productive.

QUESTION: Did Professor Gates ask you to be part of any documentary he's thinking of working on?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Great. Thank you all very much. We really appreciate it.

CROWLEY: Thank you very much.


DOBBS: All right. Sergeant James Crowley, talking about the meeting with the president, with Professor Henry Louis Gates, the man who was arrested by Sergeant Crowley, and Vice President Joe Biden. And over the past few minutes, the president has issued a statement. We want to add this. I'm going to be bringing in Dan Lothian at the White House now.

Dan, we're starting to get some reaction. We've not heard yet from Professor Gates. What's the statement from the president?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. A short statement from the president. The president saying, quote, "I am thankful to Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley for joining me at the White House this evening for a friendly, thoughtful conversation. Even before we sat down for the beer, I learned that the two gentleman spent some time together listening to one another, which is a testament to them. I have always believed that what brings us together is stronger than what pulls us apart. I am confident that has happened here tonight, and I am hopeful that all of us are able to draw this positive lesson from this episode." So the president making those remarks tonight.

As you have mentioned, we have not yet heard from Professor Gates, but Sergeant Crowley, as you just heard, I thought what was interesting is that he said that there was no apology that took place here today, that both men agreed to disagree, and they planned to have further conversations in the future.

DOBBS: I would love to get your take here, Dan, because I heard a sergeant of the Cambridge Police Department, I mean, he sounded at points like a politician. And I think if either -- no matter what the expectations were on the part of the president, the vice president, or Professor Gates, they were dealing with a first-class professional police sergeant, who is very adroit.

LOTHIAN: That's right. Either he spent a lot of time in front of cameras talking to reporters at the crime scene, or he was well coached before he went up there. But certainly, you heard him, he was very diplomatic, in particular when he was asked about that question of whether or not -- what he thought about the thoughts of one of his colleagues, an African-American who had given him a note to pass along to the president. He said he had not, but he said that those were the thoughts of his colleague, and he didn't sort of wade into that, which could have been a little bit controversial or prolong this whole discussion a little bit more.

DOBBS: Well, if you will, just stand by, Dan, for a second, because we have a copy of that letter, referring to Sergeant Lashley, who supported -- Sergeant Leon Lashley, who supported Sergeant Crowley's version of the event. He is, by the way, Leon Lashley is a 26-year veteran. Sergeant Lashley saying this -- teachable moment -- and I apologize, we just got this, so we don't have it up on full screen, but if you will, I'll try to read the salient points.

"Dear Jim," referring to Sergeant Crowley, "would you be so kind as to mention the following to Mr. Gates and President Obama during your meeting with them. One of the major problems stemming from the events of July 16th is that I, now known as the black sergeant, have had my image plastered all over the Internet, television and newspapers. Subsequently, I have become known, at least to some, as an Uncle Tom. I'm forced to ponder the notion that as a result of speaking the truth and coming to the defense of a friend and colleague, who just happens to be white, that I have somehow betrayed my heritage.

Please convey my concerns to the president that Mr. Gates' actions may have caused grave and potentially irreparable harm to the struggle for racial harmony in this country and perhaps throughout the world.

In closing, I would simply like to ask that Mr. Gates deeply reflect on the events that have unfolded since July 16 and ask himself the following questions -- what can I do to help heal the rift caused by some of my actions? What responsibility do I bear for what occurred on July 16, 2009? Is there anything I can do to mitigate the damage done to the reputations of two respected police officers?

Thank you in advance. Your friend, Leon K. Lashley."

Dan, this letter is very powerful.

LOTHIAN: Yes, it is. It is.

DOBBS: And it is -- and I'd like your reaction.

LOTHIAN: Well, you know, I can only say what -- sort of react the same way that Sergeant Crowley did when he was asked about this. And he said that his friend and his colleague came to him prior to I guess going out there and public defending him and saying that he knew that there would be some negative reaction to his support, an African- American police officer defending, you know, a white police officer in this racially-charged case. So he knew what he was getting into and knew that there was this sort of backlash.

But I think what this points to is that, you know, this situation, which we have put sort of different pieces in this puzzle -- we say it's a cop, you know, it's a professor and it's a president. But it's much deeper than this. This is a case that has affected a lot of people. It's going to take a long time to heal.

DOBBS: Dan Lothian at the White House. Thank you, Dan.

Let's go quickly now to Leslie Sanchez, to Errol Louis, to Robert Zimmerman, just joining me.

Let me start with you, Robert. Your thoughts? I think that is a poignant letter from the sergeant. This teachable moment, what is it?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN: The teachable moment was demonstrated by the example that was set of these individuals coming together, Professor Gates, Sergeant Crowley, the president and vice president. I mean, that is a teachable moment that has to be replicated in our civic associations and our communities and our neighborhoods.

DOBBS: Errol?

ERROL LOUIS: Absolutely. In the confines of the White House and back in Cambridge, it's a relatively sedate, sort of working through of these problems. People on their best behavior. The sergeant, as you said, very well spoken. This other sergeant writing a very eloquent letter. Professor Gates, I'm sure, is going to play his part.

All outside, though, is a much rougher conversation. There are boycotts. There is all this angry talk on the airwaves. There's a Boston police officer who sent an intemperate e-mail. He is about to get fired. He has had his gun and badge taken from him. So what is being taught here is you can have a civil conversation, even though everywhere else that's not necessarily taking place right now.

DOBBS: Leslie Sanchez?

LESLIE SANCHEZ: I think the teachable moment has a lot to do with social media. I think the instant kind of misinformation that went out there made it a lot more difficult to untangle the truth. And I think now the people are starting to identify that. They're processing that information. I think that's a disadvantage.

You know, one thing we're not hearing is the 911 caller, who has also been called a litany of names for doing something that she thought was fair and accurate. I think Roger Simon in Politico had a very good piece about it. She is the one that deserves the beer. So I think there are many teachable...

DOBBS: Lucia Whalen, who placed the call, who received some of the most hateful responses, it was disgusting.

When we return, I want to ask this panel about Sergeant Lashley, the national media and why -- why there had to be even the beginning of this discussion? What was the president thinking? What was Sergeant Crowley thinking? And oh, yes, what about Professor Gates? We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Is this political, this meeting, this summit? Is it political cover for a president who overstepped and spoke -- well, as he put it, without appropriate calibration, or as others have framed it, stupidly -- or is it a genuine, sincere effort to reconcile two men who should have never been in conflict?

ZIMMERMAN: Look, you can also argue it was a political risk for this president to keep the issue alive this way.


ZIMMERMAN: The bottom line is, it's an important moment for the country. And it's beyond politics. Because it really is about an issue...

DOBBS: But the mistakes that were made here had nothing to do with the country. They were from an intemperate professor. They were from a sergeant, who, while may have been within his authority, Errol, certainly did not need to move to an arrest. Both men signed a statement saying they agreed they could have behaved better. The Cambridge Police Department and Professor Gates. The next thing you know, they're in open conflict again.

LOUIS: Right. The next thing you know, the president lips it up and makes it a national story. And at that point, he really couldn't extricate himself, otherwise than some means like this, with the whole country watching. Otherwise, this would have played itself out through some agonizing court hearings and administrative exchanges in Cambridge.

ZIMMERMAN: But you know, Errol, this issue -- this issue is not about the extricating the president. It's about the issue of racial profiling and police profiling, which is -- which runs throughout this country.

DOBBS: Excuse me. Excuse me. Does anybody here believe, besides Robert, that this was an instance of -- what?

ZIMMERMAN: Either racial profiling or police profiling.

DOBBS: Well, there's -- I thought -- Errol?

SANCHEZ: Didn't we -- I think we have kind of established that it wasn't. That there was an overreaction. I think there is a lot of sentiment to that.

But Lou, to your point, if you think about the fact, this is raised (ph) to 80 percent of the public's consciousness, according to Pew Foundation. A lot of the president's political capital at a very difficult time is being spent on this issue. And a lot of times, it looked like he was creating this policy as he was in front of the cameras and the mainstream press. That's the challenge here.

DOBBS: Thanks, Leslie. We have got about 20 seconds. Sergeant Lashley, I got to tell you, my heart goes out to this guy. He has been, like Lucia Whalen, he has been one of the victims here.

LOUIS: No question about it. When I heard it, I was kind of hoping he would have been invited to the White House. Because, you know, I come from a family of black cops, and they're always in the middle on these issues. And they really don't get recognized as such. It's very good that he spoke out.

DOBBS: All right. And that the nation listened, perhaps an important part of the teachable moment.

Leslie, Errol, thank you very much. Robert, thank you.

Thank you for being with us. Join us here tomorrow. Thanks for watching. Good night from New York. Next, "CAMPBELL BROWN."