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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Obama's 200 Days; Health Care Showdown; Health Care in the U.K.; California's Prison Dilemma; Malpractice Lawsuits

Aired August 06, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: In the meantime, Wolf, thank you. Good evening, everybody.

President Obama's poll numbers are plunging after 200 days in office. His critics say the president has lost control of his agenda. We'll have complete coverage for you. Three top political analysts will be here.

Also, the showdown over the president's health care plan is turning nasty. The Democratic National Committee saying Republicans have called out the mob -- a leading Republican senator accuses the White House of compiling an enemy's list.

And rising anger after federal judges order the state of California to free tens of thousands of prisoners, almost a third of the state's prison population -- we'll have that special report.

But first, 200 days into his presidency Barack Obama faces a major test of leadership. The president's approval ratings are plunging and his agenda is in trouble. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows only 51 percent of Americans now consider the Obama administration to be a success. That compares with a figure of 56 percent for President George W. Bush at the very same point in his presidency.

President Obama faces powerful opposition to his health care plan, anger about the prospect of higher taxes and rising skepticism about his economic policies. Candy Crowley has our report.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's approval rating has been dropping since April, but the 56 percent he has now is a lot of political capital, but of course nothing to count on. At the same point in his administration, former President George Bush had a 55 percent approval rating, thick transit poll numbers. It's been a busy 200 days for the new president, a man with a lot on his plate and the march of history in his sight.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there's some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time. They forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad and passed the Homestead Act and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of Civil War.

CROWLEY: Still, the president seems a bit too busy for the vast majority of Americans. Asked if he has tried to handle more issues than he should, 65 percent said yes in the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, as has been the case the president's overall approval rating is higher than those for his policies.

As the U.S. effort in Afghanistan builds up, support for the war has hit a new low. Only 41 percent of Americans say they favor the war, and the numbers turned politics on its head. Three of every four Democrats oppose the war. Two-thirds of Republicans support it. Also, 200 days in, three quarters of the American public remain sour on the economy, rating it somewhat to very poor.

OBAMA: Just a few months ago folks thought that these factories might be closed for good. But now they're coming back to life. You're welcome. Thank the American people.

CROWLEY: Hope springs eternal out there. Fifty-five percent of Americans believe the president's economic policies either have or will make the economy better. And other good news for the president, despite the sorry state of the economy, most Americans don't blame him.


CROWLEY: In fact, by a margin of two to one, Americans blame Republicans over Democrats. It looks as though the president does have some time to fix what hasn't been fixed.

DOBBS: Eight years of Republicans, six of them in control of the Congress as well as the White House versus six months that's -- doesn't seem unreasonable.

CROWLEY: No, that they would still -- I think he's got a string there he can play out for sure.

DOBBS: That is a fascinating number, though. Three fourths of all Democrats oppose the war in Afghanistan while two thirds of Republicans support it.

CROWLEY: It's totally upside down. I mean if you look at historically how the roles of the parties are seen in terms of foreign affairs with Republicans if you buy into the character as being more muscular, it makes sense. But nonetheless, here's a brand new president who campaigned and said, the war we ought to be fighting is the one in Afghanistan who is elected and then finds that three quarters of the opposition to his policy...

DOBBS: Comes from his own party.

CROWLEY: ... is his own party. So it's not just the left or the right. It's everybody.

DOBBS: Which has to be discomforting along with a few other issues for this White House -- thanks very much. Appreciate it, Candy -- Candy Crowley.

The fight over the president's health care proposals at the center of an increasingly bitter fight between Democrats and Republicans -- the Democratic National Committee says what it calls right-wing extremist Republicans are back. Meanwhile, Republican Senator John Cornyn accuses the White House of trying to create an enemy's list of its critics. Ed Henry has our report of an escalating showdown.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The biggest obstacle to the president getting a win on health reform is finding a way to pay for it -- that tension on full display when economic adviser Christina Romer was asked if there's any wiggle room on Mr. Obama's promise not to raise taxes on the middle class.


HENRY: But it's no laughing matter after two top officials recently left the door open on tax hikes, so Romer tried to slam it shut.

ROMER: Obviously, no one is talking about raising taxes.

HENRY: The second big obstacle, trying to win over at least a few Republicans for bipartisanship. That's why Mr. Obama hosted the so-called gang of six senators from each party for a closed-door meeting in the Oval Office, but top White House aides are signaling if Republicans do not get on board, the president will ram legislation through the Senate without them, by using an obscure maneuver known as reconciliation.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: With those that want to see health care reform.

HENRY: The third big obstacle, countering Republican allegations the White House is using its official Web site to crush decent by asking supporters to report fishy information they come across about the health care debate. With Republicans like Senator John Cornyn (ph) charging they may be compiling an enemy's list, White House officials were quick to insist nobody's privacy is being violated.

GIBBS: All we're asking people to do is if they're confused about what health care reform is going to mean to them, we are happy to help clear that up for them. Nobody's keeping anybody's names.


HENRY: Now, Robert Gibbs said the White House will not save any of the names or e-mail addresses from the information they get about any of the president's critics and that their sole goal here is to push back and debunk what they call myths about the president's position on health care reform, Lou.

DOBBS: And at this point, are they thinking of withdrawing that idea which has obviously just fueled extraordinary energy on the part of the Republicans? HENRY: No they're standing behind it. I mean that was initially something, a message basically they put on the White House blog, saying, look, if you see something fishy, send it into the White House. We'll try to do sort of what they're calling a truth squad. Something they did obviously back in the campaign, pushing back on allegations against then candidate Obama, they're trying to use the same strategy now here inside the White House, Lou.

DOBBS: Is there any sense that perhaps given the reaction of Senator Cornyn (ph) and others, to this idea that they may have given the Republicans just exactly the kind of advantage that they need not provide?

HENRY: Well, we'll see whether or not this becomes -- you know, if there's a huge backlash against it. But I can tell you that from the initial reaction of the White House, they're not going to let one Republican senator here and John Cornyn (ph) who let's remember runs the National Republican Senatorial Committee that's trying to elect more Senate Republicans and maybe in part making a political issue out of this, they're not going to let him dictate what they put on the White House blog.

Nevertheless, as you point out there's a lot of accusations flying around in this whole debate. And the White House has enough road blocks right now to deal with even in their own party. So having a distraction like this in the long run may not be very helpful.

DOBBS: All right. Thank you very much -- Ed Henry from the White House.

Well, you can join the debate on how the Obama administration and this Congress are doing. Please go to to cast your vote on how the president and Congress are handling the economy, health care, a number of other important national issues. And then you can see the results on CNN tonight at 8:00 p.m. Easter on the """CNN NATIONAL REPORT CARD": THE SECOND 100 DAYS".

The Senate today confirmed President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor will be now be the next justice of the U.S. Supreme Court -- senators voting to confirm her by 68-31. Nine Republicans among the senators supporting her -- most Republicans, however, remaining concerned that she will be a judicial activist. Sotomayor will be sworn in Saturday by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Up next here uproar in California after federal judges order the state of California to release tens of thousands of prisoners. We'll have a special report on a legal and political showdown. We'll be examining the health care system of the United Kingdom, as we ask the questions no one else on television is addressing in the fight over the president's health care proposals.


DOBBS: All week we're reporting on the health care systems in this country and some of the critical questions that should be part of the national debate on any proposed health care legislation. One question, certainly, is just how fast are costs of health care rising and why? From 2000 to 2007, health care spending in the United States rose almost four percent per capita. The same rate as other developed nations.

Another key question, just who bears the burden of health care costs in the United States? The federal government pays for 45 percent of all health care costs. That's far less than every other developed nation in the world, except Mexico, which also covers 45 percent. Private insurance accounts for just about 35 percent of health care in this country, far more than any other nation.

The United States, Canada and France are the only countries where private insurance accounts for more than 10 percent of spending on health care. The United Kingdom offers universal health care coverage through it's national health service. The program is publicly funded but the public isn't entirely happy with that system. In fact almost 60 percent of Britons believe the system requires fundamental change. Kitty Pilgrim has our report.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Go to a doctor in Britain, you won't have to pay when you leave. It's the same at the hospital. All health services are publicly funded by the National Health Service, funded by taxes. For that reason, a survey revealed only two percent of people in the U.K. who had a medical problem did not seek treatment because of costs. Peter Pitts (ph) of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, a nonpartisan research group, says the upside to the U.K. health system is universal coverage.

PETER PITTS, CTR. FOR MEDICINE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: (INAUDIBLE) delivers today in the kind of the classic British traditional muddling through is mediocre care for everybody.

PILGRIM: The British government sets the budget and is charged with determining what will and will not be paid for. Critics point out that cutting-edge drug treatments for Alzheimer's, cancer and other severe conditions are often not included on a list of medicines that the government agency known as NICE (ph) will allow for reimbursement. Peter Pitts says it's a system that has real shortcomings.

PITTS: You can either accept kind of a one size fits all health care system, which really doesn't fit anybody all that well, which is really terrific if you're not sick or you know very sick. But once you have you know cancer or advanced stages of lots of diseases and you really need cutting-edge medicine that system is really not equipped to provide it with excellence as ours is here.

PILGRIM: Other comparisons to the United States, the U.K. has male life expectancy of 77 years versus the U.S. at 75. The U.K. spends a lot less per capita on health care, $2,992 a year versus 7,290 in the U.S. and overall the country's health budget is only 8.4 percent of GDP versus 16 percent in the U.S.


PILGRIM: Now a 2007 study found that 57 percent of the people in the U.K. said the system really needed significant overhaul. Some in the U.K. have decided to opt out of the national health system and pay for private medical coverage. It is available. But anyone taking on private medical care has to opt out of the national health system, so a telling point is in the last decade some British companies are actually offering private health care as a recruitment perk for their employees, Lou.

DOBBS: One of the things that is becoming crystal clear here as we have reported now on Denmark and Canada and now the U.K., this is not a simple issue. And it really puts into stark contrast this idea of rushing through legislation, when all of these other programs -- we're only coming to terms with a broad understanding of what universal care and national health care really entails.

PILGRIM: Yes, even the countries that have it are still trying to adjust it to meet the needs of the people that they're trying to cover. So it really needs a lot of adjustment, a lot of tinkering and we should not be rushing through.

DOBBS: This is -- it's fascinating and excellent reporting. Thank you, Kitty.

PILGRIM: Thank you.

DOBBS: Kitty Pilgrim -- and we're going to be looking next at France and its health care system.

We'll continue our special reporting tomorrow night. As I said, we'll examine the quality of health care in France. And we'll continue to ask and answer the questions that are so critically important in this national discussion on health care.

To hear my thoughts on the health care issues, legislation, proposals and the bitter political battle, please join me on the radio, Monday through Friday for "The Lou Dobbs Show" 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. each afternoon on WOR 710 Radio in New York and go to and for the listings in your area for "The Lou Dobbs Show". You can keep up with my tweets at loudobbsnews on as well.

Up next, the rising skyrocketing costs of medical malpractice, will it destroy our health care system and defensive medicine. That's the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight.

Also ahead, why some members of Congress refuse to face the public at town hall meetings on the issue of health care.

And a federal court has ordered the state of California to release more than 40,000 state inmates.


DOBBS: Well, mounting opposition tonight to a federal court order, calling for the release of 40,000 prison inmates in California. A panel of federal judges saying the state government must cut the prison population to ease overcrowding and to ensure proper medical care for inmates in California. However, critics say releasing nearly a third of the state's inmate population might put public safety at risk. Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California's prison system was designed to hold 80,000 inmates, but there are now nearly twice that number, 150,000 prisoners in state facilities. The prisons are so overcrowded it's almost impossible to prevent violence and infectious diseases spread easily. Medical care is not sufficient to prevent the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain or death and as of 2005, a California inmate was dying needlessly every six or seven days. Those are the findings of a three-judge panel that directed Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger this week to release more than 40,000 inmates over the next two years.

JERRY BROWN, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: The state releases 10,000 prisoners a month. That's 120,000 inmates are going out the door every year and now the courts are saying no, you got to let out another 40,000. Well, it isn't that simple because almost as fast as you let them out, they're committing crimes and so they're coming back.

WIAN: State officials accused the judges of exceeding their authority, and plan to appeal to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, California has 45 days to come up with its own plan to reduce prison overcrowding which lawmakers failed to do during recent negotiations to cut the state budget deficit. The judges say it can be done without freeing dangerous criminals by releasing and locking up fewer people with minor or technical parole violations. But advocates for crime victims want none of that, pointing to the recent high profile murder of 17-year-old Lily Burke (ph). The man charged with her killing is a parolee with a long criminal background.

BELINDA HARRIS-RITTER, PARENTS OF MURDERED CHILDREN: Early release of criminals who have proven that they cannot follow the rules of society and who are released with no place to go and no way to make a living are just powder kegs, just ready to go off.

WIAN: California's prison population exploded after several tough on crime laws were passed during the 1970's. Since 1980, California's overall population has grown about two percent per year, but the number of prisoners has increased at an average annual rate of 17 percent.


WIAN: The director of the Prison Law Office which filed the lawsuit against California on behalf of inmates says the ruling actually could be a win-win for the entire state. In his view, releasing some inmates will make prisons safer, reduce crime, because prison conditions he says are related to repeat offenses on the streets and save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars -- Lou. DOBBS: So this is a good idea?

WIAN: Well, in the view of the prison advocates it absolutely is, but state officials and victims' rights advocates say absolutely not. You can't release more prisoners onto the street without compromising public safety. They need to find another solution and that may include more money to build more prison facilities which the state does not have right now. This was a difficult problem.

DOBBS: It's extraordinary to see Attorney General Jerry Brown, a well-known liberal taking the position that he has. That has to give pause to those judges and certainly those who would be advocating against the state government.

WIAN: Well, I think that becoming the top law enforcement official in the state of California will turn even the most die-hard liberal into a law and order advocate, Lou.

DOBBS: All right, Casey. Thank you very much -- Casey Wian.

The number of Americans receiving food stamps has reached a new record high, 34.4 million people are one in nine Americans now enrolled in the food stamp program as of May this year -- the average payment about $134 a month per person. Enrollment in the food stamp program has been rising steadily since September of last year -- May, the sixth straight month of record enrollment.

Up next, President Obama struggling to persuade Americans that he is post partisan. Critics say he is the most partisan president in decades. Three top political analysts will assess that and more.

And in our "Face Off" debate tonight an important health care issue that virtually no one else is talking about -- the huge cost of medical malpractice and defensive medicine.


DOBBS: The Congressional Budget Office found that caps on medical malpractice lawsuits could save more than $4 billion over the next decade. Are malpractice lawsuits destroying the health care system? That is the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight. Joining us, Dr. Jeffrey Segal (ph) -- he's founder and CEO of Medical Justice -- and Alan Ripka (ph), a medical malpractice attorney. Good to have you both with us.



DOBBS: In numbers medical malpractice and if we -- let's show these numbers -- medical malpractice claims and insurance premiums make up just about one percent of total health care costs but the AMA estimates that so-called defensive medicine, a direct result of those malpractice lawsuits costing us $151 billion. Let me start, if I may, with you, Dr. Segal (ph). What's your reaction? DR. JEFFREY SEGAL, CEO, MEDICAL JUSTICE: My reaction is that number, 150 billion, may actually be an underestimate. I can tell you that next year, 50,000 doctors will receive a letter stating, hey, look, you've been sued. Once you've been sued, that will change the doctor's behavior from then on.

And what is the cost? The cost is anywhere between 100 to $200 billion of unnecessary tests just to keep the doctor from sitting in a witness chair ever again. That amount of money would allow us to purchase a health insurance policy for every uninsured American, pay for health information technology, and have some change leftover.


DOBBS: All right, Alan Ripka (ph), your thoughts.

ALAN RIPKA, MEDICAL MALPRACTICE ATTORNEY: I completely disagree. When we talk about defensive medicine, we're talking about saving lives. They're calling it defensive medicine, but what it really is, is doing the appropriate tests so that doctors and nurses and health care providers could be checking on all the possibilities that may be going wrong with the patient.

And they're not going to know unless they do those tests. And the reason medical malpractice exists is because those tests aren't done and people die. And you're not talking about death here. You're talking about money. And obviously lives are much more important.

DOBBS: You couldn't quarrel with that, could you, Doctor?

SEGAL: Well, I think patient safety is really important, but most of the tests that are being done related to defensive medicine provide absolutely zero value to the patient. They keep the doctor out of the witness chair. A small amount of testing will improve the patient's condition and a small amount of testing paradoxically will actually make the patient even worse than before you started. But by and large, defensive medicine is exactly that just...

DOBBS: May I interrupt you? Did you just say testing could make the patient worse off?

SEGAL: Exactly. Imagine sticking a needle in the patient just because you're curious to make sure -- just 1,000 percent sure that you've not missed anything. Once you stick a needle in the patient's body anything can happen. The lung can drop, bleeding, infection, the list goes on and on.

DOBBS: Alan Ripka (ph)?

RIPKA: And obviously not sticking the needle into the person's body and not drawing that blood doesn't tell you whether or not the person has an infection or has a disease or something that would be detected in a lab or blood test, so where are you going with that? You're allowing someone to die so you don't have to pay for the blood test? SEGAL: I would never argue let's allow someone to die, but here we can deal with facts. For example, if a person has a minor head injury, they lose consciousness, go to the emergency room, every doctor will order a CT scan. We now know we can ask five basic questions to make sure the patient does not go home with a blood clot in the head

But today, in this country, every E.R. physician will scan every patient that comes through. In fact, one E.R. doc said "I will scan people until they glow if it keeps me out of a jury -- in front of a jury."

DOBBS: Well, that issue then become, the cost of defensive medicine, it sounds like there are a host of issues.

I was talking with a doctor in Houston recently on the air who said that doctors right now are really getting out of the art of examination because they are forced -- forced defensive medicine, to run so many tests that they're not carry ought examinations properly.

What do you think of that? Alan first.

ALAN RIPKA, MEDICAL MALPRACTICE ATTORNEY: I think first of all, it shouldn't be called "defensive medicine." It should be called "appropriate medicine." And with these doctors who are being sued, they've deemed it defensive medicine to put a stigma on it.

Doing a lot of tests to determine something is not necessarily inappropriate. Deciding which ones are appropriate and which ones are not are left for the medical community. And they're the ones who make those determinations.

And if they've determined that not doing a certain test is OK, they've caused the problem in not diagnosing the issue to begin with.

DOBBS: Doctor?

SEGAL: Well, right today, a legislation is being proposed -- we're a member of an organization called Center for Health Transformation, and last week, we heard of legislation being proposed today where physicians would be held to be immune, given a safe harbor, if they followed practice guidelines, if they followed appropriate best practices.

And the question is, would plaintiffs' attorneys get behind that? If a doctor --

DOBBS: Would you, Alan?

RIPKA: Well right now, in every court of law that I practiced in, and I've tried medical malpractice cases regularly. If a doctor does not, what they call, "depart, from the appropriate standard of care, and the jury determines that, he or she is not responsible. So it's not about us lawyers getting on board with that. The courts...

DOBBS: There's one lawyer who says absolutely, there will be no cap of medical malpractice suits when, as we've been examining here on this broadcast, in every country that we have examined, and particularly in Europe, where there is universal health care, where there is a national health care system, there's no -- there's no role for medical malpractice lawsuits. In those countries where there is, it's minimal.

What's your reaction to that, gentlemen?

SEGAL: I would say that is the one thing we can emulate from other countries. We could adopt the British system. There's very little to be desired in the national health service of the British system, but one thing they do right is something called lose or pay.

It means they do have a professional liability system. To the extent that a person brings a case, if they get it wrong, the loser has to pay.

DOBBS: That sounds fair -- Alan Ripka?

RIPKA: Well, our system has advantages. And just because people do it other ways doesn't mean we have to adopt those ways.

DOBBS: No. By the way, no one is suggesting anybody has to. We're in an egalitarian operation here. I'm all about democracy. We want people to decide that.

RIPKA: In our case, what we have is because there are no caps, and let's say in New York, for example. These doctors are on guard, as they should be.

There are consequences to actions in every livelihood. And if you don't take care of what you're supposed to do properly, there could be a penalty. You may have to pay. And you cannot value someone's pain and suffering, and you cannot predetermine what the costs are going to be to keep that person alive and well and taken care of.

DOBBS: Well, one would argue, could they not, Alan, that in other countries, they value a life and limb so highly that they would not attempt to put a price on it?

RIPKA: Well, they may not. But maybe in those countries they allow doctors by paying doctors, and I'm all for this, the money to do all the tests that need to be done.

And maybe medical malpractice isn't as prevalent because they're doing at diagnosing, examining, and treating patients that are sick.

SEGAL: Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. So are you suggesting that or countries at better at patient safety than we are in the United States?

RIPKA: No. I'm simply saying that if in fact doctors are being paid for certain testing that they may not being paid for here they easily can get to the diagnosis.

DOBBS: I think you're both ready for opening arguments in the next case. We thank you very much for being here and shedding some light and some insight into this. We appreciate it. Alan thank you very much. Doctor, thank you.

SEGAL: Thank you very much.

DOBBS: Up next, the angry showdown over the president's health care proposals.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They need to open it up to the free markets. You need to get the government the hell out of our way.


DOBBS: These town hall protests on the health care debate are getting intense.

And the president's approval ratings are plummeting in his first 200 days in office. What the numbers mean for the rest of his presidency, next.


DOBBS: Joining me now, three of the best political analysts in Washington, D.C., Republican strategist Rich Galen. Here in New York, Mark Halperin, editor-at-large, senior political analyst, "Time" magazine, political analysts Keli Goff, a regular contributor to the "Huffington Post."

And it's good of all of you to be here. Let's take a look at the polls real quickly, approval of how the president is doing his job, the CNN Opinion Research poll, let's take a look at now, at 56 percent, June, 61 percent, May, 62 percent, 63 percent.

Keli, do you detect a trend here?

KELI GOFF, "HUFFINGTON POST": I'm no mathematician, but slightly. I have to say, a 56 percent approval rate is certainly nothing to sneeze at, which is what your numbers show and mean.

That's bad news. I think a lot of politicians would take such news, including Nancy Pelosi being one of them.

We all knew that the honeymoon wasn't going to last. But General Powell who endorsed him said that he thought he had too many things on his plate at once that he was trying to address. And the CNN poll says that Americans agree.

DOBBS: Mark?

MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I think he's going to have to win this right now on an inside game. The country does not like a lot of what he's doing and the numbers reflect that.

But he still has a big base of support. What he needs to do, I think, is go to Congress and say, on the economy and on health care, let's get stuff done without looking at the polls. Let's do what we think is right.

And that's what a successful politician does. They don't obsess the way the press does on the polls. They say, what am I elected to do, and I'm going to do it.

The stuff he's doing, mostly he ran on. If he continues to do it and he was right, I think he'll be rewarded, but not in the short term.

DOBBS: Do you agree, Rich?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The issue isn't for the president. I disagree with Mark to this degree that these members of Congress are within 15 months of having to run for reelection. So they're very focused on the polls.

And polls that right wing mouthpiece NPR released a poll about a week ago showing that Republicans now lead plus one in the generic vote. And, as you showed earlier in a clip, the members went home armed with a piece of paper from Speaker Pelosi about how to speak about health care. And it's going really badly. Everybody else sees that.

And so it has the effect of sort of building on itself. And I think that these members are paying very close attention to this polling.

GOFF: Although it's worth mentioning that CNN's most recent poll four out of 10 are blaming the Republicans, the GOP, for how the economy is going. And while they think it's improving slightly, that's certainly not great news that I think the GOP would be wanting to run on.

HALPERIN: The mentality that Rich Galen's is talking about is the mentality that got the Republican Congress and their last Republican president in trouble. Looking at the midterm elections, having the President say to his party and then say with the elections coming up, let's find out what the political thing is to do to save our seats.

They shouldn't be trying to save their seats. They should be trying to do what they think is right. And for now I think that's the course they're on, even though it may cost them the election.

DOBBS: I have a slightly different memory of 2006, and that was one in which a president, George W. Bush, pressed ahead with his agenda irrespective of the consequences or his Congress, and the results were painful for the Republican Party.

HALPERIN: On foreign policy. But on spending, on the Agriculture Bill, on the prescription drug bill, on pork barrel spending, all the things that George Bush was against rhetorically but allowed Republicans in Congress to do because they were worried about holding the majority.

The majority is there to get things done, not to hold.

GALEN: Here's the issue. Let me get to this quickly --

DOBBS: You have to, because we need to go to break quickly.

GALEN: OK, I'll do it after the break.



DOBBS: I love it. And Keli Goff wants to, since you've surrendered your time, she'll pick up on it when we return with our panel in just a moment.

And a reminder, you can join the debate on how the Obama administration and Congress are doing. Go to to first cast your vote and then cast your vote on how the president and the Congress are handling the economy, health care, and all of the important national issues. On the CNN tonight, the CNN national report card, the second 100 days.

I'll be back with our panel in one moment.


DOBBS: We're back with our panel.

I'd just like to bring up what Senator Durbin had to say today about those protests, folks breaking out in those constituent meetings and congressional town hall meetings all across the country.

Here is Senator Durbin.


SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: But, you know, I hope my colleagues won't fall for a sucker punch like this.

These health insurance companies or people like them are trying to load these town meetings for visual impact on television. They want to show thousands of people screaming "socialism" and try to overcome the public sentiment which now favors health care reform.


DOBBS: Your reaction, Keli?

GOFF: Well, there's no doubt in my mind that if the question is are some insurance companies and people opposed to the health care reform planting people in these meetings, of course I'm sure some of them are.

But that does not change the fact that I think that the White House has a real problem on its hands -- I said this on your program before, in terms of this bill and the support for this poll.

All of the polls, including your very own, shows that more than two-thirds of Americans support health care reform. But then one in five say that they're not sure that this bill is actually going to be better for their families.

And these are not people who are against the president. My mother is a huge supporter of his, and she has problems convincing people like her and myself that this bill, just because it's a new bill, is a better idea.

I'm not sure that the entity that gave us the DMZ and the United States Postal Service and FEMA is going to be best equipped to give us better customer service when it comes to anything, including something as important health care. And I don't think that on messaging they've done a good job of convincing, even his supporters of that.

GALEN: Welcome to our side, Keli.

GOFF: Sorry.

HALPERIN: Is every other industrialized democracy which has universal health care through the government wrong?

DOBBS: What is your question? I don't understand.

HALPERIN: Well, this line about the department of motor vehicles or FEMA is cute, and it's often used. But in every other industrial --

GOFF: I never said it was original. HALPERIN: -- this is the way people get their health care.


DOBBS: Let me be clear about something since you raised this, because we're reporting on what's happening in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Europe.

The highest approval rating is in Denmark, a nation of 5.5 million people. What we are finding in the oldest of universal care, public-funded system, that is in Germany, that they have extraordinary dissatisfaction, about 55 percent. And they're calling for immense changes. What we have found is similar in the United Kingdom.

And what we are coming to understand is, there is no template for health care, which puts the lie to the fact that there are three bills sitting in Congress right now that represent not the Obama administration's proposal.

And the polls that we continue to report here favoring and opposing, plot -- we don't have a shape for this.

HALPERIN: I'm not saying there's a template. What I'm saying is there's three things that are through -- we're the only industrialized democracy that does not cover every citizen. That is immoral.

DOBBS: That's immoral?

HALPERIN: Yes. To be a country this wealthy and be the only industrialized democracy that hasn't figured out how to cover everyone.

Two, every industrialized democracy has done this through a government program. And three, the president faces of tough task, because this country is not for a single payer, and it's very hard to build anything else.

DOBBS: But I've got to ask this question, Rich. If we're going to do a comparative government course here, what I'd like to know then, how do those nations, how do their balance sheets stack up against that of the United States? What is their balance of payments in trade? What is their federal deficit? What is their national debt?

And are there -- is there a single nation among them facing the extraordinary circumstances, $60 trillion in unfunded liabilities, $7 trillion in trade debts, $12 trillion in national debt, and a $2 trillion federal deficit. Is there anyone, Rich, close to that?

GALEN: No. And nobody's as big as we are. And that's why thing that's where Mort's argument falls down.

One of the things we know about these programs is they don't scale up well. They don't do well. They may do well in small pockets. But when you have to handle 300 million people, it simply doesn't work. But more important, to Keli's point, health care is the single most individual concern, assuming you've got a job and you're not starving to death. Everybody is worried about health care. Everybody is worried about a sick kid or sick relative.


DOBBS: I'm just interrupting to point out. Frank Newport -- they had a Gallup discussed in his most recent essay. One of the takeaways is there is no crisis in health care in the United States.

And that is the bottom line here. And that's from the most extensive polling being done anywhere on health.

HALPERIN: There is no crisis today. But the long term financial health of this country --

DOBBS: We heard the same nonsense -- by the way, we heard the same nonsense, if I may, about it's not today from the Bush administration when he decided to spend his political capital on private accounts in Social Security, which turned out to be -- anyway, it turned out not so well.

HALPERIN: Do you disagree with all of the big 500 companies who think that long term this is not sustainable?

DOBBS: I don't take a position at all here. I'm just pointing out some facts that do bear consideration which haven't been in the public arena for discussion.

And this Congress has been at it for how long? About five months. And this president has been at it for six months.

GOFF: I'm going to respectfully disagree with our post, respected host here, our respected and esteemed host, and say that I actually do believe almost 50 million people being uninsured is a crisis.

But I'm not sure this is the right answer --

DOBBS: Excuse me. I wasn't clear. That is not my position. That's a statement from the Gallup poll and Frank Newport, whose essay is on for your review.

HALPERIN: And what the president is trying to do, I think, most fundamentally is lead the country to understand that while they may not feel today like their personal situation is a crisis or that the country is in crisis, business, labor, many academics, this president who got elected front and center running on this issue believes that if this problem isn't addressed, the country will face a financial and moral crisis down the road.

GALEN: Then they need to address it and not lob it over into Congress and allow them to screw around with it for month after month after month. The danger here, as we all know, is if something is not done, whatever it is, by the end of this year, it will not get done for two more years because it has to be done in an odd number of years.

As soon as we get into the even number, an election year, it's going to just stall and go back. It will be just that much more paper sitting on shelves in members' offices.

DOBBS: We have to go, unless you want to say something really quick.

GOFF: I'm all for improvement. I don't know that this is it. You haven't convinced me, so --

HALPERIN: Rich Galen is a smart man but the president is going to ignore the calendar.

DOBBS: And that's the way it is.


DOBBS: OK, you get the last word, Rich. Thank you, everybody. We appreciate it. I wish we had more time. We've got a lot more to talk about and will in the days and weeks and months ahead.

Up at the top of the hour, CNN's national report card on the president's second 100 days. Here with a preview, Wolf Blitzer and Campbell Brown -- guys?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.

There are 2.5 million votes Campbell, so far, on the national report card. People are going to and telling us -- telling us what they think on ten key questions. And we're going to get a lot more coming up at the top of the hour.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: The started the second 100 day is the perfect time to reassess. And this is part of an ongoing conversation we have been having with you guys at home as people are letting us know where they think the president is on a lot of these issues, how they feel about health care reform, the economy, the media, and Congress right now.

BLITZER: Not necessarily very flattering numbers. We take a look at the national report card of the president of the United States.

Some of the questions that we're asking, for example, "Grade the Obama administration's handling of foreign affairs. Grade the performance of the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Grade Vice President Joe Biden."

And we're going to assess when you think about all of these issues and a lot more with the best political team on television.

And, Campbell, you got them with you right there. BROWN: And you know, the real reason we're having this is just because it's been so long since I've heard you use that phrase, Wolf. They are the best political team on television, and with us tonight to talk about all of these issues and give you their analysis.

We have Jeff Toobin, David Gergen, Candy Crowley, Gloria Borger, Bill Bennett, Donna Brazile, Alex Castellanos, and Paul Begala. They will be joining us talking about all of these issues and grading as well -- Wolf?

BLITZER: And Tom Foreman will be over at the magic wall as well.

Lou, there's a lot going on. People will be able to text in their votes. They will be able to phone in their votes as well starting at the top of the hour at 8:00 p.m. Eastern -- Lou?

DOBBS: Wolf, it looks like you and Campbell might as well throw an election here our way as well.

Good luck to all of you. Look forward to it. Thanks, Wolf.

To hear my thoughts on the president's second 100 days in office and on the intensifying health care battle in Congress and all that is required in this debate, please join me on the radio Monday through Fridays for the "Lou Dobbs Show," on WOOR. to get the local listings for the show in your area.

And follow me on Lou Dobbs News on

Up next -- the Cash for Clunkers program designed to boost car sales actually crippling another part of the industry. That story is next.


DOBBS: The Senate tonight could approve an additional $2 billion for that Cash for Clunkers program. The program has been popular, more than 184,000 deals submitted for approval. There's been a spike in car sales and manufacturers are rushing to meet demand. Talk about a turnaround.

But that program is hurting one sector of the car industry. Brooke Baldwin with our report.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the last 40 years, the Maggio family has made a living crushing cars and reselling parts for profit.


BALDWIN: While Washington celebrates the stimulus its created for automakers and dealers, Hackensack Auto Wreckers in New Jersey says it's not seeing the cash. Under the Cash for Clunkers program, to get gas guzzlers off the road, the dealer must seize out the engine before the salvage yard collects the car.

MAGGIO: I need the five-spoke wheel.

BALDWIN: That leaves Sally Ann Maggio with minimal parts in the shell to resell -- potential profit, $300. Compare that to a normal car with its engine still intact, Maggio may make up to $2,000. That's a big loss of income that offsets the rising costs.

MAGGIO: I have to pay for my driver to go and tow it in. And then you're paying for your manpower to dismantle the car. You pay for the gasoline to be removed. We pay for the antifreeze, the oil. All of those things have to be paid.

BALDWIN (on camera): In the last two weeks, Hackensack auto wreckers have received 100 cars, 30 of them from this Cash for Clunkers program.

But take a look over here. This dumper alone represents $5,000 in lost profit.

BALDWIN (voice-over): Since July 24th, consumers have spent more than $775 million on nearly 200,000 fuel-efficient cars, a win/win for Americans according to the federal government.

RAY LAHOOD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: This program was really designed to get gas guzzlers off the road, more fuel-efficient cars, and help a number of people in the automobile industry continue to have jobs.

BALDWIN: In other words, get these high-polluting engines out of circulation.

Sally understands that, but as her crew toils away in New Jersey's summer heat, she wishes she was getting her share of the profit.

MAGGIO: It's keeping us busy, very busy. Not the kind of busy that we would like to.


BALDWIN: We talked to sally's father, the patriarch of that family business. You know what he said, they're also concerned that many of these people trading in their clunkers really can't afford the new car. They're simply enticed by the $3,500 or $4,500 credit.

And possible result of that, Lou, they're worried about an auto market bubble.

DOBBS: Well, it is nice to be able to hear all of these numbers about higher car sales. But as you describe what they're going through and that junkyard and the junk yard business, you can't help but think the next step here is a junkyard bailout. It's just the way --

BALDWIN: Who knows.

DOBBS: -- of these times.

Thank you very much, Brooke. Appreciate it.

And we thank you for being with us tonight. Join us here tomorrow. We thank you for watching. Good night from New York. CNN's national report card on the president's second 100 days begins now.

BLITZER: The CNN national report card -- day 200 of the Obama administration, and it's your opportunity to tell us how you think the president of the United States is doing on a whole host of issues.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, together with Campbell Brown. Campbell with the best political team on television, we're going to let the viewers out there and the folks out there tell us how they think the president is doing.