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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Town Hall Showdowns; Economy Rebounding; Health Care in France; "Cash for Clunkers"

Aired August 07, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you and good evening, everybody.

The White House facing a nationwide rebellion against the president's health care plan, but the administration, the Democratic Party, and left-wing groups are striking back, and they're striking back hard. What happened to the politics of hope?

Also, another clear indication the economy is rebounding. Something, by the way, I have been forecasting here for months. The unemployment rate is declining for the first time in 15 months, but the White House appears reluctant to acknowledge those positive developments.

And some right-wing commentators think things are just terrible. We'll have a special report.

And the "cash for clunkers" program, another $2 billion for the kitty, but there are new questions about whether the program makes sense for anyone, taxpayers, consumers, even the car industry.

First, the already nasty fight over the president's health care plan is getting even uglier. There have been more angry confrontations at town hall meetings and constituent meetings all across the country. American citizens, trying to exercise freedom of speech after being excluded from the health care debate in Washington, rising up.

The White House and Democratic Party increasingly desperate in efforts to control this debate -- one top White House official reportedly said, quote, "if you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard." Lisa Sylvester has our report.



LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anger and other raw emotions from protesters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody back up!

(CROSSTALK) SYLVESTER: Congressional members are finding their town hall meetings are veering off course. Democratic Representative Kathy Castor (ph) left the public session in Tampa early under police escort. And in St. Louis, six protesters were reportedly arrested at Democratic Representative Ross Carneyhan's (ph) health care meeting.

Video from YouTube appears to show a scuffle outside following the meeting. One man told "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch" (ph) he's a conservative activist who was attacked. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has labeled the disruptions as Astroturf or fake grassroots movement. Other Democrats accuse the protesters of hijacking the public debate.

REP. BRIAN BAIRD (D), WASHINGTON: A number of groups have formed that are trying to give advice about how to suppress town halls. There are Web sites dedicated to it and I think there are some paid organizations, some affiliated with members current or former members of the Republican Party who seem to be fanning the flames.

SYLVESTER: But is this just a fringe group of ultraconservatives willing to shut down debate, or does it tap into a very real public opposition to Washington's health care proposals? A recent CNN/Opinion Research poll finds that while 50 percent back President Obama's health care proposals, 45 percent of Americans oppose the plan, with 33 percent, a full third, strongly opposed. Republican strategist Frank Donatelli (ph) heads up the Republican state and local political training organization GOPAC (ph).

FRANK DONATELLI, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Is there organization some involve? Sure, there is. I mean on both sides there are groups that are trying to turn out supporters pro and con to the president's policies, but I think the real question is are they real? And the answer is, yes, they are real. They are real voters that are concerned about what they understand the president is proposing. The polls show that.


SYLVESTER: Now, the AFL-CIO and have announced their own counter grassroots movement calling on their members to take an active role in these August health care town hall meetings and we should mention though that there are Democrats including Senator Ben Cardin (ph) who is from Maryland, and one of the things that he says is he's not so quick to dismiss these town hall dissenters.

What he said in a quote is that "while some may call this manufactured anger, he says in these town hall meetings that he had that was not the case. That the people have strong views about health care reform." So, he is saying that this is -- what this really is doing is tapping into real, genuine anger and all these calls of saying that it's Astroturf or somehow manufactured, he said that that's just not the case.

DOBBS: Yes I thought it was very revealing the other day Jake Tapper (ph), ABC News White House correspondent, asking Robert Gibbs point-blank, what's the difference, he was talking about Astroturf. What's the difference between liberal organizers and right-wing organizers or conservative organizers? And the best response Gibbs could give was that the Republicans were bragging about it.


DOBBS: I mean, that's really remarkable.

SYLVESTER: You know, and this is a good point is that and AFL-CIO they are rolling out their own grassroots version. And as you saw in that video, you know it's been painted that these are somehow these ultraconservatives, but there are, in fact, many liberals at these debates who are also shouting, who are getting involved, and so the temperature is definitely turning up, Lou.

DOBBS: Yes and you know what -- actually Richard Trump (ph) at the AFL-CIO today talked about the noisy politics including at the beginning of the founding of this nation. One of the things that I think is great is people making their voices heard from the left, from the right and those who would like to shut those voices down, on any part of the spectrum, better remember what we were all about at our founding, because that is finding expression. I think we should be rejoicing in that, irrespective of our politics or partisanship or even being an independent. Lisa thanks so much -- Lisa Sylvester.

President Obama launched a blistering attack on his Republican critics at a highly partisan Democratic Party rally in Virginia last night. The president told Republicans, quote, "to get out of the way."


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't mind, by the way, being responsible. I expect to be held responsible for these issues because I'm the president. But...


OBAMA: But -- but I don't want the folks who created the mess -- I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. I want them to just get out of the way so we can clean up the mess.


OBAMA: I don't mind cleaning up after them, but don't do a lot of talking.


DOBBS: Well, a lot of talking seems to be the order of the day. And as you heard, President Obama telling his opponents not to do a lot of talking. That may be a reference to Americans who are simply exercising their right to protest against the president's health care plans.

President Obama today welcomed the latest indication that the economy is rebounding, a tempered response, if you will. The unemployment rate unexpectedly fell in July to 9.4 percent. It is the first decline in the unemployment rate since April of last year. But the White House extremely cautious, warning the unemployment -- an unemployment rate could rise again to 10 percent. Ed Henry has our report.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The upbeat jobs report is little comfort to Greg Thompson (ph), who just feels fortunate the unemployment benefits he collects at the One-Stop Career Center in Washington, D.C., were recently extended.

GREG THOMPSON, UNEMPLOYED: Me, I'm just glad they did. But I -- there's no jobs. I mean you can't -- I go out every week and I get the same story.

HENRY: But a couple of miles away at the White House, the president had a much rosier view of the impact of his stimulus plan.

OBAMA: This morning we received additional signs that the worst may be behind us.

HENRY: While 247,000 more people lost jobs in July, the president noted that's far better than what he inherited.

OBAMA: We're losing jobs at less than half the rate we were when I took office. We've pulled the financial system back from the brink. While we've rescued our economy from catastrophe, we've also begun to build a new foundation for growth.

HENRY: Republicans insist the stimulus may be working on the margins, but has not provided the jolt the president originally promised.

DOUGLAS HOLTZ EAKIN: You have to define "working." I mean they've set the bar that says you know we're going to have the second grade depression and we didn't, so it has to be working.

HENRY: While the president acknowledged there's a long way to go, he struck a very optimistic tone.

OBAMA: I am convinced that we can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but now we're going to have to move forward with confidence and conviction to reach the promise of a new day.

HENRY: But Greg Thompson, a heavy machinery operator, suggests while some jobs may be coming back, wages are plummeting.

THOMPSON: I get some people to say, well look I'll pay you so much. I say, well, that's half of what I've been getting. And they say well if you don't want it, you know we'll get somebody else that do.


HENRY: Now, the vice president's top economist, Jared Bernstein (ph), was a bit less optimistic than the president. In an interview with me on CNN Radio today Mr. Bernstein (ph) saying that the White House is not at all confident that the unemployment rate will continue to go downward. Instead he said it very well could start going back up next month and said it could reach 10 percent by the end of the year, so a little bit of a mixed message. You have the president saying, look, the worst of it may be over, and then you have got White House aides saying, well, maybe not -- Lou.

DOBBS: It's not the first mixed message this week from the -- from the White House, is it?

HENRY: Well, no. I mean, look, on the economy, they are going through a balancing act here. They are trying to, as you heard the president say, maybe the worst is over, maybe talk up the economy a bit, so they're not accused of pessimism, but at the same token, they don't want to look like they are celebrating that they're suggesting that this recession is over yet, because obviously there are still a lot of people hurting right now.

DOBBS: Certainly no one could accuse them of that. Ed, thank you very much -- Ed Henry from the White House.

Well in his remarks today President Obama appeared reluctant to acknowledge the evidence that the economy does have bright spots. The president also declared change is hard.


OBAMA: We have a lot further to go. As far as I'm concerned, we will not have a true recovery as long as we're losing jobs, and we won't rest until every American that is looking for work can find a job. I have no doubt that we can make these changes. It won't be easy, though. Change is hard, especially in Washington. We have a steep mountain to climb, and we started in a very deep valley.


DOBBS: Well, let's turn to James Taranto and Errol Louis, Robert Zimmerman, our panel tonight -- James, your reaction to, first, these demonstrations, the counterdemonstrations, the organization of left to right organizations, what's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm totally with you on this one, Lou. It's a great thing that people are getting out and speaking their minds. It takes an enormous amount of chutzpah for the Democratic party and the White House to say after trying to push this through without any debate, saying we have to get this done by -- before August, now to say, oh, these people they are not letting us have a reasoned debate.

That was exactly what they were trying to avoid and this is really remarkable. It's the first time I can remember a political party deciding to wage a negative campaign against voters. It's really astonishing.

DOBBS: Robert, what's going on? ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I'm still trying to figure out what you just said. I mean the reality is you've seen the Democratic Congress deal with this issue of health care for over now a year in terms of multiple public hearings. And while there was obviously a goal of getting the process moving forward by August, no one is discouraging town hall meetings.

What troubles me is that you don't see, and for that matter, any of the Democratic progressive groups out there trying to shut down Republicans -- Republicans from their sessions. Yet you see this constant barrage of attacks, and very frankly, I think the open debate is important, healthy, and critical. But when you try to block debate -- when you try to shut down the town hall meetings, when you try to engage in really vial rhetoric, I think it demeans both the Republican Party and this important debate.

DOBBS: So you're -- so you're agreeing with James, is that right?


DOBBS: And me because we're talking about the great open democratic process.

ZIMMERMAN: We're all encouraging the open democratic process...


ZIMMERMAN: But we're not witnessing it from the right wing of this country.

DOBBS: Ah, OK -- Errol?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know one -- not to dissent with anybody, I'm all in favor of free speech. But we did have a two- year election period in which people complained month after month, how long is this going to go on? How many speeches and debates will there be? I don't think there's a single person in this country of voting age who could have been surprised at what the president put forward.

He said over and over and over again what he was going to do. So, now, that's not to say that we don't need more explanation, more debate, more discussion. But, you know, the notion that we've been caught by surprise...


LOUIS: ... that this thing suddenly fell out of the blue, that, oh, my God, he wants to do health care reform, surely people knew before they went to the polls last fall.

DOBBS: So, this is the president fulfilling a campaign promise. If that's the case, why did he give the lead to Congress for it?

LOUIS: Well, I mean, look...


LOUIS: ... his political strategy, I'll leave to him and his party.


DOBBS: OK, well, let me ask this, if I may (INAUDIBLE) because you bring up a point. There was a two-year election period that really ran from the declaration, from January 2007 for President Obama to his election. Where was the discussion about NAFTA, outsourcing, free trade, the unfunded liabilities of all of these programs, the discussion on illegal immigration, border securities? If I may remind everyone, forgive me for so presuming, those were combined the third rail of politics and we couldn't get these candidates, not simply President Obama, but the presidential candidates would not discuss those...

LOUIS: But ironically the one issue they wouldn't stop talking about was health care.

DOBBS: Ironically.

ZIMMERMAN: And in fact what we're witnessing right now is one of the most -- is in fact a very open process where you have a real philosophical debate, not divided by party lines in addressing the health care crisis in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the idea that we had an election and that settled it...


JAMES TARANTO, EDITOR, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: We had an election in 2004. George W. Bush ran on private accounts for Social Security, but that really wasn't what people were voting for when they elected him -- when they re-elected him as president and so he went out and made the case for that and he failed and I think the same thing is happening here with health care.


DOBBS: We're going to be back with James, with Errol, Robert to sort all of this out here in the broadcast. We'll have much more on those angry confrontations. We'll be bringing you video of those confrontations at town hall meetings across the country.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) will make a decision about whether it continues to be safe or not.


DOBBS: Those protests, their impact -- who's protesting and how much Astroturf on both the left and the right-our "Face Off" debate tonight. And we'll take a look at the French health care system tonight. That's right -- we continue here to continue to ask questions no one else seems interested in doing. We're the only ones on television, as a matter of fact, addressing these national health care systems across the globe and comparing them to our own and the prospects for true reform. We continue in one moment.


DOBBS: As Congress and President Obama consider an overhaul of the health care system in this country, we on this broadcast are asking and answering questions that many in Washington won't even consider. Such as -- how satisfied are Americans with the health care system that we have? And is there any correlation between satisfaction and life expectancy in this country?

Eighty-three percent of Americans are satisfied with the quality of the health care we receive. Life expectancy in this country is 78.1 years now, that's below the average of 79 years in many other developed countries. In Denmark, 90 percent of the Danes are satisfied with their publicly funded system. And life expectancy there is just barely higher than ours, 78.4 years.

In Germany 55 percent of the Germans are not satisfied with their health care system, their life expectancy is higher than ours, 79.8, in fact. Fifty-seven percent of the people in the United Kingdom say their system needs an overhaul, life expectancy, 78.9 years. In Canada, 70 percent say their system is working well, life expectancy, 80.7 years.

And 84 percent of the people in France are satisfied with the quality of their health care, life expectancy, 81 years. Even with that high satisfaction rate and long lifespan, some in France now believe their universal health care system is in need of change. Brooke Baldwin has our report.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Imagine a health care system where 99 percent of the population is covered. There's no hassle in seeing your doctor of choice, and the majority of patients are satisfied with the quality of care. France, a nation of more than 60 million people, provides basic, universal health insurance.

Most of the funding stems from a payroll tax, but employees do pay a small percentage. But unlike traditional single-payer systems, Michael Tanner with the Cato Institute says France is different.

MICHAEL TANNER, CATO INSTITUTE: It's a system that relies heavily on consumer cost sharing and market forces to control health care costs.

BALDWIN: According to the Commonwealth Fund, a nonpartisan research group, only 33 percent of the French say their system needs fundamental changes compared to 46 percent in the U.S. They have a higher doctor-to-patient ratio, and the French live longer. However, the French are starting to pay more out-of-pocket costs.

Some shell out up to 40 percent of the costs of drugs and treatments in co-payments, and health care now consumes 11 percent of GDP, second only to the United States. France, like the U.S., is coping with rising drug costs and aging populations and expensive medical technology. The result -- rationing of care according to free-market advocate Tanner.

TANNER: They have put in place, for example, gate keepers, much like managed care in the United States, where you have to see a primary care physician before you can see a specialist. You have to get approval to see certain types of specialists.

BALDWIN: Tanner says the French are starting to complain about access to care and rising costs, complaints familiar here in the United States.


BALDWIN: One other criticism of France's health care system, this coming from Victor Rodwin (ph), he's a professor of health policy and management at NYU. He says easy access to specialty services and rising costs of technologies of pharmaceuticals could make this system, Lou, unsustainable.

DOBBS: But right now France topping out in Europe as the best of the -- the public health care systems, and the highest satisfaction rate, so thanks so much, Brooke. Appreciate it.

BALDWIN: You're welcome.

DOBBS: Brooke Baldwin. We've looked at the health care system this week in altogether five nations, all with a national health care plan, but none has the amount of debt that the United States is carrying nor do any of them have our massive trade deficit. Canada's debt, believe it or not, amounts to $814.3 billion, that's 60 percent of its GDP, its trade deficit, 1.2 billion.

The United Kingdom's debt is $1 trillion, 47 percent of its GDP, trade deficit $22 billion. France $1.4 trillion debt, 67 percent of its GDP, its trade deficit is 27.6 billion. Germany's debt amounts to 1.8 trillion, nearly 63 percent of its GDP. Germany has a trade surplus of 66 billion, Denmark, its debt more than $2 trillion. Now think about this.

Denmark is a nation of 5.5 million people, with that level of debt -- $2 trillion. It has a $3.7 billion trade surplus, however. Now, the U.S. national debt is staggering -- more than 61 percent of GDP -- our trade deficit $146 billion. The U.S. budget deficit continues to grow at a rapid rate -- the federal deficit soaring to 1.3 trillion in the first 10 months of this year, according to the CBO. That's almost a trillion dollars more than the deficit in the comparable period a year ago, just about the same amount as the past four years, in fact.

Monday we'll have a special report on the health care system in the Netherlands -- coming up next, angry showdowns at health care town hall meetings all across the country.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Just say no! Just say no! Just say no!




DOBBS: Are these showdowns orchestrated, and by whom, if they are? That's the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight.

And "cash for clunkers", it's popular. Some say it may not make sense in the long term. Stay with us.


DOBBS: President Obama today signed a bill authorizing an additional $2 billion for that "cash for clunkers" program. But there is some considerable skepticism about the effectiveness of the program and whether the deal makes financial sense for taxpayers and a lot of other interest as well -- Casey Wian with our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At first glance, the "cash for clunkers" program is a roaring success, more than a quarter of a million gas guzzlers have been traded in for $1 billion worth of new cars in just two weeks.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: It's wonderful to see that colleagues have supported the continuation of the single most effective stimulus program to date for the American people, for the economy.

WIAN: The program has helped dealers sell new cars at an annual rate that would smash the industry's previous record.

JESSICA CALDWELL, INDUSTRY ANALYST: I don't think that rate is sustainable. I think a lot of that came from a lot of hype, a lot of frenzy, and a lot of people buying into this notion of buy now, buy now.

WIAN: In fact, says industry analyst Jessica Caldwell, increased demand for some models is already driving up prices, which could mean that some consumers will end up paying more. In addition to boosting auto sales, "cash for clunkers" is designed to help the environment.

The Transportation Department says the average car bought through the program gets nearly 10 miles per gallon more than the car that's traded in. But experts say many of those trade-ins would have happened anyway, just not as quickly.

MICHAEL GERRARD, COLUMBIA UNIV., CTR. FOR CLIMATE CHANGE LAW: The program is terrific for the economy, and so-so for the environment. It yields marginal increases in fuel economy, so it's a positive, but it's not where you'd put the first dollar of your real objective for saving energy.

WIAN: Some in the auto industry have expressed concern that "cash for clunkers" may be luring people to buy new cars who can't really afford them, thereby creating a potential auto finance bubble.


WIAN: And others counter that owners who have kept their cars long enough to qualify for the program are more likely to be financially responsible. Either way, the consensus in the auto industry is that once this next $2 billion is gone, the "cash for clunkers" program will be as well. Lou?

DOBBS: All right, thank you very much, Casey. Casey Wian.

Up next here, President Obama telling his critics and opponents to get out of the way -- protests against the president's policies, however, rising.







DOBBS: We'll take a closer look at those nationwide protests against the president's health care plan in our "Face Off" debate here next. Is it a revolt?


DOBBS: The confrontation, the political confrontation over the president's health care plan is becoming increasingly nasty in many quarters of this country -- tempers flaring at public town hall meetings around the country, such as one in Tampa, Florida. But are angry protests a real barometer of what Americans are feeling or are they being orchestrated. That's the subject of tonight's "Face Off" debate.

Joining me Chris Stirewalt (ph), political editor for "The Washington Examiner" who says the town halls are a legitimate expression of frustration and Steve Corenacky (ph) -- he is a columnist for "The New York Observer" who says the protests are not a true reflection of what Americans are feeling. To give everyone a sense of what we're doing here, let's go to this town hall meeting, about 1,500 people in attendance with Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor (ph) in Tampa, Florida, yesterday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody back up.





DOBBS: Well let's start Steve. That looked pretty real to me.

STEVE KORNACK, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK OBSERVER: I don't dispute that it's real. I don't dispute that the rage is real. I don't dispute that these people have genuine, in their minds, in their hearts, gripe with Obama and with the health care plan. I just dispute that it really adds up to anything. I dispute that it suggests that there's a broad movement in this country afoot that is similar to that, you know, in terms of rage.

I don't think -- when you look at a poll that finds that roughly 50 percent of the public feels they sort of support what Obama's trying to do on health care and about 50 percent oppose it right now, I don't think the 50 percent that oppose it feel the way these people feel.

I think if you can draw a parallel, if you can think back to 2000, the presidential election in 2000, Ralph Nader ran for president, if you remember. He drew 15,000 people at his rallies, paying $7 a head to get in. They had more energy and more enthusiasm then anywhere else. Did it mean anything? No, it meant intensity; it didn't mean breadth of support. We're seeing intensity, here.

DOBBS: You want to ask al gore how much it meant? Well, we'll be back for that in just a moment. Chris, your thoughts? You think it's real, obviously.

CHRIS STIREALT, WASHINGTON POST: Well, you know, intensity counts for a lot in politics. When you talk about what do most Americans think, most Americans exist somewhere in the middle. But, intensity of feeling at the polls, at the opposite ends, counts for a lot.

Most people didn't feel as strongly about opposing the Iraq war as, say, Code Pink or some of the other left groups that really gave to its President Bush over the Iraq war, but the intensity of their feeling helped drive a political movement. This isn't just one candidate like Ralph Nader, this is an issue. This is issue-based rather than trying to get somebody elected.

When you're talking about an issue, some people raising concerns intensity can sway feelings in the middle. So, I think it can absolutely have an impact on where this debate goes.

DOBBS: This idea that it's real or it's orchestrated, as we look at that intensity, and you referred to it first, Steve, I mean, here's an intensity that is underlying this, because the intensity is not just simply against the Obama health care plan, which is as -- I think it's fair to say ill-defined and hardly --

KORNACK: There is no Obama health care plan, right now.

DOBBS: Even though it's being insisted upon as something to get done.

KORNACK: Well, yeah, they want to get it done. But there's no Obama plan in place, right now.

DOBBS: I know. Which is, only in America, 2009, would we be having a conversation. It doesn't exist, but let's get it done, and, by the way, it should have been done today.

KORNACK: But doesn't it tell you something about what's going on with protestors, what's really inspiring them? Doesn't it raise a question when they show up and there's a certain level of hysteria and sort of irrationality behind what they're saying at these things. You have people getting up saying, you know, we don't want a form of socialized medicine. And then somebody says, well, how many of you are on Medicare? And half the audience raises its hands. That's the quintessential socialized medicine.

DOBBS: Well, as you wish. But let's take a look at another part of the problem, and that if we can go to this, this is from the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll completed just a few days ago. Are you satisfied with your health care? Yes, 83 percent. No, 16 percent. A most recent Rasmussen poll, by the way, showing that people not only are satisfied with it, 67 percent of them think it's --

KORNACK: But, Lou, we can --

DOBBS: Let me finish my sentence. Wait, wait, we're going to do something odd, here. We're going to let me finish my sentences and then we're going to let you finish your sentences -- satisfied with their health care plans, delighted with it. And if I man, go ahead.

KORNACK: Seventy-five percent of the people in a CBS/"New York Times" polls, last month, said that they support -- or 71 percent, 72 percent, somewhere in that range, said that they support a government- run alternative to compete with the private insurers. Only 13 percent in that entire poll said that they did not believe that fundamental, radical, or significant change, significant change, to the U.S. health care system was due. So, people are -- that's why I say the 50 percent is not represented by the people at these meetings, because I think people really are sort of all over the place on this. And I don't think they have a strong --

DOBBS: I want to get back to that - Chris.

STIREALT: Well, look, I think it's the core of this issue, is that most Americans are satisfied with their own health care. And the challenge for the White House is convincing people to take a chance on changing something that may affect what they're getting.

Yeah, I think it's overwhelmingly true that Americans would like to see reform in health care. Republicans want reform. Democrats want reform. Independents want reform. That's the name of the game, everybody wants reform, but right now I think that fears are rising from a very basic thing.

The very basic thing is that if you're satisfied with the health care that you want, how can you believe that a fundamental change isn't going to affect your access? When was the last time that the government did anything that made it really that much better for you and how -- and how you were served by what you were getting?

DOBBS: Let me pose this question to both of you, and as Steve has acknowledged, the Obama health care plan doesn't exist, yet he's demanding that it be passed, which is one of the more absurd aspects of this political -- I'm sorry, are you --

KORNACK: Well, I wouldn't say he's demanding -- he's not demanding that the Obama plan be passed, he's demanding that health care -- he's demanding that health care reform be passed.

DOBBS: Yes, well, whatever he's doing, he's the president, and his demand gets a little imperious when you think about the fact that it doesn't exist and the suggestion that it by today --

KORNACK: Well, the --

DOBBS: Please let me finish. Please let me finish. And the suggestion that it be done today is a little, I think, we would all agree, a little peculiar given that there is no basis by which to determine its cost, its definition, its scope, its efficiency on any level.

So now, let me get to the point. The point being, we have approval polls and disapproval polls for this president, for this health care plan -- the health care -- by the way, the "New York Times" and others call it health care reform, it doesn't even exist. Reform, I think you would agree, is not exactly a pejorative for an objective news organization.

What are we doing? Why are we not having an open, honest debate about one-sixth of our economy, important health care that the best health care system in the -- in the world, that is not accessible to too many Americans? Chris, why is that not happening?

STIREALT: Well, you've hit right on -- on the heart of this matter, which is the hurry up and pass something that doesn't exist. Why are people scared? Why do people express misgivings even though we do see 75 percent of people want reform? They have misgivings because we saw what happened with the stimulus, we saw what happened with the cap-and-trade plan, which is a rush to action that then creates things like the AIG bonuses or a billion dollar, "green job plan" --

You'll be pleased that AIG doubled its stock price, Steve?

DOBBS: Well, you'll be pleased to know that AIG doubled its stock price this week -- Steve.

KORNACK: That's not what I'm hearing at the meetings. When I hear people at these meetings and shout down any attempt at discussion, any attempt at a rational debate, any attempt at an intelligent discussion. When I hear people get up and scream that we don't want socialized medicine in any form, and then somebody says, by the way, Medicare, if you're a senior citizen is a form of socialized government-run medicine, you know, they don't make the connection on that. When I see people intentionally distorting and relying on this whole claim about euthanasia. You know, which is a bit -- there's a very simple policy with bipartisan agreement in a two-decade history in this country --

DOBBS: You're answering a question I didn't ask. The question I'm asking you is how can we have anything but frustrated citizenry and, frankly, organized groups from the left or right if we haven't had an honest, open debate in our --

KORNACK: I think we have.

DOBBS: Oh, you think we have?

KORNACK: Well, as somebody pointed out in your last segment, I think it was Errol Louis, he said we just had a two-year campaign, a two-year presidential campaign --

DOBBS: You don't even know what the position of the president of the United States is on outsourcing or free trade.

KORNACK: No, no, we're talking about health care, I think.

DOBBS: You're talking about health care.

KORNACK: Well, you're saying you want an open and honest health care debate. We had, I think we have had an open, honest debate about health care.

DOBBS: OK, if it's been an honest and open debate, you've been paying close attention. OK? Have you been paying attention? What will be the efficiencies introduced by the president's plan and what will be the savings by the president's plan?

KORNACK: But no, the process is not offer --

DOBBS: I would like to know. Oh, it's not over. Well, it is for those people in those town hall meetings, because they have --

KORNACK: The point of a congressional process is you don't have a finished process until it goes through a three committee --


DOBBS: (INAUDIBLE) the congressional process? Are you seriously sitting there telling us --

KORNACK: That's why you don't have --

DOBBS: That's why the American people --

KORNACK: I'm not sure what you're trying to say, here.

DOBBS: Let me finish and I think it will be --

KORNACK: Well, you're being a little patronizing to me, so --

DOBBS: Well, I'm being patronizing is because you're being rude. And the reason I'm being patronizing is because I'm going finish this sentence come hell or high water. And that is, if this is it such a great process why is it that Nancy Pelosi --

KORNACK: I didn't say it was a great process.

DOBBS: -- by 24 percent of the people. And why isn't that --

KORNACK: I didn't say it was a great process.

DOBBS: Oh, you didn't?

KORNACK: Did you hear me say it was a great process?

DOBBS: I'm just asking you.


DOBBS: So, it's not a great process?


DOBBS: It's not a great process.

KORNACK: You do not have --

DOBBS: Chris, I sure think you need to get into this debate.

STIREALT: Well, what I can't really figure out right now is what is it that the president really wants, because -- and I don't think anybody can, and I think that's why these town halls are significant because the president hasn't said what he wants. That leaves the 30 percent, the independent Americans, the 30 percent in the middle, persuadable.

The White House hasn't been able to persuade them. People have lost confidence in the president's handling of the economy. People have lost confidence in the president's handling of health care. Those numbers are going the wrong way. And when people see that outrage, when people in the middle see that outrage, they say, hey, where there's smoke, there's fire. The White House's answer is we don't really have a plan yet, but we want you to hurry up and pass it. I don't think you are going to be able to persuade people.

DOBBS: The absurdity is, gentlemen, is this. He's only been president for six months, for crying out loud. How much confidence should there be? But the idea -- you're talking about the congressional process -- the idea that a man who has been president for six months can demand a program that will affect one-sixth of the economy, without, forgive me for saying so, engaged, active, transparent, open public hearings on a critical issue, how could it result in anything but frustration on all courts?

KORNACK: I don't hear, when you show the protests, when you show the video, I don't hear people who have that level of frustration. I see a much more basic -- I see and hear a much more basic level of frustration that has a lot less to do with the specifics of health care, that has a lot less to do with the desire to have an honest, open, fair discussion about health care, than it does with the belief, an inherent belief from the beginning of the administration, from November of last year, that Barack Obama is an illegitimate president --

DOBBS: An illegitimate president, what? Well, that's rembidiculous.

KORNACK: We have heard -- this is the same crowds that are showing up here, are the ones that were calling him a socialist, you know, a few months ago, the TEA Parties and all the -- you know, I've heard --

DOBBS: Are you marginalizing those that were going to TEA parties? I mean --

KORNACK: I'm not marginalizing anybody. I'm just saying you should distinguish between people who are interested in having an open, honest debate from those who are interested in undermining the president. That's what I see in those meetings.

STIREALT: May I interject?

DOBBS: You may interject, you get the last word, and we're out of here.

STIREALT: Well, I have to say this -- the idea now that we are going to demonize and destroy opponents in the discussion, that we're going to say that somebody's point of view is illegitimate bodes very poorly for this plan, and I might argue, very poorly for the country. If this is where we're stuck, then we're going to be stuck here for a very long time. And I think that's why we're seeing so much disappointment and frustration in the country with this administration that promised something different.

DOBBS: Chris, thank you. Steve, thank you. We're out of time.

Now, for the latest headlines, we turn to Lisa Sylvester, here with more -- Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Thanks Lou, we begin with new indications that the Obama administration may not meet its deadline to close the Guantanamo Bay prison by January of next year. The administration's top counterterrorism official, John Brennan said, "I don't have a crystal ball that I can say with certainty that the prison will be closed in that timeframe." President Obama insists he will close the Guantanamo Bay prison by January of 2010, but he's facing strong opposition from critics who say he does not have a clear plan to relocate detainees.

The wife of South Carolina governor, Mark Sanford, has moved out of the governor's mansion just weeks after he admitted to having an extramarital affair. Jenny Sanford will spend the school year with the couple's four sons at their home in Charleston. The governor says he supports his wife's decision and they will continue to work towards reconciliation. In June mark Sanford admitted to a yearlong affair with a woman living in Argentina.

And in Tampa, Florida, an autopsy report shows cocaine played a role in the death of TV pitch man, Billy Mays. Fifty-year-old Mays died of a heart attack in June. The Hillsborough County medical examiner said while the heart attack was the primary cause of death, cocaine use was a contributing factor.

Those are the latest headlines. Lou, back to you.

DOBBS: Lisa, thank you very much.

Coming up, we're going to focus on more positive signs in the economy, the prospect of recovery. The White House, however, cautious.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECY: I would describe today's report as the least-bad report that we've had in a year.


DOBBS: So, why is the White House so hesitant to respond to good news and call it what it is?

We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Now, we've got the temperature just right, I'm joined again by three of the best political analysts in the country, "New York Daily News" columnist, CNN contributor, Errol Louis. Democratic strategist, CNN contributor, Robert Zimmerman, James Taranto, editor of

Here we are. Why is there this reluctance, Robert, to talk about good news? I mean, we saw a significant improvement in the unemployment numbers, still far too high, but we saw a tick down, one can say it's a technical reduction in the unemployment rate, but at least it's a reduction. This is good news.

ZIMMERMAN: It's followed by the good news about the GDP, the week before, housing sales increasing, prices of homes going up, in fact, the hourly wage increasing moderately, very modestly. But the point is there are good signs, but I think the White House's measured response really made sense. What the White House was not announcing, what they were not highlighting today, is that one of the reasons that we had a better economic employment report was because the labor market's contracting, and, in fact, it counted --

DOBBS: Robert Zimmerman as economist, I'm sorry.


ZIMMERMAN: But the fact is every economist pointed out in their analysis that, in fact, you have more people, long-term unemployment were not part of this count. So, that contributed to the fact that it was better news. You didn't know I was an economist, did you?

DOBBS: I didn't know and I'm so impressed, as always, Robert. And I appreciated it, Robert.

ZIMMERMAN: I always try to impress you.

DOBBS: Errol?

LOUIS: I'm not an economist, but I thought the numbers -- look, the numbers are horrible if you really look at them closely. For the president of the United States -- there's no way he can get out and say, hey, we've got some good news, there are now five million Americans who have been unemployed for six months or longer. I mean, there's a lot of pain out there, he's seeing it, he's hearing it. When there's a seasonal adjustment or any other kind of change that could really sort of restate that number, and it's an upward blip on what still could be a downward trend when it comes to employment.

DOBBS: Yeah I -- James.

TARANTO: Strangely enough, I agree. I think the White House struck just the right tone. The total number of jobs was down. Unemployment was down slightly because the total number of people in the labor market was down even more, so we are still are --

DOBBS: Workers moving away from the labor force, of those looking for a jobs, which reduced the, technically, as I put it, the unemployment rate to --

TARANTO: Right, that explains it. So, I -- the -- the number of jobs is still decline. It's declining more slowly, but it's not improving yet, it's just getting worse less quickly than it was getting worse before, which is better than getting worse more quickly. So, in that sense it's --

DOBBS: If you keep this up, I'll stick with Robert Zimmerman on economics.

TARANTO: Fair enough.

DOBBS: And let's turn to the issue, and the reason I bring it up, frankly, we seeing so many positives. There's no question we're in recession. And arguably we'll be in a jobless recovery for some time, but nonetheless, the reluctance, the almost overwhelming urge to be sophisticated here and resist acknowledging good news does not help the prospect for more good news, is what I'm referring to in terms of leadership.

Let's go to Congressman Brian Baird from Washington State saying he will no longer conduct these town hall meetings because he's received death threats and he's going to go to teleconferences, instead. We're going to find out that's a smart approach when we continue with our panel in one moment.



OBAMA: I don't mind, by the way, being responsible. I expect to be held responsible for these issues because I'm the president, but --


But I don't want the folks who created the mess -- I don't want the folks who created the mess do a lot of talking. I want them to just get out of the way so we can clean up the mess.


I don't mind cleaning up after them, but don't do a lot of talking.


DOBBS: We're back with Errol Louis, Robert Zimmerman and James Taranto. James, your reaction?

TARANTO: Well, it's kind of a juvenile statement, isn't it? I mean, I don't want these people doing a lot of talking, I want them to get out of the way. It's like he's trying to be bullying, except, as the president of the United States, it's a free country, he doesn't actually have the power to shut anyone up. It just comes across as empty bluster.

DOBBS: Well, he doesn't have the power, perhaps, directly, but he does have the ability to chill and silence some of his critics, some that -- those who are a little more timid than others. What do you think?

LOUIS: I doubt it will work. I mean, there are some members, I think, of the past administration and some of them have gone into the media and they talk quite a lot and he's letting it known he's sick of the criticism. Now, this is the end of his honeymoon period if it hasn't ended already.

DOBBS: He's sick of the criticism. You know, what president isn't sick of the criticism at any point?

LOUIS: Well, that's right. That's right. But again, as his honeymoon ends he's trying one last time to say, listen, this wasn't my problem. I mean, it's going to be and it is, but --

DOBBS: Wasn't his problem? Isn't his problem? He's president of the United States.

LOUIS: There you go.

ZIMMERMAN: The problem he has --

DOBBS: He's the guy who said it. By the way, if I were president, I'd drop that into speeches, too. I am president of the United States.

ZIMMERMAN: He's earned the right to say it.

DOBBS: Absolutely.

ZIMMERMAN: The problem he has, is a Republican Congress has made no effort to work in any bipartisan fashion with the administration even when he has accepted their ideas and proposals. So the message at this rally was, if you're not going to be part of the solution, get out of the way. I don't think that's why.

TARANTO: Wait, there's a Republican Congress?

ZIMMERMAN: With the Republican members of Congress. The Republican members of Congress. He's brought in their programs in the stimulus package.

DOBBS: He's embraced them warmly, I think.

ZIMMERMAN: You know something, much more openly than we've ever seen from the other side.

DOBBS: You know, I couldn't agree with you more about whatever it is you just said that was so nice about the Democratic Party. Because I -- it's one of those nights.

The president's declining approval rating, gentlemen, this doesn't look so hot. What do you think?

LOUIS: Well, it's inevitable. I mean, it wasn't going to last. If he wanted to play it easy, if he wanted to play it safe, there are any number of different things he could have done. He could have more of sort of field their proposals, he could have shunted more on to Congress, he could have avoided some of these big fights. He chose not to do that. He's taking a political hit. If there's any time to, it's before the 2010 election.

DOBBS: Real quickly, the Republicans are in real trouble and they can't -- it seems that their officeholders can't get out of office quickly enough. Mel Martinez, Senator Martinez saying he's resigning, he's not waiting to not run. He wants out.

TARANTO: Yeah. I don't understand that one. I have no explanation.

ZIMMERMAN: I do. It's getting tough for these folks.

DOBBS: All right. Robert Zimmerman summing it up for us. Errol Louis, thank you very much, James Toronto. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: I'll have some thoughts on the nationwide protest against the president's health care plan, much more on the economy, please join me on the radio Monday through Fridays for the LOU DOBBS SHOW, go to to get the local listings for the LOU DOBBS SHOW in your area. And you can follow me on LouDobbsNews on, please.

And we thank you for being with us. Goodnight from New York. Next, Campbell Brown.