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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Obama's Offensive; Blue Dog Versus Obama; Health Care in Australia; California Chaos

Aired August 14, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Wolf, thank you. Good evening everybody.

President Obama today blasting television organizations, saying they are inflaming the controversy over his controversial health care plan. President Obama trying to play down the impact of those town hall protests, as is the Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill.

Opposition to the presidential proposal is rising as his approval ratings plunge. One of the nation's -- one of the president's strongest critics in the Democratic Party itself is Congressman Mike Ross, today explaining why he disagrees with the president. I'll be joined by three of the top political analysts. They'll tell us whether the president has lost the battle for health care legislation.

And chaos in California -- from fires to prison riots, a wild animal invasion -- did we mention California's massive budget problems? We'll have that special report.

We begin tonight with the president taking his health care plans to the west -- the president strongly defending health care proposals during a town hall meeting in Belgrade, Montana. The president also challenged the way in which television news organizations are covering town hall meetings held by congressmen. President Obama says "TV loves a ruckus", as he put it. But once again the president said nothing new about his health care proposals. Ed Henry traveling with the president reports from Big Sky, Montana.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president's town hall was gentle by congressional standards, but he did get one pointed question about his health reform plan.

RANDY RATHIE, MONTANA RESIDENT: We keep getting the bull. That's all we get, is bull. You can't tell us how you're going to pay for this. The only way you're going to get that money is to raise our taxes. You said you wouldn't.

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, you are absolutely right that I can't cover another 46 million people for free.

HENRY: But the president vowed again he will not raise taxes on the middle class to pay for the difference. OBAMA: When I was campaigning, I made a promise that I would not raise your taxes if you made $250,000 a year or less. That's what I said. But I said that for people like myself who make more than that, there's nothing wrong with me paying a little bit more in order to help people who got a little bit less.

HENRY: Spend a day in the tiny town of Livingston, Montana and you quickly see why the president's health care push is facing big problems in Big Sky Country even from those he's trying to help.

SONJA MCDONALD, HOUSEWIFE: We've got two kids and then my husband is the only one working.

HENRY: Sonja McDonald is uninsured, so she gets discounted dental work at a local clinic. She voted for the president and agrees there needs to be reform, but is worried about the details.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe that there is a health care crisis. I really do. Do I believe that the government needs to be more involved? No. Because I think that they just -- whenever they get their fingers in the pot it kind of just turns black.

HENRY: A common sentiment here where a second Obama voter told us government is too big.

DAVID LEWIS, PUBLISHER, THE MONTANA PIONEER: We've just spent so much money on the stimulus and TARP, then we're going to add another huge entitlement in the form of the public option.


HENRY: Now, in private, top White House aides acknowledge that there is this bubbling anger, you know specifically directed at the government. People frustrated at the bailouts from TARP, bank bailouts, auto bailouts and they will say in private that this is something they have got to push back on much harder and that's why we're seeing the president hitting the road. In fact tomorrow he's going to be going to Colorado for another town hall meeting, Lou.

DOBBS: What is the White House thinking, Ed? As the president has gone before the country, traveling all over the country, pushing health care -- his health care initiative, his poll numbers have dropped considerably. Opposition to the health care initiatives have risen. That opposition has risen dramatically. What is new in the approach now? Did he say anything new today?

HENRY: He frankly did not say anything new that I saw. It was only in his pushback of that one questioner who was really pressing him on taxes. And that has been one of the frustrations that I've picked up on the road, not just here in Montana, but other states like Indiana and Virginia as well on previous presidential trips, where people who even say they voted for this president and want to see him succeed say they have not seen enough details, in an official Obama plan to sort of lay out exactly what he's for, beyond broad principles. The bottom line is that the president is reaching a critical stage in all of this. You see some of the anger bubbling up during the August recess. When Congress comes back in September, his aides acknowledge the window is closing. He is going to have to make the sale. He hasn't made that yet, Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Ed -- Ed Henry reporting from Big Sky country -- looks pretty nice out there behind you, Ed.

HENRY: It is.

DOBBS: Thank you so much. A leading Democrat, Congressman Mike Ross, today won praise from his constituents. He disagrees with the president and his Democratic Party leadership on Capitol Hill. Congressman Ross is a member of the so-called Blue Dog Coalition of conservative Democrats. He helped persuade Speaker Pelosi to delay a vote on health care until the fall. Brianna Keilar reports now from the congressman's home district in Arkansas.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Congressman Mike Ross' town hall meeting got off to a loud start, but it wasn't a protest. It was a standing ovation. Many of Ross' constituents are pleased he and other fiscally conservative Democrats forced Democratic leaders to pare down their proposal's price tag and delay a full House vote on health care until September. Ross scored points by distancing himself from leaders in Washington.

REP. MIKE ROSS (D), ARKANSAS: I led an effort and stood up to President Obama and to Speaker Pelosi and we won delaying any floor vote on health care reform to September at the earliest.



KEILAR: Like their congressman, these Arkansasians are concerned about the cost of reform...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This bill is going to raise the deficit $65 billion.

ROSS: If health care reform adds a dime to the national debt, I'm voting no.

KEILAR: While Ross' constituents asked pointed questions they reserved most of their rancor for each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My family has lived here...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) I am... KEILAR: As supporters of the Democrats health care overhaul push squared off against opponents, Ross played referee more than once.

ROSS: Y'all leave him alone. If he wants to yell and jump up and down let him. This is America.


KEILAR: It seemed a lot of people at this town hall meeting today were happy with much of what they heard from Congressman Mike Ross. There were a couple of people though who said they wish he would have been able to kill this attempt at overhauling health care, not just delay it. But on that point, Congressman Ross really stood his ground and he said it is not his intention to kill an effort at health care reform. He said he wants reform. He said it's needed, but he said it's his goal to make sure that it's done with common sense, Lou.

DOBBS: And what evidence of common sense is there in the specifics of the legislation? Was that discussed at the town hall meeting?

KEILAR: Well, he certainly took issue with certain parts of the bill, and he said that some of the things that he thought that didn't have common sense were some of the concessions that he got in his talks with Congressman Henry Waxman and with Democratic leaders, shaving $100 billion off the bill, making sure that more small businesses were exempt. He said that wasn't common sense and he kept repeating of course to show to his constituents that here is what I got when I was also able to slow down this process, Lou.

DOBBS: All right. Brianna, thank you very much -- Brianna Keilar.

The House speaker this week declared that town hall protesters who is Congressman Ross there talked about jumping up and down, objecting to the president's health care plan are simply quote "un- American." In an op-ed with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the speaker said quote "It is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway, not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings", end quote.

But it was in 2006 that Speaker Pelosi declared she supports disrupters as she called them. She was talking about Iraq at a town hall meeting in San Francisco.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Advocacy is very American and very important and I'm a fan of disruptors. People who make haste change.


DOBBS: Quite a contrast then and now. Speaker Pelosi offered disrupters even more encouragement. She invited them to stand at the front of the room with their anti-war signs.

Still ahead here, both sides of the health care debate join us. They're talking about spending millions of dollars on competing television ads. We'll find out what they're going to say and what affect they might have.

Also, California on the brink in so many ways -- wildfires, prison riots, chaos in a state that some say is simply out of control.

We'll have a special report on Australia's public health care system -- a report you won't see anywhere else on television. Stay with us. We continue.


DOBBS: We're examining health care systems all around the world to see what we can learn as the nation begins to debate a health care proposition. We've reported on nine health care systems around the world so far. We've looked at rates of satisfaction and life expectancy in those countries.

Eighty-three percent of Americans say they are satisfied with the quality of our health care system. Life expectancy in the United States, however, is only 78.1 years. That's right, I said only. In Denmark, 90 percent of the Danes are satisfied with their publicly funded system; life expectancy is 78.4 years, about the same as the United States. In Germany where more than half of the Germans aren't satisfied with their health care, their life expectancy rises to almost 80 years.

Fifty-seven percent of the British believe that the U.K. system needs an overhaul; life expectancy there is 78.9 years. In Canada, 70 percent say their system works well; life expectancy for Canadians almost 81 years. Eighty-four percent of the French satisfied with their health care system; life expectancy, 81 years.

Forty-six percent of the folks in the Netherlands say their system needs change; the life expectancy of the Dutch, 80 years. Switzerland's health care system ranking seventh in a survey of 32 developed nations, life expectancy almost 82 years; Spain ranking 17th in the same survey; life expectancy 81 years.

Fifty-one percent of those surveyed in Japan are satisfied with their health care system. Obviously, though, just about half aren't; life expectancy in Japan, the greatest in the world, 83 years. Tonight, we report on the health care system of Australia. Twenty- four percent of those surveyed in a recent poll said the Australian system works pretty well; life expectancy in Australia 81.5 years; third highest of the 30 developed nations. There is universal coverage and the system is funded mostly with public money. Brooke Baldwin reports.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Australia population 21 million. Their health care system is called Medicare, same name as in the United States, but much different. In Australia everyone is covered. Medicare pays for an entire visit to a public hospital and reimburses the trip to the family doctor. Most medication is covered under the plan which does require a copay.

The system is funded by income taxes. Most Australians pay 1.5 percent of their salaries. Those with higher incomes pay an additional one percent and there are low-income exceptions. But the public option isn't the only option as Victor Rodwin (ph), who studies health care systems around the world, explains.

PROF. VICTOR RODWIN, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Australia has a Medigap (ph) private health insurance sector, similar to the French which allows coverage of supplementary benefits and some co-payments.

BALDWIN: Approximately 43 percent of Australians opt to buy private insurance as well. According to Ian Butler (ph), an Australian doctor currently practicing in the U.S., a primary reason for buying it is that people can bypass long waiting lines for elective surgery.

DR. IAN BUTLER, UNIV. OF TEXAS MEDICAL SCHOOL: If you are sick say with a stroke or heart attack or pneumonia, there's really not much of a problem. But if you say wanted a hip replacement, and you wanted it done more quickly or more expeditiously and say by a particular surgeon, then it would be to your advantage to have private insurance.

BALDWIN: It also helps cover costs for private hospitals and specialists not entirely covered by the public plan. Australia spends 8.7 percent of its GDP on health care, compared to 16 percent in the United States. Total annual spending amounts to $3,137 per person compared to 7,290 in the U.S.; life expectancy, 81.6 years versus 78 in the United States. On the whole, 24 percent of Australians surveyed in a recent poll said their system works pretty well, compared to 12 percent in the U.S.


BALDWIN: On the life expectancy and which by the way, is two years higher in Australia than the average, the OACD (ph) points to the fact that Australia has received remarkable success in reducing tobacco consumption. In the last 20 years, they have cut the percentage of adults who smoke in half -- how about that?

DOBBS: That's terrific and we haven't done nearly so well.

BALDWIN: We haven't. Maybe they are enjoying the Great Barrier Reef and diving instead.

DOBBS: That's right. Getting rid of those cigarettes and being able to make a tank last a little longer.


DOBBS: Brooke, thank you very much. We also looked at the amount of debt as a percentage of GDP for each of those countries based on 2008. Australia's debt, 15.5 percent of its GDP; Denmark's debt, 22 percent; Spain's debt, 37.5 percent; the Netherlands' debt rising to 43 percent; Switzerland's debt, 44 percent of GDP; the United Kingdom, 47 percent of GDP; Canada's debt rises to 62 percent of GDP; Germany, 80 -- excuse me -- 63 percent of its GDP; France, 67 percent. The U.S. national debt now more than 74 percent of GDP and rising; Japan's debt is 170 percent of its GDP.

We'll continue our reports on the health care systems of other nations and what we might be able to learn from these nations. Monday, we begin to examine the state of health care in Austria. An interesting system and well worth your examination. And I'll have a few thoughts about the health care issue in this country, the president's health care initiatives and a host of other issues.

Please join me on "The Lou Dobbs Show" on the radio 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. each afternoon on WOR 710 Radio in New York. Go to to get the local listings in your area for the radio show and subscribe to our daily podcasts. On today's broadcast, by the way, (INAUDIBLE) Friday we open our phone lines to hear what the American people are most concerned about for a truly independent view of the American political landscape.

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast at You can also follow me on -- loudobbsnews on That's loudobbsnews. Up next here, millions being spent on television ads trying to persuade Americans on the health care discussion. Will they have any effect? That is the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight.

And from wildfires to prison riots to budget busters, it's been a heck of a summer for Californians. We'll have that story, here next.


DOBBS: Riots, wildfires, drug cartel busts, a wild animal invasion, it sounds like various plots to summer movies, but in reality it's just every day life this summer in California. Casey Wian has our report.



CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California usually evokes images of movie stars, beaches, wine country. But lately the Golden State's image has been torched. Two wildfires are raging out of control. Residents are fleeing with animals and guitars.

SUZY MARTIN, EVACUATED RESIDENT: We're musicians and they are kind of like our children to us.

WIAN: Perhaps the only thing more Californian than a wildfire is a car chase.


WIAN: A man suspected of making threats against the White House was gassed repeatedly and pulled from his car Thursday after an eight- hour standoff outside the Los Angeles Federal Building, which was locked down most of the day. Also on lock down, the state prison in Chino, after a riot Saturday that injured 175 inmates.

LT. Mark HARGROVE, CHINO PRISON: You have potentially 1,300 suspects or victims and all of them need to be interviewed in one way or another.

WIAN: Statewide, a court has ordered the release of more than 40,000 inmates because of overcrowding. That doesn't include "Squeaky" Fromme, a former member of the California grown Manson family, who attempted to kill President Gerald Ford. She was released from federal prison in Texas Friday. In San Diego a group of 17 suspected Mexican drug cartel members were indicted on murder and kidnapping charges Thursday, the second California-related cartel bust in two weeks.

BONNIE DUMANIS, SAN DIEGO DISTRICT ATTY.: This rogue group of criminals brought their drug trafficking operation across the border of Mexico to San Diego and set up shop.

WIAN: In a place that made the hamburger an American culinary classic, nearly two tons of California ground beef patties were recalled Thursday because of possible E.coli contamination -- so far no reported illnesses. If anyone does get sick there's free medical care for thousands this week in Englewood. The services are provided by a group that usually volunteers in places like Appalachia and the Amazon.

STAN BROCK, REMOTE AREA MEDICAL: People simply cannot afford the health care system in this country, unless you're either very well to do or very well insured.

WIAN: Medical care is among the state services being slashed to close California's massive budget deficit though officials say they will soon be able to start paying bills with real money, instead of IOUs. Neighboring Nevada is running ads poking fun and trying to lure businesses away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your IOU yet? But don't worry you know they love you. They just don't want you to relocate to Las Vegas. If the legislator keeps monkeying around, you can kiss your assets goodbye.

WIAN: Even the state's official animal the bear seemingly jumped off the California flag and wandered into a suburban backyard this week, perhaps looking for a way out.


WIAN: Even with all its problems California remains one of the most popular places to visit in the world. The state tourism department says 350 million people came to California last year. And presumably, at least some of them managed to have a good time, Lou.

DOBBS: But they did leave, right?

WIAN: Most of them did.

DOBBS: I'll tell you, what a deal in California -- Casey, thanks -- terrific reporting. We appreciate it.

Up next, the president blaming TV news organizations for stirring up anger in the health care discussion is that perhaps a wild misrepresentation by the president? We'll examine that and then our "Face Off" debate. We examine the escalating advertising battle over the president's controversial health care initiatives and no, you can't. That's the message to President Obama about the possibility of a manned mission soon to the moon -- by soon I mean 2020.


DOBBS: Supporters and opponents of the president's health care proposals are taking to the air waves with several commercials now. But will the advertising work? That's the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight.

Joining me James Martin, who is the president of the 60-Plus Association, whose organization was launched -- has launched a $1.5 million ad campaign against the president's health care proposals -- and Ron Pollack, he is the executive director of Families USA, which is part of a coalition and includes pharmaceutical companies -- the group launching a $12 million TV ad campaign -- they launched it yesterday supporting the president's plan -- good to have you with us, Ron.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great to be with you again.

DOBBS: Let's take a look at the ad hitting the airwaves if we may -- courtesy of an unlikely coalition of pharmaceutical, medical and health reform advocates.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The seniors are being asked to sacrifice again. Congress plans to pay for health care reform by cutting $500 billion from Medicare. For seniors this will mean long waits for care, cuts to MRI's, CAT scans and other vital tests. Seniors may lose their own doctors. The government, not doctors, will decide if older patients are worth the cost.


DOBBS: Well, you know, Jim Martin, what's the deal there? That's pretty strong stuff.

JAMES MARTIN: Well, we are just following what the news media reports to us. I guess it's the blame game as the president said earlier. The fact of the matter is there are massive cuts coming to Medicare. Seniors are angry and upset about it, as well they should be. It's called savings in Washington, D.C. That's double speak, of course, in Washington, D.C. There are cuts, there's no question about it. You're not going to be able to cut costs without cutting care. It's that simple.

DOBBS: Ron, your thoughts?

RON POLLACK, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, "FAMILIES USA": Well that's extraordinarily misleading. If you look at what this health reform does for seniors, it closes the so-called donut hole, which is that infamous big gap in coverage where seniors who have got multiple health conditions have to pay substantial amounts of money it closes that donut hole. It provides a new program...

DOBBS: You know I got to say something...

POLLACK: ... provide home and community-based services.

DOBBS: May I -- may I interrupt for just a moment?


DOBBS: I'm just curious -- this thing about the donut hole -- by the way, I'm a reasonably intelligent fellow. I can't understand how a donut hole got moved to the center of this discussion. I mean help us out on that.

POLLACK: Well you're absolutely right. This donut hole is you know it's something...

DOBBS: It's ridiculous.

POLLACK: It is. You're absolutely right. What it does is for seniors who have multiple health conditions and take lots of drugs, they get some help for the first dollars, but then after about $2,500 a year in expenses for drugs, they have to pay the full freight for the next several thousand dollars, and a lot of people can't afford it, so health reform is going to fix this once and for all. It also provides home and community-based care services so that people can stay at home, rather than going into an institution like a nursing home.

DOBBS: Let's take a look at one of your commercials. This ad hitting the air waves courtesy of your coalition. Let's take a look at that.


ANNOUNCER: What does health insurance mean for you? It means you can't be denied coverage for a preexisting condition or get dropped if you get sick. It means putting health care decisions in the hands of your doctor. It means lower costs, a cap on out-of- pocket expenses, tough new rule to cut waste and red tape, and a focus on preventing illness before it strikes.


DOBBS: Well, Mr. Martin, what's wrong with that? That sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

MARTIN: To tell you the truth, I like some of that, the preexisting conditions and preventative care. But let me point out to you that's rather -- well, he was cherry picking a couple of good things that everybody can agree upon. I'd like to address the donut hole. Low-income seniors are affected by that.

Now, let's fact it, until there was a Medicare prescription drug benefit passed a few years ago and by the way, pharma supported it, that I don't know I think Mr. Pollack did, fact of the matter was, there was no donut to start with. So that was at least the start to get the donut to help seniors out.

POLLACK: But, the problem, of course, with that is for people who really need prescription medicines the most if they wind up spending more than $2,500, then they wind up having to pay the full freight for the next thousands of dollars, thereafter. So this fixes that problem, and it's going to help senior citizens, at the same time, that seniors will get home and community-based care services, they will get preventative care and one last thing. You know, a lot of seniors are worried about the solvency of the Medicare program.

This legislation will extend the solvency of the program so that seniors do not have to worry as they have been in the past that the program is no longer going to be there for them. So, this really is going to help America's seniors.

DOBBS: Why -- why was there such opposition to the prescription benefit in Medicare when the Bush administration pushed it through from some of the very same people who are now supporting the president's health care initiatives?

POLLACK: Well, what people were really concerned about was that the people who needed drug coverage the most, they are the one who's really remain out in the cold after a few months of getting coverage.

DOBBS: So, we've spent hundreds of billions of dollars to no affect?

POLLACK: Well, no, I wouldn't say that. The first dollars are helpful to America's seniors, but if you really have...

DOBBS: Every poll I've seen shows great satisfaction with the plan.

POLLACK: I think people are satisfied that they have drug coverage for the first time, but they're not happy when they fall into this huge gap which will now be fixed.

MARTIN: I would like to add that that drug benefit is -- you know, 30 million seniors can't be wrong, they've signed up in droves to get that benefit. It was a great long-needed benefit. You know, the Medicare program, they mentioned earlier about the problems. Let me tell you this, it's 44 years old, signed into law July 30, 1965. I worked on Capitol Hill when it passed. Seniors have paid in now for 44 years, and they have paid their dues, they are now concerned about the massive cuts that are facing this program. That's what they're angry about...

DOBBS: All right gentlemen, we're really out of time. And I apologize. Sorry, go ahead, Ron. Real quick.

POLLACK: It's hardly misleading. There's waste in the system and that is going to get fixed.

DOBBS: We're out of time. We got the part where you disagree. We appreciate you being here. Ron Pollack, the head of Families USA. James Martin, the founder of 60 Plus Association. Gentlemen, thank you. I wish we had more time.

Now, let's go to Brooke Baldwin real quickly for an update on the other major stories on of the night -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Never enough time, Lou, never enough time.

We want to start with Michael Vick's return to football. Vick was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles less than three months after being released from prison. The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback spent almost two years in a federal prison for running a dogfighting ring. Vick says he is grateful for the second chance.


MICHAEL VICK, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES QUARTERBACK: I know, as we know, in the past, I've made some mistakes, I've done some terrible things, made a horrible mistake and now want to be part of the solution and not the problem.


BALDWIN: Vick signed a two-year deal with the Eagles. He was reinstated on a conditional basis. He will not be able to report until the 6th of October.

And the FAA has suspended an air traffic controller who was reportedly talking on the phone during that crash of a small plane and a helicopter over the Hudson River. The FAA also suspended the controller's supervisor who was not in the building as required. Authorities say the controllers did not contribute to the accident, but their conduct is unacceptable "is unacceptable." Nine people were killed in last weekend's midair collision including five Italian tourists.

And police in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, looking for a teenage driver who survived this close call on an open bridge. Witnesses say the girl was trapped in her car for about two minutes when the bridge was up. The bridge was prematurely raised while the girl's car was stuck between the gates, but surprisingly, the car did not fall. Witnesses say the driver apparently just drove away once that bridge was lowered. Those are the stories we're following tonight. Lou, frightening, can you imagine?

DOBBS: That's something else. But, at least a happy ending. Thank you very much, Brooke Baldwin.

An independent panel, appointed by the president, is tonight telling NASA "no, you can't" when it comes to a manned return to the Moon by 2020. The panel found that unless NASA were to receive much more money, a Moon mission is simply unrealistic. Ines Ferre with our report.


INES FERRE (voice-over): NASA doesn't have enough money for a lunar landing by 2020. That's one of the signals being sent out after a presidential panel reviewed the agency's Human Space Program, a dark scenario for some scientists.

WILLIAM BOTTKE, SOUTHWEST RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Well, there is this perception, and it's not just among the public, but also in the science community that the Moon is sort of a "been there, done that" world, and I couldn't disagree more. The Moon is a fascinating world and in many ways, it's the key to understanding the solar system. So, by studying the Moon, one of the big reasons to go back and probe the Moon is it tells you what the nature of the primordial earth was like.

FERRE: Though NASA's strategy is to return to the Moon by 2020 and eventually to Mars, its budget to do this falls short by tens of billions of dollars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liftoff. We have a liftoff.

FERRE: During the Apollo program, NASA's heyday, its budget was four percent of federal spending. Today, it's less than one percent, or $18 billion a year.

BRETTON ALEXANDER, COMMERCIAL SPACEFLIGHT FEDERATION: For human space flight, about half of that is human space flight. Of that between three and six billion a year is for this new exploration program. So, there is a choice of prioritization that the administration has to meet. And they've got to sync up the budget with their goals so that everybody agree on where we're going and how much it takes to get there.

FERRE: The committee outlined a series of options, one known as "Deep Space Strategy," manned missions to nearby asteroids and even orbiting one of Mars' moons by about 2030. NASA's current shuttle fleet is scheduled to retire next year. The committee suggests extending the International Space Station lifespan and involving the private sector to develop the new fleet.


And what's also off the option list? Well, landing on Mars as any kind of primary objective. The committee presented the administration officials, today, with preliminary findings, and the final report will be released at the end of the month. Until the report is out, NASA won't comment on any of the options presented by this panel.

DOBBS: There is literally nothing bright in NASA's future, right now -- $60 trillion in unfunded liabilities, $2 trillion in federal budget deficit. This is -- you think about the glories of that program, the heroes that were the astronauts of the Apollo program. I mean, this is...

FERRE: And what this does to the science community, as well, scientist who's really want to see this program go forward.

DOBBS: All right, I mean, it is an American tragedy to think where we've come in 40 years. Thank you very much, appreciate it. Ines Ferre.

Well, up next here, the president is pushing health care proposals out West, and he faced a couple tough questions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe in our constitution. And it's a very important thing. I also get my news from the cable networks, because I don't like the spin that comes from them other places.

BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: You got to be careful about them cable networks, though.



DOBBS: Now, what do you think the president meant by that? We'll be talking about that with our political analysts. Stay with us.


DOBBS: A lot happening and in Washington, tonight. Joining us, chief political columnist for, Roger Simon.

Roger, good to have you with us.

And joining me here in New York, the editor for, James Taranto. And political blogger for Keli Goff.

Kelli, good to have you here.

Did the president -- what were we saying first? Our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, reported that the president traveled all the way out to Montana and didn't say anything new. Is this an effective way for him to campaign for his health care plans?

KELI GOFF, THELOOP21.COM: Who doesn't love Montana this time of year? Look...


DOBBS: I didn't mean to suggest that he wasn't enjoying the trip.

GOFF: Well, no. but, in all seriousness, it's not a secret, especially when you look at the polls, his message isn't effectively connecting with a wide swath of Americans and I'd say some of them live in Montana. You have to take it beyond the beltway and beyond the people who already agree with you.

DOBBS: James.

JAMES TARANTO, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: I didn't see the Montana meeting, but I saw parts of the New Hampshire one, earlier in the week, and he said two new things there, which I think were both very disruptive to his effort. One was, when he compared what he wanted to do with the health care system to the postal system. And them -- postalization, that's about, you know, really what he wants the system like the postal service?

DOBBS: Do you think we'll hear the president make that comparison again?

TARANTO: Gee, I hope so.

GOFF: Maybe the DMV. That would be better.

TARANTO: And the other one was he made this sort of glib comment about pulling the plug on grandma, to which the audience responded with laughter, that was rather creepy, I thought, and it allowed Sarah Palin to win that debate.

Do you agree, Roger?

ROGER SIMON, POLITICO.COM: Well, I agree that it doesn't matter where you are, as long as you're on TV when you're president of the United States. He does want to get up away from the east coast and to what many people consider the real American. But he did fine in Montana. And you know, the crowd, even though it was thought, might be more hostile to him than it has been in the past, was politely and respectful and still clearly impressed to be in the same room as the president of the United States.

DOBBS: You know, that final question was quite something, wasn't it? An ode to Mr. Obama, I believe.

You know, the question about taxes, Keli, saying that he wouldn't be taxing anybody under $250,000, yet we have seen the congressional budget office say not so fast, arguing the fact that there will be costs associated with this, that there won't be the efficiencies that he has suggested, and thirdly that preventative medicine actually will cost more under his program. These are not happy things, are they?

GOFF: Lou, I certainly hope you're not suggesting that a politician might actually have to actually stretch one of the promises that he made on the campaign trail, because I'd be stunned and shocked to hear such a thing.

You know, in all seriousness, Lou, if would you asked me two days ago, I had been sitting here and you had ask me who was winning this debate on health care, I would have said, well absolutely the Democrats are losing and the president is, as well. But I think that the behavior at some of these town halls.

I mean, I'm going to tell you something that's 100 percent happened to me in the last 24 hours, I received an e-mail from a White friend who's of my age, who said to me...

DOBBS: I'm sorry, you received an e-mail?

GOFF: An e-main from a friend of mine who happens to be White, who said -- who is my age -- who said the behavior I've seen in the last week has convinced me that perhaps I was a bit naive about racism in the country. The swastika outside of Congressman Scott's office, the "Kill Obama and his stupid children, too," that type of language, I think is really starting to swing the pendulum in another direction. And I've heard from friend who have said, I'm not sure I support the plan, but I sure as heck don't support this type of rhetoric and this type of behavior from these crazies. And that was their language, not mine.

TARANTO: Well, we saw crazies like this talking about assassinating the president, so forth, when Bush was president, as well. This is an unfortunate part of our politics these days, and certainly I deplore it, as well. I don't think -- oh sure, we did we saw people comparing Bush to Hitler, we swastikas and these anti-war demonstrations. I'm sorry, go back and look at the reports. It was largely White washed by the media...

DOBBS: Do we have these? We actually -- we'll bring these up, because, we were reporting on this earlier this week. You know...

GOFF: We didn't hear people threatening to kill the Bush girls. I just think it's not really comparable to say, to insinuate that some of the language we're hearing is not somewhat race based. If you'd asked me four days ago, Lou, I might have inclined to agree. I mean, I'm not sure how I stand on this health care plan, but I do think that, quite frankly, the language is getting rather scary.

I watched the McCaskill town hall, and as an African-American watching someone walk over, yank a Rosa Parks poster out of somebody's hand and rip it, as a black person, I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying in that room. I'm sorry, James. And I don't think that we can say that that's not becoming part of the issue that's effecting this conversation.

TARANTO: And that's absolutely deplorable. I agree entirely. I don't know that that's going to win any support for this legislative initiative, though.

GOFF: Well, it's not going to win it, again for the people who are opponents. That's all I'm saying.

That is a bizarre thing to say. I mean -- I'm sorry, go ahead. Roger. Go ahead.

SIMON: Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't say anything, but I agree with Keli that extremism is helping the president, and actually I think one of the things he was looking for at the Montana meeting, where he called on people that clearly were going to be critical. He called on a guy wearing an NRA jacket and he thought he was going to get, I think, a much more heated question than he got -- is that he looked good in comparison to the opposition.

And when the opposition goes over the line, regardless of how much other presidents have had to bear this, it helps the president, because he looks reasonable in the face of extremism.

DOBBS: In the face of extremism, and I'm curious, you seem to paint this as if it's only on the extreme right.

SIMON: Oh, no. There's been extremism in American history on either side, like right now.

DOBBS: No, I'm talking about current affairs, if I may. Roger, you're make it sound like it is only on the right. Do you see any signs of extremism on the left?

GOFF: Of course.

SIMON: You know, there is extremism on both sides, and the media, unable to avert our eyes from the car wreck, and gawk at it. But -- when you were mentioning earlier how the president criticized cable TV, I truly don't think the president is upset with cable TV, which continues to carry his news conferences, live.

I think he knows how to use TV rather effectively and knows that, you know, he is winning this battle when it comes to the battle of the television screens.

DOBBS: One would think certainly he might even consider an embrace of at least one outlet. We'll be right back in just one moment. Stay with us.


DOBBS: We're back. I just mentioned to Keli and James Taranto had mentioned to Keli that there are plenty of instances of the swastika being used in anti-war demonstrations during the Bush administration and while it is obviously horrible that they are being used today, apparently in the health care debate, there are plenty of examples of it being used before.

And you brought up the issue of race. Race, you know, a number of people have said now a code word, one person said that socialism is a code word for a racial epithet. We are -- race is moving to the front here in a peculiar way I think from sort of unusual quarters. What do you think -- James. TARANTO: Well, there are two sides of it. On the one hand, there are people who have prejudices that they express in very ugly ways. Keli is absolutely right and I think we all deplore that, and the vast majority of Americans who see that are repelled by it and it increases their sympathy for the president, although perhaps not for his policies.

On the other hand, when people say socialism is code word for race and these posters of Obama as the Joker are racist, I think there is an element of using it as an excuse, as well.

DOBBS: Roger, the last word, quickly, please.

SIMON: I think people are overlooking, in the exuberance over the last election, that Obama didn't win the White vote, he lost it by a landslide, 12 percentage points. And we're seeing now, some people who are uncomfortable with that and they're just adjusting to it, and I think Obama will eventually probably win them over.

DOBBS: All right, thank you very much. Roger Simon, James Taranto, Keli Goff. Thank you all.

Up at the top of the hour, filling in for Campbell Brown, none other than John Roberts -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Lou, thank you so much. Tonight, we're going in depth on a story that you mentioned a bit earlier -- Michael Vick back in pro football after serving time for dogfighting. Has he paid a high enough price for his crime?

Plus, I'll talk to one of President Obama's biggest supporters on the pushback on health care. And three of rock's guitar legends share their secrets on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. That plus our mash-up of the day's top stories. All that, Lou, right ahead at the top of the hour. We'll see you then.

DOBBS: Thank you, John.

Up next, "Heroes," our weekly salute to the men and women who serve this nation in uniform.


DOBBS: And now "Heroes." Tonight, Marine Staff Sergeant Logan Cortes. Sergeant Cortes when his team was ambushed. He was honored with a Bronze Star for his bravery in helping defeat more than 30 insurgents. Brooke Baldwin with his story.


STAFF SGT LOGAN CORTES, U.S. MARINES: And the next thing you're going to do...

BALDWIN: Staff Sergeant Logan Cortes is a martial arts instruction for the First Marine Logistics Group Combat Skills Train School. CORTES: Sometimes when you are in Iraq and (INAUDIBLE), you're not always shooting, sometimes are you in close combat and you have to defend yourself or with your hands.


BALDWIN: In 2005, Cortes was deployed as a machine gun leader for Second Battalion, First Marines Regiment.

CORTES: We clear four cities in three months, we're making sure the (INAUDIBLE) that wasn't any insurgents in the cities.

BALDWIN: Just one week before returning home, while clearing the city of New Ubidy (ph), his team was ambushed.

CORTES: There was this (INAUDIBLE) that was activity on one house, three insurgents, and we went to investigate it.

BALDWIN: Second Platoon arrived to the house first and found not three insurgents, but more than 30.

CORTES: I was about to set up my machine guns behind the wall when a couple of these just (INAUDIBLE) and torched the house. So they started running behind him, there was explosions and there was insurgents popping all over the place.

BALDWIN: One Marine was dead and another inside the house was wounded. Cortes went in after him.

CORTES: All his legs were sprayed, so I have to drag him out of the house.

BALDWIN: After pulling that Marine to safety, Cortes ran through the firefight again to reprieve more ammo for his machine gunner.

CORTES: Once we pulled everybody out, (INAUDIBLE) they started raining on everything. We called for a Medevac, and Medevaced everybody that was wounded.

BALDWIN: Seven Marines died that day. Cortes was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor for his bravery.

CORTES: On that day, I don't think I did anything more (INAUDIBLE) than anybody else.

BALDWIN: Cortes has proudly served for six tours over the last 14 years and plans to serve his country another six years before retiring.

Brooke Baldwin, CNN.


DOBBS: Sergeant Cortes shared with us something that he has not told anyone else before this. Sergeant Cortes was wearing a knee brace on the day of that firefight, and he tells us he was more afraid than falling than being hit by enemy fire. He's a true American hero. We wish him and all of our men and women in uniform all of the very best, and you all have our thanks.

We thank you for being with us tonight. For all of us, goodnight for their New York.

Next, in for Campbell Brown, John Roberts.