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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Health Care Showdown; The People Speak; Health Care in Austria; Second Amendment Rights

Aired August 17, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.

The Obama White House appears to be in disarray tonight over its health care initiatives. The Obama administration insisting the president still supports a public option, so-called, although top administration officials saying the idea could be abandoned over the weekend.

Also, Americans quickly losing patience with President Obama as the showdown over health care is escalating -- those Americans expressing anger and frustration in town hall meetings all across the country, but the White House and its supporters are striking back and striking back hard.

New controversy over Second Amendment rights to bear arms -- gun control advocates furious that a man with a rifle turned up outside President Obama's event in Phoenix today. That is the subject of one of our "Face Off" debates tonight.

But first what could be a pivotal point in the showdown over the president's health care initiatives, the White House today declaring the president remains committed to a so-called public option for health care initiatives. But over the weekend, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on CNN suggested President Obama could drop the public option. That suggestion immediately sparked a protest from liberal groups, some of the protestors turning up at an event attended by the president in Phoenix today. Dan Lothian has our report.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you talking to your friends...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you talking to your family?


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Supporters of the president's health care overhaul plan fired up in Phoenix.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every American deserves health care that they can afford.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Freedom, freedom...

LOTHIAN: But as counter demonstrators shouted them down, there was vigorous debate among supporters over the public option, which has been a central part of the president's push.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the public option goes away, Obama, President Obama is already a lame duck president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm hopeful that we can compromise. It's just the right thing to do. It's a moral decision.

LOTHIAN: This comes after the administration appeared to be down playing the significance of the public option, which has faced strong opposition from Capitol Hill to congressional town hall meetings. In response to a question from John King on CNN "STATE OF THE UNION", the secretary of Health and Human Services seemed to leave the door open to something other than a public option.

JOHN KING, CNN NATIONAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT: If the votes aren't there, it's time to come up with a plan B.

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: What's important is choice and competition. And I'm convinced at the end of the day the plan will have both of those, but that is not the essential element.

LOTHIAN: And the president said this at a town hall meeting in Colorado on Saturday.

BARACK OBAMA , PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All I'm saying is though that the public option, whether we have it or we don't have it is not the entirety of health care reform.

LOTHIAN: But back outside the president's VFW event in Phoenix, some said you can't have reform without the public option.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans will smell blood if you know if we don't get the public option.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It means that he's lost the fight.

LOTHIAN: The administration is fighting to get health care reform done this year, promoting choice, competition and controlling cost as the key points. These demonstrators may not get everything they want, but hope they'll get what they need.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to make sure it passes because you know all of our lives depend on it in one way or another.


LOTHIAN: Linda Douglas (ph), a spokesperson here at the White House on health reform says that quote "nothing has changed" and other White House officials saying that the president still believes that a public option is the best way to achieve all the goals necessary for real health care reform. Lou? DOBBS: Then why are administration officials suggesting that it isn't important, the president himself going to some lengths to, if you will, talk it down a bit?

LOTHIAN: Well that's a very good question. In fact Robert Gibbs on the gaggle (ph) aboard Air Force One on the return here to Washington was asked this question -- in fact the entire gaggle (ph) really focuses on this one issue. He was pressed time and time again, and they seem to think that this is really being overblown.

That what is happening here is what the president has said all along, that he has always been open to other good ideas. And so he remains open. They don't think this is a shift in policy.

DOBBS: All right. Thank you very much, Dan -- Dan Lothian from the White House.

New indications of sharp divisions within the president's own party -- many conservative Democrats among them, Congressman Allen Boyd, are refusing to support the health care legislation. Congressman Boyd particularly concerned about the cost of the plan and the so-called public option. Jessica Yellin has our report.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, how are y'all?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here's one way to diffuse town hall rage, side with the critics on something.

REP. ALLEN BOYD (D), FLORIDA: I cannot support this bill in the version it's in now. We can do better. We can make it better.

YELLIN: So Blue Dog Allen Boyd is opposed to the health care bill moving through the House. He says as they stand right now the bills don't do enough to control costs -- so much for Democratic unity. Perhaps sensing weakness, the Republican Party is now up with this ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the dangerous experiment President Obama and the Democrats in Congress want just can't be the right answer. The question is, what Congressman Allen Boyd will do?

YELLIN: Some of his constituents are wondering the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we let Pelosi and people like that direct us, we are doomed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Congress that we got today reminds me of a Jackass running in the Kentucky Derby.

YELLIN: And many are convinced illegal immigrants will be covered. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have not stripped illegal aliens from some of the health care bills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why are we inviting 15 million illegal invaders who broke federal law into our health care system?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to do that (INAUDIBLE). We're not going to do that...

YELLIN: Despite resistance Boyd says he's committed to passing something.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to reform the current system.

YELLIN: He prefers a co-op or exchange to a public option.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exchange is something that will work and work well and allow them to keep their own health care coverage if they like it.

YELLIN: Otherwise, he's holding his cards close to his vest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Until we see what the Senate does and what might come to the House floor.



YELLIN: And Lou, today Allen Boyd also took heat from some on the left who criticized him for opposing a public option. It just goes to show that for some members, on this issue they really are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Lou?

DOBBS: The Blue Dogs, Jessica, I mean they're not really coming out of this too well. They're sort of striding -- straddling a fence of indecision that isn't working too well either within or without their party.

YELLIN: They've been stuck in a tough place since this debate began and he reflects where they are. They just don't want to have to commit to any of these proposals because none of them is really popular with their constituents right now.


YELLIN: None of the proposals are making them happy.

DOBBS: Yet he committed to some kind of legislation. He said the exchange or co-op would work. How in the world does he know that?

YELLIN: He said (INAUDIBLE) as you said believe that some legislation is necessary to control costs in the long run. He is committed to some kind of reform for that reason. He believes that the co-ops are a better option because "A", his constituents are familiar with these kinds of models because of energy co-ops that they've worked -- they have in their communities and that he's seen them work, so maybe that's a better way to go.

DOBBS: All right -- thank you very much, Jessica Yellin.

Well the president doesn't often face tough questions at his town hall meetings. In Colorado, however, the president was challenged and challenged in fact by a college student to a debate on health care. Here's what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing Mr. President?

OBAMA: I'm good. What's your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Zach Lahn. I'm a student at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

OBAMA: Good to talk to you, Zach. What are you studying?

ZACH LAHN, COLLEGE STUDENT: Political science and business marketing.

OBAMA: Fantastic. All right, what's your question?

LAHN: My question is this and also I would love to have a debate just all-out any time Oxford style if you'd like. I understand how -- I'm willing to do that. But my question is this, we all know the best way to reduce prices in this economy is to increase competition. How in the world can a private corporation providing insurance compete with an entity that does not have to worry about making a profit, does not have to pay local property taxes.

They do not have to -- they're not subject to local regulations. How can a company compete with that? And I'm not looking for anything -- I don't want generalities. I don't want philosophical arguments. I am just asking a question.

OBAMA: That's a great question. Thank you for the question. I think there are ways that we can address those competitive issues and you're absolutely right, if they're not entirely addressed, then that raises a set of legitimate problems.

But the only point I wanted to make was the notion that somehow just by having a public option, you have the entire private marketplace destroyed is just not borne out by the facts. And in fact, right now, you've got a lot of private companies who do very well competing against the government. UPS and FedEx are doing a lot better than the post office.

No, they are. And so I -- but the larger point I want to make, and it's good to see a young person who is very engaged and confident, challenging the president to ask for a (INAUDIBLE) debate, I think this is good. You know I like that. You got to have a little chutzpah -- you know.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DOBBS: Well Zach Lahn tells CNN he's not very impressed with the president's response, particularly his reference again to FedEx and UPS facing competition from the post office, which of course is sadly lagging -- coming up here next, new controversy over your Second Amendment rights and more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm exercising my rights as an American in Arizona.


DOBBS: Well we've been for the past two weeks examining the health care systems of a number of developed countries. Tonight we're going to take a quick look at Austria. Austria ranked number three in a European survey on health care quality. And life expectancy in Austria is 80 years. A government-run system but it has private options. Kitty Pilgrim takes a look.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Austria has a universal health care system. All employers in Austria have to register their employees with the district's health insurance fund within seven days of starting work. How much an employee contributes to that public health insurance depends on his job and salary. Employers contribute an equal amount.

Under the Austrian health care system, any basic health care services or treatment in public hospitals, basic dental care, medication are covered, although there are small co-pays depending on income. Three quarters of Austria's health care, 76 percent, is publicly funded through this kind of insurance and a general tax revenue.

And Austria ranks third in overall health care quality in Europe according to an annual survey by a European consultancy. Austria spends some 10.1 percent of GDP on health care compared to 16 percent of GDP in the United States. Austria's $3,700 per capita is half of the U.S. spending of 7,290. The doctor-population ratio is one to 263 compared to one to 416 for the United States.

And life expectancy is higher in Austria at 80 years versus 78 in the United States. Austria boasts of cutting bureaucracy by the use of a high tech e-card with electronic signature and personal data for proof of medical insurance, eliminating paperwork. Almost the entire Austrian population is covered by social health insurance.

About a third of Austrians also take out private health coverage to pay for what is called a special class of hospital room or to pay for doctors not affiliated with the state affiliated hospitals or the state insurance fund. Private hospitals are not obliged to admit patients and can pick and choose depending on the patient's ability to pay and the quality of private health insurance.


PILGRIM: So while Austria has universal health care, the ability to pay more for special doctors and treatment and hospital basically sets up a two-tier system in terms of the level of care available to people. Lou?

DOBBS: You can call it two-tier or you can say there are two classes of Austrians.

PILGRIM: That's exactly right. They use the term "special class" actually for the separate -- the private hospitals.

DOBBS: Yes, for some that would be an unfortunate choice of words. Thank you very much. I appreciate it -- Kitty Pilgrim.

We'll continue our coverage of health care systems all around the world -- tomorrow, the health care system in communist China -- speaking of special classes. Later in the week we take a look at Sweden and Greece and Iceland and they are fascinating glimpses of comparative systems all around the world from which we can learn both the good and the bad.

Up next, Americans speaking up at health care meetings, town hall meetings all across the country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for coming, Dennis. Appreciate it...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, but I didn't get an answer to my question. Why not -- why can't all Americans have the same health care?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want -- Dennis...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you don't want this...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't want the same plan that they're trying to force on us.


DOBBS: We'll have a lot more on people exercising their free speech rights in the health care debate and demanding answers. An American criticized for exercising his Second Amendment right at a rally near where President Obama was speaking. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Americans all across this country are going to town hall meetings and expressing their views on the health care legislation. Many of them are critical of the president's plans, but the administration and its supporters are blasting those critics as extremists simply for exercising their First Amendment rights. Bill Tucker has our report.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The numbers help explain why there's such passion in the health care debate. On the one hand, 74 percent say their families or other Americans will be helped by Obama's reform proposals, yet at the same time, 83 percent of Americans say they're satisfied with their coverage. People, like Craig Miller (ph) in Pennsylvania.

CRAIG MILLER, TOWN HALL PROTESTER: One day God's going to stand before you and he's going to judge you and the rest of your damn cronies up on the Hill.

TUCKER: A passion apparently unanticipated and feared by some. Some political leaders have been quick to dismiss those voices.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The groups are not necessarily representative of America.

TUCKER: The angriest protestors have been called evil-mongers and accused of being un-American and rabid in their dissent by the Democratic leadership in Congress. Conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation argue that the name-calling and the mocking is meant to quiet the debate by making the protestors feel embarrassed and foolish, for being afraid of government and for asking questions. Heritage notes six years ago it was the Democrats' turn at dissent.

RORY COOPER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: In 2003, Hillary Clinton said that the most patriotic thing you could do would be to disagree with the administration.

TUCKER: Last week the White House went on record saying quote, "This White House supports free speech", but many, including supporters, were concerned that the White House was getting too heavy handed after opening up an e-mail account flagged at, a heavily criticized program designed to shore up the White House line on health care reform. That e-mail, shut down today after it sparked cries of big brother and a lawsuit from the ACLU.


TUCKER: Now, there's plenty of name calling on both sides of the aisle with some Republicans saying that people who were opposed to health care reform are the real Americans, casting doubt of course on those who support it. Lou?

DOBBS: So you got a choice between real Americans, un-Americans, the usual rhetoric and nonsense. But as usual and as you point out, it is the party holding the White House that most objects to public scrutiny...


DOBBS: ... and critical judgment, however mild or significant. Thank you very much. Appreciate it -- Bill Tucker -- up next a new showdown over Second Amendment rights -- this time provoked by an event outside the president's speech.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I come from another state where open carry is legal but no one does it. So the police don't really know about it and they harass people, arrest people falsely, and I think that people need to get out and do it more so that they get kind of conditioned to it.


DOBBS: And that is the subject of our next "Face Off" debate -- we'll be right back.


DOBBS: Among the crowd today outside the Phoenix Convention Center where the president was speaking, one man attracted media attention. The man carrying what appeared to be an AR-15 semi automatic rifle over his shoulder. Arizona has an open carry law and a police officer said the man was doing absolutely nothing illegally. Paul Helmke (ph), who's president of the Brady Campaign says gun owners should use common sense where they carry such firearms -- Paul, good to have you with us.


DOBBS: Alan Godly (ph), founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, says there was nothing wrong in what the gun owner did -- good to have you with us, Alan (ph).


DOBBS: Let's get to the gun owner himself and hear about why he brought that rifle to that meeting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I come from another state where open carry is legal, but no one does it. So the police don't really know about it and they harass people, arrest people falsely, and I think that people need to get out and do it more so that they get kind of conditioned to it.


DOBBS: Alan (ph), your reaction? Is that an appropriate -- are you comfortable with what the gentleman did?

ALAN GOTTLIEB, FOUNDER, SECOND AMENDMENT FOUNDATION: Well I'd say not really. I'm all for carrying firearms -- I'm all for open carry, but I think there's an appropriate time and place to do so. If I were at that rally I would think the only reason for me to really have a firearm would be for self-protection. I'm licensed to carry a conceal and I would have had a handgun concealed on my person. DOBBS: Well of course there's a choice. I mean he could use also as well the same reasoning for his rifle, saying it was for self- defense, could he not?

GOTTLIEB: He could, but when you're in a group with you know a lot of protest, a lot of street people, a lot of street theater, quite honestly people are going to look at that and be a little intimidated by it and I don't think we sell our arguments very well when you intimidate you know people on the other side, so I would prefer to keep it concealed and protected and I have the element of surprise on my side.

DOBBS: All right, a tactical response, if you will -- Paul, your thoughts?

PAUL HELMKE, HEAD OF BRADY CAMPAIGN SINCE 2006: This is crazy, what we've been seeing here at these presidential forums. And I'm glad to hear that Alan (ph) has got some common sense on this measure because clearly there's a lot of people out there that don't. To bring a loaded gun -- to bring a loaded assault rifle to a venue where the president is showing up, and we saw this in New Hampshire, we saw it again in Phoenix, is just asking for trouble. First of all, you've got to have the Secret Service and law enforcement paying more attention to this person because they could be a problem. That means...

DOBBS: We should be clear here.


DOBBS: Excuse me, Paul -- I'm sorry -- just for a second...


DOBBS: I neglected to say they were outside the venue obviously.

HELMKE: Right.

DOBBS: So please go ahead.

HELMKE: Right. It still requires police and Secret Service to keep an eye on these people even though they're outside, because it could be some sort of a threat to the president. Secondly, it makes it dangerous, just as Alan said, for the people that are around them. When you're in that kind of a crowd, when you're in that kind of a setting, someone can grab the gun, someone can steal the gun.

In the jostling, the gun can be knocked down and that endangers everyone else. And I think bottom line is basically do we really want to be the kind of country where you're having a full and free debate on an issue and then someone is showing up with a loaded gun? That doesn't help debate. That stifles debate and I think that's wrong.

DOBBS: Do you agree, Alan (ph)?

GOTTLIEB: Well the problem we really have with Paul Helmke is that his group and organization doesn't think you should have a firearm anywhere, even in your home.


GOTTLIEB: Well you filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court (INAUDIBLE) have a right to have a firearm in their own home for self protection, so you prefer to have nobody have any guns anywhere, let's be honest about it. This guy was well dressed. He was a nice African-American gentleman, well groomed. He wasn't threatening. He didn't hold a gun in a threatening matter. I don't think there was anything dangerous about it. I'm just not sure that it was an appropriate place to do it for being politically smart.

HELMKE: One of the things the Supreme Court clarified last year when they talked about gun rights and they said there is a right to have a gun in your home for self-defense but they said that there are -- the right is not unlimited, that restrictions are allowed and I think the crucial part here is that there are responsibilities that go with gun ownership. And I think when someone is bringing a loaded gun with the open carry particularly to a venue like this, whether the president is there or not, I think we're just asking for a tragedy to occur.


GOTTLIEB: See, again, Paul, you think anybody having a gun of any kind anywhere is waiting for a tragedy to occur. You use those lines all the time. The problem is that it was peaceful. The police had no problem with it whatsoever and the man was totally legal within his rights.


HELMKE: Actually I've talked to some of the reporters that were there -- there were at least 12 or 13 guns being carried openly at the thing in Phoenix today, which I don't think is a healthy situation. A lot of people don't realize actually there are only six states in the country I believe that restrict open carry. Open carry is legal in most states. And I think when people realize some of the folks out there that are carrying guns, it does get them worried. I'm not anti- gun, but there are responsibilities...

GOTTLIEB: Oh, come on.

HELMKE: There are responsibilities that go with gun ownership and that's the crucial thing. I was a mayor...

DOBBS: Paul...

HELMKE: Republican mayor of Ft. Wayne, Indiana. I've been to these things, so...

DOBBS: I'm sorry -- I just really want to hear that again -- you're not anti-gun?

HELMKE: I don't consider myself anti-gun. I came to this issue as a law and order issue when I was a Republican mayor in Ft. Wayne, Indiana from 1988 to 2000.


HELMKE: We make it -- we make it too easy for dangerous people to get guns and that's the problem here.

DOBBS: Well we're having a discussion here, Alan, and I want to get both of your reactions to this. I -- you know we're hearing Alan Gottlieb, who is an ardent advocate for gun -- the right to bear arms, saying that he does not agree with the gentleman's decision to carry a rifle and what -- would you -- you know would you go so far as to say you should support, Alan, a law that would restrict guns within a certain distance of the president?

GOTTLIEB: No, I think quite honestly the gentleman was in his rights to do so. I'm not sure some things are always politically smart to do it. I think it probably wasn't the most appropriate venue to do it in, but if it was up to Paul Helmke nobody could do it anywhere, and that's the difference.

DOBBS: All right. Paul, we were talking about a dozen people, open carry, near the venue. But nothing happened. You are immediately taking this to another level at least in your rhetoric. Do you think that there is any room here to say they were making a point, it's a matter of expression as well as their Second Amendment rights?

PAUL: There's a lot of other ways they could make their argument for defense of the second amendment. They can carry a sign, yell and scream all they want. When they bring a loaded assault rifle into that kind of a public venue so close to the president, I think they're causing a lot of problems. You know, we could look at a state like Texas, if you wanted to find a way to deal with this. Texas does not allow open carry for handguns and for long guns they say you can't have --

GOTTLIEB: Paul, you oppose concealed carry, too. You oppose any kind of carry.

PAUL: My problem is that we allow too many people to take weapons in the public --

DOBBS: Do you oppose any kind of carry?

PAUL: No. We want to make sure that the people that are getting the weapons and carrying the weapons have been checked out to make sure they're not the sorts to cause problems. Like the person who killed the people at the gym outside of Pittsburgh, concealed carry permit. Like the guy in Pittsburgh that killed the cops, concealed carry permit.

GOTTLIEB: You don't support concealed carry permits.

PAUL: Concealed carry works real well in states where law enforcement has the opportunity to check the person out.

GOTTLIEB: That's the case in any venue. You just don't support it in any fashion.

PAUL: We make it too easy for people to get guns. Alan, that's the bottom line here.

GOTTLIEB: You think anybody is too dangerous to have a gun.

PAUL: I'm curious what Lou thinks about it, do you think people should be bringing their guns to venues like this?

DOBBS: You know what? I'm not going to register an opinion. You two are in a debate. I'm going to let you guys sort it out. Let me put it this way, I believe in the individual rights of our constitution 100 percent, and I believe, you know, that those -- that the constitution exists for a reason and I think it's straightforward.

PAUL: We allow restrictions on first amendment rights, you can't yell fire in a crowded theater.

GOTTLIEB: You can't misuse a firearm either.

DOBBS: Are you saying because I support the constitution of the United States, I'm supporting unlawful activity?

PAUL: Not at all.

DOBBS: I'm simply saying to you, I cherish the constitution. I believe in that bill of rights ardently and I will fight for someone else's rights as for my own.

PAUL: I agree with you totally, Lou. We need to realize that those rights have some restrictions on them, Justice Scalia made that very clear when he talked about the second amendment last year.

DOBBS: Did we sense any restriction on the authority of the municipality as well?

PAUL: Justice Scalia said --

DOBBS: Not what Justice Scalia said. Did not the court rule that there was a limitation to what the --

GOTTLIEB: They struck down the laws in Washington, D.C.

DOBBS: We need balance in our Democratic republic.

PAUL: We need a little bit more balance and the folks today weren't showing it when they carried their weapons near the president.

DOBBS: Gentlemen, thank you very much.

PAUL: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Lisa Sylvester has an update now on the other stories we're following tonight -- Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks Lou. The mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, is recovering at home tonight after being beat within a metal pipe. Mayor Barrett went to the defense of a grandmother who was protecting her 1-year-old grab r granddaughter from a 20-year-old man. The mayor was hit in the head. He suffered gashes on his head and face, lost two teeth and reportedly fractured his hand when he punched the man. The man was arrested. Police are calling the attack on the woman a domestic dispute. She was not injured.

Tropical Storm Claudette made landfall in Florida today. Claudette brought heavy rains as it moved through Florida into Alabama but no severe damage is expected. The storm has been downgraded to a tropical depression.

In the Caribbean, Hurricane Bill is projected to become a major hurricane in the next day or two. Right now Bill is projected to pass over Bermuda east of the United States. But officials warn it is difficult to predict the storm's path.

And the city of Chicago, shut down today. In an attempt to save money, most city employees were given the day off without pay. Emergency services were fully staffed but most other services, including city hall, health clinics and garbage pickup were shut down. This is one of three so-called reduced service days Chicago is planning. Officials believe these three days will save the city more than $8 million.

And those are some of the stories we're following tonight -- Lou?

DOBBS: Lisa, thank you very much. Not a bad day to take a day off in Chicago. And how about the mayor of Milwaukee, a real hero.

SYLVESTER: Isn't that something?

DOBBS: Yes. So nice to see and hear a positive story, particularly about an elected official these days.

SYLVESTER: Yes. Coming to the defense of a grandmother protecting her 1-year-old. Love that story.

DOBBS: It's wonderful. By the way, who was sufficiently concerned about the municipal budget that he wasn't there with security to begin with, and had the guts to take care of things. That's what I call a hero. Thanks a lot. Lisa Sylvester.

Up next, a majority of Americans say the president's stimulus bill didn't work and don't think it will work.

And growing concerns about the president's health care ideas. How will they impact some of those who need health care the most? We'll be trying to assess what the impact will be on seniors on all of the choices before our elected officials. We'll debate the question here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Our "Face-Off" debate continues. This focusing on the Obama health care plan. Is it bad for our senior citizens? Joining me Jerry Barton, founder and chairman of the American Seniors Association , good to have you with us. And Barbara Kennelly, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. Good to have you with us, Barbara.

Let's begin. Barbara you say seniors would have no insurance without Medicare. Jerry, you say it's a disaster. And one of the charges is the legislation in the House would cut half a trillion dollars in services. Is that true, Barbara?

BARBARA KENNELLY, NATL. COMM. TO PRESERVE SOCIAL SECURITY & MEDICARE: Can I tell you, the best thing that ever happened in the health care was in 1965 when President Johnson --

DOBBS: Barbara, I'm going to interrupt you because of the interest of time. I got to ask you, please, answer my question, just as directly as you can.

KENNELLY: Can I tell you something?

DOBBS: Sure.

KENNELLY: We have to have Medicare part of the health care reform, no doubt about it. The curve of health care costs absolutely needs to have reform. There's no doubt about it. But, you know, it's not going to hurt Medicare if we do it the right way.

DOBBS: Taking half trillion dollars out?

KENNELLY: It's $500 billion --

DOBBS: I'm sorry. I rounded that off to a half trillion.

KENNELLY: 233 is Medicare and the rest is Medicaid. You know, yes, do we have to cut costs? Of course we have to cut costs. But don't, don't, don't not have Medicare part of health care reform, because if you do, what's going to happen to Medicare?

DOBBS: Jerry, what's going to happen?

JERRY BARTON, AMERICAN SENIORS ASSOCIATION: Lou, if Barbara would go to our website she could see we have something in common. We both are fighting for Medicare reform and social security reform. However, the way this health bill is written and hardly anyone understands it, it's going to take a lot away from senior citizens. Five hundred billion is a lot of money to come out of any program, but at the same time there's enough waste in Medicare and the social security system, if they can be corrected, save money and keep the benefits coming to seniors.

KENNELLY: Well, Yes. But the whole point is that health care inflation is so incredibly high at this point in time that no matter whether you're on Medicare or not, health care costs are extremely going up. So Medicare has to be part of a health care reform. If not, let me tell you what's going to happen. I'll tell you exactly what's going to happen. If we don't have health care reform, down the line the Congress is going to look at Medicare and say, oh, my god, we can't afford it and they're going to cut Medicare. We should have it in context of health care reform. The whole thing should go together.

DOBBS: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

BARTON: Spending $2 trillion plus dollars for this health care package and, again, trying to trim $500 billion out of our programs that we already have, and then trying to convince the senior citizens of America they're not going to be hurt by it is a very big job. I don't think anyone can do that.

DOBBS: Let me ask you both, we're not hearing a lot of debate about what the impact will be on senior citizens who will be growing in huge numbers over the course of the next 20, 30 years in this country. Imagine the burden on the health care system as greater care must be provided for our elderly. There's some tough choices waiting here, aren't there, Barbara?

KENNELLY: Of course there are. There's health choices all the way down the line. But we have Medicare. Medicare is the only universal health system that we have, and people 65 -- you know, when people get 65, they say oh, I'm 65 but say oh, I have Medicare. That's the only universal system we have. Now, are we saying that we shouldn't have Medicare? Of course not. What we're saying is we have to have health care reform. And President Obama has a plan --

DOBBS: Let me ask you both a question, this country is $60 trillion, including Medicare and Medicaid, social security, $60 trillion, you don't hear that number in this debate on health care proposals. $60 trillion, looking at a $2 trillion federal budget this year. We are simply, as the president himself articulated, we're out of money, why is this going to come from? Is it not a matter of inevitability we're going to have to see a reduction in entitlement programs, whether it be Medicare or Medicaid?

BARTON: Let me say this. When we talk about the amount of money that's out there, $60 trillion, what the federal government taking over the health care system, that 60 is going to grow quite large and be much bigger than that.

DOBBS: I've got to say, saying $60 trillion is going to grow larger, I mean, that's incomprehensible.

BARTON: Well, it is incomprehensible, Lou, but this health care thing is not going to go away once we get started and that $60 trillion doesn't include the health care plan. So we have to stop that. Go ahead, Barbara. I'm sorry.

KENNELLY: No, no. Lou, every industrial nation other than us, has the essentials of health care for their people. Why are we saying we didn't do this? Of course we can do this. And it is a basic thing to provide health care for the people of this United States, and why are we saying we can't? And this whole debate has really got out of control. BARTON: Lou, as cruel as it might sound to some, we have to find a way to keep the illegal aliens out of our health care system --

KENNELLY: Oh, dear.

BARTON: And do not supply them with the money necessary.

KENNELLY: I'm not worried about the illegal aliens, I'm worried about those who don't have health care. It's almost 50 million people that don't have health care.

DOBBS: At one point or another during the year, 2007 according to the Census Bureau. Including, by the way, we should point out, the number of people in that number -- I'm just not going to do this again, it drives me nuts hearing that number, which includes about 10 million people who made a choice not to have health care. The number is somewhere realistically between 8.2 million and 22 million people.

KENNELLY: I think that's low.

DOBBS: By the way, I don't understand the difference between eight million or 20 million or 50 million, in that sense. If they need help, they're part of the entitlement program. The number doesn't change the need, does it? Thank you very much, Barbara. We appreciate it. Jerry, thank you. We're out of time.

Up next, the latest on this health care debate. Democrats versus Democrats, Republicans and we're going to be talking with three of the best political analysts in the whole wide world, next.


DOBBS: Joining me now, Republican strategist, former white house political director Ed Rollins, who's been away from this broadcast for a few weeks. It is great to have you back. You look terrific and we're delighted. Errol Louis, you look terrific. We're also delighted to see you. We saw you a couple of days ago with the Daily News. Good to see you, Robert Zimmerman, and since I started this, I got to keep it going. You look great. All CNN contributors.

Well, Ed, you've had a little experience with the health care system. How are we doing?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It's a very complicated issue and what's not clear to the public yet is how much is this going to cost? Seniors obviously are worried about losing benefits that they presently have and have been committed and have been paying for, for a long, long time. Others basically worry about how it will affect the insurance, the 180 million people who have insurance and the reality is no one has basically talked about who are who are these people, be it legals or the non-illegals who don't have health insurance, what's going to pay for that to occur? The more fundamental thing, are there sufficient doctors and hospitals out there who can treat all of these people? The only thing people talk about is cutting back on hospitals, cutting back on doctors' payments. If you go sit and talk with a doctor today, most of them are not very favorable to this. DOBBS: Errol, we look at this thing. What's going on with this White House? They send out a message on the public option almost two weeks ago. Then they walk it back. Then this weekend they send out Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services and she said it's not essential to have the public option. Today they're walking that back. Is this some sort of extraordinary political strategy we need to understand better?

ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: I don't know if I'd call it a strategy. I think they have over-learned the lessons of 1993. When the Clinton White House said here's the plan, take it or leave it. It was the beginning of the end. They've given it to Congress and they said, you guys figure it out.

DOBBS: You really believe Rahm Emanuel and his brother are not intricately involved in every ounce of this thing?

LOUIS: Rahm Emanuel has this saying, put points on the board, get what you can get. They're trying to figure out what they can get which is not everybody's definition of leadership.

DOBBS: He is quoted, by the way, Rahm Emanuel is quoted more than the president of the United States. What's going on? I mean, is he in charge of this -- every initiative here?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: First can I just say, welcome back to the chairman of the board of political strategists and political pundits. It's great to be with you. I'm thrilled you're back with us. As far as health care debate goes, I have a different perspective. I think it's proceeding very well. I'll tell you why.

DOBBS: Well, that's super. But would you mind addressing the Emanuel issue, why he's being quoted more?

ZIMMERMAN: I don't think he's being quoted more. I think Barack Obama does a better town hall meeting than Rahm Emanuel does and is certainly a lot more patient responding to the questions for sure. I really don't think he's calling the shots here. I think what you is really a negotiation process going on and really a national debate happening. I think that's a very healthy issue. We're not seeing this matter divided by partnership. I think that's encouraging.

DOBBS: You're encouraged of the fact opposition is rising, that the president -- his approval ratings are declining. Square that up for us.

LOUIS: I think he's really -- always been a closet Republican. He dresses like one and -- it's finally coming through. You know, I think the bottom line is it was not a plan. Any time you let the Congress try and draw a plan, you can end up with multiple plans. The biggest reorganization this country has done is the northeast rails from the Conway system way back. Put that back. They ended up with something they worked pretty well. The department of health and human services should have studied this, come forward with a plan. There is no Obama plan. There's a hill plan. There's a house plan. We don't know what the Senate plan is. I go back to the point, nobody knows what it's going to cost. Nobody knows who is going to benefit, nobody knows what is going to be penalized by it. Until you answer those questions --

DOBBS: We're going to answer those questions in detailed order. First, we're going to be back with our panel. First, here's Campbell Brown to tell us what's coming up on her show -- Campbell?


When we see you at the top of the hour, can we really believe that Michael Vick is a changed man? The NFL star has apologized repeatedly for dogfighting. Is this really just getting back in the game? We'll talk about that.

Plus you mentioned that attack on the mayor of Milwaukee. He was beaten while trying to defend a grandmother and a baby who were under attack. We're going to talk to his brother how he's doing.

Also, the British government opening up its secret file on aliens and UFOs. I kid you not. We'll have that and our "Mashup" of the top stories at the top of the hour, Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much Campbell.

We'll be back with our panel. We'll answer all those questions.


DOBBS: We're back with our panel. I want to turn to Robert Zimmerman very quickly before we get to some of those questions. They dropped. The Obama White House dropped the flag at the after all of the outcry. It's just what's going on with this administration? It just seems like it's false start after false start.

ZIMMERMAN: I can't speak to what happened to the flag on the website. I don't think we have the worry about the patriotism of the White House --

DOBBS: I don't mean the flag. I'm talking about the flag at, the snitch site where you turn in your neighbor for detecting efficiency about the Obama health care plan.

ZIMMERMAN: The idea was to get the questions out there, facts out there otherwise you have people like Sarah Palin and her colleagues making up lies about the health care plan.

DOBBS: You mean there were lies?

ZIMMERMAN: Especially when she championed the idea of governor after Alaska about providing elder care guidance.

DOBBS: We are in desperate need of neutral objective counsel.

LOUIS: I think objectively I would say that they decided not to bring a pea shooter to a gunfight. They decided to fight back. It worked during the campaign to contain rumors and control the spin and give people something to do if they wanted to get involved in this fight.

DOBBS: The president of the United States was outgunned, outmanned and outresourced in a battle. Public attention and was the underdog in all this. Therefore, they created this site?

ZIMMERMAN: Health care reform is always the underdog.

LOUIS: Also, if you like to look at these ads running know, $12 million ad they've done, they are make it clear they are not going to get steam rolled. Again, perhaps over-learning the lesson of 1993.

ROLLINS: We're still in a very severe economic crisis. When you start pushing additional burdens on employers, small or large, remember the 164 million employees receive health benefits, then you -- nobody has talked about the long-term ramifications this will have on creation of jobs.

DOBBS: Is there not the possibility here that this administration has misjudged badly the priority for the country when we are in recession, when we are watching joblessness rise. 30 million people without jobs and we're having a debate that at times looks, in fits and starts, it looks disingenuous rather than transparent, it looks constrained, contrived rather than open. Is there that possibility?

ZIMMERMAN: The USA Today Gallup poll really reinforces your point where people do not feel they are getting any real benefit to the stimulus package. To some degree, I think, it's, expectations have to be managed.

DOBBS: We should point out this administration has moved out $100 billion into the economy. That's half of what -- into a $14 trillion economy is, quote, stimulus with straight faces. That's half of money they put into AIG.

LOUIS: Look, they're moving on the stimulus. The public is not buying it. Now is the time for reform. Not later.

DOBBS: Excellent. We appreciate you gentlemen, having you all with us and Ed, welcome back, again.

A reminder, join me on the radio Monday through Friday for "The Lou Dobbs Show." Go to to get the listings in your local area. We appreciate that.

And follow me on twitter on On today's broadcast, by the way, Congressman of New York defending his statement he would vote against his constituent interests on health care and the public option.

That's the show for tonight. We thank you for being with us. Next, Campbell Brown.