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Lou Dobbs Tonight
Obama's Challenge; Kennedy's Replacement; Foreign Workers; Health Care in Greece; Broken Promises
Aired August 20, 2009 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf. Good evening.
President Obama today appealing to his most loyal supporters, the liberal progressive leaders who helped him win the White House now asking them to help them win the fight over Obama care. President Obama also looking for some divine intervention telling religious leaders we're God's partners. He also fired back at his critics for spreading what he called lies bearing false witness, as he put it, but is the president himself misrepresenting the facts on health care? We'll have a special report for you tonight.
And jobless claims rising slightly today but unexpectedly. Times, however, not that hard if you are a foreign worker in this country. We'll be reporting on all of that in our new series of special reports about more than 30 million Americans looking for work "JOBS NOW!".
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT; news, debate and analysis for Thursday, August 20th. Live from New York, "Mr. Independent", Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.
President Obama today insisted the fight over health care is not about politics or ideology but now he says it's about necessity. The president appealing to his most loyal supporters to help him sell that message in the weeks and perhaps months ahead. The latest push comes just a day after President Obama urged religious leaders to help him.
The president saying quote, "we're God's partners." The president also firing at his critics accusing them of spreading lies or as he put it bearing false witness. But exactly seven months into his term, President Obama is now struggling to sell his top priority, a health care overhaul to an increasingly skeptical American public. Ed Henry reports now from the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Barack Obama.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With his health care push on the rocks, the president went back into campaign mode peeling off the jacket at Democratic Party headquarters to fire up his liberal base with talk of previous comebacks.
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last year just about this time, you'll recall that the Republicans had just nominated their vice presidential candidate and everybody was -- the media was obsessed with it. And cable was 24 hours a day and Obama's lost his mojo and you remember all that?
OBAMA: There's something about August going into September where everybody in Washington gets all wee-weed (ph) up.
HENRY: Earlier he took the fight to conservative talk radio pushing back on what he calls disinformation.
OBAMA: Then we can focus on the areas of legitimate debate.
HENRY: And signaling to host Michael Merkonish (ph) he may be forced to reluctantly pass a bill with only Democratic votes.
OBAMA: I would love to have more Republicans engaged and involved in this process. I think early on a decision was made by the Republican leadership that said look let's not give them a victory. Maybe we can have a replay of 1993-'94 when Clinton came in. He failed on health care and then we won in the midterm elections and we got the majority.
HENRY: But a bigger challenge for the president is keeping peace in his own party as he was forced to reassure liberals he hasn't abandoned the public option.
OBAMA: This is sort of like the belt and suspenders concept to keep up your pants. You know if you -- the insurance reforms are the belt. The public option can be the suspenders.
HENRY: Now the president is walking a tight rope because he's also trying to show flexibility to conservative Democrats who don't like the public option by suggesting he could drop it in the end but now some organized labor leaders are threatening to defeat those conservative Democrats if they don't support the health reform that they're pushing.
I asked Robert Gibbs about that today. He said the White House wants to try to stay out of the back and forth. They may not be able to do that for long. There could be a civil war brewing within the party -- Lou.
DOBBS: A civil war. And back and forth. Isn't that the nature of politics itself?
HENRY: Well certainly and if you have people on the left threatening more conservative Democrats just days after the president was trying to show flexibility in order to reach out to some of those conservative Democrats and show that he's willing to listen to all sides in the debate, that might obviously make it difficult for the White House moving forward just to keep their own Democrats together let alone winning over Republicans. DOBBS: Keep them together or get them together.
HENRY: Maybe get them.
DOBBS: What is this expression -- I've never heard it before and none of our folks here have heard of it before. What is wee-weed (ph) up as the president said.
HENRY: You know I had a sneaking suspicion you might ask me that and I hate to not have an answer for you, Lou, but I suspect -- and this is an educated guess...
DOBBS: No, no, no, wait a minute. Wait a minute.
HENRY: I had never heard...
DOBBS: Do you know or do you not?
HENRY: I don't know, but I think based on my reporting abilities I will suggest that he's suggesting that people are a little agitated if you will. A little over excited right now.
DOBBS: So you're extrapolating that all from the president's usage I take it?
DOBBS: Not an lexicon (ph) of any kind.
HENRY: That's right. I could not find it in the dictionary but I follow his words closely.
DOBBS: Well given your experience and insight into Washington, D.C. and the White House, we will defer to your analysis and extrapolation.
HENRY: Thank you, Lou.
DOBBS: Thanks very much -- Ed Henry from the White House.
With the chances of a bipartisan deal on health care well fading along with chances for health care itself seeming to fade, the White House and top Democrats are now considering a number of possibilities to pass a bill by any means necessary in the words of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Among the possibilities the plans under consideration by Senator Reid according to "The Wall Street Journal" , split the legislation into.
That would be divide and conquer, a strategy that would allow Democrats to go it alone according to some of their leaders on the most expensive parts of the bill and then perhaps work with Republicans on parts where there is more agreement. Congressional sources tell us this is just one of many possibilities now being considered by the Democratic leadership and the White House.
In a move that some fear to be outright retaliation for opposing the president's health care proposals, a congressional committee led by Congressman Henry Waxman has sent a letter to dozens of the country's private health insurance companies demanding detailed financial information on their employees. A total of 52 companies targeted and sent letters by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Those letters reportedly not sent to other industry groups some of which support the president's plans. A copy of the Waxman letter obtained by LOU DOBBS TONIGHT shows that Congress wants to know the salary, the bonus, stock option, pension and other compensation arrangements of every employee making more than $1 million a year between the years 2003 and 2008. That letter gives health insurers a September 4th deadline to comply. The companies are not legally obligated to do so without a congressional subpoena, however. No comment tonight from the insurance companies involved.
One of the leaders in the fight for universal health care is Senator Ted Kennedy of course who tonight is urging Massachusetts to allow a speedy replacement process if he is forced to vacate his Senate seat. Senator Kennedy is battling brain cancer. He wants to make sure Democrats will have the necessary votes to pass legislation in the Senate -- Dana Bash with our report.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rare recent pictures of Ted Kennedy returning from a sale at his legendary family compound on Cape Cod where he now spends all his time, but Kennedy suffering from brain cancer knows time is not on his side, so he's formally asking Massachusetts officials to change state law so he's quickly replaced in the Senate when he's gone.
Sending this poignant letter of request -- "As I look ahead I am convinced that enabling the governor to fill a Senate vacancy through an interim appointment followed by a special election would best serve the people of our commonwealth."
What's behind this? Massachusetts law allows five months to go by before a special election to fill an open Senate seat. Given Kennedy's dire condition, that could mean his seat would be vacant at a time Democrats are desperate for votes on an issue he's worked toward for 47 years -- health care.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This is the cause of my life.
BASH: Kennedy made a brief dramatic return this spring to attend a White House summit on health care.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now is the time for action.
BASH: But the ailing senator has been absent from the health care debate and though he's a proud liberal he's a skilled legislator respected by Republicans who say his presence has been missed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would work differently if he were here and an active part of it. BASH: Still Massachusetts Republicans oppose changing the law to all but ensure Democrats have a critical health care vote releasing a statement saying "the integrity of a representative republic is bigger than any person or legacy."
The irony here is Massachusetts law was just changed in 2004 to prevent exactly what Kennedy is asking. Then some Democrats feared GOP Governor Mitt Romney would choose a Republican to temporarily fill Democrat John Kerry's seat if he won the presidency.
(on camera): A Kennedy associate tells CNN that this letter which not only asks for a change in the way he is succeeded but essentially acknowledges he probably won't be around very long was quote "very tough for him to write." Now it was delivered to Massachusetts leaders this week but actually written on July 2nd at a time he sat down to pen a lot of letters. Kennedy sources say one reason he didn't deliver it then is because after consulting with colleagues and friends, Senator Kennedy concluded it would disrupt already intense and tumultuous health care discussions in the Senate at the time.
Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.
DOBBS: The Obama administration today holding a meeting at the White House on immigration reform. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano leading the session which included religious, business and special interest groups but which excluded the media. President Obama was not scheduled to attend the meeting but apparently he did make an appearance.
A White House spokesman said "the president understands our nation's immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed and that's why he asked Secretary Napolitano to meet with stakeholders and members of Congress to move the legislative process forward."
Well today Scotland released the only person convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland. The attack killed 270 people. Abdel Basat al-Megrahi (ph) is home in Libya tonight after the Scottish government set him free. Crowds of cheering Libyans estimated at 1,000. Today (ph) the convicted terrorist, a hero's welcome as he arrived at EEE Airport (ph).
Scottish government officials releasing the Libyan on compassionate grounds. He has apparently terminal prostate cancer. The victims' families voicing outrage at the terrorist's release. That bombing, by the way, occurred aboard Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988. Two hundred and fifty-nine people aboard the plane, 11 on the ground were killed.
Up next here, gay marriage and the Obama presidency. The latest conflict within the administration -- that is the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight. Also what lessons can we learn from the public health care systems of other nations? We have been examining for almost three weeks precisely that -- going around the world to find what we could learn. Tonight, Greece where a long wait is unfortunately part of their health care system.
And "JOBS NOW!" -- our special report with millions of Americans out of work, why do we continue to bring in foreign workers? Our special report continues tonight. We'll be right back.
DOBBS: We continue our special report tonight -- jobs and "JOBS NOW!". Tonight we focus on what our leaders in Washington are doing to actually create new jobs in this country and what they can do. The unemployment rate has nearly doubled in less than two years. And yet companies and the government are still seeking 1.1 million foreign workers each and every year. More than 30 million workers unemployed or underemployed in this country. What's going on? Lisa Sylvester with our story.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sylvia Cisneros is an information technology business analyst. She was let go in March joining the ranks of America's unemployed. Now her savings have just about run out but she still can't find work even after taking classes to get her MBA.
SYLVIA CISNEROS, LAID-OFF TECH WORKER: It has been so slow this last year that no one is calling. Jobs just -- no one is hiring at all. And if they are, they'll tell -- I'll go for an interview and they'll tell me they have like 150 interviews at the same time. Resumes that they're going through.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another American has lost his job.
SYLVESTER: The Coalition for the Future American Worker has been running these ads. U.S. unemployment is at 9.4 percent near the highest levels in decades while U.S. companies are still bringing in foreign workers. According to data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, more than a million foreign workers and trainees were granted working status on temporary visas last year.
Immigration Services have received petitions for 45,000 H-1B visas for skilled workers alone for the upcoming fiscal year. That's less than the cap of 65,000 visas but still represents tens of thousands of high paying skilled jobs. Anne Manetas is with NumbersUSA, which advocates stricter immigration controls and is a member of the coalition.
ANNE MANETAS, NUMBERSUSA: And those are the very jobs that one out of 10 unemployed Americans could use because you can actually support a family with that salary.
SYLVESTER: As Congress prepares to debate immigration reform next year, one question is whether the number of foreign worker visas should be scaled back given the state of the economy. Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently told an Indian Technology Association it would be a huge mistake to scale back the H-1B visa program saying quote "the U.S. Congress is very tough on immigration but why not make an exception for smart people?" Gates has long advocated raising the number of skilled foreign workers allowed in arguing it's crucial for U.S. competitiveness.
SYLVESTER: But here's something else to consider. Earlier this year Microsoft laid off 5,000 workers and in the first half of this year, 118,000 U.S. technology workers were laid off. The worst figure in seven years according to the outplacement firm Challenger Grade Christmas (ph) -- Lou?
DOBBS: Lisa, thank you very much. Lisa Sylvester from Washington.
While more people in the private sector lose their jobs, government jobs are actually increasing. A study released today by the Rockefeller Institute of Government (ph) says state and local governments have added 110,000 jobs since the recession began. Total employment in state and local government rose in 30 states, fell in 16, unchanged in four others over the past year.
I'll have a few thoughts about that, job creation in this country, and what is going on with our economy, and why Washington is not paying attention. Join me on the radio Monday through Fridays for "The Lou Dobbs Show" 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. each afternoon on WOR-710 in New York. Around the country go to loudobbs.com to get the local listings for "The Lou Dobbs Show" and to subscribe to our Podcast.
On today's broadcast I talk with Bill Donahue (ph) of The Catholic League about the president's sudden conversion to religious leaders to pursue a political goal. You can hear the entire interview and a lot more -- subscribe to our Podcast at loudobbs.com and you can follow me on Twitter.com -- loudobbsnews on Twitter.com each and every day.
Up next, mixed messages from the Obama administration on the Defense of Marriage Act. That's the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight. Also, key promises of the president's health care plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor under the reform proposals that we put forth. If you like your private health insurance plan, you can keep it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: But can you? We'll have a new report on whether or not the president could keep those seeming promises and health care in Greece, plenty of doctors, too many patients. We'll tell you all about that next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Continuing our look at health care systems all around the world -- we report tonight on the health care system in Greece. Greece ranks 19th in a European survey of health care quality. Life expectancy there 79.5 years -- almost two years longer than that in the United States. Coverage is universal in Greece, but there are long waits to see a doctor. Kitty Pilgrim has the report.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Greece set up their national health services in the 1980's to provide health care in even the most far-flung (ph) islands. Twenty-five years later it's dramatically improved the level of health care. Sixty percent publicly funded Greece's health care system offers universal coverage for all through taxes and employer contributions. According to Panos Minogiannis, administrator at a hospital in Greece, an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University in New York.
PANOS MINOGIANNIS, GREEK HEALTH CARE EXPERT: Actually has produced results. We -- at a population level we see a tremendous drop in mortality rates. We see an increase in life expectancies, so in that sense the system works.
PILGRIM: Greece spends 9.6 percent of GDP compared to 16 percent in the United States, $2,727 a person compared to the U.S. 7,290. There are plenty of doctors -- one to 185 people compared to one for 416 in the United States. Life expectancy, 79.5 years versus 78 in the United States. Because many health care resources are concentrated in the major cities of Athens and Tolanica (ph), there is an effort to develop better facilities on smaller islands. But rural villages are not neglected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They do have rural doctors as we call them who go even to the smallest of villages at least once a week to prescribe medications and examine patients.
PILGRIM: The biggest problem is long wait times for certain procedures so people turn to private insurance for supplemental coverage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are stories of people trying to call in for an appointment and they get an appointment two months later. Long (INAUDIBLE) lines for primary or even for surgery that creates obviously -- obvious dissatisfaction.
PILGRIM: The long wait times are part of the problems affecting many national health systems, according to NYU Health Policy Professor Victor Rodwin (ph), who cites Britain, Greece, Spain and Portugal as examples.
PROF. VICTOR RODWIN, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: The national health service models, they budget what they have and they operate within that budget. And if they can't take care of everybody, some people have to wait and some care has to be rationed.
PILGRIM: The current global economic crisis has affected health care in Greece delaying payments to hospitals and suppliers.
PILGRIM: Now most admit primary health care still needs serious reform. Hospitals are overburdened by people seeking assistance when they cannot get care fast enough. Inefficiency, bureaucracy need to be corrected but Greece has come a long way in a short time to make sure that everyone is covered -- Lou.
DOBBS: Obviously the issues of administration, the efficiency of operation critically important in every instance that we've been reporting on.
PILGRIM: It certainly is. I mean they have light years to go still on that though.
DOBBS: Well light years to go and as we go around the world we'll be looking at more examples of where public health care is working and in varying levels of efficiency and satisfaction. Thanks very much, Kitty Pilgrim.
Our coverage of health care systems continues tomorrow. We'll be reporting on the quality of health care in Ireland. Please join us for that.
Up next here President Obama firing back at critics of his health care proposals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: None of the bills that have been voted on in Congress and none of the proposals coming out of the White House propose giving coverage to illegal immigrants.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is their fate, if I might ask, because there's a 1986 law on the books that says if you show up at an ER, you have got to be treated.
OBAMA: Well that will continue...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: We'll have more on this health care debate and misrepresentations the president is upset about those. How many has he participated in? President Obama slamming his critics for spreading what he calls lies, but has he misrepresented the facts as well? That's next.
ANNOUNCER: Here again, Mr. Independent, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Tonight the Obama administration working feverishly to set the record straight on what it calls myths about government-led health care. As Ines Ferre reports, however, the president insisting the insured will be able to keep their plans and their doctors just might not be the case.
INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's come up in a number of town hall meetings on health care. The concern that if given the choice between a government plan and a private plan, many employers would choose a federal one assuming it's less expensive. President Obama and Democrats have gone through great pains to reassure Americans they can keep seeing their doctor.
OBAMA: If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. This is not some government takeover. If you like your doctor, you can keep seeing your doctor.
FERRE: Not true for everyone says FactCheck.org. Under the House bill, some employers may have to modify plans after a five-year grace period if they don't meet minimum benefit standards. Also some employers are likely to buy different coverage for their workers or drop coverage and pay a penalty instead, in which case workers would have to buy their own private insurance or go on a federal plan. The FactCheck.org analysis describes the legislation as a moving target with projections of how many would switch to federal plans ranging from near zero to as much as 56 percent of all covered workers. Peter Pitts worked for the FDA during the Bush administration.
PETER PITTS, CENTER FOR MEDICINE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: You may not be able to keep the plan that you've got because that plan may cease to exist. You may not be able to go see the doctor that you've always seen because your insurance plan may have changed. So when the president says definitely you can keep your doctor, when members of Congress say definitely you can keep your insurance plan. They're just guessing.
FERRE: Then there's the issue of who doesn't have insurance. Forty-six million uninsured in the U.S. is the number you generally hear. That's the number of people who told the government that they didn't have insurance at some point during 2007. According to a research institute run by former health insurance industry executives, that includes at least 12 million who are eligible for public health insurance programs but for whatever reason don't participate.
Of the 10 million non-citizens lacking health insurance that year, more than half are estimated to be illegal. And some seven million uninsured individuals, many of them young adults who earn at least $40,000 and may have chosen to skip health insurance because they thought they didn't need it.
FERRE: And one health care think tank that we spoke with asked if the actual number of uninsured Americans is far less than 46 million, is there a better way to devise a plan that would do just that, cover those uninsured people without potentially affecting the rest of the insured population -- Lou?
DOBBS: A lot of good questions asked and so few answered in this debate so far. Perhaps that will begin to change.
Ines, thank you very much. Ines Ferre.
Another promise made by the president during his campaign, to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. The Clinton-era law recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman, allows states to ignore same- sex marriages from other states and withholds federal marriage rights for same-sex couples. Here now to debate the issue on our face-off tonight is Maggie Gallagher. She is the president of the National Organization for Marriage.
Good to have you with us, Maggie.
MAGGIE GALLAGHER, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE: Thank you.
DOBBS: And Tobias Wolff, law professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Good to have you with us.
TOBIAS WOLFF, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you, Lou.
DOBBS: Let's turn to first what the administration said in its brief in defending the act this week. It reads, "The administration believes the Defense of Marriage Act is discriminatory and should be repealed," that according to the Justice Department.
Maggie, you say you were shocked by this brief. Why so?
GALLAGHER: Well, there's two issues of trust. One is, yes, it's true the Obama -- the candidate had a position paper that he's against the Defense of Marriage Act. But he also went in a big publicized interview, and he promised the American people in an interview with Rick Warren that although he's for equal rights for gay people, he doesn't include marriage among them. And now his administration is filing a brief saying the one federal law that defends marriage as one man and one woman is discriminatory.
But there's a second level of trust here. I mean, both gay marriage advocates and gay marriage opponents are concerned because this is a brief in which the administration says it's against DOMA and then pretends that it's trying to defend it.
DOBBS: Right. OK.
GALLAGHER: But there's more shocking things in there than what you said on the stage.
DOBBS: All right. Well, we're going to get to those. We're going to get to those.
GALLAGHER: Sure, OK. Thanks.
DOBBS: Tobias, your reaction? Do you agree with what Maggie said? WOLFF: Well, I don't. And let's be clear about what this statute is about. There are six states right now and a bunch of folks in California as well -- six states that allow gay and lesbian couples to get married. This is about whether those couples are going to be discriminated against by the federal government. This has nothing to do with the federal government telling states what they have to do in their marriage policies.
DOBBS: Well, here's the Justice Department saying it's discriminatory.
DOBBS: And at the same time defending it.
WOLFF: Well, I'll tell you the Justice Department is...
DOBBS: Work us through -- work through that one.
WOLFF: They are in a rotten situation here. And here is why. They want this statute repealed, as does the president and his administration. There is a longstanding tradition that the Justice Department...
DOBBS: Then why not do it?
WOLFF: Well, there's a difference between repealing a statute, which the president is working with Congress to do right now...
WOLFF: And by the way, it's part of the Democratic party platform to get rid of this statute. It's time for Congress to step up to the plate and start working on it. There's a difference between that and what the Justice Department's obligation is when there's a constitutional challenge brought to a statute.
WOLFF: Now, let me just say...
DOBBS: Let me just interrupt, if I may.
WOLFF: Yes, sir.
DOBBS: This is where the economists describe President Obama. Barack Obama tends to become incoherent when discussing gay rights. During the campaign he said he supported equal rights for gays, but also that marriage should be between a man and a woman. How do you -- you know, I mean, what you say is fine. But wouldn't marriage be a fundamental right? And why would there be any equivocation?
WOLFF: Well, let me tell you, Lou. I agree with you about that. And I spent a lot of time working for the campaign and having respectful (ph)...
DOBBS: Well, I'm not taking a position. I'm just asking...
WOLFF: Well, I hear you. But what the Defense of Marriage Act is about is not telling states who's allowed to get married and who's not. What it's about is whether the federal government is going to discriminate against couples who are legally married in their states.
DOBBS: Well, it says here...
WOLFF: It's about...
DOBBS: ... the Justice Department says it's discriminatory.
DOBBS: But they're going to defend it.
That's a bizarre position, Maggie, for them to be in and for the government to be in. Isn't it?
GALLAGHER: Well, even worse is they're pretending to defend it. But in response to pressure from political groups, they've changed their argument. The federal government is now saying the Obama administration is telling the courts in your behalf and mine that the government has no interest at all in bringing together biological parents to raise their children together.
It is repudiating the idea that marriage has anything to do with mothers and fathers raising children together, which is the one great argument that all the liberal courts who have upheld marriage: New York, Maryland, Washington. They've always done it on that reason.
DOBBS: May I ask a...
GALLAGHER: So it's very deceptive, I think, what he's doing.
DOBBS: Yes, well, it's deceptive. It's confounding in terms of reason. Of all of the things that I have seen over the course of my career, you know, listening as an assault on heterosexual marriage, I have never seen -- and you correct me. I mean, where does gay marriage stand? Where is it in the queue for threat against heterosexual marriage?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think...
DOBBS: And what is the causal relationship?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think that when the government changes the definition of marriage, it changes for everyone. And when the government says the idea that marriage...
DOBBS: No, I'm not (inaudible) about -- no, no, no. Excuse me, please.
DOBBS: I'm not asking -- I'm not asking anybody to change the definition of anything. I'm just asking you how is a heterosexual couple in marriage in any way assaulted by a homosexual couple in marriage.
GALLAGHER: Well, because the government has changed what marriage is. For a lot of us, Lou, a marriage is a husband and wife. And the government is proposing to change that.
GALLAGHER: The Obama administration is saying that idea is discriminatory. Our children are going to be taught that by public schools, that our ideas of marriage are discriminatory.
GALLAGHER: It's hard enough to raise, you know, people...
DOBBS: All right.
WOLFF: Let's bring this down.
GALLAGHER: It's hard enough to get men and women together to do this thing without our government saying and the Obama administration saying the idea itself is discriminatory.
DOBBS: Well, my God. I'm sorry.
WOLFF: Let's bring this down to some real specifics. This is about couples who have been together for 30 years being denied their full Social Security benefits. This is about couples being denied access to health care. This is about couples who are being denied equal treatment in the tax laws after they've spent their entire lives...
DOBBS: But you would have that if you had civil union.
WOLFF: ... paying federal taxes.
DOBBS: You would have that if you had civil unions.
WOLFF: What you have...
DOBBS: See, those arguments are not particularly persuasive.
WOLFF: Not true. Let me make sure you understand.
DOBBS: Please do.
WOLFF: This is about the federal government taking couples who are legally married and saying we are not going to give you equal access to the Social Security benefits that every married couple in this country is entitled to.
GALLAGHER: Listen, if...
WOLFF: That's what this is about. GALLAGHER: ... the only trouble.
WOLFF: That's what this is about.
GALLAGHER: If you have a trouble with Social Security, you could amend that act. You don't need to go into court...
DOBBS: All right.
WOLFF: Well, Ms. Gallagher, are you out there?
GALLAGHER: ... and say that marriage itself is discriminatory.
WOLFF: Are you out there trying to fight for equal treatment for gay and lesbian couples in Social Security?
GALLAGHER: What I'm trying to fight for -- it's funny that you talk about the tradition...
WOLFF: Are you the one who's going to take away Social Security benefits from gay and lesbian couples?
GALLAGHER: ... of the Justice Department.
WOLFF: Are you the one who's going to take health care benefits away from people who need them?
GALLAGHER: I am the one who is standing for the right of American taxpayers not to have a union, same-sex union treated as marriage without their consent.
DOBBS: OK, I...
WOLFF: And there are six states that have said that they want gay and lesbian couples to be treated equally in our marriage laws.
GALLAGHER: And the federal government overwhelmingly...
WOLFF: And the federal government should step out of the way.
GALLAGHER: The federal government overwhelmingly, bipartisanly said the federal definition of marriage is one man and one woman. And I support that. And I think the Obama administration should live up to its campaign promise to support marriage and change its mind.
WOLFF: They should absolutely live up to their promise to repeal this statute, yes.
DOBBS: Well, apparently there are two promises here implicit that would satisfy one of you or the other, but not both. Let me again go to this thing because the Defense of Marriage is sort of a peculiar construction. When the primary, as everything I've been able to study -- the primary reason for divorce is financial. One in two marriages in this country, heterosexual marriages, ends in divorce.
We are watching two-thirds in some cases of children born out of wedlock. We have a disaster in this country. And, I mean, it could be argued, it seems to me, at least -- and forgive me for saying it this way -- that you're blaming homosexuals for an institution that's under assault from just about everyone but gays.
GALLAGHER: I'm not blaming homosexuals for anything. It's four judges in Massachusetts, not homosexuals, who brought us gay marriage.
GALLAGHER: And it's a bunch of Democratic legislatures in blue states who are not, as far as I know, gay. Some of them may be -- who brought us gay marriage in those states. This is a political movement to change the law. It's going to have a lot of consequences.
I do not understand how we can possibly rebuild a marriage culture with the president of the United States and the government saying the idea that marriage means a husband and wife, because you need a mother and father, is discriminatory. That's the problem. These aren't separate battles. They're related.
DOBBS: You get the last word, very quickly.
WOLFF: Look, at the end of the day, this is about treating people fairly and equally and with dignity. And getting rid of the Defense of Marriage Act is going to allow us to get the federal government out of the way of states who have made that decision.
DOBBS: Thank you both.
Maggie, appreciate you being here.
Tobias, thank you.
WOLFF: Thank you.
DOBBS: Lisa Sylvester (ph) now with an update on the other stories we're following here tonight -- Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Lou. Hurricane Bill has weakened to a category three storm as it approaches Bermuda. But forecasters believe Bill could become a powerful category four again by tomorrow. The center of the storm is now expected to pass between Bermuda and the East Coast of the United States. Officials are warning that extremely dangerous waves and rip tides could hit the East Coast this weekend.
At the University of Alabama tonight, officials say 54 students were diagnosed with the flu on the first day of school. Officials believe most of the cases are swine flu. School officials say they are prepared for flu outbreaks and will prescribe infected students and their roommates with anti-flu drugs. Schools across the country are preparing for possible swine flu outbreaks this fall.
And the Obama administration will end the cash for clunkers program on Monday. According to officials, applications for rebates will not be accepted after 8 o'clock Monday night. The cash for clunkers program offered rebates for car buyers who traded in cars for new or fuel-efficient models. Car dealers have complained about delays in reimbursement from the government. But President Obama today said that dealers, quote, "will get their money."
And those are some of the stories we're following tonight -- Lou?
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Lisa.
Next, a desperate plea from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass a health care plan, seemingly any health care plan for this country.
PELOSI: If we don't pass this bill with all the comprehensive aspects of it now, I don't know when we'll have a chance to do it. Does that mean...
DOBBS: And after weeks of listening to their angry constituents, will Senate Democrats ignore the voice of the people? And will those Democrats, quote, unquote, "go it alone"? We'll be right back.
DOBBS: Joining me now in Washington, the political editor for the Washington Examiner, Chris Styrewol (ph).
Chris, good to have you with us.
And in New York, columnist, New York Daily News, CNN contributor, Errol Louis (ph).
Errol (ph), good to have you here.
Democratic strategist, CNN contributor, Hank Sheinkopf (ph).
Hank, I mean, what's going on here? You know, some have said last week that the president didn't have a prayer with Obama-care and beginning yesterday turned to religious leaders for support and help. What's going on?
HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Smart move, get the base out or create a base for a particular movement. And the movement here is Obama-care or health care reform. Now, the problem is we still don't know enough of the details. And that's probably what's giving a lot of people a good deal of anxiety.
LOUIS: I like the fact that he's finally trying to frame it as sort of an ethical and moral question, at least in part, because he loses if it's a budget question. Some people might want to spend the money. Some people might not way to spend the money.
When you frame it as a moral issue, it becomes, look, is this something we should do for our society. And that's what transformation is about. That's been his underlying argument all along. He's just finally making it up front.
DOBBS: All right -- Chris?
STYREWOL: Well, it's a risky play. It could pay off. But the down side is for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction on the political spectrum. And by going out and talking about this as a religious -- bringing religiosity into it, he's inflamed passions that were already pretty hot on the other side of the religious spectrum with conservative faith groups that are upset about the possibility, though not in the bill, of abortion being funded, euthanasia and other things that they think are there. And as you guys have all pointed out, without the plan being there, the president can't sell it and can't push back against that effectively.
DOBBS: One of the things that's happening -- and we've been doing this on this broadcast from almost the outset. Pointing out that the number -- 46, 47 million Americans being used by both the President Obama, the Democratic leadership and, frankly, those opposing the legislation, just accepting the number, that the number is vastly overstated by any definition. Why has this continued?
And the fact that this is going -- there will over the next few days and weeks, I'm sure, just as these things occur, the American people are going to -- this is going to be reduced to the reality. And that reality is going to be no more than half that number. It's going to be a terrific talking point against the president. Why get involved in this hyperbole?
STYREWOL: Lou, even if it's half the number, it is still kind of -- it still presents a moral and ethical question for this country and how we can permit so many people to be without basic health care. That's what the president needs to get out front. And that's what will change the discussion.
DOBBS: No -- no -- no. That changes the discussion, what you just said. And it's one of the, if you will, rhetorical twists (ph) of this campaign for health care.
DOBBS: That isn't people not receiving health care. That's people, quote, unquote, "uninsured." The analysis -- let's just put this up for a moment and go through that number because, as you say, if it's a moral issue, we should at least, you know, pursue the reality.
Here are the numbers. Forty-seven million, 46, 47 million -- as we go through this, the Pacific Research Institute saying the number includes as many as 20 million illegal immigrants, 12 to 20 million. Fourteen million people are eligible for benefits. That is for programs like Medicaid, but who just simply haven't taken advantage of that coverage.
Another 10 million who earn $75,000 a year or more. Make it 50,000, whatever the number you would like, another 10 million. That leaves somewhere around 13 million uninsured. But again, in the case of illegal immigrants, they still have the ability to go into any emergency room in the country and be covered. It's not the same. There's also something very immoral about saying this country is not taking care of those people when I can't find a single instance in which a person would not be covered.
Can you, Errol (ph)?
LOUIS: No, no. And, frankly, in New York City, for example, something like 400,000 people go into the public hospitals we have here. But that's a great expense. I personally have never thrown around the 47, 46 million number because that's not the one that moves me.
DOBBS: Our president has.
LOUIS: Well, what I think people have to understand, though, is that they are paying and that they are paying top dollar when people show up at those emergency rooms. And that it's just not a plausible way to do it.
DOBBS: But, Errol (ph), that's a different argument than the one that the president is now pressing and which you just supported, which is a moral and ethical campaign. When the morality and the ethics of this are we are providing health care to those who are in the country illegally. My God, Medicaid, Medicare, all of the programs in this country -- this is becoming a frightening piece of hyperbole that distorts what is a very generous attitude on the part of the American people in providing health care for those who are needy. Medicare, Medicaid, My God.
LOUIS: Well, listen, as a talking point, the number that has always moved me the most has been the million or so people who are estimated to file personal bankruptcy every year due primarily to medical expenses. And most of those people are insured.
DOBBS: Right. Absolutely.
Chris, your thoughts?
STYREWOL: Well, I think one of the other challenges that the president faces as he makes this a moral issue is dealing with liberals in his party, conscientious liberals who castigated the previous administration for using faith to sell policy, for using a religious message to try and sell policy points. I think there's a fair question that a lot of people of faith are going to ask, which is I may be obligated as a person of faith to provide help to the needy.
But I don't know that I'm obligated to move government policy in a different direction. So there is that line there. And there is the chance that for some of the more intellectually honest folks who oppose the Bush administration tactics in this vein are also going to feel obliged to break with the president.
LOUIS: This has nothing to do with Bush administration tactics nor does it have to do with anything but a basic tenet of American politics from the beginning. There is a reason why our money says in God we trust. There's a reason why we say one nation under God.
God is always in the discussion. Religion is always in the discussion. And we see ourselves as an ethical and moral force in the world. So it's no surprise the president would go back to where Americans really live, which is within those kinds of ethical boundaries.
STYREWOL: No doubt. But I think it is fair to point out that this is something that the left took the right to task for a lot during the Bush years and before that. And excessive insertion of religiosity into the public sphere is something that a lot of liberals, I think, honestly were upset with. And I think that it poses some degree of cognitive dissidence here.
DOBBS: You said they were being honest, Hank.
SHEINKOPF: No. Yes.
DOBBS: We're going to be right back with our panel. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Well, the Scots released the killer, Hank, of almost 300 people. He received a hero's welcome in Tripoli today. And the U.S. government said it was a good day to remember the families of the flight. What's your reaction?
SHEINKOPF: The families certainly will remember this day. They'll remember the day that the murderer of their children and their relatives and whomever that was close to them was released for humanitarian purposes. He was not as humane. And I think it is absolutely despicable that this person was not allowed to do what was required, which is to rot in jail.
DOBBS: Why didn't the Obama administration absolutely say no way?
SHEINKOPF: This is called let's not make trouble. You know? They won't like it in Tripoli. Too bad.
LOUIS: You know, it's interesting this administration and this president -- he doesn't do moral outrage that well. You k now, we know about in...
DOBBS: We were just talking about health care.
LOUIS: Well, you know...
DOBBS: He's doing moral outrage there.
LOUIS: Well, moral appeal -- very different kind of a thing.
DOBBS: OK. LOUIS: I mean, the notion of no drama Obama, you know, he's always kind of cool, not always very emotional. This is the time where it really starts to show. I mean, the Honduran coup was another one where you wonder...
DOBBS: So this is cool?
LOUIS: ... why isn't our leader out there screaming, why isn't he showing us that he's as angry as every American is right now.
DOBBS: Why did he permit the British to release a terrorist?
LOUIS: Well, I don't know that he has -- I mean, frankly, I don't even -- I'm not even sure most people understand the relationship between the Scottish government and the United Kingdom. You know? I mean, they're...
DOBBS: Insert British government, insert U.S. government, insert special relationship, insert the United States had sufficient and significant, obviously, influence over that decision, do you not think?
LOUIS: Not sure.
DOBBS: All righty.
What do you think, Chris?
STYREWOL: I think they could have arrested him in Tripoli.
SHEINKOPF : That's correct.
STYREWOL: I think that the United States could have issued -- we could have put out an indictment on this cat before he ever landed in Tripoli. They probably could have bagged him right there at the airport and would have certainly been some solace to the families. I think that just as was the case with the Iranian demonstrations and the violence in the streets there, outrage counts when you're the most important, most powerful person in the world.
STYREWOL: Being angry publicly sends a message to our allies and our enemies both that this stuff matters.
DOBBS: Perhaps the message was not for our allies. Thank you very much, gentlemen.
Appreciate it, Hank. Thank you.
Thanks, Errol (ph).
Thank you very much, Chris.
Coming up at the top of the hour, Campbell Brown -- Campbell? BROWN: Hey there, Lou. Tonight former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge now says he was pressured to raise the terror alert right before the 2004 presidential election. We've got a whole lot of questions about that tonight.
Plus outrage over the release of the man -- what you have been talking about -- who was responsible for the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing. Coming up we're going to talk to the brother of one of these Americans that this man killed.
And later the teenage track star who won a world championship and is now being forced to prove that she is really a she. We'll have that as well -- Lou?
DOBBS: All right, Campbell. Thanks very much. We'll be right back.
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