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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Health Care Speech; Town Hall Violence; Recession far from over; Health Care in Russia; Michael Jackson's Burial; California Kidnapper

Aired September 03, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne. Tonight President Obama's huge health care gamble -- can a primetime speech to Congress convince a growing number of skeptics?

Also, you thought you were mad over health care. Get a load of what one guy did. That's in our special report on "Town Halls Gone Wild" live from Los Angeles. You won't want to miss this one.

Also tonight, 70 days after his shocking sudden death, Michael Jackson will be laid to rest. We will have complete coverage and brand new details of the burial.

And disturbing new information in the case of Jaycee Dugard, the California girl rescued after she was kidnapped 18 years ago. Authorities have stunning information on a possible new victim.

But first, the escalating battle over health care. Tonight, President Obama is at Camp David preparing for next Wednesday's primetime speech before a joint session of Congress. Attacks from opponents have driven his public support down and left voters with some doubts about changing America's health care system.

The president will use this speech to lay out for the first time specifics of his vision, telling members of Congress what he wants them to do. But today the president let his vice president do the talking. Dan Lothian joins us from the White House with more. Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lisa, it was another candid moment for the vice president. After delivering remarks today at the Brookings Institution, he was asked about what the prospects were for the president getting a health care reform bill on his desk with some of the objectives that he had in mind.

The vice president then made the sign of the cross, a sign of prayer, if you will. There was some laughter in the crowd. But the president went on to say that he thought the prospects were very high, and he also said that on Wednesday when the president talks to Congress that he will lay out in very clear and understandable terms what it is that this administration wants.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to get something substantial. It's going to be an awful lot of screaming and hollering before we get there. But I believe we're going to get there. And I think the president's going to lay out -- I know the president's going to lay out for you very clearly on Wednesday what he thinks those pieces have to be and will be. But that's as much as I should say. And the president will tell you a lot more on Wednesday.


LOTHIAN: With the constant headlines about the uphill battle that health care reform faces, senior administration officials saying that they believe that the whole noise that we've been hearing about how difficult and bad August was for this administration is really exaggerated, they believe that they can get some conservative Democrats to come on board, and also the administration is pointing to some of the polling that CNN has done that shows that most Americans do want some kind of health care reform, so the president on Wednesday will try to fill in some of the blanks. I'm told by a senior administration official that the president is currently working on his remarks out at Camp David and another senior administration official saying that his speech will be more direct and to the point than it has been to date. Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Well, Dan, you know, the vice president says there will be a lot of screaming and hollering, but they certainly have a heavy lift, and it looks like they're going to be using a lot of political capital on this one.

LOTHIAN: They will. I mean obviously, the last month of August and while the administration believes that it has not been as bad as everyone has made it out to be, you've had all those town hall meetings with a lot of loud voices and a lot of questions, a lot of hard questions about the public option. Now there are those indications that perhaps that's something that the White House will give up, at least for now.

We don't know the specifics yet. But certainly there's a lot of pressure. And again, it's not just from Republicans. This administration has really looked at Republicans, trying to get that bipartisan effort. It does not appear that it will be the case, so the administration is now really focusing on the Democrats, those conservative Democrats who have a hard time with the public option, trying to win them over. And as I mentioned, they believe they will be able to get some of them on board, Lisa.

SYLVESTER: OK, Dan Lothian reporting from the White House. Thanks for that report.

Well, the debate over health care has ignited quite a bit of emotion. You know we have seen screaming matches at health care forums across the country. But until now nothing like what happened last night near Los Angeles. Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Advocates of health care reform, specifically a government-funded public option, held candlelight vigils across the country Wednesday night. The 350 demonstrations coordinated by the liberal political advocacy group were peaceful. But one in the southern California city of Thousand Oaks (ph) turned violent.

(on camera): Here's where the fight began. You can still see the blood stains on the ground from the 65-year-old man whose finger was bitten off.

(voice-over): Across this busy street about 100 people attended a vigil organized by MoveOn. According to the Ventura County (ph) Sheriff's Department, about 25 counter demonstrators against a so- called public option were standing here. Scott Bush (ph) was in that group last night and says one of the vigil participants walked across this street and confronted the counter demonstrators, focusing on a man named William Rice (ph).

(on camera): Who put their hands on who first? Did William hit him first?

SCOTT BUSH, COUNTER PROTESTER, WITNESSED FIGHT: William -- it was a defensive strike because the gentleman kind of aggressed toward him like he was going to hit him. He said, "you're an idiot," like -- and so it all happened so quick. William grabbed his hand and came back to the -- to get on the sidewalk and said, "he bit my finger off." And I saw -- I looked down and I could see that the stump of his finger -- I could see that it had been bitten off. And he was bleeding. You can see blood. The trail goes up.

WIAN (voice-over): Scott Bush later found the remaining portion of William's left pinkie and rushed it to the hospital. Karoli Kuns was on the other side of the street and tells a different story.

KAROLI KUNS, VIGIL PARTICIPANT, WITNESSED FIGHT: I saw this guy punch out and knock into the street right here, as you can see cars drive by here really fast, a guy in black. The next thing I know it was a fur ball. It was like a big cat fight. But...

WIAN (on camera): Involving multiple people or just those two?

KUNS: Well, that's a good question. I'm not sure.

WIAN (voice-over): Law enforcement officials are still investigating the incident. They have a picture of the suspected finger biter shown here in black. Both sides agree the debate has gotten out of control.

KUNS: All the issues are lost. All we're hearing about is this kind of insanity. And that's what's getting me -- that drives me crazy. We had an hour and 15-minute vigil. Five minutes of it was bad.

BUSH: We're trying to come up with a civilized solution, and we have to approach it in a civilized manner.


WIAN: A hospital spokeswoman says the victim's finger could have been reattached but without full motion, so the victim opted against it. Through the hospital he also declined to speak with CNN. In a statement, said, "while we don't know if either party involved was a Move On member, we regret any violence that may have occurred yesterday and we support the Ventura County (ph) sheriff's investigation into the situation." Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Oh, Casey, that is one bizarre story. Where is the civility here these days? Any idea on possible charges -- I know it's early on in the investigation.

WIAN: Yeah, sheriffs are still interviewing witnesses. We understand that the victim in this case has said that he doesn't want to pursue civil charges. In terms of a criminal investigation, it's just way too early to tell right now.

SYLVESTER: OK, Casey Wian, thanks for following up on that report.

Well, there are new signs this week that the recession is over and the economy is beginning to grow again. But if you are out of work, well, those official statistics they don't mean a whole heck of a lot. Jessica Yellin has the results of our latest poll on the economy.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Don't tell the people of Evansville, Indiana the economy's improving. They just learned 1,000 people will be laid off by the local Whirlpool plant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people looking for jobs that probably ain't there.

YELLIN: the latest CNN/Opinion Research poll show Americans are still feeling the squeeze, 87 percent think the U.S. is still in a recession, 69 percent think things are going badly in the country, and the conservatives' warnings about the ballooning deficit seem to be breaking through.

REP. TOM MCCLINTOCK (R), CALIFORNIA: This president and this Congress place our country upon the course to fiscal bankruptcy.

YELLIN: While the economy is by far Americans' number one concern, followed by health care, the budget deficit comes in third. And the number of people worried about the deficit, 15 percent, have almost doubled since March. So all this might lead you to believe Americans don't like the president's economic policies -- not so fast.

BIDEN: Instead of talking about the beginning of a depression, we're talking about the end of a recession.

YELLIN: Our polling shows only 39 percent of Americans think the president's policies have already improved economic conditions. But a majority still support the president's overall economic plan. One conclusion -- there's still some patience for those policies to take effect, though that patience will be tested if the dire job situation doesn't improve. And top economists say it's going to take more time.

DIANE SWONK, MESIROW FINANCIAL ECONOMIST: We're talking about higher unemployment, rising unemployment right through the mid-part of 2010, and then maybe, hopefully being able to bring it down a bit by the end of the year.


YELLIN: So Lisa, who is getting the blame? Well, polls show more Americans think the Republicans are responsible for the country's economic problems, but the number who blame the Democrats is rising. Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Yeah, they can only go for so long saying, well, we inherited this mess. At a certain point they have to take ownership of it, the Democrats, don't they?

YELLIN: It's starting to stick to the Democrats, yes.

SYLVESTER: OK, Jessica Yellin, thanks for that report.

Still ahead, we'll go live to Glendale, California, where Michael Jackson will be laid to rest tonight, including the elaborate details and the cost.

And chilling new information about the suspect in the kidnapping of Jaycee Dugard -- another woman has stepped forward, saying she was raped repeatedly by him when she was only 14. We will have the shocking details straight ahead.


SYLVESTER: The Centers for Disease Control today said more than 550 people have died from the swine flu virus in this country. The director of the CDC said at least 36 of those deaths were children. He also warned we can expect many more cases this fall.


DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, DIR., CDC: The H1n1 influenza is here. It is spreading in parts of the U.S., particularly in the southeast. And in fact, it never went away. We had H1 influenza throughout the summer in summer camps, and now with colleges and schools coming back into session we're seeing more cases.


SYLVESTER: Dr. Thomas Frieden recommended children and those at risk receive the swine flu vaccine. But he said that vaccine, it won't be available until the middle of October at the earliest.

Well, we continue now with our series of reports on the quality of health care in nations around the world. Tonight, Russia -- despite new attempts to centralize the system, the quality of health care in Russia varies from region to region. Coverage is universal, but funding and corruption are still major issues. Life expectancy in Russia is just 66 years, 12 years less than in the United States. Brooke Baldwin has our report.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After the fall of the Soviet Union responsibility for Russia's health care system was transferred from the central government in Moscow to the 89 regional governments. Every one retained free government health care. But little money was invested in the infrastructure -- the result -- a failing system.

ALEXANDRA VACROUX, WOODROW WILSON INTL. CTR. FOR SCHOLARS: So you had hospitals and still have hospitals without hot water, for example. Some of them don't have sewage systems still. And there hasn't been the money in the past 15 years of the transition devoted to improving that infrastructure.

BALDWIN: Given the bleak conditions, scarce resources and older equipment, the ministry of health, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is pouring billions into an increasingly recentralized system -- one specific focus -- Russia's plunging population. In the mid 1990s life expectancy hit a low of 58 years. Today that average has improved, but it's still 12 years lower than the U.S.

Infant mortality still historically low for Russia but high compared to other industrialized nations -- CNN did get a rare inside look at one bright spot in an otherwise bleak medical picture -- fertility tourism. It's a booming trend in Russia where women worldwide go to get help having children at a fraction of the cost.

ELIZABETH KATIN, FERTILITY PATIENT: We came to Russia largely because their success rates were so high. Their flexibility in terms of the law was also very welcome for us because we need a surrogate, which is an extra complication and also because the price is hard to beat.

BALDWIN: Russia spends $367 per person per year on health care and 5.3 percent of its GDP. By comparison, the United States pays $7,290 per person and 16 percent of GDP -- the outcome -- sub-quality care and corruption involving bribes for basic medical treatment.

JUDYTH TWIGG, VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIV.: It's not uncommon that those side payments are expected for services as basic as changing the dressing on a wound, emptying a bed pan, all the way up to getting a doctor to perform a certain procedure, a surgical procedure, or prescribing a certain medication.

BALDWIN: One positive element here -- the number of trained doctors in Russia outnumbers that in the United States.


BALDWIN: In Russia there is a small percentage of the population that is very wealthy, and they do have the money to pay out of pocket for high-quality private health care, Lisa. But you saw you know the greater chunk of the population -- you see what they're dealing with.

SYLVESTER: Yeah, life expectancy of only 66 years, you know, in this modern day. What's the birth rate like?

BALDWIN: The birth rate is plummeting as well. It's about 1.2 children per mother in her lifetime. And so can you imagine this concept? There actually is this idea of giving women, mothers, bonuses to have additional children. Prime Minister Putin offering several thousand dollars to incentivize these women to boost the birth rate and boost the population because it's such an issue in Russia offering help with education, housing.

SYLVESTER: Yeah. These reports, I have to say, are fascinating.

BALDWIN: They are.

SYLVESTER: Because it is an interesting look around the world -- very interesting reporting, Brooke. Really do appreciate it.

BALDWIN: Thanks.

SYLVESTER: Very insightful.

Well, coming up, shocking new revelations about the man who abducted a California girl and held her captive for 18 years.

Also, a teenage hero disarms a fellow student on a crowded school bus. We're going to have the amazing video coming up.

And Michael Jackson, he will be laid to rest this evening. We will have a special report next.


SYLVESTER: Singer Michael Jackson will finally be laid to rest later tonight in Glendale, California. Jackson will be interred on the grounds of the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, more than two months after his death. On Wednesday a judge ruled Jackson's estate must pay for the burial. And all of this comes a week after Jackson's death was ruled a homicide. Randi Kaye is live in Glendale with the very latest details. Randi?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Lisa. The private burial service for just family and close friends is supposed to start in about two and a half hours or so from now. I have here with me the invitation that went out to close friends of the Jackson family. And inside there are some really beautiful pictures of Michael Jackson at Neverland Ranch and some other pictures of him when he was a young boy -- the invitation is about nine pages long or so.

But just to set the scene here in terms of the media of course, the media wasn't officially invited to this, but if you take a look down here you can get an idea of how much media there is here covering this, about 60 outlets from around the world. The burial is supposed to cost about a million dollars. He will be laid to rest inside the Great Mausoleum, which is just behind those gates here. We're at the main gate of Forest Lawn Memorial Park and then over hill. It's about a two-minute drive inside is where the Great Mausoleum is. It's a beautiful place inside. It has 20-foot archways, a lot of marble, a lot of mazes. It's actually 11 levels. And his crypt, we understand, will be laid right under the "Last Supper" window. It's a massive stained glass window. It's actually a reproduction of Leonard Da Vinci's masterpiece. There's also inside the mausoleum many reproductions of Michelangelo's greatest works. There is no map of where the celebrities are buried here at Forest Lawn.

They don't really want to encourage the star struck to come. But I can tell you that Michael Jackson will be here among -- will be laid to rest here among many other celebrities, including his good friend Sammy Davis Jr., Jimmie Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, George Burns, Nat "King" Cole, Gracie Allen (ph), just to name a few, Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Yeah, Randi, will the public be able to visit Michael Jackson's final resting place?

KAYE: Actually, no. There is a short film about this massive stained glass window -- the "Last Supper Window", but one -- the public can see that. But then they can't go beyond that into the Great Mausoleum. I've interviewed somebody about this, and he's been inside that Great Mausoleum. He says there's a lot of security cameras and a lot of guards. And he actually called them crypt keepers, he said. But those are the people who keep the folks who shouldn't be inside that he -- those crypt keepers as he put it keeps them outside.

SYLVESTER: Yeah and you said a million dollars. I believe it's the family, right, who's picking up the cost?

KAYE: The family had -- there had been some debate as actually who would pay for this, especially after all the controversy about the memorial service and the city of Los Angeles picking up the tab. So actually, there was a hearing yesterday, and Michael Jackson's estate will be paying for this. It is expected to cost about a million dollars. There wasn't any objection on the part of the estate administrators, but Katherine Jackson had specifically asked that the estate pay for this burial service.

SYLVESTER: Randi Kaye reporting from Glendale. We certainly appreciate it. Thanks for the latest update.

Well, turning now to the kidnapping case of Jaycee Dugard, police now say Phillip Garrido, he is the man accused of kidnapping and keeping Dugard captive for 18 years, well, that he was accused of a separate rape in 1972. Dan Simon is in Antioch, California with the latest. Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Lisa. Authorities here in Antioch, California are saying today that Phillip Garrido was arrested for raping a third person back in 1972 but the case never went to trial because the girl, 14 at the time, did not want to testify. Meanwhile, for those of us who have been following this case from the very beginning, it was certainly heartwarming to hear from Jaycee Dugard's aunt today, who explained how the family is rebonding in private. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TINA DUGARD, JAYCEE DUGARD'S AUNT: Jaycee and her daughters are with her mom and younger sister in a secluded place, reconnecting. I was with them until recently. We spent time sharing memories and stories and getting to know each other again. Jaycee remembers all of us. She is especially enjoying getting to know her little sister, who was just a baby when Jaycee was taken.

SIMON (voice-over): Jaycee Dugard's aunt providing the first firsthand account of how Jaycee and her two daughters are coping after years of captivity living in back yard tents and sheds. Tina Dugard describes Jaycee as a resourceful mother who used her limited knowledge to raise her children.

T. DUGARD: Although they have no formal education, they are certainly educated. Jaycee did a truly amazing job with the limited resources and education that she herself had, and we are so proud of her.

SIMON: This is how Tina would have remembered Jaycee, more as a child than the 29-year-old woman she is today.

T. DUGARD: Not only have we laughed and cried together, but we've spent time sitting quietly, taking pleasure in each other's company. We are so very grateful to have her home.

SIMON: Jaycee Dugard was abducted outside her South Lake Tahoe home in 1991. The suspects, Phillip and Nancy Garrido, have been charged with 29 counts including rape and kidnapping. Both have pleaded not guilty. Over the years there were emotional pleas from Jaycee's mother for a safe return.

TERRY PROBYN: She's a pretty, young, innocent child, and you may like her, but we love her too, and it's time that she comes home to her family.

SIMON: Today her aunt describing the bond that never ended between a mother and daughter apart for nearly two decades.

T. DUGARD: The smile on my sister's face is as wide as the sea. Her oldest daughter is finally home.


SIMON: Tina Dugard not talking about the conditions Jaycee faced, instead talking about the things they're doing now, and that's playing games, watching movies, doing the kinds of things that families do together. Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Yeah. It's a long road ahead. All right, thank you very much, Dan, for that report.

Well, coming up, our special report, "DOBBS AND JOBS NOW!" Tonight, unemployment is at record highs, but one sector keeps on hiring. Then, is President Obama hitting a wall when it comes to his administration's agenda?

And gunmen kill more than a dozen people in Mexico. We will have the very latest on Mexico's out-of-control drug violence.



SYLVESTER: These are tough times for President Obama. His approval ratings are plummeting. There are signs the president will drop a key component of his health care plan. And the Senate has delayed debate on his cap and trade climate bill. As Louise Schiavone reports, President Obama, well, he appears to be hitting a wall on his administration's priorities.


LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The government is getting deeper in debt. Unemployment is still hovering near 10 percent. In Afghanistan more U.S. soldiers are dying, and the Taliban is gaining strength. This analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation says the Obama agenda may be running into voter fatigue over government debt.

MICHAEL FRANC, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: This could very well be a period of an enormous mismatch between the legislative wish list in the White House on the one hand and what rank-and-file lawmakers on Capitol Hill are willing to do.

SCHIAVONE: Beginning with health care reform, this former senior player from the other side of the aisle says the president might boost his chances with a different strategy.

BOB DOLE, FORMER SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER: I was a Republican leader for 12 years. The president, if he were Republican, would send me a bill, and I would introduce the bill only after President Reagan or President Bush. And I don't know why they've chosen not to have an Obama bill.

SCHIAVONE: Meanwhile, members of the president's own party say the president's climate bill isn't ready to go. As both Republicans and Democrats confront the president on taxation and spending, this YouTube video of the president's special adviser for green jobs, Van Jones, speaking in Berkeley, California a month before his appointment, has been seized on by some of President Obama's opponents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are the Republicans able to push things through when they have less than 60 senators but somehow we can't?

VAN JONES, SPECIAL ADVISER FOR GREEN JOBS: Well, the answer to that is they're (EXPLETIVE DELETED) holes.

(LAUGHTER) SCHIAVONE: Top Senate Finance Committee Republican Charles Grassley's spokeswoman says the comment, quote, "flies in the face of the kind of post-partisan leadership promised by the new administration," end quote.

While Van Jones himself tells us, quote, "These comments, made before I joined the administration, were clearly inappropriate, and I apologize for the offensive words I chose to use during that speech. They do not reflect the views of this administration, and they do not reflect the experience I have had," end quote.


SCHIAVONE: And Lisa, there's evidence that lawmakers may have some first-person interest in the issue of unemployment. A fresh poll from the Pew Research Center reveals that only 37 percent of people surveyed in the last week of August would give Congress a favorable rating -- Lisa?

SYLVESTER: All right. Louise Schiavone, we appreciate that report.

Well, the polls show President Obama, as Louise said, that he is quickly losing support for his health care plan. The president, he will deliver a major speech next week to try and save the plan. But is it too late to change public opinion?

That is the topic of tonight's "Faceoff." Geoffrey Garin is a Democratic pollster and president of the Peter D. Hart Research Institute. He says the president still has time to gain support for his plan.

Kellyanne Conway is a Republican pollster. She is also the president and CEO of The Polling Company and she believes support for the president's plan will continue to slip.

First let's go to the numbers. Let's take a look. We have a graphic that we can share with our viewers on the support for President Obama's health care plan. Take a look at these numbers. 48 percent now say they favor his plan compared to 51 percent who oppose it, and that is down from June.

So, let me go to you first, Geoffrey. Is the president -- is this a problem for the president?

GEOFFREY GARIN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, look, you'd rather go up than down. But the truth is that the ship has not sailed off the end of the earth here. It's a 3-point drop. And we're at, you know, intermission going into the next act of the drama.

When you talk about the president's plan, the truth is that the president has been out there expressing his principles but there's really not a specific plan to go out and sell and defend.

I think once that happens the dynamics change and we'll have a much clearer discussion about what is in it and what isn't in it. And Barack Obama will be a very effective communicator in those circumstances.

SYLVESTER: Kellyanne, it appears that Democrats lost some ground over the August recess. I'll ask the same question. Is this a problem? Do you agree with what Geoff said?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: It's a problem for the president because so much of his generic approval rating was tied up in his personality and the presumed ability to lead, and he's lost ground -- actually, so many of his negatives have increased.

Looking at a generic approval rating or even approval for something called health care reform is one thing but recognizing how much ground he's lost, particularly among seniors and independents in two short months. You can really tag it at least as to when the CBO -- Mr. Elmendorf for the CBO came out and said not only is this not a cost-cutting measure as the president has promised, but it will cost about $900 billion to $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

That was a big blow, I think, from which they've never recovered. And CNN's own polling, too, I found quite remarkable this week that 25 percent of Americans say go ahead and pass health care reform with few changes, 28 percent pass it with major changes, but on the other side of the ledger, 20 percent said give up on health care altogether and 25 percent said start from scratch.

I can't remember a time when I've seen a public policy issue like that.

SYLVESTER: Yes. OK, Geoff, we've got the numbers that we can put up on our screen again for our viewers and I want you to comment on this. The point that Kellyanne is making. Only 25 percent are saying pass with few changes.

People are saying, look, with the proposal that's are before us and granted it's not a single bill, but with the proposals they have they either want to pass it with major changes or they want to toss it out, start from scratch or they say just give up the idea of reform altogether.

That's a pretty good size -- that Congress has its work to do.

GARIN: Congress definitely has its work to do. But what does that mean when the public says major changes? There will be major changes from the bill that the Republicans have inaccurately described to the public.

Look, good news, public, there's not going to be any death panels and there's not going to be a government-run health care. There's going to be a system where if you like the health care you've got you get to keep it and that in that very same poll when asked should there be -- do you favor or oppose the inclusion of a public -- the choice of a public health care option, a majority favor that.

So when people talk about major changes, what are they talking about? My guess is that when you describe the real elements of what will be the plan, the public is going to be supportive of that. Look, you know, next Wednesday is a very big night in terms of what it is the president has to say about how he wants to proceed. But as I said, we are in the middle of this. We are not at the end of it. You know, we're just on just the basic favor-oppose numbers on the president's plan.

We are talking about all of a three-point gap. It's within the margin of error. There's a long way to go before this drama plays out.

SYLVESTER: Kellyanne, do you think he can get it done? Do you think that President Obama can get his health care plan through?

CONWAY: I don't think he can get his health care plan through. They can get -- they're going to get something through, Lisa, that they will call health care reform. And at his State of the Union Address next January he will be able to say -- or he will say -- we passed health care reform and Nancy Pelosi will pop up and lead the applause.

But what does that really mean? The president -- Geoff is saying that Americans would countenance a public option, but the president himself, by all accounts this week, is that the White House has said the public option's off the table. So which is it? That will really infuriate I think his liberal base on whom he relied for this presidency.

The other thing that's going on here is you've got the seniors and the juniors showing up at town hall meetings. They also will show up at the congressional elections in 2010. The youth who helped Obama become president and who, in fact, in CNN polls 60 percent of youth favor health care reform, they're nowhere to be found. They're not out there helping him to sell his plan.

The president's got to make clear next week either the public option's in or it's out, but no more mixed signals.

SYLVESTER: OK. Geoff, let me get you to respond to that idea. Public option, if it's not included, is this essentially a defeat at least within the Democratic Party? Do you have -- do you believe that there will be members of the Democratic Party who will say to President Obama hey, you didn't give us everything that we wanted or could have gotten?

GARIN: Well, look, I think that there will be hard choices all around and people will have to decide whether an imperfect plan is better than no plan at all. And -- but the history of health care is littered with people who regret not having taken the deal that was on the table.

Senator Kennedy talking about the Nixon plan in 1970. President Clinton talking about a deal he could have had in 1994. So that there are real important and hard choices here. I don't want to suggest that there aren't. But I also do want to say if and when President Obama is able to declare at the -- at a State of the Union next January that we have passed health care reform, that will be an important and meaningful event, not -- there's nothing (INAUDIBLE) about it.

It is to be able to accomplish that. Change is hard.


GARIN: And if he's able to get something, that counts as a big, big victory.

SYLVESTER: OK, we are going to have to end there. We appreciate it, though. Geoffrey Garin, Kellyanne Conway, thank you very much for coming on the show. Appreciate it.

And Brooke Baldwin, she has an update on other stories that we are following tonight. Brooke, what do you have for us?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Lisa. More violence in Mexico. Gunmen killed 17 people at a drug rehab center in Juarez, Mexico just across the border from El Paso, Texas, and according to the mayor of Juarez authorities believe a drug gang targeted rival gang members at that facility Wednesday.

Juarez, as you know, has become the deadliest city in Mexico. More than 1400 people have been killed this year alone. And since Mexico's war on the drug cartels really began back in December of '06 more than 11,000 people have been killed.

Out in California more evacuations this evening as firefighters are battling wildfires raging out of control. Firefighters trying to tackling these flames by air using planes and helicopters, and they are seeing some results.

The fire now just about 38 percent contained. But officials do not expect to have the fire fully under control until the middle of September. The fire has burned through 226 square miles and still threatens some 12,000 homes. Two firefighters have been killed. Three people suffered some serious burns. Protecting their homes from the flames.

And in Yazoo City, that's in Mississippi, a 14-year-old girl pulled out a gun. This is an awful beginning of the story here. Pulled out a gun on a crowded school bus. This girl began cursing, pointing the gun at other students. Kids, as you can imagine, screaming, running for the exits.

But one student here, one student remained calm. He is local football star Caleb Yuells. He did not panic one bit and said he tackled the girl and knocked the gun out of her hand. Amazingly.

You're looking at some of the video from inside that bus. Amazingly, no one in there was hurt in that town, Lisa, as you can imagine, hailing Caleb as a hero.

SYLVESTER: Go, Caleb. All right.

BALDWIN: I know.

SYLVESTER: Football star. All right. Like to see that. Thank you very much, Brooke, for that update.

Still ahead, the president prepares to deliver a major speech on health care. But will it save his health care bill? And we'll tell you who's hiring the most workers in the country. That answer might surprise you. Our series "Dobbs and Jobs Now" is next.


SYLVESTER: Now our continuing series, "Dobbs and Jobs Now." As we have reported extensively, jobs in the private sector are scarce, but there have been an uptick in government jobs.

As Bill Tucker reports, the federal government wants to hire nearly 300,000 workers over the next three years.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Uncle Sam wants you. About 273,000 of you, to be more exact. According to a new report released by the Partnership for Public Service, a non-partisan, non-profit group, 35 different federal agencies will be doing the hiring over the next three years.

MAX STIER, PARTNERSHIP FOR PUBLIC SERVICE: What we're seeing is both replacement for a lot of folks that are retiring. We're seeing new folks coming in to deal with pent-up demand. You have some in- sourcing, some effort to try to bring in jobs that were being done by contractors that probably are better done by federal workers.

TUCKER: Doctors, nurses, dieticians, rehab therapists, pretty much anything in the health care field is open for opportunity. Health care shapes up as the number one field of opportunity with more than 54,000 hires projected.

The Office of Veteran Affairs is the agency with the greatest needs. Security and protection opportunities run a close second. The job opportunities are everywhere. Compliance and enforcement officers. We need 31,000 of those. Lawyers and office managers shouldn't feel left out. There's more than 23,000 projected legal hires and more than 17,000 office and administrative positions.

While no one begrudges anyone a job, some economists, though, do worry about where they're all coming from.

ALAN TONELSON, U.S. BUSINESS & INDUSTRY COUNCIL: There are lots of useful purposes that government jobs can serve and that government spending can serve. But one of them is not creating wealth. The United States has to start generating private sector economic growth once again and private sector employment. Otherwise the recovery will be a phony.

TUCKER: The federal government, even when you exclude postal workers, is the economy's largest single employer.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TUCKER: And those who want to work for the government, well, there's some good news. Most of the jobs are not in D.C. and some 44,000 of them are in fact out of the country, Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Always good to hear when someone is hiring, though.

TUCKER: Exactly. It is true.

SYLVESTER: All right. Thanks, Bill Tucker, for that report.

Well, coming up, President Obama is laying more political capital on the line as he plans another speech on health care legislation, despite growing opposition to his plans. We'll have the latest details on the speech and a great deal more, next.


SYLVESTER: Joining me now, Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Hank Sheinkopf, the editor of James Taranto, and in Washington, the political editor of the "Washington Examiner," Chris Stirewalt.

All right, gentlemen, let me ask you my first question. President Obama, he is scheduled to deliver this address to Congress -- before Congress next Wednesday. Who does he need to send out his message, Hank? Is it blue dog Democrats? Moderate Republicans? The folks watching on TV?

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: None of the people in the room. It's the folks watching on TV because they're the ones who feel angst because they don't know what the plan is. So a more specific plan that the folks back home feel better about is one that the Congress will be able to get behind.

SYLVESTER: You know, James, this president has been criticized by both sides, on both sides of the aisle of not getting in there, sitting on the sidelines too long, letting Congress kind of hijack and take over the process.

Do you think that he needs to really step forward at this point and essentially -- I don't want to say write his own legislation, but at least give more directive to Congress?

JAMES TARANTO, EDITOR, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: No, I think he needs to step backward and just give up on this whole thing for now. I think -- you know, people talk about this as if it's a problem of salesmanship, as if, you know -- as if this is Willy Lowman, and he needs to get up there and needs to be well liked and make just a better sales pitch.

The problem is not with the pitch. The problem is with the product. They're trying to sell something that the customer can't afford and has no interest in buying.

SYLVESTER: Chris? CHRIS STIREWALT, POLITICAL EDITOR, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, look, I think that if the president can articulate this in a way that makes conservatives feel comfortable with the cost and liberals feel comfortable with the amount of coverage, he will be able to pass it, but as James just said, that's not going to be a very easy task.

That -- this would be the greatest political sales job in the history of the republic, I suppose.

SYLVESTER: You know, one -- you know this is a really great that James has made. Hank, at what point does the administration say, look, people don't want this, we just -- we're not going to push this? I mean, at what point do they stop trying to ram something through that the public doesn't want?

SHEINKOPF: The question is, no one knows what this is yet. In the "New York Times" this morning, James and I have talked about this before, at a story, said she's going to give more details and -- but not too much detail.

Need details so people can make real decisions. The public does want health care reform. They don't want the chaos surrounding a plan they don't know and can't understand.

SYLVESTER: Let me ask the next question to Chris. The idea of this trigger. This is an idea that Senator Olympia Snowe has been pushing, which is instead of having a public auction be included, it would only come into effect if you don't see market reforms, if you don't see the price of health coverage coming down and the like.

What do you make of this plan?

STIREWALT: Well, look, it's something that the Democratic base is going to have to be sold on. It's something that the president is going to have to work very hard to convince them that the trigger is a hair trigger. That if there isn't substantial reform in very short order or a substantial reduction in cost in very short order from the insurance industry, that the public option is going to surge right in and overtake the market.

Now, if he is successful in that pitch, he's just lost five or six senators from his party who are moderate, so again it's this push me-pull me that the president constantly finds himself in on this in that if he makes an argument that is convincing enough to his base for them not to revolt in the House, he always risks losing the Senate.


TARANTO: I just find it astonishing that we're talking about this when unemployment is pushing 10 percent, when there's a war in Afghanistan that the president says we need to win, and he is losing support in the public and his own party for that war because he hasn't been leading on that, because he's been distracted by this health care fiasco.

It's just -- there's so many more important more urgent issues that he needs to deal with that require the attention of the president of the United States. He needs to give this up.

SYLVESTER: OK. We're going to end there, but we are going to have much more with our guests next. But first, a preview of what's coming up at the top of the hour. John Roberts, he's filling in for Campbell Brown.

John, how are you doing?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good, Lisa. Good to see you tonight.

Tonight, is a teenage girl being brainwashed by a church or is she trying to escape an honor killing for converting from Islam to Christianity? We have got the latest on this explosive custody battle.

Also, Dr. Jack Kevorkian after eight years behind bars for an assisted suicide, does he have any regrets about helping patients take their lives? I'll ask him.

Plus why are some parents trying to make sure that their kids won't hear President Obama's address to students next week. I'll talk with one Republican leader who is up in arms about that proposed speech.

That and a whole lot more coming your way at the top of the hour. Lisa?

SYLVESTER: All right. Thanks there, John. And we will have much more with our panel right after this.


SYLVESTER: We are back with our panel. Hank Sheinkopf, James Taranto and Chris Stirewalt.

Let me ask you, Hank, somebody explain to me -- I mean, you know, James was just making the point that, look, we've got a $1.6 trillion deficit. This is really expensive. There are a lot of other priorities, Afghanistan and the like. Why continue to push this?

But I want to know why do they have to do this comprehensively? Why not just break it up and do a little piece of it, expand Medicare? But why do they to take on this really ambitious program now?

SHEINKOPF: The smart move would be to do this in increments, to try and let the American public swallow a little bit. To let Congress feel more comfortable. A consultant friend of mine in Florida, Keith (INAUDIBLE), says Medicare, Medicare, Medicare. He's right. That works. Democrats enact it. And why aren't we there?

SYLVESTER: OK. Chris, I want to ask a question of you. There's this great piece by Byron York in the "Washington Examiner" and he talks about -- there is an agency that would in charge of making sure people have the coverage, making -- penalizing people if they don't, doling out those tax credits, and it is the IRS. Pretty amazing that it's going to be the Internal Revenue Service that would be in charge of basically shepherding and getting this plan through. Explain a little bit more about this story.

STIREWALT: Look, what Byron found was there's nobody else to do the job. I mean if you think about it, if the questions are we have to find out how much people are making, if we have to find out how good your health insurance is, we have to find out how companies are dealing with their employees, and all of these other issues, we don't have anybody else who has the legal authority, the power, or even the bureaucratic structure necessary to do all of this work.

So what happens in Congress is that they determine that the IRS is the fallback position for doing all of this work on health care, and the net result of that is making people rather anxious.

TARANTO: Although remember the president likened what he wants to do to the Post Office. So the Post Office is going to be delivering services, the IRS will be in charge of enforcements. Sounds great, doesn't it?


SYLVESTER: OK. Hank, you got to jump on in here with that, because they do have a point. You want the IRS in charge of health care? And -- take it away.

SHEINKOPF: Government is trying to reorganize itself at some fashion, beating up the president and ideas that Democrats have, not necessarily productive.

SYLVESTER: You know, as we move forward on this, you have Vice President Joe Biden as saying that...


He's basically saying the economy is on firm footing right now, but there are a lot of things that the United States has to take care of right now. And this goes back to your point, James, that you were making that maybe the timing on this is just not right.

TARANTO: Well, the timing is Barack Obama became president. He wants to change the world. This is a classic case of political overreach.

SYLVESTER: All right.


Chris, do you want to have any final concluding thoughts?

STIREWALT: It's going to be very important to this administration that the stimulus is seen as having worked, but as we saw today, as the vice president was out talking about, there's good news. Consumer spending wasn't as bad as people thought it would be. But unemployment was much higher than people thought it was going to be.

So, it's, again, the situation where the administration needs credibility from the stimulus having worked, but voters, as the CNN poll showed, don't believe it yet, and it's going to take some more substantial results before they agree.

SHEINKOPF: Can't fix an economy that the Bush administration broke over eight years in less than, what, what's he? Seven months he's been there? Not fair.

SYLVESTER: Yes. All right. We're going to have to end there. Hank Sheinkopf, James Taranto, Chris Stirewalt, thank you very much for joining me.

And a reminder to join Lou on the radio, Monday through Friday for "The Lou Dobbs Show." go to to find local listings for "The Lou Dobbs Show" on the radio.

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us tomorrow for all of us here. Thanks for watching. Good night from New York. Next, John Roberts in for Campbell Brown.

ANNOUNCER: CNN Primetime begins right now.