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Lou Dobbs Tonight

Obama's Prime Time Speech; Democratic Health Care Plan; Let the People Speak

Aired September 09, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Wolf, thank you very much. As you said, we're now less than an hour away from the president's prime time speech to this joint session of Congress. The White House, top Democrats hoping this will be what they call a game changer, one they desperately need. We'll have new details of what the president is planning to say, planning to propose.

Also the most divisive part of the debate on health care so far, should the president's proposals include a government-run health care option. We'll have the answers, at least some of the answers in our "Face Off" debate tonight.

And the dramatic end to the hijacking of a Boeing 737 from Cancun, Mexico. More than 100 passengers and crew set free after the hijackers threatened to blow up the aircraft.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT; news, debate and analysis for Wednesday, September 9th. Live from New York, Mr. Independent, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, and welcome, everybody. President Obama's leadership skills about to be put to a critical test in search of a game changer for this administration -- the president about to leave the White House, headed for Capitol Hill where he will make what this administration hopes will be a pivotal speech on health care to a joint session of Congress.

President Obama trying to gain control of a debate that he lost so dramatically over the past month and finally outline specific details of any health care plan for Congress and the nation to consider, and all of this as a new poll shows public disapproval of President Obama's handling of health care has jumped to a new high.

We have complete coverage tonight, with the best political team on television, and we begin with Ed Henry, at the White House with new details of what the president is about to say to us. Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Lou, that's right, all day I have been hearing from senior officials here at the White House that the president was going to be trying to make one last attempt to reach out to Republicans tonight in this high pressure forum on Capitol Hill to say, look, we agree on maybe 90 percent of what's on the table. The 10 percent, let's try to work it out.

Let's try to come together. But I was also hearing the president was going to challenge those Republicans, maybe get a little more aggressive with them and sure enough, in the excerpts we're seeing that the White House is carefully selecting what they want to shape the coverage with early on. Take a listen to what the president says here.

Quote, "I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen, my door is always open. But know this. I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time, not now."

So a call to action from this president, that is really going to be the big theme tonight, that essentially he believes the debate has already happened, it's been going on for months, it's been heated, he says it's also been somewhat confusing but his top aides say he wants to try to bring some clarity to the situation by getting a bit more specific. But I have to tell you one very interesting note.

When you look at the three pages of excerpts the White House has put out in advance to the speech, very little mention in those excerpts of the public option, which is sort of the critical piece here that liberals and conservatives in his own party are waiting to hear, that certainly leads one to conclude what we've been hearing from senior officials in advance to this speech -- that while the president will once again say he thinks the public option is good. He is not going to draw a line in the sand about that and that could very well lead to liberals revolting over this -- Lou.

DOBBS: Well we're going to have to watch all of this unfold obviously. Let's turn to our colleague Dana Bash. Dana, Senator Max Baucus tonight saying Democrats are prepared to go ahead with their plans with or without the Republicans. First of all, with or without Republicans, that may be as many as three Republicans, that would be the with part, right? But nonetheless, this is a risky strategy for the Democrats, isn't it?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a risky strategy, but it's the only strategy that they think at the White House and inside the Democratic leadership that is really viable right now. What Max Baucus has done in saying that he is going to schedule a time next week to formally unveil a health care proposal in the critical Senate Finance Committee, and then start votes the following week, what he's basically doing is you know is accepting pressure that he has been getting from the White House and Democratic leaders that it is time to move on.

And so there's no question that by saying this, he may seem to be signaling that he doesn't think it's likely to have any kind of bipartisan deal. But when after he said that he's going to move on with or without Republicans, Lou, there was a meeting among those six bipartisan negotiators, and some of the Republicans in that room did say despite what he said they still think it is possible to have a bipartisan agreement.

DOBBS: A bipartisan agreement that right now would include as we said, as many as three whole Republicans?

BASH: So far, so far -- there are three who are in the room, but part of the holdup among those Republicans is that many of them -- most of them have said that in order to get a deal, they want to be able to bring on a broader swathe of Republicans so that's one of the major hurdles to that bipartisan deal.

DOBBS: A swathe of Republicans. We're going to be hearing about that one. Thanks, Dana. We'll be back to you in just a moment.

Candy Crowley joining us, this was supposed to be the president's big bipartisan moment. There haven't been many, but this was supposed to be one of the big ones, House Minority Leader, however, John Boehner says, wait a minute, Republican leaders haven't even been to the White House for the past five months.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You will not be surprised to know that there is a partisan disagreement as to who is not being bipartisan, so it is you know, the Democrats say they don't want to -- all they want to do is kill this bill, and the Republicans saying we weren't even in on putting these bills together. Not on the House side, certainly not invited to the White House.

Does the public care? I want to take a look at these new (INAUDIBLE) poll coming up, which I think are really interesting. And the question was how important is support for both parties for a health care plan? Seventy-nine percent of Americans said it was important. Only 20 percent said it wasn't important. Now take a look at this.

If the president is unable to win Republican support, what should he and Congress do? Only 28 percent said pass the bill anyway. Sixty-six percent said keep trying. And here's the problem. The White House looking at this -- they're always priorities. Bipartisanship takes second place to getting something done.

The president has signaled that, because their calculation is if a Democratic White House, a Democratic Congress cannot come up with something on health care in 2010, the voters are not going to like that. So number one is getting something done.

DOBBS: Getting something done despite the fact that about 79 to 20 percent of the American public says this better be bipartisan.

CROWLEY: Yes, in a word.


DOBBS: Well that's very courageous on the part of the administration. Jessica Yellin joining us -- the White House is selling this plan as what they hope will be a big game changer in the debate. Are we going to hear specifics as the president promised or will there just be more rhetoric and defiance if you will? JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the most important thing we have to listen for, Lou, is how specific he is about cost cutting measures, how to pay for this, will this be deficit neutral or how he'll get it to deficit neutrality. He has been adamant that he is going to be more specific tonight that -- and that's the key to making this a game changer and if we hear more of the same, what we have seen in these excerpts so far, seems to be a lot of more of the same.

If we see that, he is not going to get the progress he wants from this speech. And I really think that's what we should all be listening for. Ed Henry has pointed out this is the first time Obama refers to this, the president, as my plan or the plan, my bill, what will his bill cost, how will he get there?

DOBBS: His plan -- he's quite -- he's quite accommodating of the first person reference, is he not, when he embraces this plan, it's a plan that now what just about six weeks after his imposed deadline of August 1st for Congress, we still don't have any specifics.

YELLIN: We don't know what his plan is, let's listen, we'll hear it. I mean the president tonight for the first time...


YELLIN: ... will be laying out his -- well we'll hear how specific he gets.

DOBBS: Well Dana Bash, last night you reported here on the health care plan in the Senate that would fine people and families for not having health care coverage as part of the Democratic plan. Anything new on that tonight?

BASH: In fact there is, one of the things that the Republican, the key Republican in those negotiations in the Senate said to Max Baucus, the chairman, is that he has a problem with that. This is Charles Grassley -- I'm told from a source close to the negotiations that he made it very clear in writing this morning that doing things like fining a family of four, making $66,000 a year, $3,800, that's not going to fly, so he wants to completely change the so-called individual mandate, the requirement that everybody in America have health insurance and if not, at least people making enough money will be fined. That is something that I think we're going to see as a big flash point in the coming days.

DOBBS: There are no -- there's no lacking of flash points in this debate, discussion and what we presume will be proposals. The Associated Press poll today -- Candy brought a poll, so let's follow her lead, showing the president's disapproval rating on health care up nine points since July when the health care debate really began to heat up.

Candy, it's obvious. The American people are getting frustrated. They're getting annoyed. They're desperate for specifics, far more desperate for an honest discussion here, which apparently they don't feel they're getting. What's going on? CROWLEY: Well I think one of the things has been that the president, at least from the White House point of view, the president really lost control of this debate sometime around the time of the first town hall meeting and they feel, and you will hear him say tonight that people have distorted what's out there. So I think there is a lot of confusion among Americans about, well wait a second, what is in this bill?

And when you say that I get to keep my insurance, you mean no matter what? What if my employer opts into a public option, then what happens to me? So there's so many moving parts of this, it's so big, that what the White House feels is that Americans just don't know what's in it otherwise they'd really support it and what Republicans think is they do know what's in it and they don't support it.

DOBBS: You know there's got to be some considerable concern on the part of the American people that a government would propose to run health care in this country when an administration can't even manage the language surrounding a proposal to run that health care system. Ed Henry, how desperate is this president?

We're hearing new language. We're hearing game changer. We started to hear that through the summer. We have seen no game changers to this point. This used to be called a Hail Mary, it's been supplanted by game changer. Will -- is the administration a little nervous about what the president has done in terms of expectations and what must be accomplished here tonight.

HENRY: Well I think they're concerned. I mean when you were talking a moment ago about the first person references in my plan, this president is taking ownership of this at a critical moment. I mean I spoke to aides today who said that after spending much of the weekend at Camp David working on this speech himself, handwritten notes, et cetera, late last night. He was up in the White House residence working on it again, brought new notes down to the Oval Office, gave it to his aides, said rework it.

My colleague John King reporting that on Air Force One on the way back from the Cronkite Memorial Service today, the president again was reworking it. So he's taking ownership here because let's remember, going back to the campaign, he has very strong media skills, very salesman -- good salesmanship skills but they haven't really been on display during this health care fight. He has been caught flat footed. As Candy was saying before about not being able to push back on some...


DOBBS: Ed, I'm sorry to interrupt. You said not on display, this man has been on television every single day for the past month talking about health care.

HENRY: On display, but not necessarily to the liking of this White House in terms of the high quality of salesmanship we saw in the campaign. I mean even his critics on the Republican side acknowledged in the campaign that he was a good salesman, that he was an effective communicator. Those skills while he -- yeah, he's been on the tube, but he has not really made the sale here.


HENRY: He's got to do it.

DOBBS: Yeah -- well apparently, that will be his job tonight. We'll see how he does. Ed, thank you very much. Dana, thank you so much. Jessica, Candy, we'll have the president's address to the joint session of Congress coming up this hour.

Our special live coverage will be followed by thorough, complete analysis and a Republican response -- all of that coming up here on CNN tonight.

In other news, all 112 passengers and crew members aboard a hijacked Mexican jetliner are safe tonight and the lone suspected hijacker is in custody. The Aero Mexico Boeing 737 landed at Mexico's -- Mexico City's airport this afternoon after it was hijacked in Cancun.

A Mexican official said the hijacker was a Bolivian religious fanatic who claimed to have a bomb, demanded to speak with Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon. The hijacker released all of the passengers shortly before police stormed the aircraft, no explosives were found, there were no injuries, the hijacker in custody.

In this country police and federal agents in South Florida today arrested at least six former workers of the left wing activist group ACORN, five more are now being sought. They were charged with voter registration fraud, authorities uncovering almost 900 fraudulent registration from the 2008 election among the 1,400 submitted by ACORN workers in Homestead, Florida -- ACORN under investigation in at least 10 states across the country now over voter registration fraud.

Up next, much more on the president's speech upcoming to Congress and the game changer the White House is looking for. Leading members of Congress aren't betting on it, how about you? We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Within the hour we'll be bringing you the president's address to a joint session of Congress; we'll be providing details of his health care proposals as will he. Americans across the country this summer have been making their voices heard on this issue. Thousands of constituents attending town hall meetings in what was highly charged debates often. Casey Wian has our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Blood on the street, a fitting symbol of the national debate over health care. Last week a 65-year-old opponent of President Obama's plan had the tip of his pinky finger bitten off at a southern California vigil after he punched a supporter of a government-funded health care option.

SCOTT Bush, WITNESS TO FIGHT: 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.

WIAN: Scott Bush was there, found the severed finger and called 911.

911 OPERATOR: Is anyone hurt?

BUSH: A gentleman's finger has been bitten off and I have the finger wrapped up in a napkin.

WIAN: Sheriff's deputies are still searching for the unidentified suspect shown here. At the same time, many Americans are still searching for answers from the president and their lawmakers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm angry. I'm an American citizen. I'm a voter. I'm a taxpayer. I'm sick of the lies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is more about taking power and control than it is about health care. It's only the first step to socialism.

WIAN: The debate is raging on YouTube.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to vote the way the people want, the people who elected you? Are you going to vote their voice or are you going to vote how Obama wants you to vote?

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I'm going to vote the way I want to vote. Let me tell you how I decide how I vote. I use my independent judgment.

WIAN: Some senators were able to calmly explain their positions to opponents. Others refused to abide, anger gone overboard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy as Obama has...

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: When you ask me that question, I'm going to revert to my ethnic heritage and answer your question with a question. On what planet do you spend most of your time? It is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated.

WIAN: Several lawmakers lost control of discussions about the president's still not fully defined plan.

REP. DAVID SCOTT (D), GEORGIA: Not a single one of you had the decency to call my office and set up for a meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my town hall meeting and I set the rules.

WIAN: Here Indiana Democrat Baron Hill responds to a student journalist's request to videotape the event.

REP. BARON HILL (D), INDIANA: You're not going to tell me how to run my congressional office. Now the reason why I don't allow filming is because usually the films that are done end up on YouTube in a compromising position.

WIAN: And a compromising position is exactly where President Obama's health care overhaul sits as he prepares to deliver his make or break speech.


WIAN: As one Democratic lawmaker put it today, up to now, the messaging from the White House has been done by Cybil (ph), referring to the movie character with multiple personalities. It may take all of the president's personality and then some to engineer a successful resolution to this very intense debate -- Lou.

DOBBS: And Casey, you have a follow-up on your report last night about the growth of labor unions in California, far exceeding the national -- the national instance in every case.

WIAN: Yeah, that's right, Lou. Last night we reported on the increase in union membership across the country and particularly here in California, one of the reasons private sector jobs which are largely nonunion have disappeared. At the same time, highly unionized government jobs have remained stable...


DOBBS: Wait, wait, let's go back to that...


DOBBS: Excuse me, Casey -- let's go back to that number.

WIAN: Sure.

DOBBS: That is amazing. If we could put that up please, Chris Valenti (ph), 57 percent of the government jobs...

WIAN: That's right.

DOBBS: ... are union jobs in the state of California, nearly 60 percent.

WIAN: Absolutely, nearly 60 percent, 57 percent of the public sector employees in California belong to a labor union. You compare that with just 37 percent of government employees nationally.

DOBBS: Did you say just?


DOBBS: Did you say just 40 percent of the jobs...

WIAN: Just...

DOBBS: I mean we're talking about government jobs here for crying out loud. This is crazy.

WIAN: Absolutely.

DOBBS: Compare that if you will to the private sector.

WIAN: The private sector in California still a bigger percentage, 10.6 percent of the jobs are unionized, nationally the figure is 7.5 percent, which of course explains why California has such a high rate of unionization compared to the nation as a whole. Again, those government jobs haven't disappeared at the same rate as jobs in the private sector and those government jobs are highly unionized.

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

Well to hear my thoughts about that and a lot of the other issues including of course the health care debate join me on the radio Monday through Friday for "The Lou Dobbs Show". Go to to get the local listings in your area for "The Lou Dobbs Show", our radio 710 WOR in New York. Go to and subscribe to our daily Podcast, that's

And on today's broadcast I talked about the health care overhaul, talking with Senator Judd Gregg about what it will take for the Republicans to be persuaded to move forward on any health care proposal. Hear that entire interview and a lot more subscribe to our Podcast at And follow me on loudobbsnews on

Up next, here it's billed as a key legislative speech of his presidency, all seven months of it. A preview of the president's health care so-called game changer in tonight's political round table.

And should the plan include a government-run health care option -- the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight. That's next.


ANNOUNCER: Here again, Mr. Independent, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Welcome back. The government-run option, one of the most divisive components of the president's health care proposals. Supporters say it would keep insurance companies honest. Opponents however say what the country needs is health insurance reform not a public option.

Joining me now two of the leading elements of this debate. Michael Tuffin is the executive vice president of America's Health Insurance Plans, the group representing 1,300 insurance companies covering more than 200 million Americans. That gives you a pretty fair sample of the folks they're representing. Michael says the public option would dismantle employer coverage. Good to have you with us.

And Michael Raynor, he is the president of the Workers United Service Employees International Union. He says the public option is the only way to make certain everyone has health care coverage. Good to have you both with us. I'm going to start, if I may, Mr. Tuffin with you. Can the president -- is there anything he can say tonight to convince you that health care legislation is appropriate this year right now?

MICHAEL TUFFIN, AMERICA'S HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS: Oh, yes, it is appropriate, it's needed right now, and we're squarely behind that. Costs are rising too much. We have got 47 million uninsured, quality is inconsistent. We need health care reform. We support health care reform.

DOBBS: What can he say to get your support?

TUFFIN: Well what he can say to get our support and the American people's support is one we're going to get serious about cost containment. And I think Bruce would agree we've worked with SEIU on cost containment. If we don't do something about costs, frankly these other issues won't even matter because the system won't be affordable for anybody.

So that's one -- two, let's get everybody covered. Let's fix the insurance market. Let's make preexisting conditions a thing of the past and make sure everyone has a path to guaranteed coverage.

DOBBS: Well it sounds like you guys are an absolute -- 1,300 insurance companies and the Service Employee's Union, it sounds like we just made a deal, doesn't it?

BRUCE RAYNOR, WORKERS UNITED, SEIU: Well we did, except we didn't finish the deal, we have to include a public option, Lou, so that we can keep these insurance companies honest. Remember these companies, in most markets, there's only one or two of them control the market, they're the ones that raise the cost.

And they're the ones that are leading the campaign to stop the public option. A public option will keep the insurance costs down, and make this program affordable. We have to have insurance not only for all the people that have it now, which the president's program will continue what they have now, both active and retired people, we need to cover the 50 million people that have no health insurance and all of those that are losing their insurance, 44,000 a week are losing their health care because they're losing their jobs.

DOBBS: I don't want to digress, but both of you used the number, 46 million, Michael you -- was the number you used uncovered by -- not covered by health care insurance. You just used 50 million.


DOBBS: You know as we have looked at those numbers, the number approaches as best as we can determine, something around 20 maybe at the top 30 million. I don't understand why there's this hyperbole on these numbers because within that are all sorts of distortions. We have some real issues here, but both sides of the debate have started talking about 50 million folks.

RAYNOR: I think the -- Lou, I think 50 million is the right number, I think there's 50 million Americans today that have no health insurance, families that have to make a choice between putting gas in their car or food on the table and getting -- going to the doctor, taking a child to a doctor.


RAYNOR: ... richest country, we can do better than that.

DOBBS: So Michael Tuffin, what in the world are your insurance companies doing? Why aren't you doing better for the American people?

TUFFIN: Well we are and what we have proposed is a way to get all those people covered, whether it's 25 million kind of the hard core uninsured or the 47 or so million who may be uninsured at this particular time. We proposed a way -- no more preexisting conditions, get everyone covered. No more basing premiums on health status...

DOBBS: Yeah, but you guys could do that on your own, you don't even need a president, a Congress or anybody else, you guys could do that yourselves.

TUFFIN: Well -- Lou, to do that we need everybody in the system. And the problem right now is we have a system in the individual market, in which people buy insurance when they need it. They buy insurance when they anticipate being sick. And because of that, that locks some people out of the system because there has to be an assessment of risk.

If we get everybody in, that all goes away. There's no preexisting conditions. There's no cancellations of policies, and there's a way to do this, we have got 250 million, maybe 275 million, depending on the statistics, who have health insurance. We should build on the system that's in place...


TUFFIN: ... rather than turn the whole system over to Washington.

RAYNOR: But Mike, the system now is a job-based system, you lose your job, you lose your insurance. And one of the things we need is a way for those people to get affordable health insurance that covers them not only for when they're sick...


RAYNOR: ... preventative health care which will keep them well and save money.


TUFFIN: That's right.


TUFFIN: That's what health plans do and what government programs don't do. As important as Medicare and Medicaid are, they don't do disease management. They don't work on prevention and wellness. Private health plans do. RAYNOR: Medicare has been a proven success. It's enormously popular. It's enormously successful. It's even cost effective as is veterans' health care. Those are the best examples of successful health care systems. What we need is a government option so that the insurance companies will be forced to keep their rates down. The insurance companies are funding an effort to stop the government option. It's because it will hurt their profits. I have no problem with them making profits. We need a system that's affordable for the country and for working Americans.

DOBBS: I think that would be sporting that you have no problem with profits. But the idea here is also that you have a bit of a problem because we have lost 30 million jobs in this country. We have got a president talking about health care, our number is 20 million to 30 million people without health care insurance, we have got 30 million people unemployed without prospect of re-employment as you well know. And we're one step closer to those people having no health insurance.

RAYNOR: Not only if you have a job in this country, many of those 50 million people who have no health care are also working full- time. It's just because their employers don't provide health care. That's a reality in America today, and the president will solve that problem, making it mandatory for providing health care as an employer or get the government to do it.

DOBBS: Michael, you're going to get the last word here. Representing 1300 insurance companies, the president's disapproval on his handling of health care has risen above 50 percent. People don't like you insurance companies at all, they're not too thrilled with the unions east if. What happens tonight?

TUFFIN: Hopefully tonight the president brings the country together by focusing on areas of consensus. 80 percent of what's been proposed is agreed on by everybody in this process. The government plan is a road block to reform, it's divisive it pushes people apart.

DOBBS: You get the last word.

RAYNOR: A government option will be presented by the president of the United States. We're going to have health care reform this year, America wants it and we're going to do it.

DOBBS: All right, we'll see what happens. Up next, the president trying to sell that health care plan to congress and the American people, or is it one last time or is it simply too little, too late? We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Well, the president's motorcade on its way to Capitol Hill for his speech, the president's speech, there you see those flashing lights. As the president is getting ready to address the joint session of Congress, putting forward, we are told what will be some specifics on his health care plan. To assess that four of the best political analysts in the country, our D.C. bureau Republican strategist, Rich Galen, good to have you with us Rich; here in New York with me, Republican strategist CNN contributor Ed Rollins, also former white house political director under President Reagan, democratic strategist, CNN contributor Robert Zimmerman and Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Hank Sheinkopf. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics, as the president to say, some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise and out of this blizzard of charges and counter charges, confusion has reigned. What's your reaction to that?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's about time he put the facts out there and got in his face.

DOBBS: But he won't name any names.

ZIMMERMAN: But as he said he I'm call them out. This is a last chance President Obama is going to have to speak to a national audience and to rally them. And his adoption of a bipartisan theme is going to be very important for Democrats from moderate and conservative districts.

DOBBS: What about the Democratic strategist here, Hank Sheinkopf, bipartisan according to John Bahr he hasn't even invited a Republican in the White House for the past five months. The DNC has an ad out right now for the Republicans and seniors. Can we really continue to watch this suggestion that there is a bipartisan possibility here?

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's absurd to assume there's bipartisanship. What we do is the midterm congressional elections going on right now, and if he doesn't get the meat off the bones, Democrats are going to have a problem on the midterm elections.

ZIMMERMAN: Let's also point out for the record, the Democratic congress has adopted 160 amendments from Republicans members of congress.


ZIMMERMAN: One dealing with employer flexibility when it came to health care benefits. Removal of the death panels. There have been a number of amendments focusing on employer flexibilities, focusing on incentives for individuals.

DOBBS: You better get in here before they wear you out.

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: My friend Ed Rollins taught me when I was just a lad that if you -- principles in politics is if you don't define yourself or your issue, your opponent will do it for you. The president should have been giving this speech eight weeks ago, he didn't do it and the opponents have defied the issue. And at this point it is as H.R. holder man used to use, TL squared, too little, too late. He'll probably give a good speech. There may even be a bump. To Hank's point, these members have to go home and start running for re-election. a lot of them are in behaviorally Republican districts and they are not going to vote for a public option. DOBBS: In support of what Rich Galen just said, Ed, we saw Mike Ross, a congressman from Arkansas, leader of the blue dog Democrats, a conservative group of Democrats, come back and say, I don't care about you guys, I'm done with the public option. Because he listened to his constituents and he can't take the heat.

ROLLINS: If the president wants to be really honest, he's going to say to the American public, is that when this thing is done, it's going to be good, we're going to cover a lot of people that aren't insured. But Americans are going to pay more for their health insurance and they're going to get less. But the public option is this, the public option is that taxpayer are going to put $2 billion into the public option. They're going to pay 5 percent more than Medicare. Medicare now pays 20 percent more than insurance companies so it means that doctors and hospitals and health care providers are going to get far less money. That sets a system up in which obviously the payments are lower, they don't have to pay federal and state taxes and at the end of the day, they're going to put insurance companies out of business. Putting businesses out of business is not good for the economy.

SHEINKOPF: Insurance companies, we don't have to hold any benefits for the insurance industry, they have done very well under Republican dominated presidencies and congress. What we need is a health insurance -- the Democrats have not been in power as long, let me be clear about that, Lou, over the last 20 years. Put it in context, they're going to do well again, but we need some way to insure people who are not insured to cut costs. That's not the issue as far as I'm concerned politically. The question is what are the Democrats going to do to stay alive.

ZIMMERMAN: You raise a lot of very invalid points that have to be debated and analyzes. The one unacceptable path to take as an individual paying for insurance is letting the present system continue because it's unaffordable.

DOBBS: You say it's unacceptable, but we have seen the unacceptable from 1993 on when Clinton proposed a crisis response called the health security act of 1993. But what I would like to get to is, can the president say anything, will he say anything tonight in your judgment about capping malpractice suits? Will he talk about tort reform? Will he get down to where the rubber meets the road in the political phrase and make something happen here? Or is this going to be rhetoric?

ZIMMERMAN: Well, if it's rhetoric, the speech is not going to succeed.

DOBBS: Tort reform?

ZIMMERMAN: I'm hoping he includes tort reform.

SHEINKOPF: The Democratic lawyers need that money for trial lawyers to stay alive.

ROLLINS: No details. GALEN: I think what we're going to get is Obama going Obama which he does certainly better than anybody else and certainly better than any other candidate last time. But the president is going to try to sound like he's being bipartisan and reaching out. But in the cold light of tomorrow morning, people are going to say, you know what? I'm not for it.

DOBBS: Rich, does he succeed tonight?



ROLLINS: If he gets down to bare bones, he does. If not, he doesn't.

ZIMMERMAN: We'll succeed in health care at the end of the year.

DOBBS: Coming up our president's address to the joint session of congress on health care reform. Stay with us.