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Lou Dobbs Tonight

A Chicago Stunner; Obama Backlash; Green Jobs?; Swine Flu; Letterman Bombshell

Aired October 02, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Thank you, Wolf.

A resounding defeat for the president and first lady and a big blow to Chicago -- the 2016 Olympics not going to Chicago -- was it worth the risk of so much presidential prestige?

Also employers cutting hundreds of thousands of jobs -- the unemployment rate hitting a 26-year high. Is this what you call a recovery? And where is all of that stimulus money?

New details tonight of the alleged blackmail plot against David Letterman -- will his audience abandon him? Should CBS abandon him? My favorite political and media analysts will have their say on all of that.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT; news, debate and analysis for Friday, October 2nd. Live from New York, Mr. Independent Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

An embarrassing defeat for President Obama -- the International Olympic Committee summarily rejecting Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. Four years, more than $100 million, and the president's prestige, none of it mattered in the end. Now the questions are what went wrong, was it worth the political risk by the president? Ed Henry has our report.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president burned tons of jet fuel and political capital to fly seven hours to Copenhagen, and offer his grand vision for America hosting the 2016 Olympics.

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The nation that has been shaped by people from around the world wants a chance to inspire it once more.

HENRY: But then came Chicago's less-than-inspiring finish.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The city of Chicago, having obtained the least number of votes, will not participate in the next round.

HENRY: A sharp blow delivered by the International Olympic Committee while the president was still midair on his way back to Washington.

OBAMA: Although I wish that we had come back with better news from Copenhagen, I could not be prouder of my hometown of Chicago.

HENRY: A turn of events that left the president's senior adviser, David Axelrod, struggling to explain what happened to his clout on the international stage.

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I don't view this as a repudiation of the president or -- or the first lady. I think that they're politics everywhere, and there are politics inside that room.

HENRY: But it's hard not to see it as a rebuke, especially after the emotional pitch from first lady, Michelle Obama. Her voice cracking as she recounted her late father's struggle with multiple sclerosis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dad was my hero. And when I think of what these games can mean to people all over the world, I think about people like my dad, people who face seemingly insurmountable challenges, but never let go.

HENRY: And the Olympic defeat is hardly the only challenge for the president, even before he left Copenhagen, Mr. Obama met aboard Air Force One with General Stanley McChrystal, huddling on how to deal with the deteriorating war in Afghanistan, and upon his arrival back at the White House, the president was grappling with more bad news Friday. Unemployment rose to 9.8 percent.

OBAMA: Today's job report is a sobering reminder that progress comes in fits and starts.

HENRY (on camera): Top White House aides are confident the stimulus is working and will turn the jobs picture around early next year, but that's still far from a certainty, and the president is still facing an uphill struggle in his push for health reform. A loss in that battle would be far more devastating than the defeat here in Copenhagen. Lou?


DOBBS: Ed Henry, reporting from Copenhagen.

Thousands of people turning out in Chicago's Daley Square (ph) this afternoon expecting to be receiving good news from Copenhagen -- only stunned instead when news broke that the city had lost and Rio de Janeiro had won. The local and national media seemed even more surprised than Chicagoans by the decision. Here's just a sample of the reactions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we going to get an announcement now? We've got someone running. Let's have a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The city of Chicago, having obtained the least number of votes, will not participate in the next round.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chicago is out? Chicago is out? Madrid is still in? Tokyo is still in? Wait a minute. Chicago is out? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did I just...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did we hear that right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pandemonium here in the -- in the broadcast center here. Mike (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You heard it, though, it was difficult and shocking -- Chicago, eliminated, in the first round of voting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the first round and that absolutely flies in the face of every prediction that we heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the announcement came through, there was almost momentary confusion to say -- you know, somebody leaned over to me and say, did they just eliminate Chicago? Dumbfounded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Stephanopoulos, this is a real sort of I guess kind of kick in the pants for the president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He went over there believing that his appearance would sort of seal the deal for Chicago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just stunning, Charlie.


DOBBS: Well, stunning or not, many memorable news headlines today, describing the president's failure to win those games for the city of Chicago. There was, of course, "no, you can't", and "the world rejects Obama". But the one that stood out the best, courtesy of "The Drudge Report." "The Ego Has Landed."

We'll have a lot more on the political fallout over the Olympic failure. There could be more problems on the horizon for the president's party. Democrats across the country tonight concerned about a possible Obama backlash. Political observers watching two close statehouse contests -- they're looking for any sign that the voters who helped put the president in the White House may be already looking for change. Lisa Sylvester reports.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The race is close, and Democrats have been making gains, but Republican candidate Robert McDonald (ph) is still edging out his Democratic opponent, Cray Deese (ph), in the race for Virginia governor. In New Jersey, a similar scenario where Republican Chris Christie (ph) remains ahead of Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine (ph). This time, Republicans are the ones saying it's time for change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never been that active as far as politics, but this is the first time that I've ever in my 54 years come down here and made phone calls for a candidate. SYLVESTER: The two elections a month away are being watched closely by political analysts who say they could foreshadow next year's midterm elections. Alex Castellanos is a Republican political consultant.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There's a populist revolt that's beginning to develop in the country against the "Washington knows best" attitude that the Obama administration has. So, I think if that populist revolt, if we see it catch hold in Virginia, it could spread across the country in 2010.

SYLVESTER: President Obama's approval rating is above the midpoint mark at 55 percent, but that's down six percent since June. Last month, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Washington, objecting to the recent bailouts of Wall Street and auto companies, the rising government debt, and congressional health care proposals.

Dave Wasserman with the nonpartisan "Cook Political Report" says Democrats can prevent a repeat of the 1994 Republican revolution where the GOP took over both the House and Senate from Democrats during the Clinton presidency, but to do so, Democrats have to win back some of the swing voters they've lost.

DAVE WASSERMAN, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Democrats have to focus on independents and seniors, because they've seen slippage in both categories. And Democrats need to convince seniors that their plans on health care are not going to adversely affect existing benefits.

SYLVESTER: According to a recent CNN/Opinion Research poll, 54 percent of those over 65 years old oppose the Obama health care plan, while 52 percent of independents disapprove of the way President Obama is handling the economy.

SYLVESTER (on camera): There's a lot that could happen between now and next year's midterm elections -- what happens to the economy, on health care, Afghanistan, all major factors. Even still, Republicans do see an opportunity here. Representative Eric Cantor (ph), the number two Republican in the House, saying optimistically that he believes the GOP could pick up 40 seats next year -- the number they would need to take the majority.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.


DOBBS: Up next, how badly will the president's Olympic defeat hurt him politically? We'll be talking about that with our panel.

And David Letterman, back on the air tonight -- his alleged blackmailer out on bond. The details of the story read like a bad crime novel. What will CBS do, if anything? Is Mr. Letterman the only victim here and unemployment numbers moving in the wrong direction at a 26-year high, and a massive economic stimulus package yet to demonstrate its power.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DOBBS: Employers last month cut 263,000 jobs -- that September number higher than expected. The unemployment rate moved up to 9.8 percent, which is a 26-year high.

And as we reported earlier in the week, the Obama administration has promised to create millions of new so-called green jobs, but critics remain skeptical of those claims -- the White House now responding to those skeptics -- Casey Wian with our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama's passion for green jobs has been clear since early in his presidential campaign.

OBAMA: I will invest $150 billion over the next decade to establish a green energy sector, creating five million new jobs.

WIAN: Already the White House has committed $80 billion in federal stimulus money to what it calls clean energy jobs. Supporters say that's created hundreds of thousands of jobs.

KATE GORDON, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: This country is bleeding jobs. We've been bleeding jobs for a few years. We had a huge financial crisis. We need to step up and become leaders in the industries of the future, and it's very clear that those are clean energy and efficiency industries.

WIAN: But a university study sponsored by a think tank with links to oil and gas companies says the potential for green jobs is being overstated. In part because they are ill defined, don't pay as well and create too many non productive bureaucratic jobs.

ANDREW MORRIS, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS: Before we make tens of billions of dollars of borrowed money and bet that on some unproven technologies, we really ought to do the same kind of due diligence on those investments that we hoped that people were doing on Wall Street before the financial crisis.

WIAN: An Obama administration official responded by saying, "these special interest reports attempt to fog the reality that we should seize the opportunity and take full advantage of American ingenuity, resources, and skills of the American worker to ensure that the United States doesn't lose out on the global race for clean energy jobs and technology", which brings up another criticism, that the United States is losing its competitive advantage in green energy manufacturing, especially to China, which has admitted selling solar panels here below cost to gain market share.


WIAN: The United States has imposed a 2.5 percent tariff on imported solar panels. The U.S. Business and Industry Council which represents American manufacturers says that's not nearly a big enough tariff to prevent China and other countries from dumping solar panels on to the U.S. market, Lou. DOBBS: Well, it's -- it's sort of an extraordinary instance of protectionism on the part of the -- of the administration in precisely an area where they wanted to see advancement. I'm not sure that that makes competitive sense even, but going to the issue of maintaining, as you put it, the competitive edge and advantage that we have on green -- green manufacturing, aren't we still dependent on foreign producers, whether in Europe or Asia, for most green technology in this country?

WIAN: We're becoming more and more dependent on those foreign sources of solar panels and other technology every single day. Other countries are aggressively setting up companies in the United States to take advantage of some of these government incentives to develop green jobs, and they're also U.S. companies beginning to ship jobs overseas, as we've seen with other industries...


WIAN: ... and supporters of the green energy movement say that that's OK because we're still going to have installation and maintenance jobs here, but those jobs don't pay as well as the manufacturing jobs, Lou.

DOBBS: Yeah, I think perhaps might be a good time to point out the unemployment rate in this country has just risen to 9.8 percent. Thank you very much, Casey. Casey Wian.

Well I'll have a few thoughts about the so-called green jobs, the economy, the unemployment rate and what is happening with off-shoring and outsourcing in the green sectors of this economy. 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 radio in New York and go to to get the local listings in your area for the show and to subscribe please to our daily Podcast. Among my guests Monday will be Bill Maher, the host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher." And you can follow me on loudobbsnews on Please do.

Coming up next an extortion attempt leads to David Letterman's shocking admissions that he had sex with women on his staff. Could that lead to legal trouble for Letterman himself? We'll be talking about that with a distinguished panel of media and legal analysts and a new warning tonight about swine flu and pregnant women.


DOBBS: The swine flu is now widespread in the United States and alarming news tonight from the Centers for Disease Control. Among the groups most at risk now are pregnant women, 28 women have died so far from the swine flu. Even though the number of cases is rising, there is still no vaccine -- Kitty Pilgrim with our report.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For pregnant women flu season can be deadly, and swine flu vaccine is not yet available. The CDC says the first shipments of the vaccines should be going to some states early next week. But that will only be the nasal spray version. And the spray cannot be used on pregnant women because it contains a live vaccine. Pregnant women will have to wait for the flu injection, and it may be several more weeks before that is available.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty-eight pregnant women in the U.S. have died so far from the H1N1 influenza. These are really upsetting numbers I know.

PILGRIM: Dr. Jacques Moritz is the director of Gynecology at Roosevelt Hospital in New York. He was shocked by the death rate for pregnant women and is urging all his patients to get the swine flu vaccine as soon as it is available.

DR. JACQUES MORITZ, ROOSEVELT HOSPITAL: It looks like H1N1 or the swine behaves differently in pregnant women. It makes kind of sense because of the immune system. The immune system in pregnant women is very depressed. We were very, very surprised with that death rate, because we don't have women dying in pregnancy.

We're dealing with young, healthy women that are pregnant. That's what we deal with as obstetricians, so to hear that, first of all, 100 people with flu had to be hospitalized in an intensive care and 28 of them died? That's a huge number.

PILGRIM: Another startling admission -- scientists at the CDC reviewed autopsy reports from 77 fatal cases of swine flu and found about a third of those deaths had also traces of pneumonia. So, now the CDC is recommending that people at high medical risk also get a pneumonia vaccine. That means some people will be taking three vaccines this fall.


PILGRIM: Now the largest manufacturer of seasonal flu vaccine for the U.S. market is Sanofi Pasteur (ph) and they say they are behind schedule making the seasonal flu vaccine because they had to produce swine flu vaccine at the same time. So, the CDC is recommending that people who have chronic conditions, who are pregnant or at risk of having bad complications from flu should be treated promptly with antiviral medication like TamiFlu if they become ill because the vaccines are just not there.

DOBBS: This is very troubling and it is as we feared last spring that there are delays in the delivery of these vaccines. There's great uncertainty. On top of this we have health workers from New York State, all across the country, saying they're not going to be -- permit themselves to be forced to take these vaccines, so there are great questions about that. This is not the health care situation that anyone had hoped would occur.

PILGRIM: Certainly not and you know once you get the vaccine, it does take almost a full week for your immune system to actually -- for it to take. So, you have another week to add on to any delivery date.

DOBBS: So, we have the inhalant...

PILGRIM: Right. DOBBS: ... vaccine that is available...

PILGRIM: That will be coming Tuesday...

DOBBS: ... beginning to be available Tuesday.


DOBBS: The...

PILGRIM: Injection.

DOBBS: Injection vaccines.


DOBBS: They said a few weeks, but that sounds very amorphous in the way...


DOBBS: ... of a timeline. So, no one is really very certain.

PILGRIM: the CDC has -- the CDC has a press conference every week to sort of update you on how soon everything's going to come on stream and they really said a couple of more weeks.

DOBBS: And seasonal flu vaccines have -- they must have been affected in this as well.

PILGRIM: Yes. Because the -- the companies were stretched trying to make two vaccines at once, so they're disrupt -- the supplies are disrupted, but they will be available generally.

DOBBS: Again, generally.

PILGRIM: There may be shortages.

DOBBS: Yeah, so I mean that's what we're really talking about.


DOBBS: No matter what we're being told right now by the various agencies, the CDC or the NIH -- Kitty, thank you very much for keeping us up-to-date. Very -- that is very troubling about pregnant women. Is there any counsel for pregnant women here to protect themselves?

PILGRIM: Well, we spoke to the doctor. He said basically, you know, stay out of big crowds and try to stay out of the range of it and then the second you can get it, do get the vaccine, because it is absolutely critical.

DOBBS: And, of course, most pregnant women are working and are involved in the same crowds as the general population.

PILGRIM: Yeah. DOBBS: All right, Kitty, thank you very much.

Well, coming up next we'll have much more on the political ramifications of the president's unprecedented bid and rebuff for the 2016 Olympics. What price will he pay?

And now that David Letterman has admitted to having sex with his female staffers, what will be the price he pays? Stay with us.


ANNOUNCER: Here again Mr. Independent Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: CBS News producer Robert Halderman (ph) is out of jail on $200,000 bail tonight after he pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree attempted grand larceny. His target, of course, "Late Show" host David Letterman.

Letterman revealed the blackmail attempt to his audience last night in the process admitting he had sex with women who worked for him. In some companies that's called sexual harassment, which could mean difficult legal problems for Letterman. Brian Todd has our report.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He dropped a bombshell on his "Late Show" on CBS.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, CBS "LATE SHOW": What you don't want is a guy saying, I know he had sex with women, so I would like $2 million or I'm going to make trouble for you.

TODD: Robert Joe Halderman (ph), a producer for CBS' "48 Hours" has been arrested and charged with attempted extortion. He pleaded not guilty, but could David Letterman himself also be in trouble?

LETTERMAN: I have had sex with women who work for me on this show.

TODD: What does the law say about workplace trysts?

DEBORAH KATZ, SEXUAL HARASSMENT ATTORNEY: The question is whether the romances were unwelcome to the women he was having them with. If there was a consensual relationship, then he's not in legal trouble for sexual harassment. It's poor judgment undoubtedly, but not legal trouble.

TODD: To date, no claims have been publicly made regarding Letterman by any employee. Indeed he recently married a former employee of the show. But a psychologist gives this warning.

JEFFREY GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Even if these women said, OK I want to be involved with you, David. The fact is that he is a powerful person. He is the boss and maybe even subconsciously...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. GARDERE: ... they're giving in to sexual advances because it could be a quid pro quo situation or a situation where they may feel that if I don't do this, then I won't be able to move up in the ranks, so it's not healthy.

TODD (on camera): Deborah Katz (ph) says CBS or Letterman's Production Company could undertake internal investigations into the show's workplace environment. When we asked about that, a CBS spokesman declined to comment. A spokesperson for Letterman's company said it has a written policy on harassment and that David Letterman did not violate it. Lou?


DOBBS: All right, Brian, thank you very much -- Brian Todd reporting.

Joining me now, Joe Levy (ph), he is the editor in chief of "Maxim" magazine -- great to have you with us.


DOBBS: "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" host A.J. Hammer -- good to have you -- and from Los Angeles our legal analyst Lisa Bloom -- great to have you with us, Lisa. Let's start with...


DOBBS: Let's -- everybody listen to this one comment from David Letterman and the audience reaction surrounding the word "creepy" I believe.


LETTERMAN: The creepy stuff was that I have had sex with women who work for me on this show. Now, my response to that is, yes, I have.



LETTERMAN: I have had sex with women who work on this show. And -- and would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would. Perhaps it would, especially for the women.



DOBBS: Well, Joe, you're grinning. How did he handle it?

JOE LEVY, MAXIM MAGAZINE: Well, he handled it well. He's a professional comedian. Am I grinning? Yes, because he's funny and he's using comic delivery about something that isn't actually that funny. And you can see the first time he says "I did something creepy," that's the word on the show, stunned silence. He goes on and makes a joke out of it. There's laughter. And then -- and this is creepy -- applause from the audience.

On some level I think David Letterman got it right. There is something creepy here and if you watched the entire thing in context, there's a long buildup, the audience is a little confused, they think he's being funny. When they understand he's telling a true story and a disturbing one, they don't know what to do.


A.J. HAMMER, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT: Yeah, no, that's exactly what happened. And you hear them laugh at what seemed like a very inappropriate moment, Lou, and it really was because they had no idea. In fact, the folks on the CBS on the "Late Show," didn't know what was going down until we saw it going down at the same time.

DOBBS: That's amazing.

HAMMER: So, he just sprung it on everybody, which is really what he had to do, given how things leak out very easily in this business. It was only a matter of time. So, it wasn't as if he was going to walk out onstage and say: just to let you know what I'm about to tell you is a real true serious story, it's not comedy. Because it sure sounded like the buildup to a big joke. But, I think he did a remarkable job handling this.

DOBBS: Lisa, is it a problem for Letterman? Is it a conflict for CBS News? I mean, you have a CBS employee accused of extortion, attempted extortion? You have -- the victim is David Letterman, he's also, if you will, the perpetrator, given he was the one having sex with his female staff. What's going on?

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: All right, first all, full disclosure. I am a CBS News employee, as well as CNN.

DOBBS: Isn't everybody?

BLOOM: As to the defendant, that's easy, he's already been suspended. He's being prosecuted. I think CBS is probably on the road to being done with him.

As to David Letterman, it's much more difficult. I would assume that CBS is going to do a full and fair investigation of what went on, because we're talking about a number of CBS employees who have been involved, here. And in terms of the sexual harassment issues, I want to emphasize that as far as we know now, everyone was consenting adults, no one had made any kind of a claim of anything improper in the workplace.

But the reason why it is creepy, the reason why this is embarrassing to David Letterman and to any boss who has a sexual relationship with a subordinate is because there is always the possibility that this would make others in the workplace uncomfortable, that any they would fear that there were favors exchanged in exchange for sexual exchanges, that's why it's so uncomfortable, that's where there -- clearly there should be an investigation. DOBBS: Well now, it seems clear here, that given the audience reaction, at least, I mean, one can't tell from the studio reaction what the broad television audience will do, that Letterman himself is not in trouble, A.J., with his audience, at least.

HAMMER: Well, it remains to be seen. I think certainly, Lou, there are a lot of people who are going to be turned off by even the idea that there may have been impropriety, here. You know, we do now know that David Letterman was not yet married to his longtime girlfriend, Regina, when these sexual encounters with these women who worked for him took place. And who knows what kind of understanding he had with Regina...

DOBBS: Nor had his son had been born at that point?

LEVY: That's right, he wasn't married, his son yet had not been born. It's an interesting moment for Letterman who is beating the "Tonight Show" in the ratings, this should be a moment of professional triumph. He's up in the ratings on top of the ratings in this time slot for the first time in many years and I think people will be tuning in on Monday to see what will happen. I think he's convincingly took control of this moment.

HAMMER: I don't think it does him in, though, at all. I think ultimately depending on how any investigations go, I think it becomes part of his Wikipedia entry.

Well, you know...

HAMMER: It's a time before it will come down to that, but I really think it will be a footnote.

LEVY: Well, there's something else we haven't seen, yet, too, which is what happens on the other late night shows, tonight and through next week, this has got to be a topic on everybody's monologue on late night shows for a while to come, and as Jay Leno once asked Hugh Grant, what was he thinking?

DOBBS: Yeah. And the other part of it is, I mean, already one wag has said the only real victim here is Conan. Lisa, what's your reaction to that?

BLOOM: You know, I'm wondering if David Letterman is going to make jokes about himself. I think that would be very interesting to see. Look, the real victim is David Letterman. I mean, let's not forget what happened to him, according to his story. He finds an envelope in the back seat of his car, so, somebody came to his residence, got into his car, leaves an envelope that mentions his 6-year-old son and says that David Letterman has to respond within two hours, otherwise all of these embarrassing details are going to be made public.

That's a very scary thing. Who else -- what else might this person be capable of? He goes to an attorney, they set this guy up for a sting and apparently they catch him. I mean, he's presumed innocent, but the facts are surely against this alleged extortionist. I think that no matter what David Letterman did that was inappropriate in the workplace, if anything, it is clearly trumped by this extortionist plot against him which was a very scary and criminal act.

DOBBS: There would be one form of publicity, it seems, had the word just simply come out that he had been having sex with his staff members, there's almost a countervailing influence from the fact that he was also -- someone was attempting to extort him from that fact. It almost works in Letterman's favor.

LEVY: He has taken control in this situation and he has presented himself -- I don't think he's gone so far as to say I'm the victim here, but he has said: I worried about myself, I was worried about my family, I was worried about these people's lives, and understandably so. He's won sympathy. There is one important thing to say, we have not heard from a single woman involved and we are to understand there is more than one.

So, we don't actually know for certain who the real victim is, here. It may be that some of these women do not have good memories about what happened in the past. It may be that it was all consensual and everything was fine. We simply don't know the details of this thing.

HAMMER: And it will change the story entirely if people do start to come to forward now that the floodgate has been opened.

DOBBS: Joe, thank you very much, appreciate it. Lisa Bloom, thank you very much. And A.J., we'll have -- thank you, and join please, A.J., for more on the Letterman extortion scandal on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT coming up at 11:00 p.m. Eastern on HLN.

And a reminder to please 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 Radio in New York. Go to to get your local listings and to subscribe to our free daily podcast. On today's show we opened the phone lines, and you'll be able to listen to some of the best calls from the smartest audience in radio, anywhere.

We'll also, if I may, remind you to join me on Lou Dobbs News on

Coming up here next, President Obama rejected on the world stage. More than $100 million squandered on Chicago's failed bid, a huge embarrassment for the White House. Some of the best political minds in the country weigh in here, next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Join me now are four of the best political minds in the country, and some of my favorite minds, as well. Republican strategist, former political director for the White House, Ed Rollins. Ed also a CNN contributor. Joe Conason, columnist for

Good to have you with us.

Errol Louis, columnists for the "New York Daily News," CNN contributor. Mort Zuckerman, Editor in chief of "U.S. News & World Report" and publisher of the "New York Daily News."

Are you feeling pretty comfortable about right now, Errol?

ERROL LOUIS, U.S. DAILY NEWS: Oh, absolutely.

DOBBS: With the boss sitting to your left.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You notice how close he moved to me.


DOBBS: Good to have you with us. Let's start with, first, Joe, the president, for the first time, a president put the prestige of the White House on the line, went off to lobby the International Olympic Committee and was rebuffed, really very quickly. What's the reaction?

JOE CONASON, SOLAN.COM: It was a big mistake, Lou. I think it was OK to have the first lady go, along with Oprah and whoever else they wanted to send from Chicago.

DOBBS: They seemed to be doing very well.

CONASON: They were doing OK. And this is not something the President of the United States ought to be doing.


ROLLINS: I think it's a little beneath him. I don't think it would have made any difference. This was Olympic politics, which are very ferocious. But at the end of the day, what it showed me is the Chicago guys can't count very well. If they thought it was close and he was going to get the torch off, but they're used to carrying the ballot boxes in at the end, and there's no ballot boxes brought in today, so.

LOUIS: I've been to Chicago, I've been to Rio. I think they chose wisely. I think anybody could have guessed that this might have...

DOBBS: Said a diehard New Yorker.

LOUIS: As I said last night, I thought it was a mistake for him to go, I thought he would have been better off with his wife, with the vice president, with some other kind of a surrogate there, for exactly this reason. I don't agree, though, with Joe, I don't think it's a big mistake, I think it's a small mistake.

DOBBS: Mort, as we look at 25 minutes spent between President Obama and General Stanley McChrystal on Air Force One in Copenhagen, 25 minutes for the man running the war, a man who has had one meeting in a teleconference in the previous just about 75 days, there are bad signals being sent here, aren't there?

MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: There are bad signals. I mean, you know, we sort of come into the year thinking this is one of the best political operations we have ever seen, and this is one of the stupidest moves I've ever seen. I mean, the president is not a traveling salesman on this basis.

I was repeating that to a friend of mine, Bill Holiver (ph), he said, "it's death of a salesman, in that's the case."

You don't put the president in a position to risk the way he looks as a defeated salesperson. Now, with McChrystal, it's ridiculous to spend 25 minutes with him. The optics are so bad when you compare the time and the effort and everything like that, flying all the way over there, four hours, and 25 minutes with the general who we are looking to lead us either into or out of the wilderness in Afghanistan. I don't understand these guys sometimes.

ROLLINS: Another very serious sign that took place today in the sense that the Democrats voted down the Republican request to bring McChrystal to them, before the Armed Services Committee and basically are saying now, we won't do anything until after November 15.

This is a very, very long period of time not to make a decision, here. And I think we have troops at risk. You're getting into a very bad season on Afghanistan. I mean, if this is the game plan that we're going to stall this thing, beyond November 15, it's a very bad strategy.

ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think what's involved there is something very serious, which is the sense that White House people are looking, frankly, to, shall we say, dial back what McChrystal would like to do in Afghanistan, and they don't want this to become a public issue, where McChrystal might be, as we know, taking an opposite position to the president and may be forced into a position where he resigns.

CONASON: We've waited eight years to do something about Afghanistan, frankly, and the previous administration which allowed the situation to deteriorate for a long time. Now, the president is trying to figure out what to do and if he takes another month to figure it out, I think that's OK. A lot of people in the military are not upset that he's taking a while to figure this out, because it is an incredibly complicated, difficult situation and not one of his making. So, I think if he needs more time to decide exactly how to proceed, then he should take that time, he's the commander in chief.

LOUIS: You're talking about the obvious. I think they know that they're looking bad, right now. The president's schedule for next week has been released in advance, and almost every day he's going to be hunkered down at the White House, including in meetings with the National Security Team.

CONASON: As well he should be, now. As Mort said, the problem with the Olympic bid was that it cheapened the currency and that's something he can't afford, now.

DOBBS: We're going to find out how much capital has -- how much remains on the issue of health care, where are we and what can we expect in the next week? We'll be right back with our panel. Stay with us.


DOBBS: We're back with our panel.

Joe, the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Baucus, has prepared the committee for a vote and is ready to go at the beginning of next week. How will it go?

CONASON: I think they'll report out the bill that the chairman wants them to report out, which will be sent to -- ultimately to the full Senate, and then to conference, where they will have to come to an agreement with the House. The majority leader, Harry Reid, said the bill that eventually reaches the president will have a public option in it. So, we'll see if he's right.

DOBBS: So, is that a Democratic process or what is that, since two amendments with the public option, Mort, were defeated?

ZUCKERMAN: I'll tell you, maybe it will contain a public option. I think that's going to be a hell of a political fight to get it through the Senate, because Max Baucus is no dummy about counting votes in the Senate, and he says it will not pass the Senate if it contains a public option.

So, this thing is going to have to be approved by the Senate, and there is going to be -- there could be a real filibuster now, because I don't see how the Democrats will break the filibuster and the whole reconciliation bill is a very, very difficult process for them to approve the kind of health care program.

DOBBS: And, of course, even before we get to that point, we have to see how this bill coming out of committee scores and the congressional budget office will probably need another week or so to provide a number -- I love the fact that these senators are voting on measures that they don't even know what the cost is.

ZUCKERMAN: They voted against having it scored before they brought it to a vote. Would you believe that?

DOBBS: Despite the entreaty of a number of senators. Where do we go? Are we going to see the public option survive as Senator Reid says, as Senator Schumer demands, and others?

LOUIS: I think we do. I think we do. And I think we do it because it will be argued as the right thing for the country to do, as opposed to a budgetary wise move or a way to revive the economy or a way to...

DOBBS: Or as opposed to what the American people want or as opposed to what...

LOUIS: Well, you know, when you see two-thirds in favor of something that could be called "public option," you know, you have to dig a little deeper to figure out why it is people want it or what it is that people like. But, I don't know that they're going to be poll driven at this point. I mean, I think everybody's staked out their ground at this point and I think there's just going to be a big, ugly fight to get something to the president's desk. ROLLINS: There's been no blood on the floor, yet. I think if they try and force the public option into the Senate when the majority are not for it, they will have blood on the floor. They may end up getting g it at the end of the day, but it will create such chaos about this bill that it will give real political courage to the Republicans and I think, to a certain extent, give us some advantage in the fall elections.

DOBBS: Will political courage for Republicans measure up to their demonstrated limited capacity at the polls?

ROLLINS: We'll see. I think the critical thing here is midterm elections are totally different than presidential elections, there's a big drop-off in the vote, and senior citizens have a tendency to vote in greater numbers, and senior citizens are very worked up over this issue.

DOBBS: And we'll see two tests, very quickly, both in Virginia and New Jersey in which the Republican challengers are doing very well.

ZUCKERMAN: And the dominant issue in midterm elections is always the economy. And given the numbers that so far and probably wynton to see, it's going to put great pressure on the Democrats and it will not be able to be blamed on George Bush at that point.

DOBBS: Let's turn to, very quickly, another czar issue, Kevin Jennings. The Safe School czar, charges that he mishandled a homosexual relationship between a young man, 15-year-old, and an older man in which Jennings did not report it. Is there sufficient pressure that he'll be forced to resign and should he be forced to resign?

CONASON: I think we should start with the known facts, at least as I understand them about this case, which is that this is something that happened, I believe, 20 years ago. So, that's a pretty long time ago. George W. Bush, when he was running for president, did not want to be held accountable for things he had done 21 years before he ran for president and yet, a lot of people voted for him and everyone said that he should be absolved.


DOBBS: (INAUDIBLE) politics in a rather binary fashion, Joe...

CONASON: No, I mean, I'm just trying to make some valid comparisons.

DOBBS: Oh, I understand. And they are valid.

CONASON: Your favorite Web site, Lou, Media Matters for America has a statement, I believe, tonight on...

DOBBS: You're one of several people who reads that.

CONASON: Well, then that's why I'm telling you about it. From the young man who was allegedly involved in this incident, absolving Kevin Jennings of any responsibility, saying he was of age when this happened, so this may turn out to be nothing. I don't know. But so far it's a mixed story.

DOBBS: Well, nothing we know it won't turn out to be, because it is already something.

Your thoughts -- Mort.

ZUCKERMAN: No, I hope it, frankly, turns out to be nothing, because I think we're in a very different culture at this point, vis-a-vis those kinds of issues, than we were 21 years ago and I hope is that this does not...

DOBBS: And I think that's a very important point.

LOUIS: Even if you have to read -- this will be an indication of whether or not the White House team is feeling panicky at all, you know, if they decide to throw him over the side because they want to get on with health care, Afghanistan and a thousand other issues. It would be understandable. One hopes, though, that they are going to be able to keep their team intact.

ROLLINS: Again, my comment on last night, I think having this kind of a post in the White House is absurd. This ought to be a low-level job in the Department of Education, but to have someone worrying about kids' safety in the White House. We have a Department of Education with thousands and thousands of employees and that's where the role ought to be.

DOBBS: And with a tremendous megaphone providing the federal government eight percent of the total Education budget in the country. Something might be considered to be askew in this nation from time to time, in its governance.

We thank you very much, gentlemen, appreciate it. Ed, thank you, Errol, Mort, great to see you. And Joe, as always, good to see you.

Time now for a few of your thoughts, Joan in California said, "I saw China's show-of-force parade. I wouldn't worry, Lou. If all their weapons are made in China they probably won't work." Were it so simple.

And Darus in New Jersey, "Lou, it is no surprise that China has so many advanced weapons. When you do not have to do the development and research and can just steal U.S. technology, you can save hundreds of millions of dollars and money a time."

Jerry in Kansas writing in about our representatives in Washington, "How high will unemployment go before we stop guest worker programs? What is Congress doing about it one might ask? They are mandating we pay for health care. They are legislating away or freedoms and liberties."

And Jim in Texas, "Congress should spend some time and money to hire someone to read the Constitution and Bill of Rights to them and then explain the meaning of the documents."

We love hearing from you. By the way, Senator Carper suggested just that and so did Congressman Conyers. So, there's a thought. Send us your thoughts, we enjoy sharing them with our audience, to Each of you who's e-mail is read right here, receives a copy of my book, "Independents Day." You also receive our brand new "independent American" tee-shirt. Shirts, hats and much more can be found at the store at

Up next, "Heroes," our weekly salute to the men and women who serve this nation in uniform. The story, tonight, of an Army sergeant who drove directly into enemy fire to save his fellow soldiers. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Now, "Heroes." Tonight, we honor Staff Sergeant Jamyn Peterson. He braved enemy fire to save the lives of dozens of fellow soldiers while serving in Afghanistan. Peterson is also a hero to the people of Afghanistan, working to open needed medical clinics and schools. Philippa Holland has his remarkable story.


STAFF SGT JAMYN PETERSON, U.S. ARMY RESERVES: My job, being a psychological operations specialist, gives me the ability to have a disproportionate level of effect, you know, out in the field. I mean, we've got a lot of assets, I suppose, a lot of money. And I was going to use that and I was going to win the war.

PHILIPPA HOLLAND, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Staff Sergeant Jamyn Peterson joined the Army after being outraged at the site of U.S. soldiers' bodies being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu in 1992.

Peterson was with the initial push to Baghdad in 2003 and recognized what was missing in a quick victory.

PETERSON: They pulled the statues down and we had won the war and the ground campaign was done. There was a void in there and where we were, we were waiting to go home and we had won the war and we were just kind of sitting there.

HOLLAND: Peterson felt the U.S. missed an opportunity to connect with the Iraqi people and vowed to change that in his next deployment.

PETERSON: When this Afghanistan trip came up, that just increased my resolve. I had studied for it, I had prepared for it, I went to all the schools that I could, read all the right books, done all the planning, and this may sound presumptuous, but I had a plan to win the war.

HOLLAND: In the first three months of his deployment, Peterson set up a radio station and coordinated leaflet drops across northern Afghanistan. In his downtime, he built medical clinics and established a school. In the months that followed, Peterson fought in almost daily firefights with the Taliban. On one occasion, he was shot in the foreman, but returned to duty within four days. In another battle, lasting more than seven hours, Peterson drove his Humvee into Taliban fire. The move provided soldiers cover to treat the wounded, exposing himself to heavier fire, including rocket- propelled grenades, Peterson exited the vehicle, moved into an open position and returned fire.

PETERSON: I knew if I got out of the truck, I was going to die. There was no question about that. But, I knew if I didn't get out of the truck they were going to die.

HOLLAND: Peterson made his choice and even though shot while exiting the vehicle, he's credited with saving the lives of several soldiers.

PETERSON: I'll be returning to Afghanistan in the next year, and I don't know if I'm going to win the war this time, but I've got -- I've taken what I've learned and I'm going to do an even better job than I did before.

HOLLAND: Philippa Holland, CNN.


DOBBS: Well, Staff Sergeant Peterson received two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart for his actions. He's scheduled to return to Afghanistan in April, just about the same time he and his wife are expecting their first child. We wish them all the very best. With thank Sergeant Peterson and all of our brave men and women in uniform for their service to this great nation.

We thank you for being with us tonight. Have a great weekend and for all of us, thank you for watching. Good night from New York.