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Lou Dobbs Tonight
New Strategy?; Marine One Debate; Battle over Health Care; Legalizing Pot; Bring our Troops Home?
Aired October 08, 2009 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf.
President Obama set to meet with his war council, Afghanistan the subject. A new war strategy could be emerging -- President Obama reportedly considering the Taliban as a new partner -- excuse me.
Plus tonight we will have our "Face Off" debate. Is it time in fact to bring all of our troops home, not just from Afghanistan, but the rest of the world? That will be the subject of the debate.
The Senate committee health care vote just days away -- Republicans say the 10-year almost trillion dollar overhaul is far too expensive. Democrats can't wait to put up new taxes.
And all the president's czars, the Obama administration, top heavy with czars. What do they do? We'll have a "Face Off" debate on that as well.
And only in California, voters there will decide whether pot should be made legal. The state could earn millions in new taxes, but a fight with the federal government could be ensuing.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT; news, debate and analysis for Thursday, October 8th. Live from New York, Mr. Independent Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening everybody.
A possible shift in strategy for Afghanistan -- the president is set to meet with his war council. He is expected to address the question of troop levels for the first time. President Obama and his advisers have been saying, strategy before resources for weeks now. And today, pieces of that strategy may have emerged. President Obama is reportedly prepared to allow some Taliban forces to participate in Afghanistan's government.
Ed Henry joins us now from the White House. Ed, what is the White House now saying about a possible new strategy?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, I can tell you, top officials here are saying those reports are going too far that no decision has been made here. Those reports suggesting that the president is leaning towards sort of allowing the Taliban to stay in Afghanistan instead more heavily shifting the focus to Pakistan and trying to fight al Qaeda there. The significance of a shift like that, of course, would be that if the mission is more tightly focused, it would be easier for the president to push back on General Stanley McChrystal's request for 40,000 more troops. Instead, perhaps, ordering maybe 20,000 more, 30,000 more U.S. troops. I can tell you, top officials here, insist the president has made no decision on this at all.
That he continues with that mantra, you mentioned, of strategy before resources. And they're telling me the president is still actively considering all possibilities, including the possibility of sending 40,000 more U.S. troops as General McChrystal has suggested. Though I should point out that today White House spokesman Robert Gibbs did suggest that there are limits to what the U.S. can do right now at a time of deep budget deficits.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We don't have unlimited money. We certainly don't have unlimited troops. And as we go forward there -- I'm not saying this is the determining factor by any means, but understanding that as we have a discussion about our spending and our deficits and how they relate to our fiscal health, certainly, the amount of money that we spend overseas has always played a role in that and I assume will continue to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now these urgent deliberations continue on Friday when the president will be going behind closed doors with his national security team for the fourth time in recent weeks to try and figure this strategy out. Top officials insisting that virtually every option is on the table, except for pulling out. That is the one option they have said is not on the table. And what that certainly suggestion is that the U.S. is going to be in that region for some time to come, Lou.
DOBBS: All right, thank you very much, Ed -- Ed Henry.
The Pentagon's plans to replace Marine One the president's helicopter fleet, with a new model is being questioned again tonight. An internal Pentagon document reveals the new version of the president's helicopter would cost as much as three times more, take longer to build and offer only the same capabilities as the current helicopters -- Barbara Starr with our report.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Marine One, the president's helicopter. For months, the Pentagon and Congress have bickered over building a new fleet of presidential choppers with onboard missile defenses, the most advanced communications gear and a hardened hull, all considered essential in today's age of terrorist attacks.
But when the price tag reached $13 billion earlier this year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates killed the program and ordered the Defense Department to start over. The president tried to be fiscally sensitive.
BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The helicopter I have right now seems perfectly adequate to me. Of course, I have never had a helicopter before, you know, maybe I've been deprived and I didn't know it but I think it is an example of the procurement process gone amuck and we're going to have to fix it.
STARR: The Navy now has estimates for an entirely new program, but that $13 billion price tag has jumped to over $20 billion. Congressman Maurice Hinchey represents the upstate New York district where a Lockheed Martin cut 600 jobs after the initial cancellation. He wants to keep the canceled program on the books.
REP. MAURICE HINCHEY (D), NEW YORK: The fact is that in addition to being very expensive, the new helicopter program wouldn't come into existence, it wouldn't be usable until about 2024.
STARR: A watchdog group says Gates was right to cancel the over- budget program, but says the Pentagon needs to get the new program under control.
MANDY SMITHBERGER, PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT: While contractors have been held accountable by canceling the program, the culture at the Pentagon has not yet changed.
STARR: The president has already threatened to veto any restart of the old program.
GIBBS: I think the president believes that we can do this in a way that doesn't cost the type of money that we've been talking about.
STARR (on camera): Congressman Hinchey says when all is said and done, the Pentagon could wind up spending three times more than originally planned.
Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
DOBBS: Well, the White House tonight responding to (INAUDIBLE) Congress to cut off funding to the left wing activist group ACORN. Peter Orszag, the director of Office of Management and Budget, has directed all executive branch agencies now to comply with any resolutions that Congress has already passed.
In other words, cut off ACORN's funding immediately. The House and Senate have already voted to do so. Acorn says it receives up to $3 million a year from the federal government, roughly 10 percent of its annual budget. Others however estimate that its funding rises to 40 percent of its total receipts each year -- a recent study finding that ACORN has been given $53 million over the past decade.
Some troubling news about the census workers who were soon to be knocking on your door -- a Senate investigation reveals that nearly 36,000 Census Bureau employees were hired without passing the required FBI background check. The Government Accountability Office saying it is possible that more than 200 of those hired may have had criminal records and are already going door-to-door.
By the way, some of these Census Bureau employees that have been checked were found to have committed violent crimes such as rape, manslaughter and child abuse. There is also the issue of course of cost. The government first predicted the census for 2010 would cost $11 billion. That number has now reached $15 billion and as it were, still counting.
The Senate Finance Committee setting a date to vote on health care legislation.
Also an Arizona homeowner confronting an armed burglar -- the police show up on the scene -- they shoot the homeowner. We'll have that story.
At first it was medical marijuana; well California voters now decide that marijuana should be legal for everyone. Is this state intent on getting high? We'll be right back.
DOBBS: Good news to report on the economy tonight. Sales at many retailers better than expected in the month of September. Back to school shopping helped to boost sales. The number of Americans filing first-time unemployment claims also fell last week, in fact to the lowest level since January. Five hundred twenty-one thousand people filing for initial jobless claims down 33,000 from the previous week.
Well our continuing series of reports on "JOBS NOW!" Almost 80 percent of the nation's new jobs are created by small business. Now, House Republicans want the Obama administration to help small business create more of those jobs. In a letter to the president, the lawmakers are calling for a number of measures to encourage new hiring, including more tax breaks, limits on civil lawsuits and expanding health savings accounts.
Republicans say they want to work with the White House on a bipartisan plan to create a lot more jobs. The Senate Finance Committee will vote next week on the Baucus/Obama health care bill. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office yesterday estimated the costs of the measure at $829 billion. It is unclear whether Republican members of the committee will support it. Lawmakers are still searching for ways to pay for the health care plan. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed caught by surprise when asked about party discussions on a brand new tax.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand that the leadership approached the subject of windfall profits of tax for insurers. What kind of reception did you get and how serious is this being considered?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Oh, you heard that. I thought all the conversations in the Caucus meeting were to stay in the Caucus meeting. Now I'll take responsibility for that. I have asked, though, Chairman Rangel to ask his staff to see what's in it for us in terms of a windfall profit tax on income on the insurance companies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: The Speaker of the House added that talk of a windfall profits tax on insurers was, as she put it, are you ready, very preliminary. Republicans today fought back against the Democrats domination of the health care legislative process. Democrats have accused Republicans of not taking part in the process but Republicans have said they have participated. In fact, they propose alternate bills and hundreds of amendments, most of which have been killed by the Democratic leadership. Lisa Sylvester has our report.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For months, Republicans have been attacking Democratic health care proposals and Democrats have criticized the GOP for offering no reform plan of its own.
OBAMA: What's your answer? What's your solution?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans have no plan to fix it. They have no plan to protect consumers.
SYLVESTER: But Republicans say they have offered legislation that would among other things let small businesses pool their resources to lower the cost of insurance, allow Americans to purchase insurance across state lines, permit individuals to take a tax deduction for health insurance premiums, and set up special tribunals for malpractice cases in an effort to prevent frivolous lawsuits against doctors.
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R), TENNESSEE: Instead of thousand page bills and changing the whole system and adding to the debt and cutting Medicare and raising premiums for millions of Americans, we would like to say our goal is to reduce costs.
SYLVESTER: A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fired back saying "Republicans have decided they want to be the party of no and have offered skimpy outlines rather than comprehensive reform" with no assessment of what their proposals would cost, but according to the Republican Study Committee, 40 health care bills have been introduce by House Republicans since January, but the bills haven't been taken up in the Democratically-controlled Congress.
REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: Virtually none of them have been considered in committee and that's because at least on the House side, there is not a bipartisan effort at all by the Speaker of the House.
SYLVESTER: It hasn't been much different on the Senate side. Most of the Republican amendments to Senator Max Baucus' bill in the Finance Committee were defeated in party line votes.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SYLVESTER: Representative Price, who is also a medical doctor, says each week of the last 10 months he has tried to meet with administration officials to offer his ideas on health care, but after being repeatedly but politely ignored, he finally had a meeting with Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius yesterday, which he called quote, "a constructive exercise and bipartisan discussion." The White House says the president has been working with Democrats and Republicans and will continue to do so -- Lou.
DOBBS: It's remarkable. They really do talk like they -- don't they -- a constructive exercise and bipartisan bill. I love it. Thanks very much, Lisa. Lisa Sylvester.
The House Ethics Committee today widening its investigation of the powerful Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel, the investigation into Congressman Rangel has dragged on now for more than a year. Rangel faces a number of charges, including failure to pay taxes on investment properties, failure to report assets, and failure to report income on congressional disclosure forms.
Republicans yesterday again trying to remove Rangel from the Ways and Means Committee chairmanship -- Democrats blocked those efforts -- Rangel's office tonight dismissing the expanded investigation as quote "a technicality" -- Rangel has called the matter a media smear campaign.
Up next a shocking police shooting caught on tape -- what police in Arizona are saying about the shooting of an innocent man inside his own home.
And California has an answer to its budget problems and it wants to get high on the solutions. We'll have a special report.
DOBBS: Well, California wants to legalize marijuana. They already have a law that allows the use of medical marijuana. Marijuana advocates are circulating four separate ballot measures that would legalize recreational pot use and tax the proceeds and it could all lead to a showdown with the federal government over the right to get high in California -- Casey Wian with our story.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are hundreds and by some estimates, more than 1,000 medical marijuana clinics operating in California. In some cities, they outnumber Starbucks. Now, there is a growing movement to legalize marijuana in California for everyone over 21, not just for those who can persuade a doctor they need it. Four proposed ballot initiatives are circulating that would make California the first state to legalize marijuana for non- medicinal use.
RICHARD LEE, MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION ACTIVIST: We need to be honest and legalize it for all adults. It is safer than alcohol so it should be legal for adults. And also we are missing out on the tax revenue right now.
WIAN: Owners of medical marijuana dispensaries in California have been breathing easier since February. The U.S Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government would no longer their operations. Still the top drug policy adviser to the White House says the administration does not support legalization. That sets up a potential showdown between California and the federal government if the state legalizes pot, which one legal scholar says in reality the state would win.
PROF. ROBERT MIKOS, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: The state can't block that. The state can't impede the enforcement of a federal ban, but the federal government simply doesn't have the resources that are necessary to do that given all the marijuana users that are out there in California and other states.
WIAN: Many in law enforcement remain unconvinced.
JIM FOX, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SAN MATEO, CALIF.: I don't think that California, if it were to see fit to change the law, which I hope it does not, is not going to be immune from the federal authorities.
WIAN: Fifty-six percent of California voters responding to a field poll in April said they favored legalizing marijuana for recreational use as a way to reduce the state's budget deficit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
WIAN: All of the proposals circulating now include some provision to tax marijuana sales.
(on camera): Supporters say legalizing marijuana in California would provide another benefit, taking the business out of the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Many law enforcement groups dispute that and say they will work to defeat any new legalization proposals.
Casey Wian, CNN, Los Angeles.
DOBBS: Well in Phoenix tonight a homeowner is suing the Phoenix Police Department for more than $5 million after a police officer shot him by mistake. In September of last year, the man called 911 to report gunshots and a break-in at his house. He found the intruder and was holding him at gunpoint when the police arrived. Here is the 911 call of what happened next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
911 OPERATOR: What's the emergency?
TONY: I just heard gunshots through my window.
911 OPERATOR: Is anybody hurt in your house?
TONY: I don't know yet. I have two kids here. (BANG, BANG)
TONY: (INAUDIBLE) I'm the homeowner, you just shot -- you show the homeowner. (INAUDIBLE)
POLICE: Get out, get out, then. (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
911 OPERATOR: What's going on, sir?
TONY: Oh my God. Oh my God.
911 OPERATOR: Sir, what's happening?
TONY: I'm the homeowner. I'm the homeowner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: The Phoenix Police Department admits an officer mistakenly shot the homeowner but said an internal investigation concluded that the Phoenix police officers did not break any rules. That is now under review.
In another incident, this time in Oakland, California, a burglary suspect who was shot by police was awarded $1.2 million. Charles Davis (ph) was leaving a church allegedly carrying an arm full of stolen property from the church. A police officer on the scene thought Davis was reaching for a gun. The police officer fired, hit the suspect in the back. He was paralyzed. An investigation found the suspect was unarmed.
In Detroit, some pastors have decided they need to defend their churches and themselves. Detroit had the highest homicide rate among all cities in this country last year. Some pastors now feel it is absolutely necessary to carry guns. Reverend Lawrence Adams (ph) went to his church after hearing it was being robbed. As he arrived, the burglar took a swing at him. Reverend Adams, who does carry a gun, defended himself in his church; he shot the robber in the stomach. The burglar survived. Reverend Adams says it is his responsibility to protect his flock.
Up next, the Obama administration top heavy with czars. What do they do? Why are they doing it? Why are they doing it this way? That's the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight. Also is it time to bring all of our troops home -- the only option the president will not consider in Afghanistan. We'll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: Here again, Mr. Independent Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: The Obama administration remains divided on creating a strategy on Afghanistan and deciding whether to send in more troops as the commanders in the field have requested. But after eight years of war and little progress to show for it, many in this country are saying it is time to bring our troops home, not just from Afghanistan but perhaps the rest of the world as well. That is the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight.
Hillary Mann Leverett is the CEO of Stratega, director for Iran, Afghanistan, and Persian Gulf Affairs at the National Security Council in the Bush administration -- good to have you with us. And Herb London, he is the president of the Hudson Institute and it's great to have you with us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pleasure to be with you.
DOBBS: Let's start with, first, some reports that this process that the president has embarked upon may take another month or so, he is being obviously deliberate to craft a strategy. He is saying that he wants a strategy before he decides on resources. Is that not a reasonable approach?
HILLARY MANN LEVERETT, CEO, STRATEGA: Well, it would be but unfortunately, we heard that story before just six or seven months ago in March when he came out in front of the bank of flags with his secretary of state and secretary of defense and said we have the perfect strategy. But then when he was given the bill for what the resources would take to resource the strategy, he balked and unfortunately I think the strategy is collapsing right before our eyes.
DOBBS: Collapsing and the outcome likely to be what, Hillary?
LEVERETT: I think you could end up with a reprieve -- with a redo of Somalia in the first Clinton years, the first two years in the Clinton administration where they were -- they inherited a conflict from the first Bush administration in Somalia. They didn't know what to do. They didn't want to look weak. They didn't want to withdraw right away. It was complete confusion and we ended up with a real disaster there.
DOBBS: Do you concur with that outlook, Herb?
HERB LONDON, PRESIDENT, HUDSON INSTITUTE: No, I don't. I mean frankly a withdrawal I think would have catastrophic consequences, not merely in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan, a nation that possesses nuclear weapons. You've got a porous border. You've got what is equivalent to the Wild West in Warizistan. It seems to me that what you need is a strategy for victory. A strategy for victory is creating some form of stability and that I think could be achieved if in fact the McChrystal strategy is put in place. The president asked him for a strategy and he came up with a strategy.
Unfortunately the president is suffering from a Hamlet-like pose.
DOBBS: Let me ask you this, Hillary. Herb says that we need to remain there. Withdrawing our troops would be catastrophic to U.S. interests.
What interest would be lost if we were to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan and, instead, rely upon other powers in the region who are, after all, responsible not at least in a hegemonic sense, but at least in terms of proximity to Afghanistan itself?
LEVERETT: We certainly need to have a regional strategy, an aggressive regional strategy that deals effectively with Pakistan, India, Iran, Russia, and China, the key players in the region.
And then we need a really effective domestic strategy inside Afghanistan that deals forthrightly with the Taliban and its political role in the country.
DOBBS: And what level of troops would be required to carry such a strategy out? Approach. I shouldn't call that a strategy.
LEVERETT: It is an approach. It isn't a strategy. I agree, it is an approach. I am not sure.
But I don't think it would take 100,000 plus troops.
I would agree you shouldn't have a precipitous withdraw, but you can have a timed, phased withdraw that is consistent with an aggressive domestic strategy inside the country linked to concessions from the Taliban and in place with an aggressive regional strategy.
DOBBS: I suspect that you both read the times online piece, a terrific piece of reporting on the demoralization on many of our troops in Afghanistan coming primarily through the ears of chaplains who work with those soldiers on the frontlines.
Sergeant Christopher Hughes from Detroit, if we could put this up. He asked -- he was asked if the mission was worthwhile. And he replied: "If I knew exactly what the mission was, probably so. But I don't." The other comments from the soldiers, as related by those chaplains, they are heartrending.
Eight years yesterday of war in Afghanistan, and we have our commander and chief now conferring with the bipartisan leadership of Congress, his top military leaders, talking about a strategy. We have lost almost 800 men in Afghanistan, 4,500 wounded, and we have the temerity to call this a general staff?
LONDON: I think you have raised a very important issue. And I'm quite sympathetic to those soldiers who put their lives on the line and not entirely clear about what the mission is.
But keep in mind that we did learn an awful lot in Iraq. We have a counterinsurgency strategy. Some in the military might call it an ink spot. We protect the major population centers and keep the good guys away from the bad guys. We have learned a good deal about counterinsurgency...
DOBBS: Eight years of training wheels is an embarrassment for the super power, the single super power in this world, the most advanced military technology, the most advanced military on the planet has been held in check for eight years.
And one could argue, Hillary, I think in part because we have generals who think it is somehow clever to fight the enemy's war rather than create our own conditions and parameters for that war, which by the way is taught in every war college in the country as a first condition of victory?
LONDON: I'm sorry. But keep in mind we have been in Iraq for seven years as well. We have learned a good deal. We have stabilization in Iraq that would not have been anticipated three years ago. We have learned a good deal about counterinsurgency. Petraeus did put a strategy in place that made a difference.
It seems to me that McChrystal has attempted to introduce a strategy very similar to what Petraeus had in mind.
LEVERETT: What we are also forgetting is we have another president. We have 1991 after we routed Iraq from Kuwait, and we didn't know what the mission was going to be. We kept our troops with no end in sight in Saudi Arabia for more than eight years.
And you know who didn't like that? Al Qaeda. They came after us because in part they thought we were occupying Saudi Arabia. We risk the same thing if they perceive us to be occupying Afghanistan with no end in sight, no exit strategy.
We need to leverage that now and get the Taliban into the political process, use it against Al Qaeda, and do smart politics on the ground, not think we can keep troops there with no end in sight and have no repercussions.
DOBBS: It is not consistent, at least with my reading of history, for the United States to have 200,000 troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, to have deployed another 150,000 to 200,000 troops from 63 countries.
We have approximately 40,000 troops in South Korea. Every military leader with whom I've spoken says those troops would be dead within moments should the North Koreans decide to invade South Korea.
Why is it not a matter of some discussion for the public to understand that we have garrison troops stationed on the DMZ in an absolutely vulnerable military position in which they are nothing -- we have to be straightforward about this in the minds of many generals --nothing more than cannon fodder and represent no geopolitical advantage to the United States.
Why do we persist? Is it not time to begin to reconsider what we are doing with our troops?
LONDON: If you are talking about the reconsideration of the deployment of forces, I am very much in favor of that. I think you're quite right when you talk about Korea and the forces there are nothing but a trip wire. I think you have stated it correctly. I am not sure it is appropriate to have American forces there.
But when you are talking about Afghanistan, I think you are talking about a very different situation. I do believe that the additional forces applying some sort of ink spot theory where you can separate the good guys from the bad guys could make a difference in the end.
LEVERETT: You know, if go into a restaurant in Seoul, South Korea, some restaurants will have a sign in the front that says "No dogs and no Americans." We don't do this without cost to our credibility and power around the world.
DOBBS: Why is it that the United States refusing to use its advantages and technological superiority, militarily, rather than acquiesce to the enemy or potential enemy and create strategies and deployments based on the enemies parameters rather than our own?
LONDON: Well, look, we are deploying the predator, which has been a very effective weapon. But you can't ploy it -- it does not have the same effect as boots on the ground. There is nothing that can replace that.
DOBBS: I'm going to have to wrap this here.
I thank you very much for beginning this conversation. Obviously, that's what we have done. I hope you will both come back soon. I would like to continue this every week.
I certainly hope you will be amongst those who will be joining us and rejoining us over the weeks ahead, because it's a very important issue, not just for a president and our national leaders and military. As they say, war is too important to be left to the generals.
Thank you very much, Hillary. Thank you, Herb.
LONDON: Thank you.
LEVERETT: Thank you.
DOBBS: Still ahead, all the president's czars, just what do they do? Why are they doing it? Do we really need them? Why don't we have a different approach? Should we have a different approach? That will be the subject of our next face off.
And a new center for servicemen and women with traumatic brain injuries. Bob Barker and the head of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes fund. Bill White joins us here. We will be talking about Bob Barker's generous gift and what the Intrepid Heroes Fund will be doing. Stay with us.
DOBBS: We have reported extensively here on the more than 30 czars already appointed in the Obama administration. Many of the czars appointed to top policymaking positions, and none of the advisers are subject to vetting through a Senate confirmation, although some have gone through that.
What do these czars actually do, and are they even necessary? Joining me now two of the country's leading constitutional law experts, Anne, O'Connell, professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley, visiting professor at Columbia University. Thanks for being with us, Anne. And Andrew Kent, Portland University school of law. Professor Kent, good to have you with us.
DOBBS: Let's start with Senator Feingold's hearing Tuesday determining presidential appointment of czars is now determined is legal. Is that right, Anne.
PROF. ANNE O'CONNELL, U.C. BERKELEY: I think that is right that czars are legal.
DOBBS: Do you agree?
PROF. ANDREW KENT, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: It depends on circumstances. They can certainly do things that are illegal. But the appointment of them, sure. It's been happening for almost 100 years.
DOBBS: For 100 years, but no one has gotten quite as enthusiastic about it as this administration. And we are seeing a great deal of trepidation on the part of critics about what these czars are doing, whether it is compensation czars, whether it's food safety czars or green czars as in the case of Van Jones, who was forced to leave his post.
Is this not, however, a possible circumvention of advice and consent which is the Senate's power and something that should be done only with, if you will, the consent of the Senate and the Congress?
O'CONNELL: I think not. And I think there is a role both for officials who go through the advice and consent process and who are engaging in real policy making of the country.
But then presidents need trusted advisers who are not engaging in that same type of authority. And we want presidents to have those intelligent and high-ranking officials.
DOBBS: Do you concur?
KENT: In general, I understand why people feel uneasy about these positions. I think it has to do with the every-increasing size of our federal government, the scope of the activities that it's involved in.
A lot of people, I think, feel like it is cutting into their everyday lives. You go to the bank, your mortgage, your car, czars over other government agencies are now doing things that could really affect average people.
So I'm very sympathetic to the idea that we need good democratically elected oversight of the executive branch. Policymaking czars who help coordinate meetings and advise the president, I don't happen to think that's...
DOBBS: In fairness to both Republican and Democratic administrations, the last two have done something that is really, and even absolutely, if you will, a straightforward perspective here -- the last two administrations refusing to give up the visitors list log to the White House. The American people do not know who has been advising last two presidents on a number of issues. So that's one issue.
The second issue is, why have czars, if you have the capacity within a federal government to grade a department secretary and move forward -- every president has counselors and special assistants and assistants to the president.
This goes well beyond that. For example, Mark Lloyd, an FCC diversity czar with a very specific agenda who is not subject to advice and consent and who has become already a lightning rod for articulating an ideological position on the agency's regulation that he serves.
O'CONNELL: I think there are some complex policy issues that cut across multiple agencies or cabinet departments where you want someone who is serving as this coordinator role in the White House, who is taking positions from the Senate confirmed officials in the various agencies combining, those perspectives, giving advice to the president, and then letting the president, who serves as a centralizing person, actually make the policy calls.
So I can see, especially now with this economic situation that we are in, with wars abroad, very complex policy issues where you want to have basically as much advice as possible in the White House and then also to strengthen the agency.
DOBBS: And the idea now with all of these advisers, as Anne puts it, you know everyone wants smart people around them, why is it that the federal government seems to be managed so ineffectively? In the leadership of each department, the management of the White House, the Executive Branch, and let's take only the last two administrations, this one through this point in the first year of the president's term, eight years of the Bush administration, great criticisms about the competency of the departments and the policies that were formulated.
KENT: Yes, there certainly has been. With czars and the issue of a president trying to have trusted personal advisers to drive policy and make sure everything happens and that bureaucracy doesn't interfere, I mean you could say that president Bush was quite effective at doing that.
DOBBS: By doing what?
KENT: At pushing policy through bureaucracies that might ...
DOBBS: You want to go through a couple of areas that one can argue, well one could argue - one is conservative product safety, one the food and drug administration we can go, if you want to get into foreign policy issues.
KENT: I'm thinking about foreign policy which is my area...
DOBBS: You're right but domestic policy absolutely I think most would say, even supporters, not exactly a brilliant show. His critics would say it's a disaster. KENT: I would say not at all. But he often got his way.
DOBBS: He got his way, but again without advise and consent aren't we missing something important in the process of executive officers and the responsibility to the departments they lead?
KENT: Absolutely I agree. And I think it bears watching with the Obama administration in the future on this issue and the reason why is Senate confirmation is very very important but it's only one part of Congress' oversight role. We also want to see are these officials coming to testify when Congress wants them, are they subject to freedom of information, so this is an ongoing process and we'll see how they handle it going forward.
DOBBS: Which, the way constructive for most of these so-called czars, they are not right now. You get the final word Anne.
O'CONNELL: I think that we also want to remember that the important positions in the agencies also need to be filled so perhaps our attention is misplaced on these White House Czars and we should pay attention to all the vacancies in the Senate confirmed jobs in the agencies.
DOBBS: One wonders if some of the reason that only 40% of the top positions have been filled by the Obama administration is that it's convenient to the interest of the czars who have been put in place. A possibility, I'm not suggesting that as an answer, I would not be so skeptical. Thanks very much Anne, appreciate it. Thank you, appreciate it.
Coming up next a new center for servicemen and women with traumatic brain injuries. We'll be telling about Bob Barker, television icon making a wonderfully generous donation and we'll be talking with the head of the Intrepid Heroes Fund, Bill White joining us next. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Well fundraising for a new center to research and to treat traumatic brain injury among our servicemen and women is now complete. The center, a project of the Intrepid Heroes Fund is set to open next June, the center reaching its funding goal yesterday with a three million dollar donation from the long time host of The Price is Right, Bob Barker. Barker, by the way, you may not know this, is a World War II Navy veteran and he is the author of a new book "Priceless Memories".
Bob Barker and Bill White, who is the president of the Intrepid Heroes Fund and is the president of the Intrepid Sea & Air Museum, joining us tonight from the museum itself, gentlemen it is great to have you with us. I want to say first to you, Bob Barker on behalf of all of us, we thank you so much and Bill White you got to be thrilled.
BILL WHITE, PRESIDENT OF INTREPID HEROES FUND: Oh god, this is the greatest day we've had in the fourteen months. You know it was so hard getting that last three million dollars of the 60 million dollars we needed to start this amazing project for the 300,000 troops that are suffering from traumatic brain injury and thanks to this great American patriot who served as a World War 2 Naval Aviator who now believes so firmly in supporting our troops, we have reached our goal and we are so grateful.
DOBBS: And the facility you spearheaded there in San Antonio is magnificent. The rehabilitation center, the traumatic injury center is just a wonderful project. Bob, Bob Barker, what spurred you to make this -- as I say -- this extraordinarily generous donation?
BOB BARKER, FORMER HOST OF "THE PRICE IS RIGHT": Well I was checking through some material on various organizations and I discovered a letter from Bill here in which he explained that they needed this three million dollars and I feel strongly that these men and women who are injured should have the very best medical care and I thought Bingo, it's three million dollars that's what I'll do.
DOBBS: Well Bob, again thank you so much. It's absolutely terrific. I had the privilege of seeing the early stages of the Traumatic center that's being built. It's an incredible and inspired idea, how soon will it be open Bill?
WHITE: We intend to open in June. Arnold Fisher is building this at a fast rate. It started in May ...
DOBBS: That's what he does.
WHITE: That's what he does man, he's a builder. We are in consultation with the Pentagon and Dr. Richard Kelly's going to run it and thanks to this man it's going to happen.
DOBBS: Well I just want to say it's just wonderful, it's wonderful for our heroes whoa re coming back, who are going to have the finest in care and Bob Barker, I've said it -- I think this will be my third time -- I'll be saying it for quite a time. Thank you so much Bob we appreciate it. I'm sorry go ahead Bob.
BARKER: I'd just like to say that I'm delighted to be able to do this and have the opportunity to do it.
DOBBS: I understand Bill White has something else to say to present to you, Bill?
WHITE: Well, while we're on the Intrepid, in honor of you, a fellow Marine and all of those who've served on this historic ship in our military, this flight deck wood which was the original flight deck wood from 1943 on which 5 kamikaze struck this deck, 270 sailors were killed on the Intrepid. Bob Barker is part of the Intrepid family and on behalf who have served, he is going to have a piece of the Intrepid forever in honor of his dedication and patriotism to this country.
BARKER: Thank you. Thank you very much. I sincerely appreciate this.
DOBBS: Gentlemen, thanks a lot. Appreciate it. Well up next. NASA has a new plan for your tax dollars tomorrow. NASA's come up with a new project. They're going to bomb the moon. We'll tell you why, if we can. Next.
DOBBS: NASA has a new plan for the moon. They're going to bomb it...tomorrow morning. They're trying to find water on the moon. NASA will fire a missile at it. Bill Tucker is going to tell us about it now.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The mission began this summer. The Lunar Crater Observation Sensing Satellite lifted off Cape Canaveral. It's goal: to bomb the moon. At least that's what it says all over the Internet. There's no doubt this mission has captured a lot of imaginations.
JAMES GARVIN, NASA GODDARD SPACE CENTER: This mission is exciting because we love dynamical things. It's like a body check in hockey. It's kind of like the greatest dream of a high school experiment you can have and we're doing it to a little piece of ourselves to understand what it might be telling us about the history of water in the solar system and how the moon really works.
TUCKER: NASA says it's not really bombing the moon. It's more like shooting the moon, right in the South Pole. The LCROSS mission will fire a missile at a crater on the moon in the South Pole region, traveling at twice the speed of a bullet. It will smash into the bottom of the crater and the spacecraft following behind it will observe and analyze the resulting plume of rock and dust. Why spend 79 million dollars to smash a rocket into the moon? To find water. Scientists say they found indications of water on the surface of the moon. If -- and that's a big if -- there is water in significant quantities beneath the surface, it would save us bringing water with us when we explore the moon.
KEITH COWING, ASTROBIOLOGIST: If there's enough water there you can use it for rocket fuel to come home, you can use it for water to drink, you can split it to make at least oxygen and bring some nitrogen. So it's called in-situ resource utilization. That's NASA speak for using stuff that's there.
TUCKER: Now not everyone finds this amusing or interesting. Some warn on the Internet that in fact, the bomb may violate space law, may spark an intergalactic war, Lou. We'll just have to stay tuned tomorrow morning.
DOBBS: Yeah I'm sure that's the major concern. If NASA thinks they can find water on the moon, I'm surprised they're not hopeful they'll find oxygen too. That would make it easier wouldn't it? Create an atmosphere. Have a little garden. I think that some people are going to realize that they have to go back to the hard, tough rigorous work of designing space craft and going into space exploration for real. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it Bill Tucker. Time now for a quick email. Virgil in Oklahoma wrote in to say "If a man yells 'You Lie' in a room full of politicians, how do they know who he's talking to?" Just had to share that with you before we leave you. We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts to Loudobbs.com. And each of you who's email is read here receives a copy of my book. "Independents Day" you also reactive our brand new Independent American t-shirt. Go to loudobbs.com to see the latest. Thanks for being with us tonight. Join us tomorrow. Thanks for watching. Good night from New York. Next, Campbell Brown.