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Lou Dobbs Tonight

President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize; America in Decline; Health Funding Fight; Credit Card Rip-Off

Aired October 09, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Wolf, thank you.

Total and complete shock over President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, the mainstream media perplexed, even the president himself says he doesn't deserve it. What were the Norwegians thinking? Is this just the final repudiation of President George W. Bush and President Obama's military advisers making their case today, arguing for tens of thousands more of our troops for Afghanistan -- a new strategy being discussed, focusing on killing al Qaeda and allowing the Taliban to remain.

Taxpayers bailing out the banks with billions of dollars, some Americans facing crushing credit card debt while interest rates only go up -- is it time for the government to step in?

Also tax cuts, are they the answer to record high unemployment? That's the subject of our "Face Off" debate here tonight.

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

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

Surprised and humbling, that's how President Obama described winning the Nobel Peace Prize today. The announcement in Oslo, Norway, clearly caught just about everybody off guard. President Obama was not even mentioned as a possible front-runner.

Reporters in the room actually gasped when the announcement that he had won was made. The Nobel Committee's vote was unanimous, they say in the president's favor. Reaction was anything but. The choice raises some serious questions, why bestow one of the world's prestigious awards on a president a mere nine months in office with very few accomplishments to speak of. Ed Henry has our report.



ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yes, he can win the Peace Prize on the same day his war council met again to consider sending up to 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan. While a second war is winding down, but still raging in Iraq, fresh reminders this award is more about the promise of change than actual change.

OBAMA: We have to confront the world as we know it today. I am the commander in chief of a country that's responsible for ending a war and working in another theater to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people and our allies.

HENRY: The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited the president's ability to create a new climate around the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.

HENRY: A deliberate approach from day one to break from the Bush years, especially with an historic speech to the Muslim world in Cairo.

OBAMA: And I'm also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country. (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)


HENRY: As well as major speeches in Prague and at the United Nations, laying out an aggressive plan to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

OBAMA: All nations have the straight to peaceful nuclear energy, that nations with nuclear weapons have a responsibility to move toward disarmament and those without them have the responsibility to forsake them.

HENRY: But so far, only great speeches with little tangible results.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think certainly he's -- you have to give him an "a" for trying but at the end of the day, what has he accomplished?

HENRY: Not to mention the details of other accomplishments are still a little, well, fuzzy.

OBAMA: I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed, and we are doing the hard work of forging a framework to combat extremism within the rule of law.


HENRY: Top administration officials now admit that they're likely to miss the January deadline to close down Guantanamo, a real stark example of how difficult it will be to translate the president's vision into some actual victories here and abroad. Lou?

DOBBS: All right, Ed, thank you very much, Ed Henry.

Questions tonight many people are asking, perhaps you're wondering what the criteria were used by the Nobel Selection Committee. Alfred Nobel himself laid out the requirements in his will. He wrote the prize should go to quote, "the person who shall have done the most of the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

If you're wondering who the other nominees for the prize were, you'll have to check back in 2059 when the names will be made public. The Nobel Committee did not say it had received -- did say that it had received 205 nominations for this year's prize. That is the highest number of nominations ever.

The Nobel Peace Prize is ultimately decided by a five-member committee. The process is lengthy. When all nominations have been submitted, a short list of up to 20 names is reviewed by the Nobel Institute's director, a small group of advisers as well, made up of Norwegian University professors. Their reports then are poured over by the committee of five, all of whom are former or current deputies of the Norwegian Parliament.

The winner is then chosen by a simple majority if a unanimous vote is not possible. It was this time. President Obama's accomplishments enough for the committee but not Arizona State University. Arizona State University surprised the White House, you may remember, by refusing to give the new president an honorary degree when he delivered the school's commencement back in May.

An ASU spokesman at the time explained the decision "it's our practice he said to recognize an individual for his body of work, somebody who's been in their position for a long time. His body of work is yet to come. That's why we're not recognizing him with a degree at the beginning of his presidency." Arizona State did end up creating a scholarship program in the name of President Obama.

This international honor for the president comes at a time when new questions are emerging about the future of this nation itself. A recent report from the American Political Science Association says despite the president's presidency, there remains a deep global dissatisfaction with the United States. Ines Ferre reports now on critics predicting the fall of the American empire.


INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since 1945 the U.S. has enjoyed being a global superpower but in recent years some foreign leaders and scholars have been predicting the end of the American empire. This is what Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez recently told a group of Russian students at the University of Moscow.

PRES. HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELA (through translator): The Yankee empire that might have dominated the world can no longer do it. It's already falling.

FERRE: Chavez and other politicians who oppose the U.S. have made similar predictions in the past, from Fidel Castro to Chinese leader Mao who predicted American militarism would someday lead to the downfall of the U.S. Russian academic and former KGB analyst Igor Panarin goes even farther.

He says the U.S. will fall apart in 2010 because of an economic and moral collapse. Assistant professor of European history at the University of New England, Eric Zuelow (ph) has studied past empires. He thinks these predictions are overstated and points to a fairly new phenomena that would hold the U.S. together, the concept of a nation.

ASST. PROF. ERIC ZUELOW, UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND: Although we may disagree about some pretty significant political issues, at the end of the day we nevertheless imagine ourselves to be part of the same community. We may disagree about the fundamentals of what the founding fathers intended, but we don't disagree that the Constitution and the founding fathers are ultimately common shared history that bring us together.

FERRE: French historian and demographer Emanuel Todd (ph), who is credited with predicting the downfall of the Soviet Union argued in 2003 that the U.S. was about to relinquish its place as a sole superpower. Why -- the decline of its industrial base, and more dependence on other countries for consumptions. And in August, 2008, NYU Professor Nouriel Roubini wrote quote, "recent economic, financial and geopolitical events suggest that the decline of the American empire has started."


FERRE: And the U.S. military remains the envy of the free world but national debt close to $12 trillion with China as the largest foreign holder of our debt and the United States' massive trade deficits is behind the arguments that the U.S. position in the world is in decline, Lou.

DOBBS: All right, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Ines Ferre.

Well coming up next here, we'll have a lot more on whether or not the American empire is in decline. We'll be talking about the Nobel Peace Prize controversy and 10 years and almost $1 trillion, the Senate health care overhaul legislation coming with a large price tag and with price tags beyond that are largely written in invisible ink but with profound impact on states.

And state governments are now demanding changes to the legislation, and overcrowding in California's prisons could land Governor Schwarzenegger behind bars. We'll explain next.


DOBBS: The Senate Finance Committee is set to vote next week on its health care legislation. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated at least preliminarily the cost of the proposal at $829 billion. Some of the costs of that plan, however, will be passed along to individual states, as unfunded mandates. Lisa Sylvester has the report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): States already picking a part of the cost of Medicaid will have to spend even more under proposed health care legislation, even as the states are facing severe fiscal headaches. Tennessee's Governor Phil Bredesen is a Democrat and a former health care management executive. Bredesen estimates without any changes, Medicaid will cost his state $735 million during the first five years, beginning in 2014. If Congress adds a Medicaid drug benefit and increases Medicare provider rates, both possibilities, he says it could tack on another $3 billion.

GOV. PHIL BREDESEN (D), TENNESSEE: There's a couple of big unknowns out there and I wanted to make the members of Congress aware of those unknowns because as you get in to negotiations and stuff, just let them know that they have huge consequences for us.

SYLVESTER: Bredesen is not the only governor worried, in a statement to CNN the National Governors Association said, "while governors continue to believe that health care reform is critical to our nation's economic future, they are steadfastly opposed to unfunded federal mandates."

Senator Max Baucus, who sponsored the Senate legislation, argues that while Medicaid cost will go up for states, more than 80 percent of the tab for new enrollees will be paid by the federal government. Baucus' office also says states will see a reduction in the amount they currently pay for uncompensated care at hospitals, and 22 of the 28 Democratic governors sent Baucus a letter in support of his legislation. But the new mandates could mean new taxes, says Pete Sepp with the taxpayer watchdog group.

PETE SEPP, NATIONAL TAXPAYERS UNION: Ultimately each individual state's taxpayers will be footing the bill for these mandates of new coverage that would be passed down from Washington. It could mean higher property and income taxes. It could mean higher debts. No matter what, though, someone at the local and state level is going to pay.

SYLVESTER: Sepp says the new obligations will kick in just as many of the states are forecasted to come out of their fiscal slump.


SYLVESTER: Governor Phil Bredesen said the health care legislation could be the mother of all unfunded mandates. In a letter to Tennessee's congressional delegates he said he very much wants to support the president, and he said quote, "lord know what we have plenty of people in Tennessee who need help," but he also added that this is an extraordinary time from a fiscal perspective for his state. Lou?

DOBBS: All right, Lisa, thank you very much, Lisa Sylvester from Washington. We'll be examining the off-budget implications, if you will, of this proposal that will emerge from the committee next Tuesday.

Well, troubling, new details tonight on the impact of swine flu. Seventy-six children have died from the swine flu. Sixteen deaths reported in the past week alone. The toll is raising new concerns that the strain could be particularly dangerous for our young people. Thirty-seven states are now reporting widespread flu cases according to the Centers for Disease Control and demand for the swine flu vaccine so far is vastly exceeding supply. States have ordered 3.7 million doses of swine flu vaccine.

To hear my opinion on swine flu, the health care debate and much more and whether our troops should be increased in Afghanistan or withdrawn, join me on the radio Monday through Fridays please 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 find the local listings for "The Lou Dobbs Show" and to subscribe to our daily Podcast. You can also follow me on loudobbsnews on and I hope you will. That's loudobbsnews on

Up next, President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, you like the sound of that? Even his supporters tonight say though it might hurt his foreign and domestic agenda -- our panel of top political analysts joins us and credit card interest rates are soaring while banks are paying the lowest interest rates in history. Is it time for the federal government to step in?

And only in California, of course, prison inmates want Governor Schwarzenegger -- they want him in jail because they don't like his plan to release them. We'll have that story again only in California. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Just what Arnold Schwarzenegger needs, the California governor facing charges of civil and criminal contempt of court, those charges stemming from Schwarzenegger's failure to comply with a federal court order to release tens of thousands of inmates from California's overcrowded prisons. The request for those contempt charges come from none other than the prison inmates -- only in California -- Casey Wian with our report.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California prisons are so overcrowded, they've become health hazards and uncontrollably violent. They house nearly twice as many inmates as they were built to hold. A three-judge panel has ordered California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to reduce the state's prison population by about 40,000 within two years.

Last month, he submitted a conditional plan to accomplish the goal, but in five years. Now attorneys for inmates have filed a motion requesting judges to hold the governor in contempt of court for failing to comply with a court order.

DONALD SPECTOR, ATTORNEY, PRISON LAW NETWORK: He has to obey the law just like anybody else, and just like my clients get punished when they break the law, the governor has broken the law, and he should be punished as well. He is not above the law. WIAN: Spector and his colleagues are asking judges to impose one fine for quote "willful violations" of the court order and another fine for every day the state fails to comply, fines that would come out of the governor's own pocket. A spokeswoman for Governor Schwarzenegger said in a statement "the state filed a plan that reduces the prison population without compromising public safety. We continue to object to the panel's arbitrary cap under a two-year timeline and are continuing our appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court."

MATTHEW CATE, SECY., CALIF. DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS: Ultimately the courts will decide whether what we've done is in substantial compliance with their orders. So what you'll see when you read the plan is that we follow the court's order to do everything that we can do safely within the California system.

WIAN: Some state lawmakers have filed objections to the court- ordered inmate reduction plan claiming among other things "it unduly and unnecessarily endangers public safety."


WIAN: Theoretically the judges could rule that the governor should be jailed for the contempt of court order but even his legal opponents concede that is highly unlikely. They also acknowledge any fine is not likely to have much impact on Governor Schwarzenegger because he of course is a very wealthy man, Lou.

DOBBS: Yeah, but Casey, I think really the question becomes could California be any more screwed up?

WIAN: I think it could be, Lou, absolutely.

DOBBS: Well...


WIAN: I hate to see the condition the state's in -- yeah, right.

DOBBS: All right, thanks very much, Casey, Casey Wian and we want to wish the governor good luck.

President Obama now a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Will it affect his war strategy? Will it be possible that he will think more peace than war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world? We'll find out.

And would a new round of tax cuts help our unemployed Americans? Would it help put them back to work and why in the world isn't Congress and this White House focusing on jobs now?

Also, are bailed out banks ripping off consumers, charging high interest rates when they are paying extraordinarily low, historically low interest rates, what should be the limit? We'll find out, next.


ANNOUNCER: Here again, Mr. Independent Lou Dobbs. DOBBS: Banks all across this country are raising interest rates on America's struggling middle class in the midst of recession and weak recovery. Banks, by the way, can borrow money now at almost zero percent. They -- those rates have been at historically low rates. Those rates have been there for the past two years.

More than one in four credit cardholders now pay interest rates above 20 percent. President Obama has called on Congress to strengthen consumer protection, but the plan doesn't call for a limit on lending rates. Why not? Bill Tucker has our report.



BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Obama wants Congress to establish a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to make sure consumers understand the financial rules.

OBAMA: It will be charged with setting clear rules of the road for consumers and banks, and it will be able to enforce those rules across the board.

TUCKER: Banking industry doesn't think it's needed. Chamber of Commerce doesn't either, saying quote "we disagree that adding a new agency atop a broken regulatory system solves the problem or closes regulatory gaps." Consumer advocates see it very differently and the president's call comes at a time when those advocates and consumers are increasingly angry over credit card interest rates.

HEATHER MCGHEE, DEMOS: While the banks cost of credit is at historic lows, consumers, every day, regular Americans cost of credit is at historic highs while at the same time banks are taking that money, going back to Washington saying, thank you, please, can I have some more?

TUCKER: The Federal Reserve is currently making money available to banks at less than one quarter of one percent interest. The cost of money to consumers is much higher. Even consumers borrowing at the prime rate which is currently at 3.25 percent are paying roughly 16 times the rate the banks borrowed the money in the first place and according to Demos, one-quarter of all Americans have credit card interest rates that exceed 20 percent. Bankers defend the high rates because they say they need to be able to price in the risk of credit card failure in order to make the business work.

ROBERT MANNING, CREDIT CARD NATION: What is the most absurd of it all is that the resources the banks are lending are from the public, from the taxpayer and essentially we're borrowing back from ourselves at what used to be literally a usury interest rate.

TUCKER: And speaking of usury rates, whatever happened to usury laws? Well they essentially don't exist anymore, except for credit unions where the maximum lending rate is capped at 18 percent.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TUCKER: Now national banks can charge whatever interest rate they want. They are limited only by the laws of the states where they are chartered. In Delaware and South Dakota, two of those states and they have no usury laws, meaning if banks want to charge you 50 percent or more they can. President Obama's agency, Lou, would do nothing to change that reality.

DOBBS: So there's not much change with this administration when it comes to the banks and credit card interest rates?

TUCKER: There is not.

DOBBS: All right, Bill, thank you very much.

Well there are some other issues that aren't changing as well. We're going to be taking up one of those right now. The unemployment rate in this country now stands at 9.8 percent. That is the highest in 26 years. The federal stimulus program so far has failed to reverse that trend but then only 20 percent of the money has been disbursed.

Many economists are now calling for a tax credit for companies to create new jobs. Others call the tax credit simply corporate welfare. And that is the subject of our "Face Off" debate tonight because with 30 million Americans unemployed and underemployed this seems like the time to focus on jobs, "JOBS NOW!"

Joining me John Bishop -- he's associate professor of Human Resource Studies at Cornell University -- great to have you with us -- and Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business -- good to have you with us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.

DOBBS: Mr. Bishop, let me ask you first why a tax credit for job creation when the president just asked for $787 billion, gave less than one percent to small business, which creates most of the jobs in this country.

PROF JOHN BISHOP, CORNELL UNIVERSITY: We have a huge need for more jobs and when they were making those plans, they did not -- the projections were for much better circumstances than we face now. The political situation has changed in the ability to get a very large increase in jobs, it would require another trillion dollars to really make a -- get us back to full employment and a much cheaper alternative exists, and that's what we're proposing.

DOBBS: How does a tax credit proposal you're working on differ from the 77 new jobs tax credit?

BISHOP: Well, first, maybe we should explain what the 77...

DOBBS: Very quickly.

BISHOP: was. It was $,2100 for hiring and expanding your employment by a measure of $2,100 per worker who worked a lot, and that would then, that then produced -- it ended up costing about three-tenths of one percent of all, of the wage bill.

DOBBS: And your plan?

BISHOP: Our plan is more expensive on the face of it, but we're tackling and shooting to increase jobs by three million, rather than the 500,000 to one million...

DOBBS: Total price tag three million jobs?

BISHOP: It's about -- in terms of lost government earnings and taxes, about $6,000 to $8,000 per job created, the jobs that pay $50,000.

DOBBS: So $250 billion?

BISHOP: The net cost after the money -- when the program is operating...

DOBBS: All right, we got the idea. It's expensive.


BISHOP: And then taxes are paid and so that helps reduce the cost.

DOBBS: Let's get over -- let me ask you this, why do you oppose such an idea? We need jobs in this country.

BILL DUNKELBERG, CONSUMER ADVISORY COUNCIL: We do. You know, but in general I think that government job creation is an oxymoron. That doesn't really happen that way. If a small firm is going to hire somebody, they hire because they think this new person will generate more sales than the cost of hiring them.

Right now, 32 percent of the firms out there in the NFIB survey say that sales, weak sales is their No. 1 problem, only four percent say credit's a problem. So, basically you got a Cash for Clunkers program coming along here which says, you know, we'll pay you now to quickly hire somebody, but mostly we're going to, not going to hire people unless we think we can pay for them with extra sales and that's not the prospects right now.

Forty percent think their real sales will decline over the next six months, so even though you give me $5,000 for a $30,000 job, I'm not going to pay $30,000 to get a $5,000 credit if this person isn't going to generate the sales that I need to pay for it. So, that's not going to work.

DOBBS: What do you think -- John.

BISHOP: We, well the -- you can put the person to work getting more sales. You can put the person to work -- it presents you with the opportunity to offer lower prices when you export. You can compete with importers more effectively. This is a credit for hiring and employing Americans.

(CROSSTALK) DOBBS: ...because this doesn't consider the impact of two things, principally the fact that our economy is now import-driven, and our capital is being diverted, frankly, to, it's borrowed capital, it's being diverted to buy imported products at a time when we got the most significant import penetration in this economy in history. How do we create a sustained job creation engine in this country?

BISHOP: We need to grow manufacturing, and we've lost...

DOBBS: By how much?

BISHOP: We need -- we've lost maybe 10 million jobs in manufacturing over the last 30 years. You know, when the highest level of manufacturing employment was in our history, was shortly after the end of the new jobs tax credit in 1978 and '79, so it helped expand manufacturing then, it helped expand construction then, and the program we proposed is better, because it avoids some of the flaws that that program has, and can have a huge effect.

DOBBS: This president has shown no appetite whatsoever, nor has the Democratic Congress shown any appetite whatsoever for driving jobs through small business.

BISHOP: I think we're going to persuade -- you know, I think you'll see a change. If you perceive that, I think the perception is wrong.

DOBBS: I don't perceive it. Here are the facts. They put in less than one percent of a stimulus package, and less than one percent of that went to small business in this country, and the rest, you could argue, was something quite different. I mean that's not a perception problem. That's an empirical problem.

DUNKELBERG: And all the headlines you see is that Obama is meeting with the heads of these huge companies that don't really employ that many peoples in the United States. I mean General Motors, these big companies, don't employ a lot of people. It's the small businesses and we haven't had...

DOBBS: If not a tax credit for jobs what? Because we need to create jobs and businesses and doing it right now.

DUNKELBERG: Well, I would suggest that we go back to the early thoughts we had, give tax cuts to consumers who can then go spend. If we get a customer coming in the front door, then I have to hire somebody and order some inventory.

DOBBS: That's a wonderful idea except for one thing, there is no manufacturing policy in this country.


DOBBS: I think all three would agree we've got to double or triple our manufacturing capacity in this country. We've got to become an exporting nation, at least if not to be, and I'm not talking about in a mercantilist sense, we have got to move to a level of parity with our trading partners or this becomes nothing more than a backdoor exercise in which taxpayer capital will be flowing out the back.

DUNKELBERG: That's right.

BISHOP: If you increase -- if you subsidize or encourage people to consume more, half of the goods that they buy are going to be made abroad. That's -- Cash for Clunkers...

DOBBS: Precisely my point.

BISHOP: Exactly same result. So, those kinds of approach will not work to create jobs for Americans.

DOBBS: But if we throw money at jobs, the way you're suggesting, how do we sustain? We don't have manufacturing policy. We don't have a trade policy.

BISHOP: It's up to the entrepreneurs to solve this problem, not the government. The government gets out of the way.

DOBBS: Thanks for not saying invisible hand. We appreciate that. John, thank you so much. Bill, thank you.

DUNKELBERG: Thank you.

DOBBS: Just ahead, the president joins ranks with Jimmy Carter, his fellow Peace Prize winner, and our political panel weighs in on today's stunning announcement and the events of this week.

And should the president be sending more troops to Afghanistan or should we be bringing them home, not just from Afghanistan, but all around the world? Is it time for the rest of the world to mature and take on its responsibility? We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Well, joining me now, five of the best political minds in the country, Keith Richburg, he's the New York bureau chief for the "Washington Post," syndicated columnist, CNN contributor, Miguel Perez, Democratic strategist, CNN contributor, Robert Zimmerman, "New York Daily News" columnist, CNN contributor Errol Louis, Warren Zuckerman, editor-in-chief, "U.S. News and World Report" and owner of the "New York Daily News," I might point out -- just relax, Errol, it's all going to be good.


Good to have you all with us. We've been talking about the Nobel Peace Prize. Keith, your reactions this morning when you first learned of it?

KEITH RICHBURG, WASHINGTON POST: First I thought it was a joke. I was really kind of stunned. You know, I tried to go back and look -- for preparation for this, go back and look at some of the past winners. They try to sometimes honor somebody for a body of work, clearly this was not the case. Other times they try to make a political statement and clearly that was in that category. They're trying to give it to somebody to make a political statement, repudiating the Bush policies and saying we like what this guy stands for.

DOBBS: Some wags suggest that this is a significant if not mortal blow to the Peace Prize itself. What is your reaction -- Miguel.

MIGUEL PEREZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't know if it's mortal but it's definitely diminishes the importance of the Peace Prize. You know, when you think of the fact that most prizes, most Americans assume that a prize is based on some sort of accomplishment, and we don't have that much to talk about...

DOBBS: Silly Americans.

PEREZ: So, you know, but Lou, my initial reaction I think was the one that was universal -- He won? For what?

DOBBS: Robert?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Lou. Look, bottom line is, the Nobel Peace...

DOBBS: I love it when you start with, "look."

ZIMMERMAN: The Nobel Peace Prize committee obviously was recognizing him for his leadership goals in international affairs and what I find frustrate something why we, in America, having our president receive the highest honor on the international stage, when it comes to building alliances for tougher sanctions on Iran or developing international relations for climate change an host of other issues, why we feel frustrated or the need to debate it. It's an important recognition of what have our country stands for and our place on the world stage.

DOBBS: Errol, it seems we're wasting Robert Zimmerman's time.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, no, not at all. I think this is going to go down in history as one of their goofs. The Nobel committee has goofed in the past. Mahatma Gandhi never a Nobel Peace Prize, he was nominated a few times, somehow never made the cut.

When you look at who's actually doing this, it's a committee of five that is elected by the Norwegian parliament and they're all politicians themselves, so this is not some august body of people outside the fray, it's subject to the peculiarities that politicians often fall prey to.

There are other controversial decisions they've made. I mean, this might have been one of the years, and there have been over 10 of them, where no prize was awarded because nobody particularly deserved it. This might have been better off as one of those years, but instead, it's closer to 1973, when Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, you know, the criticism that came because they created an arms (INAUDIBLE) that immediately fell apart in Vietnam.

DOBBS: Some found Yasser Arafat to have been an interesting choice, too.

LOUIS: Another controversial choice in 1994.

DOBBS: Mort, your views?

MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: Well, you know, you don't want to sort of diminish anything like this that accrues to a president of the United States, but I must say it changed my whole sense of the Nobel Peace Prize. I always thought it was based on accomplishments and not on words, and this is a presidency that is, at the very earliest, in sort of its making, it had to be, as suggested before, to somehow or other encourage his role, because it certainly has not been on the basis of what he has accomplished. I'm sure there was some dimension of it that was a rejection of George Bush, but it is not consistent, at least with the way I thought of the Nobel Peace Prize. But listen, I wish him well and I hope it helps him to do what we all want him to do, to succeed.

DOBBS: Yeah, exactly. It's confounding, in that you want to wish him well and to earn that Peace Prize, but at the same time, it is equally confounding that the Nobel Peace Prize committee would offer...

ZUCKERMAN: It's giving the most valuable player award in the major leagues to a guy who's just played two weeks in the season. You know, it's a little bit early. He may be a fabulous ball player, but it's a little bit early to determine that. But there you are, it is as...

ZIMMERMAN: It's not about -- and they made it clear when they awarded this prize, that it's really not about performance as much as it's about the leadership goals they want to encourage or the intentions and they did this with Willy Brandt, even though the resumes are different from both men, they made the case, this is the Nobel committee made the point that they were trying to encourage the outreach to east Germany.

DOBBS: Would you like to remind Mr. Zimmerman...


ZIMMERMAN: I'm saying what the Nobel committee said when they awarded him.

ZUCKERMAN: Two American presidents have won the prize, Teddy Roosevelt for ending the Russo-Japanese War and Woodrow Wilson for the 14 points and more or less contributing to the end of the First World War. It's just in a totally different category and it's not...

DOBBS: And of course, we would argue that he laid the foundation for the second -- Miguel.

PEREZ: An attempt -- I think what it is, is to influence U.S. policy at a time when Obama is discussing, at least, whether to send 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, here comes a crown prize based on Alfred Nobel's will in 1895 which stipulates that it is, and I quote "the abolition or reduction of standing armies" that this prize winner is supposed to seek. This is a guy who's considering sending more troops to Afghanistan. How is it not an attempt to influence U.S. policy? I don't see it.

DOBBS: Yes, Keith?

RICHBURG: You know, the one accomplishment that they did not mention, but I think had to be there is his accomplishment in winning the election, in winning the election and breaking down the racial barrier in the United States and inspiring people around the world, now what wasn't said was that in itself has been his accomplishment.

DOBBS: I think we're back to Mort, he's not George W. Bush, played a large part apparently in the selection. We're going to be right back with our panel. Stay with us.


DOBBS: With all of the focus, of course, on the Nobel Peace Prize, there's been some neglect of the domestic agenda for this president for this country -- 30 million Americans unemployed or underemployed -- this administration giving almost no attention to job creation since the passage of the stimulation -- the stimulus package. Banks charging over 20 percent, in many cases, while interest rates that they are required to pay for their money is at historic lows. Mort, what is going on here?

ZUCKERMAN: Well, there's no doubt we're in a very weak economic time and the stimulus program, which may have been well-intentioned, in my judgment, was badly drawn it was not going to stimulate employment in particular, anywhere near to the extent that $800 billion should have done it.

I mean, when you are talking about a $350 million unirail from Harry Reid's Las Vegas to Disneyland, you know that this isn't going to happen for a long time. Only $49 billion in new money was going to be spent to stimulate the economy in the first fiscal year and another $108 billion -- these are government numbers.

So, when you look at the fact we're going to lose $750 billion to a trillion dollars in demand in the economy it's not going to have much of an effect. The real danger is that this economy and it's still going down, it's going to feed on itself, and the worst part of it in every way, is the unemployment numbers. They're going to be very damaging politically, if we're anywhere near where we are a year from today.

DOBBS: And we're looking at polls showing parity between Democrats and Republicans for the midterm elections. Errol, what is going on here? I thought the Republican Party was over.

LOUIS: Well, no, they are not quite over and they are very much in this. There are polls that are showing that people are very unhappy and that's going to continue. I think Mort is right, that there's going to be a real reckoning. You know, there is going to start to be called, I believe, for a second stimulus package, they may call it something different, but that's basically what it's will be.

DOBBS: Well, we just heard from the White House at the beginning of the week that there would be no stimulus package and by the end of the week, we're hearing something quite different.

LOUIS: Yeah, well, they may call it something different, but the reality is, if the basic (INAUDIBLE) argument remains true, which is that a fall off in demand has got to be matched by some government spending, they're going to figure out how to spend something real quick.

DOBBS: Calls for Charlie Rangel to be ousted as the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. How big of a problem is he for the Democratic Party, how much trouble is he in?

ZIMMERMAN: The problem is the fact that he's taken so long to resolve this issue. That's really, that's really the challenge, here. The idea that political pundits in the media are calling for Charlie Rangel's removal because they're bored with the trial is not any credible -- any credible precedent at all to establish. And Peter King, to his credit as a Republican conservative, voted against the Republicans resolution to remove him, because that's not how we -- that's not how we -- that's not how we pursue justice in America and we shouldn't do it in the Congress.

DOBBS: Is Charlie Rangel a problem for the Democratic Party -- Miguel.

PEREZ: Oh, absolutely. I think he is a problem. I mean, the image of -- you know, his dealings is damaging to all of them, but again, I agree with my friend Robert, here. You know, let's not make too much of this until we know -- until the whole truth comes out. I think it's premature to try to remove him right now.

DOBBS: And, next up, it appears as comprehensive immigration reform where, how does that proceed?

RICHBURG: That's going to be very tricky. That's going to go into next year, which is an election year, first of all. You know, the health care debate is draining so much, I think that'll probably come up for a vote sometime before Christmas. It has drained so much, the partisan division has been so much, it's going to be very tricky to move on to that issue, but he's promised it's going to come up sometime in the next year.

ZIMMERMAN: It would be the height of irresponsibility to move on so-called immigration reform when we haven't even begun to look at cap and trade and certainly health care is producing such deep divisions.

PEREZ: I'm dying to see immigration reform, as you know, but it's not going to happen because of health care reform what it entails and the fact that health care reform has now put a price tag on immigration reform. When we want to legalize so many million people later on, they're going to say: oh, it's going to cost us so much more money to insure them, now. So, it's going to put a price tag on that, it's going to be even harder to pass any kind of immigration reform.

DOBBS: All right, gentlemen, thank you very much, appreciate it. Thank you.

Time now to take a quick look at some of your thoughts.

Gerry in Florida said, "Lou, please explain why Obama wins the Peace Prize when he disses a man of piece: the Dalai Lama."

Ron asks: "Lou, where's your Nobel Peace Prize?" I'm waiting to be worthy.

And Gordon in Los Angeles, "Is this the 'all talk and no action' award?"

And a different view from Widfredo in Jacksonville, Florida, "Congratulations, Mr. President, this is a great win for our great country."

And finally, Pat in Montgomery, Alabama, "Lou, where's Kanye West when you need him?"

We love hearing from you, send us your thoughts to Each of you who's e-mail is read here receives a copy of my book, "Independent's Day," and also the brand new "Independent American" tee-shirt -- you can see us at

And up at the top of the of hour, none other than Campbell Brown -- Campbell.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Hey there, Lou. We've got a lot more coming up on the announcement that shocked the world, today. President Obama winning this year's Nobel Peace Prize. We're going to get reactions from both here and overseas, as well. Also tonight's "Intriguing Person," Helen Thomas, she's been in the White House Press Core since JFK and now she's got some advice for future presidents. We'll see you at the top of the hour -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you very much, Campbell, look forward to it.

Coming up next, on "Heroes," the story of a remarkable young veteran who continues his service today as an advocate for other veterans. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Now, "Heroes," our weekly tribute to our men and women in uniform. Tonight we honor Army Staff Sergeant Brian Hawthorne. He earned his Bronze Star for his bravery in Iraq. Hawthorne is now a full-time college student, but he continues to serve this country as a leading advocate for other student veterans. Philippa Holland with his story.


PHILIPPA HOLLAND, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With a hooded sweatshirt and a relaxed gait, 24-year-old Brian Hawthorne looks like your average college senior. Few would guess he did two tours with the Army Reserve in Iraq and has a Bronze Star to show for it.

STAFF SGT BRIAN HAWTHORNE, U.S. ARMY: I think that if someone were asked a student here to describe a veteran, it would be, you know, a drunk guy at the bar, homeless guy around the corner or grandpa, you know, with the funny hat on Veteran's Day. I mean, that's veterans. But it's not.

HOLLAND: Hawthorne is more than a million student veterans on college campuses around the country. Barely a year after returning from his first tour in Mosul, Staff Sergeant Hawthorne deployed to Baghdad in July 2007 with the 450 Civil Affairs Battalion.

He immediately volunteered to put his civilian EMS training to work as the company medic. His biggest test came two months later, a routine day of missions, meeting with locals and visiting infrastructure projects. Suddenly, an explosion. A vehicle in his convoy struck an IED. Hawthorne ran back to find one serious injury.

HAWTHORNE: He had a really big wound, probably about that big, in his right thigh, and then another one in his left forearm and so, two tourniquets, packed them as best as I could with gauze, couldn't really stop the bleeding. I kind of rolled him, so I was on top of him, basically, at that point.

HOLLAND: The wounded soldier was a close friend.

HAWTHORNE: I was at Sean's (ph) wedding almost two months to the day before he was wounded and his wife's a good friend of mine, and you know, she kind of pulled me aside at the wedding and she was like, he better come back. I was like, yes, ma'am.

HOLLAND: Hawthorne kept his promise. The soldier lived and even avoided amputation. For his heroism, he Army recognized Hawthorne with the Bronze Star. Since returning to school, he's dedicated himself to student's veteran's causes, lobbying Congress and building a supportive community for vets like him to readjust to civilian life.

HAWTHORNE: It's easy to forget if you want to forget and I don't know, I choose not to. I don't want to forget our experiences there, I don't want to forget the people that we were with, but sometimes it feels like another planet.

HOLLAND: Philippa Holland, CNN.


DOBBS: Hawthorne expects to graduate this year with a degree in international relations and geography, although he says he could be called back to combat at any time. We want to thank Staff Sergeant Hawthorne, all of our brave men and women who serve this nation in uniform. Thank you so much.

And thank you for being with us, tonight. Join us here Monday, have a great weekend. Thanks for watching. Good night from New York.

Coming up next here on CNN, Campbell Brown.