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Lou Dobbs Tonight

War Plan Shift; Patriotism vs. Policy; Legalize Marijuana?; Meatless Mondays

Aired October 19, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: We know who Wolf is. Thank you very much, Wolf.

A war strategy delayed again. The Barack Obama administration divided over what to do next in Afghanistan, but the American people are decided. A new poll showing most Americans are now against this war, and believe that Afghanistan will be Barack Obama's Vietnam.

The Navy's controversial new call to service promising recruits they can join a quote "global force for good." Does the Navy think it's an international police force? What about protecting America, serving the nation?

A Pennsylvania firefighter suspended for refusing to take down his American flag is back at work and the flag remains. Why was he sent home in the first place? What is wrong with displaying the flag?

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT; news, debate and analysis for Monday, October 19th. Live from New York, Mr. Independent Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. The new war plan for Afghanistan is on hold. The White House tonight signaling it may not make a decision on troop levels until the disputed Afghan election is resolved. Nearly a third of President Hamid Karzai's votes were thrown out after a U.N. investigation uncovered widespread fraud in the August election.

Critics are now calling for another vote. This new, what could be termed excuse, could give the administration more time and political cover for whatever decision ultimately the president reaches. Dan Lothian has our report.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House has maintained that a new strategy for Afghanistan is coming in a number of weeks, but could the disputed elections and President Hamid Karzai's apparent reluctance to accept a U.N.-led audit delay the next critical step?

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't want to get ahead of the process in terms of important decisions that Afghan leaders are going to have to make over the next several days about how to step forward. LOTHIAN: Senator John Kerry, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, has been playing a key role on the ground in Afghanistan.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I believe that before the president commits additional troops, we need to know that we are proceeding forward in Afghanistan with a government in a constructive way that offers us the best hope of success.

LOTHIAN: During his weekend visit, a senior Democratic official says Senator Kerry had frequent conversations with both the White House and the State Department. And while it's an independent trip, it's supported by the White House. And according to one senior administration official, it has been very helpful.

Meanwhile, the finger-pointing continues. On "STATE OF THE UNION" with John King, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was critical of the Bush administration's planning of the war in Afghanistan.

RAHM EMANUEL, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: And the president is asking the questions that have never been asked on the civilian side, the political side, the military side and the strategic side.

LOTHIAN: But President Bush's former top adviser, Karl Rove, fired back on FOX News.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Emanuel left the impression that they were the first people to ask tough questions. It's simply not true. A strategic review was begun in 2008 by the Bush administration.


LOTHIAN: Now while spokesman Robert Gibbs was hesitant to draw a link between the timing of the president's announcement and the political situation on the ground there, Secretary of State Clinton was more willing to do that. In fact, she said quote, "this is one of the factors that has to be taken into account." Lou?

DOBBS: Dan, thank you very much -- Dan Lothian from the White House. President Obama may be hesitating over a new war strategy and for good reason. A new CNN poll shows public support for the war continues to decline. A majority of Americans are now set against sending in more troops, and most believe that Afghanistan will end up being President Obama's Vietnam. Candy Crowley has our report.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president may be undecided on Afghanistan and his advisers seem divided, but Americans are decidedly not. With the latest polls showing just 39 percent of Americans favor sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, 59 percent are opposed.

In general, the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows an America broadly skeptical that Afghanistan can pull itself together under a stable government and fearful of Vietnam syndrome, vaguely defined as fear of an unending, unwinnable war. Fifty-two percent think Afghanistan has turned into another Vietnam; 46 percent disagree with that.

In the latter category, Senator John Kerry, a decorated war veteran who became known for his opposition to the Vietnam War upon his return home -- Afghanistan, Kerry says emphatically, is not Vietnam.

KERRY: We are here in Afghanistan because people attacked us here in the most significant attack against the United States since Pearl Harbor. We are here because there are still people at large who are plotting against the United States of America, and we are here because the stability of this region is a critical strategic interest to the United States.

CROWLEY: And that's one of the curious twists of the poll, because most Americans agree with the senator. Sixty percent say it's necessary to keep troops in Afghanistan to prevent terrorism in the U.S., but at the same time, 57 percent of Americans say they oppose the war. CNN pollster Keating Holland thinks in part, some Americans no longer believe terrorism should be fought at any cost.

KEATING HOLLAND, CNN POLLING DIRECTOR: Americans don't feel the same personal jeopardy when it comes to terrorism that they felt in 2001 and 2002. Others may simply see the benefit of preventing a terrorist attack somewhere in the United States being outweighed by the costs associated with a long, ongoing war that involves a lot of troops and a lot of money.

CROWLEY: It's not known when and what the president will decide about Afghanistan, but it's pretty clear that should he send more troops, he'll have a big sales job ahead of him with the American people.


CROWLEY: And that's a job that will be particularly difficult among older Americans. When it comes to equating Afghanistan with Vietnam, the sentiment was strongest among seniors, one of the most reliable midterm voting blocs. Lou?

DOBBS: All right, thank you very much, Candy, appreciate it. Candy Crowley. Pakistan has engaged in what is now a third day of heavy fighting against Taliban and al Qaeda forces. The major offensive is focused on South Waziristan, the mountainous region near the border with Afghanistan. That area has been described as a terrorist safe haven.

Eighty percent of all attacks in Pakistan are planned there, according to intelligence sources. A serious refugee crisis is developing. Some 160,000 people have already been displaced. The effort is considered vital to American forces fighting the war against insurgents in Afghanistan.

We'll have much more on the debate over Afghanistan later in this broadcast with our panel. The question I've been asking -- is it time to withdrawal all of our troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and the rest of the world? And to read more of my thoughts, please go to, where you will also find a petition concerning withdrawal of those forces.

Democratic lawmakers continuing their secret meetings on health care legislation. They are far from unified. Some Democrats taking a hard-line stand, saying they will not support any legislation that does not include a government plan to compete with private insurers. A government plan was not part of the legislation that passed the Senate Finance Committee, which we're getting our first full look at today.

America's -- it's called "America's Healthy Future Act." It weighs in, if you can see this, a healthy 1,502 pages, a separate committee report. Let me reduce that for you. It includes an explanation of the bill. It amounts to 1,420 pages -- excuse me, 420 pages or 418, if I may round it down.

The question, of course, is how many lawmakers will actually read all of this. And my question is -- how are we going to break this down here on the staff to read it because I'm not reading all of this, so get ready, Leslie, get ready, Emily -- Kevin, get going -- all right.

Up next, we'll have the latest example of political correctness in the schools. Now Baltimore is forcing meatless Mondays on their school kids -- the left-wing group PETA partly behind the plan.

And the Pennsylvania firefighter who refused to take down his American flag is back on the job after being suspended for two days. Now the flag will be allowed to remain, but why in the world was he suspended in the first place? We'll be right back with that story and a great deal more. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The American flag is at the center of a battle between patriotism and fire department policy. A Pennsylvania firefighter was suspended without pay after he refused to peel a sticker of the American flag from his locker. A college student in New Hampshire was told not to display "old glory" from his dorm room. Both were told they broke the rules. Why -- Ines Ferre with our report.


INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chester County, Pennsylvania firefighter James Krapf is back at work after a suspension for displaying an American flag sticker outside his locker door.

JAMES KRAPF, CHESTER COUNTY, PA FIREFIGHTER: I think everybody supported me and everybody came out today. I'm just glad to be back to work and glad that we're going to be able to display the flag.

FERRE: The fire department had a ban on putting items on locker doors after a controversial cartoon was posted by another firefighter. But after an outcry, the department changed its policy to allow the American flag to be displayed on locker doors.

STACEY LANDRUM, FIREFIGHTERS UNION PRESIDENT: A negotiated settlement was reached between the parties, and most importantly, from this point forward, our brothers will be able to display the American flag for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

FERRE: In recent weeks, other citizens across the country have had to fight to display the red, white and blue. Residents at one Oregon apartment complex were outraged after learning they couldn't display any kinds of flags, decals or team pendants on parked vehicles.

The ban was put into place to avoid conflict between residents. The complex lifted it after national criticism. And recently, a University of New Hampshire freshman was asked to take down an American flag outside his dorm window. An anonymous e-mailer complained to the school, which has a policy of no objects of any kind hanging outside windows.

CONNER MACIVER, UNIV. OF NEW HAMPSHIRE STUDENT: My dad served 20 years as an officer in the Army, two combat years. I mean come on I want to support my country. I should be able to. It's America.

FERRE: The school says its policy is in place primarily for safety reasons. U.S. flag historian Jeffrey Kohn believes that when it comes to patriotism, common sense should rule.

JEFFREY KOHN, U.S. FLAG HISTORIAN: This is the most important icon of the American people. And to say you can't display that for arbitrary rules, I think we're losing something. Many soldiers and sailors and men and women have shed their blood so that we have our freedoms, and I think this is symbol of our freedom.

FERRE: A symbol some are still fighting to display.


FERRE: And firefighter James Krapf will be back at work this week and receive back pay for the days he was suspended. As for the University of New Hampshire student, school officials say they have a meeting set up with him for next week to discuss the issue. If there were to be any change in their policy, it wouldn't go into effect until the fall, Lou.

DOBBS: Until next year?

FERRE: Until -- exactly, next fall, yeah.

DOBBS: Well, what kind of idiotic nonsense is that?

FERRE: Well...

DOBBS: Why would it take them a year to decide to do the right thing, which is to permit the display of that flag, and secondly, to make that judgment known to the student, the young man, to do it? FERRE: They're saying they can review the policy this year, but it wouldn't go into effect until the fall. And the student actually has said the same thing, that it would be a very long time before they change the policy.

DOBBS: The student said that.

FERRE: Yeah, the student.

DOBBS: Because he knows the University of New Hampshire so well, right? You know, somebody -- who's on the -- we need to find out what's going on. I mean, that's crazy. What kind of -- they're teaching young people and they can't make a decision in a timely fashion and implement a policy change that really doesn't affect much of anything at all.

FERRE: They say they wouldn't implement it in between in the middle of the year...

DOBBS: Oh, no, you wouldn't want to do that. That would show adaptiveness, reflex, common sense judgment, and some sort of management capacity. Wow -- oh -- thank you very much. Ines Ferre.

The Obama administration tonight is reversing another Bush administration policy, this time on medical marijuana. The Justice Department says it will not prosecute pot smokers and dealers who aren't breaking state medical marijuana laws. The new rules are welcomed by -- are you ready? Those new rules are welcomed by pot smokers all across the country, especially in the great state of California. Casey Wian has our report from Los Angeles.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Obama administration will no longer prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries nor their customers in the 14 states that have legalized pot for medicinal purposes as long as they are not violating state law. According to a Justice Department memo sent Monday to federal prosecutors, the department is quote "committed to making efficient and rational use of its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources." But in Los Angeles, home to an estimated 800 medical marijuana facilities, local law enforcement is promising to step up prosecution of pot dispensaries because so many operate outside the law.

STEVE COOLEY, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, LA COUNTY: The vast, vast, vast majority, about 100 percent of dispensaries in Los Angeles County and the city are operating illegally. They're dealing marijuana illegally, according to our theory, so we are going to over time, we are going to eradicate the illegal sales of marijuana that are occurring in dispensaries.

WIAN: The Los Angeles district attorney says in a statement, "the attorney general's announcement recognizes that those dispensaries operating in violation of state law are subject to prosecution by the state and federal governments." UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This one might be a little (INAUDIBLE) your head, but you'll still be functional. Medical marijuana can save California, if you think about it.

WIAN: Many supporters of medical marijuana are advocating outright legalization, in part because they say it could be taxed and would help balance California's persistent budget deficit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's approximately a $4 billion industry. The crop is so significant that it could probably balance the state budget on its own. There are literally hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue possible.

WIAN: But others insist that with California's recent deficit running in the tens of billions of dollars it's unlikely taxing marijuana sales would have much impact. Still, 56 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.


WIAN: The Justice Department says it will continue prosecution of what it calls significant marijuana traffickers, in part because marijuana distribution in the United States remains the single largest source of revenue for Mexican drug cartels. Lou?

DOBBS: I guess all of that -- they're announcing that they're not going to prosecute in the first instance. What is the sales tax in California, by the way?

WIAN: Depends on what city you live in. It ranges between...

DOBBS: Pick a big one.

WIAN: ... eight and 10 percent.

DOBBS: All right, let's call it 10 percent.

WIAN: Plus in Los Angeles, it's about 10 percent, yeah.

DOBBS: Well that works out to about 400 -- I was just laughing about the fellow thinking that was going to help out the state budget, you know. To eliminate the state budget deficit, that would be about $400 million, and you're down about $28 billion, so -- and counting. I love the way those pot smokers figure it...

WIAN: Yeah, Californians would have to smoke a lot more...

DOBBS: Now was he a pot smoker...

WILLARD: Californians would have to smoke a lot more marijuana. He's an advocate of expanded medical marijuana use, Lou.

(CROSSTALK) DOBBS: Well, I just -- I assume with all -- no, I'd better not say that. But anyway, apparently, there's a growing interest in the practice. Thank you very much, Casey. Appreciate it.

I love the idea that if you can't do it for medical reasons, then let's do it for economic reasons. California is a beautiful state. Appreciate it -- thanks, Casey -- Casey Wian from a beautiful town, Los Angeles, California.

Next here, the U.S. Navy has a new recruiting slogan. Does it also have a new world mission that somebody forgot to tell us -- a global force for good.

And meatless Monday in a big-city school district. Could your school be next, partnering with PETA and vegans? We'll be right back.


DOBBS: The city of Baltimore has instituted a meatless Monday's lunch program. School officials say meatless Mondays are a way to cut costs and make sure their children eat healthier, environmentally safe foods. Critics of the plan, however, say the school district is making decisions that is rightfully belonging to the parents. Lisa Sylvester has our report.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Hampstead Hill Academy in Baltimore it's meatless Monday. The only food served in the cafeteria, vegetarian. The Baltimore city schools implemented the district-wide policy this year as a way to cut costs and to promote healthier eating.

TONY GERACI, FOOD & NUTRITION DIR., BALTIMORE SCHOOLS: In every culture on the planet there are, you know, plant-based meals, and we wanted to be able to start a conversation around that.

SYLVESTER: On the menu, vegetarian chili with rice, corn, green beans and fruits. The policy is being embraced by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA, which presented the school district with its Proggy award for the most progressive public school district 2009, and has been praised by the Center for Livable Future, a group out of Johns Hopkins University that's promoting these cartoons called the MEATRIX, a play off the movie "The Matrix," criticizing large factory farms. Baltimore school officials say they do not have a political agenda.

MATT HORNBECK, PRINCIPAL, HAMPSTEAD HILLS ACADEMY: We're not the food police. And so, we know that families and children will make choices, and we don't want to judge those choices. We just want to provide more options.

SYLVESTER: Parents we spoke to didn't have a problem with the new menu.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a great choice for kids. I mean, they can learn about there's other ways to eat food without having meat.

SYLVESTER: But the American Meat Institute does. The institute represents meat packagers and processors and says that what kids are being served up is an unhealthy dose of indoctrination. Janet Riley is with the Meat Institute. She's also a mother of two.

JANET RILEY, AMERICAN MEAT INSTITUTE: I am not suggesting that every child should be forced to eat meat every day, absolutely not. What I'm suggesting is that children and parents should have the ability to choose what their children eat.

SYLVESTER: Riley says the school lunch may be the only source of protein some children get during the day. Three-quarters of Baltimore's students qualify for free or reduced price lunches.


SYLVESTER: The American Meat Institute says, in fact, 75 percent of children are actually not getting enough protein. Lou?

DOBBS: Lisa, thank you very much. That's a -- that's a real political storm in the making, isn't it?

SYLVESTER: It is, and you can expect that other school districts are looking at this example, and the question is, which direction is it going to go?

DOBBS: I loved the answer from that fellow, providing choices. I mean, does anybody in this country talk straight anymore?

SYLVESTER: Hey, I live in Washington, D.C.

DOBBS: I know you do and you are a monument right up there with all the rest. Thanks very much, Lisa. Lisa Sylvester.

Up next, Democrats meeting in secret, the split over a government plan has the Democrats, well, feuding. And the Navy's new recruiting pitch -- join a quote, "global force for good." What happened to serving the nation, protecting America?

Also, new polls show a majority of us now oppose the war in Afghanistan. The question I've been asking -- is it time to withdraw all of our troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and from bases all over the world? We'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: Here again, Mr. Independent Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: President Obama is putting off a decision whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, apparently until the disputed election there can be settled. But after eight years of war, is it time for our troops to come home?

Joining me tonight from Boston Professor Rory Stewart of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University -- Professor, good to have you with us -- Doug Bandow, who is senior fellow at the Cato Institute -- Doug, good to have you here -- Les Gelb, senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations -- great to see you again, Les -- Anne Bayefsky who is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and teaching as well at York University in Toronto -- good to have you back with us.

All right, let's get straight to it. Anne should we -- at this point, we have a president who is deliberating carefully on a strategy in Afghanistan, but which has now been apparently deferred until the -- until a new election can be either held or the matter resolved. What should the U.S. position be here?

ANNE BAYEFSY, HUDSON INSTITUTE: Well, the general that this president actually put into office and into power has cried for help, and here we see the president engaging in kind of a seminar, an overextended seminar in the white house. Hillary Clinton said the other day that they're learning a lot. The spectacle of, we knew this president had a steep learning curve on foreign policy when he was elected, but this is bordering on ridiculous. American soldiers are dying and he's still thinking about it. After all, this was his war, which he called the good war, and how come he doesn't get it yet?

DOBBS: Les, are there answers to Anne's questions?

LES GELB, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: No good answers, but there's at least a reasonable course of action open to President Obama. He can't win and he shouldn't get out, so he's got to follow some middle course. I happen to be in favor of a middle course with real direction and real soul, which is to put the United States' position in that part of the world on a sustainable basis, because if we keep going like this, or we add more troops, the public demand will be to get out very quickly. We can't afford that.

DOBBS: My god. What should the demand of the American people be after eight years? The general staff has been unable to deliver a significant achievement.

GELB: Exactly. They have reason to question what's going on. That's why they've got to be presented with a policy that makes sense. And so far, they haven't.

DOBBS: Well, we're going to come back to a sensible, middle way, as you put it, with soul. Doug, your thoughts on this?

DOUG BANDOW, CATO INSTITUTE: I think we have to look at objectives and I think we have to get more towards counterterrorism as opposed to counterinsurgency. I'm afraid what we're managing to do is slip into nation-building, trying to create a functioning state in Afghanistan, I'm afraid, is likely to prove to be an expensive fool's errand. We need to talk about getting out and reducing our footprint, not expanding.

DOBBS: Professor, your thoughts? Does Doug have a point here? I mean, what do you think about the middle way that Les is talking about? RORY STEWART: I think it's very difficult to hold the middle way, but I think broadly speaking, Les is right. Afghanistan is a very fragile, traumatized country after 30 years of war. It's very unlikely you'll be able to defeat the Taliban or turn around the Afghan government in any short period of time. So what we're already looking at is a very long engagement with a strong political emphasis. It's not so much about the military or technical assistance. It's about political deals and it's about seeing if America has the staying power. And in order to have the staying power, it probably needs to have fewer troops on the ground.

DOBBS: Fewer troops on the ground. And we're talking about already eight years of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. We have now six-plus years in Iraq. We have a general staff that has not delivered a victory in Afghanistan and is now speaking with the great support for General Stanley McChrystal. He's saying he can't guarantee success, and as many as 80,000 more troops. Is this a recipe for disaster because it is -- it seems to be perpetuating the thoughts and the policies and the strategies of a general staff that's been incapable of achieving victory for eight years?

BAYEFSY: Prevailing militarily in Afghanistan is a matter of our national security. With the Pakistanis pushing back finally on their side of the border, we need to push back on the Afghan side of the border. And if we don't do that, the spectacle is of terrorists getting their hands on Pakistani nuclear weapons. This is a very serious problem. The difficulty is that the Obama administration is literally all over the map with Senator Kerry, chairman of the foreign relations committee saying in the last few days that Afghanistan -- there is no military victory possible and talking about capacity building. You can't build capacity without a military strategy that succeeds.

DOBBS: We have limited time, Les. The two principal things that have to be done in your middle way assault?

GELB: One is to focus on training and turning over the combat responsibility to the Afghans themselves over the next two to three years. That training obligation has been almost entirely overlooked for eight years now. We've got to do that. Secondly, we've got to turn to do what we know how to do well, namely, deterrents and containment. We did that during the cold war. We won the cold war, and we faced tougher situations than this one.

DOBBS: Doug, give us the way forward.

BANDOW: I think the way forward is getting out. You know, the problem is the ongoing war I think destabilizes Pakistan. It does not stabilize Pakistan. And we have to recognize, we are in an exercise of dealing with a lot of domestic insurgents who have no interest in committing terrorism against us. We need to focus on al Qaeda. Don't need to focus on the Taliban. We need to look for getting out, even if it's an ugly government that arises, as long as the government doesn't engage in terrorism, we're going to be securing our national security better than an open-ended agreement that the American public will no longer support. DOBBS: Professor, you tend to agree with the middle way. In what ways are you at variance?

STEWART: I'm at variance because we're not accepting that the middle way will carry a lot of risk and pain. One of the reasons people find it difficult to articulate is because it will probably mean the Taliban will take control of most of the south and east of Afghanistan. There's going to have to be some political deal in the Taliban, and probably Afghans themselves will end up in a difficult situation, even potentially in a situation of civil war. So, although I agree with Les that probably from the point of view of the United States national security, it makes sense to reduce the footprint, we have to be realistic about some of the pain and chaos that's going to cause for Afghans.

DOBBS: Professor, thank you very much. We appreciate your being with us, and thank you very much, Les. Thank you, Doug, thank you.

Well, the United States Navy has a new slogan, and it is perhaps appropriate that this follow our conversation about the direction of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Is it a slogan that refers to them as "a global force for good?" A lot of people are wondering whether the sailors' mission is to protect the United States or to protect the world. Bill Tucker with our report.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The new navy campaign slogan is a far cry from the swaggering, sexy image of the movie "Top Gun," where Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer made everyone want to be a navy pilot or be with one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a pilot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right, naval aviator.

TUCKER: The new navy is good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America's navy, a global force for good.

TUCKER: Not just an American force for good. Those leaving comments on the website of the "Military Times" were skeptical. "Who's the genius that came up with the new slogan? Here, I'll do you one better -- America's navy: we'll knit you a sweater." "Some bureaucrat is getting paid thousands of dollars to think these things up? Here's a couple of freebees -- United States navy: kicking [ bleep ] and taking names." The other one's really not for TV. One marketer thinks the new slogan is lame.

MARK HUGHES, BUZZ MARKETING: It doesn't make sense if you're trying to attract the enlisted men. They have a sense of adventure. They want to be like the few, the proud, the Marines. They want to be, you know, all you can be. You know, those famous tag lines that really are aspirational and inspirational, and this is not that.

TUCKER: Not everyone thinks the new slogan is lame, though. It does get the vote of some veterans.

ANTHONY GRAVES, U.S. NAVY MEMORIAL: A lot of people now are looking to give, and you know, help out. You see a lot of people doing, you know, giving back to their communities, and a lot of people are into that now.

TUCKER: Although one blogger suggested the navy go with heavy metal music, lots of action and no tag line. The navy tried that. The song was memorable, not the slogan -- "accelerate your life." Marketers say maybe the navy should take a page from the United States Marine Corps. Short, simple and declarative. No question about the mission.



TUCKER: Now, the navy defends its new slogan released last week in conjunction with its 234th birthday. The chief of naval recruiting says the new campaign came from surveys of active and retirement servicemen and it's meant to broaden the understanding of what the U.S. navy does today. Lou?

DOBBS: All right, Bill Tucker, thank you very much. A force for good, all right.

Up next, more on America's growing desire to bring our troops home and the Democrats taking health care behind closed doors and keeping it there. We'll tell you what's going on in those secret negotiations and what they could mean for you and your wallet. Stay with us. We're coming right back.


DOBBS: The white house congressional Democrats working to undermine the United States chamber of commerce. The business lobby has come out against many of the administration's policies on health care and climate change, and according to politico, the white house has been going around the chamber of commerce and has started to deal directly with CEOs and businesses. White house adviser Valerie Jarrett said the administration prefers to deal with "people actually running businesses" to come in and advise us on policy. Nike and Apple computer recently announced they were leaving the chamber of commerce because it opposed so-called green initiatives like cap and trade.

Well, joining me now, Errol Lewis, columnist with the "New York Daily News" and Robert Zimmerman, Democratic strategist, Hank Sheinkopf, Democratic strategist and everybody here is a CNN contributor, even me. What's your reaction to Nike, to Apple jumping out of the U.S. chamber of commerce? That's a big deal.

HANK SHEINKOPF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That is a big deal, but let's be clear, the U.S. chamber of commerce has always -- well, not always, but certainly most of the time been on the opposite side of Democratic presidents, Democratic presidents. So this kind of battle is of the norm, not unusual.

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: What's more unusual is the chamber of commerce is often opposite the sides of local businesses and advocates really as a special interest lobbying group. So, I think it's great to see the administration, and I hope congress follows that pattern of dealing directly with businesses, people actually on Main Street who make a difference in our lives.

ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: The chamber of commerce was courting this kind of reaction. One of the other areas, banking. They had been solidly against some of the consumer financial protections that the administration is pushing for.

DOBBS: Credit cards, banking.

LOUIS: That's right. So, look, they went with it -- it's not just divide and conquer, they went with the real brand. Everybody knows Nike, everybody knows Apple. Whoever heard of the chamber of commerce?

DOBBS: Yeah, well, a lot of people in Washington, D.C. they're the biggest lobby in Washington, D.C., and one of the most effective. I've been begging CEOs in this country for some time now to stand up and express themselves for the good of their stakeholders or communities instead of being reliant upon the U.S. chamber of commerce and the business roundtable. I understand the point of strength in numbers, but I also wonder about being, if I may, an army of one. We've drawn some of our great leadership in this country from CEOs, and the silence has been deafening for too long. Let's turn to the delay in Afghanistan, making the decision. The president apparently delaying until we can resolve the matters of Hamid Karzai can resolve the matters effectively tomorrow. That looks like the deadline on what was a fraudulent election. What do you think? What do you expect?

SHEINKOPF: Tough decision. I think the president wakes up every night and he sees, again, the face of Jack Kennedy, and he wonders, what is the next move? How do I not get stuck here? How do I not get out? Frankly, the American public at some point will tire of the episode. They've had enough. He promised to get our troops home and he has not done that.

DOBBS: Let's look, if we may, at the poll on Vietnam. Has Afghanistan turned into another Vietnam? At this stage, 52 percent say yes, 46 percent no, Robert.

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely. I think it reflects the frustration that the American people feel with a policy, a war policy for seven years where we've just drifted in Afghanistan without any clear definition of results or any clear strategy.

DOBBS: Do I detect a difference in tone from just a week ago in your voice?

ZIMMERMAN: Not in the least.

DOBBS: Okay, so you want the troops out?

ZIMMERMAN: I didn't say that. What I want -- and good point, though -- what I want is a clear, strategic goal laid out, and I give the administration a lot of credit. It takes a lot of toughness to stand up to --

DOBBS: I'm always impressed when a Democrat gives a Democrat a lot of credit.

ZIMMERMAN: How about when I take them on, are you impressed by that, too?

DOBBS: I am impressed.

ZIMMERMAN: But you know something, it's often common practice to just follow the generals and follow the military. He recognizes, and I think as General McChrystal said, if you don't have a competent partner to work with in Afghanistan, you can't pursue a military strategy.

LOUIS: You know, something to keep in mind, this is not a final decision point. In a couple weeks, the winter snows are going to literally freeze everything in place in that country, the mountain passes will cut off all parts of the country. There won't be any election, won't be any possibility of an election. I suspect they're going to revisit this question in a few months.

ZIMMERMAN: The opposition party's already opened doors to negotiating with President Karzai for a resolution.

SHEINKOPF: The issue is not in Afghanistan here. This is a side show. The issue is Pakistan. No major power that is going into Afghanistan is coming out whole. The trick for the United States is to learn how to protect its strategic interests in Pakistan, and that's why we're there in the first place.

DOBBS: We'll continue with our panel here in just a moment. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: Health care, the Democratic leadership, three senators, Dodd and Baucus and Reid, are behind closed doors with Rahm Emanuel and the folks. This is a way to run a Democratic republic?

SHEINKOPF: This is the way to get deals done and sometimes get behind closed doors and get the deal done. The trick is to get something done. Why? The clock is ticking to next year's midterm elections. If they don't come back with something and go to the American people with nothing, what they might get back as Democrats is a lot of nothing. That's what's at stake here. So get it done. If that requires quiet negotiations, it's better than doing it up front.

DOBBS: Did you say quiet?

SHEINKOPF: Yeah, quiet negotiations instead of screaming and yelling, getting behind closed doors and get it done.

DOBBS: Did you mean secret, closed door --

SHEINKOPF: Nothing different than Republicans have done forever and that Democrats have done. It's a way to get things done.

ZIMMERMAN: Our republic --

DOBBS: Hank Sheinkopf, of am. I'm a pretty open fellow. To hear such cynical -- I'm shocked.

SHEINKOPF: That's how the legislature works, Lou.

ZIMMERMAN: There's gambling going on here. There will be plenty of screaming and yelling and there will be plenty of public hearings and debates and this precedes the floors of both houses and it goes into the conference committee and it goes back to final approval and it's the founding fathers that sat over a tavern. I'm applauding their genius.

LOUIS: Don't you compare a congress and a senate run by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

ZIMMERMAN: I'm talking about the institutions they founded which I think is a tribute to their legacy and to their genius.

DOBBS: Don't forget the leaks. Every step of the way we'll be -- will Franklin came in and he took care of that.

LOUIS: It's true. You'll hear all of the different proposals and who's up and who's down and what's the possible trade going to be and they'll report on it and millions of people will know what they're up to.

DOBBS: So what you're saying is I should be thrilled that we're going to have leaks out of a little cabal after watching a president and the Democratic leadership say that they were having a public debate for eight months in which not a thing was revealed to the American public, and I should get excited about leaks out of a cabal sitting there behind closed doors?

ZIMMERMAN: You're each more excited after watching Democrats go after each other and take each other on.

DOBBS: I'm already excited about the Democrats. They haven't reached the level where they excite me, but they're excited. And the options here are for a public right now is not accepting of the so- called -- I'll say instead of public option, a government-run healthcare competitive entity, whatever that might be? I mean, come on. It's government-run health care.

ZIMMERMAN: In fairness, we don't have the government running the hospitals. Can we report --

DOBBS: Can we bring the bill? Have we have anybody left here? He's the strong enough to put it forward. ZIMMERMAN: The health care is government run where the government pays for the veterans' hospitals.

SHEINKOPF: It should work and better and they're not good enough for the people that have served this country.

ZIMMERMAN: Frankly, in this case, it's not a clear example of government-run health care.

DOBBS: So you think this is an open and shut case because based on your information, 418 pages of the committee report.


DOBBS: The 1500 pages --

ZIMMERMAN: Do we have time to read now?

DOBBS: Thank you very much. I mean this, thing, come on. John Conyers saying he won't -- and he's a lawyer, says he needs two lawyers to read little bills.

ZIMMERMAN: And he's in the judiciary committee.

DOBBS: And he is -- I mean, come on!

LOUIS: It's not the big roundtable that was going to be broadcast from gavel to gavel on c-span that we've been promised during the campaign.

DOBBS: Who promised that?

LOUIS: The president of the United States.

DOBBS: Barack H. Obama. Is this where we say --

LOUIS: Just a moment. I think that any specter of that, any possibility of that would not be very much different or more satisfying than what we've got now.

DOBBS: We are so -- so what you -- what we're really saying instead of a president who's kept a promise. A Democratic leadership who refuses to deal in the open and, by the way, you're right. It's not the first part that's ever happened to. Unfortunately we only have two parties to choose from on these issues that we're supposed to accept your judgment that the result will be just as fine as if the American people have actually been involved in the public debate, that there had been an honest and transparent and open, also elements of this process that the president had promised, discussion so we would understand the impact and the consequences of public policy choices within this.

ZIMMERMAN: You make a very important point.

DOBBS: I'm trying. ZIMMERMAN: It's a very critical point, but I think it is also worth noting that after two years of public hearings and two years' worth of committee hearings and it's up to the American people to step up and speak to their congressmen. We saw it over the summer when we addressed their congressmen and women in town hall meetings.

DOBBS: Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid had a fit because people showed up.

ZIMMERMAN: They had an impact on the members of congress and I think our democracy is there.

DOBBS: I have a question. You get the last word here, and the question I would pose is did all the folks running the senate and the house, did they forget about those town hall meetings altogether?

SHEINKOPF: What they did is they forgot about who they represent which is usually the case. The congress represents special interest and the president represents the people. That's what we've gotten down to. The pressure is on the president to perform and he'll carry the weight.

ZIMMERMAN: At the end of day it represents the people who put them there. That's the bottom line and that's where you saw the public option lose momentum to get attention.

DOBBS: It was just a rumor. Appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you.

ZIMMERMAN: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour, Rick Sanchez sitting in for Campbell Brown. Rick?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: You know what, Lou?

Joe Arpaio is on fire. You know this story, this is -- look. This is turning into a legitimate showdown. The feds are saying --

DOBBS: Where's acorn in this? Because Bertha Lewis was there with Al Sharpton. They were leading the investigation.

SANCHEZ: Well, no, I'll tell you who I talked to. I talked to the guy that was assistant deputy with I.C.E. and he's telling Joe Arpaio that he doesn't want him to do more immigration raids and I had a talk with Joe Arpaio and I said what do you make that the guys in Washington don't want him to do raids anymore and they don't know what they're talking about.

DOBBS: The problem with that is?

SANCHEZ: The problem with that is there's a controversy and there are two sides to it here. You have the sheriff saying I'm entitled to basically take care of the law in my state and you have the feds saying we want other sheriffs around the country to do it, but we don't want you, Joe Arpaio to do it, because we believe that you don't have enough respect for probable cause and you're basically arresting too many people. Two sides of the story here and you're going to hear Arpaio's side tonight because he and I have a long, like eight-minute interview on this.

DOBBS: I thought you were talking about your personal relationship. Don't forget the third side. The third side to this thing is Bertha Lewis and Al Sharpton. Don't forget their side. You know, actually there are four sides and then there's the truth.

SANCHEZ: Well said. That's very Dobbian, by the way.

DOBBS: That's Dobbsian.

SANCHEZ: We'll see you, Lou.

DOBBS: We'll be right back. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Time now for some of your thoughts.

Jim in South Carolina, "Why does Obama claim to have the most transparent administration, but we seem to hear more and more about everything being handled behind closed doors?"

And P. Benton in Wisconsin, "Regardless of our political beliefs, it seems reasonable to me that congress should have exactly the same medical coverage that they impose on the rest of us."

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts to Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a cope of my book "Independence Day" and a copy of our independent American t-shirts.

A reminder to join me on the radio Monday through Friday for the Lou Dobbs show. Go to for the local listings in your area. Sign up for the free podcast and follow me on, please.

Good night from New York. Coming up next here on CNN, Rick Sanchez, sitting in for Campbell Brown.