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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Insurgents Kill 107 Iraqis In Baghdad; U.S. Commander In Afghanistan Says He Needs More Troops; Federal Investigators Say Pentagon Has Sold Surplus U.S. Military Equipment To Dangerous Adversaries; Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean Preparing To Report To Prison; Jury Selection Begins In Scooter Libby Trial; James Clyburn Interview
Aired January 16, 2007 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, insurgents have killed more than 100 Iraqis in a wave of bomb and gun attacks across Baghdad. Can President Bush's new security plan stop this carnage?
We'll have our special report from Baghdad tonight.
And an appalling security breakdown at the Department of Defense. Some of our most dangerous enemies may have obtained U.S. military equipment because of bungling by Pentagon bureaucrats.
We'll have that special report, all the day's news, a great deal more straight ahead here tonight.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Tuesday, January 16th.
Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.
Insurgents in Iraq today killed 107 Iraqis in one of the worst days of violence in Baghdad in weeks. Seventy of those Iraqis were killed in a bomb attack against a university. The attacks apparently designed to push Iraq even closer to civil war.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military says there's been a sharp increase in the number of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Karl Eikenberry, today said he wants additional U.S. troops sent to fight radical Islamist terrorists.
Arwa Damon tonight reports from Baghdad on the day's deadly attacks in the Iraqi capital.
Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon on the possibility that more of our troops could be sent to Afghanistan, as well as Iraq.
And Ed Henry reporting from the White House tonight on the president's determination to achieve victory.
First, Arwa Damon from Baghdad.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two bombs in one place, aimed at causing maximum casualties. A car bomb parked under a pedestrian bridge at the main entrance to Mustansiriya University, blending in with other vehicles, waiting to pick up students and employees. At the same time, a suicide bomber with an explosive vest mixed with students at the university's back entrance, waiting for the evening rush home.
They exploded near simultaneously. Dozens were killed, over 160 wounded. And officials expect the number of dead to rise.
The university is in a predominantly Shia part of Baghdad on the edge of Sadr City. A CNN producer at the scene said heavily-armed militiamen loyal to radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr arrived soon after the attack. It was not the first of the day.
Hours earlier, a bomb exploded close to al-Sadr's main office. At least four people were killed in that attack.
Elsewhere in Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded, killing two policemen and two civilians. Ten others were wounded. The explosion coming just as police had successfully defused a car bomb.
Two hours later, also in the heart of the capital, a roadside bomb exploded targeting a police patrol. Again, as emergency forces responded and a crowd gathered, another bomb exploded. It was hidden under a motorcycle.
The explosions killed at least 15 and wounded 70.
Whatever optimism may have been generated by the announcement of a new joint U.S.-Iraqi plan to secure the capital, it has been quickly overshadowed by reality.
DAMON: All together, more than a hundred people lost their lives just in the capital on Tuesday. Over double that number were wounded. And that, on the very same day that the United Nations estimated that over 34,000 civilians had died last year -- Lou.
DOBBS: Arwa Damon reporting from Baghdad.
Insurgents also killed four more of our troops in Iraq today. The soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in northern Iraq. Twenty of our troops have been killed in Iraq so far this month, 3,024 killed since the war began. 22,834 troops wounded, 10,191 of them so seriously they could not return to duty within three days.
Insurgents in Afghanistan are also sharply escalating their attacks against U.S. troops. The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Karl Eikenberry, said attacks by radical Islamists have risen by 300 percent since last September. General Eikenberry told Defense Secretary Robert Gates that he needs more troops in Afghanistan.
Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was Robert Gates' first up-close look at the other war he's responsible for winning, a war he admits he hasn't paid as much attention to until now. In meeting with commanders and Afghan president Hamid Karzai, the new U.S. defense secretary is hearing that problems in Afghanistan are eerily similar to, but on a smaller scale than Iraq.
First off, commanders tell Gates it's unlikely the U.S. can reduce the number of American ground troops, now at an all-time high of 24,000, any time this year or maybe even next. Instead, they warn even more troops may be required.
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: If the commanders in the field believe that more forces are required to do that, then I certainly would be strongly inclined to recommend that to the president.
MCINTYRE: Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, the top U.S. commander, has already requested that one U.S. infantry battalion, roughly 1,200 soldiers from the Army's 10th Mountain Division, stay on for a whole year, instead of going home after four months. And NATO is still waiting for other U.S. allies to send a reserve battalion of 1,200 additional NATO troops that the alliance promised last year but failed to deliver.
LT. GEN. KARL EIKENBERRY, U.S. COMMANDER: We're not talking about the need for large numbers of forces in order to have the margin of victory we need to win. Not a strong enemy. Small numbers of forces added to the mix here, small numbers of capabilities can be decisive.
MCINTYRE: As in Iraq, violence in Afghanistan have surged in recent months. The number of insurgent attacks jumped 300 percent since September, right after the Pakistani government negotiated a deal with tribal leaders harboring al Qaeda members in north Waziristan, along Afghanistan's eastern border. Al Qaeda now seems to be moving across the border with impunity.
GATES: ... and that the border area is a problem. That there are more attacks coming across the border. That there are al Qaeda network operating on the Pakistani side of the border.
MCINTYRE: General Eikenberry, that top U.S. commander, is predicting a violent spring as the Taliban comes back with what has become an annual spring offensive. But he predicts the U.S. and NATO forces will dominate.
But, that said, any hope of a real end to the fighting in Afghanistan, as in Iraq, rests with the local police and army, both of whom have shown at this point they're not yet up to the task -- Lou.
DOBBS: Not up to you task. Four years, almost five since the United States entered that -- that theater. When will troops, do the defense officials say, when do U.S. troops begin coming home?
MCINTYRE: Well, not this year. And probably not next year.
In fact, they're saying in order to increase the training in a similar strategy to what's being employed in Iraq, they may need to bring additional U.S. troops in. And, of course, Lou, the other part of the problem is NATO is not stepping up. They promised troops, and they're still 10 percent below the level of troops they promised to send to Afghanistan last year, and they still haven't sent them this year.
DOBBS: Jamie, thank you.
Jamie McIntyre reporting from the Pentagon.
U.S. troops in Kabul say two Afghans prevented a terrorist attack on a U.S. base and they are heroes. The Afghans, a translator and a security guard, overpowered a would-be suicide bomber after he crashed his car into the main gate of the base. They dragged the terrorist from his car before he could detonate the bomb.
President Bush today strongly defended his conduct of the war against radical Islamist terrorists and the war in Iraq. President Bush said that 2006 was what he termed "a lousy year in Iraq." The president, however, said the stakes are too high for the United States to begin withdrawal of our troops.
Ed Henry reports from the White House -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, this new wave of violence in Iraq putting the president further on the defensive as he tries to sell his new plan.
He met today in the Oval Office with the new U.N. secretary- general, Ban Ki-moon. They pledged cooperation, a sharp contrast to the days when secretary-general Kofi Annan was in sharp dispute with the president oftentimes, especially on the issue on Iraq.
But some awkward timing for this meeting, coming on the same day that the U.N. released a report saying that 34,000 Iraqi civilians died last year in sectarian violence. Almost 100 a day.
The president did not dispute that figure in an interview today with PBS' Jim Lehrer, the interview airing tonight. The president instead saying he believes this number shows even more that the U.S. government has to help get the Iraqi government on its feet to fight this violence. The president, though, did concede that the Iraqi government still has some maturation, in his words, to go through, and he also said 2006 was a lousy year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm frustrated with the progress. If you were to take -- put me in an opinion poll and say do I approve of Iraq? I would be one of those who would say, no, I don't approve of what's taking place in Iraq. On the other hand, I do believe we can succeed.
Look, I had a close to make, Jim. And that is, one, do what we're doing. And one could define that maybe as slow failure.
Secondly, withdraw out of Baghdad and hope for the best. I would think that would be expedited failure.
And thirdly is to help this Iraqi government with additional forces.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, the president there still putting a lot of faith in the government of Iraq, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. But I can tell you, privately, top officials still admitting here that they are uncertain about Maliki. That, in fact, the jury is still out on whether or not he can pull this together.
They're obviously hoping the president's new plan will work. But they're admitting candidly, it's going to be an uphill battle -- Lou.
DOBBS: Ed, thank you very much.
Ed Henry from the White House.
Still ahead here, bungling bureaucrats in Washington may have given our military technology to some of this nation's most dangerous enemies.
We'll have that special report.
And two U.S. Border Patrol agents hours from scheduled long prison sentences for doing their duty.
We'll have the latest on efforts to bring justice to a case that is an outrageous miscarriage of justice.
Ad new evidence tonight of the close ties between corporate elites and members of Congress in their war against our middle class.
We'll have that special report, a great deal more, straight ahead.
DOBBS: Russia today admitted it has defied the United States and sold sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. Russian defense minister Sergei Ivanov said that Russia is prepared to sell even more weapons to Iran and plans to do so. Russian officials said Moscow has supplied to Iran with 29 missile systems for defensive purposes, as they put it. Iran is believed to be using the missiles to defend its nuclear weapons facilities.
The United States is also supplying military equipment to Iran, however, because of bungling and incompetence in the Defense Department. Federal investigators now say the Pentagon has sold surplus U.S. military equipment to middlemen representing some of our most dangerous adversaries. We have literally been, it turns out, arming our enemies.
Bill Tucker reports.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The United States retired the F-14 Tomcat fighter plane program last year, leaving a surplus of parts necessary to maintain those planes stockpiled. Only one air force in the world still flies the F-14, Iran.
Repeatedly, brokers have purchased parts for the F-14 at surplus auctions with the intention of shipping them to Iran, only to be arrested. But not everyone gets caught. Investigators for the Government Accountability Office successfully bought parts for the F- 14 over the Internet using fake identities.
GREG KUTZ, GAO SPEC. INVESTIGATIONS: We actually, in the time we did our July 2006 study, identified 79 buyers, not us, but 79 other buyers that purchased over 2,600 sensitive military items that were not supposed to be sold to the public.
Law enforcement sources tells CNN they have no doubt that contraband shipments have made it into the hands of Iran, China and even terrorist organizations. DOD says that it is confident with its procedures, and that, "We will continue to monitor our policies and procedures to ensure no excess military items fall into unauthorized hands."
JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: They're clearly people who are cashing government paychecks who are not doing their job properly.
TUCKER: Congress and the GAO have tried numerous times to sound the alarm bells about the waste and vulnerability of the program.
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: We're selling inventory that we're still buying. And we're selling it on pennies on the dollar. And then we're selling to people that we don't even know who they are.
We are, in essence, funding Iran. We're funding China. We're funding jihad on the cheap
TUCKER: The final irony is, this is a program that was created to save taxpayers money by selling unnecessary military equipment.
TUCKER: Now, Shays says there are improvements that have been made since the last GAO study in July. But he asked, why is it that Sam's Club can tell you within minutes what a product sold and where, and why can't the military be as efficient with its inventory, Lou, and as protective of its sensitive technology?
DOBBS: The Pentagon is perhaps the answer. And a general staff that doesn't know what it's doing, either in fighting a war or in running an organization. It's the only conclusion possible.
Bill Tucker, thank you very much.
Former Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean tonight are preparing to report to prison. The two men were convicted of shooting a Mexican drug smuggler, partly on the testimony of the smuggler, who was given full immunity by the Justice Department to testify against the agents.
Casey Wian reports -- Casey.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, there's still no word tonight from U.S. district Judge Kathleen Cardone (ph) on the request by former Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos to remain out of prison while their convictions are appealed. The agents are scheduled to surrender to U.S. marshals in El Paso, Texas, tomorrow afternoon, to begin serving 11 and 12-year sentences.
Their convictions for shooting and wounding an illegal alien Mexican drug smuggler has sparked nationwide protests. Fifty-five members of Congress and nearly a quarter of a million Americans have signed letters and petitions demanding a presidential pardon for the agents.
Texas Congressman Ted Poe, who served 22 years as a felony court judge in Texas, says he's never seen a case like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: The reason the members of Congress and 250,000 people have asked for a pardon in this case is because these border agents are in a war zone. They're protecting our southern border.
They're trying to keep the drug dealers out of the country. They were doing their job. There's a conflict on what happened down there on the border, but they're just doing their job and they were prosecuted for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WIAN: Congressman Poe also criticized President Bush for pardoning more than 100 criminals while he's been in office but so far not the Border Patrol agents.
I spoke with Agent Ramos earlier today, and Lou, I must say, it was absolutely heartbreaking. These men vow to keep fighting for justice from prison if necessary, but they are devastated now that they are just hours away from being separated from their families, possibly for more than a decade -- Lou.
DOBBS: And no indication that this White House and this president's attorney general are going to respond in any way to the entreaties of the U.S. Congress?
WIAN: Absolutely no indications. The only good news they got is that the attorney general's office did not oppose the request to remain free on bail while their case is appealed. Supporters of the agents took some hope that that might result in a positive outcome. But so far, we haven't seen it -- Lou.
DOBBS: And any -- any indication that the judge in this case will intervene?
WIAN: No indication at all. We just don't know.
We've called the judge's office. The judge's chambers say they will have absolutely no comment, nothing they can say. No idea whether there's even going to be a ruling. There's a possibility she just may not even act on this motion -- Lou.
DOBBS: Well, the federal prosecutors in this case, in the office of Johnny Sutton, the U.S. attorney general there in Texas, the federal judge, this president, and this attorney general, in my opinion, have a lot of explaining to do and a great deal, in point of fact, to be ashamed of.
Casey, thank you very much.
DOBBS: Casey Wian.
If you'd like to voice your views on agents Ramos and Compean, you can contact the White House directly at email@example.com, or the attorney general at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you prefer to make a phone call, you can reach the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414. Ask for the White House comment line.
The attorney general's office can be reached at 202-514-2001.
All of this information, direct routes to your elective representative, your congressmen and your senators, can be found at our Web site, at LouDobbs.com. Easy access and reference directly to your congressman or your senator in your state.
The new House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, is once again blasting plans for that 700-mile fence on the border with Mexico. Congressman Hoyer voted against legislation authorizing that fence last year, and tonight he says the whole idea, in his words, will be revisited. Hoyer said the matter would be taken up in Appropriations and added that the Bush administration is not enthusiastic about the fence either.
We knew that, Mr. Hoyer.
Coming up next here, Congress may finally do away with the practice that's put millions of taxpayer dollars into the hands of corporations and hundreds of thousands of jobs taken away from working Americans.
We'll have that report. Potential jurors answering questions about their views on the Bush administration in the CIA leak trial of former vice presidential aide Scooter Libby.
And severe winter storms continue to batter the Midwest and Northeast. Dozens have now died. Hundreds of thousands tonight still without power.
We'll have the latest for you.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: The U.S. Senate is considering ethics and lobbying reforms that would ban free meals, trips and gifts from lobbyists. Those lobbyists, by the way, spend more than $2 billion a year trying to influence them.
The effort, to reform but also establish new disclosure requirements for earmarks. Another provision would make it more difficult for lawmakers to anonymously give away millions of dollars in tariff breaks for their multinational corporate constituents.
Lisa Sylvester reports.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Auburn Leathercrafters specializes in dog collars and leashes. The family business faces competition from Chinese imports. The company has survived in part because of tariffs on those imported foreign products, but recently company president Anita Dungey discovered Congress has been quietly eliminating the tariffs on a number of products, including leather and electronic gadgets, at the expense of small U.S. manufacturers.
ANITA DUNGEY, AUBURN LEATHERCRAFTERS: Unless we had someone in Washington, my fear is that these tariffs will be lifted and we won't know about it until our sales drop off
SYLVESTER: The tariff breaks benefit retailers like Wal-Mart, who import these foreign goods and have an army of Washington lobbyists at their disposal.
The number of tariff suspensions have increased substantially over the years. The last Congress in its final hours gave away 520 tariff suspensions.
JIM SCHOLLAERT, MADE IN USA STRATEGIES: It's a matter of more and more lobbyists getting on the gravy train as word got around how easy it was to pick up some easy, easy cash for your company and yourself. SYLVESTER: Like earmarks, those special pet projects that congressional members slip into legislation, trade suspensions are done in secret and end up costing the taxpayer. Now Congress is taking a second look. The Senate is considering a bill that would require legislators to disclose when they insert a tariff break in a bill and to specify which companies benefit.
RYAN ALEXANDER, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: What it says is that in the future, requests for and any successful efforts to suspend tariffs for individual companies or groups of companies would have to be disclosed in advance of they're being considered.
SYLVESTER: Anita Dungey says her company is at a disadvantage to the big-box retailers. But more transparency gives small businesses at least a fighting chance.
SYLVESTER: Last week the House approved ethics changes with similar language. It tightens the rules on tariff breaks requiring House representatives to disclose if they sponsor a tariff suspension -- Lou.
DOBBS: Lisa, those lawmakers doing this are just simply, in my opinion, nothing less than scoundrels. And because they're doing in a secret, outright cowards.
To what degree can we make certain that we find out as many of these as we possibly can and report to our audience here who is behind the 520 from last year, and any this year?
SYLVESTER: Well, if this legislation passes -- and this is a very big point -- it will make it a lot easier to track down who is actually getting these benefits.
SYLVESTER: These benefits are in the millions of dollars. It's very difficult to follow the trail, but it should be easier. And, in fact, it's a lot like a phone book. You just see these random numbers.
DOBBS: Well, let's do this -- let's go to this reform-minded Congress, let's go to the speaker's House, to begin with -- the speaker of the House's office -- and just say, "Madame Speaker, we'd sure like some help on this because we're know you're interested in transparency and we sure want to help you with it."
Can we do that?
SYLVESTER: You got it, Lou. We'll follow up on this.
DOBBS: Appreciate it. Just when you think there can't be more scoundrels and more cowards and that in Capitol Hill, along comes Lisa Sylvester.
We appreciate it, Lisa. Thank you very much.
SYLVESTER: Thanks, Lou.
DOBBS: Time now for some of your thoughts.
Jim in Florida wrote in to say, "Ramos and Compean" -- the U.S. Border Patrol agents facing a prison sentence tomorrow after being convicted, principally on the testimony of a drug smuggler given immunity -- "Ramos and Compean should seek sanctuary at a church and demand amnesty for their crimes. Oh, I forgot, sanctuary is only for non-citizens."
And Beverly in Illinois, "Regarding the border guards who have been convicted of doing their job, I wonder how the president can sleep at night knowing that he can pardon these heroic men but instead remain silent and lets a drug smuggler go free."
Donald in Mississippi said, "Lou, I've tried so hard to support our president, but now I see he is unwilling to protect legal citizens of the United States. While he tells us we must protect Iraq and allow democracy to take hold there, we're allowing ours to slip away."
And Gary in North Carolina, "Lou, President Bush's escalation and expansion of the Iraq civil war to Iran and Syria is unbelievable. It appears Bush will only concede Iraq is in a civil war when the Sunnis start wearing blue, singing the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic' and the Shia begin donning gray and whistling Dixie."
Send us your thoughts at LouDobbs.com. More of them upcoming here later.
Each of you whose e-mail is read here receives a copy of my book "War on the Middle Class."
Now the subject of our poll tonight. Do you support the addition of 21,000 troops to our forces in Iraq? Yes or no?
Please cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'd like to know what you're thinking. And we'll bring you those results here later in the broadcast
Up next, jurors were asked their opinion of the Bush administration during jury selection at the trial of former vice presidential aide Scooter Libby.
We'll have that report.
And the Democratic majority has promised changes in the way Congress does business. The House majority whip, James Clyburn, of South Carolina, joins us to discuss the Democratic agenda.
And unrelenting winter storms have left dozens dead. Ice covering roads and highways and snapping power lines from the Midwest to the Northeast.
We'll have the very latest. And we'll be talking with three of the country's leading radio talk show hosts right after this.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: Our top stories now.
Insurgents today killed more than 100 Iraqis in a series of gun and bomb attacks in the Iraqi capital, one of the worst days of violence in weeks. The attacks came as the United States is preparing to deploy thousands of more troops to the city.
The U.S. military says there's been 300 percent increase in the number of terrorist attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan over the past three months. The U.S. commander in Afghanistan now saying he needs more troops to fight the insurgency.
Federal investigators say Iran has been buying surplus U.S. military equipment, sensitive technology as well, on the Internet. Those investigators revealing communist China and terrorists have also bought U.S. technology because of bungling, outright bungling, by Pentagon bureaucrats.
In other news tonight, at least 46 deaths in seven states are now being blamed on the winter storm that slammed much of the country with snow and ice. Power lines remain down. Highways still covered in ice in parts of the Northeast.
That storm blew through New England today leaving lots of snow in Vermont and Maine. A wave of arctic air trailing the storm, dropping temperatures into the single digits in the southern plains, and that cold is on its way to the Northeast.
Farmers in California say four freezing nights there have ruined at least three-fourths of their citrus crop, leaving a billion dollars of California citrus at risk. Industry officials call it nothing less than a disaster. Prices of oranges and lemons, they say, could rise significantly as early as next week.
Several train cars caring volatile chemicals derailed and exploded south of Louisville, Kentucky. The resulting fireball released a cocktail of toxic fumes, sending at least 11 people to the hospital. Homes, businesses, and a school were evacuated within a one-mile radius of that fire near Brooks, Kentucky. A stretch of a major highway also shut down.
At least 12 of 80 cars on that train were carrying hazardous chemicals. Officials say inhalation of some of those chemicals released could harm the nervous system.
A well-respected Spanish newspaper reporting that Cuban leader Fidel Castro's prognosis is now very grave, the newspaper reporting Castro suffered complications after three failed surgeries for intestinal problems. But a Spanish doctor who treated Castro just last month says that report is false, that Castro is, in face, recovering. The ailing Cuban leader has not been seen in public since he became ill in July.
The former head of the United Nations Oil-For-Food Program for Iraq indicted today on bribery and conspiracy charges. Benon Sevan faces charges he received illegal payments from the sale of Saddam Hussein's oil, the so-called oil-for-food program. Sevan is the first U.N. official to be charged in the multibillion dollar scandal. The case is the biggest corruption scandal in the history of the United Nations.
A federal appellate court in San Francisco today threw out the prison sentence of a man convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles Airport. The court ordered a U.S. district court to resentence the so-called "Millennium Bomber," Ahmed Ressam. The appellate court wants the district court to explain its reasons for sentencing Ressam to 22 years in prison in August of 2005.
In Washington, former White House aide Scooter Libby today went on trial in the CIA leak case, the first day dominated by jury selection. Libby is accused of lying to investigators following the leak of a CIA officer's identity.
Brian Todd now reports from outside of the courthouse -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, on day one we're already getting a pretty good sense of how politically-charged this case is going to be. The former Cheney chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby looking pretty stoic as he walked into court earlier today.
He watched nine jurors questioned by the judge, by defense lawyers and by the prosecution team, questioned by them about their political beliefs, any leanings that they might have one way or another. Three of those jurors have already been dismissed. They have quite a few more to go through over the next day or two.
This trial, we have been told, will already -- is already giving indications that they will call some very, very high-profile star witnesses here. On the witness list, potentially, are Vice President Dick Cheney. He is counted on by the defense team to bolster Scooter Libby's claim that he simply didn't remember what he told reporters about the identity of former covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.
But also on the potential witness list, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, and her predecessor, Colin Powell. These are all people who may be called to testify as witnesses in this case. Cheney is the most likely.
How politically charged are we talking about here? Here's a potential question -- excuse me -- a question that was on the juror's questionnaire today. Quote, "Do any of you have feelings or opinions about the Bush administration or any of its policies or actions, whether positive or negative, that might affect your ability to give a former member of the Bush administration a fair trial?"
That questionnaire, the questions that some of the jurors face this evening and this afternoon in the jury room in the courtroom, full of questions like that about their opinions of the Bush administration, about whether they could believe Scooter Libby's claim that he simply didn't remember the things that he told reporters, whether they could find those questions of memory believable.
A couple of questions about the credibility of Vice President Cheney, so this is politically-charged already on day one, Lou. Many more days to come. This trial should last about six weeks.
DOBBS: It's hard to imagine, Brian, that now at this point in what is a very divided body politic, that there would be any American that could serve on a jury who's neutral on the issue of Bush administration. But effectively that's what they're asking for, right?
TODD: That's right, that's right. And it's tough in this town. Democrats outnumber Republicans in this town nine to one, so it's going to be very hard for them to find a completely fair and impartial jury here.
DOBBS: Brian Todd reporting from Washington. Thank you.
TODD: Thank you, Lou.
DOBBS: Coming up next, will the Democratically-controlled Congress do anything to help this nation's middle class? I'll be talking with the House Majority Whip Congressman James Clyburn here next.
And we'll talk about the presidential race for 2008, the war in Iraq with three of the country's best talk show hosts on radio, New York's Mark Simone, Philadelphia's Michael Smerconish, and Doug McIntyre from Los Angeles. All of that and more just ahead. Stay with us.
DOBBS: The new Democratic Congress has promised to take the country in a new direction. The Democratic leadership has tightened ethics rules, raised the minimum wage, and pushing ahead on other social legislation.
Joining me now to discuss the Democratic agenda, the majority whip of the House, Congressman James Clyburn. Congressman Clyburn is also the highest-ranking African-American in Congress.
Congressman, it's good to have you with us.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), MAJORITY WHIP: Thank you very much.
DOBBS: And you have got to be more than pleased that you have been able to push through three major parts of the agenda. That is, ethics reform, prescription drug costs. Those three items, and raising the minimum wage. Before you now, student loans and renewable energy. Are you going to do as well on the latter two? CLYBURN: Well, I don't think so. We averaged I think about 44 Republican votes on the first ones. If you recall, on the ethics rules, we got all -- it was unanimous on one and only one vote against the other. And then we had as high as 82 votes on, I guess, the minimum wage, and we've averaged about 44 Republicans on these things.
And I don't think we'll get that a high a number on energy, but I think we'll get about that high on the student loans.
DOBBS: Let's turn to a couple of other things. One, Iraq. John Murtha is saying that there should be, if necessary, a constraining of funds through appropriations, one of your committees, in order to stop the surge, which he and the leadership of your party in the House and the Senate oppose. Is that what we're going to see happen?
CLYBURN: Well, I don't think that we'll see any cutting off of funds. I think that you'll see tremendous oversight. I believe the president will be coming up on to send another $100 billion request. And I think you'll have a lot of discussions of that request. And you will lay out some issues that we want to have addressed. And we'll do oversight.
I think we have to be very, very careful about cutting off funds until we know exactly what it is that we're asking the president to do.
DOBBS: Tomorrow, Congress will vote on a plan, as we discussed, to cut those student loan rates by half. That's the goal. The last Congress cut those grants, Pell grants...
CLYBURN: Pell grants.
DOBBS: ... by about $15 billion.
DOBBS: Are we going to see those restored as well?
CLYBURN: I think so. But that's going to come more in our 100- day program rather than the 100-hour program. We're going to do the interest rates now, and then we will take up the discussion on what to do about the Pell grants within the next 100 days.
DOBBS: Let me turn to two things that do face this Congress ultimately. One, Senator Max Baucus, obviously in the Senate, talking about renewing the president's fast track authority, which many people -- and I will tell you, Congressman, I'm among them -- who thinks that is a major reason for 30 years of consecutive trade deficits that have resulted in $5 trillion in trade debt in this country. He's talking about going ahead and just giving the president that authority to continue these trade policies. How do you feel about it?
CLYBURN: Well, I'm where you are on that, Lou. I'm from South Carolina, as you know, and I think that these unfair trade agreements have gotten us in pretty dire straits down in my part of the country. And so I'm absolutely opposed to that. DOBBS: Well, I'm delighted. On a subject I think where you and I will differ -- and that is illegal immigration -- both Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi have said that they want to, basically, push through the so-called comprehensive immigration reform. That is straightforwardly, in my opinion, amnesty. The borders remain in -- absolutely unsecured. Our ports remain unsecured. Do you favor going ahead with that comprehensive immigration reform plan, so-called?
CLYBURN: Yes, I'm in favor of going ahead with the effort. But, Lou, I represent Charleston, South Carolina. I'm very, very concerned about port security. I'm also very concerned about whether or not a fence alone will do what we need to do to secure our borders. Because in so many instances, they're using tunnels, and I've never seen a fence go down into the ground, except for the poles, maybe. So we're going to have, I hope, a much more comprehensive approach to this than what got stalled last time around.
DOBBS: Well, Congressman, I know you've got to run and vote. We appreciate you taking time to join us here. We'll continue, I hope, this dialogue and look forward to seeing you soon.
CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.
DOBBS: And congratulations on a great start.
CLYBURN: Thank you.
DOBBS: Congressman Clyburn, the House majority whip, good to have you with us.
A reminder now to vote in our poll. The question is -- "Do you support the addition of 21,000 troops to our forces now in Iraq? Yes or no?" Please cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. Results coming right up.
And next, two more candidates close to running for president. We'll hear what Americans are saying about that race for the White House and the war in Iraq. I'll be talking with three of the country's top talk radio show hosts. Mark Simone from New York, Philadelphia's Michael Smerconish, Doug McIntyre from Los Angeles. All of that and more straight ahead. Stay with us.
DOBBS: "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer coming right up. Wolf, what have you got?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. Iraq on the cusp of disaster. There is a bombshell report from the United Nations that pins the number of Iraqi civilians killed at 34,000 last year alone.
Amidst the aftermath of the botched executions in Iraq, can the cycle of violence be stopped? John Burns of "The New York Times" joining us in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Also, anti-illegal immigration stalwart and Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo announces his plans for a White House run. He explains why he thinks Miami is a third-world country.
Plus, the politics of the hit TV show "24." Find out why "Newsweek" magazine calls it the ultimate neocon fantasy. All that, Lou, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
DOBBS: Looking forward to it, Wolf. Thank you.
Joining me now, three of the country's very best talk radio show hosts. Here in New York, Mark Simone, WABC. And Michael Smerconish, WPHT in Philadelphia. Good to have with you us. And in Los Angeles, Doug McIntyre, KABC. Good to have you with us.
Mark, let's start with you. The president is -- he's up against it. He's going against the Iraq Study Group, he's going against his own party, going against the Democrats and whatever allies are still in connection with this nation. What do you make of it?
MARK SIMONE, WABC TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I don't know what all the fuss is about. First of all, it's not a surge. It's more of a trickle. It's just going back to last year's levels.
The problem is, he used the wrong strategy. He should have said, there is no way on earth I will send more troops. Then Pelosi and Reid would have demanded more troops.
Remember, a month ago, both Pelosi and Reid were for more troops. As soon as Bush was for it, they were against it.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It's an all-or-nothing proposition. I mean, I think you either pull out now or you make a commitment of troops along the lines of what should have occurred to begin with, which is probably an additional 200,000 more troops.
I was there recently in the CentCom region, and I came home convinced that whether it's 20,000, 40,000, 70,000 isn't going to make a difference because we've got the very best in soldiers and equipment. They're using leftover munitions and garage door openers. And they can be effective. You've got to wipe them out with an entire commitment. But that's not what we're talking now.
DOUG MCINTYRE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I just want to remind everybody, this isn't President Bush's problem. This is America's problem. This is a catastrophic situation we find ourselves in. And, you know, Bush, I know he's proclaimed not to be that interested in how history will remember him, but he's like the anti-Lincoln.
He kept firing generals until he found the ones that wouldn't fight, as opposed to Lincoln, who kept firing generals to find the ones that would fight. And we're going to pay a terrible, terrible, terrible price for this for generations.
DOBBS: All right, let's start -- I think that's an interesting point. Let's turn to the Democrats. They have managed to push through, in the House, three of the five principle pieces of legislation, Mark, that they said they would.
SIMONE: Well, they got the minimum wage with a nice exception for Del Monte, which -- and Starkist -- happens to be in Nancy Pelosi's history.
DOBBS: Mark can't resist that shot, all right, fair enough.
SIMONE: And there's this hundred hours, although I don't know how this clock is working.
DOBBS: It's a silly clock. Let's stipulate the clock is silly.
SIMONE: All right. If Nancy Pelosi produced "60 Minutes", it would take three hours.
DOBBS: But the fact is the minimum wage, ethics reform...
SIMONE: Ethics reform, now they voted to increase the size of their staff so they could keep an eye on this ethics stuff. I think an outside eye on it might be better. Remember the three-day work week was going to stop? We were going to go to five days? We haven't had a five-day week yet.
DOBBS: Yes, well, it's been a tough beginning to the year.
Michael, your thoughts?
SMERCONISH: Very wise. I mean, it's all about '08 in my view. They're already focused on the presidential race to come. They know they're going to have to stand up and be accountable because they control both houses. And Lou, I think they've taken a page out of the Republican book, from the Contract With America on the most critical of issues: Iraq. There's no cohesive plan. There's no Democratic strategy. And I think that's important.
DOBBS: And illegal immigration; they're not touching it during this first 100 hours. Doug, why not?
MCINTYRE: Well, for the same reason that the Bush administration and most of the corporatists in the Senate on the Republican side wouldn't touch it, because they realize it's unpopular, but they also realize that they want -- you know, they want to obliterate the border. They want to make sovereignty of the United States an anachronism. So they're just trying to figure out how to do it.
SIMONE: That Contract With America got a lot more attention at the time. It just -- there were issues that touched more people.
DOBBS: The idea that these Democrats in the Senate and the House, the leadership, want to absolutely give amnesty to illegal aliens, not focusing on border security -- we heard Congressman Clyburn, a very important member of that leadership, the House Majority Co-Whip, saying they don't want that fence and they will do something else about border security, and never articulated what. Doesn't that make you nervous, that those Democrats are lined up with your party and this president?
SIMONE: It's not my party. And, frankly, on this issue, there's nowhere you can turn, except to you. That's about it.
DOBBS: And Doug. Doug's there. Come on, Doug's there.
MCINTYRE: Lou, I mean this is the problem. The two-party system collapsed on this issue a long time ago. When you have Democrats who want to re-make the country demographically and create new customers for the social welfare programs they administer at certainty the state and local levels, and then you've got corporatists in the Republican Party who just want to flood the market with cheap labor.
And then there is no palliative. There's no collective lever of power for the people to lean on. There were a handful in the House. So, you know, with the turnover in control of the House for the Democrats, there's literally nothing to stop this from happening now.
SMERCONISH: It's all about votes. I mean, I think the Republicans have deluded themselves into thinking that they could garner the Hispanic vote. And it's never happen.
I mean, Lou, things are getting so bad in this country that there will come a day when a Border Patrol officer will shoot a drug dealer and get prosecuted for it.
Oh, wait a minute, we're already there.
DOBBS: Yes. It is outrageous.
SIMONE: It's a lot of things.
DOBBS: Are your listeners reacting to this story the way the viewers of this broadcast are?
I mean, people are outraged. I mean, I don't know anyone who thinks this makes any sense.
SIMONE: Well, I hate to say to you, but it's not getting a lot of play anywhere except here, unfortunately.
DOBBS: Well, that is unfortunate because it makes me wonder what in the world -- I know what's going on. Mainstream media is focusing on, let's see, the Raleigh (ph) drug trial, you know, the Aruba -- the Natalee Holloway case, O.J. Simpson's book.
I mean, we're elevating the public discourse in mainstream media in this country to exciting levels.
MCINTYRE: Lou, we spent ten days covering the fact that it snowed in Denver in December.
MCINTYRE: You know, call me when it doesn't snow in Denver in December, that's the story.
DOBBS: Well, let's talk about the big story, Barack Obama. He has filed papers for his exploratory committee. Tom Tancredo on the Republican Party, moving forward. And, to me, the big news -- I don't know about you, Michael, but the idea that Duncan Hunter won a straw poll in Maricopa County, Arizona -- Duncan Hunter wins it over Senator John McCain. Isn't that amazing?
SMERCONISH: I think it's a stunning development. And Barack Obama -- and I know this runs contrary to the conventional wisdom -- I wouldn't want to be in his position right now if I were seeking the Democratic nomination because I'm thinking of Howard Dean. And I don't know that he'll implode when he gets to Iowa, but you don't want to be the first out of box. You don't want to be the one with the star quality initially because that person never seems to last.
SIMONE: Yes, but this is different. Barack Obama's a new type of leader, someone with no experience whatsoever, never been an executive, never run anything. And people tell you, but he's smart, he knows how to make a decision. Here's his first decision. He can't seem to make it.
MCINTYRE: Barack Obama is smart to make a run now because the Senate is where presidential ambition goes to die. So get out before he leaves a voting record and becomes unelectable.
DOBBS: Doug McIntyre, as always, thanks for being here.
MCINTYRE: Good to see you, Lou.
DOBBS: Mark Simone, Michael Smerconish, thank you very much.
We appreciate the perspective.
And I wonder if Hillary would agree with you, Michael, about where Barack Obama happens to find himself?
Thank you very much, gentlemen.
Still ahead, the results of tonight's poll.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: The results of our poll: 82 percent of you replying that you do no support the addition of 21,000 troops to our forces now in Iraq.
Time now for more of your thoughts, quickly.
Terry in Illinois: "Lou, it is mind-boggling that our government spends billions of our tax dollars annually on the fight against drugs then grants amnesty to drug lords to prosecute border agents that enforce our drugs laws. Next, they'll grant amnesty to terrorists."
And Frank in Nebraska: "Lou, Ben Franklin said, 'You have a republic, if you can keep it.' Trying to get the average American citizen to take 30 minutes to write their Congressman is like pulling teeth."
We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at LouDobbs.com.
And we thank you for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow when among our guests will be Congressman Duncan Hunter, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee and presidential hopeful. Congressman Hunter winning a straw poll for president in Arizona, beating home state GOP candidate Senator John McCain.
For all of us, thanks for watching. Good night from New York.
"THE SITUATION ROOM" begins now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.
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