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War on the Middle Class; New Polls Release on President Bush; Contract Breach By Congressional Republicans?; Religious Organizations and Illegal Immigration

Aired January 23, 2006 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, a tremendous blow to America's working middle class as Ford cuts as many as 30,000 jobs. Those layoffs will eliminate nearly a quarter of all Ford's jobs in North America. A total of 14 manufacturing plants in North America will also be shut down.

Ford chairman and CEO Bill Ford said, "We all have to change and we all have to sacrifice."

It's clear the sacrifice will fall on workers at Ford. The United Auto Workers Union called the plan extremely disappointing and devastating news for thousands of hard-working men and women.

Middle class families and communities all across the country will be hit by these plant closings. We have reports tonight from three of the worst-affected communities.

We begin tonight with Hapeville, Georgia, just outside Atlanta.


EMILY STROUD, HAPEVILLE, GEORGIA: The weather here in Hapeville matches the mood. This Ford plant has been part of the community for more than 60 years, and today's announcement that it will close by 2008 means more than 2,000 workers will lose their jobs.

TINA STOWE, FORD PLANT WORKER: Ford's been good to me. It's given me everything I've got. I really -- I'd really hate to see this job go. I mean, because it's going to hurt.

STROUD: The plant closing will hurt the city of Hapeville. The property taxes that this plant brings in makes up 10 percent of the city's budget.

I just talked to the mayor of Hapeville, though, and he says the geographical location of Hapeville will help. They have Atlanta at their front door and the world's busiest airport at their back door. So Hapeville will survive.

In Hapeville, Emily Stroud for CNN.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ERIN O'NEILL, HAZELWOOD, MISSOURI: Well, as expected, official word from the Ford Motor Company came this morning that it will close 14 of its assembly plants, including this one in Hazelwood, Missouri, which employs about 1,400 workers. Ford says it will idle production through 2008. Ford says in the long run, these cuts will create more stable and secure jobs.

I talked with some of the Hazelwood plant workers this morning. They told me they knew this day was coming and that they are not shocked by the news. In fact, it was this time last year the plant eliminated the night shift.

I'm Erin O'Neill in Hazelwood, Missouri.


DEB HASS, BATAVIA, OHIO (voice over): The news was not surprising, but nor was it easy to hear. All employees at Batavia Transmission, all 1,745 of them, are out of work come 2008.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is very hard in Clermont County. It is our largest employer and we're going to do everything we can to get this property re-marketed and get a good quality company in here to employ as many people as we possibly can. The county is committed to it.

HASS: Being the largest employer in the county means it makes significant contributions to the tax base. People with the county say this will bring massive change to the entire community.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very difficult. It's tough for us fiscally and it's tough for us with all of the employees, all of our friends and neighbors, husbands and wives that work at this plant. Many people have been here for 20-plus years. I mean, it's going to be a major lifestyle change for a lot of these individuals.

HASS (on camera): Again, this transmission plant is now set to close in 2008.

Reporting in Batavia, Ohio, I'm Deb Hass.


DOBBS: Today's layoffs come on the very same day that Ford announced much stronger earnings than had been expected. Ford earning $2 billion last year.

As we reported, Ford's CEO, Bill Ford, said today that everyone at Ford has to make sacrifices. As a CEO, that's easier for him to say than for his employees to experience.

CEOs in corporate America make huge sums of money compared with their workers. And the gap has been growing wider in recent years.

The average CEO now earns 431 times as much as the average worker. The average CEO earnings almost $12 million, versus the average worker's pay of just over $27,000.

U.S. CEOs are also very well paid compared with CEOs in other countries. A British CEO earning just about a third of an American. A German CEO, 40 percent. A Japanese CEO, about a fifth the average American CEO's pay.

By the way, Japanese car companies are profitable and growing.

And what did the White House have to say about the loss of 30,000 jobs at Ford? White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, "We've got to make sure workers have the skills they need to be able to fill the kind of jobs that are being created. These are good jobs, these are high paying jobs."

The Bush administration did not say what those good high-paying jobs are.

Middle class Americans who've lost manufacturing jobs are having a difficult time at best finding new high-paying work. The fact is, there are hardly any industries left where American companies have a leadership role.

Bill Tucker reports.


BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): We're number one in garbage. No country exports more of it, $6.5 billion of waste and scrap on the boat, most of it to China in the first 11 months of last year. And we're the world's leading exporter of agricultural products: soybeans, corn, cotton, wheat.

ALAN TONELSON, U.S. BUSINESS & INDUSTRY COUNCIL: When you look at U.S. trade figures, it becomes obvious that too many of America's leading export winners are either raw material or commodities or low- value products. Those are third-world products.

TUCKER: We are not number one in computers. We surrendered our surplus in advance technology products three years ago.

We are not number one in aircraft exports. Last year, Airbus sold more airplanes than Boeing.

But not everyone is upset by the trend.

WILLIAM BEACH, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I think what we're seeing now is the normal course of economic change as the world becomes more global. We're shedding jobs, we're shedding industries that we've outgrown, and we're moving into industries and jobs where our future is.

TUCKER: Exactly what those industries will be isn't clear, but only two years ago, technology was going to be our saving industry.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I first want you all to know that this administration has great confidence in the future of our technology industry.

TUCKER: Now we run a deficit in technology.

Our top 10 industries with trade surpluses totaled roughly $124.5 billion through November of last year. And if you look at the industries with the largest trade deficits and you take only the categories of autos, in audio-video equipment, the trade deficits there totaled $127 billion through November. And China, already the leading exporter of technology is taking aim at bigger products.

CHARLES MCMILLION, MBG INFORMATION SERVICES: China has announced that one of their target industries for their 11th five-year plan that started three weeks ago is, guess what, large aircraft.


TUCKER: And how does China know how to build large passenger aircraft? Well, Lou, Boeing built a manufacturing facility in China and transferred the production and knowledge base to the country.

DOBBS: It is -- it is remarkable what has -- has transpired over the course of the past five years, really the last 15. And we will continue to hear the business roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce continue to talk about American competitiveness while we are losing ground in every area.

It's remarkable that anyone would sit there and say they're not concerned about the loss of jobs, skilled positions, intellectual property and manufacturing. It's extraordinary.


DOBBS: Bill Tucker.

Thank you.

That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight. How much confidence do you have in American political, business and labor leadership, a great deal, some, not much, none at all?

Cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up here later in the broadcast.

Still ahead, the Republicans' contract with America, remember that just about a decade ago? Ten years later, did the GOP do as it said or was a breach of contract? We'll have that special report.

And President Bush's new denial of wrongdoing in the White House warrantless wiretap controversy. We'll have that live report.

And a majority of Americans now openly opposed to the White House position on illegal immigration. Bill Schneider has the story next.

And the Catholic Church asking its followers to fight against tough border security. I'll be talking with two distinguished religious leaders about the issue. Stay with us.


DOBBS: President Bush today strongly defended his call for a guest worker program for millions of illegal aliens living in this country. President Bush made his comments during a question-and- answer session at Kansas State University. A legal immigrant from Venezuela asked President Bush what he is doing to help Latin American immigrants who are here both legally and illegally.


BUSH: Well, it seems like to me that, why don't we recognize reality, give people worker cards on a temporary basis so somebody can come back and forth legally with a tamper-proof card that will enable an employer to know whether or not hiring somebody is illegal. And if we catch employers after that hiring somebody illegal, there's got to be a fine and a consequence.

And so a compassionate way to enforce our border is to -- is to give people a temporary worker card.


DOBBS: A new CNN-"USA Today"-Gallup poll finds the majority of Americans, however, do not approve of the way President Bush is handling the immigration -- the illegal immigration issue.

Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, joins me now from Washington and has the story for us.

Bill, what is the public saying on this critical issue in this election year?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Lou, there were seven issues tested in that poll. And President Bush got his worst rating, worst of all seven, on the issue of immigration.

Only 25 percent, just one quarter of Americans, say they approve the way the president has been handling immigration. Sixty-two percent disapprove. Worse than the economy, worse than Iraq, worse even in the current hot topic in Washington, which is corruption.

Now there's only one issue that was asked about where most Americans believe the president is doing a good job. That is terrorism.

That's been the case ever since 9/11. And right now, it's the one issue that the president has -- has got left.

You might recall what Karl Rove told the Republican National Committee on Friday, that the Republicans won on the terrorism issue in 2002, they won again on it in 2004, and they have every intention on running yet again on the terrorism issue, making it their issue in 2006. DOBBS: You are certainly one of the country's savviest political analyst. Can they do it three times in a row?

SCHNEIDER: Well, if the Democrats let them. The Democrats don't fight back and make a cogent argument that the United States is not doing a good job fighting the war on terrorism, that the United States is not safer than it was, you haven't really heard that argument made very well by many Democrats so far.

DOBBS: On the illegal immigration issue, the fact is that most expect the Senate to defy the House and good -- and the good sense of their constituents, an attempt to pull a double-cross, and that is effectively pass, despite the public's disapproval, pass the president's guest worker program and do absolutely nothing on border security.

SCHNEIDER: That may well happen. The Senate holds itself somewhat distant from public opinion on issues like this. The House is often much closer, much more of a populist body.

You saw what happened at the Republican National Committee last week. There was very nearly a revolt in the president's own party against his immigration policy. It had to be pulled at the last minute. And the committee ended up voting confidence in the president's policy, but there was a revolt simmering there just beneath the surface in the Republican National Committee.

DOBBS: With the poll numbers that we're looking at, does this appear to be a year, assuming that the trend does not change markedly or substantially from here, in which we might see a repeat of 1994 with immigration -- illegal immigration one the primary issues?

SCHNEIDER: Well, there could be a political earthquake. If you look at the numbers, if you look at the odds on the Democrats taking control of Congress, you can't say it really looks very good.

But I'm here to tell you, earthquakes do happen. And we've seen it happen before.

DOBBS: Right.

SCHNEIDER: And the Republicans have a strategy for dealing with the earthquake, and it's the same thing they did before Karl Rove announced it, which is embrace the terrorism issue.

DOBBS: Bill, the warrantless wiretaps, how big an issue? And is the public supporting the president on the issue?

SCHNEIDER: Well, let's take a look at what the polls showed.

Forty-six percent of Americans said the Bush administration was right in -- to wiretap conversations between American citizens and suspected terrorists in other countries without a court order. Fifty- one percent said it was wrong.

The numbers saying it's wrong has gone up a few points, about five points over the last two weeks. But I would say that the public really is divided on this.

The administration, as we see, is engaged in a public relation's offensive. It's not being defensive about this issue at all. In fact, the president today relabeled the wiretap program a "terrorist surveillance program."

This administration clearly believes it has an issue, the war on terror, that trumps all other issues: Iraq, the economy, corruption, immigration, everything. And as I said, in the last two elections, it did.

DOBBS: Bill Schneider.

Thank you.


DOBBS: President Bush today, as we reported, was at Kansas State University defending his administration's warrantless wiretap program. President Bush made his appeal during another informer -- informal town hall event that he's increasingly using to advance his agenda.

Suzanne Malveaux reports.



BUSH: I hate it cut you off -- you're on a role, but what's the question?

Only in America. Hold on.

MALVEAUX: ... but President Bush is admittedly reaching out and getting personal.

BUSH: My knees are like tires, you know? And they're bald.

I read a lot of history.

MALVEAUX: For nearly an hour and 40 minutes, Mr. Bush meandered from topic to topic...

BUSH: You know, sometimes I can be a little allergic for people overseas, if you know what I mean. When you make hard decisions like Tony has made, and frankly I've made, it creates, you know, angst.

MALVEAUX: ... taking questions from the audience...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just wanting to get your opinion on "Brokeback Mountain," if you'd seen it yet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would love it. You should check it out. BUSH: I haven't seen it.

MALVEAUX: ... and offering personal and political nuggets rarely made public, like the first lady's reaction to Mr. Bush's warning to Osama bin Laden.

BUSH: I said some things, "Wanted dead or alive." And she said, "You might be able to explain that -- express yourself a little bit better than that, George W."

MALVEAUX: Working without a script before 9,000 people, most of them students, the Kansas State University event, aides say, was designed to shake up the traditional lecture series by giving the president a format where he could be himself to plainly explain to Americans why they should support his Iraq policy and his controversial domestic spying program which he referred to as his terrorist surveillance program.

BUSH: It's a phone call of a al Qaeda -- known al Qaeda suspect making a phone call into the United States.

MALVEAUX: The talk show format worked well for Mr. Bush on the campaign trail. Now aides hope these open sessions will undercut Mr. Bush's critic's harshest accusations that the president is not honest or trustworthy and only listens to his own counsel.

BUSH: Laura is serving dinner for retiring Alan Greenspan. And I better not be late.


MALVEAUX: Well, President Bush, we expect that he'll have many of those other kind of town hall, Oprah-like town hall meetings, if you will, Lou. The president also this week going to the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland. That, of course, the heart of the controversy over that domestic spy program -- Lou.

DOBBS: You know, I thought, Suzanne, actually he did pretty well in that Oprah-like format, as you -- as you called it. We appreciate it.

Suzanne Malveaux.

Tonight's quote is from President Bush today. Today he marked the 33rd anniversary of Roe versus Wade. He voiced his support for anti-abortion activists.

Speaking by telephone to protesters in an anti-abortion rally in Washington, President Bush said, "We're working to persuade more of our fellow Americans of the rightness of our cause... history tells us that with such a cause, we will prevail."

Some say there's nothing more all-American than NASCAR. But now even NASCAR is openingly embracing foreign car manufacturers to participate in its popular races. NASCAR officials today announced that Toyota will race in its championship Nextel Cup series beginning next year. Toyota becomes the first foreign competitor to be added to NASCAR since Jaguar participated back in the 1950s.

Coming up, the deadly bird flu spreading once again in China. We'll have the latest and tell you what the World Health Organization had to say today.

And the Catholic Church helping illegal aliens trying to defeat border security legislation. They're not the only tax exempt organization battling border security. We'll have that special report coming up.


DOBBS: More trouble at the United Nations tonight. U.N. officials say they are expanding their investigation into possible waste management and corruption within the procurement division of the United Nations. U.N. officials say the potential abuse could reach into the tens of millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, a major figure in the U.N. oil-for-food scandal today was indicted. Tongsun Park is charged with taking millions of dollars from the Saddam Hussein regime to bribe U.N. officials in the oil-for- food program. He will be arraigned later this week.

The Iranian government tonight is issuing grave new warnings to Israel as its nuclear crisis with the West is escalating. Iranian leaders tonight say that Israel will be making "a fatal mistake" if it takes military action against Iran's secret nuclear program.

Iran said Israel is playing "a childish game." Israel said over the weekend that it would not accept a nuclear Iran under any circumstances.

Senate Democrats today held new hearings into alleged abuses involving Halliburton in Iraq. Former Halliburton employees testified that the subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, & Root supplied contaminated drinking water to our troops in Iraq. They say the water did not meet even minimum safety standards and they say it was twice as contaminated as the water in the Euphrates River.

Halliburton officials say their tests show the water supplied to our troops was perfectly safe to drink.

Taking a look now at some of your thoughts.

Marj in Wisconsin saying, "Lou, what the heck is going on when the director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, thinks it is OK for the Mexican army to make incursions into the United States? Is he nuts or am I?"

Well, Marj, I don't think it's you.

And Pattie in Oklahoma said, "Why does the head of Homeland Security think it is a joke for Mexican military to defy our borders? I think he is the joke."

And Fred in Michigan saying, "Lou, I find it interesting that the Bush administration is so worried about electronic surveillance on the American public all in the name of national security and yet they still have done nothing, absolutely nothing, to secure our borders."

And Judy in Connecticut, "Lou, thanks for continuing to point out the dangerous absurdity of our nation's border policy. Jump a turnstile in the New York City subway and get arrested. Hop over the border and you might get to go to college courtesy of California's taxpayers. Only in America."

And Tom in Tennessee: "Lou, both the Republicans and Democrats don't care about America. They only care about themselves. It's like all of them have left their respective parties and secretly formed a brand new one... the 'Go to Hell, America party.'"

And Marilyn in Ohio, "Lou, I hate to say this, but, if you want to grow your own dope, plant a politician."

And Al in Florida, "While driving through Washington, D.C., recently, I noticed the following bumper sticker: 'Invest in America... buy a congressman.'"

Send us your thoughts at We'll have more of them later in the broadcast.

China today reported its 10th human case of the deadly bird flu. At least six people have died from the mysterious disease in China which has spread to humans in five Asian countries now and Turkey, killing at least 80 people worldwide. The World Health Organization today warned once again about the possibility of a pandemic and denied charges that it has overstated the health threat.

Coming up next, the Catholic Church out to defeat tough border legislation. Two distinguished guests join me to talk about this controversial political battle.

And how Congress failed the American people during the Alito hearings. I'll be talking with the author of a new book called "Supreme Chaos."

And a decade after the Republicans' contract with America, did they follow up on their word, or did they breach the contract? We'll have the story coming up.

Stay with us.


DOBBS: I'll be talking with two distinguished religious figures speaking out on organization religion's rights and responsibilities to promote their political views. But first, a check of this hour's top news stories.

The Ford Motor Company announced plans today to shut down 14 manufacturing facilities in North America, leading to the loss of as many as 30,000 jobs. Ford calls the move a painful but necessary measure to become profitable again. And in Iraq today, an American soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. At least three people were killed when a suicide car bomb blew up near Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone. Seven other people were wounded in that attack.

And Canadians today voting in what could turn out to be a historic election in their country. Polls show Canadians are set to vote liberal prime minister Paul Martin plagued by scandals out of office and vote in their first conservative government in Canada in 13 years.

The Catholic Church and other religious organizations are vowing to aggressively fight the House border protection bill which calls for strict measures against, of course, illegal crossings of our borders by illegal aliens. But there are growing questions tonight over whether those groups are overstepping their bounds on this sensitive political issue.

Casey Wian reports.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Several New Hampshire lawmakers are proposing legislation to combat illegal immigration in their state. The bills include, training local police to help enforce immigration laws, allowing them to arrest illegal aliens for trespassing, and making alien smuggling a state crime.

At a hearing earlier this month, representatives of the Methodist Church, The United Church of Christ and The Catholic Church All testified again the proposals. Border security advocates say some religious groups, especially the Catholic Church, are becoming more active in the illegal immigration debate.

PETER GADIEL, 9-11 FAMILIES FOR A SECURE AMERICA: I have lobbied at least a dozen or more states. Everywhere I have been, Catholic Charities has been on the other side, arguing for open borders.

WIAN: Tax exempt churches and religious organizations are prohibited by federal law from endorsing candidates for political office. But they are allowed to lobby for or against legislation. As long as they abide by certain IRS rules. The problem is those rules are often subjective and not uniformly enforced. For example, a church does not qualify for tax exempt status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation. The key word is substantial, which is open to interpretation.

Legal experts say the IRS and courts have upheld the tax exempt status of churches to spend as much as 15 percent of their income on legislative activities.

KAY GUINANE, OMB WATCH: Check out the First Amendment. It's the right of a religious organization, or any organization in the United States, to speak out on the issues of the day, regardless of how controversial they are. WIAN: Non-church religious organizations, such as Catholic Charities, have a different set of rules that normally limit lobbying expenses to one million dollars a year.


WIAN: The IRS says it's relatively rare that the finding of a violation leads to the revocation of a church or religious organization's tax exempt status. The IRS says its purpose is not to punish organizations for violating the rules, but to promote compliance. Lou?

DOBBS: Interesting word play. In point of fact, the rights, as the OMB Watch spokesman put it, for churches and religious organizations to speak out is not a right. It's a privilege based on legislation. In this case the code 501 C3 that permit such activities.

WIAN: And absolutely there are a lot of gray area areas in that legislation.

DOBBS: There are. Casey Wian, thank you very much.

Joining me now with their thoughts on the rights, responsibilities of religious organizations and their views on illegal immigration and border security, are Richard Foltin, he's the legislative director and council for the American Jewish Committee, and Bishop Jaime Soto, board member of The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, and an adviser for the U.S. Catholic bishops on Immigration issues.

Bishop Soto, Richard Foltin, thanks for being here.

Let me turn to first the issue of Catholic Charities, Bishop Soto. Why are they so animated, aggressive in terms of illegal immigration?

BISHOP JAIME SOTO, CATHOLIC LEGAL IMMIGRATION NETWORK: Well, I think, one, Catholic Charities has a long, long experience working with immigrants and refugees and it's been part of the Catholic Church's contribution here to the United States of helping immigrants to integrate into American life.

So this really goes back to a very essential part of our tradition.

DOBBS: You said Bishop Soto, I suspect advisedly, you said immigrants. Do you, does the church make a distinction between illegal and legal immigrants?

SOTO: Well, those are -- those are law distinctions that are made, you know, between somebody's status here. Whether they have proper documents and so, that's defined by law.

DOBBS: That's defined by law. So you don't make a distinction. You leave that to law? SOTO: Yes, but when we, as Catholic Charities, reaches out to people, we serve people in need. And that includes people who are -- who have documentation, other folks who have entered the country illegally. But if they come to us in need, we're going to help them.

DOBBS: And Richard Foltin, the role of your organization in fighting this Sensenbrenner legislation, passed by the House, now before the Senate for debate and vote in the Senate next month. Why are you taking such an active interest?

RICHARD FOLTIN, AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE: Well, I think there's two issues here. One is the religious imperative to care for the stranger amongst us. We think that means, at the very least, we ought to have a system in place that treats people fairly and does not place them in extreme situations where they might be harmed.

But there is also another issue. Which also we're very concerned about is the national security element of this. We think, and we might agree on this, but do have an immigration system that doesn't work.

DOBBS: I think everyone watching this broadcast.

FOLTIN: We all know it's broken. What we've seen over the last years are attempts for sometimes better, sometimes worse, at enforcement only mechanisms which we believe simply are leading to increased security problems. That in fact what we need to do is create a regularized system in which the folks that come into this country are able to come here legally.

DOBBS: I can't think -- excuse me, Richard. I can't think of a single, solely border security issue, enforcement issue, the principle advances with exception of the Kyl-Cornyn Bill, point in fact, guest worker, amnesty first and then we will dither and talk about security perhaps later.

FOLTIN: I think the point is if we're going to have people coming in because the needs of the labor market and of this country don't match what immigration policy is we're much better people coming here legally. So we know who they are. And so we stop spending all of our time and resources in trying to go after people who are not the threat so we can go after those who are.

DOBBS: Ask you both this question. And Bishop, I was taken by the fact you sort of left the distinction between legal and illegal to the secular policymakakers and lawmakers. But the fact is, isn't it important for a church who lives by the highest moral standards and ethics support law?

SOTO: Oh, absolutely. But we also want to support good law. There are -- you spoke just prior about the Roe versus Wade decision, which is something that really causes us great consternation and we're working aggressively to try to overturn that.

And in the area of immigration, we've seen laws recently that are very punitive and, quite frankly, impractical that have not yielded the kind of results that we hope for. And we think that what's being proposed by the McCain-Kennedy bill is perhaps a more practical solution to the issues that we're facing. Because it's much more of a comprehensive response.

DOBBS: And the American Jewish Committee in terms of abortion, you tell --

FOLTIN: We're a pro-choice organization. It's a completely separate issue of course.

DOBBS: So it's a separate issue, but you join on these issues and it becomes a little peculiar. Because both of you, and your respective churches and religious organizations, have people who come to you because of their faith and yet you're giving them very specific secular direction in politics. And that gets to be a little confounding, I would think, to any faith-based organization, but certainly a church or religious organization.

FOLTIN: First of all, we are a nondenominational religious organization and technically, we're an educational organization not a religious organization. Our people come to us, for some of them, the way they do Jewish is to be involved these social policy issues.

DOBBS: I can't wait to hear how Bishop Soto says people do Catholic.

SOTO: I think American society benefits very much from a religious voice. And the plurality of religious voices trying, seeking out the common good for how to indeed make America stronger I think is a real plus.

DOBBS: I couldn't agree with you about the desire for a stronger America and of course that's what makes politics as differences of view and apparently it makes for pretty interesting religious activity as well.

Bishop Soto, thanks for being here. Richard Foltin, thanks for being here. Come back soon.

Still ahead the Republican Party's contract with America ten years later. Contract filled? Contract breached? we'll have that special report.

And, the Alito vote coming up in the Senate. I'll be talking with the author of a provocative new book on a system of confirming federal judges that is simply in chaos. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The Republican Party gained control of Congress more than a decade ago with its contract with America. Under the terms of that document, Republicans promised the return of responsible government and end to Capitol Hill scandal.

Congressional Republicans may have breached their contract a bit on several key points. It all depends on what you mean by, is. Christine Romans reports.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Republican contract with America promised a historic end of government that is too big, too intrusive and too easy with the public's money.

DAVID KING, ASST. PROF., KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVT.: As a campaign document, the contract with America was a tremendous success. As a policy document, a set of promises, it's still unfulfilled.

ROMANS: Unfulfilled promises like fiscal responsibility. According to Citizens Against Government Waste, in the past decade federal spending has exploded, 67 percent. Our government is spending a $1 trillion more today than when Republicans captured the majority on a promise of fiscal restraints.

TOM SCHATZ, CITIZENS AGAINST GOVERNMENT WASTE: When it comes to spending, unfortunately, that has been a big failure. Spending has not been brought under control.

ROMANS: He says under this president, aided and abetted by Congress, spending has increased faster than any administration since Lyndon Johnson.

And then there's accountability. In 1994, Republicans promised to restore accountability to Congress, to end its cycle of scandal and disgrace and restore trust and faith to the American people.

Yet, since then, the number of pork barrel projects in the federal budget has skyrocketed, 938 percent. There are today 13,997 earmarks in the budget.

And the current lobbying scandal, many say is a classic example of an entrenched majority that loses too few elections and has become too comfortable. Hardly fulfilling the promise to restore trust and faith.

JOHN SAMPLES, CATO INSTITUTE: Newt Gingrich spoke of the renewal of the American dream, and really what we see now, I think, and what has to be discouraging in some ways is that it looks a lot like it did before. That it doesn't seem to be a lot of difference between Republicans in power and Democrats in power.

ROMANS: In other words, regardless of who's in power in Washington, business as usual usually trumps reform.


ROMANS: Now, the contract did usher in welfare cuts and tort reform, and to be fair, many reforms faced trouble in the Senate and vetoes from then-president Clinton. Some Congressional subcommittees were abolished, as was a congressional technology office.

But overall on spending the record is dismal. Congress did not eliminate the 200 federal programs, and three federal agencies that it promised. And in fact, it's only growing.

DOBBS: In those term limits, it didn't quite work out quite the way they said either. But it is instructive to look at the scandal issue, the trust issue. Definitive breach, no matter how one constructs it.

Thank you very much, Christine. Christine Romans.

A reminder now to vote in our poll tonight. How much confidence do you have in American, political, business and labor leadership? A great deal, some, not much or none at all. Cast your vote at We'll have the results coming up here in just a matter of minutes.

Still ahead, Judge Samuel Alito close to being the next justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. I'll be joined by a former federal judge who fought his own confirmation battle and who has offered an important new book. He'll be here next.

And our weekly salute to the men and women who serve this nation in uniform around the world. Heroes, tonight, the story of an American soldier born in Cambodia. He became an American hero in Afghanistan. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Coming up at top of the hour here on CNN, "THE SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer.

Wolf, tell us all about it.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much Lou.

Coming up, Harry Belafonte is going to be joining us live here in "THE SITUATION ROOM." He's gone the attack against the Bush administration, and he's calling the president a terrorist. Has Harry Belafonte crossed the line? I'll press him on some of the tough questions.

Plus, Hillary Clinton tackles health care again. Does she have a better prescription for change this time around? We'll go live to New York State.

Plus, rear-end crash fires. There's an easy fix that might keep your car from going up in flames. We're going to have the story.

All of that, Lou, coming up right at the top of hour.

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.

The nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court appears all but certain and could pass the Senate as early as this week. This despite a desperate and failed effort by many liberal activist and many Democrats in the Senate to raise questions about Judge Alito's experience, his position on controversial issues, including abortion. My guest tonight has firsthand knowledge of the confirmation process, and he calls it simply broken. Charles Pickering, a retired federal judge, whose nomination to the federal appellate court was blocked by democratic filibuster. The president put the judge on the appellate court with a recess appointment. He's written a new book called "Supreme Chaos: The Politics of Judicial Confirmation and the Culture War."

Judge Pickering, thanks for being here.


DOBBS: The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote tomorrow on Judge Alito's nomination. First, what do you think of the content of Judge Alito's hearings?

PICKERING: I think Judge Alito came across as a very thoughtful, capable judge. He knew what he was talking about. He knew the precedence. And he could discuss the issues very well.

I thought that some of the questioning crossed line when they accused him of having ethical lapses and of bigotry. I thought that was uncalled for. Particularly when the American Bar Association had investigated those same charges and found them to have absolutely no merit.

DOBBS: Well, you went through much the same derogatory grilling and accusations. How does a nominee feel? How does one's family feel to be caught in the vortex of raw partisan politics?

PICKERING: Lou, I could understand Judge Alito's wife getting upset. I think it's always harder on the spouse than it is on the one that is being accused.

One of the things people that would ask me, doesn't it make you mad or doesn't it make you feel bad that they are saying things about that are not true? My response always was, if the things they were saying true, it would make me feel a lot worse.

Because, you know, the smear, the issue that drove this was abortion. But they don't want to come out and say, we're opposing him only because of abortion. So they try to throw in charges like bigotry, like ethical lapses, and like racism to try give a little more credibility to the attacks that they're making.

DOBBS: Those attacks that they're making appear at least at this hour to have taken no hold whatsoever. The judge is expected to be confirmed. The Democrats lacking the ability for a filibuster.

In your book, "Supreme Chaos," in terms of how this process is broken, the ABA, as you point out, giving Judge Alito its highest recommendation. What can Republicans and Democrats do for the rest of us in this country to make it a sane, sensible, reasoned, responsible approach to confirmation.

PICKERING: Lou, I think we could return stability to the process. This name-calling, calling judge's Neanderthals, lemons, Nazis, that's not constructive. And the judiciary as a co-equal branch of the government is entitled to more respect than to have sitting judges questioned like they are common criminals when there really is no basis for it. So a return to civility would help.

But if the courts quit deciding hot button social issues, like abortion and like Pledge of Allegiance and the definition of marriage and these pornography cases, these are matter that should be decide by state legislators by the senators and Congressmen, but they have been transferred to the judiciary through the concept of a living constitution. Consequently, the battles that used to be played out in the political arena are played out in the confirmation of judges.

DOBBS: And from the left and from the right, all of the activist organizations trying to attack on all those issues because so-called hot-button wedge issues and they really do drive the money raising. The fund-raising.

PICKERING: They divide America -- they divide America right down the middle. If we would pass a Constitutional Amendment saying in the future, judges will interpret The Constitution not add to it, that would greatly help.

DOBBS: Judge Pickering, solid council and we appreciate you being here. We appreciate it. The book is, "Supreme Chaos: The Politics of Judicial Confirmation and the Culture War." Sage advice. Thank you very much, Judge.

PICKERING: Thank you, Lou. Good to be with you.

DOBBS: Still ahead here, we'll have more of your thoughts about the Catholic Church, illegal immigration, border security, wiretapping, warrantless wiretapping and efforts to buy American and what happens when you do. Also ahead, our salute to our nation's heroes. Stay with us.


DOBBS: Now our weekly tribute to our nation's heroes. The men and women bravely serving this nation around the world. Tonight, Master Sergeant Sarun Sar was shot in the head when his special forces unit came under fire in Afghanistan. He survived and he went on to receive one of our nation's top military honors. Philippa Holland reports.


PHILIPPA HOLLAND (voice over): Master Sergeant Sarune Sar left war-torn Cambodia for the United States in 1981. He was 14 years old. He learned English, graduated from high school, and in 1985 joined the Army. A year later, he became a U.S. citizen.

MASTER SGT. SARUN SAR, SPEC. OPS CMD. PACIFIC: I spent some time as an infantryman until I got my citizenship and clearance to attend Special Force training. Been in Special Force since 1992. HOLLAND: Last spring, during a second tour in Afghanistan, Sergeant Sar was leading a 12-man Special Forces team on an aerial reconnaissance mission in the mountains near the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.

He and his team saw a suspicious building, and when their helicopters landed, they came under fire. With half his men pinned down by the enemy, Sar ran toward the building

SAR: The enemy combined shot at me first from some 10 feet with an AK-47. The bullet entered right here. Knock out my chinstrap. Just kind of gave me a little ring in the head but didn't kill me.

HOLLAND: He and another soldier secured the building. They joined the rest of the team to defeat the remaining enemy forces. None of Sar's men lost their lives in the battle. For his heroism and bravery, Sergeant Sar was awarded the Silver Star.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Silver Star winner.

SAR: It's an award to my team not just me. And I feel as a team, this is for us. And it's an honor.

HOLLAND: Sergeant Sar could retire today, but he has no plans to leave the military.

SAR: Serving in the military is my way of thank you for allowing me to be here, to be an American. And I personally believe it is a small price. Small price to pay. I will do it again if I'm 18.

HOLLAND: Philippa Holland, CNN.


DOBBS: Master Sergeant Sar has now completed his Bachelor's Degree, he majored in American History. And we wish him the very best as he prepares to lead another unit and a new deployment soon. And we thank him.

The results of our poll tonight, 76 percent of you say you have no confidence in American political, business and labor leadership. Twenty-two percent said, not much. Two percent said you do have some. And fewer than one percent said you have a great deal of confidence.

Now, with more of your thoughts. Michael in Georgia wrote in to say, "It is funny that Google resists the U.S. Government on its request for information but if Communist China made a request they would be more than happy to comply."

Steve in Texas: "Lou, I quit buying products make in China. However, there is a downside here. I cannot find anything made in the USA."

Jane in Washington: "I tried. I purchased a new car last month. Wanting to support American workers, I made sure it was a U.S. company, Chevrolet. After buying the car, I found out that my new Chevrolet Aveo was make in Korea. Go figure."

And Jerry in Bristol, West Virginia: "Lou, the war on the middle class seems to be more successful than the war on terror. What's wrong with this country and how long will it last without a viable middle class to support it?"

And Deb LaPensky in Hastings, Minnesota: "If churches continue to preach politics from the pulpit they should lose their tax exemption. I think the Catholic church should concentrate on solving their problems with pedophilia before they start trying to solve political problems."

John in Plain Oak, Texas: "Lou, forget separation of church and state. We desperately need a separation of business and state."

And Joyce in Eugene, Oregon: "It's insane. Bush worries about a phone call but not illegal aliens and Mexican army crossing our borders."

Mary Ann in Buffalo, New York: "Lou, it's outrageous that this administration has no problem with illegal aliens crossing our Southern border daily while at the same time spying on its own citizens. I feel like I'm in an Orwellian movie where up is down and right is left."

You may have something. And Jackie in Buford, Georgia: "While the Bush administration is busy justifying their warrantless spying on Americans, they have literally put out the welcome mat to anyone who wants to enter the U.S. through our Southern border. They have no idea who is here, or what they may be up to. It's utter incompetence, Lou. Thanks for ignoring the talking points and bringing us the real news."

And Evelyn in Grants Pass, Oregon: "Why bother inspecting airline passengers? Terrorists have a free pass through our Southern border."

We love hearing your thoughts. Send them to us at Each of you whose email is read receives a copy of my book "Exporting America."

Thanks for being with us tonight. Please join us here tomorrow when I'll be talking with former Secretary of State, Lawrence Eagleburger about warrantless wiretaps and the war on radical Islamist terrorists.

For all of us here, thanks for joining us. "THE SITUATION ROOM" starts right now with Wolf Blitzer.


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