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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Obama Uses Rhetoric of Fear to Sell Health Care Proposal; WHO Declares Global Pandemic; Disarray Among Republicans
Aired June 11, 2009 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. President Obama uses what some might call the rhetoric of fear to sell his health care reforms. The president is declaring there is no alternative. Now, opponents say there is an alternative. It won't lead to socialized medicine. The World Health Organization declares the first global pandemic in four decades. It's raising the swine flu alert to the highest level. Two of this country's leading authorities on infectious diseases will join us.
And disarray among Republicans. What many say is a vacuum of leadership. Is it time for Republicans to move away from what Mike Huckabee calls the mushy middle?
We begin with President Obama's new push to sell his health care reform. The president today declared that everyone's health care will be in jeopardy if the Congress doesn't act soon. Now President Obama insisted that health care reforms must include a so-called public insurance option. Republicans say any form of public option will destroy private health care. Dan Lothian traveled to Green Bay, Wisconsin, for the president's speech.
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DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Vowing to fix what's broken and build on what works, President Obama said inaction is not an acceptable option in the health care debate.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE U.S: The status quo is unsustainable. I'm not doing this because I don't have enough to do. We need health care reform because it's central to our economic future. It's central to our long-term prosperity as a nation.
LOTHIAN: The president took his message to a town hall meeting in Green Bay, a city that health care researchers have given high marks for controlling medical spending while maintaining quality care. But even here a 35-year-old mother of two struggling with breast cancer says her family's drowning in medical bills.
LAUREN KUTZKA, SUFFERS FROM BREAST CANCER: We have thousands of dollars that we owe to medical clinics and hospitals. We have to sacrifice a lot as a family in order to pay the monthly bills that we have.
LOTHIAN: Finding a bipartisan solution on Capitol Hill won't be easy. The president is pushing a public health insurance option that he says will keep costs down but not everyone is buying it.
PAULETTE GUERIN, TOWN HALL ATTENDEE: My concern is that we will end up in a situation like we have with Medicare where Medicare is basically a subsidy of private insurance companies.
LOTHIAN: And more doubts on the motorcade route, protesters holding signs. One read no socialism, a charge the president dismissed.
OBAMA: Nobody is talking about doing that.
LOTHIAN: One early proposal gaining bipartisan traction is a privately operated health insurance co-op run and paid for by its members with some federal money up front. At the town hall Mr. Obama said he's all ears.
OBAMA: I'm very open-minded. I'm happy to steal people's ideas.
LOTHIAN: Continuing the health care road show the president heads to Chicago on Monday. There he will address the American Medical Association. It's a group that objects to a government option. But an aide says the president looked forward to having a good dialogue with the AMA and coming up with the best, comprehensive plan.
Dan Lothian, CNN, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
PILGRIM: As Dan just reported the American Medical Association says it strongly opposes government control over health care decisions. The AMA is the nation's largest doctors' organization. It says the best way to provide affordable health care is through reforms of the private insurance market not government intervention. The AMA says health services should be offered through private markets.
Well, the World Health Organization today raised its alert level for the swine flu to the highest level, phase six. Health officials say the swine flu has spread far enough to be considered a global pandemic. The virus so far has been found in 74 countries. At least 27 people have died in this country. Mary Snow has the report.
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DR. MARGARET CHAN, WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL: The world is now at the spot of the 2009 influenza pandemic.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): And with that the World Health Organization declared its first pandemic in 41 years. The h1n1 virus or swine flu continues spreading in countries like Australia, now entering their winter season. The move will probably speed up the production of a swine flu vaccine. So far most cases are mild, say officials, who worry that a move to the highest alert could cause panic.
GREGORY HARTL, WHO SPOKESMAN: We have to try to help people understand that the word pandemic doesn't necessarily mean severe. Pandemic means the geographic spread of the disease. SNOW: Among the concerns, people crowding hospitals when they are not sick with the disease and closing borders unnecessarily. But an infectious disease expert criticized the W.H.O. saying this decision should be based on science not on how the world will react. He says while the worst may be behind us, it may not be.
MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: The idea that we need the world to be concerned about this is absolutely critical. We don't need to put them to sleep with complacency and saying its OK.
SNOW: What remains unknown is how the virus will evolve, come milder or become more severe. A haunting reminder is the 1918 flu epidemic; it was the flu virus was mild in the spring only to return months later in a deadly form. A repeat of that, says influenza expert Dr. Peter Palese is highly unlikely. But he says what is likely is the swine flu resurface in the U.S. in the fall.
PAUL PALESE, MOUNT SINAI SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: I think the recommendation will be that the regular flu shot should be taken in the fall of 2009 and the question will be do we also have to consider a second vaccine against the swine flu.
SNOW: The swine flu vaccine, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services says five different manufacturers are developing a vaccine with testing to be done over the summer. If the government does decide to go ahead with the vaccine, the first doses would be ready in the early fall.
Mary Snow, CNN, New York.
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PILGRIM: At least 12 people in New York City have died from suspected swine flu. That is the highest number in any community in the nation. Now health officials say a telephone call suggests 7 percent of the city's population recently suffered a flu-like illness, and that means more than half a million New Yorkers could have become sick with swine flu.
Now later in this broadcast two of the world's leading authorities on infectious diseases will join me to discuss the global pandemic.
Another major international story to tell you about, a U.S. official tonight says there are indications North Korea may be preparing to conduct a second nuclear weapons test. Now the official did not elaborate. Pyongyang carried out another nuclear test last month. The U.N. Security Council is due to vote tomorrow on possible sanctions against North Korea.
New details tonight about what happened when a white supremacist opened fire at a U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and killed a security guard. The suspect James Von Brunn remains in critical condition in the hospital. He was shot by other security officers. Kate Bolduan reports from Washington.
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KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Police had started to piece together what happened during Wednesday's shooting and have officially charged self-proclaimed white supremacist James Von Brunn with murder.
CHIEF CATHY LANIER, WASHINGTON POLICE: As he approached the 14th Street entrance as was said earlier, Special police officer Johns was kind enough to open the door to allow him to enter. As he entered, he raised the rifle, opened fire striking special police officer Johns.
BOLDUAN: Other security guards returned fire critically wounding Von Brunn. According to the affidavit, 11 bullet casings were recovered at the scene. The entire incident was captured on museum security cameras. The affidavit also revealed new details of the accused shooter's frame of mind. When searching Von Brunn's cars investigators found a notebook with handwritten notations saying, you want my weapons, this is how you'll get them. The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews. Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do. Federal prosecutors are now exploring hate crime charges.
JOE PERSICHINI, ASSISANT FBI DIRECTOR: We will do everything possible not only to stop Mr. Von Brunn but the other Mr. Von Brunns that are around here in this nation today.
BOLDUAN: Authorities remain convinced Von Brunn acted alone. FBI officials say they've been aware of his hate speech but were not actively investigating Von Brunn despite a 1983 conviction for attempted kidnapping.
PERSICHINI: No matter how offensive to some, we are keenly aware that expressing views is not a crime. And the protections under the constitution cannot be compromised.
BOLDUAN: Now a federal murder charge which Von Brunn faces carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Now the latest is Von Brunn remains in critical condition with a shotgun wound. The police tape is down and the museum is planning to reopen tomorrow.
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PILGRIM: Thanks very much, Kate. Kate Bolduan thanks Kate.
Coming up, President Obama takes on Wall Street. The president is tackling super sized pay packages and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposes billions of dollars in cuts for Californians. But billions for illegal aliens won't be affected.
And guess who says I don't know anything about cars? Well, the answer might surprise you.
PILGRIM: The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats today pushed forward with their efforts to curb executive pay. The White House yesterday appointed a pay czar for a bailed out company and proposed new legislation to give shareholders greater say in compensation. Critics say President Obama is expanding the ranks of cabinet officials who are accountable only to him.
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PILGRIM (voice over): President Obama began announcing excessive executive compensation at the start of his presidency.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE U.S: To top executives, to award themselves these kinds of compensation packages in the midst of these economic crises isn't just bad taste, it is bad strategy. And I will not tolerate it as president.
PILGRIM: The president named Kenneth Feinberg as a pay czar to oversee how executives and upper level employees are paid at companies who received taxpayer bailout money. Feinberg oversaw the $7 billion September 11th victim compensation fund.
The treasury secretary also called for laws giving shareholders and the Securities and Exchange Commission more voice on how much corporate executives are paid. The Compensation Committee fully independent. But even Geithner admitted it will be a challenge for the government to adjust compensation practices.
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: I think there's broader recognition this practice has to change. It will be easier to agree on principles and standards than to apply those in ways that have been constructive, practical changes.
PILGRIM: There's been a public outcry over excessive pay and bonuses for CEOs but some businesses see broader compensation oversight as excessive government meddling in private industry including the Conservative Heritage Foundation.
JAMES GATTUSO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: The hard part of compensation is getting it right, not paying too much, not paying too little. If you get it wrong, you destroy wealth. If you get it right, you create wealth. The bottom line is that the corporation's management and the stockholders in the marketplace can do a better job of that than any sort of czar in government.
PILGRIM: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce came out what it called an avalanche of new rules, restrictions and mandates on business. The chamber announcing a multimillion-dollar campaign, a campaign it says to support free enterprise. It's time, says the Chamber of Commerce, to remind all Americans that it was a free enterprise system based on the values of individual initiative, hard work, risk, innovation and profit that built our great country.
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PILGRIM: Geithner's comments on the new say on pay proposal leaves a lot to be explained. Draft legislation of the proposals are expected to be submitted to Congress soon. But he clearly stated there would be no cap on executive compensation and that the government is not interested in an ongoing role either.
General Motors' executives today met with the members of the Obama administration auto task force. Ed Whitaker, the former head of AT&T, will become the new chairman of GM. He'll join the administrations car czar, Steven Rattner, and his 31-year-old deputy Brian Deese. One of the things all these men have in common when it comes to managing the $50 billion of your money sunk into GM, they have absolutely no experience in the car business.
Bill Tucker reports.
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BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The future of car making in America is on a strange path. Many of the people now in charge of turning around the domestic auto business don't have any experience in building cars or manufacturing. Much to the dismay of industry experts.
JOHN WOLKONOWICZ, AUTO ANALYST: Things are so weird on all fronts today that it's no weirder than 10,000 other things that are going on right now.
TUCKER: But given the mess the U.S. auto industry is in, some argue that reaching outside of the industry is exactly what is needed to turn it around. The new chairman of GM, Ed Whitaker, used to run AT&T and freely admits that he knows nothing about car making.
Our car czar Steve Rattner is a former journalist and investment banker. The government's man in charge of dismantling GM is a 31-year- old who interrupted his law school career to become a special assistant to the president. He's not a trained economist, and he has no manufacturing experience. For critics, though it's not a lack of intelligence but a lack of industrial experience.
LLOYD WOOD, AMER. MANUFACTURING & TRADE COALITION: Clearly you've got a lot of people with tremendous finance backgrounds and academic economic backgrounds, but you need somebody that's not just a turnaround artist but you actually need somebody that really knows how to manufacture things there.
TUCKER: Most of the members of the president's auto task force don't own American cars and, two, don't own cars at all which brings up a more intangible issue, passion. A passion for cars. Something that could be lacking in a government-run commission according to some auto analysts.
WOOD: If I look at the competition of these companies are up against, if I look at companies like Volkswagen, BMW, Honda, they have that passion within the company. Those are very professionally run companies that also have some pretty powerful car guys in them.
TUCKER: Those analysts say it doesn't seem likely that a government run carmaker would spawn a Corvette.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TUCKER: Now Ford is not receiving any bailout money and in fairness we should note that the head of Ford did not come to his job with a car building background but he is an engineer by training and who does have a manufacturing background. He came over from Boeing.
PILGRIM: Well I guess the only thing we can say is we wish them well. Thank you very much, Bill Tucker.
TUCKER: The blind shall lead the blind, yes.
PILGRIM: Well, we would like to know what you think. Here is the poll question tonight. Do you think it's a good idea that the people responsible for saving GM with $50 billion of your money have absolutely no experience in the automobile industry? Yes or no, cast your vote at Loudobbs.com. We'll bring you the results a little bit later in the broadcast.
Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor calls herself an affirmative action baby. Those revealing words and more come out on video clips she's turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
And police officers caught on tape beating a suspect. Now they are facing charges.
PILGRIM: Californians tonight are facing the reality of the state's critical budget crises. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says he'll cut services and close programs across the state. One thing the governor won't cut, billions of taxpayer dollars on social services for illegal aliens. Casey Wian reports.
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CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says he'll shut down the state's government rather than borrow more money to help close a $24 billion budget deficit. These proposed solutions include eliminating welfare programs, releasing thousands of criminals, and even halting school textbook purchases in favor of electronic devices. He's also planning to divert more than $2.5 billion from local government prompting mayors to visit the state capitol on voice their displeasure.
MAYOR JERRY SANDERS, (R) SAN DIEGO: One of the things I've heard since I've been up in the capitol and especially today that I heard is you need to share our pain. Well, we shared our own pain.
MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAGOSA, (D) LOS ANGELES: All of us are here after making devastating cuts to our cities' budgets.
WIAN: Also protesting the budget cuts powerful public employee unions. One idea appears off the table, cutting spending on state services for illegal aliens. Schwarzenegger recently met with the editors of "The Sacramento Bee" who said a lot of readers asked this question.
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): When are you going to address one of the largest reasons the state has been bled dry, illegal immigration?
GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) CALIFORNIA: First of all, I think this is a myth. I think it's an easy scapegoat to go and have people point the finger and say our budget is out of whack because of illegal immigrants. It's not.
WIAN: By Schwarzenegger's estimate, California spends $4 billion a year on social services for illegal immigrants or about 17 percent of the state's deficit. But in 2004 the Federation for American Immigration reform, a group that promotes stronger border security and greater restrictions on immigration estimated that cost at $9 billion a year. Either way Schwarzenegger says federal law requires states to provide education and emergency medical care regardless of immigration status.
SCHWARZENEGGER: I'm happy that they can get the services because I would like too many the services if I'm somebody in another country.
WIAN: The governor says he's confident lawmakers will reach a budget deal before California runs out of money next month.
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WIAN: But he has also criticized the legislature for continuing to work on less urgent matters during the budget crisis including bills that would create a state blueberry commission and regulate the size of the letters on health care workers' name tags. The governor says perhaps it's time to make jobs in the state assembly and state senate part time.
PILGRIM: Thanks very much. Well, some other stories that we're following tonight across the country in West Palm Beach, Florida, two former police officers are charged with beating a handcuffed suspect and then trying to cover it up. In May of last year police officers arrested a man suspected of robbing a drugstore. While handcuffed and on the ground two officers kicked him. At one point the suspect tries to break free and an officer punches him repeatedly. Two officers were fired. One resigned. If convicted the officers could face more than ten years in prison.
Pop star Rihanna has been subpoenaed to testify in the assault case against her former boyfriend, former singer Chris Brown. Rihanna's attorney says she will take the stand and answer all questions truthfully. Now Brown is facing felony assault charges for allegedly beating and threatening Rihanna.
In San Francisco's financial district, a very small blackbird has taken to dive bombing people on the sidewalks. The bird flies right at their heads when they come too close to his nest. This has been happening for a few weeks and now a small crowd has gathered to watch the bird in action. No one has been seriously injured, but quite a few people have been startled.
Up next, the latest on global swine flu pandemic. The World Health Organization raising its alert levels to the highest level.
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(UNIDENTIFED FEMALE): We are in the earlier stage of the pandemic. The virus is spreading.
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PILGRIM: Most Americans don't know who the leader of the Republican Party is. We'll examine the vacuum of leadership in the Republican Party with four top political analysts.
PILGRIM: A new "USA Today"/Gallup poll illustrates just how lost the Republican Party appears to be. Not only are Republicans unhappy with their own party, many can't even name the leader of their party, any leader of their party. Bill Schneider has our report.
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BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Quick, who is the leader of the Republican Party? Don't know? You are correct or at least you're in the majority. Most Americans can't name anyone who speaks for the Republican Party. Among those who give an answer, Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney are at the top of the list followed by Newt Gingrich and John McCain. All older conservative white men, not exactly the new America. The party does have an official chairman.
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: I'm here and they're not.
SCHNEIDER: But only 2 percent of Republicans see Michael Steele as their spokesman. The Democratic Party still riding high, 53 percent favorable. The Republican Party, almost 20 points lower. The lowest opinion of the Republican Party in the Gallup poll since 1998 when President Clinton was impeached and, guess this, a third of Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of their own party. Here is one now.
GENERAL COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: What we have to do is debate and define who we are and what we are and not just listen to what comes out of the Republican Party.
SCHNEIDER: Asked the Republican Party should do to reverse its fortunes, most people say change its position to make it more appealing to moderates. 37 percent say, no, do a better job of selling the party's conservative views without changing them. How do Republicans feel? Just the opposite.
(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Well, if I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I go with Rush Limbaugh.
SCHNEIDER: What about the one-third of Republicans who are unhappy with their party? The same. They want the party to stay conservative. They just want a new face.
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SCHNEIDER: In 2001, six months after George W. Bush took office, the CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll asked who speaks for the Democratic Party? 51 percent said they didn't know. Another 10 percent said nobody. You know a political consultant from Chicago told "USA Today," quote, it's the nature of being the party out of power. That was David Axelrod. He's now a senior adviser for President Obama.
PILGRIM: Great stuff. Thanks very much, Bill Schneider.
Well, joining me now are four of the best political analysts in the country. We have Republican strategist and former White House political director and CNN contributor Ed Rollins, New York bureau chief for the Washington Post, Keith Richburg, Democratic strategist, CNN contributor Robert Zimmerman, and in Washington, professor of political science and professor of law at Vanderbilt University, Carol Swain, also a CNN contributor.
Thanks for joining us.
Let's start with the Republican Party. It's too tempting. Ed, tell me what you think about that.
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, in this day of instant communication, someone could emerge again. But the reality is each state -- Mitch Daniels in Indiana is well known, well liked. Haley Barbour in Mississippi well known, well liked and around the country, Pawlenty in Minnesota.
There's no national figures because we're obviously in the minority in the Congress and it's not going to be until four years from now when somebody emerges to be a presidential candidate again.
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Ed's point is very much on target. You really rebuild the party from the local levels, from the state legislatures, the town offices and the gubernatorial positions. It's important as a caution my brothers and sisters in the Democratic Party to remember that even though the Republicans were at a record low in 1998 they almost won the popular vote against Al Gore in 2000.
PILGRIM: Go ahead, Carol.
ZIMMERMAN: Yes please.
CAROL SWAIN, PROFESSOR, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: I blame the media because...
PILGRIM: You can always blame the media.
SWAIN: Well, I blame the media because there are people like Marcia Blackburn who has been on LOU DOBBS TONIGHT many times. And she's a woman, she's young, she's beautiful. She could be the leader of the Republican Party. It all depends on who gets the media time; who gets to speak for the Party.
And I'm among the people that believe the Republican Party needs to do a better job of selling its conservative values. They need to reach out to racial and ethnic minorities and they need to not become another version of the Democratic Party. And what's hurt them the most is they have not shown compassion seemingly to ordinary working people.
They cannot be the party of the rich, the party of the corporation. And right now the Democrats are doing a pretty good job of that.
KEITH RICHBURG, WASHINGTON POST: May I jump in here as a representative of the media?
PILGRIM: Sure. You can do that.
RICHBURG: We love this. It's an absolute vacuum here and we love it because of this 24-hour news cycle. Cable needs to fill the airwaves. There needs to be a Republican spokesman to put on to debate these things. And in the absence of a clear front-runner for the nomination next time, there's no vice president who lost who is going to be running next time along. Guess who is filling that void?
You have Newt. You have Rush Limbaugh and you have Dick Cheney, the RNC.
SWAIN: It doesn't have to be that way. It doesn't have to be that way.
ROLLINS: No member of Congress is going to -- no matter how articulate they are, if they're in a leader position is not going to be consistent, it's not going to evolve. The media still puts John McCain on who for ten years John McCain was on every Sunday show. He's still on Sunday shows.
At the end of the day -- four years ago no one at this point in time really knew who Barack Obama was. He's now president of the United States. It will come. We just have to stay consistent in what we are and who we are.
RICHBURG: Like you said, it's a great opportunity, I think, for somebody in the Republican Party to step forward and pick up the pieces of this thing and lead it.
ZIMMERMAN: But they have to be open to that. I was very interested and intrigued by the recent dinner they had in Washington where on the stage was Jon Voight and Newt Gingrich. It looked like two grumpy old men.
And there was Sarah Palin, the former vice presidential candidate, certainly a very popular figure, a woman -- the first woman to run nationally sitting in the audience, not even being brought up on stage. Come on. That just shows how out of touch they are. ROLLINS: I agree with you that was stupid, stupid, stupid, inside, inside, inside Washington thought process.
SWAIN: I think they need to pay some blacks to sit in the audience so at least the party looks more integrated.
PILGRIM: Carol, you know, actually while we have you on the broadcast, I would like to bring up a different topic.
Today's "Washington Times," you're quoted as saying "there are conditions in the nation that can lead to an increase in white supremacist." We're talking, of course, about the horrific assault on the museum in Washington. What leads you to say -- I was very intrigued by your article -- what leads you to say that?
SWAIN: Well, I published a book called "The New White Nationalism in America" in 2002 and I argued at that time that there were certain conditions that were converging in creating a devil's group for racial unrest. And at the time there were -- among these conditions one was the fact white people were decreasing at a percentage of the population.
There was a lot of frustration about immigration, high levels of immigration, resentment over affirmative action, fear of minority crime and many white people feeling like they were not being represented, that there was a different standard for them and the language of multiculturalism and identity politics that pretty much allowed minorities to engage in one language.
There were white leaders saying these were double standards; that whites were being discriminated against. There was no one representing white people and at that time I felt that the conditions were right for increased racial and ethnic conflict. Of course I could not have known we would have a black president that would feed into this.
PILGRIM: Go ahead, Robert.
ZIMMERMAN: Having worked on this issue, the issues of bias crimes and incidents of bias -- incidents that don't quite qualify legally as crimes, having been involved with this issue, it's important to remember that this is not -- this tragedy at the Holocaust Museum, the Holocaust Center in Washington, he -- this murderer, articulated his hatred towards Jews and Blacks.
ZIMMERMAN: And oftentimes you hear bias crimes are it's Jews, Blacks, Catholics, the gay community. We're all in this together.
And I think one of the important -- one of the important issues we have to remember as we confront certainly a growing economic crisis in our country, a sense of desperation by many people, is that if we're going to confront bias crimes, we have to do it as one community.
PILGRIM: Carol, I'm just going to hold it right there. We're going to come back to this topic. We're going to take a quick break. This is a fascinating topic for everyone in this country at this point.
Coming up, more with our panel.
Also, world health officials finally declare a swine flu. It's a global pandemic. I'll be joined by two leading experts on infectious diseases.
Also, why some people are upset about this picture of president Obama. That's next.
Stay with us.
PILGRIM: An official White House photo tonight is causing controversy in Israel. Now this photo shows President Obama with his feet up on the Oval Office desk while he's on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Some Israeli news outlets say the photo is insulting; showing the soles of your shoes is considered an insult in the Arab world. Even though Israel isn't an Arab nation, some Israeli TV news anchors said it's an insult to the region.
Well, we're back now with our panel: Ed Rollins, Keith Richburg, Robert Zimmerman and Carol Swain. We were right in the middle of discussing this attack on the Holocaust Memorial. And Keith, your thoughts on this and the whole sort of debate that's turned up in the country about white supremacists, hate speech, or, you know, a random act of a very disturbed individual.
RICHBURG: It clearly was a lone wolf random act of one individual. I think they'll think we can overstate it or try to draw to many lessons.
I do think though that first of all, with this milestone of electing the first black president, that doesn't mean that those fringe groups on the margins are going away. And, in fact, a lot of them feel very threatened. The Secret Service will tell you they're getting an increasing number of these kind of threats coming in.
I think, if anything, this is a time we should really step back and get some more, I think, stability in our political discourse.
I went to Washington in 1980, the same time Ronald Reagan was coming in and the disagreements were vehement. And at the end of the day people could go out and have a beer together. And now just sometimes you hear the rhetoric becoming just overcharged and overheated. This might be a chance to say to everybody, "Let's step back. We're all in the kind of political mainstream." And there are nuts out on...
ROLLINS: I couldn't agree with you more. I think we need to be very sensitive towards this. There's been word used on this new attempt at associate justice, calling her spurious things that are just outrageous. We need to be careful about words like "racist." We need to be careful about these kinds of things and we need to get sensitive to our fellow man and our fellow woman.
PILGRIM: You know, Ed, I'd really love to bring up your column. You wrote an absolutely fabulous piece on your cnn.com commentary today. And it really was calling on the president to be honest with us about the cause.
ROLLINS: What I admitted in there is that George Bush and Republicans were not honest about the cost of the war, the cost of the Medicare drug program and a whole variety of things. The president basically keeps saying it was this health care program which we may very well need as a nation is going to be the way to be cost effective. Every projection is that it's going to cost $2.6 trillion.
I argue that -- I have a 14-year-old daughter. When she's 20, 25, 30, what's America going to be like? There will be no entitlements for them because there will be not opportunities, there will be big financial obligations. So I think we have to figure out how we're going to pay for these things and set priorities. If we can't pay for the most priority, let's find some way of basically cutting back something else.
ZIMMER: You know, Ed's column truly -- I commend all our viewers to really read cnn.com. It's just an extraordinary column.
I think what's interesting in this discussion and there's a real debate to be had nationally about this issue, about how we're going to address the health crisis in America; 47 million Americans without health insurance, millions more underinsured.
What I think is critical as we watch the senate debate is there will be a number of plans on the table. And Barack Obama has outlined some goals to achieve to make this deficit-neutral ideally is where he wants to go. Let's see what the evidence is that can enable that to happen, but the bottom line is health care -- putting health care costs under control is an economic benefit and critical to our economic recovery. And the Obama administration is committed to it.
PILGRIM: Keith, your thoughts on this whole debate about -- it's a very important day because this is where it's really thrown up as open for debate.
RICHBURG: Absolutely and I think Obama is trying to frame this, I think, the correct way in saying, "Look, this is not just throwing money, creating a new big government program." It's to get the economy under control. Medicaid and Medicare are sapping money away. But he has to be honest and say this is going to cost something up front.
PILGRIM: Carol -- oh, sorry.
ROLLINS: I'm sorry, Carol. You also have to be honest about you can't give everybody everything. There's going to be restrictions. As someone who is on Medicare, I can walk in and get anything today. I may not deserve to get everything in the future.
PILGRIM: Yes, Carol, last word on this. I'm sorry. We're almost out of time.
SWAIN: I believe that the success of the president's domestic agenda depends on immigration because health care, education, everything domestically he's trying to do depends on what we do with immigration.
ZIMMERMAN: Let's remember, Carol, health care, though, can be also -- the short term stimulus can produce long-term job opportunities and long-term growth.
SWAIN: But we still have to know how many people are going to be covered? We still have to know how many people are showing up at emergency rooms.
ZIMMERMAN: Carol, we have to make a commitment to address the issue of the uninsured in this country and we have to make a commitment whether it's through a private sector or public sector to make sure that we make as part of our key economic recovery health care.
I give the Obama administration and Congress credit for trying.
SWAIN: We need health care but it's all interconnected. There's no way you're going to end it.
PILGRIM: Carol, we have to leave it there. It's a great debate. Thank you very much. Carol Swain, Robert Zimmerman, Ed Rollins, Keith Richburg.
Up next, swine flu: now a global pandemic, two of the world's leading authorities on infectious diseases will join us.
Also, a new push for comprehensive immigration reform: should we be easing immigration rules when we have rising unemployment in this country? That's the subject of our face-off debate tonight.
PILGRIM: The World Health Organization tonight declaring swine flu a global pandemic. Now this is the first pandemic in more than four decades.
Joining me now is Dr. Anthony Fauci. He's the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and from New York University, infectious disease expert, Martin Blaser. Thank you very much for joining us gentlemen.
Let me start with the remote guest first; it's my courtesy. Doctor Fauci, this official's definition, this level six global pandemic, explain to us what that means to an average person in the country.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What that really means there's a declaration of really the spread, geographic spread. What it doesn't do, it doesn't indicate the degree of severity.
By strict definition, the level five where we were at was when there's community spread from person to person in two countries in a given region of the world. If you then have an additional country in a totally different region in which there's community spread at a robust rate, then you elevate it to what's called a level six pandemic or a true pandemic but, again, it doesn't address the issue of severity, only geographic distribution.
PILGRIM: Some of the doctors that I've been talking to over the course of this outbreak have told me it's considered a mild symptom flu and yet a mild symptom flu can be very, very dangerous.
Dr. Blaser, are you surprised that they took this long to declare a global pandemic? This still is a very dangerous outbreak, isn't it?
MARTIN BLASER, INFECTION DISEASE SPECIALIST: Flu is dangerous because it affects so many people. When you have millions or probably tens of millions of people who are infected, some people invariably die. And we're seeing this although the number of deaths is on the low side so far for something that has spread as much as this.
PILGRIM: We've seen it mostly with children and infants. We haven't seen it in older Americans. Is that what is causing the lower death rate because these are people who are generally healthier?
BLASER: Well, as I think you know, flu is very variable. We mostly understand flu after it has come and this one has characteristics that's making it mild. There's evidence that people over the age of 50 have some immunity and that's protecting older people.
PILGRIM: Dr. Fauci, one of the things we worry about and it's been much discussed is that this flu is dying out in the summer months and now will potentially come back in the fall, possibly mutate. What is your assessment of the situation right now?
FAUCI: Well, the way the situation is right now, we're paying a lot of attention to the southern hemisphere because the southern hemisphere is just entering their flu season now, their fall and their winter. So we're going to pay attention to what this virus does in the southern hemisphere now.
And then also what happens when we get to our fall and winter. We're assuming that this virus will be back during our regular flu season. And it's for that reason that we've initiated the process of vaccine development to develop a vaccine against this particular H1N1 flu.
The decisions of how much vaccine to make or whether to distribute it or not is not there yet. But the actual process of the development of the vaccine has already started in preparation for the fall and winter of our coming year.
PILGRIM: Is it true that this virus could step up in severity or step down in severity when it comes back?
FAUCI: Well, you know, influenzas are inherently unpredictable. When you have an influenza that we've never had any experience before, namely the one we're dealing with now, that compounds the unpredictability. So we really need to just be prepared for anything; that it, in fact, will accelerate or may get less. We just don't know. We have to be prepared for all of the options.
PILGRIM: You know, Dr. Blaser, they have been saying -- many of the doctors are telling that they feel that the contagion part of this is very extreme. That it's very communicable. And we also have the WHO director-general also today saying this swine flu is unstoppable. These sort of things don't reassure me at all. What is your assessment about the contagion?
BLASER: It is quite contagious. The WHO has found it in 74 countries. It spread in a few months across the world. But, again, the good news is that it's been on the relatively mild side. Part of the contagiousness that is of concern is that it's spreading in the late spring and early summer when flu is supposed to be dying down.
But I agree with Dr. Fauci. We have a big advantage that the surveillance is so much better now than it used to be. So we can watch what is happening in the southern hemisphere. And that's going to guide us in the northern hemisphere.
PILGRIM: And yet Dr. Fauci, they're not even testing for swine flu at this point. They run a standard lab test for Influenza A and then just call it a day. They don't really distinguish at this point. Do you think we're gathering enough information?
FAUCI: Yes, we are because we know that it's here. So when you have a lot of people coming in to emergency rooms or clinics, when you have a community in which you know the new H1N1 is there, you don't necessarily have to test each and every individual.
But in the southern hemisphere, particularly now that Australia has now had an outburst of cases, we're watching that and other countries in the southern hemisphere to determine what happens during our summer, i.e., their winter.
PILGRIM: Well, gentlemen, we know that this issue is in very good hands when we have minds like this working on it Dr. Martin Blaser and Dr. Anthony Fauci. Thank you very much for being us with.
Coming up at the top of the hour, Campbell Brown -- Campbell.
CAMPBELL BROWN, HOST, "NO BIAS, NO BULL": Hey there, Kitty.
Coming up tonight, we're going to talk about Governor Sarah Palin versus David Letterman. Did he cross the line when he made fun of her daughter? And was Palin right to blast him for his jokes? That's just ahead tonight. Also, our great debate -- is the war on drugs a total failure? Former drug czar, Bill Bennett squares off with someone who says we have lost the battle against drugs.
Plus, a state department staffer and his wife accused of spying for Cuba. So how many spies are hiding in plain sight?
We've got that and a whole lot more in just a few minutes -- Kitty?
PILGRIM: We look forward it to. Thanks Campbell.
With unemployment rising, why are some in Congress proposing new comprehensive immigration reform packages? Well, that's our face-off debate tonight. Stay with us.
PILGRIM: New immigration reform legislation in Congress tonight, it is called the "Reuniting Families Act." This bill will raise the number of visas this country issues.
Joining me now is the sponsor of the bill, Congressman Michael Honda, a Democrat from California. And Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah; he says the bill is badly timed. That it will make it tougher for Americans to find work.
Gentlemen thanks very much for being with us.
Congressman Honda, let's start with you. Why do you think that this is necessary at this time? I think the timing is one of the things that is being criticized most.
REP. MICHAEL HONDA (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, this is a bill that addresses the request of citizens and those who are legal permanent residence requesting through the visa process reunification of the spouse or other family members; doing that now will give us a good head of steam so that this can move right into the entire debate on the comprehensive immigration reform. I think that it's an important time to start with a good head of steam. And to get behind it organizations that are well respected and well liked.
PILGRIM: Congressman Chaffetz, your reply to that?
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, my concern is that while the current immigration process is highly immoral, we need reform. What this bill does is by the hundreds of thousands of people, it brings more people into the United States at the very time good hard- working Americans are having a hard time finding jobs.
And so it's just not the right time to open up the floodgates, create new classes of people that would be recognized under immigration law and bring them into the country. I'm all for immigration reform. I just don't like this bill. PILGRIM: You know I'd like to bring up a point. Representative Honda, your bill allows gay and lesbians to sponsor their partners for green cards and then bring them into the country. But federal law does not recognize same-sex relationships. So this has definitely added a new point to this debate.
The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops has been a big supporter of expanding immigration rights. But it withdrew its support of the bill because of the same-sex provisions. What do you have to say about that?
HONDA: Well, they termed this as same-sex marriage. This is not same-sex marriage this is recognizing states that already have laws that allow same-sex partners and those are lawful in certain states and countries that recognize that also. So this allows those who are committed to each other and they fit categories and the word of -- the letter of the law to be part of the entire folks who want to apply for the reunification of families.
So we say this is a reunifying families is for all families and all means everyone who are here legally and who will be following the law. So it's not about the undocumented or it doesn't add anything to the population because all we're doing is bringing in members of the families who are here already.
And that does not impact our economy negatively because we know and the Fortune 500 companies also know that people who are happy, who are united and who are healthy, they become very productive economic persons in this country. It's good for our country.
PILGRIM: Congressman Chaffetz?
CHAFFETZ: My concern is it does redefine marriage because it adds what is called in the bill...
HONDA: It doesn't redefine marriage. I'm sorry. You didn't read the law.
CHAFFETZ: Let me answer, please. I did. I read the entire bill. It says permanent...
HONDA: You should know...
PILGRIM: Congressman Honda, let him at least make his point.
CHAFFETZ: It says "permanent partners." So everywhere in the bill that it previously had said "marriage" or "spouse" it added "permanent partners" which is another way of saying it was going to allow homosexual or lesbian couples to enter the country. The fact remains that by opening this up to a new class that is prohibited by federal law.
Remember, the United States Constitution requires the Congress to develop a uniform of uniform rule of naturalization. And by redefining marriage, I just don't think you're going to get this bill passed. I think that's unpalatable (ph); the majority of states in this country have constitutional provisions not recognizing these types of so-called unions or permanent partnerships. And the federal law does not recognize marriage as a union.
PILGRIM: Congressman Honda, you have about 20 seconds to make final point, sir.
HONDA: When we say "spouses" comma and permanent partners, it's put in the same category as legal. So if they're not legal, they're not recognized. In states that they're legal and countries that are legal, it applies. Don't put a reality that's not there.
PILGRIM: Gentlemen, I'm sorry. We have to hold it there.
Thank you so much for debating this tonight on our broadcast. Congressman Mike Honda and Congressman Jason Chaffetz. Thank you, sirs.
Tonight's poll results, 91 percent of you don't think it's a good idea that people responsible for saving GM with $50 billion of your money have absolutely no experience in the automobile industry.
Thanks for being with us tonight. For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York.
Campbell Brown starts right now.