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Insurgents Kill 2 Marines in Iraq; Bush Addresses U.N.

Aired September 21, 2004 - 18:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, HOST: Tonight: worsening violence in Iraq. Insurgents kill two U.S. Marines. Radical Islamist terrorists cut off the head of another American hostage. President Bush today challenged the United Nations to support the United States in the global war on terror.

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The proper response to difficulty is not to retreat, it is to prevail.


DOBBS: Senator John Edwards declares voters will hold the Bush administration accountable for Iraq.


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: George Bush and Dick Cheney are literally the last two people in America who believe they've made no mistakes in Iraq.


DOBBS: The Democratic candidate for vice president, Senator John Edwards, is my guest. Also joining me tonight, independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

And the presidential candidates are ignoring the issue of illegal immigration in this campaign. Voters, however, are demanding action to stop what is being called nothing less than an invasion of illegal aliens into our country. We'll have a special report.

ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT for Tuesday, September 21. Here now, for an hour of news, debate and opinion, is Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening. Tonight, another American hostage has been brutally murdered in Iraq. Radical Islamist terrorists say they cut off the head of Jack Hensley. He is the second American to be beheaded in two days. Tonight, an unidentified body has been found in Baghdad. It is believed to be that of Jack Hensley.

Also today, insurgents launched new attacks against American troops in Iraq. Two U.S. Marines were killed, four soldiers were wounded. Despite this escalating violence, the president today delivered a uncompromising defense of his Iraq policies in a major speech the at the United Nations. Senior White House correspondent John King is here now with the report -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the president at the General Assembly today. That is an annual event where the focus is primarily on foreign policy. Mr. Bush's focus, though, today very much on the election six weeks away here in the United States. In his speech at the General Assembly and also in remarks delivered with Iraq's prime minister, mr. Bush dealing with political climate here in the United States, including addressing for the first time recent criticism of his Iraq policy from several Republican senators. Mr. Bush said, yes, some Republicans were criticizing him, but he said when it comes to November 2, they will still vote for him, not John Kerry.


BUSH: We agree that the world is better off with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell. And that stands in stark contrast to the statement my opponent made yesterday, when he said that the world was better off with Saddam in power.

KING (voice-over): The president's embrace of Iraq's interim prime minister included a remarkable dismissible of a classified CIA assessment warning of a tough political transition and possible civil war.

BUSH: And they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like. The Iraqi citizens are defying the pessimistic predictions. The Iraqi citizens are headed toward free elections.

KING: With Iraq now central to the presidential campaign debate, it is clear Mr. Bush is counting on Prime Minister Allawi for help making his case that the war was worth the price and that the insurgency will ultimately be crushed.

AYAD ALLAWI, IRAQI INTERIM PRIME MINISTER: It's very important for the people of the world really to know that we are winning. We are making progress in Iraq. We are defeating terrorists.

KING: At the United Nations, a handshake and smiles, despite White House anger at U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan's recent description of the Iraq war as illegal. Mr. Bush used his General Assembly speech to defend the war, saying he was right to confront Saddam Hussein and that Iraq, even now, is far better off without him. Yet in discussing the security challenges in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Bush was a bit more sober than he tends to be in upbeat campaign speeches, acknowledging the violent Iraqi insurgency and efforts by the Taliban to regroup.

BUSH: But these difficulties will not shake our conviction that the future of Afghanistan and Iraq is a future of liberty. The proper response to difficulty is not to retreat, it is to prevail.


KING: Now, Mr. Bush offer his condolences to the family of an American beheaded in Iraq yesterday. He said the thugs and terrorists would not prevail in that country. He then, Lou, extended his prayers to the wife of the second American held captive in Iraq, only to find out only hours later, he, too, had been beheaded.

DOBBS: John, the president effectively dismissing the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq as guesswork. A rather remarkable position for a president to take, is it not?

KING: It was a remarkable public statement. Aides scrambled afterwards to say the president's tone was perhaps a bit harsher than he intended. They're saying that the report is speculative. It says it could be bad, it could be not so bad. They also said this report was done back in June. Many critics of this president would say that the situation on the ground is a lot worse now than it was just a few months ago in June. Those critics also would say, How did the president have so much faith in the CIA when it came to making the case that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and so little faith in it now, when its recommendations and its assessment runs counter to his own public assessments of what's going on in Iraq?

DOBBS: Thank you very much, John. John King, our senior White House correspondent.

The president's speech to the United Nations came just days after U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan declared the war in Iraq to be illegal. Annan's comments provoked a storm of protests in the United States and in other coalition countries. And it, of course, raised new questions about the United Nations' failure to carry out its mission in Iraq and elsewhere. Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Where is the U.N. in Iraq? And why is it taking so long? This week, Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi and British prime minister Tony Blair were practically begging for help.

ALLAWI: I call up on the United Nations to help us and providing whatever it takes to make the elections a success in Iraq.

PILGRIM: President Bush today, as he addressed the U.N. General Assembly.

BUSH: The U.N. and its members nations must respond to Prime Minister Allawi's request and do more to help build an Iraq that is secure, democratic, federal and free.

PILGRIM: It's a job the United Nations insisted on. U.N. Resolution 1546 passed unanimously, structured with the language the U.N. should take a, quote, "lead role" in Iraq. But only about 30 U.N. staffers have gone to Baghdad so far. And last week, U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan said, You cannot have credible elections if the security conditions continue as they are now. DANIELLE PLETKA, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: The United Nations wasn't created to only go places where the cocktail bars were opened and the hotels were fully functioning. The role of the United Nations was meant to be one of trying to help ensure peace and stability. That implies that the places they go don't have full peace and stability.

PILGRIM: Kofi Annan suggested the war was illegal last week, also raising concern.

JAMES PHILLIPS, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: The U.N. Security Council did endorse post-war peacekeeping operations in Iraq, and that's all the more reason to doubt Kofi Annan's statement that the war itself was illegal.

PILGRIM: Today, Kofi Annan took the occasion to strike a more reflective tone about the U.N.'s role in the world.

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: Today, we must look again into our collective conscience and ask ourselves whether we are doing enough.

PILGRIM: It is something the Iraqi interim government has been asking for weeks.


Now, interim prime minister Ayad Allawi vows that the violence in Iraq would not derail the elections and the timetable would stay on schedule for January of next year -- Lou.

DOBBS: And remarkably, the secretary general today, as he highlighted the violence in Iraq, did not name names and suggest precisely, identify precisely who was committing that violence. Extraordinary!

PILGRIM: An extremely broad statement, yes.

DOBBS: Kitty Pilgrim, thank you.

The United Nations tonight is facing a dramatic new challenge from Iran. The Iranian government today declared it has begun preparing a large amount of uranium for enrichment, a process that could be used to make nuclear weapons. Iran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but the United States says Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in order to deliver those weapons.

And that brings us the subject to tonight's poll. The question, Do you believe the United States and the United Nations should take action soon to end Iran's efforts to create nuclear weapons? Yes or no. Cast your vote at We'll have results later here in the broadcast.

Senator John Kerry today said President Bush failed to present a true picture of Iraq to the United Nations today. Senator Kerry also defended himself against Republican charges he's repeatedly shifted his position on Iraq. Senator Kerry insists he has only one position on Iraq. Bob Franken reports from Jacksonville, Florida.


BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If he wanted attention on a day when his opponent was the featured player on the world stage, John Kerry would have to do something really different. How about a news conference?

KERRY: The president needs to live in the world of reality, not in a world of fantasy spin. At the United Nations today, the president failed to level with the world's leaders.

FRANKEN: At an appearance with Iraqi interim leader Allawi, President Bush said Kerry was hardly credible at all on Iraq. Kerry was ready with a response.

KERRY: He does not have the credibility to lead the world.

FRANKEN: The scheduled event here was devoted to health care. The unscheduled news conference was an effort, advisers said, to make sure that Iraq stays on the front burner.

Kerry has brought his campaign back into Florida, a delicate trip because the state, battleground though it is, has been preoccupied with more pressing concerns than politics.

(on camera): But the election is just six weeks away. Kerry is appearing in Orlando with his running mate, John Edwards, something else he hasn't done for a while. As one adviser said, It's prime-time now. Bob Franken, CNN, Florida.


DOBBS: Coming up next in prime-time, Senator John Edwards joins me to talk about a host of issues, including our porous borders and what he calls the mess in Iraq. And Democrats have called independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader a spoiler. Nader calls some of the Democrats a spineless, clueless and hapless political party. Ralph Nader is my guest tonight.

And the politics of illegal aliens. The lack of a national immigration policy could have a defining effect on a number of key congressional races this November, as well as a devastating effect on this country. We'll have a special report for you coming up.


DOBBS: In Ohio, polls show that battleground state to be a toss- up, recent surveys showing a statistical dead heat between President Bush and Senator Kerry. Both vice presidential candidates were there today campaigning. I talked earlier with Senator John Edwards about what he sees as the principal issues this, this campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, jobs are the biggest issue in Ohio. I mean, the driving issues in Ohio are 237,000 jobs lost total. It's almost 1 out of 4 of the jobs that have been lost in this country, even though Ohio only has 4 percent of the country's population.

Their health care costs are through the roof. There's a bankruptcy hearing every five minutes, which is really extraordinary. And then on top of that, almost everyone here knows of someone who is either in Iraq, has been to Iraq, or is about to go. So those are sort of the driving issues.

And the Bush administration, of course, has made this outsourcing and loss of jobs here in Ohio much worse. Not only have they done nothing about it, they've actually accelerated it. And it's just hard for me to imagine that they're actually going to vote in Ohio to rehire a president that's actually cost them 237,000 jobs. I don't believe it'll happen.

DOBBS: Of course, Senator, in your home state of North Carolina, 160,000 jobs have been lost. Specifically, what will you and Senator Kerry do to -- you mentioned outsourcing -- stop the outsourcing of jobs, and secondly, start creating jobs in this economy?

EDWARDS: Here's what we want to do. And I should say first, Lou, this is something I take very personally. I know you've talked about it a lot on your show. I take it very personally because the mill that my father worked in closed, and I saw what it did to my -- to the people in the community, people I was very close to, what it did to the men and women who had worked there for years and had nowhere to go.

Here's what we want to do. First, we want to get rid of tax cuts for American companies that are sending jobs overseas. It is insane to say when a company's deciding whether to build a factory in Ohio or in China, they get a tax cut for going to China. That needs to be stopped. The Bush administration has actually pushed for more of those tax cuts. I think that's wrong. Second, we actually want to give tax cuts to American companies that will keep jobs here in this country.

We also have to replace the jobs that have been lost, though, and there are a number of things we do to help with that. One is to help businesses, particularly small businesses, by giving them a tax cut of up to 50 percent so that they can provide health care for their employees. We want to make sure that we're investing in the creative, innovative jobs of the future, particularly in the area of energy and moving this country away from its dependence on oil in the Middle East. We have a comprehensive plan,, basically that creates incentives for businesses to stay in Ohio, in this country, that helps new businesses create jobs to replace -- real jobs to replace the jobs that are lost.

DOBBS: What are we to hear from you, from Senator Kerry as to a plan to deal with trade policies that are obviously not working? And why aren't you addressing it more in this campaign? EDWARDS: We are addressing it. We are out here talking about it, Lou. Sometimes it gets not heard because of the mess in Iraq right now and other issues that people are concerned about.

I think it's a combination of things, first all. One is to have a tax policy that actually rewards American companies for keeping jobs here in this country, and for creating jobs, good-paying jobs with real benefits. Second is to have a willingness to enforce our existing trade agreements, which this administration has not been willing to do. We're getting, George Voinovich, the Republican senator from Ohio, where I am today, has said that we're getting pummeled by enforcement actions by other countries, but we're not enforcing their obligations against them.

That's Bush and Cheney making those decisions. And you know, another example of that, by the way, the Chinese we know are manipulating their currency. It allows them to dump goods on the American market for up to 40 percent cheaper than they otherwise could. The truth is, our workers, our businesses can compete with anybody if they're just given a fair chance of doing that. That's not happening under this administration. We can improve where we are today.

DOBBS: I want to address what you style as "the mess in Iraq." But first, deal with another issue, and that is border protection, national security, homeland security. Both you, Senator Kerry, and the Bush-Cheney campaign are not focusing on immigration. "Time" magazine this week, as you know, reported three million illegal aliens will cross our borders this year. Yet neither the Democratic nor Republican ticket is addressing this issue and what would be done to assure real border protection.

EDWARDS: Here's what we believe needs to be done, Lou. And we have talked about it. Again, it's hard to get heard amongst some of the other issues...

DOBBS: Right. You'll be heard here, Senator.

EDWARDS: Thank you. And let me tell you what I think we ought to do, what John and I think we ought to do. We need -- first of all, we need a much more effective relationship with the Mexican government, with President Fox, so that we have their cooperation. Unfortunately, that relationship has gone sour during the time that George Bush has been in office. The result is we're trying to secure the border by ourselves -- very, very hard thing to do. We need stronger relationships. We need their help and cooperation.

We also need to do more by way of technology, making sure that we have the equipment and technology available to do more effective surveillance of our border to keep terrorists out, making sure that we have adequate personnel. We need to add both technology and personnel to provide a better security on our borders.

We do think this is an important issue, you know, because the truth of the matter is, if we have porous borders, then we have the real potential for somebody who wants to do harm to the American people coming across our border. That's a serious security risk for our country, and we think we do need to focus on it. It's really an important issue.

DOBBS: Would you and Senator Kerry assure the American people here tonight and in the days ahead that you're going to assure maximum border protection and control of our borders?

EDWARDS: Yes. We're going to do everything in our power to make sure that we keep people who don't belong, who could do harm to the American people, particularly terrorists, out of our country, and we're going to take the steps necessary to do that.

DOBBS: Turning to the mess in Iraq. The -- you have been referred to by Vice President Cheney and Speaker of the House Hastert as basically soft on the war on terror. What's your reaction?

EDWARDS: My response is, it's a lie, and it's an outrageous thing to be said. I mean, the very idea that all of us don't want to do everything possible to keep this country safe -- to take one of the great tragedies in American history and try to use it as a cheap political trick is absolutely wrong. And they ought to be held accountable and responsible for the outrageous things that they're saying. And I believe the American people will hold them accountable. People aren't as foolish as they think they are. Voters in this country have good sense, and they will see this fear-mongering for exactly what it is.

I might add, since we're on the subject -- since you mentioned the subject of Iraq, you know, you think about what this administration -- I'm convinced George Bush and Dick Cheney are literally the last two people in America who believe they've made no mistakes in Iraq and everything's going well. I mean, you just watch what's happening there. They told us they had a plan for Iraq, Lou. Not true. They told us we had enough troops going in. Not true. They told us this war would pay for itself. Not true.

I mean, why in the world did George Bush and Dick Cheney have any credibility whatsoever? This gets to be a pretty simple thing. If the American voter wants four more years of the situation we have in Iraq and potentially getting much worse over time, then George Bush is their guy. If they believe we could do better than that -- and John Kerry laid out our plan yesterday in New York -- they need to put John Kerry in the White House.

DOBBS: Senator, you have been criticized of late by some of the top Democratic insiders, if I can put that way, of not being sharp enough in your responses to Republican charges. Are you going to become more direct in your responses? Are you going to counterattack and attack in the remaining days of this campaign?

EDWARDS: I'm going to make sure that this administration is held accountable when they lie. I'm going to make sure that they're held accountable for their failures, both here and in Iraq and around the world. I want to make certain that when voters go to the poll in November that they know we have a president whose cost them millions of jobs, millions of people their health care, put millions of people into poverty. A typical family's income is down, not up. On top of the mess we have Iraq, I want to make certain that everybody knows that.

And when they say things that aren't true, we're going to call those things the lies that they are. And we're also going to make sure that people know that we can do better and what our plan to do is better. So the answer to your question is, I'm going to fight with absolutely everything I've got for my country.

DOBBS: Senator John Edwards, thanks for being with us.

EDWARDS: Thank you. Glad to be with you, Lou.


DOBBS: We, of course, have invited Vice President Dick Cheney to be with us here on the broadcast and hope that he will find it convenient to accept our invitation soon.

Today the vice president was also campaigning in Ohio, where he and senator Edwards will debate two weeks from today. The vice president told voters outside Cleveland that Senator Kerry has changed his position on Iraq once again.


RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yesterday, John Kerry gave us what I think is his ninth position on the war in Iraq. He attacked the progress we're making and the policies we've implemented. Yet despite all of the harsh rhetoric, Senator Kerry endorsed many of the same goals President Bush has been pursuing in Iraq.


DOBBS: The vice president campaigning, as well, in another battleground state today, the state of Michigan.

Still ahead here, the Nader factor. Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is accused of being a spoiler for many Democrats, and he's focus if many of those Democrats in this election. And he's talking now about a mini-Watergate, the efforts of the Democratic Party to keep him off of the ticket. He's my guest next.

And another massive storm has killed hundreds of people in the Caribbean and causing widespread destruction. We'll have the latest on Tropical Storm Jeanne next. And outrage over the millions of illegal aliens crossing our borders and the lack of a national immigration policy. Voters in a number of states are now demanding action.

That story, a great deal more, including your thoughts still ahead here tonight.


ANNOUNCER: LOU DOBBS TONIGHT continues. Here now, for more news, debate and opinion, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: My next guest is making headway in this presidential election. His first obstacle, however, is to get on the ballot. And now independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader has succeeded in putting his name on the ballot in at least 36 states and the District of Columbia for this presidential election. Several polls show that he is drawing support, from whom it will be later determined, I'm sure. Ralph Nader joins me now from our studios in Washington, D.C.

You today held a news conference in which you said that you are the victim, really, of a mini-Watergate. Precisely what do you mean?

RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, the Democratic Party at the top level of the Democratic National Committee, John Kerry, has been involved, has been supporting and has been funding state efforts to intimidate, harass our signature gatherers, file dozens of phony lawsuits. We faced Democratically-retained lawyers in Tallahassee before we beat them at the Florida supreme court level last week. But it's going on in the close states, Pennsylvania, Ohio. Amazing saga, what happens when you put this system under stress, Lou.

And the bile and the mucous and all this stuff pops up. And basically, it's political bigotry by the Democratic Party against competition, against small parties, against independent candidates. I might say, a lot of Republican law firms are involved here, one in Philadelphia, the Livingston Group in Washington. I guess they don't like our criticism -- that is our, meaning Nader-Camejo ticket's criticism of big business.

DOBBS: Well, your criticism offending Republican, the impact that many Democrats feel that you had on the 2000 election in effectively denying Al Gore the presidency -- you can understand why there would be a contest between the Democratic Party and yourself in terms of the electoral process, can you not?

NADER: No, I can't, because 10 times more registered Democrats in Florida deserted Gore for Bush than deserted Gore for the Nader- LaDuke ticket, and that was true around the country. So you think they concentrate on that? Do you think they concentrate on actively registering nine million African-American voters. 90 percent whom vote Democrat? Or you think they'd concentrate on trying to respond to low-income workers who are not making a living wage and whose jobs are being outsourced to China, not just technical jobs.

No, this is a decadent party. It's decayed. It's surrounded by corporate consultants, corporate advisers, and loaded with corporate money. And it's got to be challenged. I hope progressive Democrats after the election will really purge that party from its corporate domination because it's just losing elections for the last 10 years to the worst of the Republicans, local, state, and national level.

DOBBS: Your criticism, the depth of your criticism of the Democratic Party, I'm sure many people are astounded by it, assuming that you would be more directed in your attacks against the Republican Party. Corporate power in this election, corporate power in our society at large, it is -- it's overwhelming. What do you think your candidacy will do to alter that?

NADER: Well, we have concentrated on George W. Bush, because he's presiding as a conservative Republican over the shipment of whole industries and jobs to a communist dictatorship in China, at 37 cents an hour labor, et cetera.

I have a proposal to really challenge the corporations here. They say they're shipping jobs to China, and other countries, low-wage countries, to keep up with the global competition. Wal-Mart is telling its suppliers, if they don't meet the China price, then they are going to have to -- they have to close down and go to China.

Well, I'm going to propose in the next few days, and I hope to advertise classified ads in China and Mexico, a "outsource your CEO" program. And I'm going to ask for bilingual people in the third world, who are experienced, successful in management, who'd be very pleased to replace the heads of IBM and General Electric and General Motors at 1/10 of the executive salary, and probably work even harder.

So this is what's in point. We've got to get a message to these top executives. If they want to meet the global competition, then they should be ready to sacrifice their plush CEO jobs along with their employees.

DOBBS: Well, it's a fascinating proposal. It'll be interesting to see if it gains traction, because on the pure theoretical terms, each of these companies that is aggressive in its outsourcing always talks about efficiency, productivity, global competitiveness, but it seems to be only the middle class working man and woman in this country for whom that's an appropriate competitive response.

NADER: Exactly. And they're avoiding the law. You point out how few are -- these corporate crooks are prosecuted, convicted and sent to jail. And we have a 12-point program on our Web site,, for corporate reform. It's the obvious capitalistic reforms. Among others, you make the investors strong and own and control the company. You give them rights when the investors are defrauded. You have them control corporate compensation, which is going through the roof. Some of these top executives are making $7,000 an hour. And Warren Buffett has said it's executive compensation out of control that has led to the incentive to cook the books, to pad the profits, to download the debts.

And we also need to punish these companies and not have them take government contracts. They're going to flee the country to the Bahamas, for tax avoidance, for example. And give workers who own pensions more rights over their pensions.

You know, these are not radical nostrums, Lou. These are law and order nostrums, and I think the corporate executives, with their excessive influence over Washington, are misreading the American public.

You can only push the American people so far, so far, so far, when they're going to rebel. And I wrote this book, "The Good Fight," to show how corporate power concentration affects ordinary people's lives -- their jobs, small taxpayer, they're consumers, et cetera, health care, drug price, in order to alert the business community that there's a revolt coming. Three-quarters of the people in this country think George W. Bush favors corporate interests over people interest. Over 70 percent of the people in a "BusinessWeek" poll say corporations have too much control over their lives.

And I say to the business community, you better read this book. This is alert opener for you. Otherwise, you're going to get one of the great historic rebellions among working Americans. Not the least of which because you've abandoned America, the country that gave you birth, rose you to profits, built you out in Washington, and had the U.S. Marines save you overseas.

DOBBS: Ralph Nader, independent candidate for president. We thank you for being with us. And come November, just a little over 50 days away, we will find out what the national mood really is. We thank you for being here.

NADER: Thank you, Lou.

DOBBS: Taking a look now at some of your thoughts.

Roxanne Risner in Anchorage, Alaska wrote to say, "Americans are sick and tired of paying for the education and health care of people who come here illegally. It's no wonder our health care system is so expensive. Who do you think is paying to treat all of these people? Hard working, American taxpayers, that who!"

Phillip Todd in Howells, Nebraska. "As long as employers are willing to hire illegal aliens without the fear of paying the price, this problem is going to continue. The government needs to seriously address the hiring of illegal aliens and impose significant fines."

Alice Wiles of Lehigh Acres, Florida. "One day I expect to hear that if you want to reach your senator or congressman, send your letters to India, China, or Mexico."

We love hearing from you. Send us your thoughts at And please send us your name and address with your email. Each of you whose email is read on the broadcast receives a free copy of my new book, "Exporting America."

Still ahead here, a question of trust. Senator Kerry says President Bush has lost credibility on the world stage. President Bush calls Senator Kerry's changing positions on Iraq hardly credible. We'll have much more on the race for the White House coming up next.

And immigration politics. Why illegal aliens in this country could have a powerful impact on this election and the nation. We'll have a special report. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: Senator John Kerry today blasted President Bush and said he doesn't have the credibility to lead the world. The attack came a day after Senator Kerry launched an aggressive assault on the president's handling of the Iraq war. President Bush today defended the invasion in an unapologetic speech before the United Nations. Joining me now to discuss this campaign, three of the country's top political journalists, Ron Brownstein, national political correspondent, "L.A. Times," joining us tonight from Denver. Good to have you with us, Ron.

Roger Simon, political editor, "U.S. News & World Report." Roger joins us from Washington. Good evening.

And joining me here in New York, John King, our senior White House correspondent. Let's begin with the president's appearance before the United Nations. Ron, staging or any substance to it at all in your judgment?

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, he further identified himself with the theme that he really has stressed increasingly through the summer especially at his convention. The idea that encouraging democracy around the world should be the centerpiece of American foreign policy, he had a proposal there for democracy fund, to put some more money into this.

The question I think that we're going to ask is, is this a rhetorical commitment or is there something larger here? We have the events in Russia in the last few weeks with President Putin. John McCain talked today about a creeping coup in Russia in a speech on the Senate floor. Are we really willing to turn our foreign policy toward promotion of democracy there? Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt. A very strong idealistic statement from the president. A question about how much either he or a President Kerry could really orient American foreign policy around that axis.

DOBBS: Roger, I was struck by the sad, the tragic irony of Jack Hensley, the American citizen who was beheaded today as President Bush is appearing before the United Nations General Assembly. This is an American citizen, a civilian who has been murdered heinously, and it is just an element in this tapestry. Where is the outrage? Why -- do we look impotent here? And to what degree is this a terrible problem for a president as well as a nation?

ROGER SIMON, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": I think terrorism does make great nations like our own feel impotent. It is a very difficult problem to solve. We've invaded the country. We've beaten the country. We've captured the president of that country. Yet the killing still goes on. In fact the pace of the killing directed against our troops has increased, civilians, as you say, Lou, are now considered legitimate targets. They're killed, murdered in gruesome ways. And all the president can say is we're going to stay the course.

And that's saying a lot. And in fact, John Kerry is saying the same thing. But it is small comfort to the families of these victims.

And the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize. It is to keep people from going to Iraq and working in these jobs.

DOBBS: Terrorize indeed. We now have three years' experience with terrorism, John. At what point do we decide that we are a superpower and if we're going to use our innovative capacity, our resolution and our power to deal effectively with this issue?

KING: Well, the president says he's trying to use our power, but how much power can you use, what military power can you use to change someone's mind to hate somebody or to hate something? These people cutting heads off in Iraq hate what the United States stands for. They hate the fact, some would say, that there is a foreign power occupying their country. What power does the president of the United States have to change that?

He says ultimately the power is in reconstruction and in standing up a new democracy, and then saying essentially, we told you so. Now we've given you something to hope for. But in the short term, it's pretty bleak.

DOBBS: Bleak is also, I think, a fair description, Ron, of the situation in what some are styling the Rathergate and the reporting on 35 years ago incidents. This is -- is this over are, or are we going to be dealing with this, burdened with this for some time?

BROWNSTEIN: I suspect the latter, Lou. Now, it's Republicans, of course, who want to keep the issue alive. There is a sense I think among the president's supporters that the problems that CBS has run into clouds the entire issue of Bush's National Guard service. The other fronts in that debate that Democrats and groups supporting Democrats have tried to raise, that in effect, the discrediting of these memos and the questions that have been raised about this report spill over onto all of that. They're probably right. For a lot of voters, I think this is going to cause questions about, you know, what he did in Alabama or whether he showed up in Massachusetts, and all of those things to seem sort of -- sort of under a cloud.

And so I suspect that the Republicans will feel some interest in doing this. I do think that as we get to the debates, with what we're seeing in Iraq over the last month, eventually -- and in fact, we can say in the last 48 hours, we already see this, the campaign does turn back to that really important front.

DOBBS: Roger, we have talked about this, but the fact is that Rathergate, whatever it may be, the Swift Boat controversy, the Texans for Truth, to what degree are we in the national media responsible for allowing these candidates -- we heard Senator Edwards today said that the American voter is not foolish. But perhaps the media is foolish. We in the journalistic media, because we're not insisting on the profound issues that confront us. Boring things like trade policy. Very difficult issues like immigration policy. Foreign policy. We are allowing these candidates to frankly to gloss over many deep and dimensional issues that'll have lasting effect here.

SIMON: You're absolutely right, Lou. Although the media has always decried how campaigns get down to hot button issues and how terrible that is. I think this cycle would have to say, the media has encouraged hot button issues.

How much scrutiny did we give to the Swift Boats Veterans for Truth? That story should never have lasted as long as it did, three, four, five weeks, for what basically was a smear campaign with very little truth to it. And the story of the National Guard service is a different case in point. A media irresponsibility of a different kind, of simply not questioning one's sources carefully, ignoring red flags raised about documents. It's almost unimaginable that a fine institution like CBS should get caught up in such a thing.

DOBBS: As we are all caught up in some of the distractions and stories that are deflective of those principle issues, John, what do you think the odds are that the national media will find conversion and start focusing on those profound social issues? We know from our audience and their reaction, these are important issues to them. We know factually that they're not giving representation on a host of these issues. What do you think the odds are?

KING: Well, you made me promise about a week ago I wouldn't talk about 35 years ago on your program. So I will keep my promise. We all focused on that.

I think Ron's right. The debates will bring some focus. Now, the first debate, presidential debate, which is next week, is focused on international policy and homeland security. There is one on domestic policy, including the economy. So even the debates are somewhat structured. But there is a townhall meeting that is open to any topic. The vice presidential debate is open to any topic. So I think you will see now a broader discussion.

Whether that discussion is limited to one night or the day after those debates, or whether there is some fire lit on one of these issues, and I suspect on the economy and health care, Senator Kerry is looking to light a fire in the last few weeks of the campaign. But I think the debates will offer the opportunity to spring into other issues. Whether that comes about, we shall see.

DOBBS: Do you concur, Ron?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I a slightly dissenting note. I do agree with John on the debates. I think that, look, I'll be the last to defend the performance of the media in this campaign. I think I'm -- every four years, it is frustrating how difficult it is to get people to focus on the real differences between the candidates.

But having said that, I do believe enough has been out there that voters do have a very clear choice in this campaign. I mean, there are very clear differences on domestic issues, on the tax cut versus health care, with John Kerry wanting to repeal some elements of the tax cut and put more money into the uninsured. On foreign policy, there are real differences.

There are a number of fronts I think where voters, even through the filter, the very limited filter we are providing them, are being given a clear choice if they want to go out find it.

DOBBS: You know, the next time we get together, which I hope will be tomorrow evening, I would love to debate you on those clear choices that you see so stark and resonate. Ron Brownstein, as always, irrespective, we thank you for being here. We appreciate your insights. Roger Simon...

BROWNSTEIN: I look forward to the debate, Lou.

DOBBS: John King -- it will be a 30 to 40 second debate, Ron. We shouldn't get our hopes on. Thank you, gentlemen.

Tonight's thought is on politics. "I believe that the public temper is such that the voters of the land are prepared to support the party which gives the best promise of administering the government in the honest, simple and plain manner, which is consistent with its character and purposes."

The words of President Grover Cleveland.

Coming up next here, voters in California are outraged about a lack of action from their lawmakers. Now, they're fighting back. We'll tell you how. That story and more still ahead here. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: More than 600 people have died in Haiti. After devastating floods ravaged the island for a second time this year, the death toll in fact is expected to rise. Tropical Storm Jeanne swept through the region over the weekend. Powerful winds and rain -- and because most of the trees in Haiti have been cut down, Haiti is vulnerable to massive mudslides. Back in May, 3,000 people were killed when widespread flooding hit Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

In this country tonight, the issue of illegal immigration is a huge issue for many voters, millions of them. But neither major presidential candidate is discussing the subject of immigration policy. But in many congressional races, quite a different story. And now, backlash from voters is in fact mounting, as they begin to turn on incumbents who failed to take action to protect our nation's borders.

Casey Wian reports from San Bernardino, California.


CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Kobylt and Ken Champou are two Los Angeles talk show radio hosts doing a lot more than just talking about illegal immigration.

JOHN KOBYLT, RADIO HOST: The Republicans are completely bought off by big business. And the Democrats see a pool of poor voters potentially in the future if amnesty comes through.

WIAN: John and Ken have turned their highly-rated show into a forum for voter outrage with their own campaign called Political Human Sacrifice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: David Dreier has been targeted by the John and Ken audience to be removed from office come November 2.

KEN CHAMPOU, RADIO HOST: California has a cost of about $5 billion a year for illegal immigration. That's education, health care and all the other services that are used. People are tired of it.

WIAN: At this noisy rally outside the district office of 24-year Republican Congressman David Dreier, the pair ridiculed Dreier's voting record.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just in the last week, he voted for Social Security benefits for illegal aliens. And then he voted in favor of banks accepting the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cards.

The hosts are urging listeners to vote for Dreier's virtually unknown opponent Cynthia Matthews.

CYNTHIA MATTHEWS (D), CALIFORNIA CONG. CANDIDATE: This is the only way that I can get a fair, not advantage, but at least to be competitive in this race.

WIAN: John and Ken are also targeting an incumbent Democrat, Congressman Joe Baca for removal from office. Baca pressured the Department of Homeland Security to stop border patrol sweeps that resulted in the arrest of some 450 illegal aliens. The pair are supporting Baca's underdog opponent, Republican Ed Laning.

ED LANING (R), CALIFORNIA CONG. CANDIDATE: With Joe Baca and his representing or advocating for illegal immigrants, he's essentially alienated every citizen in the district.

WIAN: Laning says contributions to his campaign have doubled since talk radio took up his cause.

(on camera): Even with the boos, Laning faces a tough battle. Democrats outnumber Republicans in this district by 51-32 percent. And Baca has raised about ten times as much money.

(voice-over): But voter backlash over illegal aliens is building especially in districts like these two in California where there is fierce competition for jobs and government resources. And according to Americans for Better Immigration, the issue of illegal immigration will help decide 20 U.S. congressional races this year. Casey Wian, CNN, San Bernardino, California.


DOBBS: Coming up next, one major American corporation demonstrates positive corporate leadership. We'll have that story for you next. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: Stocks up, interest rates up. The Fed raising interest rates for a third time this year. The Dow up 40 points on the day. The Nasdaq gaining more than 13. The S&P up over 7 points. Christine Romans is here now on Home Depot's push to hire veterans, National Guard members and reservists -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, Home Depot wants to hire at least, at least 10,000 veterans and military spouses this year.


WIAN: Home Depot started hiring veterans last year and it worked so well the company's even more aggressively recruiting them now. Home Depot opens a new store in this country every 48 hours. It says its found veterans to be disciplined, responsible, hardworking, good leaders. Starting pay is $7 to $20 an hour, Lou. Here is an example of positive corporate leadership.

DOBBS: Outstanding. And terrific. A little different kind of leadership over at the Fed and Mr. Greenspan and his cohorts.

ROMANS: The bond market today is telling us that this economy is weak. Bond yields are falling while the Fed says the economy is strong. And today it raised interest rates again. A heated debate here. Who is right? The Fed or the market? Also today, a big rally in oil prices, Lou. Chinese demand in August up almost 40 percent for crude oil.

DOBBS: Amazing. And a story that is going to continue, unfortunately, it looks like. Christine Romans, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

DOBBS: And a great story on Home Depot.

Still ahead here, the results of our poll and a preview of what's ahead tomorrow. Please stay with us.


DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight. Almost two-thirds of you saying you believe the United States and the United Nations should take action soon to end Iran's efforts to create nuclear weapons.

Thanks for being with us here tonight. Please join us tomorrow in our face-off, a hard-fought battle over the security and reliability of electronic voting. Linda Lamone of the Maryland State Board of Elections says there's no need for a paper record. Linda Schade of says paper receipts should be mandatory.

An important debate on the future of our democracy tomorrow and a great deal more. We hope you'll be with us. For all of us here, good night from New York, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is next.


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