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CNN Lou Dobbs Tonight - Transcript

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JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou what is stunning about this victory is not that Brian Bilbray won -- this is an overwhelmingly Republican district, so he was supposed to win in the eyes of many -- but how he won. This Republican candidate for Congress won by directly attacking the immigration views of the Republican president of the United states. As the votes began to turn in his favor last night, Bilbray told us in an interview that he was in trouble until he decided to emphasize border security first and foremost when it comes to immigration reform, and not only paint his Democratic opponent as soft on illegal immigration, but to also paint the Republican president as just as soft, maybe more so.


BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CALIFORNIA CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: The president proposing amnesty was absolutely a big problem. And, in fact, it wasn't until I was able to highlight the fact that I did not agree with my friends in the Senate or my friend in the White House on amnesty, that they really saw the polls start supporting me strongly.


KING: And now, even as the president of the United States travels the country trying to build public support for an immigration compromise on his terms, Bilbray says the lesson of his election will be that he will now go to other Republicans, incumbents in the House, Republican challengers around the country, and say that if they want to win this election, they should emphasize border security first and they should stand up to the president and his allies in this fight.


BILBRAY: Don't listen to the Senate and don't listen to the White House. They mean well, but they are not listening to the people. And those of us in the House of Representatives by nature are the voice of the people, and the people really have spoken quite clearly, I think, in this election.


KING: Now, most House conservatives that view the president's plan as amnesty were in no mood to compromise to begin with, but they are immediately taking from Bilbray's victory a sign that they should not compromise at all, that they should hold firm to their position heading into the November elections, which, of course, will significantly undermine the president's effort to broker a compromise this year.

We should be clear, though. Even as Mr. Bilbray and Republicans celebrate holding this seat, there are signs of trouble for the Republicans. Not just a feud between this candidate and the White House on immigration.

Mr. Bilbray got 49 percent of the vote. His democratic challenger got 45 percent. That's nine points better than she did in the election of 2004.

So Republicans say they definitely realize that this is an example of how they will have trouble motivating the conservative base to turn out in this midterm election year, but, Lou, I'll tell you this, as they study ways to try to turn out those voters, Mr. Bilbray now joining the growing Republican chorus that says one thing not to do is to cut a deal with the president on his terms when it comes to immigration -- Lou.


DOBBS: In a moment, I'll be talking with Brian Bilbray, the winner of the special election in southern California and what his victory means for the president's amnesty program.

But, first, other important stories tonight. Six more of our troops have been killed in the war in Iraq, four were killed fighting insurgents and two were killed in what the military calls non-combat related. 2,481 of our troops have now been killed in this war. The United States today said Iran must stop enriching nuclear fuel during any negotiations on its nuclear weapons program, but it appears Iran could possibly be allowed to resume nuclear activities in the future.

And President Bush's efforts to convince Congress to support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage failed. Supporters of the proposed amendment failed to win enough votes in a key procedural vote.

Tonight Brian Bilbray is heading back to Washington after winning yesterday's special congressional election in California's San Diego County. Bilbray, a former Republican Congressman beat Democratic opponent Francine Busby, 50 percent to 45.

He ran on a strict border security, anti-amnesty platform. His victory is evidence that illegal immigration will be a determinative issue in some, at least, in this year's midterm congressional elections. Brian Bilbray joins us tonight from San Diego. Good to have you with us, Mr. Congressman-elect.

BRIAN BILBRAY (R), CONGRESSMAN-ELECT OF CALIFORNIA: Thank you very much, Mr. Dobbs. DOBBS: The issue of border security, the issue of illegal immigration, in your judgment, how important to the outcome of the election?

BILBRAY: Absolutely essential. I mean, to the point of my campaign signs had written right across them tough on illegal immigration. I made it very clear the difference between my opponent and myself. She supported the amnesty proposal of the Senate, and I supported Mr. Sensenbrenner, that she supported Social Security benefits for illegals and I totally opposed it. And she supported automatic citizenship for the children of illegal aliens and I was the original sponsor of the birth right citizenship bill to stop that procedure.

DOBBS: The issues in San Diego, obviously, also go to Duke Cunningham's corruption and his sentencing for those misdeeds. There was an expectation, at least in the Democratic party, that the, quote, culture of corruption of Washington, D.C. would certainly enliven and enhance the campaign of Busby. How do the voters of San Diego county react to that issue?

BILBRAY: They react to the issue that the greatest scandal was not about Cunningham but actually about 11 million to 12 million illegal aliens in this country, demanding that law abiding Americans change our laws and that if you really want to talk about a culture of corruption, if you give amnesty to 11 million to 12 million, which we'll end up with 30 million or 40 million people here, because somebody broke the law, that's the way you create a culture of corruption, by rewarding people who have broken our immigration laws.

DOBBS: Well, let me, if I may, ask you to watch and listen to this statement today, and our audience here to President Bush's words on amnesty. If we could roll that.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm against amnesty. And, I understand words in politics and words are trying to frighten people, but if the comprehensive approach I've outlined when people think about it, it makes a lot of sense.


DOBBS: The president today, Mr. Bilbray, your reaction. He says he's not talking about amnesty.

BILBRAY: If you look in the law dictionary, Black's, and look at what the '86 law said, and it said they paid a fine, they have to learn the language, they have to go through a process, exactly what's being proposed today. The law dictionary calls it amnesty.

And I don't think there's much more we have to say about that. It's almost the basis, I guess the Sonny Bono who is a good friend of mine, when I served in Congress, said what don't you get, what don't you understand about illegal? I guess the time has come that we have to tell people to look at the Black's legal dictionary and say what it is it you don't understand about amnesty.

DOBBS: Well, you have been unequivocal and as clear as someone could ask you to be about the issue of a fence along our southern border, saying it should be built from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. What do you think the prospects will be for that occurring?

BILBRAY: Well, Mr. Dobbs, you got to understand I grew up on the Mexican border. I grew up right north of Tijuana, and I saw the crime and the problems before Duncan Hunter built the fence in the neighbors down there.

One of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America, the Tijuana River Valley, is now one of the safest, because Mr. Hunter was brave enough to get the United States government and the National Guard to build a fence there, and I think we should build it, when and where we need it, everywhere we need it.

DOBBS: Brian Bilbray, congratulations on your victory.

BILBRAY: Thank you very much.


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