Lou Dobbs Vs. Gov. Spitzer, Live on CNN
Associated Press
October 29, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) ? Lou Dobbs is sorry about calling Gov. Eliot Spitzer an idiot.

Sincerely.

As for ripping the New York Democrat as arrogant, spineless and “a spoiled rich kid brat,” the host of CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” stands by those nationally broadcast broadsides.

Absolutely.

Dobbs has made Spitzer an almost daily target over his recent plan to ease restrictions on illegal immigrants seeking New York state driver’s licenses, mixing vitriol with sarcasm while endlessly lambasting the governor’s decision.


The lifelong Republican has taken on politicians of every stripe, as when he blasted the Bush administration over port security. But his nightly diatribe against Spitzer is notable for its intensity, and for elevating a state proposal onto the national stage.

“What he’s doing is an outrageous, arrogant abuse of power,” Dobbs said in an interview before a recent show. “He’s pandering to a constituency aligned directly against the interests of U.S. and New York state citizens.”

Dobbs’ ire boiled over Tuesday night when he ripped Spitzer as an idiot ? and then offered an on-air mea culpa.

“I’m the idiot,” Dobbs said. “Governor, I apologize for calling you one. Your policies are idiotic. But I have to apologize for calling you an idiot.”

Dobbs shouldn’t hold his breath waiting for a bouquet of roses (the state flower) and a thank-you note from Spitzer.

“Mr. Dobbs has clearly demonstrated that he is not interested in a real debate on New York’s driver’s license policy change,” said Jennifer Givner, a Spitzer spokeswoman. “He has repeatedly refused to offer balanced coverage of the issue.”

Dobbs has turned the first-term governor into a verbal pinata over his September announcement that illegal immigrants with valid foreign passports could obtain a driver’s license.

Spitzer has said the plan, set to go into effect this December, would make New York safer by bringing its 1 million illegal immigrants “out of the shadows.”

The decision reversed a 2002 order by former Gov. George Pataki issued after the 9/11 attacks, and placed Spitzer directly in Dobbs’ cable crosshairs. But Dobbs, while perhaps the highest-profile critics of the plan, is not alone: a state poll showed 72 percent of New Yorkers opposed Spitzer on this issue, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also expressed skepticism.

Spitzer, in a speech last week, noted that “despite the hysteria this policy has created in some circles, it is simply a return to the policy we had for most of our state’s history.”

Dobbs is hardly swayed by the history lesson, complaining the relaxed license requirement could produce voter fraud and raise security issues. Spitzer has ignored repeated invitations to appear on the program, Dobbs said; the show has turned down guests supporting Spitzer, including former national counterterrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke, according to Givner.

Dobbs, who has made immigration one of his show’s centerpiece issues, was criticized last week in a New York Times editorial for his Spitzer bashing.

“Mr. Dobbs has trained his biggest guns on Mr. Spitzer, branding him with puerile epithets like `spoiled rich-kid brat’ and depicting his policy as some sort of sanctuary program for the 9/11 hijackers,” the Times wrote. “Someday there may be a calm debate, in Albany and nationally, about immigrant drivers.

“With Mr. Dobbs at the megaphone, for now there is only histrionics and outrage.”

Dobbs isn’t expecting any apology from the Times. And he has few kind words for the newspaper.

“The New York Times is the house organ for Gov. Spitzer,” Dobbs said. “They’re wrong on this issue, as they are on many others.”

Dobbs draws a nightly audience of roughly 800,000, making him second in CNN viewers to Larry King’s nightly program. He has no intention of lightening up on Spitzer.

“Why should I?” Dobbs asked. “He’s wrong. This issue is of vital importance to the state of New York and the nation. My job as an advocacy journalist is to confront directly abuses of power and wrongheaded politics.”

And sure enough, 24 hours after his “idiot” apology, Dobbs was again taking shots at Spitzer.

“This governor is irresponsible,” Dobbs told his audience. “It’s clear arrogance. … He has declared himself to be what people hoped he would not be ? and that is an arrogant tool of special interests.”


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