Ups and Downs for the Week of March 11 - March 15

This partial transcript of The Beltway Boys, March 16, was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Ups and Downs, Mort.

Down: Bush judicial nominee Charles Pickering

BARNES: Down, Bush judicial nominee Charles Pickering. This nomination to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is dead after the Senate Judiciary Committee rejects sending his nomination to the Senate floor for a vote.  This move, however, could backfire. The latest Fox News poll shows a whopping 48 percent think the Senate debate over Pickering's nomination has more to do with politics than with principle.

Now, you know, this could be a Pyrrhic victory for Democrats, because (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a couple things can happen as a result of this that Democrats won't like. I mean, obviously they were successful in, in, in knocking off Pickering.

But the first thing is, Senate Republicans are so mad, they may throw a monkey wrench in the workings of the Senate that will deny Tom Daschle any achievements, which is the way minority – majority leaders are usually judged, by what legislation they get through. And two, Bush has been aroused. You know, Bush doesn't want to get in fights with Democrats in Congress, he wants to be a war president who has their support. Now he's been aroused, and the stakes are going to be raised on all the subsequent judicial nominations.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Yes, but it – look, if the Republicans are blocking legislation in the Senate, then it's very difficult for Republicans to accuse Tom Daschle of...


KONDRACKE: ... obstructionism.

BARNES: ... they've passed all they – the Republicans have passed all this stuff in the House, it's piling up on Daschle's desk, Mort.

KONDRACKE: I know, but it will give Daschle an excuse to way, Look, it's the Republicans who are preventing anything from happening.

Secondly, what the, the Dem – the Rep – the Democrats say they are passing judicial nominations through at a much faster rate...


KONDRACKE: ... than Republicans did when Bill Clinton was president.

BARNES: Yes, they aren't, though, that's...

KONDRACKE: They are.

BARNES: ... not true.


KONDRACKE: Oh, yes, they are.

BARNES: No, you're wrong. Check the numbers, Mort.


KONDRACKE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I have checked the numbers, I'll bring them in next week.

BARNES: I'll bring them in next week.

KONDRACKE: And, and, you know, they're – and they're going to, and they're going to let nominations through as long as they're qualified...


KONDRACKE: ... and they'll say that they are qualified, but conservatives...


KONDRACKE: ... they're going to draw a very, very fine mesh, and if they can, they'll deny them...

BARNES: Do you think they treated at Pickering fairly, Democrats did?

KONDRACKE: No, I don't, no.

Down: the Immigration and Naturalization Service

KONDRACKE: Down, the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The beleaguered agency has big-time egg on its face after issuing student visas to two September 11 hijackers. The paper rat – work arrived at a Florida flight school just this week, after a six-month delay.

BARNES: I like that, big-time egg. Big-time egg. Look, as bad as this looks, and this looks pretty bad, it's not quite that bad. In other words, the approval of the student visas for these two guys, Mohammed Atta and the other guy, whose name I can't pronounce, was before September 11, and then I guess a, a, a, a, a vendor at a computer sort of coughed this thing out months later and, and it gets out there.

But it shows at the very least that at the INS, they have a bureaucratic mess at best, and it's probably a lot worse than that. You know my solution? Rudy Giuliani. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Bush go hire him and say, Give up those $100,000 speeches, take over INS for six months and change it, I'll back you 100 percent.

KONDRACKE: Ah, good idea.

Now, meanwhile, the Democrats and some Republicans want Tom Ridge, the homeland security director, to testify about this and other stuff before congressional committees. Here's Tom Daschle making the case.


U.S. SENATOR TOM DASCHLE (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I think Mr. Ridge needs to come to the Congress to testify, to explain why this money wasn't required last December, why things like this are going on. We can't feel secure so long as mistakes of this magnitude are happening.


KONDRACKE: Now, Bush, for reasons of executive prerogative, doesn't want to let Ridge, who he claims is a presidential adviser, to testify. I think Ridge ought to testify, just in order to enlist Congress in a job that he's got a difficult job that he's got...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... trying to organize these various agencies...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... that he got to run.



BARNES: Tom Daschle doesn't want to be enlisted. He wants to beat up on him...


BARNES: ... not get him to look. Tom Ridge goes on the Hill all the time privately and briefs all these guys. If Tom Daschle wants to know anything, his phone call will be answered by Tom Ridge, un, unlike our phone calls. But his'll be answered.

KONDRACKE: It's – it's...

Down: President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe 

BARNES: All right. Down, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.  Mugabe faces international scorn and the threat of sanctions after claiming victory in an election marred by violence and intimidation that most observers reject...

KONDRACKE: Yes, but...

BARNES: ... including me.

KONDRACKE: Yes, now, Mugabe is, is, is a racist thug who has ruined his economy by kicking white farm owners off...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... their, off their land and is now using violence and intimidation against his opponents. The tragedy is, is that observers from countries like South Africa, which is a democracy, go to, to – watch what Mugabe did and said, This is free and fair. It's terrible.

BARNES: Yes. You know, Mugabe once recommended years ago to other African black – African leaders, Keep your whites. You know, it was important for the economy, and the transition to a new African state and so on. Now, he's taken just the opposite advice with, you know, it – I mean, he's ruined his country.


Up: sport utility vehicles

KONDRACKE: Up, sport utility vehicles. Makers of the SUV, as well as pickup trucks and minivans, are breathing a huge sigh of relief after the Senate rejects a measure that would have increased auto fuel efficiency standard.  Opponents said increased standards would limit consumer choice and force people to drive lighter vehicles.

Here's one minivan mom on that point, speaking directly to the bill's chief sponsor, Senator John Kerry.


MARTHA GAUDET, MINIVAN-DRIVING MOM: I don't drive a minivan because I look sexy doing it. I don't. Nobody does. I drive a minivan because I have to. It's a necessity. I have three kids, I carpool with kids, I have to have something big enough to get them and their stuff from one place to another and do it safely.

Senator Kerry, I say to you, come drive a mile with me in my minivan, and I will gladly take you carpooling someday.


KONDRACKE: That look, that is sta – that is such status quo...

BARNES: Right, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... thinking...

BARNES: That is, that is so wonderful...


BARNES: ... that I...

KONDRACKE: Yes, it's good politics.

BARNES: ... I, I, I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Martha Gaudet, great American.

KONDRACKE: It's (UNINTELLIGIBLE), it's good politics, but it's status quo thinking.


KONDRACKE: Now, now, you think...

BARNES: Status quo thinking.

KONDRACKE: ... that America has the best scientists and engineers in the world...

BARNES: Yes, that's a pretty good (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KONDRACKE: OK. The – surely, by the year 2013, they can develop a, a, a car with – and a, and an SUV, even, with a, with a CAFE standard, a - - with a, a, a 36 miles (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 36 miles to the gallon.


KONDRACKE: I guarantee you, the Japanese and the Europeans will do it...


KONDRACKE: ... and American automakers...


KONDRACKE: ... will lose business.

BARNES: Mort, the problem is, they just make the cars lighter and less safe. That may be OK for Senator Kerry...

KONDRACKE: The engine, the engine.

BARNES: ... it's not OK with me.

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