Ups and Downs for the Week of June 17 - 21

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, June 22, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Let's go to the Ups and Downs.

Up: Senate majority leader Tom Daschle and House minority leader Dick Gephardt

KONDRACKE: Congress' two top Democrats finally come around to what President Bush has been saying for months, it's time for Saddam Hussein to go. And the public is firmly behind Saddam's ouster too. The latest FOX News poll shows a whopping 75 percent back President Bush's OK for the CIA to get rid of Saddam. And furthermore, 55 percent say that the U.S. should assassinate him.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Some poll numbers. Those are really rather remarkable. Now, and that is part of the reason why Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt don't want to have a national debate over the war on terrorism and, and whatever steps President Bush might take, you know, they're out, they, they are now with him in Iraq, and, and I'm all for it.

Daschle said so right on FOX News Sunday a week ago. So I'd say that's fine. I don't know why they worry about the politics of it, though.  You remember, Democrats provoked this huge debate in 1991 over President Bush the elder's desire to go in and fight the Gulf war. They lost, and it didn't seem to — there didn't seem to be any particular fallout.

Now, Gephardt in particular, I think, is sincere in his support for the president in the war on terror, even going into Iraq. And I hope — I mean, he's given speeches on this. And I hope this will make him, if he runs for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, that he'll run as the hawkish candidate, and more power to him.

KONDRACKE: Now, you know I agree fundamentally with, with the Bush position on...


KONDRACKE: ... on getting rid of Saddam Hussein. I would like to believe that the Democrats all do too.

My hunch is that in their hearts, heart of hearts, they, they really have lots of doubts about, about whether to do this unilaterally, about preemption, about whether we can win the war, and all this kind of stuff, just as Democrats normally do. And they are stuffing it for entirely political reasons, which I think is a terrible thing for them to do, even if for sake of their own conscience and they should be raising questions...

BARNES: Mort...

KONDRACKE: ... so that Bush will...

BARNES: Mort, Mort, Mort...

KONDRACKE: ... answer the questions...

BARNES: ... Mort, Mort...

KONDRACKE: ... and build popular support.

BARNES: ... Mort, you have said some cynical things on this show, but this is — I mean, this is...

KONDRACKE: I'm afraid ...

BARNES: ... cynical-plus. You mean, just so they can get that off the table and talk about...


BARNES: ... a patient's bill of rights and all that stuff? That's...

KONDRACKE: I'm afraid so.

BARNES: ... why they — All right.

Up: Special interests

BARNES: From the massive farm bill to the prescription drug bill, special interest groups have been flexing their political muscles, and Democrats want to make it an issue in November's election.

Here's House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt trying to make hay out of a GOP fund raiser this week to which pharmaceutical companies contributed, and Republican whip Tom DeLay's response. Watch.


REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: It's another indication that special interests have purchased a special place in the Republican leadership's heart and are determining policies, important policies for the American people.

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY WHIP: It's a little hypocritical, since Gephardt has received $66,000 himself from, from the pharmaceutical industry, and the Democrats in this election cycle have received over $3 million.


KONDRACKE: Well, you know what, what really bothers me is this Democratic jihad against pharmaceutical companies.


KONDRACKE: You know, you would think that, that the drug manufacturers were the tobacco lobby or the, or the gun manufacturers, that they were making a lethal product.


KONDRACKE: I mean, instead of a product that saves hundreds of thousands and millions of lives every, every year.


KONDRACKE: If I were, if I were Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline or another pharmaceutical company, I would give money to the Republicans too, because the Republicans are against price controls for prescription drugs, which is — which the Democrats are for. So, I mean, I don't think this is buying the Republican Party, I think it's just, you know, self- preservation.

BARNES: Yes, Mort, there is one group, though, one special interest group, that does own a political party, and that's the trial lawyers of America. I mean, and they own the Democratic Party. I mean, Democrats go along with whatever they want in Congress for fear of losing these lavish contributions. I mean, the trial lawyers are loaded with money, and they spread it around almost entirely to Democrats.

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell had it exactly right when he told The Wall Street Journal the other day that, and here's the quote, Mort, "By golly, I think the Democrats in the Senate are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the American Trial Lawyers of America. They ought to be embarrassed." You know? They aren't embarrassed, though.

Down: Homeland security

KONDRACKE: An, an errant plane, a private plane, penetrated the restricted air space around the White House this week, and with the Pentagon unable to scramble fighter jets in time, underscoring the security threat still facing the country.

BARNES: Mort, here's what I don't understand. We're nine months after the terrorists attacks on September 11, a, a — against the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, and one of those planes flew right over the White House before it got to the Pentagon.

And yet there's not a workable plan for protecting the White House against a terrorist plane that might fly into it. What in the world has Tom Ridge been doing all these months if he hasn't at least come up with a plan for that?

KONDRACKE: I don't think this is exactly a Tom Ridge problem. I think it's a Pentagon problem. This plane — which, by the way, represented not threat to the White House, ultimately this was a pilot who was...


KONDRACKE: ... escaping a storm and got, you know, went off track — but this plane had left restricted air space, was on its way to — in Fredericksburg, Va., heading south...

BARNES: That's 50 miles.

KONDRACKE: ...I know...

BARNES: South, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... before the, the F-16s ever caught up with him.


KONDRACKE: Now, this is a case where Tom Ridge should call Don Rumsfeld and say, What the heck is going on here?

BARNES: Yes. All right.

Down: Oscar Criner, jury foreman of the Arthur Andersen trial 

BARNES: Criner's jurors complained the computer science professor held up deliberations by as much as four days because Criner was taking his sweet time taking notes for a book he wants to get published.

Well, I mean, that was just a part of what I think was the abuse of Arthur Andersen in this trial. I mean, one, he delayed it, and then, of course, there was a verdict against Arthur Andersen. By the way, Criner did not get a book contract.

But the, the worst thing was, the verdict was based on, not on the documents that were shredded by Arthur Andersen, but it was based on one employee editing an e-mail, and that's not even a crime.

So Arthur Andersen got a raw deal, period.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well, you know, but it is, it is the Bush Justice Department that is going after Arthur Andersen...

BARNES: Yes, I know that.

KONDRACKE: ... I suppose you think that that's a mistake too.

BARNES: Yes. Well, what — no, I just think that the jury should have acquitted Arthur Andersen...


BARNES: ... in this case.

KONDRACKE: Sometimes...

BARNES: That's what I think.

KONDRACKE: ... sometimes, sometimes justice gets meted out in a sort of indirect direction. I mean, they did shred all these documents. The jury didn't find that the, the, the, the most significant thing. And the fact is that Arthur Andersen has been the auditor for — in case after case after case where there — the — there had to be restatements of earnings.


BARNES: I'm saying this is like nailing Al Capone on income tax evasion.



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