Ups and Downs for the Week of July 15 - 19

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, July 20, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Let's go to the Ups and Downs.

UP: Attorney General John Ashcroft

BARNES: Looks like the administration will avoid the circus of two high-profile trials this summer after the plea bargain with American Taliban John Walker Lindh, and the open-court confession of the alleged 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui.

Well, Mort, you know, I think John Ashcroft made a mistake in the first place by not claim — declaring both of these guys, or having the president declare both of these guys illegal combatants and sending them down to Guantanamo. But they charged them in civil court, and they've really lucked out well.

They're going to have no trial, no years of appeals, no demands for classified material that has to come out and so on. They're going to be disposed of, I think, reasonably well.

Moussaoui obviously wants to avoid the death penalty. I don't see how you can plea-bargain with him, though, a guy who is believed to have been a part of the conspiracy. They wound up killing 3,000 people.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: I don't think that John Ashcroft deserves any particular credit for the Zacarias Moussaoui plea, plea attempt, because, I mean, he came to as a surprise to everybody, including, I'm sure, John Ashcroft.

So, I mean, I think he, he lucked out on that one.

BARNES: Well, that counts.

DOWN: PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat

KONDRACKE: Our favorite down. Even some Arab countries are coming around to the idea of kicking Arafat either upstairs or downstairs as part of a new Palestinian government.

The, the Arab foreign ministers were in to see President Bush this week, and somehow he convinced them that, that he's going to do what they want him to do, which is to get the Israeli troops out of the West Bank as part of this whole...

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... political deal.

Now, I cannot believe that in the end that, that George Bush will do that, based on...


KONDRACKE: ... based on his record.

But here's what he, he says, what he thinks about Yasser Arafat.


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: This is an issue much bigger than a single person. Mr. Arafat would like the whole issue to be about him. That's the way it's been in the past. Except when you analyze his record, he has failed the Palestinian people. He just has.


BARNES: Yes, he just has, he's right about that.

You know, you have to give Bush credit on this Arafat thing. When he first came out, I think it was June 24, with that — no, it wasn't, April — May — sometime...

KONDRACKE: April 4 was the first speech.

BARNES: April, April 4, remember the speech was, doesn't matter when it was, it's what he said that matters. And he said Arafat must go. And people in journalism, you and I didn't sneer, but most people in journalism and Washington sneered, foreign ministers all over Europe and the Middle East sneered, and so on.

The idea has caught on. Bush was right...

KONDRACKE: Absolutely has.

BARNES: ...the idea's on the move, I think, and, and, and Arafat is on the slippery slope down. All right.

DOWN: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

BARNES: McCain seems to have fallen out of favor with colleagues from both sides of the aisle. First Senate Democrats block his measure requiring companies to expense stock options, and then Republicans slam McCain's choice for the Federal Election Commission.

KONDRACKE: Well, look, Democrats did not...

BARNES: You're a McCainiac, right?

KONDRACKE: Yes, yes, yes, well, sometimes. Yes, no, I respect McCain. I mean, he's an independent in Teddy Roosevelt...

BARNES: All right.

KONDRACKE: ... you know, role and all that. The Democrats did not differ with McCain on, on, on the stock option issue on policy grounds. They did it because their high-tech campaign contributors...


KONDRACKE: ... didn't want them to, to, to go this way. And as to the Republicans, you know, they have no grounds for saying that Ellen Weintraub, McCain's candidate and the Democratic candidate for the Federal Election Commission...


KONDRACKE: ... has conflicts of interest. That's a, that's a red herring.

BARNES: Now, Mort, I have a question for you. After these nice things you said about McCain, and he's an independent, don't you think, with his co-sponsoring the entire Democratic domestic agenda, but still acting very hawkish on, on foreign and national security policy that he's gearing up to run for president as an independent...

KONDRACKE: I do not.

BARNES: ... in 2004? You don't?

KONDRACKE: I do not. John McCain does not want to go down in history as the Republican version of Ralph Nader...


KONDRACKE: ... which is what would happen.

BARNES: I think you're wrong.

KONDRACKE: The FBI's counterterrorism and counterintelligence chief, Dale Watson, raises hopes by saying that he thinks that bin Laden is dead, the only administration person to say so.

DOWN: Usama bin Laden

KONDRACKE: Here's Watson in a rare public appearance on Wednesday.


DALE WATSON, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: …he did. I'm not real sure of the answer, is he alive or dead? I personally think he's probably not with us any more, but I have no evidence to support that.


BARNES: Well, I'm not real sure either, and I don't have any evidence to support him. But I think Usama bin Laden's dead. Yet, and you know who else I think believes that? President Bush. You know, at his last press conference, he didn't go through that stuff about, you know, our intelligence people think that on balance that he's alive.

I mean, there's no, there've been no intercepts with his voice, there's been no videotape, which would be easy to make and present on Al Jazeera television. What else have there not been? There haven't been — there's no act two, that's the big thing. No act two.

You know, we're at — I mean, we had Sept. 11. The best thing they could come up with is the shoe bomber on that American Airlines flight, Richard Reid. So I think he's probably buried for good in one of those caves in Afghanistan.

KONDRACKE: Look, I could not hope for anything more than I hope for Usama bin Laden, and all of his gang, Zawahiri and, and Sheik Omar...


KONDRACKE: ... and all those guys to be buried under tons of...

BARNES: Yes, I think they're all buried now, all three of them.

KONDRACKE: ... except, except, except that there has been no e-mail traffic or, or, what do you call it, cell phone traffic...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... going around saying, Hey, where's the boss?


KONDRACKE: You know, we haven't heard from the boss.


KONDRACKE: We haven't heard, we have not any of that stuff.

So I would think the, the better part of discretion is to assume that he's alive and plotting something terrible.

BARNES: Well, look, you can...

KONDRACKE: Plotting something terrible, it, it keeps you on your toes.

BARNES: You're neglecting one thing. Usama bin Laden, big ego. I don't think there's any way if — that he could have, if he were alive, kept from making one of those tapes and had it on television all over America, even on FOX.

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