Ups and Downs for the Week of November 16-23

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, November 16, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: With your permission or without it, I'm going to go to the Ups and Downs.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: All right. Without it.

BARNES: All right. Up, Attorney General John Ashcroft...

KONDRACKE: Your hero.

BARNES: ... I think he's done a great job. But in any case, an appeals court clears the way for the Justice Department to use wiretaps and other surveillance to catch suspected terrorists, a fight Ashcroft's been waging since the war on terror began. Here's Ashcroft after the decision.


JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today's ruling is an affirmation of the will of Congress, a vindication of the agents and prosecutors of the Department of Justice, and a victory for liberty, safety, and the security of the American people.


BARNES: You know, John Ashcroft is a not-to-secret weapon in the war on terrorism. He does the things that are tough but necessary to protect the American people, throwing people in jail, suspected terrorists in jail and leaving them there for a long time. He does the things that you like and you benefit from, but your liberal friends would never do if they were in the Justice Department, and you ought to give him credit.

KONDRACKE: Well, unlike most of my liberal friends, I do not think that John Ashcroft has crossed any constitutional line yet. But this man is a zealot and he requires congressional and judicial oversight.

But what does worry me a little bit, and I think it may worry you -- I hope it does -- is having John Poindexter, of Iran-Contra fame over there at the Pentagon, working up a total information system that is going to be able to suck every kind of data about every kind of civilian, you included, your credit card receipts, your phone records, and all that kind of stuff, and filter them through some big computer in order to get a terrorist.

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: That worries me, I hope it worries you.

BARNES: It doesn't worry me at all. I think, you know, what we need in the war on terrorism, we need more zealots, not fewer.

KONDRACKE: Down, Al Gore.

Between calling President Bush's economic polices catastrophic and his foreign policy bent on "world domination," Gore's media blitz is starting to wear thin, and there are signs that Democratic poo-bahs may be tiring of Gore themselves. A L.A. Times poll of Democratic National Committee members shows that 48 percent think that Gore should not run in 2004.

Now, Al Gore's criticisms of Iraq policy are on the edge of disqualifying him as a serious presidential candidate, because he's acting as though the United States is incapable of both fighting Saddam Hussein, who is developing weapons of mass destruction, and Al Qaeda at the same time, who will be the recipient of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

A great power can do both things.

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: Secondly, I'm concerned, I haven't read the books yet, but the reviews of the books suggest that the Gores, who used to be upholders of solid family values, are basically saying, anything goes as far as the family is concerned and ignoring all the piled-up evidence that divorce is bad for children and that single motherhood is a very bad thing both for mother and children.

BARNES: Yes. Right, no, Gore has lurched to the left, there's no question about that. That's his right. Here's my problem, and I have two problems. One is, so many of the things he says are simply not true, you know, when he says the U.S. can't fight a war on terrorism and go off to do Saddam at the right time. Well, I'd like to see some evidence that things we are not doing now in the war on terrorism. I don't, I don't think they're there.

He says the Taliban's back in action in, in, in, in Afghanistan.  Well, that's not just true at all. I mean, he needs to get some things right. OK.

Up, author Robert Caro. He won the National Book Award for nonfiction this week for Master of the Senate, the third volume of the life and times of Lyndon Johnson, a much-deserved award, great book, and explains why Lyndon Johnson was the greatest majority leader ever in the Senate, and particularly he deals with the question of a majority leader of one party and a president of the other party, and Johnson showed how that can work very effectively.

Now, we've had a recent example of a majority leader of one party and a president of a different party. But it didn't seem to work out as well. Why not?

KONDRACKE: No, any attack on Tom Daschle that you...

BARNES: I'm just asking the question, I...

KONDRACKE: But I talked to Trent Lott about the Johnson book, and he's read it. And he points out that, that Johnson is portrayed as devious, as a liar, a cajoler, an intimidator. You know, and all of that kind of stuff, that that's what it takes to make a great majority leader.


KONDRACKE: I mean, I think that there are other models that we ought, that we maybe we ought to follow. Mike Mansfield, Howard Baker, Bob Dole, you know.

BARNES: All right.

KONDRACKE: A little nicer.

Down, November sweeps. The major networks raced to the bottom, hit a new low this week when a two-hour Bachelor and the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show went head-to-head for the lowest common denominator. Which one were you watching, Fred?

BARNES: I was just watching the monitor there, I wasn't listening to you. No, I did watch about 10 minutes of The Bachelor.

KONDRACKE: He did pick the right woman, as I understand it.

BARNES: Well, he picked the brunette, I thought he should have, yes.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well, I was watching The West Wing.

BARNES: Oh, yes, sure you were.

KONDRACKE: I was, I was!

BARNES: Sure you were. Are you sure it wasn't C-Span?

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