This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, December 7, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.
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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: I'm Fred Barnes.
MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: And I'm Mort Kondracke, and we're The Beltway Boys.
BARNES: Mort, obviously the hot story is the shakeup in the Bush economic team. And Mort, I know you're going to be shocked, just shocked, to know that this shakeup has as much to do with politics, 2004 presidential reelection politics, as it does with the economy.
I mean, Bush has very high poll numbers, but there's one hole in those numbers. Everybody says he's very -- he concentrates on the war on terrorism very much well, but he's been not attentive enough to the economy.
Look at his pox -- the pox -- Fox poll...
BARNES: ... that shows Bush getting overall high marks, especially when it comes to the war, but he only gets a 47 percent approval rating for his handling of the economy.
So what does he need to do? He needs to show that he is taking control of the economy, he is...he is really moving on it, that he's an activist. And so what do you do? You get a new economic team of activists, not people who counsel, you know, you don't need to do much, the economy's not that bad.
It isn't that bad, but Bush wants to show that he is a driving force here and, and really moving on these things, and has a strong economic package, stronger than, say Treasury Secretary O'Neill wanted, one that will have something in it for investors, for taxpayers, for the kind of people you like, Mort, who don't pay any income tax and Democrats like, and...
KONDRACKE: ...most people.
BARNES: ... and also -- no, no, no. No, most -- no, no...we'll argue that later.
And also for business. And by doing all that, Bush can create a new image of himself as the guy, an economic activist, and also improve the economy.
KONDRACKE: Right. Bush does need better economic spokesman. Paul O'Neill, blunt and honest as he was, was off the, was off the Bush reservation. And Lindsey, who was ideologically in synch with Bush, didn't manage the propaganda machine very well.
My candidate for Treasury secretary is Bob Zellick, the trade representative, U.S. trade representative...
KONDRACKE: ... who's done a wonderful job getting trade promotion authority through, through the Congress, is widely respected all in the markets...
KONDRACKE: ... domestically, and, and oversees, he was a Treasury official and a State Department official...
KONDRACKE: ... under...
BARNES: OK...the -- I think Don Evans probably -- the commerce secretary, very close to Bush, Bush's best friend, probably has a better chance of being Treasury secretary, though he doesn't have particular clout around the world or on Wall Street.
But let me mention one other hot story, and that is this document drum -- dump by the...
BARNES: ... by the Iraqis, 12,000 pages...
KONDRACKE: Of lies.
BARNES: ... in Arabic, yes, probably, in Arabic that says, We don't have any weapons of mass destruction. This brings rich new definition to the word "boilerplate."
Anyway, we'll get to that when we, when we talk to...Charles Krauthammer a little later.
KONDRACKE: Right. Well, the other hot story is the Bayou smackdown, going on right now in, in Louisiana. The fight is almost over. Fox is going to have a 9:00 p.m. special on this starring, featuring, including you and I.
BARNES: Yes, right.
KONDRACKE: You and me. And we'll know quite soon whether Suzy Terrell, the Republican, or Mary Landrieu, the incumbent Democrat, is going to win...
KONDRACKE: ... in Louisiana. And I talked to Mary Landrieu and to Senator John Breaux today...what, and they're pretty optimistic that...
KONDRACKE: ... that Landrieu can, can get 35 percent of the white vote, and that blacks will represent at least 26 percent of the total electorate and what, that's what she takes to win.
KONDRACKE: So they sounded optimistic when I talked to them.
BARNES: Yes, that's going to be very hard to get that, though. And the fact is, Landrieu has a couple of things working against her and working in favor of Terrell. One is President Bush. He's popular nationally. He's enormously popular in Louisiana, you know, 75, 77 percent approval rating, went to three stops down there, jacked up Terrell's polls immediately. And that helps.
And then there's the abortion issue. Louisiana may be the most pro-life state in the country, and Landrieu has tried to pretend like she's a pro-lifer, which she has not, even giving some deceptive statements in a questionnaire from the Catholic bishops, and most of them refused to send it out to their parishioners because they thought it wasn't true.
KONDRACKE: Yes, yes. Terrell's become an extremist...
BARNES: ...and it'll help...
KONDRACKE: ... on this issue, I mean, she's...no exceptions...abortion....
BARNES: Yes, so am I.
KONDRACKE: Yes, well, life of the mother included?
BARNES: Look, it's innocent life, you don't kill it. ...it's as simple as that. Well...
KONDRACKE: Save the life of the mother, or save the child.
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