Hot Stories for the Week of Dec. 16-20

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, December 21, 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.

Well, the hot story of the week is the fresh face in the, in the United States Senate. Trent Lott is out as Senate majority leader, Bill Frist is in.

Last week, you and I mistakenly said that we thought that Trent Lott would survive, but we should have known better, just because we've seen so many of these mudslides over the year, and -- years. And the only two people I can ever think of who survived one of these operations, demolition operations, is Clarence Thomas and Bill Clinton.

Everybody else, you know, gets pushed out of office eventually, and we should have, we should have seen it coming.

This one was fed in no small part by the White House, which unleashed a torrent of leaks saying that the president never liked Trent Lott, that, that, that he was never -- he couldn't survive, that he was a, he was walking piñata. I mean, what -- clearly, what, what's go -- Bush is the boss...

BARNES: Yes, right.

KONDRACKE: ... and he helped produce the Republican majority, and Bush and Karl Rove have decided that, decided that Trent Lott was, was an anachronism. They wanted to put a new face on the party. Bill Frist is an ultramodern conservative...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... he's a heart surgeon, a transplant surgeon...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... and he goes off to Africa and, you know...does charity...

BARNES: Yes, right.

KONDRACKE: ... stuff.

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: So it's their party.

BARNES: The world, the word is not anachronism, the word is albatross is what they thought he was.

KONDRACKE: Yes.

BARNES: And, and in our defense, Mort, you know, we thought Lott would stay, but that was before his disastrous appearance on Black Entertainment Television, which was, I think, a couple days later, and that really got him sliding.

Now. You know, Republicans have often been called, correctly, the stupid party, and I think they've been pretty unlucky. But in, in gently - - actually not so gently nudging Trent Lott...

KONDRACKE: Cruelly, I'd say.

BARNES: ... out of office and bringing in Bill Frist, they were both smart and lucky. And I think they wind up ahead. I mean, here they have Frist, and I agree with everything you said about him.

Here is the most attractive face in the republican Party, certainly in the Senate, who is a great story in and of himself, you know, all the, all the things you mentioned. He's also written a book on bioterrorism. You know, he sleeps four hours a night, the rest of the time he's, he's doing either good deeds or plotting his political future, which is an enormous...an enormously bright political future.

And Mort, the other thing you didn't mention is something you should be ecstatic about. Bill Frist is a compassionate conservative, and you seem to like these guys. You think they really aren't conservatives, that they're only compassionate, but...

KONDRACKE: He's a health care nut.

BARNES: ... well, he's...

KONDRACKE: Just like me, you're right.

BARNES: ... he, he's really a -- your type of guy. And I think coming out of...this, the result is, as we move toward 2003, Republicans are happy and optimistic and Rep -- Democrats are very bitter.

Let me move to the other hot story, which, of course, is crunch time for Iraq. And, you know, that Iraqi declaration of what was supposed to be their weapons, and of course no weapons of mass destruction? It went over in the U.S. and the United Nations about as well as, as Trent Lott's appearance on Black Entertainment Television.

Listen first to Colin Powell and then to President Bush. I think I have the order right, but we'll see.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Resolution 1141 calls for serious consequences for Iraq if it does not comply with the terms of the resolution. Iraq's noncompliance and defiance of the international community has brought it closer to the day when it will have to face these consequences.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We expected him to show that he would disarm, and as the secretary of state said, it's -- it's a long way from there.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BARNES: Well, the pressure is really going to be put on Iraq now. First the U.S. is going to give these satellite photos, or at least some of them, to the U.N. inspections team, showing them productive places they may go and, and find weapons of mass destruction. And, and secondly, they're going to start asking these scientists, Iraqi scientists, to leave the country with their families so they can be interrogated and, and tell where the weapons are.

It, it -- I don't think that Saddam is going to be able to comply with that. But in any case, coming out of this, I think, is the U.S. is in a very good position to get even a U.N. resolution, but even short of that, the backing of, of so many countries that we didn't think we'd get, like France, for military action against Iraq, to throw Saddam Hussein out, probably in February.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well, I think that the Bush is building a coalition, surprisingly better than, than I thought he would. But, but he still will, will get the broadest coalition, and completely erase any kind of doubts in the United States about Saddam if he can produce a gotcha, a document or something like that, where we discover that he's got an anthrax cache or a, or a nuclear weapons lab that, that, that he wasn't supposed to have...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... and that's it. You know, then it, then it's...

BARNES: Yes, right.

KONDRACKE: ... material breach, and there's no question about it...

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: ... in anybody's mind.

BARNES: Yes.

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