Ups and Downs for the Week of Dec. 23-27

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, December 28, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: I'm going to go to the Ups and Downs .

DOWN: Democrats

BARNES: As if race-baiting weren't enough, national Democrats, especially the field of presidential hopefuls, are returning to an old standby, challenging President Bush's record on terrorism, saying the nation is barely safer than it was before the September 11 attacks.

Now, I can understand why the Democratic presidential candidates are raising this issue of terrorism. Some of their criticism of Bush, I think, is not right. But they need to prove that they are serious and credible on fighting the war on terrorism, otherwise they're not going to have a chance of beating Bush.

But here's what you need to have, Mort. You need to have them come up with some ideas, some list of things they would do that he's not doing. I haven't seen that yet.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, it's out there.

BARNES: Where?

KONDRACKE: Now -- well...

BARNES: ...hiding it?

KONDRACKE: ... John Edwards has come out for a domestic intelligence agency, claiming that the FBI can't do the job. And all of the Democratic candidates are in favor of spending the money...

KONDRACKE: ...look, you laugh...

BARNES: from medical research, Mort.

KONDRACKE: ...wait a minute. You laugh. But the fact is that money for bioterrorism research, money for first responders, for fire departments and police departments and hospital workers, is, is sitting there and has not been, has not been appropriated.

BARNES: It will be.

KONDRACKE: And all of the Democrats are in favor of this.

Now, what the Democrats dare not do, I-- it seems to me, politically, and morally, for that matter, is to, is to act as though they are just waiting for a, for another terrorist attack so that they can claim that Bush didn't do it right..


KONDRACKE: ... so elect us. That, that's not going to...

BARNES: Yes, even though they are just waiting.

UP: Rep. Bob Matsui, D-Calif.

KONDRACKE: He becomes the highest-ranking Asian-American in House history after being named the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Bob Matsui is a very bright guy. He's, he's well liked. Northern California, used to be a moderate at one time. Used to be a New Democrat.

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: He, he got off the track a little bit on trade. But, but the, the point is that he can raise money, and that's the key thing, what the, what the next head of the, of the DCCC is going to have to do is raise hard money. There happens to be a lot of big Democratic money in California where he's from. He's also on the...House Ways and Means Committee...


KONDRACKE: ... so he knows a lot of people with money.

Now, I, I suspect that his appointment, however, is going to anger...


KONDRACKE: ... the Democratic...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ...the Congressional Black Caucus, which was hoping for Bill Jefferson...


KONDRACKE: ... of Louisiana.

BARNES: Right....Matsui is an impressive guy, no question about it, he's a good fund-raiser. But if anything, you downplayed the trouble they're going to have with the Congressional Black Caucus. Bill Jefferson, who is actually more conservative than, than Bob Matsui, was perfectly able to step in and take this job. And Nancy Pelosi didn't pick him. There's going to be hell to pay, I think, with the Congressional Black Caucus over this. OK.

DOWN: California Gov. Gray Davis

BARNES: Citing his state's staggering budget crisis, California's nearly $35 billion in the hole. Davis says he'll sit out a 2004 presidential run. Well, thank you for that.

But it's more likely his dismal poll numbers are the cause. An exit poll taken on Election Day shows a whopping 61 percent of Californians disapprove of the job Davis is doing as governor, and 60 percent have an unfavorable impression of him. Those are not great numbers.

But look, this is not entirely his fault. You had the tech bust in California, you have entrepreneurs leaving. You have a horrible tax situation...taxes are way too high. But there is one part of the problem that is a huge part that is his fault entirely, and that is this spending increase of 36 percent over his-- the four years of his first term that have helped create this huge deficit. That's way beyond what was-- I mean, the revenues that were coming in, and way beyond inflation.

And that is a huge problem. And I don't know how he solves it, because he's got Democrats who control the legislature who don't want to be cutting, and Republicans have enough votes, just barely, to block tax increases.

KONDRACKE: Yes. You know, he may have identified himself at, at one point as a moderate or as a, as a...


KONDRACKE: ... as a New Democrat, but the fact is that the political environment in California is left, left, left...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... and the Republican Party is-- has completely marginalized itself out there. So, you know, they did overspend, he is-- that's one case where their, you know, their, their spending completely outstripped revenues.

I don't know how he gets out of this...for all the reason that you, that you stated...

BARNES: Right, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... and if he raises taxes too much, then the industries that, that need...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... that he, that he's got to hold in California are going to leave.

BARNES: Yes, what is it about these New Democrats? There don't seem to be any New Democrats. There are a lot of former New Democrats.

KONDRACKE: There are a few, Joe Lieberman.

DOWN: Gangs of New York director Martin Scorsese

KONDRACKE: He wastes an opportunity to chronicle the struggle that immigrants faced in 19th century New York by making his three-hour epic full of violence and gore. It's not just the, the bloodshed-- and believe me, it is bloody-- but it's also that, that the movie is cynical, and it's, and it's wacky on history. It's, it's, it's a lie about history, in fact.

I mean, there are no good guys in this movie whatever. You, you wonder, how did New York ever become a great city with, with only thugs running the place in the beginning? And the, the, the history part of it is that he makes out the native Americans, nativist Americans, to be the, the, the...


KONDRACKE: ... worst of the bad guys and the enemies of black Americans, and the Irish to be somehow pals of African-Americans, when everybody knows that in, that it was Civil War...draft riots were the doing of the Irish-Americans, who didn't want to go fight for the blacks.

BARNES: And so you finally found a movie you didn't like.

KONDRACKE: I hated it.

BARNES: You know, Scorsese did this one great thing recently, this four-hour documentary on Italian movies, played up of my favorite all-time movies, Evi Talone, a movie...I don't know, I've always liked Italian movies. The -- but I am now free to skip Gangs of New York?

KONDRACKE: Please do.

BARNES: All right.

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