Ups and Downs for the Week of April 7-11

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, March 15, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: And now let's go to our postwar Ups and Downs .

UP: President Bush

The political gamble of his life pays off big- time. Iraq is liberated, and Saddam and his cronies are gone, and recent polls show definite if temporary political rewards. The latest Fox poll shows President Bush's job approval rating at 71 percent, up 11 points for a month ago, and 75 percent approve of his handling of the war with Iraq.  But he's got some work to do on the domestic front. Nearly half of the respondents, 48 percent, disapprove of his handling of the economy.

And Mort, you know, a lot of people, smart observers even, think that President Bush is -- today is in the same situation his father was in 12 years ago in 1991 after the first Gulf War. I think it's different, and it's different for this reason.

In '91, the Gulf War was over, the troops came home, the whole thing was finished. This time it's not finished. American troops will be staying in Iraq. There will be this whole attempt to build a democracy and a stable country in Iraq. So that's different, for one thing. The war in Iraq will still be a big issue.

And, and, and secondly, because of the terrorist attacks going back to 9/11, national security will still be the paramount issue, not domestic policies, on which Democrats are, are frankly stronger, and their proposals are, are often more popular.

The economy may not improve that much. I think it's going to improve some by a year from now, or by November 2004, but I think President Bush is still in pretty good shape, given that national security, his issue, will be the biggest issue.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, look, national security is a Republican issue and a Bush issue by miles over the Democrats. But the ironic thing is that the better he does in the war against terrorism, in other words, the calmer the world is, the more attention gets focused on, on, on the economy, which, as you say, is, is a Democratic issue. And those polls indicated that the public is not very happy with, with Bush's performance right now.

I mean, he could be his father and get defeated in spite of this war.  And his polls have not risen to the astronomical heights that his father's or his did after, after 9/11.

But the Democrats have got to nominate somebody who is credible on national security....And that won't be easy. Yes, and, exactly. And I'm not, I don't know if that party can do such a thing.

BARNES: Yes. All right.

KONDRACKE: All right.

BARNES: Go on to....

UP: Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz

KONDRACKE: Once derided as a radical, the administration's leading hawk sees his grandest vision realized this week, regime change in Iraq. But now comes the hard part of Wolfowitz's vision, bringing a stable democracy to that country.

Look, I have known Paul Wolfowitz for, for 20 years. And this -- the idea that he was bloodthirsty ideologue is totally ridiculous. He was assistant secretary, back in the '80s, he was assistant secretary of state for, for Asia, and he is the guy who talked Ronald Reagan into withdrawing American support from Ferdinand Marcos...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... the dictator of the Philippines. And the Philippines is now a democracy. I mean, Paul Wolfowitz is, is, is not an ideologue, he is an idealist, and he genuinely believes that, that the Arabs are capable of self-government. I hope he's right.

BARNES: Yes, no, I hope he is too, I think he is. I've known him a long time as well. You know, the political left has constructed a lot of conspiracy theories around Paul Wolfowitz' presence in the Bush administration. And, you know, they claim that he is secretly running the entire government and so on. There is no small amount of anti-Semitism lurking in these theories.

The truth is, Paul Wolfowitz is influential. He is not a puppeteer of Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush.  And he is a very principled guy, no question about it. OK.

DOWN: Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry

BARNES: Fresh from his call for regime change in the U.S., Kerry's still trying to have it both ways when it comes to Iraq. Here's Kerry Wednesday night speaking at a candidates' forum.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I support the use of force. I support disarming Saddam Hussein. But I have been very critical of the way this administration went at it. Now this administration is laying out enormous plans for building roads, schools, hospitals, and providing books in Iraq. And it's time for us to demand that they lay out a plan to do the same here in the United States of America.


KONDRACKE: Now, look...

BARNES: Sounds like pork to me.

KONDRACKE: Yes, yes. Now, look, a president is supposed to lead.  That's what we, that's what we...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... hire a president for. And among the Democratic presidential candidates, you can say that Joe Lieberman has led on, on...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... Iraq, he was in favor of the war in Iraq before Bush was. John Edwards has led.

BARNES: Right, yes.

KONDRACKE: Dick Gephardt has led.

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: You can even say that Howard Dean and Bob Graham, who are leading in the wrong direction...


KONDRACKE: ... but they are, but they are leading.

BARNES: All right.

KONDRACKE: John Kerry is equivocal...


KONDRACKE: ... all, all the way through. Now, he is a war hero, but we are not hiring a company commander here.


KONDRACKE: We are hiring a commander in chief, and he is not commanding.

BARNES: You know, many Democrats just don't know how to talk about the war. And it leads -- it reinforces the idea that they are genetically antiwar. For instance, Mort, listen to Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I have absolutely no regret about my vote on this war. The same questions remain. The cost in human lives, the cost to our budget, probably $100 billion. We could have probably brought down that statue for a lot less.


KONDRACKE: Oh! You know, I....

BARNES: It takes your breath away, doesn't it? Yes.

KONDRACKE: Exactly. I mean, we've just won. Why can't the Democrats say, We won, hooray, the people of Iraq are liberated, now we have difficult tasks ahead of us? But hooray, that's the word.

BARNES: Yes, right. It's because they're antiwar, Mort.


BARNES: All right.

DOWN: Actress Janeane Garofalo

KONDRACKE: Garofalo joins a long list of entertainer activists who will have to change their tune, eat a little crow, and in Janeane's case, make good on a bet she made with Fox News's Bill O'Reilly back on March 10. Take a look.


BILL O'REILLY, HOST: If you are wrong, all right, and if the United States, and they will, this is going to happen, goes in, liberates Iraq, people in the street, American flags, hugging our soldiers, all right, we find all kinds of bad, bad stuff, right, in Iraq, you going to apologize to George W. Bush?

JANEANE GAROFALO, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: I will bring roses right to his front door. I will bring a fruitcake and roses...


BARNES: Well, she's tried, tried to wiggle out of that, at -- out of this bet. Her spokesman, one of our producers talked to her spokesman, said, Oh, well, no, she was right about the war. There were civilian casualties there. Come on, that didn't get a fly.

You know, she's pulling, she's trying to pull an Alec Baldwin.  Remember he said if Bush wins in 2000, he was going to leave the country?  He's still here. It's time for her to not welsh on that bet.

KONDRACKE: Yes, yes. She, she is at the head of a long list of Hollywood losers, including Martin Sheen, Sean Penn, Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon, the Dixie Chicks, Madonna.


KONDRACKE: You know, I -- Martin Sheen is in a special target of mine, because he plays this one -- I mean, a really good president.  Liberal...

BARNES: Yes, and how.

KONDRACKE: ... I know you wouldn't go along with it...

BARNES: Yes....

KONDRACKE: ... but he's, but he's a tough guy, he's not afraid to use...

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... American force when it's necessary. Now, if...


KONDRACKE: ... Martin Sheen would only read his script and start thinking in terms of the kind of leadership that...Josiah Bartlett shows on that show, he'd be OK.

BARNES: Yes, don't get your hopes up.


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