Ups and Downs for the Week of April 14-18

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, April 19, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Welcome back to The Beltway Boys .

Let's take a look at this week's ups and downs.

DOWN: Syrian President Bashar Assad

KONDRACKE: Despite repeated denials, U.S. intelligence officials conclude several key figures in Saddam Hussein's regime have taken refuge in Syria, a known terrorist haven.

Here's Secretary of State Colin Powell in a not-so-veiled warning to Syria to knock it off.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have been candid with the Syrians, and we have also made it clear to the Syrians that we don't think it would be in their interest to be a draw for people who are trying to either get out of Iraq or get out of other places in the world and find a safe haven.

Syria does not want to be a safe haven in the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


KONDRACKE: Well, Powell and others in the administration have gone out of their way to say that, that Syria is not next on a -- on any U.S. target list. I sort of hope that Assad doesn't believe that, and that he is -- he fears that he might be -- take Saddam Hussein's vacancy in the, in the axis of evil.

Fear is what is going to make him do the things that he needs to do.  One, turn over the Saddamites who have escaped into...


KONDRACKE: ... into...

BARNES: Saddamites?

KONDRACKE: ... yes, into Syria.

BARNES: All right.

KONDRACKE: Secondly, cut out support for Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, terrorist groups. And three, fork over any weapons of mass destruction that were moved over into Syria.

BARNES: And get out of Lebanon.


BARNES: Which has become a colony and has been for years now, a colony of Syria. OK.

You know, I agree with all that, and there's a way to get it done without going to war with Syria. Mark Ginsberg, the former ambassador to Morocco, and of course who's a commentator on Fox News, has written a brilliant piece in "The Weekly Standard"...

KONDRACKE: Whoa, why am I -- why...

BARNES: ...of all places...

KONDRACKE: ... why am I surprised....

BARNES: ... where, where he points out some of the things you can do.  You can pass the Syria Accountability Act in Congress, which would allow economic sanctions. You can keep the oil pipeline from Iraq through -- into and through Syria. You can keep that closed. It's closed now. You can block IMF, that's...that's the International Monetary Fund, Mort, in case you didn't know...

KONDRACKE: No, I know....

BARNES: ... and the World Bank...

KONDRACKE: World Bank, yes.

BARNES: ... loans and so on to Syria. There are other things like that. You can confiscate Syrian assets of over $100 million in the United States, and, and -- or at least you can tell the Syrians, Look, we're going to do all this unless you do the right thing. It may work, short of war.  All right.

UP: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

BARNES: The success of Operation Iraqi Freedom could pave the way for a new way of waging war, that is, targeting and destroying a regime, not its people or its infrastructure.

Here's Rumsfeld describing what he and Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers call "the most humane combat in history."


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There has not been large-scale collateral damage, and there have not been massive civilian casualties, because the coalition forces took such enormous care to protect the lives of innocent civilians.

This was not just good luck. This was the result of very careful planning by extraordinarily talented people in this -- in the region, at Central Command in Tampa, and here in this department.


BARNES: You know, they really haven't got -- the Defense Department, the Bush administration, the generals, the Air Force -- they really haven't gotten the credit they should have for this incredible war in which civilians were not targeted and were avoided, and buildings they didn't want to hit, they didn't hit with these precision-guided weapons.

Now, there is a lesson in this for other dictators that -- and I think the lesson is this, and I hope the dictator in North Korea, among others, gets it, and that is, we can nail you without killing your people, without destroying your infrastructure, and without arousing protests all over the world that are horrible, because they didn't happen this time.

I hope they under -- I hope these leaders understand it. And this can be done without any more Dresdens or Hiroshimas.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well, I, I -- you know, the problem with North Korea is that it's got nuclear weapons, that -- that's a whole other bag...


KONDRACKE: ... bag of difficulties.


KONDRACKE: But the Iraq war, this enormously successful military operation, makes Don Rumsfeld king of the Pentagon, if he, if he, if he wasn't already.


KONDRACKE: Not only can he proceed with military transformation, that is, skipping over generations of weapons like the F-22, probably, fighter and the Apache helicopter, but -- and to go on to more advanced weapons systems, but, but he is asking the Pentagon for personnel changes that would enable him to extend the terms of senior generals that, you know, are -- that he likes...


KONDRACKE: ... and to retire early senior -- generals that he, that he doesn't like. So...


KONDRACKE: ... he's going to -- you know, he's, he's up, he's way up.

BARNES: Yes, you're -- Sure is.

KONDRACKE: He's got some big-time fence-mending to do with the White House and his fellow Republicans after cutting a last-minute deal to slash President Bush's tax cut package. And now questions are growing about Frist's leadership ability.

DOWN: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist

KONDRACKE: You know, it -- there was perfectly chilling quote buried in a Washington Post...

BARNES: Right, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... story on Saturday...


KONDRACKE: ... it -- from a senior White House official...


KONDRACKE: ... who said that Frist will be told when he...


KONDRACKE: ... when he gets back, quote, "You've let, you've let the president down. What are you going to do about it?" I'm not sure what Frist actually can do about it to get more than a $350 billion tax cut, because Senators Voinovich, Snowe, and, I think, Grassley, you know, are going to be hard to budge.

BARNES: You know, Frist is going to have a new weapon in his arsenal.  That's President Bush, who's going to be more involved than he -- well, he wasn't involved at all before. But he'll be involved heavily now on enlarging that tax cut. We'll see. All right.

DOWN: Actor and activist Tim Robbins

BARNES: His antiwar tirade running out of steam, Robbins launches yet another attack in his war against the Bush administration, saying that the president and his so-called allies are suppressing free speech.

Here's Robbins this week at the National Press Club, a speech, mind you, that was picked up by newspapers, the Internet, various newscasts, and played in its entirety nationwide on C-Span. Watch.


TIM ROBBINS, ACTOR/ACTIVIST: A chill wind is blowing in this nation.  A message is being sent through the White House and its allies in talk radio and Clear Channel and Cooperstown. If you oppose this administration, there can and will be ramifications.

Every day, the airwaves are filled with warnings, veiled and unveiled threats, spewed invective and hatred directed at any voice of dissent.


BARNES: That wasn't just any invective he was talking about. He was talking about spewed invective. What a pompous guy he is.

But in any case, I don't think he understands the irony of his position there. Here he is, at one of the most prominent platforms in America, all over television and everything, saying his free...his free speech is being suppressed.

You know, the people like that think they should be able to attack the White House or the Pentagon or the American military and be free of criticism, that free speech, in their case, means free of criticism.  That's not true. He's wrong.

KONDRACKE: Yes, and the fact is that, that Cooperstown did not disinvite him because he opposed the White House.


KONDRACKE: Cooperstown invited him because they were afraid that he would politicize a baseball...


KONDRACKE: ... ball event the way...


KONDRACKE: ... Michael Moore did at the, at the Academy Awards.

BARNES: And there's a good chance he would have.


BARNES: All right.

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