Hot Stories for the Week of April 21-25

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, April 26, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Fred, the hot story of the week is peace, but...


KONDRACKE: Sorry about the "but," but it's true.

BARNES: Yes, all right, go ahead.

KONDRACKE: The good news, I mean, Saddam Hussein is not around to celebrate his, his birthday on Monday. Tariq Aziz and some other big shots are, are in custody. I suspect that we will discover weapons of mass destruction soon, and the sooner the better.

But as I say, there's a but.


KONDRACKE: The U.S. authorities over there are having a delicate time trying to sort through the Shi'ites, who seem to want us out of there pronto. We want to stay long enough to establish a democracy, but not so long that we become identified as occupiers. And I'm not sure how long that is.

But in any event, the Iranians are mixing in the picture, and here's what Don Rumsfeld had to say about their intentions about what we will not permit.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: And if you're suggesting how would we feel about an Iranian-type government, with a few clerics running everything in the country, the answer is, that isn't going to happen.


KONDRACKE: And the second big but of the week is North Korea. You know, North Kore, in these sessions in Beijing, North Korea said it has nuclear weapons, it may test them, and it may sell them. Now, you know, the good news here is that this got China's attention...


KONDRACKE: And maybe, with some luck and some persuasion, we can get China to really lean on North Korea and make them stop.

BARNES: Yes. You know, wasn't just getting China's attention. It scared the Chinese to death when a North Korean official just sort of blurted out, in the hallway, not even during the talks, blurted out in the hallway, Yeah, we got nukes. And it did scare the Chinese.

Now, if they start leaning on North Korea, then Kim Jong Il is going to have to back away from his nuclear program, because the Chinese really matter.

Now, Iraq, Mort, you didn't say much positive stuff before you got to the but. You seemed to be in a big hurry to get to the but. But in any case, you talked about the Shi'ites. It's not the Shi'ites, it's some Shi'ites, not even a majority of Shi'ites.

KONDRACKE: You took a poll?

BARNES: Oh, come on, it's obvious that that's the case. I mean, 60 percent of the Iraqis are, are Shi'ites, and there are not that many. You know, there are a few thousand out there marching and saying for the U.S. to get out now.

Once the interim Iraqi government is set up, by the end of May, all these guys over there who were declaring themselves mayor of this and governor of that and Shi'ite leaders, so-called, who seem so strong, they're going to be history. They're not going to matter. They're not going to have influence. They're not going to have power.

And Mort, but you didn't mention one of your hobbyhorses, with the looting of the Iraqi National Museum. And I think you didn't mention it because now people are bringing back some of these treasures. Some…


BARNES: Some, but a significant number. OK.

Hot story number two, prosperity.


BARNES: Yes, but we haven't gotten there yet.

KONDRACKE: Right, yes.

BARNES: I mean, we know the growth rate in the first quarter of 2003 was 1.6 percent, which is not enough. Clearly, parts of the economy are in terrible shape, airlines, telecommunications, and so on.  The economy needs a boost. And listen to Bush in just a sec, Mort, widely interpreted that Bush's statement was aimed at Ohio Republican Senator George Voinovich, who's against this tax cut. I think he's talking directly to you.

Listen to Bush here.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some in Congress say the plan is too big. Well, seems like to me they might have some explaining to do. If they agree that tax relief creates jobs, then why are they for a little bitty tax relief package? If they believe tax relief is important for job creation, they ought to join us and join this administration and join many in Congress and have a robust package that creates enough work for the American people.


BARNES: Heard that?

KONDRACKE: Yes, yes.

BARNES: Yes, I know, it's an uphill fight in the Senate, but he's got a uphill fight convincing the public that we need this tax cut.

Now, here are a couple of Fox polls. These aren't just any polls, these are Fox Dynamic polls. Anyway, according to the latest one, 59 percent say the end of the war will boost the economy.  But it also shows the country mixed about tax relief. Of the three competing versions, a plurality doesn't want any tax cuts right now.

Which one of those categories are you in, Mort, the 29 percent no tax cut?

KONDRACKE: You know, I'm actually for a tax cut, and $350 billion is not "little bitty" if you structure it right.


KONDRACKE: And make it front-loaded, so that it takes effect right away. Bush's tax cuts, especially when, in view of the fact that we've already $1.6 trillion worth of tax cuts over 10 years, Bush's tax cuts are backloaded, many of them, and...

BARNES: Well, some of them.

KONDRACKE: And furthermore the idea of reforming the tax system by eliminating dividend taxes is OK, but it is a tax reform, and it doesn't help the economy in the short run. And even Alan Greenspan says that it should be delayed.

BARNES: Even Alan Greenspan?

KONDRACKE: Even Alan Greenspan.

BARNES: Even Alan Greenspan.

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