Hot Stories for the Week of May 26-30

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, May 31, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Bill, the hot story is, peace now, or now peace. President Bush, having won the Gulf War, is now trying to make peace both in Iraq and between the Arabs and the Israelis. War is much easier, at least the way it's done in a high-tech era. Peace is more difficult....Bush has got a summit coming up with Arab leaders and Abu Mazen of the Palestinian Authority, and then with Abu Mazen (search) and Ariel Sharon (search).

And here is Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser, explaining what this is all about.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The president just believes that this is a good time to sit down face to face, eye to eye, with the leaders who have responsibilities for trying to bring about that peace.


KONDRACKE: I mean, it is really significant that the Arab leaders are meeting with Abu Mazen, not Yasser Arafat (search). That is a move forward. That means that they, they're buying into his choice of Abu Mazen as the leader of, of the, the chief negotiator for the Palestinians and not Yasser Arafat.

Now, then, you know, then we go on to the meeting with Abu Mazen and Ariel Sharon, and hopefully something will come out of that. A lot of people, you know, criticize Bush and say that he's, he's wasting his prestige on a hopeless task, that he's going to get caught in a, in a quagmire. But -- a diplomatic quagmire.

But look, Bush has got to make this effort. I mean, the Europeans and the Arabs have been criticizing for two and a half years for ignoring the peace process. Now that he's won the war, it's the moment for him to strike and try to produce a peace if he possibly can.


KONDRACKE: And he's going to give it his all.

SAMMON: That's exactly right. And one of the biggest criticisms is, why now? Why weren't you engaged for the last two and a half years?

I think the reason is not so much that he was disengaged, but he was actually creating behind the scenes the conditions that made this moment possible. He was -- first of all, had kind of a full plate fighting a war and winning a war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Secondly, he almost single-handedly marginalized Yasser Arafat, has swept him off the world stage, or at least the stage in America. He still has some sway in the Arab world.

And he -- President Bush also forced the emergence of this new Palestinian prime minister, with whom he can deal. So these are the conditions that make this moment possible.

Now, other people say, you know, the president is just sort of going over for an obligatory photo-op, he's sort of half-heartedly into this. I disagree.

Let's take a look at what he said to an Egyptian journalist this week, quote, "Hopefully by now, people have learned that when George W. commits to America to a project, we mean that. We don't have idle chit-chat, that we're serious about our intentions."

What that says to me, first of all, is -- by the way, it's the first time I've heard him refer to himself in the third person, I'm not sure what we should make of that...


SAMMON: Yes, exactly. But the other thing is, he -- when he talks about idle chitchat, I interpret that as sort of a veiled shot at President Clinton. Remember, Clinton spent the last couple of months of his presidency trying to force a comprehensive peace settlement at Camp David between the two sides.

And, of course, that blew up in his face. It -- the region descended into the worst violence in years, and we went into a year and a half of terrible bloodshed in the Middle East.

President Bush is taking a very different approach. He wants to have an incremental, phased-in approach. That's what this road map is all about. There's a phase one, there's a phase two, there's a phase three.

And so I think he -- it's going to be a very difficult thing, but he is serious about this. And he may actually have a shot at establishing a Palestinian and an Israeli state living side by side within a couple of years.

KONDRACKE: Still a long shot.

SAMMON: The other hot story, weapons of mass destruction. Show me the weapons! The -- there's a growing chorus of voices, mostly Democratic, demanding that the allied forces in Iraq find the weapons of mass destruction, because, after all, that was the major rationale for President Bush going to war in the first place.

Let's take a quick listen to what Bob Graham, Senator Bob Graham, who is a presidential Democratic candidate, said, quote, "If we don't find those weapons, then the fundamental reason that this war was justified will have been undercut. Either our intelligence community didn't know as much as they represented they knew, or the information that they presented had been politicized before it was made available to decision makers."

Those are pretty strong words. He's not the only Democrat that's said that, Jane Harmon has talked about this, Senator Joe Biden said that this was overhyped. And even some Republicans, Mort, are saying that if we don't find weapons of mass destruction, U.S. credibility will take a hit.

They are quick to emphasize and quick to add that they are confident that they will find these weapons of mass destruction. And, in fact, this week the CIA made a very unusual public disclosure, said that they had found a couple of trailer trucks over there that were -- that must have been used for weapons of mass destruction as biological mobile chemical labs.

Now, they had been scrubbed clean of any trace of biological weapons, so the -- it's not exactly a smoking gun, but it's certainly a gun of some sort. And I think there will be more guns to come as we go along.

KONDRACKE: Yes, yes...look, the, the polls indicate that the American people don't really care whether we discover weapons of mass destruction or not. But this is a building story, and you -- more and more you're beginning to hear the word "hoax," "credibility gap," and all that kind of stuff.

Now, I cannot believe that, in the end, we won't find weapons of mass destruction. After all, Saddam Hussein cost his country billions of dollars that he could have used for God knows what, you know, palaces or mosques or more guns to fight us, because he wouldn't fork over...evidence of weapons of mass.... He lost his whole kingdom over that.

So I guess we'll find it. I'm optimistic, but the media, the Democrats, and the Europeans certainly aren't.

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