Hot Stories for the Week of June 9-13

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, June 14, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Mort, the hot story is Mideast (search) meltdown, and of course you know the sequence, we've seen it before, Bush goes and has a summit with the Israeli and the Palestinian leaders and it leads to peace talks, followed by terrorist attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians by Hamas (search), and, and other Palestinian terrorists, after which Israel retaliates.

We've been, we've been through that any number of times. Now, listen to Secretary of State Colin Powell's (search) take on this, and I'll tell you where he gets it slightly wrong.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think we all are anxious to see restraint and we understand that it's important to get the terror down. All of our efforts are focused on Hamas and persuading Hamas and Islamic Jihad and other terror organizations that this is the time to abandon terror.


BARNES: Yes, no, he had it right at the end there, all of his efforts are, are aimed at stopping terrorism....the beginning he put as the top priority restraint. Well, no, the only -- there's only one way you get restraint, and that's by stopping the terrorism. That has to be the first thing.

You know, the Israelis want peace. I think most Palestinians in their heart of hearts want peace. Hamas and other terrorist groups don't want peace, so what you have to do is crack down on them, stop the terrorism. There is no peace as long as this terrorism continues.

Now, how do you deal with that? One, you could demand that the new prime minister, Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, crack down. He may or may not have the authority. But he can't get away with saying, Gee, I'll talk to Hamas. That's what he said, I'll try to persuade him.

That won't work. I have another idea. Get the special forces, not from the United States, but from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, to go in and take on Hamas and eliminate them and the other terrorist groups as well.

Now, I think those countries are probably going to be reluctant to do that, so this leaves the job to President Bush to lean on them hard and get them to do that. And you can -- and perhaps that's one way you can get rid of the terrorism. Absent that, no peace.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, I think that's a, that's a great idea, actually, and Bush ought, Bush ought to give it a try. I'm not sure that you could trust the special forces from, from Egypt, at least, and Saudi Arabia to, to really hammer Hamas, because they're still answerable to their own governments.

But it would be a good test to put the Arabs to. I think that they probably would not agree to it, for the same reason that Mahmoud Abbas is not willing to crack down on Hamas, and that is that they're all afraid of their own people, because they've, they've so indoctrinated their, their, their populations to hate the Israelis that, that moving against Hamas in a, in a, in a, in a really effective way would, would have a lot of blowback in their population.

And they're, and they're scared to do it. I'm afraid that the Arab, the Arab people just aren't ready for peace. I'm afraid, I'm afraid that's the bottom line, in which case, the road map is, is, is never, is never going to go anyplace.

BARNES: So all we get is lip service.

KONDRACKE: I -- yes, I'm afraid that, that this is, that, you know, it's going to be another missed opportunity.

Now, the other hot story is Medicare's moment. At long last, 40 years, almost, after, after the, the, the country decided that it was inhumane to leave old people without medical care, which I'm sure you'll regard as welfare, you know, we're finally going to get around to the missing -- adding the missing ingredient, which is prescription drugs.

After all, you know, we -- the -- Medicare will now spend tens of thousands of dollars treating somebody in the hospital and afterwards for a stroke, say, but they won't pay a penny to -- for the medicine to prevent a stroke. Now, so, it's wise, you know, I -- as a matter of policy, to get, to get on with prescription drugs.

Politically, the reason is that President Bush and the Republicans, who are fully in control of the government, want this accomplishment for election purposes. They want to win the senior vote, and they want to look compassionate. Here's President Bush talking about Medicare.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Medicare system is antiquated. Medicine is modernizing, and Medicare isn't. And that's not right for our seniors. And so I've come here today to remind Congress that Congress has an obligation and a responsibility to meet the needs of our seniors and to make sure that Medicare is modern...


KONDRACKE: Now, the Democrats, you know, have been playing games with Medicare too...


KONDRACKE: ... you know, milking it, accusing the Republicans of blocking it and, you know, trying to, to, to get votes with, with seniors too. They've decided that this -- they can't do this any more, so they're going to go along with the, with the deal. And so there's going to be a Medicare bill.

Here's Daschle talking about it, Tom Daschle.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: We are very hopeful that we can improve the legislation. It is my expectation that we will improve it. Many of us go into this debate with the hope that we can vote for it at the end. But we can't make that judgment until we know what the bill will look like.


BARNES: Mort, you know, that...


BARNES: ... that was an amazingly chap shot that you think I regard...Medicare as welfare. I mean, you ought to be ashamed of yourself for that...

KONDRACKE: Well, aren't all things...

BARNES: No, no...

KONDRACKE: ... done for, done, done for the needy welfare?

BARNES: Mort, I'll make the distinction.

KONDRACKE: All right.

BARNES: People have paid for Medicare. You know, they pay it in along with the Social Security tax, you pay a Medicare tax. So it, it, it, it...

KONDRACKE: Conservatives were all against it...

BARNES: ... it's when you get...

KONDRACKE: ... when it came up.

BARNES: ... it's when you get -- oh, no, they weren't...

KONDRACKE: Oh, yes, they were, for, for, for decades.

BARNES: ... it's when you get -- the medical community was, the -- all conservatives weren't. The -- it's, it's when you get an unearned handout from the government, then it's welfare. A lot of people are happy to, are happy to take it. But Medicare's not welfare.

Now, Daschle, now, when he talks about improving the bill, what he means is, one that will cost more, one that will have greater government control, and both of those are going in, in the wrong direction.

Republicans in the House of Representatives, obvious -- fortunately have the right idea, and that is to put incentives in Medicare so people will leave traditional Medicare, which is extremely costly, and go into private health insurance plans. They can choose among all the ones that federal employees and members of Congress are, are, are allowed to choose from.

Unless Medicare moves in a private direction, a free market direction, voluntarily, it will go bankrupt. The only way to save it and reform it is that way. There's not enough reform in the Senate bill. There's going to be a lot in the House bill, and I hope the House bill prevails.

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