Ups and Downs for the Week of June 23-27

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, June 28, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: All right. Up and down, all right?


UP: Liberal lion Ted Kennedy

BARNES: Kennedy chooses principle over politics by helping Senate Republicans pass landmark Medicare legislation, adding prescription drug coverage for seniors.

You know, Mort, Kennedy is an amazing figure on this, because he...he, he has split with a lot of liberal Democrats and said that we're not going to treat the prescription drug benefit as a political issue, the way your hero, Tom Daschle, wanted to do it. Daschle could have gotten this last year...but he didn't.

Now, Kennedy actually agrees with conservative critics like myself with this Medicare bill, because he thinks it will not lure seniors away from traditional Medicare into private health insurance plans, which the Bush administration wants them to do. I think Kennedy has played this whole thing brilliantly, and he's going to be a big winner.

KONDRACKE: Yes, I'm sort of surprised that Kennedy didn't convince the Republicans to fork over about $50 billion. I, you know, in, in 2002, he actually sort of had a deal with Bill Frist and, and the chairman of the, the House Ways and Means Committee, Bill Thomas, at $450 billion...


KONDRACKE: ... $50 billion more, before Daschle pulled the plug. My guess is that Kennedy figures that this program is, is doomed to grow, or, you know, destined to grow, because just out of the natural course of things, and that he doesn't have to fight for any more money.

BARNES: Actually, that's a good point. He probably could have gotten it, because he's absolutely critical to Bush getting a, a prescription drug benefit. If he's not there, it doesn't happen.


UP: Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean

KONDRACKE: The former Vermont governor formally launches his presidential campaign this week. Once dismissed as a fringe candidate, Dean's the new media darling, delighting the Democratic base with his populist antiwar message.

Here's Dean on Wednesday.


HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I stood up against what this administration was doing, even when 70 percent of the American people supported the war. And I believed that the evidence was not there. I refused to change my view. And as it turned out, I was right.


BARNES: Do you think he was right?

KONDRACKE: I think he was wrong, I think he was wrong, but, but events will show whether he was right or not, and that, you know, a lot, a lot is hinges on. Look, I think Dean is the most interesting of, of the Democratic candidates. He is definitely a dove on, on defense... and war policy. He's a hawk, however, on, on budgets.

He's a moderate on the health care issue, he's against gun control. And he's a Washington outsider.

Now, he also tends to be a kind of a bombastic loudmouth, or a, you know, pyrotechnic, and he, he could win the Democratic nomination. On the other hand, he could crash and burn.

BARNES: Yes, bombastic, look, I love that when you say, you know, he's a, a budget hawk. That means he's a tax raiser. He would reverse all the tax cuts that President Bush has gotten, three of them, and which would raise taxes on poor people, on middle-income people, and wealthy people as well. I don't think that's going to be very popular.

Being a dove in an era when national security is the most important issue may get you the Democratic nomination, it's probably not going to win the presidency for you.

But I'm glad to see one thing. Finally the press, which was been worshiping Howard Dean for -- in recent months, is finally getting a little critical and scrutinizing his words and, and challenging some of them. It's about time. All right.

DOWN: Palestinian militant group Hamas

BARNES: Hamas says it's, quote unquote, "suspending fighting activities," whatever that means. But that's not swaying Israel or President Bush, who this week singled out Hamas as the single biggest obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

Here's Bush Wednesday.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nearly every hopeful moment in the region, nearly every sign of progress toward peace is followed by more murders in the guise of martyrdom as those who oppose peace do all they can to destroy the hopes and aspirations of those who desire to live in peace.


BARNES: Mort, even if Hamas agrees to a, quote unquote, "cease-fire," that won't mean anything. We had nine of them in the 12 years after the Oslo accord in 1993, or the -- in the 10 years after that. So and then they went back to terrorism. Hamas needs to be disarmed. Nothing else will do.

KONDRACKE: Yes, Hamas' whole reason for being is to destroy the state of Israel. So even, you know, a cease-fire won't work, even disarmament, you know, is, is going to be.... I think that this is, this is a group that Mahmoud Abbas, the new head of the, the, the Palestinian government, has got to put out of business, arresting the militants. And it's -- he's got to do it, even if it means a Palestinian civil war.

BARNES: Right.

UP: Gray Davis recall effort in California
KONDRACKE: The state's budget crisis is worsening, giving dump-Davis supporters the big mull. They say they're well on their way to getting the required number of signatures to force a recall initiative in November.

And they're on the air with some devastating radio ads. Here's a sample.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could move. Instead, I'm signing the Recall Gray Davis petition. This is my state. I'm fighting for it. Don't let Gray Davis make you move out of state. Make him move out of the governor's office.

Log onto today. Download the petition and sign it. That's California's worth fighting for.


BARNES: Mort, you laughed last week when I said the recall movement had become a populist juggernaut, and that by the end of the year, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator, the actor, might be governor of California. I think it's become more likely now that potential Democrats who might replace Gray Davis, like Senator Dianne Feinstein or the lieutenant governor, Bustamente, won't go on the ballot.

KONDRACKE: Right, well, it would be disloyal to Davis if, if they did. You know, I think California has gone berserk, frankly. I mean, here they have a $38 billion budget deficit, and instead of figuring out how they're going to close it, they're, they, they're spending all their energy, you know, on this, on this Davis recall effort.

What I want before this over, however, is for Arnold Schwarzenegger to say how he is going to terminate this deficit. I think the -- you know, he's got to do that in order to be judged a serious candidate.

BARNES: Yes, that's easy. Big spending cuts, small tax increase. OK.

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