Hot Stories for the Week of November 10 - 14

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, November 15, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: The hot story, Mort, is course correction. That is, the course of events and planning in Iraq. And the idea, of course, of the new course is to give more authority to Iraqi officials, particularly the Iraq Governing Council (search). And I'll let President Bush explain it to you.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Governing Council is, is better prepared to take more responsibility. In terms of the security, we will do whatever it takes to help Iraq develop into a free and peaceful country. That is our goal. And we will stay there until the job is done, and then we'll leave.


BARNES: I'm not sure the Iraqis are better prepared, particularly the Iraqi council. I mean, this plan would give more responsibility to people who have declined to accept much responsibility in the past, and so I'm not sure it will work. I'm glad Paul Bremer's going to stay there to be the backstop, because he was an important guy, the American civilian leader there, and he's done a very good job.

Now, I think, and the president sort of touched on this but didn't say what I would have wanted him to say, and that is that security is the number one concern. It should be the top priority. And we're going to bring in, we're arming all these Iraqis, we're going to bring them in not to replace American troops but to help American troops as they crush the terrorists, the jihadists, and the Ba'athists, and, and make Iraq safe.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Now, I have a question for you. One-word answer. If you were an Iraqi, would you risk your life and your family's life and possibly fate, you know, risk the possibility of torture, on President Bush's promise that we're going to stay the course?

BARNES: Yes, and then I'll use your favorite word, but, but only because I trust President Bush.

KONDRACKE: Well, to use my favorite word, but, the fact is that the Defense Department is not planning to keep 130,000 troops there. They're planning to go down to 105,000, and then next year, which happens to be an election year, go down below 100,000. And here we are now, of, you know, giving this added authority, so-called, because they crave it, to the Iraqi Governing Council when Paul Bremer last week ...  Washington complaining that they wouldn't accept the responsibility they have. Now...

BARNES: And he's right.

KONDRACKE: Yes. OK. Now, so if I were an Iraqi, I would have deep doubts about whether the United States is planning to stay forever, to stay as long as it takes, or that we're, we're, you know, we're thinking about exit strategies.

And the fact is that the CIA reports that Iraqis are losing confidence in our tenacity.

If that's the case, it is fatal to our purposes there. So it's got to -- it -- that's the correction that's got to be made.

Now, the other hot story is the Senate circus. The Senate Republican majority staged this 39-hour talkathon, marathon, with cots, you know, in the hallways as props, because they were never, they were never really used, to protest the Democratic minority's filibustering of President Bush's various appellate court nominees.

Here's what President Bush had to say about all this.


BUSH: A few senators are playing politics, and it's wrong, and it's shameful, and it's hurting this system. I have told these three ladies I will stand with them until the bitter end, because they're the absolute right pick for their respective positions.


KONDRACKE: The three ladies are ... Carolyn Kuhl (search) and ... Janice Brown (search) ... And Priscilla Owen (search).

Right. Now, I think that it's perfectly disgraceful what the Democrats have done. They've, they've labeled moderate conservatives who are fully qualified and honorable people, some of whom have been reelected to their jobs overwhelmingly, as right-wing extremists, which they are not.

And furthermore, I think the Democrats are doing damage with using the filibuster systematically to both the Senate ... and, and the judiciary. On the other hand, I think that the stunt, this political stunt...

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... was not the way to reverse this. And furthermore, I think that there was a strategy to it, spend these 30 hours at the very end of a session, and avoid appropriations bills that have to be passed, and difficult votes on things like veterans' health and education funding and FBI personnel and Patriot Act (search), and that was the design here.

BARNES: Yes, do you really have any evidence for that? That sounds like Democratic spin to me...

KONDRACKE: ... I've actually, I've actually heard it from Republicans.

BARNES: ... and I don't, I don't believe it. Now, look, Mort, you know what your problem with this is? You call it a circus, you call it stunt. It's because Republicans were doing it. If Democrats were doing this, you and the mainstream media would be praising them for highlighting an issue.

And I think Republicans ... did a wonderful job here highlighting an issue. And the issue is very simple, Democrats won't allow an up-or-down vote on these judicial nominations, including the three women nominees that the president had, had sent up.

And a lot of people who didn't understand that that was the issue now know that it is the issue. So I'm glad the Republicans did it.

KONDRACKE: Now, look...

BARNES: Stunt or not, surface or not.

KONDRACKE: ... when it's a stunt, I call it a stunt no matter who ... does it.

BARNES: Yes, well, we'll see. All right.

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