Recap of Saturday, November 29

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, November 29, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Joining us tonight is one of our favorites here on The Beltway Boys. He's syndicated columnist, Pulitzer Prize winner, and all around friend, and FNC contributor, Charles Krauthammer.

Welcome back, Charles.


BARNES: Charles, do you think that the president's Thanksgiving Day trip to Iraq to have a meal with the troops there will silence Democrats who, who say he doesn't care enough about the soldiers to actually attend the funerals of those killed in Iraq?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think it is does go a long way to counter that. I mean, the argument that you've heard from Democrats and others is that he should be going out to Dover to the funerals. In fact, I think he shouldn't, because this is a war of wills against guerrillas, and the only way the guys, the thugs and assassins in Baghdad win is if we find the pain of the casualties too high, and as a country, we leave.

The president, for all he feels inside, can't show that in public, otherwise that's a victory for the opposition. And it demoralizes our allies in Iraq, who want to know that we're going to stay there.

So I think the critique was a false one in the first place. But the fact that he went and he risked a lot, and he did this in a very dramatic way, shows that he does care. It's pretty obvious.

BARNES: Yes, Charles, the leading Shi'a figure in Iraq wants a national election to choose the next government, or the provisional government, and not just caucuses that have been actually favored by the Bush administration. What do you think about a national election next year in Iraq?

KRAUTHAMMER: In principle, we wouldn't be against it. But the problem is, if you're going to have an election, you have to have a census. And you got to go, you know, door to door. That takes a long time. You need a big infrastructure. And there's a war happening here. So it's not very practical.

I think we may be able to get a compromise. There's some indication that the ayatollah, who is the one who is insisting on this, is willing to bend. He's had some negotiations with the Kurdish leaders, who want more of a caucus system.

I can't imagine that we can't fashion some kind of compromise on this.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Now, Charles, Charles, all told, do you think that we're winning or we're losing in Iraq? And if we're not winning, what do we need to do to win?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think the war is winnable. I wouldn't say we're winning, but I don't agree with the pessimists who say, you know, This is a guerrilla war, we can't win guerrilla wars. It's not really a guerrilla war, because the enemy does not have the support of the mass of the people, the way you did classically in Vietnam and elsewhere, or even in Chechnya.

They are a bunch of thugs and assassins, and the majority of people, even the Sunnis, don't want them to return.

I think it's a matter of intelligence, finding them, killing them. It means a lot of aggressive forward action on our part. I think it means more of the same, and probably an increase in number of our troops.

But I think the real issue is simply staying power. We have to have a leader and a political elite in Washington who believes in staying there no matter what.

KONDRACKE: Now, let me switch topics to, Charles, to Israel. Ariel Sharon (search) has been criticized now by the four -- by four former heads of the Shin Beth, tough guys ... and the army chief of staff for saying that his policy has been too brutal toward the Palestinians and the Shin Beth guys are saying that he ought to be negotiating with Yasser Arafat. Why did they do this, and what's the effect of that in Israel?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, Israel always has a minority of people who are doves. And since everybody ends up in the army, a lot of them have credentials. But these people speak for a very small minority. Israel tried negotiating with Arafat for 10 years. It got promises on paper, and it got a brutal war lasting now three years, killing 1,000 Israelis.

The vast majority of Israelis understand you cannot speak with Arafat. You have to defend Israel the way it's defending itself today with preemptive strikes and by establishing the fence to separate Israel from the Palestinians and to keep out the suicide attackers.

And you wait for new Palestinian leadership. There is no magic formula here. And if you try to invent it, Israel will only weaken itself as it radically weakened itself with the Oslo illusion.

KONDRACKE: But do you think that Israeli tactics toward the Palestinian people are, further radicalizes them and makes them more anti- Israeli as they charged?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, what radicalized the Palestinians was 10 years of incessant propaganda by the PLO when they took over the territories as a result of Oslo (search). In the schoolbooks, in the papers, in the radio, everywhere, the glorification of the suicide attackers, all of this is what has poisoned the new generation against Israel.

Israel has acted in defending itself. Of course a lot of the measures are unpleasant. The closures, checking people on the roads, et cetera. But they are absolutely necessary if Israel is to defend itself ... against the kind of attack it's been sustaining.

BARNES: Yes, Charles, need a quick answer on this, but the Bush administration has been criticized for not stepping in in the Middle East now and applying pressure, particularly on Sharon. Should it?

KRAUTHAMMER: No, absolutely not. Our policy is, the Palestinians have to stop the terror and adopt a leadership that accepts Israel and that will stop the violence. Once that happens, you can have a peace and negotiations.

BARNES: Thank you, Charles.


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