Hot Stories for the Week of December 8 - 12

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, December 13, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, the hot story number one of the week is, it's all but over, that is the conventional wisdom about the Democratic race.


KONDRACKE: Al Gore (search) endorses Howard Dean, Howard Dean's got the nomination and it's all over. And even the Republicans reportedly believe that, but when it came to putting out an ad for their Internet, to raise money, they sort of spread their fire over the rest of the field. Watch this.


HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't want to listen to the fundamentalist preachers any more.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is not leading this country in the right direction, and he's declared war on the American people...

ANNOUNCER: Tired of the pessimism and angry protest?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need a regime change in the United States, but ... the president.

ANNOUNCER: Tired of the negative attacks?

GEPHARDT: This president is a miserable failure on this...

DEAN: Thank you very, very much. Thank you very, very much.

ANNOUNCER: You have a choice. Support the president's agenda for a stronger, safer, more prosperous America.


BARNES: Mort, could you play that again? I like that?

KONDRACKE: Yes, you're, I think you're going to see a lot more like that. But it's not quite over yet.

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: There is a narrow chance that Dean could be toppled, and here's how it would have to happen.

January 19, Dick Gephardt has to win in Iowa. Dean probably will win the next week in New Hampshire, but whoever number two there and Gephardt then go south on, on February 3 ... to South Carolina, and, you know ... New Mexico and Oklahoma and, and so on.


KONDRACKE: So there, there Dean could get stopped.


KONDRACKE: It's Southern, it's, you know, more hawkish. And Gephardt has ... James Clyburn, the most important black politician in South Carolina ... in his side. So, you know, all of this could happen. But I'd say the chances are about 20 percent.

BARNES: You know, I think the chances are narrow, but I think they're a little better than 20 percent. But not, and I emphasize not, if Democrats and the other Democrats besides Howard Dean follow the advice of Al Gore. Listen to him when he endorsed Howard Dean.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: We need to remake the Democratic Party. We need to remake America. We need to take it back on behalf of the people of this country.


BARNES: Jeez. Sounded like McGovern again, only worse. But that is not what any other Democrats need to do. What they need to do is frontally go after Dean on taxes and the war. Now, there is a Democratic poll that shows that there's a plurality in New Hampshire in favor of the invasion of Iraq. Now.

Why, why don't Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt, both of whom voted for the war and support the war, go after Dean on that, reminding Dean that his position would allow Saddam Hussein to stay in power?

This is Mr. Mass Graves, you know, the guy who tortures thousands of his people, invades other countries, kills ...

KONDRACKE: I remember all that.

BARNES: ... American, tried to kill George Bush Sr. and so on. But they don't. They're very tepid in attacking Dean.

Then there's the question of, of Dean wanting to reverse all of the Bush tax cuts, including raising taxes on the middle class. Now, John Kerry, rather than attack Dean in that debate in New Hampshire on Tuesday, attacked him afterwards in the spin room. Well, that does no good. You really have to go after him. That's an issue on which he could say, John, Howard Dean cannot be elected president because he champions raising middle class taxes. And he's right.

And, and as long as those guys are so intimidated by Dean, they will never stop him. OK.

Issue number two, shove it. That's right.


BARNES: Shove it. Shove it in your ear, is what the president said, President Bush was, in effect, sending as his message to France, Germany, and Russia, in denying them ...

KONDRACKE: Canada too.

BARNES: Well, no, no, he changed his mind on Canada.


BARNES: But on those three countries, and saying they cannot bid on U.S. taxpayer-financed reconstruction projects in Iraq, you know, that $18.7 billion that was just passed by Congress.

Now, well, I'll let Bush explain it. Listen to him.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Taxpayers understand why it makes sense for countries that risk lives to participate in the contracts in Iraq. It's very simple. Our people risk their lives, coalition, friendly coalition folks risk their lives. And therefore, the contracting is going to reflect that. And that's what the U.S. taxpayers expect.


BARNES: On the other hand, France, Germany, and Russia opposed U.S. efforts at regime change in Iraq, going back to the Clinton administration. They wanted to undo the sanctions, economic sanctions against Iraq. And we know now, of course, that Saddam was going to go with a full- scale program to produce more weapons of mass destruction, that had happened, they tried to, they undermined the Bush administration before the war, during the war, now after the war at the Madrid conference. They offer no help for the reconstruction of Iraq.

Now they feel like they're being cheated. There is no justification for allowing those countries, not Canada, but France, Germany, and Russia, the right to bid on those contracts.

KONDRACKE: Look, yes ... but as you yourself have admitted ... in other occasions, the timing of this whole thing was, was a little bad.


KONDRACKE: And I think the framing of it was too. I mean, here is James Baker, just been sent out by Bush to go around Europe and try to get these countries to, to forgive Iraqi debt, and they're coming out and saying, You're, you're not going to get any contracts.

I mean, I think, and I think this is happening, that the administration is reframing this as an invitation instead of a rejection, that is to say, Come join us, and you can get in on the action too.

You can be sure, however, that France, our number one strategic adversary ...


KONDRACKE: ... in Europe, is not going to, is not going to help us out, and therefore, if I were James Baker, at the end of the conversation with Jacques Chirac, I would say, Jacques Chirac, shove it.

BARNES: Yes. Very good, Mort, you're on, you're on board too. All right.

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