This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, January 10, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Howard Dean's finding religion is the subject of this week's trail dust. After running a largely secular campaign, Howard Dean has vowed to inject more religion into his rhetoric, especially as the primaries move south in early February.

Here's Dean responding to criticism that his conversion smacks of political opportunism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE HOWARD DEAN: I have grown up in the Northeast my entire life. In the Northeast, we do not talk openly about religion. I've spent a lot of time in the South and I have a lot of friends from the South. In the South, people do integrate religion openly, easily, into their life, both black Southerners and white Southerners.

I understand that if I'm going to campaign for the presidency of the United States, I have to be comfortable in the milieu that other Americans are comfortable in, not just from my own region, for everywhere else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KONDRACKE: That is one of the stupidest, clunkiest statements I have ever heard from a politician. I mean it rivals, you remember, George Bush, senior, saying, Message, I care.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Yes, right.

KONDRACKE: I mean, it says, one, some of my best friends are Southerners. And two, just to show them, you know, how much I love them, I'm going to start talking their language and start spouting religion and demonstrating that I believe in Jesus Christ (search).

Now, you know, I don't know what he actually believes. But previously he had said that Southern politics should not be about God, guns, and gays, you know. Suddenly, now that he's going to go South, he's going to start talking about, about God. And Jesus and all that.

And it looks opportunistic, whether or not ... it is opportunistic. And I don't think it's going to get him anywhere in the South.

BARNES: Well, obviously it's opportunistic, and I don't think it's going to get him anywhere in the South either, because I don't think he really knows how to talk to Christian Evangelicals, who are a dominant force in the South for sure.

There was another dumb thing he said in an interview, I think with The Washington Post, or somewhere, when he was explaining how Christianity led him to sign that bill creating civil unions in, Vermont, actually it was after Vermont's Supreme Court had ordered him to do so.

Here's what he said, "The overwhelming evidence is that there is very significant, there is a very substantial component to it." I'll get through this. "From a religious point of view, if God thought homosexuality is a sin, He would not have created gay people."

I don't think that's exactly theologically sound. What God did was create human beings who He thought were sinful, by original sin, and yet they had the free will to choose how to live their lives, and whether they wanted to follow the path that was laid out in the Bible for them to come to heaven and have eternal life. Well, that was up to their own choice.

Now, the other part is, this appeal to Southerners that you were talking about, what he needs to do is, what Southern Evangelicals are looking for is someone to come on, as Bush has done and Jimmy Carter did, back in the late '70s, with a profession of faith, saying, I believe in Jesus Christ as my personal savior. That's not what he has done.

Now, I don't know what's really in his heart. He may believe exactly that. But what he's said so far is, Jesus was important as a role model and someone who laid out, that we should help the poor and so on, Jesus as a social worker.

I don't think that is going to appeal to Southerners in particular.

KONDRACKE: Yes, yes. I don't, well, yes, I don't think it is either, and certainly the idea of, what he said about gays is not going to appeal ... to Southern Evangelicals either, white or black.

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: But I, I do credit what he says about being a Northeasterner and not professing your religion in the same ... way that Southerners do ... and he has said...

BARNES: ... sure.

KONDRACKE: ... that he believes that Jesus was the Son of God. And, you know, and you more or less have to credit what he says.

Now, as to his theology, look, as you well know, Jesus said that, that the way you will be judged is the way you treat the least of these. Jesus never said anything about homosexuality at all, never said ... it was a sin ...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... that's Paul, that's Leviticus, you know...

BARNES: Yes, but, yes, but Mort, that's the Bible (search)...

KONDRACKE: OK...

BARNES: ... that's in the Bible...

KONDRACKE: Oh, OK, but, OK...

BARNES: ... which, which Christians ... believe is the word of God.

KONDRACKE: ... yes, OK, all right, but...

KONDRACKE: ... Jesus, Jesus was not ... Jesus was not a homophobe, right?

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: So, so it, for Howard Dean to say that he, you know, thinks that Jesus would have invited in and welcomed homosexuals and outcast groups I think is theologically entirely sound.

BARNES: Well, he welcomed all kinds of people, and he usually told them to repent, among other things.

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