Ups and Downs for the Week of January 26 - 30

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, January 31, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: It's time to get to this week's ups and downs.

DOWN: CIA Director George Tenet

The heat's on Tenet and the intelligence community after David Kay (search) confirmed there are no huge stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (search) in Iraq. But President Bush stands by his decision to go to war and the intelligence that backed it up. Here's Bush Tuesday.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, I got great confidence in our intelligence community. These are unbelievably hard- working, dedicated people who are doing a great job for America. And secondly, there is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a grave and gathering threat to America and the world. There's just no doubt in my mind.


MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, I hope all that great confidence stuff was for public consumption, and that he's really planning massive reforms. I talked to Jane Harmon, the ranking Democrat on this House Intelligence Committee, and what she says is that there ought to be a reorganization of the intelligence community the way there was in the Pentagon in the 1980s.

And a cabinet-level officer in charge of all 13 intelligence agencies. There are eight intelligence agencies that the CIA director has no direct charge on it.

But meanwhile, David Kay said, and a lot of people are calling for an independent investigation of what went wrong here, that ought to go into effect. Bush ought to welcome it, instead of stonewalling it the way he's doing. And he's also stonewalling the 9/11 commission.


KONDRACKE: You know, he looks like...

BARNES: Yes, yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... he's got something to hide. And why should he ... do that?

BARNES: Yes, well, it's not stonewalling. He's not cooperating with this idea...

KONDRACKE: Not cooperating, right.

BARNES: ... of another independent commission. He's given, you know, millions of pages of documents to the 9/11 commission, which needs to be extended a little, and it will have more time...

KONDRACKE: But he's ...

BARNES: ... Well, it'll, look, they're going to have one anyway, and it will come to some conclusions, which I think will blame anybody involved in the intelligence community, which he was, and President Clinton was before 9/11.

That changed everything. Nobody fought terrorism effectively before 9/11. By the way, David Kay also said that Iraq, even without huge stockpiles of WMD, was a worse threat than he imagined, and the world is safer and the U.S. safer since Saddam is gone.

I agree with you, the CIA needs to be totally overhauled. There are horrible factions there that leak against each other. George Tenet is not in control. We need somebody there who grabs control fully of the CIA. Forget about those other intelligence agencies for now. Let's just get a grip on the CIA.

UP: British Prime Minister Tony Blair

KONDRACKE: Blair and his government were officially cleared this week of sexing up a dossier containing intelligence against Iraq.

BARNES: Well, you know, the thing is ... that the BBC really took a fall here. The Hutton report was designed to -- was expected to, Lord Hutton's report, to say, Well, it's partly the Blair administration that's at fault, it's partly the BBC.

Au contraire. Hutton said it's all the BBC's fault. And I think there's some hope now that the BBC can be overhauled, because it's been wildly anti-American, wildly anti-Iraq war, wildly anti-Bush, anti-Blair.

It is the most important news organization in the entire world. But it's been influenced by lefties. There is some chance now that it can be changed completely and wind up being fair and balanced.

KONDRACKE: How much of a chance would you give it, about that much?

BARNES: Something like that, yes.

KONDRACKE: Not, not much. Look, all I can say about the Hutton report is, thank God ... that Tony Blair, who was our one staunch ally in Europe, survived this whole thing. Now, there's another lesson of the Hutton commission report, and it's a lesson for President Bush.

Tony Blair agreed to this independent outside investigation when he got into trouble. Absolutely, George Bush should agree to a Hutton-style commission for WMD in the United States.

BARNES: Mort, you're getting a little obsessive here. But I'm used to it. OK.

UP: Medicare -- Specifically What's Up -- Its Cost

The new Medicare (search) overhaul bill enacted just last month will cost one-third more than previously estimated. The Bush administration originally said the cost would be $400 billion, but on Thursday revised that number upward to $540 billion. I got a feeling it's going to go higher.

KONDRACKE: Well, both conservative Republicans, your pals, and the Democrats are...

BARNES: Your pals.

KONDRACKE: ... furious about these, these ... these new findings ... the conservative Republicans because they don't like the money, they don't like government spending, and the, the Democrats, because seniors do not get any benefit out of this bill until 2006.

But in the meantime, like, right away, HMOs get money, Fortune 500 companies get money to keep their retirees on welfare and on, I mean, on Medicare ... on health care, and...


KONDRACKE: ... and the drug companies get benefited too. Now, in 2005, what is going ... to happen? After the election's going to happen ... a bold Republican Congress and President Bush are going to whack the daylights out of the Medicare system. They're going to ... they're going to cut back on doctors, on hospitals ... and they're going to try to privatize the system Gingrich-style ... and seniors are going to suffer from it.

BARNES: Yes, Mort, I don't think seniors are going to suffer. I hope and pray for that, what you're predicting for 2005. I don't expect it.

You were wrong about conservative Republicans. They don't oppose spending. They oppose excessive and unnecessary spending, which we see on this Medicare bill.

Most seniors, you've heard me say this many times, do not need a prescription drug benefit. Why not, when the budget is already so large for now, just have it means-tested so only those who need it, the poor, who truly cannot afford prescription drugs, and they're not, and that's a probably less than 25 percent of seniors, just apply it to them? Why not do that? Why have this extravagant ... universal ...

KONDRACKE: ... I would, I would, I would...

BARNES: ... system that's not necessary?

KONDRACKE: ... I would favor that, but I oppose cutting doctors, hospitals, and other providers, because they, they are providing care to other people. And, and I agree with ...

BARNES: ... save doctors ... and all those people, all right.

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