Ups and Downs for the Week of February 2 - 6

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", February 7, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: It's time for this week's ups and downs. And Fred, no wardrobe malfunctions. I know you weren't watching at halftime, but you've heard about it.


DOWN: President Bush

This week's poll numbers are giving Republicans pause. The Gallup poll has Bush's job approval rating at 49 percent, lowest of his presidency, down 11 points since January. The new Fox poll has the job approval at 53 percent, that's down 4 points since January.

And the Gallup result also shows President Bush losing to John Kerry if the election was held today. Kerry beats him by 7 points. Bush beats Kerry in the Fox poll, but only by 4 points.



BARNES: The -- that was early January. Look, remember what Bill Bennett said about Washington? He said, in Washington, if you're not on offense, you're on defense. And Bush has been on defense. He's desperately trying to get on offense.

And one of the things, given that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, and that is certainly an embarrassment for the administration, he has now named a commission, or acceded to a commission, presidential commission, that will look into the whole problem with intelligence operations.

Here's what the president said about it on Friday.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And now, as we move forward in our efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, we must stay ahead of constantly changing intelligence challenges. The stakes for our country could not be higher. And our standard of intelligence-gathering and analysis must be equal to that of the challenge.


BARNES: Well, that wasn't the most rousing announcement I've ever heard, I'll have to say that. But, but the truth is, all presidents seeking reelection go through a slump, a down phase, at the end -- around the end of their third year, or some time like that.

Normally, this -- they will pull out of it with a rousing State of the Union address. Bill Clinton did in 1996...

KONDRACKE: Bush did not.

BARNES: ... a Bush did not this year, it was sort of a flat State of the Union address. So he's trying to do other things. He's going to be on "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

I think what he's got to do is change the agenda, change what everybody's talking about and get it back to the war on terrorism, and then have his campaign and others begin to define Kerry down.

KONDRACKE: Well, the Bush campaign is going to unleash an avalanche on John Kerry on his national security record and make him out to be a Massachusetts liberal, which, of course, he is.

But, look, Bush, if you look at the Fox poll and the other polls, the number one concern of Americans is jobs and the economy. And Bush has got, is still 2.4 million jobs down during his presidency, and only 112 were created in the last month.

This is a weak job recovery.

Also, he's...

BARNES: So far.

KONDRACKE: So far. He's got the deficit to answer for, $521 billion, which is partly, at least, due to his tax cuts, which are ... increasingly unpopular, and he's trying to balance this and please his conservative constituents by slashing programs, domestic discretionary programs, which are basically of, you know, help the poor.


KONDRACKE: Now, there's one other thing. The polls also show ... well, the polls also show ... that tied with terrorism at the moment, is health care as an issue ... and there, John Kerry is way ahead of George Bush.

BARNES: OK, have you cleaned out the cupboard?

KONDRACKE: ... absolutely.

BARNES: ... it's empty ...

KONDRACKE: It's all true, all...

BARNES: All right. Can I move on? All right.

KONDRACKE: ... I haven't said one false thing.

BARNES: All right.

UP: Gay Marriage

The Massachusetts Supreme Court (search) rules that gay couples are entitled to nothing less than marriage, not just civil unions, setting the stage for the nation's first legally sanctioned same-day weddings by this spring.

KONDRACKE: Same-sex weddings, not same-day.

BARNES: What did I say?

KONDRACKE: You said same-day weddings.

BARNES: Well ... OK.

KONDRACKE: Most weddings are same-day.

BARNES: Same-day, same-sex weddings.

KONDRACKE: OK, now look ... Now, your pals the Christian conservatives are ... after Bush to favor a, a constitutional amendment ... in order to ban gay marriage.

BARNES: Same day, same sex.


BARNES: Yes, all right.

KONDRACKE: Bush, Bush, to his credit ... is resisting this, and there's no reason why he should back this constitutional amendment. The, unless the Supreme Court declares otherwise, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (search), signed by Bill Clinton ... will keep confined -- gay marriage to Massachusetts ...


KONDRACKE: ... same-day marriage too.

BARNES: Yes, right.

KONDRACKE: And, you know, a Supreme Court ruling would not come for years ... So Bush doesn't have to do this.

BARNES: No, I don't think he does either. The Defense of Marriage Act should carry.

Now, John Kerry has a problem on this issue. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act. Now he says his position is the same as Vice President Cheney's. But it's, in other words, leave it to the states.

But the only way to leave it to the states to decide is through the Defense of Marriage Act ... they can either, either honor these same- sex marriages in, in Massachusetts, or reject them.

So Kerry's got a problem on this.



Forget blaming MTV or CBS or Janet Jackson or Justin Timberlake. The buck stops with the NFL itself for last Sunday's halftime fiasco. You know what I'm referring to, of course.

BARNES: Oh, I think I do, yes. Normally, after a Super Bowl, we watch these replays of the top plays by the football players that were the turning points in the game. This time, we're watching, as we're watching right now, a replay of the halftime show. I mean, this is ridiculous.

But I understand the NFL is really concerned about this and is decided next year, they've already scheduled the Mormon Tabernacle Choi r... to perform at halftime.

KONDRACKE: Not the Beach Boys or the Four Freshmen.

BARNES: No, no.


BARNES: No, no. Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

KONDRACKE: Right. Well, the, look, the NFL knew perfectly well that it was going to be ... this was going to be edgy and raunchy when they picked MTV to do the halftime show. I mean, any fool knows what goes on in MTV.

Now, they also watched the rehearsals. And who did they have on, you know, Nelly, grabbing his crotch ... and that low-life P. Diddy or Combs or Puff Daddy Combs or whatever he calls himself.

But the one good outcome of this is that grownups of society are saying, Enough already on national, on national television.


KONDRACKE: And this is likely to lead to a strengthening...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... of FCC (search) sanctions against stations that, that go with raunch.

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