Trail Dust: It's The Economy, Again?

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," February 21, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: The economy and jobs are in the political forefront, and the subject of this week's trail dust. Last week, the Bush administration predicted some 2.6 million jobs would be created this year. This week, they don't seem so sure. Treasury Secretary John Snow started the apparent retreat on the numbers, saying, "I think we're going to create lots of jobs, but I don't know how many. We're going to keep working on it."

Democrats, and the press, of course, jumped on the issue, but the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan, says that the president is focused on creating jobs, not making predictions. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is the annual economic report of the president, and the economic modeling is done this way every year. It's been done this way for 20-some years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then why not...

MCCLELLAN: But -- well...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... why aren't you standing behind it?

MCCLELLAN: No, see, I think, I think what the president stands behind is the policies that he is implementing, the policies that he is advocating ... that's where, that's what's important.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: I ask you, Mort, how lame was that? Very lame, wouldn't you say?

Look, the truth is, I don't understand why the, the Bush folks are so queasy about this 2.6 million prediction. It is not that stupendous an achievement if it happens. I think it's probable, not just possible but probable.

And then all this talk about Democrats, how, about how tax policy and treaties, trade treaties, are driving the jobs overseas is largely nonsense. In fact, I think in the last 20 years, 2 million jobs have gone overseas.

But the truth is, we've gotten more and better jobs from overseas coming to the United States than those that have gone abroad. You know, I mean, the entire world pharmaceutical industry is coming to the United States. Siemens (search), the big German electric company, 60,000 jobs here. You see all these Japanese and European auto companies opening plants in the United States. We're winning.

KONDRACKE: Yes. But look, but the net fact is that the net job picture on Bush's watch is still 2.2 million jobs down ...

BARNES: And he's got a lot of months to go.

KONDRACKE: Well, OK, but it's, but it hasn't started yet. In earnest.

Now, and you look at it politically, in the latest Fox poll, when asked how the economy feels to you and your family, 41 percent say that they think it's getting worse, and 30, only 36 percent say it's getting better, when it should be different from that, based on the numbers.

And when asked who would do a better job managing the economy, 47 percent think John Kerry would, and only, yes, compared to Bush.

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: I think that the Democrats have a lot wrong with what, what they're proposing, raising taxes on small business ... is not going to ... improve it. Protectionism is not going to improve it. Keeping companies trapped in the United States is, may discourage other companies, as you say...

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: ... from moving into this country. But Bush has got to start explaining what ... he's doing, and what's wrong with the Democratic policy ...

BARNES: And or at least explain it better. OK.

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