Ups and Downs for the Week of March 15 - 19

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", March 20, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: It's ups and downs time.

DOWN: Spanish Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero

Calling the U.S.-led in Iraq a, quote unquote, "disaster," Zapatero is standing by his pledge to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq if the U.N. doesn't take over in June.

And now he's calling on American voters to follow Spain's example. He said, "I said during the campaign, I hoped that Spain would be ahead of the Americans for once. First we win here, we change this government, and then the Americans will do it if things continue as they are in Kerry's favor."

Well, that endorsement was no favor to John Kerry. After all, Zapatero is Al Qaeda's hand-picked candidate to be the leader of Spain. And his endorsement follows the one from North Korea's benevolent dictator, Kim Jong Il (search), and the former prime minister of Malaysia, who's one of the world's most notorious anti-Semites.

So you, you had Rand Beers, this aide of Kerry's that you, that you quoted for later in effect saying, Please, no more, shut up, everybody.

BILL SAMMON, GUEST CO-HOST: And, you know, it's also, it's not a good thing for Bush either, let's face it, to have one of his most staunch allies, the former prime minister or the outgoing prime minister, minister, Jose Maria Aznar (search), to leave.

I remember a year ago this week, Bush went over to the Azores, that string of islands between the United States and Europe, and met with Aznar and Prime Minister Blair of Great Britain to talk about strategy right before the start of the war.

And Aznar pulled Bush aside and said, You know, I'm getting a lot of heat domestically from the Spanish population. In fact, his wife was running for office, said the same thing.

Bush said, Stand firm. People will respond to leadership. They did respond in the Spanish elections of 2003. Unfortunately, they didn't in 2004.

But I think it had something to do with the timing of the blasts and the way Aznar mishandled that, not so much a repudiation of Aznar for supporting Bush.

UP: Gas Prices

The cost of crude oil soared to a 13-year high this week, pushing a gallon of gas to nearly $1.70 nationwide and giving motorists as a severe case of sticker shock at the pump.

You know, Mort, if this gets up to $2 a gallon, which some people are predicting, this will be a sleeper political issue that will hurt President Bush (search) this election year.

Americans have a love affair with their automobiles, and, you know, when you start getting gas prices up towards $2 a gallon, this cuts across party lines, it cross cuts across socioeconomic lines. It is a visceral issue that's really going to hurt.

And the other thing is, oil prices, high oil prices have a drag on the economy. So much of our economy is based on the delivery of goods and services that it could actually put a damper on our two-year economic rather robust economic expansion. So that's not necessarily good for Bush.

KONDRACKE: Yes, absolutely. And OPEC (search) is having a meeting on April 1, and the advance word is that they are not going to increase oil production. That is, in effect, another foreign endorsement by the oil producers for, guess who, John Kerry.

UP: Mel Gibson

After just two and a half weeks, his movie "The Passion of the Christ" (search) has already earned a spot among the top-grossing domestic films of all time, and Gibson, who owns the film, stands to make several hundred million dollars.

Well, I saw this movie, and I think it's very powerful, and I think it's not fundamentally anti-Semitic, although there are definitely things that Gibson could have done to make that point that Jesus was a Jew and that all Jews weren't responsible for his death. But fundamentally, the Romans come off much worse than the Jews do in this movie.

But I was fundamentally disappointed with the movie because it was so violence-obsessed that you got no sense of who Jesus was, why he got killed, or anything about his message of redemption and love for the world.

So, you know, he deserves his money, I mean, he risked it and all that. I just hope that as a devout Christian that he gives some of it to charity.

SAMMON: As if there wasn't enough controversy, Mel Gibson (search) waded into the political fray this week. Look, take a listen to what he said about George W. Bush in war in Iraq, "I think a lot of what he does is good. I've been having my doubts as of late. And it's all to do with these weapons that we can't seem to find and, like, why did we go over there?"

Like, what about the mass graves, Mel? You know, the bottom line is, I think the spat with Bush is being overblown. I think generally Mel Gibson supports Bush. I was over at the White House when Mel Gibson came over to screen one of his previous movies. He was a ... very big supporter of Bush.

And the bottom line is, I think a lot of people have reservations, even Republicans, about the WMD rationale for the war but are still going to support the president this November.

KONDRACKE: Yes, you know, I was talking to Deal Hudson, who is a conservative Catholic, and very much an ally of Karl Rove in the White House.

Now, his take on the political effect of this movie is that it slices right down the center between the red and the blue, and he thinks that it is going to unify evangelical Protestants and Catholics around the notion, Hey, something that we like can, big success in America against the almost universal opposition of the media, especially The New York Times.

Therefore, it's going to solidify them around, you know, around George Bush. We will see.

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