This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", March 27, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Time for this week's ups and downs.

DOWN: Medicare

A new report shows Medicare's trust fund will be out of money by 2019, seven years sooner than predicted last year. The Medicare (search) Trustees Report partly blames the prescription drug bill President Bush (search) signed into law last year, and, of course, Democrats pounced. Here's Democratic minority leader Tom Daschle.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: It is the height of hypocrisy for the administration to claim to be worried about what happens in 2019 when they are so willing to abuse the trust funds in the year 2004. I mean, keep in mind, they are the ones that have depleted the Medicare and the Social Security trust funds.


BARNES: Well, that's what Democrats did for 40 years when they controlled Congress. But that was an incredibly cynical statement. If Democrats had had their way, I would call it may be the height of cynicism, if Democrats had had their way, it would have been an even bigger Medicare bill, which would have spent more money and would have depleted the trust fund even more than they did, they have because of the Bush bill.

Now, if Democrats and Republicans ... they're both going to express concern about Medicare running out of money. If they were really concerned about it, they would do something about it. They would, for instance, roll back some of the Medicare bill passed last year and limit the prescription drug benefit to seniors who really need it, who can't afford drugs. Most seniors can. They have insurance and so on

But will that happen? Don't hold your breath.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, you know, I think next year Medicare is actually going to be revisited, but in the wrong way.

BARNES: ... bigger.

KONDRACKE: I think, well, no, no. I think, I think they should do what you recommend doing, but instead what they're going to do is cut back on the payout to providers like doctors, hospitals, and HMOs, and make it harder for them to serve this population.

Now, what, you know, what I find really maddening is that neither Bush nor Kerry has addressed the key Democratic or, I mean, domestic problem...


KONDRACKE: ... of our time, which is the ... how to, how to pay for the retirement of the baby boom generation.


KONDRACKE: You don't hear either one of them talking about it.

BARNES: Yes, yes, you meant demographic.


BARNES: It's a hard one.


BARNES: Demographic, yes.

UP: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

KONDRACKE: Despite worldwide criticism, Sharon continues to stand by his country's assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (search) earlier this week. Now...

BARNES: I don't want to hear you pronounce that again.

KONDRACKE: Ahmed, yes.

BARNES: Yes, very good.

KONDRACKE: OK. Now, look, to listen to the world press and people at the U.N., you would think that Yassin was some combination of Desmond Tutu (search) and Nelson Mandela (search)... you know, a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: This is a guy whose people send 14-year-old children ... out to blow up Israeli children. You know, he deserves to be dead.

BARNES: But Mort, you just don't understand. He's a moderate, he's a moderate terrorist, you know, now we're told, and in stories of hard- liners are taking over Hamas (search). All right.

UP: Pro-life Movement

Due in part to the high-profile Laci Peterson (search) case, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (search) is on its way to the president's desk. Critics say the measure defines the start of human life in a way that could undermine abortion rights. I doubt that.

But what it does, it says if you kill a pregnant woman like Laci Peterson and her unborn child dies, you're charged as, in fact her husband was, with two crimes.

What, and getting this passed is another achievement in the incremental plan by the pro-life movement. They've done really a partial birth abortion passed and another bill as well. The problem is that it's - - these don't affect many abortions. It's the courts that are allowing abortion on demand, and that doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon.

KONDRACKE: Well... this is going to be back in court, because there is a definition in this bill which says...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... that any fetus is a human life deserving of protection. Now, it exempts abortion specifically...

BARNES: Yes, sure.

KONDRACKE: ... but, but squaring that up with the Supreme Court's decision on abortion is going to be difficult to do. So there's going to be a problem.

DOWN: National Public Radio

They unceremoniously dumped their signature radio personality, Bob Edwards, this week. He's the long-time host of "Morning Edition." Well, there was an empty suit there named Ken Stern who said that this was part of a "natural evolution," quote unquote, to meet the changing needs of our listeners, whatever that means.



KONDRACKE: Look, this guy had the power, he didn't like Bob Edwards...

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... so he fired him ... You know what I say...

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... suit, fire thyself ... Or better yet ...


KONDRACKE: ... NPR listeners...

BARNES: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... rise up and call for his resignation.

BARNES: Yes, you know, next to Mara Liasson, my favorite person on NPR is Bob Edwards' great show. And the, you know what the word that comes to my mind would happen here? Envy.

You have some guy who's not on the air, some producer nobody's ever heard of, and he can, and Bob Edwards is nationally known and popular, but this guy can show them who the boss really is, right?


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