Hot Stories for the Week of April 5 - 9

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", April 10, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: And the hot story, number one, anyway, is showdown. A showdown, Mort, that was inevitable and will benefit Americans, Iraqis, and facilitate a peaceful handover of sovereignty from America to the Iraqis on June 30.

Now, obviously the showdown comes in two parts, one against the Mahdi army of that fringe Muslim cleric...


BARNES: ... al-Sadr, and he made a huge mistake. He should have waited until after the handover to provoke his Mahdi army to be attacking Americans and so on.

But he did it now when the American troops are free to respond, and his army will be destroyed, and he'll be out of the way. That'll be fine. If he waited until after the turnover, it might have been hard for an interim Iraqi government with sovereignty to send American troops in. Anyway, he blew it.

Secondly are all those Ba'athists and terrorists that are in Fallujah (search). Now, obviously Fallujah was going to have to be cleaned out at some time before the handover, but they provoked it by killing ... mutilating the bodies of those four Americans, and the Marines were there, and they will take Fallujah within a couple weeks.

Now, you would never know it from the coverage back here, from what various people are saying, particularly critics of the war, but and, and even the American people don't seem to have caught on fully to what's going on there, but they'll understand in a few weeks. But look at the polls now and you'll see that they really haven't quite gotten it yet.


BARNES: With both poll, there's the one that shows that who's doing a better job on terrorism, Bush is way ahead of Kerry on that one, 51 to 33. But then there's been some erosion in the percentage of Americans who think that the Iraq war was the right or the wrong thing to do, only 50 percent now say it's right.

But John Kerry has been, I think, willfully mischaracterizing what the Bush policy is there and whether other allies could come in and help out, but at least he hasn't said it's Bush's Vietnam. Listen to Kerry.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This administration has stubbornly refused to involve other countries in the real decision- making, in the sharing of power and authority, and therefore, they're unwilling to share the risk and the burden. And can you blame them?

This has been a failure of diplomacy, a failure of foreign policy, a failure of creative leadership in the foreign arena.


KONDRACKE: Now, Kerry stipulates, now, we, I want us to prevail.


KONDRACKE: But, but during this moment of high casualties, he is nonetheless trying to make political hay out of what's going on, you know, in a more subtle way than some of his colleagues.

Now, last week, in the first part of the week, he asked, Well, who are we going to hand over power to on, on June 30? And then he said we're not getting help from other countries. Well, the answer is, in fact, that what we are trying to do is get the United Nations to help set up whatever kind of a follow-on regime there is.

So we are cooperating...


KONDRACKE: ... with other countries. And if John Kerry is so bloody interested in getting other countries involved, why didn't he call on Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder, his pals ... and this new guy, Zapatero ... in Spain, and tell them...


KONDRACKE: ... to join the coalition? I mean ... if they're all ...

BARNES: He says all, he knows all these foreign leaders, he's talked to them, they're for him.

KONDRACKE: Well, and also, if he becomes president of the United States...


KONDRACKE: ... he's going to need them. So why not get them in the early going?

OK. The other, the other hot story is Condi wars. So the big moment came, and Condi was, as expected, poised and confident and calm and cool. I would say Secretary of State material. She did not return the favor to her former aide, Richard Clarke (search), who stabbed her in the back, you know, in his previous testimony.

And I thought she was diplomatic about saying what is the plain truth, that neither the Bush administration nor the Clinton administration did anywhere near enough to prepare to fight a war on terrorism fought on American soil.

Here's what Condi Rice said.


CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think the question is, why, over all of these years, did we not address the structural problems that were there with the FBI, with the CIA, the homeland departments being scattered among many different departments...


KONDRACKE: Well, the answer, of course, is that it took a catastrophic event like 9/11 to change the culture and change the government.

Can you just imagine what people would have said if John Ashcroft had come forward in, say, March of 2001 and said, Hey, what we need is a domestic intelligence agency...


KONDRACKE: ... to spy on Americans? And what we need is a PATRIOT Act (search), you know. People would have said, Why, he wants to read our library books! Which is exactly what they're, what they're saying anyway.


KONDRACKE: Now, John Kerry, to his credit, has not tried to blame 9/11 on President Bush. But there are other Democratic groups, like the supposedly nonpartisan Center for American Progress and Americans Coming Together that, that are sending out loads of e-mails, basically accusing Bush of culpability.

In fact, what the co-chairman of the, of the 9/11 commission, Lee Hamilton, said was that it would taken -- a huge amounts of luck in order to prevent 9/11.

BARNES: What was that litany again you had for Condi Rice? You had, let's see, cool, calm, persuasive. I, I think you kind of like Condi Rice. She is a very good national security adviser.

Now, obviously some of the critics of the Bush administration on the 9/11 commission tried to crack her, the leading one, of course, was Richard Ben-Veniste, who treated this not as a fact-finding commission but as a grand jury prosecutorial procedure. Now, if you try to buffalo somebody, you better succeed, because if you don't, you look bad, and he looked bad because he didn't succeed.

And it wound up with all these critics, their bottom line seemed to be, you didn't have enough meetings. You didn't have enough meetings. I thought that was pretty lame. And so Condi won, they lost, simple as that.

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