Hot Stories for the Week of April 12 - 16

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", April 17, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: And the hot story is stay the course, in Iraq, of course. And Mort, I don't think, I can't think of another example of a president who's been more emphatic and more relentless than Bush has in stating his position on Iraq as he did in his press conference on Tuesday and in his meeting on Friday with Tony Blair, the British prime minister.

He's not backing down, he's not flinching, he's going to stick with his plans for the turnover on June 30 to Iraqis, the turnover of sovereignty. He's going to actually add troops. He's not going to succumb to any of the people who are fighting, the few people who are fighting American soldiers over there.

And here's what he said, here's what he said, additionally on Friday at that photo opportunity with Tony Blair.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we're seeing in Iraq is an attempted power grab by extremists and terrorists. They will fail. The extremists will fail because our coalition will not allow Iraq's future to be stolen by a violent few. They will also fail because they are not widely supported by the Iraqi people, who have no desire to trade one tyrant for another.


BARNES: You know, Mort, not only will they fail, but they are failing. Now, where is that broad-based uprising against the U.S. in Iraq that the press was proclaiming last week? Hasn't happened.

And where is this Sunni-Shi'a group joining together to fight the U.S.? Hasn't happened.

And where are all these anti-U.S. fighters that were going to rush to Fallujah (search) to join in the revolt against the U.S. occupation there? Hasn't happened.

In truth, we have people like this radical Muslim cleric Muqtada al- Sadr (search) who called for an uprising. And what's happened? He is completely isolated now in Najaf.

He's been ostracized by the other, some of them pro-American, Muslim clerics. His Mahdi army has practically disintegrated. And he's really not a factor any more, though he gets a lot of press attention.

And in Fallujah, it's the same old people there, it's the terrorists, it's the Ba'athists who are gradually being killed by the U.S. Marines, who at some point are going to have to go in and take the whole city. You're not going to be able to negotiate that away.

Now, listen to this other bite from the Blair. Listen to Blair in this bite at the end of their session on Friday, and particularly pay attention to this little thing from Bush right at the end.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: To me,this is a cause that any person of good will and good heart should be able to support.

BUSH: Good job, prime minister. Thank you, sir. Well done.


MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: You know, I want somebody sometime to ask John Kerry, why is it, do you suppose, that Tony Blair, Bill Clinton's good friend and the leader of the Labour Party, not the Conservative Party, the leader of the Labour Party, is such a strong ally through thick and thin of George Bush.

Is he crazy? Did he get buffaloed by Dick Cheney? Do you really think, that Jacques Chirac (search) is smarter than Tony Blair? I don't think so, is the answer to any of those questions.

BARNES: I like that question.

KONDRACKE: Right. I mean, Bush was plenty resolute and earnest in his speech on Tuesday night. But Tony Blair has a way of explaining strategy to everybody that's much clearer than, than Bush was.

The strategy is, one, stand firm. Two, turn over power to the Iraqis. Three, rebuild the Iraqi security forces. Four, reconstruct the country. And five, have a controlling, I mean, not a controlling but a central role for the United Nations. That's the strategy.

BARNES: Yes, right.

KONDRACKE: And, you know, it just helps when you spell it out one, two, three, which Bush didn't do.

BARNES: Yes, one, two, three, four, five.


But now the other hot story is lots of blame, and that's, that's out of the 9/11 commission (search). Now, I know you completely disagree with me on this. But, but I think that it was very useful to have these hearings held in public.

I think it was a great education for loads of people. And I'm glad it was done. I mean, I'm not sure that I agree that all these commissioners should have been on television all the time afterwards, but having the hearings in public was great. And here's Tom Kean (search) explaining why he thinks so.


TOM KEAN (R), CHAIRMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION: One of the reasons that our commissioners have been encouraged, actually, to go on shows and to talk about our work is so that we can bring the public along. Previous commissions have done their work often in quiet and secret or what have you and then have issued a report. The report's often been in the newspapers for about a week, then it's disappeared, then it ends up on a shelf, and if you want to find it, you go to a library somewhere.


KONDRACKE: Now, from these hearings, the public now knows in a way that it wouldn't from a written report that, in fact, nobody did enough pre-9/11, not Bill Clinton, not George Bush, not the CIA, not the FBI, not the Justice Department under either Clinton or Bush.

But the real bottom line here, after all is said and done, is that, you know, even after the Richard Clarke (search) versus Condi Rice (search), and after the publication of presidential daily brief from August 6, and all that stuff, is that there's absolutely no way that President Bush had the information that it would have taken to prevent the airplanes from going into buildings on 9/11. That's it.

And as to the long term, I mean, Bush is going to get judged not on what he did pre-9/11 by the public, but on, on what he did after 9/11. And on that score, he stands strong.

And, you know, there are various commentators have said that the hearings mean that Bush could no longer use 9/11 images in his ads on campaign ads...


KONDRACKE: ... well, he's going to use them, and I've talked to people in the campaign, and they're, you know, they're all set to use them in a discreet way.

And there's one other benefit from having these...


KONDRACKE: ... hearings in public, and that is that there is a lot of steam now behind reauthorizating the USA PATRIOT Act (search), and also maybe even strengthening it.

BARNES: Well, look, Mort, I don't think you could name for me a single Democrat or liberal who has been a critic of the PATRIOT Act, including some of those who actually voted for it, a critic who now says, I'm for renewing the PATRIOT Act. I haven't heard anybody step forward and say that and say ... yes, the ...

KONDRACKE: They're keeping quiet.

BARNES: ... 9/11 commission convinced me of that. But here's my broader problem, aside from the one of Jamie Gorelick (search) and conflict of interest, which we'll get to later. In the first place, I think Chairman Kean and others allowed this, allowed the hearings to turn into show trials, very partisan show trials, mainly aimed at zinging Bush, not Bill Clinton, not the others who I think bore as much blame, if blame is to be assessed, because nobody, I agree with you, nobody did enough. That's why we had 9/11.

And secondly, Kean notwithstanding, the fact is, all the members of the commission went on TV because they're press hounds. They wanted to be on. I sat in front of a bank of cameras one evening. Three of them were on TV at the same time, and a fourth one was in the Fox green room.

I mean, look, they want their report and recommendations to be taken as authoritative. It is not going to be taken as authoritative. It's going to be up on that shelf that Kean talked about.

KONDRACKE: Depends on what it says.

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