This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", Sept. 11, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: And hot story number one is, is it over?

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: No. The answer is no.

BARNES: Obviously, obviously it's not. Well, wait a minute, I'm talking about the presidential race, and the answer is...

KONDRACKE: No.

BARNES: ... not yet, anyway. No, not yet, is the answer. And but, look, the truth is, President Bush, as we have ended Labor Day and going into the final couple months of the campaign, has a lead, he has a real lead. It's not a tie, this race. And Mort, I know more than anything else what will convince you is polls.

... you love polls...

KONDRACKE: I do love polls.

BARNES: ... OK. The latest Fox poll shows President Bush with a 4-point lead over John Kerry in a three-way race. That includes Ralph Nader (search). That's a 4-point post convention jump. The most recent CBS poll, you know, they usually lead Democratic, gives Bush a 7-
point jump in a three-way race. And an ABC-Washington Post poll gives Bush a 9-point bump. That's a 9-point lead.

And on the question of which candidate is the stronger leader, Bush beats Kerry by a whopping 16 points. That's a 7-point jump since the end of August. You know, polls can lie, but when they all say the same thing, Mort, it means, it means Bush has a lead that is, that matters.

And so he started off after Labor Day doing pretty well, and then things got better ... You had these documents that were handed to CBS that purported to show that Bush had been recalcitrant and a slacker and so on when he was, his National Guard service.

They turned out, in all likelihood, to have been forgeries that the media eagerly grabbed onto and didn't do. I mean, they were instantly seen as forgeries by people who looked at them, could see they weren't written on a typewriter, they were written on a computer, which didn't exist...

KONDRACKE: CBS does not yet...

BARNES: ... 30 years ago.

KONDRACKE: ... acknowledge that...

BARNES: Yes, I know, I know.

KONDRACKE: ... they were, they're forgeries.

BARNES: But, but you and I think they're probably ... more likely than not, far more likely than not, they're forgeries.

And then we have this Kitty Kelley book about the, about George Bush (search) with all these charges, the worst charge being that he snorted cocaine at Camp David ... when his father was president.

And the person who supposedly is accusing him of that in the book, Sharon Bush, who used to be married to George Bush's brother Neil, and is estranged from the Bush family, she says, I never said that, absolutely, it's not true, categorically. So, I mean, those happened on the same day. It was a good day for Bush, because it looked like it was going to be a bad day.

Now, I think Kerry has one issue. It's not the economy, it's not health care, it's Iraq. But the problem with, with Kerry is, he doesn't know how to argue it, because he's been on so many different positions on Iraq. You know, the New Republic says he's gone from his position on Iraq, he's gone from being inscrutable to indefensible.

And watch this, because this is his new reason for opposing the war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR JOHN KERRY, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The cost of the president's go-it-alone policy in Iraq is now $200 billion and counting. Two hundred billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford after-school programs for our children. Two hundred billion dollars for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford health care for our veterans. Two hundred billion dollars for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford to keep the 100,000 police officers we put on the streets during the 1990s.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNES: After-school programs...

KONDRACKE: Yes.

BARNES: ... did you get that?

KONDRACKE: Yes, I did.

BARNES: All right ...

KONDRACKE: Well, I mean, the obvious -- I'll get to this in a minute. But the obvious question is, if not $200 billion, how much would you spend...

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: ... Senator Kerry?

Anyway, the Fox News poll, actually there are little bits of good news in the Fox for Kerry...

BARNES: You really had to dig for these.

KONDRACKE: ... I did, I did, I dig, I dug and did my due diligence. It's Bush's approval rating is down to 49 percent. It was at 51 percent, I believe. Independents support Kerry by 4 points. And in the swing states, Kerry's ahead by 5 points.

However, you're right, both campaigns accept that there is a, that Bush has a 5-plus-point lead, and the Kerry response to this is to say, No more Mr. Nice Guy, as if there was any, any Mr. Nice Guy ever...

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: ... toward Bush in the campaign. So Kerry has declared that, that Bush's strategy in Iraq is a catastrophe, and he's adopted the Howard Dean line that this was the wrong war in the wrong, wrong place at the wrong time, even though he said that he would still have voted for the resolution.

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: Now, the big question that arises out of all of this is, Senator Kerry, what is your policy in Iraq? There was one point at which Kerry was saying that it was absolutely necessary for the United States to stay the course and prevail.

Now he's talking increasingly about pulling U.S. troops out. Sometimes he says that we're going to begin pulling them out in six months, sometimes we're going to pull them out, begin putting them up, pulling them out a year. But he says by the end of his first term, they will all be out.

Now, what message does this send to the Iraqis? The, both our enemies and our friends, I mean, it emboldens our adversaries, and it worries our friends.

Now, the other hot story is the Cheney flap. The, media went absolutely, and the Kerry campaign too, went absolutely bonkers this week over this Cheney sound bite on Tuesday. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2, we make the right choice. Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that, that we'll get hit again, that we'll be hit in a way that'll be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we'll fall back into the, the pre-9/11 mindset, if you will, that in fact, these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we're not really at war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KONDRACKE: And now watch John Edwards's response to that. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS, DEMOCRATIC VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This statement was calculated to divide us about an issue involving the safety and security of the American people from terrorism. It's un-American, is what it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KONDRACKE: Well, Cheney, Cheney came out on Tuesday in Cincinnati and, and clarified what he meant, and it was perfectly clear and perfectly legitimate...

BARNES: Yes, sure.

KONDRACKE: ... that he just thought that Bush would run a better war on terrorism than Kerry.

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: It's perfectly legitimate.

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: Now, you, you know that John Edwards used to be Mr. Sunshine...

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: ... Mr. Nice Guy...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... never said a bad thing about anybody, remember? Un-
American...

BARNES: Yes, I know.

KONDRACKE: ... as you yourself have pointed out...

BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: ... if, if, if Dick Cheney used the word about un-American about ... anybody, about Edwards or Kerry, the media would not only go bonkers, they would go Krakatoa.

BARNES: Yes, in, indeed they would. But Mort, I think you're wrong in calling this a Cheney flap. It's a Kerry tactic. You know, Cheney or Bush says something, they all, that's over the line, and then certain elements of the media write stories saying, Well, this could hurt Bush and Cheney among ... independent voters or something like that.

It is a Kerry tactic that the media willingly falls for, and it's not, I mean, there was really no flap there. Cheney didn't need to explain what he said. It was obvious. He said we'll fight a better war on terrorism than John Kerry would, that's all. Simple.

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