Hot Stories for the Week of September 13 - 17

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", Sept. 18, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Hot story number one, panic time. And Mort, obviously it's panic time for John Kerry. And first, what's causing this panic time? Notice these polls, Mort, take a look at them.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: You love them, huh?

BARNES: I do love them. Well, not the Pew poll as much. But the Pew poll does show that the race is in a statistical dead heat, while a Gallup poll, and Gallup has the credibility, shows Bush with a 13-point lead. But there's a rolling average that's done by that shows a 5-point race with Bush in the lead. In any case, Bush is ahead.

Then there's John Zogby (search), you know, the pollster who, who says now that he has a 10-point lead for Bush in Ohio, a critical state. And he says it's not even a battleground state any more. He's given it to Bush. That's number two.

And number three, is it the press that is causing the problem for John Kerry? Well, a recent study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that 62 percent of network news stories were positive for Kerry compared to 41 percent for Bush. And, of course, the guy who did this study, Bob Lichter, he's been doing these back since 1998, he says no candidate has ever, presidential candidate, has ever gotten better press on the networks than John Kerry has this year.

Now, what is this causing the Kerry campaign, among other things? Well, you have a shakeup of this staff. That's usually not a sign that you're in the lead. You have these conspiracy theories going all around among Democrats who know they think Karl Rove (search) is...


BARNES: Well, you know they do, though. They think he's dreaming, he's conspiring these clever things that...

KONDRACKE: They don't really believe that.

BARNES: I think some of them do believe that about Karl Rove. I mean, you went to see that movie, even made some documentary about the Karl Rove dirty tricks and conspiracies.

And then here's the most telling thing, and you've experienced the same thing I have in this. You go out and you talk, outside Washington, talk to Democratic voters, they don't like George Bush. But they don't like John Kerry much either, and they spend a lot of time talking about him. That's amazing to find that.

KONDRACKE: Well, the CBS flap, National Guard flap, is not helping Kerry either...

we will get, we will get to, to Dazzling Dan in a minute. But the Democratic line on the shakeup in the...

BARNES: Yes ...

KONDRACKE: ... Kerry campaign is that this is just the natural ingathering of the professionals... at the end of a campaign. But it is...

BARNES: Do you believe that?

KONDRACKE: I'm about to say.


KONDRACKE: The, you can safely bet that this would not be happening, or at least with as much Sturm und Drang...


KONDRACKE: ... as it is happening if Kerry were in the lead. Now, our take, in fact, is that there are certain people who are in, like Bill Clinton. He's, he's the sponsor of all this new gang.


KONDRACKE: Out, Teddy Kennedy (search). He was the sponsor of the old gang. In, former Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart, and out, Kerry communications director Stephanie Cutter. She's still around...

BARNES: Yes ...

KONDRACKE: ... but, but her role is reduced.


KONDRACKE: In, another Clinton spokesman, Mike McCurry, and out, although he's still hanging around Democratic strategist Bob Shrum.

Now, what the Democrats are saying is that contrary, what they've discovered, finally, and Clinton advised Kerry, is that in spite of what people say in focus groups about negative advertising, in fact, attacks work.

BARNES: Yes ...

KONDRACKE: ... And, and...

BARNES: Mort, you know what? I knew that.


BARNES: So did you.

KONDRACKE: ... OK, so now Kerry is now on the attack, and he's mainly on the attack on the subject of Iraq...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... which is the subject of the, of our, hot, second hot story of the day, which is Iraq is a hard place.


KONDRACKE: Here, watch, watch John Kerry.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: His own intelligence officials have warned him for weeks that the mission in Iraq is in serious trouble. I believe you deserve a president who isn't going to gild that truth our gild our national security with politics, who is not going to ignore his own intelligence, who isn't going to live in a different world of spin, who will give the American people the truth.


KONDRACKE: Now, this kind of stuff...ought to be working, ought to be working...


KONDRACKE: ... for, for Kerry...


KONDRACKE: ... for a number of reasons. One, U.S. casualties are up. Two, the insurgents in Iraq control about a half-dozen, more than, a couple of dozen, actually... little cities and big, and bigger towns.


KONDRACKE: Three, there's this intelligence report that's...very gloomy about the future in Iraq. Four, the Financial Times reports that the U.S. military is saying that it can't guarantee security even in the green zone...

BARNES: I don't believe that.

KONDRACKE: ... in the middle of Baghdad...OK, but it's true...

BARNES: I know ...

KONDRACKE: ... what they said. Fifth, or fourth, or whatever it is, Bush's approval rating...


KONDRACKE: ... on Iraq...


KONDRACKE: ... is only 47 percent, as we'll see on a graphic here, I think. However, in spite of this, when you ask people in the Pew poll, Who do you trust to finish out the job in Iraq, Bush leads 52 to 40. Why is that? Watch this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, during the course of this campaign, the fellow I'm running against has probably about eight positions on Iraq, for the war but wouldn't provide the funding, then he was the antiwar candidate, then he said, knowing everything we know today, I'd have done, did the same thing, then he said, well, we're spending too much money, that's after he said we weren't spending enough money.


KONDRACKE: So advice to Joe Lockhart...


KONDRACKE: ... get your candidate to say what he thinks about Iraq, if he could figure that out.

BARNES: Yes, if he can figure it out. I mean, that's why, I mean, there was a brilliant column I read just a couple days ago by someone pointing out that nobody has the slightest idea what Kerry will do in Iraq. And who wrote that? I think it was you, Mort.


KONDRACKE: ... wrote a good one too.

BARNES: He wrote a good one too. But yours was first.

Look, nobody knows what his position is. On Don Imus' (search) radio show the other day, he was asked whether he would support a war in Iraq. Now, he said under no circumstances would he. Well, you know, as Bush was pointing out a month ago, he said he'd vote for the war resolution again. Where the heck is the guy?

Imus, who's actually pretty politically astute, concluded that he didn't know what Kerry was talking about, where, where he was going.

And it's not just on Iraq. I mean, Kerry called a New York Times reporter to criticize Bush on his handling of the North Korean situation. The reporter, David Sanger, asked him, Well, what's your position? And Kerry wouldn't tell him what his position was, because I don't think he has one. He's flip-flopped on Russia before. Before he said, Well, let's not push democracy that hard, and now that Bush isn't pushing democracy that hard in Russia, Kerry for pushing democracy in Russia.

So there you have it.

KONDRACKE: There you have it.

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