Hot Stories for the Week of Sept. 27 - Oct. 1

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", Oct. 2, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: I'm Mort Kondracke.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: And I'm Fred Barnes, and we're "The Beltway Boys."

KONDRACKE: Well, the Hot Story is: No sale. I think Kerry won the first presidential debate (search), but neither Bush nor Kerry had a putaway and I think that what will happen in the coming week is that the polls will narrow, but that Bush will continue to have a slight lead. And what Bush is already doing is making up ground of what, in what he failed to do during the debate, namely, to expose Kerry's weak and wobbling foreign policy record dating back years and especially on his vote against the $87 billion to support the troops.

BARNES: You know, I agree with you that Kerry was pretty smooth and impressive during the debate, whether that constitutes a win, I'm not sure of that. But I think what he's going to get out of it is short, a short-term gain, mainly Thursday night, followed by some longer pain.

You have to remember, Mort, how the debate process works. You have the 90 minutes of the debate followed by days where people are examining what you said and picking at it. And I think Kerry left behind a passel of contradictions and unanswered questions.

I mean, like, for instance, Mort, he said it was a mistake to intervene militarily in Iraq (search), and then Jim Lehrer asked him, So are Americans there dying for a mistake? He said no: an obvious contradiction. He said, at another time, the intervention in Iraq was a colossal error, and then he goes on to say that he's just the guy to lead the troops to victory in Iraq.

I mean, that doesn't make sense. Those things don't track together.  That's another contradiction. And so, and, and of course victory in Iraq is just the opposite of what he advocated in that big speech in New York, where he really touched off the Iraq issue. There he said he was talking about withdrawing troops, not about leading them to victory.


BARNES: OK. So let's look, then, at some of the key moments in the debate, starting with this one. Watch.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't see how you can lead this country to succeed in Iraq if you say wrong war, wrong time, wrong place. What message does that send our troops? What message does that send our allies? What message does that send the Iraqis?

SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Yes, we have to be steadfast and resolved, and I am. And I will succeed for those troops now that we're there. We have to succeed. We can't leave a failed Iraq. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a mistake of judgment to go there and take the focus off of Usama bin Laden. It was.


KONDRACKE: I think that Kerry had more good sound bites than Bush did. And what Kerry is saying here is that, look, I am steadfast. You, Bush, made a mess in Iraq, and I'm going to clean it up.

He also said, I have a plan, you don't have a plan.


KONDRACKE: Now, that is not true and we'll discuss that later. But it, it sounded good on TV.

BARNES: Oh, come on, Mort, that, I mean, you don't believe that he's been steadfast, do you? Of course you don't.

KONDRACKE: On Iraq? I said, it sounded good on TV.

BARNES: OK, look, but again, there's a fundamental contradiction there, where Kerry had been going around, wrong war, wrong place, wrong time, and yet to say that it's a fiasco, it's terrible, and yet he's the guy to lead America to victory there, the American troops. Who's going to believe that? Not even you, Mort.

KONDRACKE: Here's something that's already coming back to haunt Kerry. Watch.


KERRY: No president through all of American history has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you've got to do it in a way that passes the, the, the test, that passes the global test, where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing, and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.

BUSH: Let me, I'm not exactly sure what you mean, passes the global test. You take preemptive action if you pass a global test? My attitude is, you take preemptive action in order to protect the American people, that you act in order to make this country secure.


BARNES: Well, that's certainly an exchange that Bush won. And, and what is this global test? Again, Mort, a huge contradiction in what Kerry is saying. He, he's always said, I wouldn't let anybody veto American actions, and of course this sounds like an, an international veto over taking some preempt, preemptive military action to the protect the United States.

He said an American president would always be free to act preemptively if necessary, then he goes on to say, Well, whoop, we have this global test. Again, a huge contradiction that is going to dog Kerry in this campaign.

KONDRACKE: Well, I think that that was one of Bush's good retorts, and, and one of, unfortunately, only a few good Bush retorts. And you know, I think you're correct, that John Kerry will never use force unless the French and the U.N say it's OK first.

BARNES: Yes, right.

KONDRACKE: Now, and another good point was when, when Kerry brought up for the umpteenth time how he would solve the Iraq problem by having a summit a lot of nations but Bush should have said and in fact he did say was, you want summits? We've got summits.


KONDRACKE: You know? OK.

Here's an exchange on that $87 billion that I think Kerry won, and after, and afterwards, Bush never mentioned the subject again, which I think was a mistake. But watch.


BUSH: Help is on the way, but it's certainly hard to tell it when he voted against the $87 billion supplemental to provide equipment for our troops, and then said he actually did vote for it before he voted against it. That's not what a commander in chiefs does when you're trying to lead troops.

KERRY: Well, you know, when I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talked about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?


BARNES: Please. I mean, the mistake about how he talked about the war? He voted against the $87 billion. That was the mistake, not what his, his rhetoric was. And we know, Mort, why he voted against the $87 billion. You remember what was going on at that time? Howard Dean and his anti-Iraq war crusade was, was doing very well, and Kerry was afraid to vote for the $87 billion. Simple attack.

KONDRACKE: Right, and, and before, and before that he had said on "Face the Nation" that it was reckless and irresponsible to vote against the $87 billion. I think that, that will come back to haunt him. OK.

Last, here's an exchange on Kerry's plan for Iraq. Watch this.


KERRY: The president's not getting the job done. So the choice for America is, you can have the plan that I've laid out in four points, each of which I can tell you more about, or you can go to and see more of it, or you have the president's plan, which is four words, more of the same. I think my plan is better.

BUSH: You cannot lead the war on terror if you keep changing positions on the war on terror, and says things like, Well, this is just a grand diversion. It's not a grand diversion. This is an essential that we get it right. And so the plan he talks about simply won't work.


KONDRACKE: Kerry's plan actually is stuff that Bush is already doing, you know get allies, reconstruct the country, hold elections, train troops and stuff like that. But, but what Bush should have said is that you stole that plan from me.

BARNES: Yes. And, look, the plan isn't much. It's the obvious stuff. And, the answer that Kerry should have given, or what he should have said is, Look, and here's how I'm going to defeat the terrorists. He didn't have any plan for that. Bush does.

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