Ups and Downs for the Week of Oct. 4

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

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FRED BARNES: Up: The questioners from Friday night's debate

Mort and I have been around a long time to see some bad questions at these debates, sometimes from journalists, actually. But Friday night's debate we saw some of the best questions. Here's a quick sampling.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For Mr. Kerry. You've stated your concern for the rising costs of health care, yet you chose a vice presidential candidate who has made millions of dollars successfully suing medical professionals. How do you reconcile this with the voters?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, my mother and sister traveled abroad this summer, and when they got back, they talked to us about how shocked they were at the intensity of aggravation that other countries had with how we handled the Iraq situation. Diplomacy is obviously something that we have to really work on. What is your plan to repair relations with other countries, given the current situation?


KONDRACKE: I thought those were, those were zingers. And there were a few other zingers too.

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: And, you know, Kerry cannot get away from the fact that John Edwards is a trial lawyer and that medical malpractice suits drive up the cost of health insurance.

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: Nor can Bush get away from the fact that he has offended people all over the world, and that it makes it harder to conduct diplomacy.

BARNES: You know, the questions really were sharp and focused. I was glad to see one of them abortion. If this were left to just reporters and journalists in Washington, they never would have asked that.

The thing that was left out on the domestic half of the, of the debate was a question about same-sex marriage. This is a big issue in the campaign that I don't think either one of the candidates much wants to talk about. I sure hope Bob Schieffer in the debate on domestic issues next Wednesday asks about it.

KONDRACKE: Down: House majority leader Tom DeLay

He got a third admonishment from the House Ethics Committee this week for conduct appearing to link political donations to legislation, and Democrats, naturally, smell blood. Here's House minority leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., MINORITY LEADER: Mr. DeLay has proven himself to be ethically unfit to lead the party. The burden falls upon his fellow House Republicans. Republicans must answer, do they want an ethically unfit person to be their majority leader, or do they want to remove the ethical cloud that hangs over the Capitol?


KONDRACKE: Tom DeLay, of course, had a quite different reaction to the report. Watch this.


REP. TOM DELAY, (R-TEXAS), MAJORITY LEADER: I'm very pleased that the Ethics Committee and these honorable people that serve on that Ethics Committee have dismissed the frivolous charges brought, brought against me.  We are absolutely focused on preventing a 9/11 and keeping America safe, and it's clear to me that the Democrats are focused on something else.


BARNES: Yes, he's right, the charges were trivial, they were frivolous, they were ill motivated from a congressman who had been reapportioned out of his seat by DeLay and Republicans and Texas.

And I hope Roll Call, your magazine, will editorialize...

KONDRACKE: Newspaper.

BARNES: Newspaper. Will, will editorialize against this effort to corrupt the House Ethics Committee system by, by criminalizing what is normal political activity, like log rolling. It may not be something we brag about in America, but everybody does it, and it's legal.

KONDRACKE: Did you notice that Tom DeLay had an eyelift, by the way? Taken individually, these cases are minor and Roll Call said it. But the thing is that the, the House Ethics Committee said that the, that there's been an accumulation of this skating close to the edge, and that the, that he needed to be warned to straighten up his act.


KONDRACKE: The worst thing he has done is to try to get Democrats fired from lobbying positions all, all over town, as if Democrats don't have a right to, to be employed, just because Republicans are in, in office.

BARNES: Of course they have a right to be employed. But if he doesn't like it, he can urge that the lobbyist firms not to have them.

KONDRACKE: That's dirty pool.

BARNES: Not dirty pool at all.

KONDRACKE: Dirty pool.

BARNES: It's fine.

Up: Afghanistan's interim President Hamid Karzai

Final results aren't expected for days, but Karzai is poised to win that country's first-ever direct democratic election. Afghan voters went to the polls today, almost three years to the day after the Taliban regime was toppled.

KONDRACKE: Well, there's going to be a lot of attention to the fact that there were irregularities, and that the 15 other candidates are complaining about, you know, about how the vote went. The fact of the matter is that Afghanistan held a free election, and it's, and it's an amazing thing.

The other good news for Bush is that the Australia prime minister got himself reelected big, and that's going to help make the point that the coalition is not crumbling the way Kerry says it is.

BARNES: Yes, absolutely, it's not now.

How can they complain about irregularities when they, they've never had an election before, so there are no regularities to which they can be irregular from? You get the drift.

KONDRACKE: I get it.

BARNES: Anyway, the Karzai thing is, is very good.

The Howard thing is even more encouraging, though. He's a stand-up guy. Bush needs him. He's an asset in Iraq. And it's good that he's there. If he lost, it would have been Australia pulling out of the coalition. This offsets Spain.

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