Ups and Downs for the Week of Feb. 14

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", Feb. 19, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Let’s check out our ups and downs.

Up: national intelligence director nominee John Negroponte (search). The good news, he’ll be the nation’s top intelligence official with direct access to the president. The bad news, his exact job description and authority would be a work in progress.

Here’s Bush Thursday on how the budgetary turf wars might play out. Watch.


PRESIDENT BUSH: ... people that can control the money, people got access to the president generally have a lot of influence. And that’s why John Negroponte’s going to have a lot of influence. He will set the budgets. Listen, there’s, this is going to take a while to get a new culture in place, a different way of approaching the budget process. That’s why I selected John. He’s a diplomat.


JUAN WILLIAMS, GUEST CO-HOST: Well, I’ll tell you what, Fred, if he thought things were hot in Iraq where he was over there as a diplomat, wait till he gets home. Because things are going to be very, very hot here as turf wars, turf wars erupt.

Already, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (search) is concerned about Pentagon spending on intelligence. Imagine Porter Goss now having to report to someone else and have his messages conveyed through Negroponte to President Bush. He’s going to worry about his budget.

Fifteen agencies in all have intelligence responsibilities in this town. Negroponte’s over the top of all of them. Everybody’s going to be playing the blame game. You didn’t get me enough money. It was your fault. You didn’t tell the president what I told you. That’s why they didn’t know.

You know, a lot of people turned down this job. They turned it down for a reason. Negroponte is going to be on the spot. I think he needs all the support in the world. I think he’ll get confirmed easily. But, you know people are going to mention what happened in Honduras when he was the ambassador down there with the death squads and all that. I think that people are going to bring it back. But at this moment, given that people turned down the job, given it’s been such a long time to get an intelligence czar in place, there’s just a lot of love around for John Negroponte.

BARNES: Well, I think you’re right. And there’s a lot of love coming from one guy in particular, and that’s President Bush. I think that’s the strength that Negroponte’s going to have in this job, and that is that Bush trusts him, and Bush is has put him in jobs where he really wanted somebody he had confidence in, first the U.N., then ambassador to Iraq, now this job as the chief spook, basically, in the country, though he has no intelligence experience.

I would say on Central America, I give John Negroponte credit, along with people like Elliott Abrams and President Reagan, for creating democracy in all those countries in Central America, in Nicaragua, in El Salvador, and in Honduras, where Marxists were going to take over, they fought them back.

WILLIAMS: Well, I, I don’t have any love for Marxists. But let me just say this. When you see what death squads do to people, and you understand that nuns were involved, Fred, then you think, Wait a second, excess is not to be tolerated in the name of democracy.

BARNES: Well, now that we have democracy, there are no death squads.

WILLIAMS: All right. UP: the economy. Fed chief, Alan Greenspan gave an upbeat report on the economy, saying it’s expanding at a good clip, and inflation remains in check. But it was Greenspan’s comment on private Social Security accounts that caught the attention of the White House. Watch this.


ALAN GREENSPAN, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: If you’re going to move to private accounts, which I approve of, I think you have to do it in a cautious, gradual way.


BARNES: Well, yes, no, what he’s doing there was basically endorsing the president’s idea...

WILLIAMS: Absolutely.

BARNES: I mean, the president will have the investment accounts begin in 2009, and then, depending in your age group, be phased in. But I didn’t think that was the most interesting thing he said. It was the argument he used in favor of these accounts, pointing out that they would aid low-income people more than anyone else, because these are people who develop no assets in life. They can’t save money. They don’t make enough money to save.

And this would create an asset that they would own and would pass on to their heirs. And these are, as — I love the way Greenspan put it in his testimony, in his second day of testimony, you know, the low- income people have, are people, he said, who, who struggle with too little capital.

WILLIAMS: No doubt.

BARNES: Yes, yes, no kidding.


WILLIAMS: But, you know, what struck me was, he really endorsed the president’s idea that Social Security is in crisis at the moment, which is key if the president is to have success with his plans for Social Security convincing the American people that something needs to be done right now.

It was a surprise to me. It was a surprise to people on Capitol Hill that I spoke to that all of a sudden, Alan Greenspan, you know, Mr., Mr. Reserve, Mr. Doesn’t Give Interviews, is suddenly popping up in the midst of this debate.

Now, the other half of this is, the president goes off and he starts popping off about raising the ceiling, the $90,000 limit on how much you have to pay in terms of payroll tax for your Social Security deduction.


WILLIAMS: Well, so Denny Hastert, the speaker of the House, Tom DeLay, the whip all say, No, we don’t, we don’t want it because it constitutes a tax hike.

But you know what? This is what the president’s problem is. He’s got to get his own troops in line, Fred.

BARNES: Well, I know he does. And that is correct, he does have to do that, and they need to — that’s what he’s got to do. And he’s not going to do it by proposing a tax increase, I’ll tell you that.

I don’t think he meant to say that. It surprised people at the White House. And I don’t think you’ll hear the president say it again.

Let me move on to the next one because I know you want to talk about this.

DOWN: Democrats. In another sign of the Democratic Party’s disarray, there’s increasing evidence that one of the its signature issues, support for abortion rights, might be watered down or abandoned in order to attract votes. They’re not going to abandon it, but go ahead.

WILLIAMS: No. But I think what you’re going to see is, already you’ve seen it from Hillary Clinton, who’s calling for, you know, people of good will and good spirit to find common ground and not to make abortion the wedge issue, a wedge issue that has served Karl Rove and the Republicans to no end in race after race.


WILLIAMS: And so what you see, though, is that when there was the big contest that Howard Dean won, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tim Roemer of Indiana came up and said, You know what? I am someone who is opposed to abortion in this country. And everybody on the left, all the abortion right people, came out and attacked him. Roemer came back and said, Look, if we really want to be a party, a big- tent party, we have to include people who, in fact, are opposed to abortion.

Now, you also have to take into account Bob Casey whose dad, of course, was — ran for governor of Pennsylvania as a pro-life Democrat. He’s a pro-life Democrat, now the state treasurer. I think you’ll see lots of people saying, There’s a way for the Democrats to do it. But it’s not by turning their back on people who’ve supported them all along.

BARNES: Well, no, that’s not what, what they’re advocating. But I think it’s, you know, Hillary Clinton even raised the possibility that the goal should be reducing the number of abortions annually to zero. And I think that’s a smart thing, a smart thing to talk about.

But here, look, there is a big change here that we didn’t really touch on, and that is that the media and so on, political community, have always said abortion hurt Republicans. Now we realize that that issue does hurt Democrats, and they need to do something about it.

Let me, we’re going to have time out of this one.

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