This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", March 12, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Our top hot story is that the heat’s on. There really is an international community, Fred. I know you’ve been doubting that all along, and it’s now putting heat on, on Syria (search) to get out of Lebanon (search), all the way out, and get out soon.
But now the message is being delivered by the United Nations, but the force behind the message is coming from the United States, principally, and also from France, which are willing to impose economic sanctions on, on Syria, bring down the economy if necessary in order to get their way.
Here’s President Bush making the point very strongly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Is that an order for those elections to be free in Lebanon, there must be, the Syrians must remove their troops as well as their intelligence services. One of the things a lot of people don’t understand is that Syrian influence is heavy handed through the involvement of intelligence services throughout the government, and they must remove both in order for the election to be free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KONDRACKE: Now, Syria thought that it could stick around, thanks to these massive demonstrations that the terrorist group Hezbollah (search) staged in Beirut. At the moment, the, the United States is going easy on Hezbollah in hopes that it might convert itself from a terrorist group into a political party.
I don’t think that’s going to work. The Iranians are not funding Hezbollah in order for them to make political placards. They’re funding Hezbollah in order to get Americans killed and, and chiefly Israelis.
FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Yes, well, of course, you’re right about that. But the tradeoff in the short run here, I think, is worth it. In other words, tolerate Hezbollah, and it is a terrorist group, as you said. But tolerate them while Syria pulls out completely, not only its troops, but its 5,000 spies and intelligence agents and so on.
As a momentary tradeoff, I think it’s worth it.
Now, Mort, you’re right, there is an international community. It is feckless, it is morally deficient, and it is do-nothing. But why is it doing something this time? Because the U.S. is pushing it very hard into doing this. And when you get the U.S. and France together, as they are in this case.
KONDRACKE: That’s the case I’m talking about.
BARNES: OK, well, that’s a community. They are responsible. What we get in that case, we get a U.N. envoy going to Syria today, Saturday, and saying, You got to get out of there right away and then giving them an ultimatum.
And I’m for that. But it didn’t come spontaneously by the U.N. or the international community, OK.
Hot story number two, treading water. Treading water on the Social Security reform (search) issue. It sort of settled into a pattern. We see it, you know, the president stumps around the country for reform, and individual retirement accounts, and talks about the problem of solvency, and Democrats attack him on almost everything.
Listen to your friend Senator Teddy Kennedy launch one of his attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The key to making the progress in dealing with the fiscal situation in Social Security is eliminating privatization. People say, why eliminate privatization? And the reason to eliminate privatization is because privatization destroys Social Security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: You got that?
BARNES: Privatization destroys Social Security. Well, of course, that isn’t real privatization, anyway, in this case. But I think Senator Kennedy and another one of your friends, Senator Barbara Boxer (search) of California, have made a mistake by attacking Bush by saying, My golly, he’s been for these individual retirement accounts all the way back to 1978 when he was running for the House.
Well, that’s true, he has been. But just think for a minute, as The Washington Times did.
If those accounts had been instituted in 1978, and look where, it would be in an index fund for markets, look where the changes would be in the Dow, in the S&P 500 (search), and also in NASDAQ (search), why the retirees would be rolling in money now because their investments would have metastasized, would have grown so much, you know, they’d be vacationing in Vegas, they’d be going on fancy cruises, they’d be buying flat-screen TVs, you know, with high definition, life would be great for them.
And Democrats would have blocked it then and they’re blocking it now.
KONDRACKE: Yes. The first time I ever heard of that, about the idea of privatization, was back in 1967 actually from a Democratic congressman from Illinois, now deceased, Roman Pucinski, who, you know, who said that it would be a good idea to use private markets. And with the assistance of some Bushies, I calculated, if I’d been able to, to establish an account with 4 percent of the 12 percent of my Social Security money and what would that have earned? And it would have earned $157,000 over this period of time, whereas the money deposited, the same amount of money deposited in Social Security would be about $94,000. So it’s not enough to take many vacations in Vegas, but it certainly is a considerable difference.
Now, the Democrats are thwarting Bush at the moment. I mean, the polls have not, have not shifted. But I think, in the long run, they’re going to lose this because younger people, the people who are moving up in life and are the future of American politics are all in favor of private accounts. And even some Democratic spokespeople, leaders, James Carville, Harold Ickes, say that the Democratic Party cannot stick to just saying no to Bush if they want to lead the country. They got to have something to say positive about Social Security, and so far they’ve had nothing to say.
BARNES: Mort, I think you would have done a lot better than that, because what you’re not counting in there is the facts that Social Security taxes had to be raised in that period, but, but you were earning all that money from the private economy. So you would have made that money and saved the rest of us money for paying you the payroll tax.
KONDRACKE: And we would not have had the tax increase, you’re right.
BARNES: Yes. All right. Changing the retirement date age of what to 67.
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