This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", April 16, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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MORT KONDRACKE, HOST: Well, the hot story is, behind the curve. For a party, you know, that won the last election rather handily, and is in control, full control of the House and the Senate and the presidency, and it actually has a lot going for it on various issues on the merits, the Republican Party is at the moment struggling.
Congress is getting things passed, I mean, bankruptcy reform and class action tort reform and stuff like that.
FRED BARNES, HOST: Yes.
KONDRACKE: But on the other hand, so far, and I emphasize so far the, the Republicans in the Senate are losing the PR war on the so-called nuclear option to keep the Democrats from filibustering on judicial nominations. And Bill Frist (search), the Senate, the Senate majority leader, admitted as much this week. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: I do feel that we need to do a better job at this juncture in getting information out to all of you, because all of you are covering, you know, appropriately so, what they are saying, while I’m sitting here trying to work across the aisle. Our voice is being lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KONDRACKE: Yes, he hired the former Republican national chairman, Ed Gillespie (search), to help out with the PR campaign.
Secondly, Tom DeLay, your hero, is definitely on the defensive, and I’d say that he is one major disclosure away from being in real trouble. Now, that major disclosure hasn’t come.
BARNES: That would be the first major disclosure.
KONDRACKE: Right, but if it happens, then he’s in trouble. If it doesn’t, then I think he’s safe.
Thirdly, Bush is not winning the battle to convince the public on Social Security reform.
And fourth, in spite of pretty — a generally very good economy, phenomenally good news in Iraq and other places in the world, the president’s poll numbers are not very good, 47 percent approval rating in the Real Clear Politics average.
Now, before you get after me and say that I’m gloom-and-dooming it here.
BARNES: Well, you are.
KONDRACKE: I’m saying this at the moment; the president is behind the curve.
KONDRACKE: At the moment.
BARNES: Mort, you know the word that just is leaping out from me?
KONDRACKE: Yes. What?
BARNES: You know what it is? Typical Washington press corps analysis.
And I don’t know how you didn’t use the word "quagmire." I could see it was — it was on the tip of your tongue...
But look, you know, but that is, you know, it’s about the third inning of a ball game, and you’re ready to declare the game practically over.
BARNES: Yes, you are.
KONDRACKE: No, no.
BARNES: You know, you say so far and all. But it’s practically over.
You know, remember this during Iraq? Now, you were great on Iraq. I mean, you stuck all the way.
KONDRACKE: Thank you.
BARNES: But, you remember halfway through the three-week war, and all these people, Oh, it’s over, it’s a quagmire, and so on? In the postwar period in Iraq, Oh, it’s falling apart now, the terrorists are going to take over. And, of course, none of that happened.
Now Bush and Republicans, they’re failing across the board practically, the way you described it. You know, and they’re afraid to do the nuclear option and so on, or they’re losing on it. I don’t think they are losing on it.
You know who fears the nuclear option, which would, of course, remove the right to filibuster in the case of the nomination of a judge, a federal judge? It’s Democrats who fear it. Harry Reid (search), when he was at the bipartisan breakfast at the White House, threatened the president and said, This will come back and haunt you. You’re the one who’ll be hurt by this.
Uh-uh. It’ll be Democrats who will be hurt, because they’re the ones who are threatening to shut down the Senate or slow down the business there. And, and that’s not going to help them. They use all these specious arguments, you know, the Senate’s the cooling saucer. You know where that comes from?
KONDRACKE: George Washington.
BARNES: George Washington. He was talking about, as opposed to the House. Well, of course, the House doesn’t even have a role in judicial nominations. Then this bit about checks and balances, that’s between the branches of government, not between the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. You know, elections decide that. So it’s a lot of specious arguments we hear from the Democrats.
Tom DeLay, I think he’s going to be around Washington a lot longer than you or I are, probably. He’ll be here as, in some post, and Social Security, the House and the Senate, they haven’t even started their hearings yet. They’re going to have them in the markup bill.
So it’s up, I’m going to call the chairmen of the two committees and tell them, Mort says, Don’t bother, you know, don’t bother with that.
KONDRACKE: Not saying that.
BARNES: Let me move to hot story number two, and that is the no party. You know which one that is? In case you don’t know, listen to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He’ll tell you. Yes, listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Understand this. I, the Democratic caucus, will not be shutting or slowing down the Senate. The Republicans will be doing that. They’re the ones that are doing this. We’re doing nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: Yes. Did, did you notice the last three words? Well, that thing about Democrats doing nothing? Well, they, those are the truest words I’ve ever heard about Democrats. They are doing nothing. They’re against everything, everything Bush and Republicans suggest, they’re against. They’re against reform. They’re just totally reactionary. They’re against change. They’re against all these things.
Now, I don’t know whether you think, agree with me or not, Mort, but I don’t think obstructionism is a good political tactic. I mean Tom DeLay’s out of the Senate now because he was an obstructionist and so on.
BARNES: What did I say?
BARNES: Well, he never was in the Senate, though, so Tom Daschle, you’re right.
BARNES: Look, Harry Reid says that if Democrats shut down the Senate, it’ll be Republicans’ fault, because they passed the nuclear option. Do you think he can sell that thing? Uh-uh. If they’re down, they’re going to get blamed. Newt Gingrich thought Bush, rather Clinton would be blamed back in 1995 when they shut down the government. Who was blamed?
BARNES: The person who shut down the government, Newt Gingrich.
KONDRACKE: Yes. Look, the Democrats do and have in the past stood for a lot.
KONDRACKE: I mean, during the 2004 election, they stood for health insurance for children and increased education funding and stuff like that. You’d never know it now. All they do, all they do, as you say, is, is say no.
Now, I think their strategy is that they’re sort of riding along, hoping that the six-year curse on the incumbent party, the party that’s in the White House, will work for them. You remember, in 1986, the Republicans lost five House seats in 1986.
BARNES: Oh, ‘86, I thought you said ‘96.
KONDRACKE: Ronald Reagan, sixth year in office five House seats the Republicans lost, and eight Senate seats.
KONDRACKE: And the Democrats took over. And I think that they just think that by the natural flow of things, if Bush isn’t successful that they will be.
KONDRACKE: I would love to see negativism not work.
BARNES: All right.
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