Ups and Downs for the Week April 18

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", April 23, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Let’s see who’s up and who’s down this week.

UP: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (search), now Pope Benedict XVI (search). The man also known as the pope’s enforcer is widely expected to put his conservative imprint on an already traditionalist church. But some experts believe the newly elected pope could spring a surprise or two on his parishioners.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: I think the surprise to a lot of Americans, including you, Mort, is that the new pope turns out to be a Catholic and he’s really serious about being a Catholic. He doesn’t want to water down the faith, he doesn’t war the doctors of the church, he doesn’t want to have female priests. He wants to maintain celibacy for the priests. He doesn’t want to change the, the view of the church on abortion and gay marriage and those social issues that so many Americans care about.

He wants to carry on the orthodoxy of John Paul II. Now, during the 26 years of John Paul II, and that orthodoxy, the Catholic Church doubled in size and number of members around the world. Meanwhile, we have the mainline Protestant churches in America, who have diluted their faith, and what’s happened there? They’re shrinking in size. There’s a message there.

KONDRACKE: Well, except that the Catholic Church in the United States is also, is also shrinking in size, and that’s largely owing to issues of orthodoxy. I mean, the idea that the Catholic Church is saying, You can’t use birth control, is just laughed at by American Catholics, and for this, for this pope to continue with that argument is not going to build the, the American Catholic Church.

BARNES: Well, it certainly sells around the world, Mort.


BARNES: Maybe not here.

KONDRACKE: Well, look, it also contributes to the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Look, this pope said, quite rightly, that there’s a danger of a dictatorship of relativism (search), which leads to anything goes in the world.


KONDRACKE: I agree completely with that.


KONDRACKE: What I’m worried about is the dictatorship of certitude, where you stifle dissent; you prevent growth, and that sort of thing. But that’s Catholic, that’s among Catholics.

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: What, what worries me is that this Catholic, this priest, pope has, is against the admission of Turkey to Europe, meddles around in American politics basically trying to discourage Catholics from voting for John Kerry. And when the pedophilia scandal broke, blamed it on the American media instead of taking it seriously.

BARNES: No, no, he did take it seriously...

KONDRACKE: Ultimately.

BARNES: He said the media — Well, move on, anyway.

KONDRACKE: OK. UP: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice had blunt words for Russian President Vladimir Putin this week. The message, the United States will not ignore any retreat by Moscow from democratic reforms. And she also gave a boost to dissidents in the former Soviet Republic of Belarus, holding meetings with anti-Moscow opposition leaders, much to the Kremlin’s consternation.

BARNES: You know, Mort, President Bush’s campaign for democracy on the world has really, around the world, has two types of critics, those who think he doesn’t really mean it, and those who fear he really does mean to spread democracy around the world.

Now, I think from Condi’s trip to Eastern Europe, we know which is true. The truth is, he does mean it. She certainly took up the mantle of democracy in Russia with Putin, and in Belarus, and everywhere she went.

And here’s the important thing, of course, is that Condoleezza Rice speaks directly for the president. The words she utters are the words that the president thinks.

KONDRACKE: You know, Putin and the other Russians are scared that the United States is going to surround them, Ukraine, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan (search), and all that, with democracy. Georgia.

BARNES: Yes, yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: Go. I hope it happens.

BARNES: Safe from invasion.

KONDRACKE: Yes, yes.

BARNES: OK, UP: fat people. Turns out obesity isn’t the terror the government would have you believe. It’s now number seven instead of number two among the nation’s preventable causes of death. And there’s good news for those of you who are pleasantly plump. The same report says a few extra pounds can actually lower the risk of death compared to those who are a normal weight.

Mort, this report must have made you furious, because it contradicts everything you’ve been saying about fat people.

KONDRACKE: I’m, look, the fact is that obesity, and we’re not talking about pleasantly plump, we’re talking about grossly overweight, still kills 112,000 people every year, because of diseases like, like high blood pressure and heart disease. And the fact is that increasing numbers of people expect their insurance companies or Medicare to pay for these (INAUDIBLE) enormously expensive stomach-closing surgeries.


KONDRACKE: Yes, but my real objection is, I can’t get into a, into an airplane seat when there’s some enormously fat person sitting in the next seat.

BARNES: Mort, I think this report, though, has completely undermined your campaign to tax fat foods.

KONDRACKE: No, it hasn’t.

BARNES: Yes, it is. Completely undermined it. I think it’s off the table now.

KONDRACKE: Now, well, it probably was off the table anyway. But I’m still for it.

BARNES: Really.

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