Ups and Downs for the Week April 25

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", April 30, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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

DOWN: House majority leader Tom DeLay (search). The GOP leadership was forced to abandon rules changes that they put through on the ethics committee, clearing the way for a formal investigation of DeLay’s alleged ethics violations.

Now, the story has been on behalf of DeLay defenders that he violated no law or House rule. Now, technically speaking it looks as though he did violate a House rule, in that, a lobbyist used his credit card to pay for some of DeLay’s travel expenses, which is again, against the rules.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: But, wait a minute. Isn’t that only a violation if DeLay knew about the lobbyist paying?

KONDRACKE: It is a defense to say, I did not know?

BARNES: But I thought that was a defense?


KONDRACKE: Inherent in the rule?


KONDRACKE: Maybe it is.


KONDRACKE: I mean, that’s up to the ethics committee to determine. But in any event, technically, as I say, there was a violation committed.

Now, I think that, independent of all this stuff: Did he know? Didn’t he know? That’s a good question. The answer to that question lies with one Jack Abramoff (search), who’s this lobbyist under investigation for messing around with Indian casinos.

Anyway, if Abramoff defends DeLay and says, Yes, DeLay didn’t know anything about it, then DeLay’s in the clear. If Abramoff said, Uh-uh, he knew, then DeLay is in real trouble.

BARNES: All right. Look, the press seemed to think that President Bush put himself in a political risky situation by embracing DeLay as he did last week, you remember, when he flew him back to Washington on Air Force One and invited him to join Bush at a Social Security rally, I think, in Galveston, which I guess is in DeLay’s district.

Now, I think that’s completely wrong. The president, it would have been politically risky for the president not to embrace Tom DeLay. The president is the leader of the team, the Republican team. One of his top teammates is Tom DeLay.

At a point where it’s just Democrats after him, and you think he may get blamed for a violation, that’s not — the president still has to embrace him as a teammate who has done nothing wrong because he’s innocent until proven guilty.

BARNES: It’s as simple as that.

KONDRACKE: So why did the president turn on Trent Lott (search) when Trent Lott was Senate majority leader?

BARNES: Well, I think that was a mistake by the president, but it was a more sensitive issue, obviously race is a lot more sensitive issue. And it was clear that Trent Lott was joking when he said that about Strom Thurmond, but it wasn’t taken that way by a lot of people, including you.


KONDRACKE: Yes, I did.

BARNES: And I think the president was right in the DeLay case, wrong in the Lott case.

DOWN: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (search). His approval rating has plummeted to an all-time low, forcing him to backtrack on key parts of his wide-ranging government overhaul plan. In a statewide poll released late last week, Arnold’s job approval is only 45 percent among registered voters, down 18 points since the beginning of the year.

Look, Arnold was always going to, you know, he wasn’t going to stay wildly popular the whole time as governor, because he’s trying to do some very difficult things, like solve the financial mess that California’s in. And now we have Democrats and unions and all the liberals and all of them are after him and they’ve made some hay, particularly in the press.

And Arnold has had — he’s bringing back into Sacramento a lot more, Mike Murphy (search), his political consultant, who’s a conservative and who’s very good and I think will offset Arnold’s wife, who is a liberal.

Now, in any case, I think Arnold’s going to run for reelection as a centrist, which he is, against some liberal Democrat who won’t have a clue about solving the financial mess in California, who thinks the only way to deal with it is to raise taxes, which, of course, will create an economic mess in California, drive more businesses out of the state.

KONDRACKE: Look, there is nothing I would like more than to see a centrist Republican, specifically, Arnold Schwarzenegger, succeed. I do think that he’s on the right track.

Right now, however, he’s been forced to back down on this redistrict, legislative redistricting plan, on budget slashing, he’s under attack from the teachers’ organizations because he’s not funding education as much as he said he would.

And pension reform, which is the big one that he was going to push through, he’s not able to do it.

Now, look, what, what he needs to do if he’s going to succeed is to bring more Republicans into the legislature and show that he can defeat the Democrats there. The problem is that you’ve got a Democratic state with a lot of natural Democratic voting tendencies, and gerrymandered legislative districts — very difficult.

KONDRACKE: OK, UP: Iraq (search). It formed its first democratically elected governor in more than 50 years on Thursday, and in three months, a political stalemate that crippled efforts to attack the violence.

Now, the other good news of the week is that the Syrians are getting their troops out of Lebanon. They’re all gone. Now, the question is, are they, by the elections in May, going to get their intelligence operatives out as well?

BARNES: Yes, I know the answer. Not unless they’re forced to.

KONDRACKE: Well, but the pressure is on for them to do that.

Now, in Iraq, the issue is the Sunnis (search). I mean, it’s the Sunnis who did not participate in the election. Nonetheless, they’ve been given a number of cabinet positions; I think, quite generously by the Shiite-dominated government, but the Sunnis say, not enough. And furthermore, the Sunnis want ex- Ba’athists, Saddam Hussein (search) followers, to be given posts in the government. That cannot happen or else that will produce civil war.

BARNES: Look, this new government is actually another temporary government, because it will write a constitution. Then there’ll be another election about a year from now. The Sunnis have, I hope they learned their lesson and participate next time. Then they’ll be a bigger part of the next government. All right.

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