Hot Stories for the Week of June 13

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", June 18, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: I’m Fred Barnes.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, it’s good news and bad news: the hot story, that is, about Iraq. The good news broke on Friday, actually, after some polls earlier in the week that were pretty gloomy, and after some rhetoric that was perfectly outrageous.

Now, the good news is, one, that the Sunni Muslims (search), the leadership there, has decided to participate in the constitutional talks, great forward step politically. Two, there’s an ongoing military operation against the insurgents near the Syrian border. Three, we captured the Al Qaeda (search) boss of Mosul. All that’s to the good.

However, earlier in the week, when all these polls came in the indications were that the latest FOX poll, showed that Iraq topped the list of Americans’ concerns, far outpacing even jobs and the economy. In a Gallup poll, 56 percent think that going to war in Iraq was not worth it, compared to only 49 percent back in February, after, right after the Iraqi elections.

A New York Times poll (search) showed that President Bush’s job approval rating, partly because of Iraq, is at 42 percent. Congress’s is down at 33 percent. And finally, the Gallup poll (search) showed that 59 percent think that the United States should withdraw all or some of our troops from Iraq.

Now, four House members, including two Republicans, came up with the idea of setting a deadline for withdrawal. President Bush is about to do some pep talking out on the stump this week about, about Iraq. There’s one thing you can be sure of, that we are not going to set a deadline for beginning withdrawals, because that would be a gift to the enemy.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Yes, of course it would. It would tell them, you know, just, just hold on a while longer, and you’ll face fewer American troops there than you do now. What a dumb idea.

And I was really surprised in particular that Walter Jones (search) of North Carolina, who is a conventional conservative and a very nice man, had joined this troop withdrawal thing. Knowing him, I can tell you one thing, it’s not for politics. He believes this is the right thing to do. He’s certainly a sincere guy.

But as I agree with you, there won’t be any troop withdrawal.

You know, one reason why Iraq’s gone ahead as a main concern, ahead of jobs and the economy, is because jobs and the economy are in very good shape at the moment. And I think these Iraq polls, they do tend to fluctuate depending on the level of violence by the terrorists over there. If there are a lot of suicide bombers, as we have seen, what, in the last three or four weeks, the polls on Iraq tend to go down. When that stops, and I think it will, at least for a while, then the Iraq numbers tend to go up.

I don’t think the speeches that Bush is going to give on Iraq are going to have much of an impact on poll numbers, but it is something that he has to keep talking about, because there are certainly justifiable reasons why we’re there in Iraq, no question about it.

Now, a related story, at least involving terrorists and violence, is Guantanamo Bay, and the prison there. And there is actually a FOX poll that shows, and I mention this, Mort, because I know you love polls, and, and how else am I going to justify this in your mind, except by citing a poll?


BARNES: And the FOX poll shows that by 59 to 22 percent, Americans think that the prison in Guantanamo Bay where all those terrorists are should be kept open. That’s, that’s nearly three to one, that’s pretty strong.

You know, why Democrats, maybe you can explain it to me, why Democrats have chosen to make the, American alleged mistreatment of terrorists captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere as their main issue these days regarding Iraq, and the War on Terror (search), I don’t know, because perhaps they haven’t read the Al Qaeda manual that says, Whatever you do, claim you were tortured in American prisons.

And they certainly do that. Nobody has topped, and you used the word outrageous, I think you were referring to Dick Durbin (search).


BARNES: Who is the number two Democrat in the Senate, and, you know, we all know what he said now, but let’s just listen to it again, what he said. Amazing.


U.S. SENATOR DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: If I read this to you, and didn’t tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have happened by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime, Pol Pot (search) or others, that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that’s not the case. This was the action for Americans.


BARNES: He’s talking about this description of a guy chained to the floor, terrorist chained to the floor at Guantanamo, that some FBI agent saw. The average person would certainly not think of a Nazi death camp and or Pol Pot or something. The death toll at Guantanamo is zero, and listen to Vice President Cheney’s response to Durbin. He refuses to apologize, by the way.


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Does this hurt us from the standpoint of international opinion? I frankly don’t think so. My own personal view of it is that those who are most urgently advocating that we shut down Guantanamo probably don’t agree with our policies anyway, and that, from the perspective of how we proceed there, I think that these people have been treated far better than they could be expected to have been treated by virtually any other government on the face of the earth.


KONDRACKE: Well, as outrageous as Durbin was, comparing it to the Nazis or Pol Pot, I think Cheney is wrong. I think it is hurting us in the climate of, in, in public opinion around, around the world. And the answer to this, I think, is to have a congressional investigation about what is really happening in Guantanamo, find out if there’s abuse, if it’s been stopped and so on, and if it is going on, or if it has gone on, to make sure that it, that it doesn’t continue.

And get the facts out as honestly as we possibly can.

BARNES: Mort, maybe you didn’t hear about this. There’s this Al Qaeda manual.

KONDRACKE: Yes, I know.

BARNES: You hadn’t heard about it?

KONDRACKE: But you also had this FBI guy who said...

BARNES: Which I don’t think when you’re trying to get information to save American lives, I didn’t...

KONDRACKE: Let me tell you...

BARNES: I don’t think that qualifies as torture. Tough treatment, but not torture.

KONDRACKE: And — around the world…

BARNES: Well, forget the world. We have to protect America, Mort.

KONDRACKE: I want to protect Americans...

BARNES: The Muslim street’s going to say, Gee, they’re nice to their prisoners...

KONDRACKE: Frankly, I think that all the reports of prisoner abuse are overblown.


KONDRACKE: I would like to see a congressional investigation establish that. And if it’s not the case, then stop what abuse there is going on.

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