Team Bush Ramps Up Rhetoric on Iraq and War on Terror

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on September 2, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Mort, "Hot Story" number one: "Iraq Attack." Not in Baghdad; I'm talking about as we move into this midterm election campaign, as we will after Labor Day, Iraq as an attack issue in the campaign, now by Republicans — obviously Democrats are going to use it their way as well.

Now remember what is supposed to be the strategy of Republicans in this midterm election, and that is to make it individual races — a choice in these individual districts, and Senate races and so on, not a referendum on the president, on his presidency, on his policies. But, you know, with what's going on now, it looks like they're not implementing that yet.

President Bush in particular; Don Rumsfeld, the secretary of Defense; Vice President Cheney; even occasionally Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice giving these very aggressive speeches defending the administration's policy in Iraq, and attacking the "Defeatocrats." That's Democrats.

You like that? "Defeat-ocrats"? Anyway, attacking them for wanting to pull out of Iraq and how horrible that would be.

Listen to President Bush when he talked about this — where was this speech? In Utah, at the American Legion.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some politicians look at our efforts in Iraq and see a diversion from the War on Terror. That would come as news to Usama bin Laden, who proclaimed that the third World War is raging in Iraq.


BARNES: Well, the president is going to broaden this, and I think and all of them will, Rumsfeld and other Republicans will broaden this, right around September 11, the fifth anniversary, into an emphasis on the war on terror, of which they contend and I agree, Iraq is a part. And that will be the bigger issue, the War on Terror, which they will attack Democrats on for their tendency to weaken the best offensive tools that we have — you know, NSA eavesdropping and things like that — that have prevented America from suffering another terrorist attack for the last five years.

And that will be a centerpiece of the campaign. But it'll be a referendum on Bush I think, not a choice.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: No. I think that they're making it a choice, and we'll get to it in a minute. But certainly at the individual-race level, there will be contrasts drawn between one candidate's position and another. And it's being done beneath the Bush level.

I'll explain to this. Right after Bush.

BARNES: I don't understand it.

KONDRACKE: OK. I'll get there.

Bush said this in that speech to the American Legion. Watch:


BUSH: There was some in our country who insist that the best option in Iraq is to pull out, regardless of the situation on the ground. Many of these folks are sincere, and they're patriotic. But they can be — they could not be more wrong.


KONDRACKE: Look, I think he's absolutely right; they could not be wrong to pull out of Iraq prematurely. I mean, it would be a disaster.

But that was the high-minded good-cop side of this thing. "Defeat-ocrat" is part of the hardball, tough line, tough-cop kind of approach. And that's going to - that's going to be happening all up and down the line.

I mean, here's an example of it from Don Rumsfeld. Watch:


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among Western democracy, when those who warned about a coming crisis — the rise of fascism and Nazism — they were ridiculed or ignored. I recount that history, because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism.


KONDRACKE: I mean, he accused the Democrats in sum and the press of being appeasers. Now "appeasers" is a word that was used during — you know, before World War II. There were people who thought you could get along with Hitler.


KONDRACKE: That's what appeasement was. It's also freighted with a lot of Cold War baggage, when, during the Truman administration, at the start of the containment policy, right-wing Republicans accused Dean Acheson and other people of appeasing communism.

That's the context. It's a tough word. And what the Democrats are practicing is dead wrong, but it's not appeasement. They are not saying that if we get out of Iraq early, or if we undermine the NSA spying program or something like that, that Usama bin Laden will like us and stop attacking us. They want to kill Usama bin Laden, too.

BARNES: Look, I agree; it's not appeasement. That's not what it is.

But here's what it is — and this is what I think Rumsfeld was alluding to — the naivet, or the state of the denial or the — that we saw back then with — with so many Brits and American isolationists about the real threat that Hitler and Nazis posed. We see now today, with a lot of Democrats and liberals, who don't seem to recognize the threat that Islamic jihadism poses. It's not something to be handled by a little bit of finger pointing and law enforcement. But they don't get it.

Fortunately back then, there was a Churchill and there was an FDR: tough guys who recognized the threat and took it on, when others didn't want to. And - and the problem now for Democrats is, there aren't any Churchills or FDRs among their group. Now - well, Joe Lieberman. But that's about it.


Now, look, what the Democrats — I'm not saying that what the Democrats are doing is any sense right.

Watch Chuck Schumer's response to Rumsfeld. Watch:


SEN. CHARLES SHUMER, D-N.Y.: What Donald Rumsfeld should have done is told the American Legion what the administration's plans are in Iraq. Things seem to be getting worse and worse and worse. He had to make the link between Iraq and the war on terror, which many Americans — as the polls show and as just anecdotally, and just as logic dictates — there are doubts.


KONDRACKE: When Congress comes back, what the Democrats plan to do is have a quote-unquote "no confidence" vote about Don Rumsfeld. That's playing politics, just the way "Defeat-ocrat" is.

Here's what I'm worried about: I'm worried that the people in the country will see this terrorism issue as trivialized, as just politics. When in fact, Bush is right: nothing could be serious. I mean, this is for the future of civilization. If we lose in Iraq, we're going to have a future in which it's really true that Islamic dictators armed with nuclear weapons are going to dominate the Middle East. Nothing could be more dangerous. And that's what the public needs to keep in mind, and not have the idea that this is just some sort of political spat.

BARNES: Well, that was well said. But I'm not worried; I think they'll recognize how serious it is, the public will.

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