Politics of Terror: President Bush Sharpens Message, Democrats Fire Back

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on September 9, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "The Beltway Boys" Saturday at 6 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. ET and Sunday at 2:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. ET.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We learned the lessons of September the 11th. We're changing how people can work together. We're modernizing the system. We're working to connect the dots to stop the terrorists from hurting America again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": I'm Mort Kondracke.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": And I'm Fred Barnes, and we're "The Beltway Boys."

KONDRACKE: Well, the "Hot Story" is "Never Forget." For most Americans, the fifth anniversary of 9/11 is an occasion for solemn memorials. And that includes the president, giving an address, a perfectly appropriate address on the anniversary on Monday. However, in the lead-up, and I'm afraid the aftermath of the 9/11 anniversary, the politicians have seized the whole thing, and trying to make points in advance of the election.

Here are two ads that are run by basically pro-defense groups, which take the Bush side of this argument. Watch:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since 9/11, most Americans know the world is a dangerous place. Islamic terrorists hate us for who we are and what we stand for. Some people seem to think, however, that if we retreat, our terrorists enemies will leave us alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we have narrowly another 9/11, using proven surveillance that some would stop. The war on terror is a war for our country's freedom, security and survival.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

KONDRACKE: So now here's the response to that kind of thing, as administered here by Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate leader. Watch:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV., MINORITY LEADER: This White House has proven incapable of doing the job. And rather than acknowledge their mistakes, they use fear, fear, fear and more fear as a national-security policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KONDRACKE: Now I agree with the Democrats that the Bush administration is trying to lay it frap when the president comes up with legislation on military tribunals and says to the Senate — to the Congress — pass it three weeks, and anybody who gets out of line on this issue, you know, is going to be deemed weak on terrorism. On the other hand, this fear, fear, fear from the Democrat suggests that there's nothing to be afraid of. When, as one of those ads pointed out, we just dodged another 9/11 with the uncovering of this London bomb plot.

And the Democrats for their side, use fear, fear, fear itself. Otherwise why would they be saying that the president isn't spending enough money on port security? The president is not spending enough money on first responders.

The fact is that there ought to be some unity around this, around the 9/11 anniversary the way there used to be. But the Democrats just have this attitude that anything Bush is for, they're against. And anything Bush is against, they're for. And the country cannot operate this way. This is a long war. And we ought to get together on it.

BARNES: Well, we're going to have to muddle through. Look, the Democrats have a reason for proposing all this stuff: they want to avoid 2002, when they quibbled over — they took up some labor-union quibbles about the new Department of Homeland Security, and they got clobbered in the election, as a result of that. So now they're proposing something.

My problem with what they're proposing is it's all this defensive stuff: first responders, guards around nuclear facilities. It's all the stuff that's mostly been done, when what we need is an offensive campaign. You know, there needs to be an offense and defense.

KONDRACKE: Yes, I think that…

(CROSSTALK)

BARNES: Offense is where you go in and you break up these plots before they're actually carried out. That's what needs to happen. And Democrats instead spend all this time trying to weaken the offensive tools — you know, NSA surveillance and the Patriot Act and all those things. And that for one thing, is not good politics. Now 9/11 was the Pearl Harbor of the 21st century. I mean, this was the first major attack of the Islamic jihadists on Western civilization, and particularly the United States. And so when Bush talks about 9/11, as will obviously Monday night, Democrats shouldn't grit their teeth. I mean, this was an attack on America. Even when Bush appears on television, and it obviously helps him politically. They shouldn't get mad about that. And they shouldn't keep saying all this stuff about Usama bin Laden being on the loose. He's not on the loose; he's stuck in a cave in Afghanistan or Pakistan. But on the loose is what thousands of Islamic jihadists are, and they need to be stopped.

KONDRACKE: Right. Now, this political strategy leading up to the election, the Democrats — what the Democrats plan to do is to basically seek cover behind Republicans who are going to slow down and — and at least amend what Bush wants on the military tribunal legislation. That is, John McCain and John Warner and Lindsey Graham and Chuck Hagel and people like that. But the Democrats, I think, are really vulnerable on the issue of NSA terrorist surveillance, where they are going to try to inhibit the United States from being able to listen on foreign phone calls into the United States, claiming that this is domestic spying. On the other hand, the bottom line is that this is not 2002, and the difference is Iraq of course. And September 11 will be over in people's minds, unfortunately, shortly after September 11. And I'm afraid that there's going to be a lot of bad pictures leading up to November 7.

BARNES: Yes, no doubt there will. But I think, you know, Iraq, the war on terror, 9/11, it's all the same: fighting terrorist around the world — ones who want the worst to happen to the United States.

Mort, I have no advance knowledge, but you touched on one of the things we're sure to see in Republican ads are a number of Democrats attacking the NSA eavesdropping. You're doing to see those ads. I think you'll also see Harry Reid when he came up and said, We've killed the Patriot Act! Remember that? Big mistake. And you'll see Nancy Pelosi in Republicans as well. She's of course the House Democratic leader. You'll see her saying how much she agrees with John Murtha, who was calling immediate withdrawal of troops. Well, redeployment, in the euphemism Democrats use, from Iraq. And they're going to get pounded on those things, and I think it's going to hurt them.

Content and Programming Copyright 2006 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. (www.voxant.com), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, LLC'S and Voxant, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.