Transcript: 'The Beltway Boys,' December 23, 2006

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This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on December 23, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," President Bush hints at more troops in Iraq, and offers his first deal to Democrats.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Hillary Clinton makes an early play to the mom vote with a stop on the TV show "The View."

KONDRACKE: New details about how Sandy Berger swiped secret documents from the National Archives.

BARNES: And he may be a long shot for the White House, but Duncan Hunter beat the rest of the field on an important milestone.

KONDRACKE: "The Beltway Boys" are up next, right after the headlines.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought the American — the election said they want to see more bipartisan cooperation. They want to see us working together to achieve common objectives. And I'm going to continue to reach out to Democrats to do just that.


KONDRACKE: I'm Mort Kondracke.

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

Merry Christmas!

KONDRACKE: And Merry Christmas to you, too.

The "Hot Story" of the week is "The Way Forward." That refers to Iraq, but also to the new Congress. And I agree with President Bush completely.

The — what the public wants is exactly more cooperation, more bipartisanship. It took Bush six years to figure out that they wanted — the public wanted a uniter and not a divider. And better late than never.

Now before — before you leap in, I — I will admit that the Democrats have been no better at bipartisanship than Bush has been. But they're talking a good game now, and I hope that both sides mean it and they — and they begin to deliver.

Now the first issue on which there could be a deal, that Bush talked about, was — on the domestic front at least — was the issue of minimum wage.


KONDRACKE: Watch Bush — what he said here. Watch.


BUSH: I support the proposed $2.10 increase in the minimum wage over a two-year period. I believe we should do it in a way that does not punish the millions of small business that are creating most of the new jobs in our country.


KONDRACKE: So how do the Democrats respond? Well, one Democrat — a leading Democrat, the chairman of the — of the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee, Ted Kennedy, said — quote — "Minimum wage workers have waited almost 10 long years for an increase. We need to pass a clean bill, giving the raise they deserve as quickly as possible. We can't slow down this important legislation with other proposals that should stand and fall on their own merit."

Which is to say, buzz off, Mr. President, on this issue.

Now this — this is a big test for the Democrats. I mean, do they want to help small business, which does provide most of the new jobs in America. Or are they just going to carry water for the trade unions, like the reactionary liberals that you think they are you. You know, and — and — that — that's up for grabs. Ted Kennedy doesn't call all the shots for the Senate, but it's a test.

BARNES: He calls a lot of them.

And look, this is also a big test for President Bush. I mean, his political manhood is at stake. If he lets Democrats overpower him here — overpower him here, on this issue — really the first big issue to come out, and — and he winds up with a minimum wage hike but no regulatory relief, or no tax cuts for small business, Democrats will know that they can roll him. And he'll see that for the rest of the year.


OK, second area of potential compromise is Social Security.

BARNES: Yes, I don't think there's a lot of potential for compromise here, for this reason: President Bush might agree to a tax increase, which will anger Republicans, but he will agree to it, I believe, only if he can get personal investment accounts inside the Social Security system. I mean — I mean, Democrats are against that. So I would say no deal.

KONDRACKE: Well, if there's no deal, that means that — on entitlements — that — that means that we dig deeper and deeper into the long—term fiscal hole that we're all in. There's got to be a deal, and that's the only way we can get out of it. And the deal ought to consist of shaved—back benefits to some extent — and it's got to be a bipartisan deal, because both parties have got to get the blame as well as the credit.

There's got to be some revenue increase, which probably means raising the cap on income that can be taxed under Social Security. You could also lower the rates at the same time.

And figure out some way — private accounts are one option — to make the Social Security investment respond to the — to the growth of the national economy, and not just to — to bond rates, which don't get much return.

BARNES: Yes. I mean, Democrats want a tax increase. Bush will give them that. He — he wants the accounts, and Democrats won't give him that. So…

KONDRACKE: Well, there ought to be a deal.

BARNES: No deal.

KONDRACKE: There ought to be a deal.

Third area is immigration reform. Now this is the area where there — the deal ought to be really possible. The Democrats and President Bush agree on comprehensive reform, and it ought to be possible to pass it. The — the — the president's job here is to get the — the right wing nationalists in the Republican Party under control.

BARNES: Well, I think they're going to — they're going to be under control for the simple reason that restrictionists on immigration lost big time in the election on November 7. So I — I don't they can muster enough votes to block comprehensive immigration reform. We're going to see it.


And the fourth area is energy legislation.

BARNES: Well, now, here's an area where Bush and Democrats actually agree in part, and that is that more money needs to go in — more subsidies for new sources of energy. You know, not just oil and so on. And that's a good idea.

On the other hand, Democrats really need to agree that in the short run here, we need to increase domestic oil production, making us less reliant on the Middle East and these dangerous sources that we have to go to right now. And a good place to start would be in ANWR in Alaska. And I — and Bush should insist on this.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Well, Bush can insist on ANWR, but he prided in a Republican Congress and it — and it didn't get passed. I mean, well — well — he's welcome to try it again, but I don't think it's going to get anywhere.

Both sides agree that oil and gas subsides ought to be shifted over to — to alternative fuels. The question is, will the Democrats allow lots of new investment in nuclear, or just in wind and solar? Nuclear has got to be a big item in the agenda.

BARNES: Yes, that's another question. Yes. They should go for nuclear; it doesn't pollute.

OK. As important as these domestic issues which we've just — just been discussing are, they've been a bit overshadowed by Iraq and — and all the trouble there. And there are two issues that have emerged from that.

The first, of course, is — is the issue of what — what we're going to do in the short run in Iraq. And listen to Bush on this subject.


BUSH: Victory in Iraq is achievable. It hasn't happened nearly as quickly as I hoped it would've.


BARNES: Well, it hasn't. That's for sure.

Bob Gates, the new defense secretary, is meeting — met today at Camp David with President Bush. And — look, I — I think everything points to a decision by Bush in favor of more troops in Iraq, a surge so—called so you — they can secure Baghdad and quash the Sunni insurgency, and — and then achieve victory.

I think there's only person that can prevent Bush from deciding exactly that, and that would be Gates himself, coming back after three days in Iraq. But I think he'll go for it.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Well, this is an area where there's not going to be cooperation with the Democrats. The Democrats are dead—set against a surge. They want out. They don't want more troops going in.

Now Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, says that they will not use the ultimate weapon — that — namely, the — the power of the purse. There's not going to be, he says, any of these fund cut—off resolutions the way they were in the Vietnam days. However, what there will be is lots of hearings on whatever it is that Bush — that Bush wants to do. There will be lots of talks against what he wants to do if it's not a — if it's not a troop drawdown. And there will be resolutions probably passed.

Now — you know, you're — you're going to see fund cut-off resolutions proposed, if not actually — actually passed. And I — you know, I think this is going to be an ongoing — just an ongoing series of — of — of — a situation of rancor.

BARNES: Yes, I agree.

Let me go quickly to the other issue related to Iraq, and — and it — and I think everyone realizes it. Our — our troop deployment in Iraq has strained the Army and the Marines. So President Bush has finally agreed to expand the Army and the Marines. And here, oddly enough, is Nancy Pelosi's response:

"I am pleased that the president is reversing his position, and finally heeding the calls of Democrats to permanently increase the size of the military. But the president gave no indication that he is willing to make the changes needed to reverse the disastrous situation in Iraq."

So he she endorsed the troop buildup, but then needled the president.

KONDRACKE: Yes, exactly.

Look, there are — I — I think that Democrats — a lot of Democrats, anyway, don't really want a — build up the size of the military. It was their way of looking tough when — when the president and Don Rumsfeld were against it. Now that Rumsfeld's gone, the president's in favor of it. He — so they're — they can.

BARNES: They — they should be careful what they ask for.

All right. Coming up, Sandy Berger's stopping — stocking stuffers.

And Hillary Clinton gets warm and fuzzy with the girls from "The View."

Stick around; the "Ups and Downs" are next.


BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Let's take a look at our "Ups and Downs" for the week.

Up: Hillary Clinton. She tried to soften some of her rough edges with a warm-and-fuzzy appearance on the TV show "The View" this week.

Here's just a sample:


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, D-N.Y.: The struggles that women particularly — some fathers, but mostly moms — go through trying to balance family and work — you know, they're just heroic trying to keep it all together.

ELISABETH HASSELBECK, "THE VIEW": Do you think that that is, like, the mom (ph) — and — and having worked as a mom, and being able to multitask — does that give a would—be president kind of an edge up on, say, a male rival?


CLINTON: Well, you know, Elisabeth, nobody's ever — nobody's ever been in a position to ask that question, because we've never had a mother who ever ran for and held that position.

ROSIE O'DONNELL, "THE VIEW": Well, we need one soon.


KONDRACKE: Now I know that you think that — that Hillary was just saying all that stuff to — to shore up the mom vote, and — and I admit that there are probably many men who watch — who watch "The View."

But she's exactly right. The welfare of families and children in particular need to be a much bigger priority than they are, starting next year with reauthorization of the — of the S-CHIP (ph) program. And what they ought to be — they ought to add on to it a — a proviso that — that all children in America have health insurance. At least all kids should be covered right off the bat.

BARNES: You know, in my house, family and children, they are a big deal. You know, we don't — we don't need Hillary Clinton to tell us that.

The other thing that's come — about to happen in the presidential sweepstakes, of course, is John Edwards will announce — John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator and John Kerry's running mate.

KONDRACKE: The poverty man.

BARNES: .in 2004 is going to announce that he's running for the Democratic nomination in 2008. I think he's going to do it Thursday in New Orleans, in the Ninth Ward — or what's left of the Ninth Ward. And if it's anything like 2004, he'll announce four or five more times.

My question about Edwards is, since he has repudiated his vote in favor as a senator — his vote in favor of the war in Iraq, while Hillary Clinton has not, whether he will emerge not just a candidate — as a candidate talking about poverty, but as one who is the anti—war alternative to Hillary.

KONDRACKE: I believe he will be. He's — he's going to be the — the left—wing candidate in that race.

Down: Bill Cinton's former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. A new report details how Berger took highly classified documents from the National Archives. As you'll recall, Berger said initially that he'd removed them by mistake. But the report says that Berger took a total of five copies of the same document, stashed them under a nearby construction trailer, went back for them, took them back to his office, cut them up with a scissors, and then them away.

BARNES: Well, you know, I mean, it's just pathetic to think of Sandy Berger skulking in and out of the National Archives down in — in downtown Washington with these documents and hiding them under a trailer and so on.

Now his explanation of his interest in these documents was that he was preparing to testify before the 9/11 Commission. OK, that's fine. I'm — I'm glad he prepared himself. On the other hand though, the question emerges, obviously, for what you were talking about: why would he need to destroy these five documents? Was there something that he didn't want people to see or read about?

KONDRACKE: Yes, exactly. It's either deeply embarrassing to the Clinton administration, or possible discrediting. And I would love to know what's in them. And if it's not, you know, highly classified intelligence details about sources and methods and stuff like that, there ought to be some way in general for the National Archives to let it out at least in general, what — what — what was involved.

BARNES: And they do have another copy, right? They had Xeroxed it.


KONDRACKE: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. He didn't get them all.

Coming up, White House long shot Duncan Hunter makes a bold move.

And Durham DA Mike Nifong finally drops rape charges against three Duke lacrosse players, but keeps others.

Stick around; more "Ups and Downs" are next.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." We're continuing with the "Ups and Downs" for the week.

Down: Durham DA Mike Nifong. He finally did the right thing by dropping rape charges against those three Duke lacrosse players, but inexplicably kept even more flimsy charges in tact.

Now, Nifong and his case are totally discredited. And what he ought to do is — is drop the remaining charges and slither back under the rock from which he — he came before he gets charged with prosecutorial misconduct. Now you can be sure that he faces a life — a lifetime of civil lawsuits. And if these remaining charges are designed as some kind of a bargaining chip against those civil lawsuits, that's even more evidence of misconduct on his — in his case.

BARNES: Yes, Mort, excuse the raunchiness here, but remember the fundamental question in this case was whether the accuser, the woman, had been penetrated or not. And now she says she can't remember whether she was or not.

Well, look, if she can't remember that, how can she testify credibly about anything else? And the truth is, as — as you and I have known all along, Nifong will never put that woman in the stand, because she'd be just chewed apart by the lawyers for the three Duke students. And once again, it leads to the inescapable conclusion that you already mentioned: the case needs to be dropped, immediately. All charges.

All right. Up: Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California. He scooped all the other presidential hopefuls by becoming the first potential candidate to air TV ads.

Here's a quick sample of one. Watch.


REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, R-CALIF.: I'm Congressman Duncan Hunter. Americans start a football game with a clean scoreboard. But China starts a game against our businesses with a 74—point advantage. They give a 17 percent subsidy to their guys. They penalize our guys 17 percent, and they devalue their currency by 40 percent. That's cheating.


KONDRACKE: Well, China, does cheat. But I'm afraid that Hunter is not going to stop with — with — with that point. I think he's going to be the isolationist, protectionist, xenophobe candidate. Sort of the — the Pat Buchanan of 2008.

BARNES: Woo! Mort, that's a — that's a leap.

Now look, obviously Duncan Hunter is not a free trader. He's a restrictionist on immigration, but he's not an isolationist. And — and that's — and this is an important distinction: he is very tough and smart and has a great record on national security. And what's attracting candidates like Duncan Hunter to run in the race is, there's this huge, vast conservative turf on the Republican side. So many conservatives who haven't been attracted to McCain for one reason or another, or to Rudy Giuliani or to Mitt Romney. So there are a lot of people to go after, and — and Duncan Hunter may get some of them.


Down: "Time" magazine. They ducked making the hard choice of picking a man or a woman of the year, so they picked "You" — not you, Fred — but "You" as the "Person of the Year." We love you, of course, but please.

BARNES: Look, here's "Time" magazine with.

KONDRACKE: It's got a mirror.

BARNES: A mirror — a mirror on the cover. It's me; it's not you. And "U.S. News and World Report" comes along with "50 Ways To Improve Your Life in 2007." And — and Mort, among their suggestions — get out your notepad — no, that's what I want you to do to write these down. That — that would be one of the better ones for them.

But here are theirs: drink white tea; study the sky; buy further inland — you'll have to give up that coastal property; take an eco— vacation; and, Mort, this is especially for you, upgrade your vacuum cleaner. Yes.

You know, I — I couldn't.


KONDRACKE: ..couldn't figure out what that vacuum—cleaner thing was about.

BARNES: I — I — I read all 50 of them here in U.S. News, and I thought, David Lawrence, the great founder of U.S. News and World Report must be rolling over in his grave the same way Henry Luce probably is about — about what's gone on at Time magazine.


You know, as to Time magazine, I thought that the Me Generation was the 1980s. But, I mean, what Time magazine is in effect saying is that narcissism is back, and it's OK. Sad to say, you know, I think they should have picked as — as the person of the year, some Middle East bad guy. Because they are the — they are the people in the ascendancy. They're Muqtada al-Sadr or probably Ahmadinejad.

Now as to U.S. News and World Report, all the suggestions weren't bad, they were just a little, you know, strange. Like, "Learn something about Islam." I think that's — that's — that's a good suggestion.

BARNES: And learn to speak Arabic.

KONDRACKE: And learn to speak Arabic.


KONDRACKE: And so something about Darfur. I think that would be good, too.

BARNES: Now look — but Mort — I mean, think back — start with Time. Think back to the history of Time's "Man of the Year" or now "Person of the Year." It's a great tradition. It's something — and — and the drama leading up to be it being announced and so on, the speculation. "You"?


BARNES: I mean, that just — I mean think they've really devalued something that was very important in journalism. And — and U.S. News, while — I mean, these are both still serious magazines. I mean, I'm — I'm — I'm not appalled at — at these 50 ways, but it's a — but it's just kind of silly.

However, if this attracts readers and allows these two very good magazines to stay alive, I guess I'm for it.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Well, you know, Time magazine specifically dismissed "the great man" theory of history in this thing, which suggests that they're going beyond just this year. You know, that they've somehow discredited that idea.

"You" — even you — even you, Fred, are not the equivalent of George Washington or — or — or Winston Churchill. You know, that's the — that's the Time magazine. And I think they — they ought to go back to it next year, for good or ill. That — they ought to pick the — the "Person of the Year."

BARNES: All right. Don't move a muscle; "The Buzz" is up next.


KONDRACKE: Here's "The Buzz," Fred:

You know how members of Congress spend most of their time not — they're not on — either on the floor or in a — in a committee hearing. In team meetings, the Republicans with Republicans, Democrats with Democrats, trying to figure out how to beat the other guy. Well, two of my favorite senators, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, are forming a bipartisan caucus. It's not a — not ideological, not centrist, not liberal, conservatives — to get all kinds of Republicans and Democrats together to — to talk about how to solve national problems, just the way Bush suggested that people — people want.

I think it's a great idea.

BARNES: This is the mushy moderate caucus?

KONDRACKE: It's not moderate. It's not moderate. They're going to get conservatives and liberals there!

BARNES: I was — I — I was teasing.

You know, we talked, or at least I talked about, the devaluation of Time's "Person of the Year." I'm afraid President Bush, like other presidents before him, is devaluing the presidential press conference, doing too many. And so people are not watching and listening. And it means when an important presidential speech comes out, like in — in January on Iraq, there won't be much of an audience.

All right. That's all for "The Beltway Boys" this week. Join us next week, when the boys will be back in town.

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