Transcript: 'The Beltway Boys,' December 30, 2006

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This is a full transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on December 30, 2006.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," it's the moment you've all been waiting for.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": "The Beltway Boys" ninth annual year-end award show. BARNES: We'll pick the big winners and losers of the year, the smartest and dumbest political moves, the rising and fall stars, and of course, the granddaddy of them all, the coveted "Beltway Boys" "Person of the Year."

KONDRACKE: All that's coming up on "The Beltway Boys," right after the headlines from New York.


BARNES: I'm Fred Barnes.

KONDRACKE: And I'm Mort Kondracke, and we're "The Beltway Boys." It's our ninth annual awards show. But before we begin, we wanted - we wanted to mark the passing of former President Gerald Ford. You and I actually met covering the Ford White House. That was 30 long years ago. And here's a picture of you, the young Fred Barnes in action, at a - at a - at a White House press conference. What I remember best about that period, besides Ford's pardoning of Richard Nixon, which was the right thing to do, and all historians have now acknowledged the fact, was how accessible Dick Cheney was as chief of staff. After Don Rumsfeld went to the - the Defense Department, he became chief of staff. And you could call him up on the phone and he'd answer questions, you know, and be - be straightforward and all that. He's a very different character these days. Now he's pretty much opaque.

BARNES: Mort, you have to understand that a chief of staff reflects the chief. And Ford was the chief, and he was open and candid, and - and down to Earth, and the kind of guy, when you asked him a question, he gives you an honest answer. And the other thing about him is that I think people have downgraded his real achievement, which was soothing and reviving the spirits of the nation. That was not a small feat. Looking back, I - I think it was something that only he could have pulled off quite the way he did. And I'll say one other thing, Mort: a man who certainly won't be mourned here or in Iraq is Saddam Hussein.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, if there was ever somebody who matched the - the old saying, "Hanging is too good for him," it' Saddam Hussein. He's - he got convicted of killing 148 people, but he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and even more Iranians.

BARNES: I saw some of the mass graves when I went to Iraq a couple of years ago, and I - look, I rank Saddam with Hitler, Mao and Stalin as one of the great mass killers of all time.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Let's get to our awards. "The Smartest Move" award is President Bush picking Tony Snow as White House press secretary. Tony Snow is cheerful, as we all know. He's feisty. He is knowledgeable, both about the world and policy and all that. And also, he's in all the meetings with - with the president, so he can - he actually has something to report. And he's a stalwart defender of the Bush administration. I'd say, perfect press secretary.

BARNES: Well, I think he is, too. But there's a - there - there's something else that helps him a lot: Tony's a star. He really pops on television. He's not like us. And he really is a star, and he has done a great job actually defending the president articulately. Because after 20 years in Washington, he knows a lot.

KONDRACKE: OK. Our "Dumbest Move" award of the year is Republicans trashing immigrants. And this - this has disastrous consequences for the - in the election. The Hispanic vote, which is the fastest-growing element of the population, went 55 to 42 percent Democratic in 2004. This time, it went 76 to 26. And it's all because of this stupid wall that the - that the House Republicans wanted to build, and rejected their own president's plan for a comprehensive immigrant reform in - in preference to cozying up to radio talk show host.

BARNES: I don't think it's the wall, per se. I think it's their - their whole attitude toward immigrants in general, but particularly Hispanic immigrants. It seemed mean - mean-spirited, and, you know, American voters are generally not mean-spirited. You - you - you're going to have some kind of a wall at some point, but you have to a lot of other things, too.

KONDRACKE: Yes. The wall only is the problem. OK, our runner-up for "Dumbest Move" of the year, Nancy Pelosi's backing John Murtha over Steny Hoyer in the race for House majority leader. Well, you know, I think there was 50 percent an act of loyalty toward John Murtha, who had been a big supporter of hers, 50 percent of vindictiveness toward Steny Hoyer, who had been an opponent of hers, and 100 percent stupid.

BARNES: Yes, and it was stupid for sure. But look: I think she has to watch out for her backside if she slips. If she slips, I don't think - I mean, Steny Hoyer is going to rightfully think it's his time to step up and take over.

KONDRACKE: Yes. OK, and our award for "Liar of the Year" is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who once fooled President Bush into thinking that he had a pure soul when he.


KONDRACKE: .was talking about believing in democracy. Well, it's proved that Putin is nothing but a despot who jails and maybe kills adversaries like Litvinenko - you know, the guy who died of polonium poisoning. He controls the media. He intimidates neighbor - neighboring countries. This is a bad guy.

BARNES: You know, he is turning Russia into an outlaw state, one that does - he does all the things you say, but he's also - you know, he's the one who sells nuclear materials to the Iranians and so on. He blocks any - any serious effort to stop them from building a bomb. He is trouble all around the world. I don't - I mean, he can't make a Russia a superpower, but he can sure make it a serious scary nuisance.

KONDRACKE: And the winner of the "Turncoat of the Year" award is some members of the Republican Party who are turning on President Bush in the Iraq debate. Here's just a sample. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. GORDON SMITH, R—OREGON: I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore.


KONDRACKE: You know, you could say that George Bush himself is a turncoat, in that.

BARNES: You could.

KONDRACKE: Well, in that he - you know, "stay the course" is out as our - as our Iraq policy. He is - he has abandoned that - that position, and he's now in favor of "a new way forward," the terms of which we have to yet to - to understand, although he - I have to say that he is in - still in favor of winning, which is more than you can say for a lot of the Dems - the Republicans or the Democrats.

BARNES: Mort, "stay the course," "new way forward," that's all rhetorical stuff. I don't think any of these Republicans will help themselves by splitting with Bush on Iraq, and it - it - it shows they are mindlessly impatient. OK, we now turn to the "Gone, But Not Forgotten" award. The winner: Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. You know, Milton Friedman died this year, but he changed American and world economic thinking. You know, he - he - he taught people that free markets work, that statist control of economies doesn't work. And - and we see it everyday, where the - the countries that have - have open and free economies involved in the globalized economy are the ones that are doing the best.

KONDRACKE: Yes, it's - I mean, I'm sorry that he's gone, because the the forces of populism and isolationism and protectionism and socialism are - are rising around the world. And even some of that stuff happens in the United States.

BARNES: Yes. Too true. The "Forgotten, But Not Gone" award - the winner: the Iraq Study Group. You know, once the president announced his - that he was going to have a new plan this - "a new way forward," it made the Iraq Study Group totally irrelevant. And then they came up with the silliest idea of the year - of the year, which could be another category - that somehow that - that we had to solve the Israel-Palestinian problem in order to quell the violence in Iraq. That's a non-starter.

KONDRACKE: Yes. When - well, you know, there have been so many rival plans and - and proposals.

BARNES: Mm-hmm.

KONDRACKE: .that this—the Iraq Study Group is almost forgotten, as well as being gone. Especially because President Bush decided not to - really not to listen to them, even though he said he was going to listen to them.

BARNES: No, he didn't. All right. The "Gone and Forgotten" award goes to Bill Frist, the no-longer Senate majority leader. And he - he did the honorable thing, said he'd serve two terms. He did, and left. And he gets credit for one thing in particular: that's the nuclear option, which led to the confirmation of a number of very conservative judges. I say, Way to go.

KONDRACKE: Well, actually, I think he accomplished a lot of for being somebody - he is a heart surgeon, who - who is not a natural politician. He - you know, he - he defeated Jim Sasser for the Senate seat in - in the beginning, when he was not expected to. He rises to be Senate majority leader. You know - I mean, there were a lot of problems there. I think he began to ran afoul when he decided that he wanted to be president, which - you know, when - when the Republicans lost the majority, he could not be. And I predict that he'll be a - a great humanitarian and - and doctor for time to come.

BARNES: All right. The runner-up for the "Gone and Forgotten" award, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Where to start? Where to start? He's a phony!


BARNES: You know, criticizing the U.S. for lack of principles, this guy who presided over the worst single scandal in human history: the Oil for Food scandal. And then, Darfur, all these places where there's genocide going on. What has the U.N. done? This guy couldn't lead - organize a picnic.

KONDRACKE: I agree. Don't move. We've got the year-end awards for you coming up, more of them, including worst and best spin of the year, and rising and falling stars. Stay right with us.


BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Our ninth annual year-end award show continues. The "Worst Spin of the Year": John Kerry trying to dig out after this remark, just days before the midterm elections. Watch.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: You know, education - if you make the most of it and you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you - you can do well. If you don't, you can stuck in Iraq.



KERRY: My statement yesterday - and the White House knows this full well - was a botched joke about the president, and the president's people, not about the troops. The White House's attempt to distort my true statement is a remarkable testament to their abject failure in making America safe.


BARNES: Do you believe that?

KONDRACKE: Do you actually believe that that guy was the 2004 Republican - Democratic nominee? I can't believe it.

BARNES: The truth is, he said - what he said - I mean, all the - a lot of these liberals think that the soldiers in Iraq are these sad sacks who are there because they couldn't get a better job. And - and that's what was reflected. It wasn't - he wasn't talking about Bush.

KONDRACKE: Kerry had next-to-zero nomination of getting the '08 nomination from the Democrats. Now he's sub-zero.

BARNES: All right. The "Best Spin of the Year": Democrats saying Iraq is not part of the war on terror. They sold this idea, which allowed them to be against the war in Iraq before the war on terror. In truth, Iraq is part of the war on terror.

KONDRACKE: Well, the corollary what the Democrats say is that if we lose in Iraq, we're not going to lose in the war on terror. Some Democratic president may rue the day that they made that point, because they go together.

BARNES: Yes, they do go together. The "Rising Star" award goes to Rahm Emanuel, the architect of House Democrats' election-night takeover. Not only did he help choose the candidates - I mean, they had to win primaries - but - but he also kept with them during the campaign so they didn't say stupid things or do anything that would attract excessive attention, because they wanted the Republicans to be the issue. And they were.

KONDRACKE: I - I predict that Rahm Emanuel is going to be at least House speaker some day. I mean, he is a.

BARNES: I thought you were going to say president.

KONDRACKE: He's - he's a - he's a - Well, he.

BARNES: Not president?

KONDRACKE: He may want to run for president.

BARNES: All right.

KONDRACKE: He - he's a member of the House leadership already, and deserves to be.

BARNES: All right. Our runner-up for "Rising Star of the Year": Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. You know, I didn't think that Bush was going to get a bigwig from Wall Street to come down. He has - he's got a long leash. Not only - he handles China policy, but to deal with Democrats on Social Security and trade and a lot of other issues.

KONDRACKE: Yes. And Paulson acknowledges that even though the economy is good on the - on the macro level, that workers don't think it is because their wages are flat. And something's got to be done about it. But I don't know what.

BARNES: Well, they began - they've begun to rise now. The "Falling Star" award goes to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who may not be with us very long. But his - his legacy is a horrible one. I mean, Cuba is an economic basket case, a police state. Now is the time, with his replacement coming on, probably his brother, where pressure on Cuba may lead to a revolt and - and - and democracy in Cuba.


BARNES: Imagine that.

KONDRACKE: Well, I - the question is - is - is how we should act after - after he goes. And the Europeans are in there spending a lot of money, and - and they're perfectly satisfied to support a police state.


KONDRACKE: The question is, if we got in there, maybe we could undermine them and - and support them the way we did in Eastern European.

BARNES: No. No. We'd (INAUDIUBLE). That would be bailing them out. And the "Low Life of the Year" award goes to the woman "The New York Post" calls "The Pop Tart," and that's Britney Spears. You know, somehow - you know, the press, I think, encourages this bad behavior among - among some of these young women. And - and - and when you see the picture of - of Britney Spears, that - that.


BARNES: That ribbon there is - was not there when the - when the photographer was there. And then nothing was there. I mean, this led to her - what she was doing led to what "The New York Post" called, in the greatest headline of the year, "The Bimbo Summit," when - you know, when what's her name - Hilton and Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears all got together. Hilarious.

KONDRACKE: Well, you know, I - where - where does American taste go, you know? These - these are the - the - the new symbols of taste. Bad.


KONDRACKE: Down. "Blowhard of the Year" award goes to CNN's Lou Dobbs. Now this is a guy who also could qualify for "Turncoat of the Year".


KONDRACKE: .when he used to be a cheerleader for capitalism and for corporate America. Now he is a - a - a demagogue, it - it amounts for populists and - and protectionists and - and xenophobes. And he doesn't have any answers.

BARNES: And he's wrong. You know, the fact is, the rolling up our borders and pulling out of the globalized economy is a way to achieve one thing: a lower standard of living.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Poverty. Yes, exactly. Absolutely.

BARNES: A low - you know.

KONDRACKE: OK. The "Unsung Hero of the Year" award goes to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Now, this is one really tough guy. Here he is, he's got hundreds of thousands of Hezbollah activists surrounding his presidential palace, and he is not giving up. BARNES: No, he's not. You know, his problem is, he doesn't look like a tough guy that he really is. Remember - I remember when Condoleezza Rice was describing him that way, and I didn't believe it. She turns out to be right. What a great elected leader. Our awards ceremonies.

KONDRACKE: Ceremonies?

BARNES: .continue after the break, including the best and worst ideas, and campaigns of the year. You'll not want to miss it.


BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." We're continuing our year-end awards. The "Best Campaign of the Year": Joe Lieberman's run as an independent in Connecticut. You know, Mort, we look back now, and we think about it. Of course, Lieberman won; he's so popular. But holding on to plenty of Democrats - so Ned Lamont, the lefty anti-war guy wouldn't get them - and getting the vast majority of Republicans in - in a polarized national political situation, not easy. Joe did it to perfection.

KONDRACKE: Yes. And how did he do it? He did it by saying, I'm going to solve problems. I'm going to do it on a bipartisan basis, and I'm not going to worry about partisanship. That - that's a - that's a winning - winning strategy.

BARNES: Well, let's see if he can do any of that. All right the "Worst Campaign of the Year": Republican George Allen's Senate campaign. You remember that "macaca" statement, which he - he called some James Webb - his opponent - supporter who was videotaping his speech once during August. He really never recovered from that. He had a perfectly good campaign staff, and in fact a very good one. But he never got his footing again. I - I ran into him the other day in Alexandria, and he was in a cheerful mood. And I think he's going to run for politics again, something - governor again. He was a great governor.

KONDRACKE: Weren't you looking forward to a 2008 campaign featuring John Kerry against George Allen? I know you were. I'm glad it's not going to happen. OK, the "Spoiler of the Year" award goes to Congressman Mark Foley. You know, there was a chance that the - that the Republicans could get back. They were - they were just beginning to inch up in the polls and stuff like that. Then the Mark Foley scandal with the Instant Messages - you know, dirty messages to pages, cut the bottom out from under (INAUDIBLE). And it was all downhill from there.

BARNES: Yes, September 29. And that was a day of infamy. And pollsters will tell you, immediately, about a dozen more Republicans who weren't in trouble - House candidates - were in trouble.

KONDRACKE: OK. "Comeback of the Year": Trent Lott. Here he was, bounced at Senate majority leader with the White House's instigation, and he bided his time and made lots of friends, and beat Lamar Alexander by one vote.

BARNES: And Mort - and why did .

KONDRACKE: As - as - as whip.

BARNES: And why did he win? Because he's a very skillful legislator who was a great minority whip when he was in the House. I think he'll be a good minority leader in the Senate. KONDRACKE: And the media.


KONDRACKE: The "Media Darling of the Year" is Barack Obama, who has a message much like Joe Lieberman's message. And that, and - oh, yes. It is a message of hope. It is a message of bipartisanship. It's a message of working together. It's a message of problem-solving. And that's why he's a hero. I think that's (INAUDIBLE) - the appeal is.

BARNES: Mort - Mort.

KONDRACKE: What is it then?

BARNES: But what's behind it? What's behind Joe Lieberman was, he—strong on foreign policy, for his strong defense, for fighting in Iraq, for waging a real war on terror. Oback (ph) - Barack Obama is - I mean, he's for these things, no partisan bickering, but behind it is the standard, tired, old left-wing ideas.



BARNES: Those aren't Lieberman's.

KONDRACKE: He needs to fill in the blanks. That's for sure. OK.

BARNES: There are no blanks. They're only blanks to you. KONDRACKE: OK. "The Most Bizarre Moment of the Year" is Vice President Dick Cheney's accidentally shooting his friend Harry Whittington. Now I think that this - that there was political fallout from this. It made the administration look ridiculous, and - and the - and what made it even look more ridiculous is the fact that they couldn't announce that the vice president of the United States has shot somebody to the national press. They had to leak it basically to the Corpus Christi local newspaper.

BARNES: The - you know, did you see - do you remember when - when Cheney was interviewed by - by Brit Hume how totally crestfallen he was by the whole thing? It's - it - it hurt him, too. All right. Coming up, we finish up the awards with all the biggies: "The Winner of the Year"; "The Loser of the Year"; and the granddaddy of them all, the coveted "Beltway Boys" "Person of the Year."


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Now we're rounding out our ninth annual year-end awards show. The next three awards are the biggies. "The Winner of the Year" - and it pains us to say it - is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Look, he lost local elections in - in his own country. But he's sowing chaos everywhere else, and - and defeating United States' purposes in Lebanon and the West Bank, in Iraq. All over the place, he's ascendant. He's getting away with developing nuclear weapons. I'm afraid he's winner.

BARNES: Yes. We could have given him "Blowhard of the Year," because he's certainly a blowhard. I'm afraid he can't be handled through diplomacy. It's going to take military action.

KONDRACKE: The "Loser of the Year" is Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, who lost his post as - as Defense secretary. And basically, if we're not winning the war, as even the president now acknowledges, I think we're losing. And we're losing largely because we didn't have enough troops in the beginning. And the reason that we didn't - weren't able to secure the country. And that's basically a policy that we put over by Donald Rumsfeld. So - and I got to say that President Bush is also a loser this year, because he lost - his party lost the elections. And we're not winning in Iraq.

BARNES: You're going to dance on the grave.

KONDRACKE: No, I'm not. I'm not.

BARNES: See - you were just doing it. Look, Rumsfeld is - is "Loser of the Year" because he was - he's out of his job. He's going to be remembered as a great Defense secretary. Another loser of the year were these people you are always building up, Mort: Republican moderates got killed.

KONDRACKE: Very few of them left. OK, "The Beltway Boys" "Person of the Year" is incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Now, she was the beneficiary of a lot of Republican mistakes, including the abandonment - the reform agenda. But she held her party together. She was the leader.

BARNES: Queen Bee of the Democrats ruled well. That's all for "The Beltway Boys" this week. Happy New Year!

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