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This is a full transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on January 13, 2007.
FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," President Bush's new strategy for Iraq sets the stage for a big-time confrontation with Congress.
MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": We'll tell you what Democrats are doing to derail the president's plan, including threats to cut off the funding.
BARNES: We'll take a closer look at where the 2008 presidential hopefuls are coming down on all this.
KONDRACKE: And what about the Iraqis? They've talked the talk about getting tough on insurgents, but can they walk the walk?
BARNES: That's all coming up on "The Beltway Boys," right after the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's one thing to develop a plan. It's another thing to see it through. The prime minister and I have some - some plain talk. I have made it clear that the patience of the American people is not unlimited, and now is the time to act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: I'm Fred Barnes.
KONDRACKE: And I'm Mort Kondracke, and we're "The Beltway Boys." Well, the "Hot Story" of the week is "Tough Sell." I'm talking about the president's new Iraq strategy. I would say it was met by an orgy of - of opposition. This is - look, this is Bush's last chance for success in Iraq, and to avoid a calamitous defeat in the face of radical Islam around the world. I think he deserves a chance to play out his hand, and - and hope - and hope that - that he can succeed. And he can play out his hand, because the Democratic Congress is not so irresponsible as to be planning to cut off the funds for him - for him to prosecute the war. But the - the Congress - Democrats are going to do every thing short of that they possibly can do, with hearings and with investigations and with resolutions and all that kind of stuff. And they're going to try to drive his numbers down. And the - the public polls show right now that - that he's on thin ice. There - there were no - there have no polls since he made his speech on Wednesday, but the - just before the - the - the speech, the latest Associated Press poll showed that 70 percent of the public was against more troops in Iraq. Now, according to a Gallup poll the week before, 15 percent - and that's only 15 percent - said that we should withdraw all our troops right now. But 39 percent say that we should pull out within a year, and 31 percent say that we should stay for as long as needed. And only 12 percent said that the United States should - should send in more troops. So the public is - going into this is pretty - pretty negative about it. And the - and the Democrats are going to try to make it even more negative. Now when asked whether there would be a fund cut-off resolution, this is what Nancy Pelosi said. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you vote not to fund this increase in troops, or - or not to fund some portion of the Iraq campaign that is - is currently being funded?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, that may not be the - the issue is, Do you support the president's policy? That will be the vote. Democrats will always support our troops.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KONDRACKE: So the first plan is to have no confidence votes in both the House and the Senate. But the anti-war ultras are on the march, and they - what they want is a fund-cutoff resolution. The question is, What will the Democrats do when Bush sends up his supplemental funding request for the war -- $100 billion, maybe $150 billion - in February? BARNES: Well, when you say the - the anti-war ultras, are you referring to Teddy Kennedy, Russ Feingold, or just the sweetheart of the left, like Cindy Sheehan or - yes. I mean, who are you referring to? KONDRACKE: All of the above. BARNES: All right. You know, clearly, Nancy Pelosi has not convinced Teddy Kennedy not to seek a fund cutoff. Listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Our bill that will say that no additional troops can be sent, and no additional dollars can be sent on such an escalation unless and until Congress approves the president's plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: Well, that was pretty clear and - and - and emphatic. And - and Mort, look how far Democrats have come in just a few days, and I don't know, maybe a couple of weeks. They're now - many of them, top people like Teddy Kennedy - he's not some backbencher - talking about a cutoff. This coming week, John Murtha in the House, a congressman from Pennsylvania, will be talking about not just a cutoff on - on funds for the surge of new troops, but a total cutoff for troops in the entire effort. Now here's my biggest problem with Democrats, and they - and I say this as a supporter of the war. You know, President Bush has changed course in Iraq. That's what his new plan it is; it is a new course. He has a new commander. He has a new strategy - that - that's David Petraeus. A new strategy, that's counterinsurgency. A new objective, which is not merely training the Iraqi army, but is making Baghdad safe for the Iraqi people. In other words, protecting the Iraqi people. And a new role for American troops. It - it's new. And yet, Steny Hoyer, the majority leader for Democrats in the House, said, Oh, I didn't hear any thing new in that speech. And other Democrats have echoed that. Now, look, these are smart people. Certainly Steny Hoyer, and I can't believe he was so inattentive that he couldn't have picked up what the president was talking about. And yet - and yet, that's what - what he and others said. I say that it intellectually dishonest for them to - for them to - for them to say that. If they don't like the policy, then criticize it, explain why they're against it. But to say it's not new is wrong. Even Hillary Clinton went this route. And here's what she said: "The president has not gotten the message sent loudly and clearly by the American people that we desperately need a new course. The president has not offered a new direction. Instead, he will continue to take us down the wrong road, only faster." Look, if she wants to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, then intellectually take on the president's proposal. Don't pretend like there's nothing new there.
KONDRACKE: Well, what - what the Democrats mean by that is that his direction is further in, not out.
BARNES: Well why don't they say that?
KONDRACKE: All right.
BARNES: Don't pretend it's not.
KONDRACKE: Well, that's - that's what - that's what they mean. Look, every thing here depends on whether the Iraqis will finally stand up to their - to their responsibilities, politically and militarily. Now the - the question is, will Iraqi forces fight in - in Baghdad? Will they - will Prime Minister Maliki take on Muqtada al-Sadr? Will he do the - the things that President Bush laid out on in his benchmarks of making reconciliatory moves toward the - toward the Sunnis? All of that is yet to be determined. And if I were President Bush, on the basis of the past record, I would be planning Plan B or Plan C or whatever you want. And - and I - there is in the air some talk about plan - further plans down the line if - if the Iraqis won't stand up. One is that this could be our exit strategy. In other words, blame the Iraqis and get out. The second one would have to be to replace Maliki and try to get a new government. And the third one, which some of the Democrats are - are afraid is what Bush has in his mind, is an escalation .
KONDRACKE: .into - into Iran and Syria. I don't think that that's in the cards, but that's what they're afraid of.
BARNES: Yes, that's Plan Z. It's - they're not going to - they're not going to get any where with that. Look, every thing doesn't - every thing doesn't depend on the Iraqis. A lot does for sure, but a lot still depends on what Americans do there. And it's not enough for the American troops to be - to be devoted to what they have been devoted to, and that's merely training the Iraqi army, and then withdrawing American troops as soon as possible, as soon as the Iraqi army's up to speed. Who knows when that will be, Mort? And - and by following that strategy, we have not been winning in Iraq. It's as simple as that. That's why the president has changed course. Now one of the nice things about President Bush - I wrote a whole book about this, about President Bush - is he didn't fall for the advice that you would get from the Washington wise guys - the wise men of Washington. And - and that's the conventional wisdom, which you could sum up in two words: "accept defeat." He didn't buy that. And - and his strategy is one for winning. And I'll have to say, he has few allies at the moment. John McCain's one, but there are not many. But he has one thing nobody else has: a plan for victory.
KONDRACKE: Yes. Well, look, I hope that his plan for victory works. It has not worked up to now. And it has not worked largely because he was not willing to stand up to Don Rumsfeld and the generals in - in Iraq, and put in more troops the way John McCain said was - was necessary way back when. John McCain was not alone, but he was the leader in this. Now, look - look, if this doesn't work, it - I think, you know, it's going to be Bush's fault. He's probably going to blame Maliki and he's going to blame the Iraqis, but it's going to be fundamentally Bush's fault, which is why it is so stupid for the Democrats to start pulling the rug out from under Bush, and give Bush the opportunity to say that they were responsible for our defeat in - in Iraq.
BARNES: Well, I think it would stupid. But then, they got away with it in Vietnam, when they were the large - and some Republicans, but largely Democrats, you know, pulled out the funding of the - of the Vietnamese army. Even after we'd gotten all the troops out there. And look - and Democrats - and this can point to, in response to you for instance - point to a great number of Republicans who are actually opposing the president on this increase in surge. And not just people who have been against the war all - all along, like Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, but there are a lot of other nervous nellies, too. Now the good news, I think, is that the president is prepared to proceed and go ahead with this without the screaming Democrats and without the nervous Republicans. And - and you know what it - it comes down to? Because he's that way, because he's a tough guy of character, that's why he's president and they're not.
KONDRACKE: Coming up, Hillary Clinton paying the price for her early support for the war. We'll tell you how. Stick around; our "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.
Down: Hillary Clinton. She's increasingly getting the squeeze from the anti-war left for her initial support for the war, and it's costing her support in the early primary states.
KONDRACKE: Yes. Both in Iowa and New Hampshire, she's - in - in Iowa she - she was fourth in a poll. And in New Hampshire I think she's tied with Barack Obama.
Look, the anti-war bloggers and the - and leftie radio talk show are acting as if Hillary Clinton had a position on the war that was pro-Bush and pro-war, as if she were Joe Lieberman, for example.
KONDRACKE: I mean, the fact is that she's as critical of Bush as - as - as any body. She is not for immediate withdrawal. She's not for setting a hard timetable. She's not for cutting off funds. But - you know, she's got a responsible, mid-Democratic position like Carl Levin or Joe Biden or somebody like that. She's against what Bush is doing, but she's not, you know, for bugging out.
KONDRACKE: Now this does put her to the right of John Edwards and it puts her to the right of Tom Vilsack, who, you know, used to be the chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrists.
BARNES: Yes. Yes.
KONDRACKE: And he's got a position that's a lot like - like Teddy Kennedy's: let's the pull the plug, pull the money.
KONDRACKE: Or at least not fund this - this escalation.
Barack Obama, her closest rival, is kind of in a - in a - a middle zone. I don't where he is. He's saying that at some point, a democracy provides the - the means for stopping a policy they don't like. But he hasn't said what it is and - or what he's for.
BARNES: You know, Hillary is never going to - and I use her first name, since she's reached that status, like Newt - she - she's never going to please the peace-at-all-costs crowd. You know, they're just - they're not going to be satisfied with the - without the U.S. literally running up the white flag, I think.
But, you know, she falls in this category - I'd put her in with - with John Edwards and Joe Biden and a number of others - John Kerry, who may run for president. And they all fit this category: they supported the war when it was popular, and voted for it. And yet now that it's become popular, now that it becomes tough.
BARNES: Yes, now that it's become unpopular - now that it's become tough to stand up and support the war, they wimp out.
KONDRACKE: Well, you can change your mind about things. Down.
BARNES: Yes. Yes, right.
KONDRACKE: .House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Democrats stepped all over their much-ballyhooed "First Hundreds Hours" with their attacks on Bush's Iraq war plan, and now Republicans are charging Pelosi with hypocrisy on a measure left out of the minimum-wage bill this week.
BARNES: Well, they left out Samoa.
BARNES: You know, which is owned - America-owned Samoa, that - for the minimum-wage hike requirement. And of course - and it turns out there's some tuna factories in Samoa that are owned by a company headquartered in San Francisco, in Nancy Pelosi's district.
Now, look, I think this falls short of a scandal. On the other hand, it shows some - you know, symbolized the problems they've had with this hundred hours. Now Democrats say, well, you know, this was an oversight. And I'm willing to accept that.
But Roy Blunt, the Republican whip, is absolutely right when he said, Look, if they'd gone through the normal committee process, we -- we would have found this stuff; it would have been weeded out. That's what Republicans did with the Contract With America in 1993.
KONDRACKE: Yes. You know, it .
BARNES: Or rather, 1995.
KONDRACKE: Well - I mean, what this shows is that the Republicans have got terrific opposition research and they're - they're - they're reading all these bills. They got nothing better to do than to read the bills now. And if - if they had been as good in proactive legislation back last year - last year, maybe they'd still be in the majority - if they'd passed an immigration bill; if they'd passed an ethics-reform package; eliminating earmarks; if they'd passed a - a minimum-wage bill of their own, they - they might have done better. But, you know, they'll learn.
BARNES: That's amazing, Mort, that you could turn a Democratic blunder into an attack on Republicans. But you did. All right.
KONDRACKE: I did it.
BARNES: Coming up, John McCain's political future could be riding on the success of the troop surge in Iraq. We'll tell you why. More "Ups and Downs" are next.
KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." We're continuing with the "Ups and Downs" for the week.
Up: John McCain. He's been the lone voice in the woods calling for more troops in Iraq. And now President Bush is lick - listening to his advice.
If being president is all about leadership, you got to say that John McCain is a leader. From the beginning, he said we didn't have enough troops in Iraq. He - this is a very unpopular policy now. He has backed it to the hilt. He is standing behind it. He said he - that he - that he hopes it - it - it can work.
Now the other people in the Republican race, Rudy Giuliani and - and - and Mitt Romney are also saying that they - that they support the policy. And, you know, that's - that's kind of gutsy on their part. But the Democrats all say this is a McCain escalation, and it is, you know? And - and, you know, McCain's presidency, I think, will - presidential prospects will ride or fall on it.
BARNES: Well, I agree. It - it's not quite as big as an escalation as McCain actually wanted. And - but it is.
Look, this is leadership. He's taking a huge political risk, but is obviously willing to. You know, I happen to like what Rudy Giuliani said after the president's speech on - on Wednesday night. And he put the whole new policy of an - of increasing the number of troops and - and - and so on in the broadest but correct possible perspective.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: This is an American problem, an American issue. It isn't - isn't - isn't all about President Bush, and it's not all about the Democrats in Congress. America has to succeed here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: Indeed. Indeed America does. No question about that.
All right. Down: proponents of more federal money for embryonic stem- cell research.
The House this week easily passed a bill that would boost taxpayer- funded research. But the 253-174 vote falls far short of what proponents need to sustain a veto.
Now I think actually the big news of the week was not that vote. I think we already knew that - that there would be enough votes to block - or - there would be enough votes to override a veto. And there will be in the House. I think they had more than 30 to do that.
The biggest news was still another breakthrough in stem-cell research that does not involve killing a human embryo and - and - and crossing that moral line - at least, I think the moral line - that you have to cross when you kill human embryos for research. The new breakthrough came with the finding that amniotic fluid, which in the - around the womb of a - of a pregnant woman - that that fluid can be used in stem-cell research. And these may be the ideal stem cells which can do all the things or more that embryonic stem cells might. And yet there's a limitless supply of them. So here's what I think is a result - need to be done politically. And that is more research funds to go to this - this research that is showing so much promise - adult stem cells, in particular; umbilical stem cells; and now these amniotic stem cells, all of which do not require the killing of an embryo - and suspend for now - for now anyway trying to put all the money into this embryonic stem-cell research, which causes so much moral heartburn for so many Americans, including me.
KONDRACKE: Yes. Well, look, no one would be happier than I would if it proves that adult stem cells and - and - amniotic - amniotic stem cells are just as good as - as - as embryonic stem cells. But that has not been proved yet. And - you know, it's very curious to me that you get one study like this, and all of a sudden, people like you, the conservatives, all rush to believe it.
KONDRACKE: .when there is piles of evidence that we have global warming, caused by humans, and you dismiss all of it. You just - you dismiss science - science in that case, but you leap to accept science when it - when it suits you. I say, until we got the proof positive, let us find - let us - let us do all kinds of stem-cell research.
BARNES: Well, I - OK. Then you're going to - you're in favor of expanded money for all this other stem-cell research.
KONDRACKE: I'm not in - I - I have my doubts about cloning - therapeutic cloning. I do have my doubts about that.
BARNES: No. No.
KONDRACKE: But in terms of - in terms of using embryos that are going to be thrown away in - in - in any event, I say, use them for experimentation.
BARNES: Mort, only them?
BARNES: Only those - and not.
KONDRACKE: And amniotic, too, and - and adult.
BARNES: Look, Mort.
KONDRACKE: I have my doubts about cloning. I do.
BARNES: Global warming - I admit there's global warming. There's no proof it's done by humans. There's a lot of.
BARNES: Zip. Zero. None.
KONDRACKE: You can't - you can't.
BARNES: All right. Don't move a muscle; "The Buzz" is up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BARNES: Here's "The Buzz," Mort: You know, there's a group of members of Congress, Republicans, who at the White House they call "the smart ones." You know who they are? They're the ones who had tough re-election fights, who stuck by Bush on Iraq, and - and won. They were re-elected. And so now, these ones are still sticking with Bush on Iraq. But the White House says, Look, any body who got through the 2000 election - 6 election, any Republican, ought to be a smart one. But most of them aren't. They're nervous.
KONDRACKE: There is some trouble for John McCain in Iowa. "Roll Call"'s David Drucker polled 63 out of the 99 Republican county chairmen and found that 42 of them, including those in the biggest states, say that McCain won't carry their county. Only six were pro-McCain. That's all for "The Beltway Boys" for this week. Join us next week, when the boys will be back in town. And stick around; "FOX News Watch" is next.
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