Transcript: 'The Beltway Boys,' January 20, 2007

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This is a full transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on January 20, 2007.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": Coming up on THE BELTWAY BOYS, President Bush gets ready to deliver his State of the Union address amid a near revolt on Capitol Hill over his Iraq plan.

FRED BARNES, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Hillary Clinton tries to get her groove back after Barack Obama declares he's all but in the presidential race.

KONDRACKE: Negative ads target John McCain's early call for more troops in Iraq.

BARNES: And this winter's wacky weather could spur even wackier legislation here in Washington.

KONDRACKE: That's all coming up on THE BELTWAY BOYS right after the headlines.


KONDRACKE: I'm Mort Kondracke.

BARNES: And I'm Fred Barnes. We're THE BELTWAY BOYS. Hot story number one, borrowed time. That's a phrase that Condi Rice used, the secretary of state used, but the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Maliki and where it stands on winning the war in their own country, Iraq. But it also applies to the Bush administration and particularly to this so-called surge of 21,500 troops that the president is planning on sending to Iraq to help secure Baghdad. He called it a surge, we call it an escalation. The fact that Democrats are opposed is really par for the course. When things get tough in a war, Democrats usually back off and now they want to pass a resolution in the Senate and in the House, too, but particularly in the Senate because it's bigger in foreign affairs, criticizing this decision by the president for a surge.

What's alarming, I think to the president, and as well as to me and probably to you, too, are all the Republicans who are joining in, led by John Warner of Virginia, the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who is — Here he is wavering. Watch.


SEN. JOHN WARNER, (R) VA: Is the American G.I. to settle that problem that they haven't settled among themselves over a thousand years? I hope not. But it seems to me that responsibility should largely flow to the Iraqi forces. Not the American G.I. to put down that sectarian violence.


BARNES: He's on the slippery slope, Mort. We count at least nine Republicans who are probably going to voted vote for one resolution or another criticizing the president for this surge. You can look at the names there. And a number of them are ones who are up for reelection in 2008.

And so here's my question, I mean, are they so fearful of having Iraq being a big issue in 2008 as it was in 2006 and not helping Republicans that they're going to join this march of Americans, eventually, it would seem like out of Iraq altogether? Or will they show political fortitude here? I'm not sure we're going to see a lot of political fortitude. We will see about that. But we're not a slippery slope, I think there is no question about that, in Iraq. Just as we were in Vietnam 30, 35 years ago, where you start with negative resolutions attacking the president's policy on the war. And what comes next? Fund cutoffs.

KONDRACKE: Well, the president is going to address the country again with the State of the Union message this week, and he is going to say a lot about Iraq once again and tie it to the war on terrorism and try to buck up support. But here's what he's operating against: overall, our latest Fox poll shows that 59 percent of the American people are against sending more troops to Iraq.

And he delivered a speech last week in which he tried to buck everybody up, but 61 percent of people don't think his plan represents any kind of a real change. He only managed to convince 33 percent of something that is clearly the case, that he's going to try something new.

And as to the Republicans, in a Gallup poll, among Republicans, he does have 63 percent among people in his own party and 33 percent opposed. There are 49 Republican senators. Nine or 10, as you say, are going to be against him on this, which is about 20 percent.

BARNES: That's today, it may be more.

KONDRACKE: There are going to be two resolutions. One is the Warner resolution, which is designed to be the Republican resolution, the moderate one that says just no to the, quote, unquote escalation. And the other one is Senator Biden and Senator Levin and Senator Hagel, which is going to say no, no, no, to it.

Now when you add up all the votes that are going to vote for one or the other, you're liable to get 60 votes, and that leaves 40 Republican senators and Joe Lieberman who are going to be in favor of this policy, and I've got to tell you, I know there are some among those 40, not Lieberman, but among the 40 Republicans, who are also nervous and that makes your point. This is a slippery slope.

BARNES: Squishy Republicans. Look, I agree with you, there could be 60 votes against it. And I think the polls are accurate. But I think what the polls reflect are a view of the majority of the American people are just plain wrong. And I think these senators are wrong.

The new strategy, the new counterinsurgency plan, and it is new for Baghdad is the only hope we have of winning there now. It's the last chance, and I think it's a very good chance. Passing a resolution criticizing the surge is not going to help lead to victory at all, it's only going to encourage the enemies.

Now, the guy I think who has stood the tallest in all this, and I think you agree, too, is Senator John McCain of Arizona, who said for at least a couple years that more troops are needed in Iraq, and finally the president will send them. What does McCain get for this? He gets attacks on television by, the left wing group. Watch.


ANNOUNCER: John McCain has done more than just embrace George Bush's failed policy in Iraq, it's actually his idea to escalate the war there. It's John McCain's idea to send tens of thousands more soldiers to Iraq and to keep them there with no timeline for bringing them home. The McCain plan to escalate, going from bad to worse.


KONDRACKE: Well, look, if is attacking a Republican. That should help them among Republican voters.

It is significant I think that all three of the leading Republican candidates for president in 2008 are supporting the president on this, they are not part of the slippery slope crowd. But more troops has always been John McCain's mantra. And if it works, he ought to get the major share of the credit here. If it fails, I'm afraid he gets the major share of the blame when it comes to a general election.

BARNES: Yeah, you may be true.

All right, coming up, Barack Obama gets serious about a presidential run. We'll assess his chances and tell you how Team Hillary is responding. Stick around.



SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) IL: So even in the midst of the enormous challenges we face today, I have great faith and hope about the future because I believe in you, and that's why I wanted to tell you first that I'll be filing papers today to create a presidential exploratory committee.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to THE BELTWAY BOYS. Hot story number two is heading left, and I'm referring to the Democratic '08 field on the war in Iraq, led by Barack Obama, who just formed the exploratory committee for president.

BARNES: I don't think he believes in me. Maybe he believes in you.

KONDRACKE: And Hillary Clinton and then John Edwards following close behind. The basic fact on the war for the Democrats that in a Gallup poll, only 14 percent want more U.S. troops in Iraq, 84 percent of Democrats oppose it. And when asked what Democrats would like to see happen with troops, 30 percent say they should withdraw immediately, 47 percent say they should go within a year, and that 77 percent who say all out within a year. Seventeen percent say stay as long as we need them. And five percent say send more troops.

Now this is what the Democratic field is operating with, and the furthest left of all these candidates is John Edwards who wants to be the, Howard Dean, George McGovern candidate and is banking that this is a disaster and the whole party is going to go far to the left. And he is calling for an immediate withdrawal of 40,000 to 50,000 troops. And when it comes to his rivals, he accuses them of this. Watch.


JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Silence is betrayal. Speak out and stop this escalation now. You have the power, members of Congress, to prohibit this president from spending any money to escalate this war. Use that power. Use it now!


KONDRACKE: And the rest of the 2008 field is sort of vying for attention, and they're all opposed to this, quote, unquote, escalation, which is the Vietnam word for surge. And Obama had to play catch up this week because two other senators got out in front of him. Watch him.


OBAMA: I plan to introduce legislation that I believe will stop the escalation of this war by placing a cap on the number of soldiers in Iraq. I want to emphasize that I'm not unique in taking this approach. I know that Senator Dodd has crafted similar legislation, Senator Clinton I believe yesterday indicated she shared similar views.


KONDRACKE: The main body of the Democratic field, as I said, wants out, wants an escalation. They want phased withdrawal, not immediate withdrawal. They don't want to set deadlines, they don't want to cut off funding. And so that's where that's a position for the moment. And here's Hillary Clinton explaining what her position is. Watch.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NY: I don't want to defund our troops. I'm against that. But I want to defund the Iraqi troops. I want to defund the private security going for the Iraqi government if they don't meet these certain requirements. They have to start acting based on what we expect of them.


KONDRACKE: As I said before, what I think .

BARNES: Defund the Iraqi troops? That's wacky!

KONDRACKE: She's making it contingent on their doing certain things and getting them to do what President Bush wants them to do. And she's getting killed for that on the left. The left wing bloggers and some TV talk show hosts are accusing her of being practically the equivalent of George Bush which she's not.

As I've said before, what I think the Democrats ought to do is basically shut up and let Bush play his hand out here. They should not demoralize our troops, they should not demoralize our allies, they should not encourage our enemies. They've made their point. They're against this surge, and they ought to just let it play out.

BARNES: They're not going to do that. And Democrats wonder why at the end of the day they're never trusted on national security.

Now look, Hillary Clinton as a senator for six years and has made an effort, and I think a successful effort, to build up credibility on defense and national security issues, and I think she's throwing that away or throwing some of that away. Now Barack Obama hasn't been around long enough to have a particular credibility on national security, but the likeliest ticket for Democrats in 2008 is Hillary for president and Obama for vice president.

Now are they going to be regarded as strong on national security? I mean, look, this is why President Bush was reelected in 2004. Presidents are simply required to be resolute on policies during war time that from moment to moment that may be unpopular. Lincoln was, FDR was, LBJ was and now Bush is and Hillary and Obama are not.

KONDRACKE: Well, Hillary was trying to demonstrate how strong she was by saying we have got to beef up what we're doing in Afghanistan, which is in danger. And she's right there.

But look, the real fact is that President Bush is going to be able to carry this policy out. They're not going to be able to stop him with fund cutoffs, at least any time soon. So we're going to see whether this thing works. And I hope that the policy works. But it is resting on some weak reeds.

It's resting on Prime Minister Maliki, it's resting on the Iraqi military, which has not stood up yet and it's resting the question of whether 17,500 troops can pacify a city of 5.5 million.

BARNES: Well, the troops are already there, Mort. Look, the stakes are higher than whether Maliki and his government meet an artificial standard for Hillary Clinton. We need to win there, even if they don't.

KONDRACKE: Coming up, ready or not Congress and President Bush get ready to weigh in on the global warming debate. Stick around. Our ups and downs are next.


BARNES: Welcome back to THE BELTWAY BOYS. Let's take a look at this week's ups and downs. Up: Democrats. They're celebrating successes with the completion of their 100 hours legislative blitz in the House and passage of major ethics and lobbying reform in the Senate.

Mort, despite the fact that much of the stuff that the Democrats passed in the House won't ever become law, I think the 100 hours thing actually worked very well. It's a gimmick, but gimmicks sometimes work and some of it was serious legislation. And so politically, I think it was a home run for them.

Now, the problem supposedly that Republicans said, the problem was that they weren't given a chance to offer amendments and so on. But I don't think anybody cares about that. I haven't seen people marching on the Capitol saying Republicans need to have their chance. The truth is the one thing that we know will go into effect are the ethics reform measures that were adopted and Republicans only have themselves to blame. The Democrats are now going to get credit. They could have acted boldly on that last year and they blew it.

KONDRACKE: Well, I have three — actually four problems. One is the one of the two that you mentioned, that the Democrats having promised that they would let Republicans have amendments, didn't fulfill the promise. Secondly is this negotiating drug prices through the government, ignores the successes of private competition.

Secondly, the homeland security bill that they passed probably that won't become law but is wildly expensive. And thirdly, these lobbying reforms permit meals, travel, gifts, all that stuff in the midst of a campaign fund-raiser, so that is going to encourage every meeting between two members to be a campaign fund-raiser.

BARNES: Picky, picky, picky.

KONDRACKE: Up: wacky weather from cherry blossoms in DC to snow in Malibu, this winter strange weather is getting the attention of Congress and President Bush. It's not wacky weather. It's global warming, basically. That we do have this year an El Nino effect going, that has a lot to do with the wackiness of this current weather. But 2006 was the warmest year on record, and all scientists — I know you don't believe this, but the overwhelming consensus of science is that it is CO2 emissions that is causing it, and we're the producers of CO2 emissions, human activity.

So, even President Bush has come around on this as you're going to hear in the State of the Union message. And what we need, I don't think he's going to go for this, but we need a cap and trade system on CO2 emissions. It doesn't have to be immediate. It doesn't have to grind the world - the American economy to a halt, but we need to get on with it and we also need a major investment in alternative fuel production.

BARNES: Thank you, Dr. Kondracke, the expert in meteorology. Good to hear from you about the coldest year on record.


BARNES: The warmest — And next year will be the coldest and you'll still blame it on global warming. Look, there's something more important I think that trumps doing anything about global warming, whether it exists or whether it is man-made or not. Obviously we've had a little warming.

And you know what that is? That's energy independence. And look, we are now, as you well know and probably said, we're funding our enemies, by buying their oil, by being dependent on their oil, the Iranians, for one, the Venezuelans, even the Saudi Arabians, no telling where that money goes but I'll bet some of it gets to al Qaeda one way or another. We need to be less dependent on them, otherwise we're vulnerable. How do we do that? We don't do it by banning CO2 or setting a cap. We want more greenhouse emissions in the short run, more, and I'll tell you why, in the short run, before this — and I'm for all the expanded research on alternative fuels, before that comes on line if it ever does because what causes CO2? We need to produce more of our own oil, more natural gas, use our coal, develop that in the short run here to be less dependent on our enemies and worry about global warming, which is marginal now, what effect it would have by setting the standards .

KONDRACKE: How about using less? How about a gasoline tax to use less.

BARNES: I'm for using less, too, Mort. But we have about 60 percent overseas oil, and using it will help a little, but it's stupid. Why not produce more of what we have to achieve it and not have these caps, which are counterproductive. You know perfectly well energy independence now is more important.

KONDRACKE: I agree with you. We'll debate this further.

Up. Fox's hit show "24" with a storyline ranging from biochemical attacks to planes falling from the sky. "24's" The latest round of nuclear attacks has liberals crying foul and conservatives saying warning that this could happen to you. This is another case of fair and balanced. It is true, "24" is right-wing show. There is no doubt about it.

Jack Bauer tortures whoever he wants to and gets away from it. And anybody can be wiretapped at any minute of the day or night. But it does balance practically every other show on television which is culturally to the left. And the latest one is going to be HBO's production of "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" which is all designed to make Americans feel terrible about ethnic cleansing of the Indians.

We should feel terrible, but the show is designed to somehow indict George Bush along the way.

BARNES: "24." One conservative show and liberals go ballistic. Mort, there is no end to liberal intolerance.

KONDRACKE: And don't move a muscle, "The Buzz" is up next.


KONDRACKE: Here's the buzz, Fred. The world lost a wonderful, warm, brave, funny man in Art Buchwald this week, and he even made fun of his own impending death. But he was also profound about it. He said, "I have no idea where I'm going, but the real question is, what am I doing here in the first place?" Great.

BARNES: He was a funny guy. Washington is not a funny town. We need more people who are purposely funny. And not people who are inadvertently funny.

Got a lot of those - in that column he wrote about J. Edgar Hoover years ago, it wasn't J. Edgar Hoover, it was 26 people who played him at one time or another, and people believed him. He was just having a good time. Amazing guy and he certainly died with dignity. That's for sure.

That's all for THE BELTWAY BOYS this week. Join us next week when the boys will be back in town, and stick around, FOX NEWS WATCH is straight ahead.

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