Transcript: 'The Beltway Boys,' January 27, 2007

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This is a full transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on January 27, 2007.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," you've heard the comparisons, but is Iraq really turning into another Vietnam? We'll take a closer look.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": We know President Bush's Iraq plan is DOA on Capitol Hill. But there are new signs his domestic agenda may be, too.

BARNES: John Kerry exits, stage left, while Hollywood hedges its bets on Hillary.

KONDRACKE: And Dick Cheney catches some not-so-friendly fire from fellow Republicans.

BARNES: That's all coming up on "The Beltway Boys," right after the headlines.


BARNES: I'm Fred Barnes.

KONDRACKE: And I'm Mort Kondracke, and we're "The Beltway Boys." Well, the "Hot Story" is "Slippery Slope." And I'm talking about the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq. And they are terrifying to contemplate, actually. We are revisiting the - the - the Vietnam history, and we're going to do a little capsule here of - of the parallels, because they - because they descend, and they descend into - into disaster, I have to say. Step one in the Vietnam in the Vietnam analogy is that the war goes poorly. And in the beginning, up to 1968, the war did go badly in - in - in Vietnam. And the - gradually, the press and the - the public began to see it as - as a - as a failure. However, in 1968, we changed commanders, as we're changing commanders now. Creighton Abrams became the - the U.S. commander, much as David Petraeus is now. When Richard Nixon took over, he transferred responsibility over to the - to the Vietnamese, and they actually won battles. However, it was portrayed in the press as a - as one loss after another. And the public - and the - and the Congress believed Vietnam was a loser, and so it became a loser.

BARNES: You know, I - I - I agree, Mort. I think the similarities between Vietnam and what we're seeing in Iraq now - the - the domestic response here in the United States, they really are remarkably similar. You've had - what's the precipitating in Vietnam that had - rather, in Iraq, that has caused this. You had the golden dome being bombed in Samarra, but then, you know, this violence and chaos, it's increased so much in Baghdad, and this is really encouraged an - an anti-war movement in the United States. And of course, inevitably, what happens? Jane Fonda is in Washington this weekend to protest the war. And she was rather famous I would say for her demonstrations against the war in Vietnam.

KONDRACKE: Exactly so. So step - step two was that politicians started a blame game. Some of them blamed the American government; some of them blamed the government that we were defending. And the parallel is here in the statements from Hillary Clinton and George Voinovich.You watch.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I would never cut money for our troops when they're in harm's way. But I sure would threaten to cut money for the Iraqi troops and for the security for the Iraqi leadership. I don't know how else to get their attention.



SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH (R), OHIO: We have serious concern about the policy of this administration, and that many of us feel you are not listening. You are not listening.


KONDRACKE: Yes. Well - now you have to admit that after - when it comes to the Maliki government in Iraq, it's not just the - the doves who are critical, but the administration is, too. And the - the Maliki government's got to step up, or this whole thing is going to collapse.

BARNES: Look, I agree. You know, Maliki is not a great wartime leader. He's not FDR or somebody like that. He's not Churchill. But - but compared to what? I mean, compared to Saddam Hussein, who he replaced? I'd rather have Maliki there, for sure. And he is a democrat - democratically elected leader of Iraq. Now, you know, he has done some good things recently. In the past, you know, he - he - he really talked a great game, and - and didn't walk the walk. But a couple of things he's done, of course, Mort, are one, he has actually unleashed the Iraq army to move against the Mahdi Army and Muqtada al-Sadr - you know, the anti-American Muslim cleric who has great ties with the Iranians. And he's moved against them. And Sadr is I think terrified now. He sent his 30 members of the parliament to go back to the parliament. They were boycotting it. And so he - he is - and - and he's demanding that an oil - the oil law - you know, sharing the revenues for oil, finally get passed and so on. So I think he's starting to walk the walk now, and that's important.

KONDRACKE: OK. Step three in the - in the process to disaster was that Congress began passing resolutions and holding hearings criticizing the war. And that's the stage that we're at right now, with Joe Biden and John Warner coming up with these - with these resolutions against the president's so- called escalation. By the way, "escalation" is a - is a - is a Vietnam word.

BARNES: It sure is.

KONDRACKE: But the thing is that they didn't stop there. They - they - once the - the various presidents didn't do exactly as they wanted, they went beyond that to tie the president's hands and to fund cutoffs. And this is where the slippery slope comes in. And all you have to do is listen to Joe - what Joe Biden said this week, and you'll see where things are headed. Watch.


SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Unless the president demonstrates very quickly that he is unlikely to continue down the road he's on, this will be only the first step in this committee.



BARNES: That is ominous.


BARNES: And - and I think we know which - where he's heading. It really is a slippery slope. Now look, Senator Biden - and I think most of those critics in the Senate and the House and even around the country - of - of the war in Iraq, don't think that victory is possible. President Bush disagrees with that. Watch this, from the State of the Union.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ladies and gentlemen, on this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. Let us find our resolve and turn events toward victory.


BARNES: That of course was from last Tuesday's State of the Union address by - by President Bush, who seemed to be energized in the part of the speech - I think you said this at the time, Mort - energized when talking about the Iraq part and the war on terrorism, when his domestic agenda - when he was talking about that. Wasn't quite as worked up. And look, the truth is, you have - as you mentioned, you - you have a new general, Petraeus, and a new strategy, counterinsurgency, that's worked before. Actually, it was basically the Abrams strategy in Vietnam that worked.

KONDRACKE: Counterinsurgency.

BARNES: Yes, counterinsurgency. That's what it was. And the president met with Petraeus yesterday, Friday, and - and - and - and said, Look, you got to give this guy's plan a chance to work. Watch the president.


BUSH: I know there is skepticism and pessimism, and that they are - some are commending a plan before it's even had a chance to work. And they have a obligation and a serious responsibility therefore to put up their own plan as to what would work.


KONDRACKE: Well, step four in the Vietnam history was a troop withdrawal. The Congress and the public basically forced Richard Nixon to "Vietnamize," which was to say, turn over the - the military burden to the Vietnamese. And it worked. And they did it an orderly way. It took - it took a four-year process, but the - the South Vietnamese army, and actually fought battles against the North Vietnamese, and actually won. But the media reported it every - failed to report any victories, and only reported what was bad about what - what was happening. And the public just turned away and - and lost interest, and was against - continued to be against the war. And - and the bottom began to drop it.

BARNES: Yes, well, right now, they're not - it's only kind of fringe - fringe people who are - in Congress who are calling for actual troop cuts. Most of the efforts are - are to block the president from sending this new contingent of 21,500 troops that are needed to secure Baghdad. And - and so on. I think though this is a slippery slope we're talking about though. You know, now they're - they're for blocking the surge. Pretty soon, they'll be for actual troop cuts. It sounds like Senator Russ Feingold is already for that. And - and I fear there are going to be a lot more. KONDRACKE: Yes. Step five was that Congress cut off funding for the war. And this was done on a bipartisan basis. It was John Sherman, Cooper and Mark Hatfield and Clifford Case, Republicans, that - that - who resemble the John Warners and Chuck Hagels of - of this - of this particular time. And ultimately, they - they cut off any U.S. military assistance to the South Vietnamese, and the result was, finally, a collapse.

BARNES: Here's the other thing they did: they - and - and you were suggesting it - that they ignored the success that was going on in Vietnam. They ignored it, as if it wasn't happening. What I'm afraid is, this anti-war leaders - and - and they're a majority, the anti-war people seem to be majority in both the Senate and the House - will not acknowledge success if it's achieved by General Petraeus and his counterinsurgency strategy in Baghdad, and then in Anbar Province. They'll just go right ahead, sliding down this slippery slope toward a fund cutoff. KONDRACKE: Yes.

BARNES: And - and we know where that'll lead us.

KONDRACKE: Well, step six was a collapse. And I remember, April 29, 1975, when Congress refused President Ford's urgent appeal to give military - emergency military to the South Vietnamese. That's the moment I stopped being a liberal: when the United States refused to try to save an ally in its moment of - of maximum danger. And what happened afterwards was - it - the United States was hurt in the eyes of the world by - by the loss in Vietnam. And it - and the - the Soviets were encouraged to invade Afghanistan, and Jimmy Carter cut the military budget and shredded the intelligence community and all of that stuff. This will be infinitely worse. You'll have the Sunnis looking at the - at the Iranians, a nuclear-armed Iran, and going nuclear themselves. You're going to have ethnic warfare in the - in the region. The United States' reputation in the world is going to be - is going to be rock bottom. And some - some Democratic president may have to pick up the pieces.

BARNES: I remember that day Vietnam fell as well, Mort. I mean, that - that's the day you stopped being a liberal; that's the day I became a conservative. You know what I thought of? I had actually read some Whitaker Chambers. You know, "Witness," and he was the great communist who became an anti-communist. And he talked about, in one of his books, the great nightfall. Well, that's what fell over Vietnam. And it can happen again, in Iraq. That's what I fear. Coming up, Hillary's Hollywood friends are taking a fresh look at Barack Obama. We'll have the fallout. Stick around; "Ups and Downs" are next.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Let's check out the "Ups and Downs" for the week.

Down: John Kerry. He finally sees the handwriting on the wall by announcing that he won't run for president in '08. He's an emotional Kerry on the Senate floor on Wednesday.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASACHUSETTS: I've concluded this isn't the time for me to mount a presidential campaign. It is the time to put my energy to work as part of the majority in the Senate, to change a policy in Iraq that threatens all that I've cared about and fought for since I came home from Vietnam.


KONDRACKE: He's basically put himself out of his misery, because he had no chance for another nomination. And he's going to concentrate on getting himself reelected in - in Massachusetts in '08.

Now, in the top tier of the Democratic presidential field, he was descending to the bottom tier. We have Hillary Clinton, who's visiting Iowa this week, trying to.

BARNES: Isn't this the first time in two years she's been there?

KONDRACKE: Yes. And she's - she's ranking fourth in the polls, but she hasn't been there, and you go to go there in order to buck up your - up your support.

But her - her old Hollywood pals, the DreamWorks gang, including Stephen Spielberg, is holding a fundraiser for Barack Obama, although they're careful to say that they are not endorsing him yet.

BARNES: Yes, they'll give money to her, too, I bet.

The - look, the - the thing that's interesting to me is what's happening in Massachusetts. There is a groundswell for a particular candidate to run against Kerry for the Senate in - in '08, and that is the great Red Sox Curt Schilling. I think he's going to retire after this coming season, and - and he - you know, he's an enormously popular figure. Loves George Bush - remember, he campaigned for George Bush in 2004.

KONDRACKE: Senatorial material?

BARNES: Yes, I - you know, I think he's not going to run. But it is interesting that this groundswell started by sports talk radio, and obviously been picked up by political talk radio.

KONDRACKE: All right. Up: Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. He's generally getting high marks for his response to President Bush's State of the Union address.

Here's Webb talking about his service in the military, and trusting national leaders during wartime. Watch.


SEN. JIM WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: We owe them our loyalty as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it.


BARNES: You know, it's hard sitting in a room and - and just addressing a camera, and not an audience. And I think - you know, compared to other rebuttals of the State of the Union addresses by a president, he did pretty well. I thought it was forceful and strong and - and he thrilled Democrats all over the country.

He made a couple of mistakes in there, but one of them was to quote Eisenhower as saying, you know, `When's the war in Korea going to end?' Eisenhower asked this before he was elected president in 1952. Well, you know, the Korean - there's not - there's a parallel with Iraq and Vietnam; there's not one with Korea. We had already won in Korea; the North Koreans had been pushed back. And - and I don't think Webb would like the idea of all the troops that we have left there ever since, for 55 years since that statement - now what are there? 35,000 - 40,000 American troops there? As they need to be.

KONDRACKE: Good point. He - I think he brought up - and I - I thought it was a very effective speech. And he can write; that's for sure. But he - and he brought up a good issue in widening disparities between ordinary workers and CEOs. CEOs now make 400 times what their workers make; they used to make 20 - 20 times .

BARNES: You know how I know that? Because I've heard you say it so many times.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. Well, it's - it's a good point.

But, I mean, he exaggerating saying, you know - implying that we're on the verge of a massive citizen revolt or something like that. But - and he didn't have - and he didn't have the answers for it, except raising the minimum wage, which won't by itself do much good.

Anyway, coming up, Dick Cheney is a favorite target for Democrats, but now prominent Republicans are taking aim at him, too.

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


BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." We're continuing with our "Ups and Downs."

Down: bipartisanship. This is crushing to Mort. Not only is President Bush's Iraq plan DOA in Congress, much of his domestic agenda is, too. Especially his health care plan.

Democrat Pete Stark calls it a "nonstarter" and won't even hold a hearing on Bush's proposal.

Here's what he said - quote - "I do not intend to consider this particular health care proposal in the Ways & Means Health Subcommittee, but would be happy to meet with the president to consider alternative ideas" - unquote.

I would say, Congressman Stark, don't hold your breath for that invitation - that invitation from the president.

Look, Mort, you - you love bipartisanship.

KONDRACKE: I do. I do.

BARNES: But even you had to know, when Democrats were promising a new era of bipartisanship during last year's campaign, that it really wasn't going to happen, right? You - you didn't really expect it to happen, did you?

KONDRACKE: It may happen. You wait; it will happen.

BARNES: Look, Democrats are so partisan. They're partisan even when it's counterproductive for them. And the health care proposal by Bush is a great idea. You know, this standard deduction for every one, for families and - and - and for individuals.

I think the Bush health care proposal is absolutely brilliant. And the truth is, it would lower taxes for 80 percent of Americans - millions and millions and millions of whom are Democrats. That doesn't seem to thrill Pete Stark.

Now, you know, if - if you're in the top 20 percent of income, you'd get a - a tax increase. I mean, isn't this what Democrats like? But you know what they don't like - well, you know why they don't like. Because this would inject free-market incentives into our health care system, which is the only way costs will ever be controlled. And Democrats just want our health care system to be run by government.

KONDRACKE: Yes. I think that's the problem.

But there is hope for bipartisanship on immigration, on energy, on education. Now I think that Pete Stark should take another look at this presidential proposal and see if he can't improve it. It is progressive, as you say, and you could make it more progressive by changing it from a tax deduction, the way Bush wants to do it, and change it into a refundable tax credit. You could cover more of the uninsured. It would be a free-market way to - to do it. It wouldn't cover every body, but it would - but it would certainly be progress. And if that's what Pete Stark wants to achieve, he should try.

BARNES: Well, it's doable.

KONDRACKE: Down: Vice President Dick Cheney. He was a human punching bag this week. First, his name got dragged through the mud at the Scooter Libby trial, and then John McCain blamed him for mishandling the war, saying - quote —- "The president listened too much to the vice president. Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility. But he was very badly served by both the vice president and, most of all, the secretary of defense." Don Rumsfeld, of course.

Now back in the old days, we knew Dick Cheney, when he was White House chief of staff under Gerald Ford, as a moderate, right? He used to be a.

BARNES: Wiser now.

KONDRACKE: He used to be a cool customer as well. I - I - he seems to have gone bonkers when Joe Wilson wrote this op-ed piece questioning whether the administration had been on the level when it said that - that Iraq was seeking uranium in - in Africa.

Well, this was a minor part of the administration's case for the war in Iraq. I mean, it was chemical and biological weapons that there were - that were the main case on weapons of mass destruction. I don't know why - I don't know why they went so overboard.

BARNES: Well, I agree that they overreacted.

But remember, Wilson was going around saying that it was Dick Cheney who had sent him over there. It was his idea. That's what he was saying, and .

KONDRACKE: No, he - he .

BARNES: Well, OK. Well, you knocked that down. But also, you know, the CIA, British intelligence - nobody thought that the - the stuff that Joe Wilson was saying he found out there, that there had been no attempt by Iraq to buy any sort of nuclear materials in Iraq that - I'm sorry, in Africa - was wrong. I mean - I mean, he tried to knock down the president, but Wilson was wrong, Cheney was right.

Stay right where you are; "The Buzz" is up next.


BARNES: Here's "The Buzz," Mort:

I'm sure you remember that during the first six years of the Bush presidency, the president didn't veto a single spending bill. In fact, it was only one veto of a - of a separate bill. This is going to change. And you know what the big difference is? The - the president feels freed up to veto bills. One - spending bills in particular.

In the first six years, those were Republican spending bills. Now they're Democratic spending bills. Watch for the vetoes.

KONDRACKE: A real uniter, not a divider.

I went to see - speaking of bipartisan and all that - I went to see my hero Joe Lieberman on Friday, and - and I asked him, Now that you're an independent Democrat, what are you going to do about the 2008 race? And he said, He's going to wait for both parties to decide who their nominees are, and then endorse afterwards. And he might even - might endorse Mike Bloomberg, if he runs as an independent.

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

Stick around. "FOX News Watch" is straight ahead.

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