Transcript: 'The Beltway Boys,' February 10, 2007

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This is a full transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on February 10, 2007.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Coming up on THE BELTWAY BOYS, Barack Obama officially announces for president. While Hillary Clinton tries to steal his thunder in New Hampshire.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": Mitt Romney makes his formal entry into the race next week, but can he win over conservatives?

BARNES: And having trouble to the right, Rudy Giuliani. We'll show you a picture that is raising eyebrows in some GOP circles.

KONDRACKE: And John Edwards keeps two anti-Catholic bloggers on his payroll.

BARNES: Stay right where you are, THE BELTWAY BOYS are next right after the headlines.

TRACE GALLAGHER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: From America's newsroom, I'm Trace Gallagher. Senator Barack Obama making it official today, the Illinois Democrat now a candidate for president. Obama making his announcement in Springfield, Illinois. He's been a senator for two years, but Obama telling a crowd of thousands he's been in Washington long enough to know the ways of Washington must change. Obama also saying he has a plan that will bring combat troops home from Iraq by March of 2008. A marine killed in a training accident at the Miramar Air Base in California. At least 19 others hurt. It happened when the seven-ton truck they were riding in left a dirt road and overturned. The marine is part of Miramar's 4th Tank Battalion. All training at the base is now suspended. A car bombing kills at least six in central Baghdad's shopping district. More than 14 were injured. The explosion happening in a predominantly Shiite area and the U.S. military reporting three American soldiers killed by a bomb on Friday. The bomb going off in a province northeast of Baghdad. U.S. forces have been battling insurgents in the area for months now. The Bush administration expressing surprise and disappointment by remarks By Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader saying the U.S., quote, "Has overstepped its national borders in every way." Putin not stopping there. Also saying the U.S. is fostering a new global arms race. The Russian president speaking at a meeting of the world's top security officials in Germany. Secretary of defense Robert Gates is scheduled to address the same group tomorrow. One-hundred inches of snow! That's how much the National Weather Service says has fallen in an Upstate New York town since just this past weekend. Several communities reporting they got seven feet or more, and it ain't over yet. Forecasters saying their could be another foot or two before the storm ends sometime on Monday. New York's governor declaring a state disaster emergency. Well, the next news break at the bottom of the hour.

BARNES: I'm Fred Barnes.

KONDRACKE: And I'm Mort Kondracke. We're THE BELTWAY BOYS. Well, the first hot story of the week is Democratic duel. And I'm talking about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, of course.


KONDRACKE: This is Barack Obama's big weekend. His announcement today. And here's some of it from his speech. Watch.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) IL: As Lincoln organized the forces arrayed against slavery, he was heard to say this: "Of strange discordant and even hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds and formed and fought to battle through." That is our purpose here today. That's why I'm in this race, not just to hold an office but to gather with you to transform a nation.


KONDRACKE: Now, exciting as Barack Obama is, right now he is trailing Hillary Clinton in practically every poll. Nationally our Fox poll last week showed him behind by 28 points. And the right now there's the Iowa poll shows that Hillary Clinton leads the pack at 35 percent with John Edwards second at 18 percent and Barack Obama at 14 percent. And you know, Hillary was in fourth place just a few weeks ago and then she made one visit there and leapt up to the top of the pack, which shows you how powerful her campaign is and her appeal, I think. And Hillary was leading in New Hampshire, even before the trip that she had today, she was at 35 percent followed by Obama at 21 percent, Edwards at 16 and the rest of the field, as you see, in single digits. So, you know, Obama's got some catching up to do.

BARNES: He does. He does. But remember, he's been in national politics, in the Senate only about long enough to have a cup of coffee. So I think there's room there. Look, there are two big questions about Hillary Clinton and about Barack Obama as they go into the Democratic primaries and caucuses. With Hillary, it's does her husband Bill help or hurt her campaign. With Barack Obama, it's basically can he win the black vote? Which right now is heavily going to Hillary if you believe the polls now and as preliminary polls I guess they mean something. And Obama, he seems to thrill white liberals more than they does the black vote, but that can change over time. We'll see. OK. I'm going to try to answer these few questions for you, Mort, without using a single poll. Now, Bill Clinton, clearly, if he had been a political consultant, would have been one of the greatest ones. So tactically I think he will help Hillary, give her day to day advice on the campaign, but strategically, it's a big problem. Whenever he's around, people are going to see and remember how likable and charming he is, and she's not. Who can match Bill Clinton for charm? Not anybody I know of in the human race. He's amazing. And secondly, he raises this question: do we really want another Clinton presidency with all that psychodrama about who is sleeping with whom, and who is in charge? You remember that, Mort. You're grinning but I don't think people remember it favorably, so I think on balance he probably hurts her. Obama, can he win the black vote? I mean, that's a huge question. There's not much of one in Iowa. There's probably even less of one in new Hampshire. But then you get to South Carolina, and that's someplace, if he can hold on to some white liberals, there aren't many in South Carolina, but get that black vote which I think is nearly half of the Democratic primary vote there, he can win there, and he would have to win there if he's going to move on to the nomination.

KONDRACKE: You know I can't answer this without using reference to polls, right? Bill Clinton has a 60 percent favorable rating, George Bush is down in the low 30s, you know. And people remember the Clinton administration as a time of prosperity and peace, relative peace, and no wars that we've lost, anyway. And there was a lot of excitement and soap opera-ship to it. But nonetheless it was a pretty good time that people will remember fondly. So I think he's a help. And secondly I cannot believe that Barack Obama won't take the African American vote, that the African Americans are going to go for Clinton, and many of them probably think it's Bill that's on the ballot, because they don't know who Barack Obama is either. And I think they'll go for an African American. Look, Barack Obama's big problem, I think, is as attractive as he is and he presumes to offer a new kind of politics, that is anti-polarized and all of that, which you know I love, but he hasn't been tested. And he will be before this is over.

BARNES: Let me just say on that 60 percent for Clinton, I think 60 percent are favorable toward Clinton as an ex-president. And they like what he's doing now and I don't think want his family back in office. But we'll see. Look, there's an idea that somehow Obama - and you've repeated it, that he is a non-polarizer, that he's bipartisan, that he wants to have compromises and so on. But if you read his book, "The Audacity of Hope", you get just the opposite impression. He talks this great game, free trade, he understands that, the opponents of social conservatives and he understands them and so on. But when it comes down to it, by the time you've read, oh, about 50 pages, and this is what, a 350-page book, by the time you get about 50 pages you realize he's always going to come down on an orthodox liberal position. The best example is, look, in the last Senate, where was the greatest compromising and working across the aisle? It was the Gang of 14, remember, that dealt with judicial nominations. He writes favorably about it, but couldn't join the Gang of 14 because he said some conservative judges might get through. All right. Coming up. Rudy Giuliani continues to get the cold shoulder from conservatives. But stick around, hot story number two is next.


BARNES: Welcome back to THE BELTWAY BOYS. Hot story number two, Republican blahs. Or as you might say, Republican ennui .


BARNES: Or Republican malaise or something like that. Look, Republicans have three top-tier candidates who all are impressive candidates: John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. I mean, there are other candidates. Mike Huckabee and Jim Gilmore and Sam Brownback, we'll get to them at a later date but soon. But I want to talk about the first three. And I'll start with Romney. And the thing about all of them is what we're reading about and what they're facing now are their troubles more than anything else, unlike the Democratic campaign. Romney is going to announce this next week, I mean a real announcement, not one of these exploratory committee or I'm considering it, or maybe I will, maybe I won't, this is a real announcement. He's an official presidential candidate and he is now someone who is a social conservative and a spending cutter. At the Detroit Economic Club on Wednesday he sounded like Ronald Reagan. Watch.


MITT ROMNEY, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When the party that's been in charge is our own, I'm a little embarrassed to say we haven't distinguished ourselves by reigning in spending. It's absolutely critical that we don't have that massive tax hike and instead we make the Bush tax cuts permanent.


BARNES: I agree with that. But in any case, what's his problem? What has been the main thing written about him lately, it is whether he's a flip-flopper or not. Whether he was a social liberal, now a social conservative and so on. I think Rudy Giuliani has the greatest up side of all the Republican candidates because he can appeal to so many independents and maybe some liberals who remember him as mayor of New York and doing such a good job. But he's already under attack, as we knew he would be for his social liberalism which he hasn't backed away from. Watch him on HANNITY & COLMES on Fox the other night. Watch.


RUDY GIULIANI, ® PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe in a woman's right to choose. I think you have to ultimately not put a woman in jail for that and I think ultimately you have to leave that to disagreement of conscience and you have to respect the choice that somebody makes.


BARNES: That is not the conservative position.

KONDRACKE: It sure isn't.

BARNES: And some conservatives are unhappy about it. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council being one of them and he's an important member of the Republican coalition. Here's what he said. "He," meaning Giuliani, "He is the frontrunner but it's kind of like here in DC. You drive over the Potomac at night and it looks beautiful but if you get down near it you certainly wouldn't want to take anything out of it and eat it. It's polluted. It's got problems." Woo! That's really tough criticism. I think Giuliani may be able to overcome it. But he is going to have to. And then there is McCain. And why is McCain the frontrunner? I buy the Kondracke theory of primogeniture. He is like the oldest son, he is the next guy in line, he is the front-runner and nobody has supplanted him yet.

KONDRACKE: And last week I said that the Republicans were meandering to the right while the Democrats were surging. I think that's wrong now. The Republicans are surging now, as well. Romney is doing a total makeover on taxes. He used to not sign the Grover Norquist "I'll never raise taxes" pledge, now he signed it and we know about his flips on abortion and gay rights. Giuliani is not repudiating what he said but he is trying to fudge it somewhat. He's against abortion. He hates it but he believes in a woman's right to choose and he is against gay marriage now. He thinks the Second Amendment is hunky-dory even though he's gun control in New York and so on. And John McCain, who voted against Bush's tax cuts now is in favor of extending them. So all of this is going on, they have got to appeal to their primary voters, just like Democrats do theirs. Now I have a question for you. This picture was on the front page of the "New York Post." I want you to tell me if this helps Giuliani's presidential prospects. That does not look like presidential character to me.

BARNES: You can't see Ronald Reagan doing that. You could see Bill Clinton doing that, maybe, it just might not be his wife.

KONDRACKE: Fred, that's terrible.

BARNES: Mort, the picture was bad, but did you read the interview his wife gave in "Harper's Bazaar"? I saw some quotes from him about really intimate details about their romantic life. Not—It was overly candid. Now look, Giuliani, he takes on social positions - basically the liberal positions. Ted Kennedy, I'm personally opposed to abortion but I just don't want to ban it. It is not going to help him much in the Republican primaries. But it's not just hedging it. This is just the way all your liberals who are your friends talk about these social issues.

KONDRACKE: So you think Giuliani can get the nomination?

BARNES: I do think he can get the - I don't know that he will get it but I certainly think he can get it.

KONDRACKE: I don't. Coming up: Nancy Pelosi plays the gender card in the debate over whether she should be allowed to use a military aircraft. Stick around. Our ups and downs are next.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to THE BELTWAY BOYS. Let's take a look at the ups and downs for the week. Down, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She says the Pentagon is denying her request for a larger military airplane because of her criticism of the Iraq War and because she's a woman. Here is Pelosi talking about it on Thursday.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) SPEAKER: As a woman, as a woman speaker of the House, I don't want any less opportunity than male speakers have had.


KONDRACKE: I mean, this had nothing to do with gender. I mean, the Pentagon, the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base has only so many executive jets that can get from here to California without stopping. And the Republicans, she—she wanted one. She didn't say which one. The Republicans had a field day accusing her of wanting Air Force Two, the vice president's plane or the plane that carries around members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, something like that, which I don't know she actually asked for. And they accused of her wanting to take campaign contributors. They just built it up into the Royal Air Force for Nancy Pelosi. I predict that she's going to get most of the time she'll get a plane that will take her all the way to California.

BARNES: I agree with that and then she should. But she acted in it so clumsily and even paranoid, about being a woman, that was nonsense. That she plays into Republicans' hands when they try to portray her as a queen bee and all that stuff. Look, for one thing, she raises a question about Donald Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, still having a desk at the Pentagon, maybe he was leaking stuff about this. And then she unleashed John Murtha, who is not exactly the smoothest guy in town.

KONDRACKE: The enforcer.

BARNES: The enforcer. To not so subtly threaten the Pentagon. You better give her a plane because she can control your budget. That was very clumsy on her part, the whole deal. All right. Up, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. He has held the GOP troops together so far on shutting down the debate on the president's troop surge plan. But Democrats are going forward with their plan B anyway, which would be a binding resolution restricting Bush's plan. Now look, the Democrats, the press, and all blame the Republicans and McConnell for stopping this debate that America was demanding. Watch this ad that has put on in some states with Republican senators who voted for the successful filibuster.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ANNOUNCER: Remember their faces. Remember their names. The Republicans in the United States Senate. A majority of Americans oppose escalation in Iraq, yet instead of allowing a vote on escalation, the Republicans blocked the debate. They are willing to send tens of thousands more troops to face danger in Iraq but they don't have the courage to face a vote.


BARNES: Well, that was a dishonest ad in many ways. Particularly with saying people like John Sununu and Sam Brownback and John Warner - they're not for escalating the war. They're actually against the president's surge of more troops going into Baghdad. And the truth is, who is responsible for the shutdown in the Senate? It was majority leader Harry Reid. He insisted that Republicans could not get a vote on the one resolution they wanted, the one that said we shouldn't reduce funds for the troops in the field now or even later. And Democrats are scared to death of that because if they voted for it, people would say they're for cutting funds for the troops. If they voted against it then they weren't supporting the troops. So they didn't know what to do, so what happened is, Harry Reid would not let Republicans who have 49 votes. This is—the Senate is where the minority has great advantages, particularly if they have 49 votes, he wouldn't let them have the vote on what they wanted. Even though that would have been the fair thing. And so McConnell called a filibuster and that stopped the whole thing. All Harry Reid had to do was say, OK. You can vote on the resolution you want it. We'll have our anti-war resolution and you can have yours. That's all he had to do. Instead, he shut the place down.

KONDRACKE: Well, the press reported this as Republicans blocking debate. There's - no, they've been debating this endlessly. They do nothing else, practically, except debate the war. What they did do is to block a vote. And it was Harry Reid who prevented the vote. And if there had been a vote on the two resolutions, the way it would have come out, a fairly healthy majority against Bush's policy and an overwhelming vote to not cut off funds for the troops. And that is that's a fair representation of where the politics is at the moment. What the Democrats didn't want because they're going to move on to cutting off funds for the troops. That the Republicans will accuse them, quite justifiably, of voting for the troops before they voted against them. And that's what they didn't want.

BARNES: And that's why it was so clever by McConnell.

KONDRACKE: Right. Down, John Edwards. He is giving the left wing nut roots of the Democrats party - into them, I should say, by refusing to fire two campaign bloggers who wrote controversial and profane messages criticizing the Catholic Church. Here is just one sample from one of the bloggers, Amanda Marcotte. Quote, "The pope's got to tell women who give birth to stillborns that their babies are cast into Satan's maw. The Catholic Church is not about to let something like compassion for girls get in the way of using the state as an instrument to force women to bear more tithing Catholics." I mean, look, Edwards should have either fired these two women or at least reducing them to envelope-licking. I don't know if they lick envelopes in campaigns anymore. One of these women referred to Christian conservatives as Christo-fascists. And some of the anti-Catholic stuff was downright obscene. The thing is that blogging has become sort of the underbelly of campaigns. It is where you fire off a diatribe and vindictive comments and stuff like that. Dirty pool, play dirty pool.

BARNES: And the candidate just says, oh well they were doing it on their private blog. Look, the truth is if these people had written these things that were anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish, anti-gays, they would have been fired outright. It seems to be OK now to be it seems to be okay now to be anti-Catholic. Stay right where you are. "The Buzz" is up next.


BARNES: Here's the buzz, Mort. The second most important Republican in Washington, it's clear now, is Republican leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell. He knows how to use the advantages that the minority has, namely the filibuster. He used it to get tax relief added to the minimum wage bill. And wait until that measure come up that would have let them set prices in the Medicare drug benefit, he'll kill it.

KONDRACKE: President Bush has said repeatedly that he believes that all eligible children should be covered under the children's health insurance program. However, his budget has one third of what it takes to maintain current levels of coverage, and does nothing to cover the 6 to 7 million eligible kids who currently lack insurance. 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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