Transcript: 'The Beltway Boys,' March 24, 2007

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This is a full transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on March 24, 2007.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," from Iraq and global warming, to the fight over fired U.S. attorneys, Democrats put Congressional oversight into overdrive.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards continues his presidential campaign while his wife, Elizabeth, battles cancer.

BARNES: Hillary promises if elected, she'll make her husband ambassador of the world.

KONDRACKE: And is the GOP stage set for Fred Thompson? We'll take a look at that. BARNES: That's all coming up on "The Beltway Boys." But first, the headlines.


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 "Scalp Hunters." It does not look as though this Democratic-controlled 110th Congress is going to be a big legislative conference - Congress. Maybe they'll pass immigration - and immigration bill. I certainly hope so. And education and children's health and - and energy, hopefully. But this is going to be the oversight Congress. Now it's very true that the Republicans, when they were in control of the Congress, did precious little oversight of the - of the Bush administration, leading to a lot of mistakes on their part. But what the Democrats are out for is scalps, or heads on a pike. And here are the major topics of the - the investigations that are going on right now. There you can see. There's a whole bunch of other ones, and I was at a speech that Senator Carl Levin gave, indicating there was going to be a big investigation of detainee treatment at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and so - and so on. But what the Democrats would, I think, love to do, ideally, is to impeach somebody. If not George Bush, then maybe Dick Cheney. But instead of that, they - since they can't do that, they're - they're - they're trying to whack heads. And they've already got the head of Don Rumsfeld, which was delivered up by President Bush right at the outset of the administration. Now it's Alberto Gonzales, the - the attorney general. And they also want to get the - the head, if the possibly can, of Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser. What they're trying to do is to get Rove to - and Harriet Miers, the former White House chief of staff (sic), to testify under oath about the firing of these U.S. attorneys. Here is President Bush's response to that idea, and then Senator Pat Leahy's response to Bush. Watch.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants.



SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We are told that we can have a closed-door meeting with no transcript, not under oath, limited number of people, and the White House will determine what the agenda is. That to me is nothing.


KONDRACKE: So they've issued subpoenas, and it looks like it's going to go court and it's going to drag out for a long time. Now it's a fairly good tactic for the administration to be playing here. Let the - let the Democrats concentrate on Alberto Gonzales and beat him to a pulp if necessary. Because if they were to get his resignation, they would move on to somebody else.

BARNES: Absolutely. And I like what you call this issue: "scalp hunting." Because that's what it is. Very clever, Mort. Keep it up. And.

KONDRACKE: I'll do what I can.


BARNES: All this is all the more reason why Bush should not throw Alberto Gonzales overboard, to fire him. I mean, it would only make Democrats foam at the mouth even more. They're bloodlust would be so excited for more kills. And to reward them for concocting an entirely bogus scandal like this AG scandal and then let them have scalps - that would be a huge mistake by the White House. Look, these investigations are almost purely partisan. And they're not really investigations; they're show trials. They're not - they're not truth-seeking. And - and, you know, I like - and I thank you for putting the quotes around "oversight," because that's exactly what it is. Look, if they were truth-seeking about global warming, they wouldn't bring in Al Gore to testify, as he did on Wednesday. I mean, that's - when you bring in Al Gore, that's an adventure in hyperbole, because he indulges in so much of it. Here's a - a bite from when he testified on Wednesday. Watch.


AL GORE (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don't say, `Well, I read a science fiction that tells me it's not a problem.' If the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame retardant. You - you - you take action. The planet has a fever.


BARNES: There's a man who has a fever. That's for sure. Look, it is clear now that there is no scientific consensus on global warming, except for one thing: we know the temperature in the globe increased by 1 degree over the last 100 years. And - and scientists are increasingly embarrassed by the wild exaggerations of Al Gore, where he - he says we're going to get a - the sea level will rise 20 feet, and the U.N. group that's looked into this says it'll be 23 inches. You'll have to admit, there's a significant difference there. And - and I think you're going to increasingly see - well, we have seen, in that New York Times story, scientists increasingly ready to go public to repudiate Al Gore. And yet, you know, you find some Al Gore apologist like yourself, Mort.

KONDRACKE: Well, I'm not - I'm not a full Al Gore apologist. But - but look, there is.

BARNES: Thank goodness (ph) to that.

KONDRACKE: Look, you're just dead on wrong on whether - wait a minute. There - there - there is a scientific consensus that - and even the U.N. report indicated it - that the globe - the world is warming, and that mankind is very likely responsible for it. In fact, that - that.

BARNES: There's not a consensus on that.

KONDRACKE: Wait a minute. The U.N. commission said that there's - that there's practically no question any more about that point. Now they - now there is a question about whether Gore is exaggerating the consequences of - of - of all this. As you say, whether the sea is going to rise 23 feet, or - or 12 inches. And it obviously makes a difference. And there's also - and I think Gore's remedies for this, namely to shut down the carbon economy in the West, when the - when countries in the underdeveloped world are not ready to do that, is - is the right answer, or is even a feasible answer. But this is a subject that deserves serious, programmatic attention, instead of this ideological combat that it's getting right now.

BARNES: And is - and is provoked Al Gore.

KONDRACKE: Well, and.

BARNES: I'd still like these global-warming people to explain why - why if it - if - if mankind caused it to increase 1 degree over the last 100 years - it increased 1 degree over many centuries many earlier - what was it? Heavy breathing by dinosaur? Mankind wasn't around. Mort, I know you can't explain that, and I don't expect you to. But Democrats have become obsessed, as I think you'll agree, with hunting for scalps, and - and passing anti-war resolutions. I mean, this is all they do. Allowing Republicans, to some extent - I don't want to over - I don't want to exaggerate this - to some extent to step in and take up serious issues. You see Senate Republicans are the ones who were working on an immigration reform package, which they want to present to Democrats after awhile and work out a compromise. This is - this effort is led by Mitch McConnell, who also thinks there is a remote possibility, with a divided government, you could get - and he's working on this, hasn't gotten very far - is working on Social Security reform that - that gets rid of the things that were so provocative. I mean, Bush doesn't want a tax increase. Democrats don't want these private investment accounts in Social Security. But there is a scaled-back version, where you could actually get something. But, you know, Democrats are still boasting about how they killed Bush's version of Social Security reform in 2005, and beating their chest about that. So they're not even taking on this issue.

KONDRACKE: Yes, you know, in - in the beginning of this - after the election, both sides agreed that what the public wanted out of the 2006 election was bipartisan work on solving problems. And what have we had? We've had gamesmanship and - and obstructionism on - on both sides. I think the - by and large—I'm interested to know that the Senate Republicans are working out alternative programs. I think that's exactly what they should be doing. And the Democrats ought to be trying to reach agreement with them. But they're not doing it.

BARNES: Indeed.

KONDRACKE: Coming up, the big House vote on Iraq, and John and Elizabeth Edwards face battles on two fronts now. Don't go anywhere; the "Ups and Downs" are next.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Let's check our "Ups and Downs" for the week. Up: Nancy Pelosi. The House speaker survived a first - the first major test of her leadership on Friday, when she got enough votes to pass a critical war-funding bill, barely. But it looked like it's going nowhere fast. Here's President Bush talking about it on Friday.


BUSH: The purpose of the emergency war spending bill I request was to provide our troops with vital funding. Instead, Democrats in the House, in an act of political theater, voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq.


KONDRACKE: Yes, you know, that my position on all this is that Congress should let David Petraeus play out his strategy, and see if it works, and hope that it - it works, and not get in his way. The - the danger is that after - now that the House has passed this bill, with - with deadlines in it and all kinds of restrictions and - and red tape and qualifications and all that, that the Senate is now going to take up a bill, pass a different bill after a lot of debate - because everything takes a long time in the Senate. And then it will go to a House-Senate conference. They're going to have to work - work something out between them. It's already the end of March. The House of Representatives is going to go - after next week, is going to go on vacation for - for two weeks. Now, as - as Secretary of Defense Bob Gates last week, if they - if the money —- it's $100 billion or so - if the money is not available by April 15, and May 15 for sure, it begins to bite into the ability of our troops to fight, to get the - the equipment they need. And - and tours of - of duty may have to be extended, which is what John Murtha and his compatriots in the - in the House were actually trying to prevent. I mean, this is a game of chicken, and the - the people who may suffer the most from this are our troops in the field.

BARNES: Yes, the problem in this game of chicken is that time is on the Democrats' side on this. Because they may not care about whether the troops have to take extra tours, because they just want the war to end. Mort - and I want to read you a passage from this "Washington Post" editorial on Friday, because I think you'll agree with it as much as I did: "As it is," the "Post" said, "House Democrats are pressing a bill that has the endorsement of, but excludes the judgment of the U.S. commanders who would have to execute the retreat the bill mandates. It would heap money on unneedy dairy farmers while provoking a constitutional fight with the White House that could block the funding to equip troops in the field" - unquote. So good I'd like to read it again. But I won't. Mort, look - you know, in a way, Nancy Pelosi's victory was - was kind of pathetic, because she had to reward spinach farmers and shrimp producers and so on just to get the votes to pass this bill. And - and on second thought, Mort, maybe we should have given her a down arrow. No?

KONDRACKE: No, she won (ph).

BARNES: All right. Up: John and Elizabeth Edwards. The doctors say her cancer is back, but the Edwardses are fighting it out, and the campaign goes on. Here's the couple Thursday.


JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I intend to - to do the same thing I've always done with Elizabeth. We've been married 30 years, known each other longer than that. And we will - we will be in this every step of the way together.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, JOHN EDWARDS' WIFE: I don't expect my life to be significantly different. As you can see - I mean, I don't look sickly. I don't feel sickly. And - you know, I'm as ready as any - any person can be for - for that.


BARNES: I agree. She looks great, and she's definitely an asset to the campaign. There's no question about that. She's - she's extremely likable. And I'm certainly not going to second-guess their decision to go on with the campaign with her as a part of it. That's certainly up to John Edwards and - and his wife. But I think this will affect the campaign. I mean, John Edwards has - has made some headway, particularly in Iowa, because he's been available, he's been out there a lot. That really matters in a caucus state like that. I think he's not going to be able to campaign quite as much. And I suspect at some point, she may have to drop off the campaign.

KONDRACKE: Well, I mean, it depends on how her treatment goes, and how - how badly the - the disease is. Look, I think that the Edwardses decided, when faced with a tragedy like this, to hope for the best, to go on with their lives, and to try to fulfill their goals in life. I think the Edwardses are both committed to this - to the goal of - of his being president of the United States. And it's better for them to pursue than to cower in a corner, as he put it. Now I might add that our - our pal Tony Snow, the White House chief of White House spokesman is going in for surgery next week. He's a cancer survivor - colon-cancer survivor. We're praying for you, buddy.

BARNES: Yes. I mean, Tony's a tough guy, too. Fight on, Tony.


BARNES: Coming up, it takes two for one all over again, as Hillary Clinton wheels out her campaign's biggest asset. Don't go anywhere; 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: Bill Clinton. Far from being tucked away in the corner for fear of being too radioactive, the former president is proving to be a major asset to his wife's campaign, especially in the fundraising arena. Here's the dynamic duo on Monday.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People ask me all the time, `Well, if - if you're elected, can you make him secretary of state?' I think that's illegal. I think. But I sure can make him ambassador to the world, because we have a lot of work to do to get our country back in the standing it should be.


KONDRACKE: Well, you know, she may think it's illegal, but I don't think it's illegal.

BARNES: Of course not.

KONDRACKE: Robert Kennedy was the president's brother, and he was attorney - attorney general. So I don't know why he couldn't be secretary of something or other. Her idea is to make him ambassador to the world, or, you know, ambassador at-large or something, and I - that's not a bad idea. I mean, he is one of the most popular Americans all around the world. And it would also - if he were off in Bangladesh or wherever - it would keep her out of - keep him out of her limelight back here in Washington. But look, Clinton was dead wrong - Bill Clinton was dead wrong, and the whole Clinton campaign has been putting this out, that - that Barack Obama was somehow ambivalent about his opposition to the Iraq war. That is just flat false. I mean, he - in 2002, he said this was a dumb war, and that it was - it was a rash war, and he was against it. Now the - this whole - this whole thesis rests on the idea that when asked to criticize John Edwards and John Kerry, who voted for the war, in - during the 2004 presidential campaign, Obama declined to do so. That - I mean, he - he's against the war, and he's more - he's more in favor of a pullout, an early pullout, than Hillary Clinton is - I think not to his credit, not to Obama's credit.

BARNES: Yes, I agree with you on that. But look, here's what I think, and - and you should - remember when you did oversight? You should have said Bill Clinton as an asset in the campaign. I think the more he appears with Hillary, the weaker she looks. It shows she needs him there. She doesn't generate any excitement; she has to bring to somebody in who - who can. And that's her husband. Obama on the other hand is a guy who really generates excitement about the Democratic rank and file, draws large crows and so on. He doesn't need to bring anybody else in. And look, if I were Hillary Clinton, I'd worry about her husband as ambassador to the world, knowing that there's U.N. ambassador to the world out there as well - Angelina Jolie.

KONDRACKE: Oh, please.

BARNES: What do you mean, "please"?

KONDRACKE: Are there - you mean there.

BARNES: What are you suggesting?

KONDRACKE: What are you suggesting?

BARNES: You know what I'm suggesting, and I - I think it's plausible.

KONDRACKE: Oh, come on.

BARNES: Anyway, I'll move on. Up: Fred Thompson. The Thompson boomlet - boomlet is still alive, and it's growing. And now there are signs Thompson may be actively testing the waters. Look, I think you'll agree with this, Mort: that there is lots of room inside the Republican presidential race for Fred Thompson. I thought initially he was just going to sort of stand on the sidelines and see if John McCain just dropped out of the race - you know, his campaign cratered. But I don't think so anymore. Remember, he had backed McCain in 2000; backed campaign finance reform as well.


BARNES: .very enthusiastically. I think he really wants to get in, and I think there's a chance that he could thrill conservative voters, that he could credibly get to the right of Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain without, you know, coming off as right-wing crazy. So I - I think there's really a place for him in the race, and he could do very well.

KONDRACKE: Well, you're right that there is a vacuum in the center right of the - of the Republican Party. It was the space that George Allen was going to fill.


KONDRACKE: .and it was the space that Bill Frist had hoped to fill. Bill Frist is now the - the Tennessee people - Bill Frist and Howard Baker are both in favor of their former senator joining this race. The - Mitt Romney has been trying to fill that space, but not - so far, not terribly successfully. Thompson though has got to show that he will really work hard in order to get this nomination. I mean, his job on "Law & Order," the - the D.A. there amounts to - to about five words per show. That's not exactly heavy lifting.

BARNES: That's a drop-by. All right. Stay right where you are; "The Buzz" is up next.


KONDRACKE: I know you're a great fan of Mitch McConnell's creative obstructionism in the Senate. But in the House, the Republican leadership is also playing fast and loose with - with the Democrats. And last week, they blocked a - a bill to give voting rights to the D.C. delegate, which the D.C. delegate ought to have. But it was a neat trick that the Republicans pulled.

BARNES: Well, it would be unconstitutional to do it that way.

KONDRACKE: Oh, please.

BARNES: And of course, that it is. Look, you mentioned last week that Democrats had charged that Matt Blunt, the Republican governor of Missouri, was under investigation by this U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins, who had been fired by the Bush administration. There was a suggestion of hanky panky there. Cummins has now said he wasn't investigating Matt Blunt, and the investigation he had in - in Missouri was something else, and it didn't go anywhere anyway.

KONDRACKE: OK, that's all the time 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 coming right up.

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