Transcript: 'The Beltway Boys,' May 12, 2007

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This is a full transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on May 12, 2007.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," time is running out. That's the message delivered to Iraqis as patience runs thin here in Washington. We'll have the fallout.

JUAN WILLIAMS, CO-HOST: Is the Republican Party's big tent big enough to embrace a pro-choice candidate? Rudy Giuliani sure hopes so.

BARNES: Hillary Clinton opens a double-digit lead over the rest of the Democratic field.

WILLIAMS: And Mitt Romney has some choice words for Al Sharpton. We'll tell you what prompted the smackdown.

BARNES: All coming up on "The Beltway Boys." But first, the headlines.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are two clocks, one ticking here in Washington and one ticking there. And they must understand that we are very serious when it comes to them passing law that enables this country to more likely reconcile.


BARNES: I am Fred Barnes.

WILLIAMS: And I am Juan Williams, in for Mort Kondracke. And tonight we are "The Beltway Boys."

BARNES: And the hot story tonight is tick tock. I'm obviously referring to what the president was talking about, these clocks. And you didn't know the president was so good on metaphors, but he's referring to the clock in Washington that's really ticking quite rapidly, and the clock in Iraq itself that is clicking painfully slowly. And the point being that Iraqi leaders just need to move more quickly on political reconciliation there or the support for the Iraqi government and U.S. involvement there will just dry up all the faster. And it's drying up pretty fast anyway, as we saw in the House of Representatives on Thursday night where they voted to extend the funding for the troops there only until July. It was a 221 to 205 vote. And well, just listen to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, what she said afterwards, watch.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER: The American people have made it clear that they want a new direction in Iraq, one that is going to bring this war to an end. They have lost confidence that the president can or will produce a plan to do that. Even some members of the president's own party have finally realized that he has lost credibility with the American people.


BARNES: Well, she was pretty unequivocal. And it is, as we know, an unpopular war. But President Bush isn't about to go along with this limited funding. And actually Senate Democrats aren't either. They are in control there. But the truth is, some fast action by the Iraqi leaders on, you know, enacting the actual law that will share the oil revenues, a law that will make it easier for former Baathist officials under Saddam to get back into power—or to get their civil service jobs back and to have provincial elections, if they can move more quickly on that, it would strengthen President Bush's hand, no question about that. Of course, obviously, the thing that could help the most would be clear evidence that the new direction, which actually has been taken in Iraq, the counter-insurgency, would show real progress, that would do the most help.

WILLIAMS: Well, I will tell you what's ticking here, Fred. I think a lot of hearts are ticking fast among Republicans. You don't want to talk about it. I know you always want to beat up on Democrats. Democrats are the ones who are dogging the president. But you know what, this week you had 11 moderate Republicans, remember the so-called "Tuesday group," demand a meting with the president. And they got Karl Rove, Condi Rice, the secretary of state, Steve Hadley, the national security adviser, and Tony Snow, our friend, to join in, in the resident at the White House. And there they had a "come to Jesus" meeting, is the way some are describing it, with President Bush saying, you know what, you are hurting the Republican Party. So let's look at some of these polls right now that you can see the evidence of what's going on with Republicans and the war and the damage that's being done to the party as they look at their prospects going forward to 2008. Bush's approval rating right now—President Bush's approval rating down to 30 percent. Republicans in Congress, they are lower than President Bush, 27 percent. And you can see Democrats, they aren't doing great, but they are higher than Republicans in the Congress. So let's give a listen to what one of the participants in the White House meeting had to say, Tom Davis. Here's what Tom Davis had to say. Quote: "We ask them what's plan B? We let them know that the status quo is not acceptable. Members are saying, you know, my constituents don't care if we lose this war. They want out of this at this point," end quote. "The president listened. He was engaged. That was not what I would call a suck-up session," he said. Now you hear this coming from a Republican. That's not the Democrats, Fred.

BARNES: I know Tom Davis. He is a Republican. And you know, you have puffed up Davis and those ones who went down there even more than they pumped up themselves by leaking the story to Tim Russert on NBC and to The Washington Post and The New York Times. But you know, the truth is, leaking a story about how they really told it to President Bush is not going to help Republicans. It is not going to strengthen the party. Look, the president knows the war is unpopular. He knows it has hurt the Republican Party. All you have to do is look at the election last November. Why do they get what President Bush calls a thumping? The war in Iraq and lack of progress there had a lot to do with this. But the truth is, Republicans, they can't help themselves by driving down Bush's popularity and disassociating themselves with him. They are stuck with him. They are better off rather than tearing him down, to elevating him. Because he is going to be an important factor—though not running for reelection, he will be an important factor in the election in 2008. Now what I was amused by was the good cop/bad cop routine that was done after this visit to the White House by these 11 moderate Republicans, by, on the one hand, President Bush, and on the other hand Vice President Cheney. Watch.


BUSH: I appreciate the members coming down to the White House. We had a good exchange. It gave me a chance to share with them my feelings about the Iraqi issue.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We didn't get elected to be popular. We didn't get elected to worry just about the fate of the Republican Party. Our mission is to do everything we can to prevail in what is now we believe a global conflict, a fundamental test of the character of the American people.


BARNES: I don't know about you, I am with Cheney on this one. I love a tough guy who tells it straight.

WILLIAMS: Yes, well, let me tell you just tell you something, you, President Bush, and Dick Cheney, you can all fit in a very small closet on this one, Fred. Now friend Fred Barnes, let me just tell people, had a very good piece in The Wall Street Journal Friday in which you make the case that it's in the best interest of the Republican Party to keep President Bush up there. But you know what, look at the vote, the vote Thursday night, you didn't have any defections, no coup. Those moderates voted with the president against the Democratic position. But keep this in mind, Fred, it can only last so long. Already you have people like Virginia Senator John Warner talking about there are options out there. There are ways in which we can go about things a little differently. You have people talking about looking at—back at the Iraq Study Group. You have people talking about other kinds of benchmarks. And the president himself saying now, I am willing to negotiate to some extent on these benchmarks as long as it has to do with foreign aid to Iraq and making sure that the Iraqi government is moving forward. But when you think about the elections coming up in 2008, you remember, Fred, 22 seats in the U.S. Senate, Republicans, open. And of course, now you are talking about the swing districts around the country. People from Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois, those were the ones in the meeting at the White House. They are saying, you know what, Mr. President? If things keep going this way, it is going to be a Democratic landslide.

BARNES: Well, it is. It is going to be a Democratic landslide if we are still fighting an unsuccessful war in Iraq. That's why progress there is the most important thing. And I think we are going to see it in Baghdad starting there.


WILLIAMS: Let's hope, let's hope.

BARNES: Coming up, after months of stumbling, Rudy Giuliani finally tries to clarify his position on abortion. Stick around, our "Ups and Downs" are next.


WILLIAMS: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." I'm Juan Williams in for Mort Kondracke. Time for the "Ups and Downs" for the week. Down, Rudy Giuliani. After months of muddying the issue, he's finally cleaning up his stance on abortion, and hoping the issue will finally go away. Here is Giuliani in Texas on Friday.


RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And then with regard to other things that people could work on to restrict abortion, I would be very open to that. But I would not be open to removing the right. And that may very well be a difference with some people. The reality is, I believe we have to look at this both as a Republican Party and as a country and say to ourselves, where are the areas that we can agree?


WILLIAMS: Well, Fred, I will tell you what, there is blood in the water on this one. He has really opened up a large wound. And you can anticipate given what he said in the last debate that in the upcoming debate this week that you will see here on FOX, his opponents are going to be absolutely carnivorous. They are going to be like piranhas, set on a piece of meat in the water. The problem for Rudy Giuliani is, you can go on to YouTube on tape, there is Rudy Giuliani saying that he believes in public funding for abortions for poor women. You can go on the record and you can see that Rudy Giuliani in the 1990s was giving money to Planned Parenthood. He says, of course, they also offer counseling for adoption. But you know what, he knows that also they perform abortions. And he knows—and I think this is—part of the problem is, he says, wait a minute, conservatives, we can agree, and I'm going to appoint strict constructionist judges and all of that. But it really isn't enough, Fred. And on this issue you have John McCain saying, listen, if you are a real conservative, you have the honor the dignity of human life. You have people like Tom Tancredo who says basically that Giuliani is with the culture of death. This is pretty strong stuff. And he is trying to parse it and play it one way or another. But the values issue is one that is very much harmful, I think maybe even one that is fatal to his campaign.

BARNES: It might be, because clearly the Republican Party is the pro-life party. And there is going to be a lot of heartburn about his position on abortion. But I think he has come to the right position, clarified himself well after being all over the lot and not really being able to say, here is exactly where I stand. He stands where the—actually, where the majority of the American people do, and that is they want to preserve the right to an abortion but they want a lot of restrictions and limitations on it. You know, no partial birth, you have to have parental consent and so on if you are a minor and things like that. But he has got to stick with this and not, you know, wander all over place as he did before, but stick with this. And then he has got to say at some point, look, I am for upholding Roe V. Wade, because that is the court decision, politicians don't like to say this, at least not Republican ones, because that's where the right to an abortion came from. It's not in the Constitution, it was created by the Supreme Court. Look, my guess is Republicans are willing to nominate as president—their presidential candidate someone who is pro-life, but not someone who keeps this issue highly visible for the entire campaign. I mean, he has really got to hide it, have it fade. Otherwise, if he's nominated and it's a big issue, then there will be a third party pro-life candidate for sure draining off votes.

WILLIAMS: Oh my gosh. That's an invitation to disaster for the Republicans.

BARNES: Well, that would be. They are going to have enough trouble anyway. OK, up, Hillary Clinton. The first national polls since the Democratic debate show Hillary opening up a double-digit lead over the rest of the Democratic field. I am sure that surprised you. Didn't surprise me. An average of national polls by RealClearPolitics has her lead at 13 points. And I will have to say, I am a little surprised at how well she has withstood this first run at her bySenator Barack Obama, who is enormously popular among Democrats. She still seems to have a large reliable base inside the Democratic Party that's not going to wander away from her. And that, you know, just makes her stronger than any other candidate. But she still—I think her flaws are, one, she is not exciting and, two, she is really not very likeable, at least as a candidate.

WILLIAMS: Well, she has got a lot of baggage. But you know what, she is proving, and here you see it in the numbers, that she has been able, even with Barack Obama surpassing any real—any expectations that people might have set, he has jumped that bar. He has done great. But Hillary is still in the lead. It's even the case, Fred, among African-Americans, she retains a 10-point lead. Right now in fact the word on the Street tends to be, gee, what about Al Gore? Is Al Gore coming back in the race. And I think that may suggest that people no longer think Obama is the key challenger, but the key challenge may yet be one to come in the race, and that would be Al Gore. We are going to look to see what exactly Obama can do with the July financial reports. Coming up, Mitt Romney fight back after Al Sharpton attacks him. We will tell you what happens after the break.


BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." We are continuing with our "Ups and Downs." Up, Mitt Romney. The Massachusetts governor found the perfect foil to defend his Mormon faith, the Reverend Al Sharpton. Sharpton said in a radio debate this week, quote: "As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don't worry about that."
Here is Romney's response.


MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I don't know exactly what his intent was, but his comment was a bigoted comment. It shows that bigotry still exists in some corners. And I thought it was a most unfortunate comment to make.


WILLIAMS: Oh, there you go, Fred. Sharpton plays the fool again. You know, look, this is hypocrisy for a man who claims to be so concerned about intolerance and bigotry in American life to make that kind of comment. Clearly, Mitt Romney, whatever his religion, is a man who believes in God, he has his faith. But what we have now is a show, a sideshow, a circus beginning with Al Sharpton going to Salt Lake City to meet with Mormon officials. He says he is going to have another meeting with Mitt Romney. It seems to me that what you have got here, the real issue is Mitt Romney does have a problem with the American voters and their concern over the fact that he is a Mormon. It's a little different than John F. Kennedy and Catholicism. There are lots of people, according to the polls, who have discomfort with the idea that Joseph Smith is supposedly a prophet. People think maybe they are a little bit like a cult. It's unknown to them, they are scared, they are put off by it. But for Sharpton to play this game, all he is doing is playing into—he could be like an extra in the Romney show, is what I think.

BARNES: Well, somebody was going to say this, hey, I guess you had to figure it might be Al Sharpton. When there's publicity to be made, he's usually first in line. But look, I think there are certain people, namely liberals and those on the left, and atheists people like that, are the ones who chiefly have trouble with the Mormonism of Mitt Romney. You know, it's not evangelical Christians, I don't think at all, although I mean, they don't agree with the Mormon faith, obviously, but it's liberals who have—in particular they just don't like some religion that seems to be so serious and affect people's lives that much because they are basically—so many of them are basically anti-religious. Now Sharpton is a religious guy for sure.

WILLIAMS: The reverend.

BARNES: The reverend. But look, you know what he did really well, referred to that radio debate, that was a debate with Christopher Hitchens, the journalist who has written a book—an atheistic book entitled "God Is Not Great." And you know who defended? It was Sharpton there defending Christianity, standing up for God. And he did a terrific job. You know, he may be a demagogue, he may be a publicity hound, but he is a smart guy.

WILLIAMS: Let me just remind you in your attack on liberals that Mitt Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, that liberal bastion. All right. Up, Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair's pro-American stance, particularly on the war in Iraq, may finally have cost him his job. But Blair is making no apologies. Here he is from his retirement announcement Thursday.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I ask you to accept one thing. Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right.


BLAIR: I may have been wrong. That's your call. But believe one thing if nothing else, I did what I thought was right for our country.


BARNES: If I had been there, I would have been clapping. And I think America is going to miss him. George W. Bush is going to miss Tony Blair. I am personally going to miss Tony Blair, because I think he has been a great prime minister and a great friend of America. I read some of the British press, particularly The Financial Times which now circulates here in America so much, they—if you read that, I mean, The Financial Times had about three separate stories about how the Blair legacy had been soiled by his insistence on joining America in the war in Iraq. I don't believe that. I think his legacy is going to be vindicated by his willingness to recognize what the greatest threat in the world is to England, to Europe, to Western civilization, to America. And that isIslamic jihadism. And he recognized that and part of that battle is being fought out in Iraq. He also is someone who saw immediately what the most important thing for a British prime minister was, and that is to nurture and strengthen the special relationship with the United States. He has done a great job on that. I think Gordon Brown, who is going to replace him as prime minister, will do the same.

WILLIAMS: I don't think so, Fred. I think in fact the British people have a different take, as you saw reflected in the papers. And Gordon Brown has made it clear, he is going to be less supportive. He is going to start asking more questions of President Bush and the U.S. with regard to the war in Iraq. And the British have already decreased their commitment in Iraq now down to about 5,000 from a recent 6,000 number at their peak. They were only at 7,000 versus the 150,000 that America has on the ground in Iraq. So I think that our number one ally is headed in the other direction on the war. All right. Don't move a muscle. "The Buzz" is coming right up.


BARNES: Here's "The Buzz," even though this isn't exactly buzz. I'm sure you saw that Hollywood now says in movies if you are going to have people smoking and enjoying it, that is going to give you a worse rating and keep kids away. I mean, this is—well, it brings together political correctness and the health police in a horrible way. I mean, what are they going to do next? If you are driving an SUV, then fatty foods you are eating, then you are going to get an R rating? You know, all of the sex and car wrecks and nudity and use of the F-word you want, but you know, one cigarette and it's R rated.

WILLIAMS: Fred, you know, the town is still buzzing over the queen's visit. And "The Buzz" is, gee, what happened to Camelot, what happened to inviting the intellectuals, the great artists of the day to the White House to meet the queen for the president's only white tie affair? Instead it was big donors, oil guys, a different picture.

BARNES: A lot of football players. All right. That's all for "The Beltway Boys" this week. Join us next week when the boys will be back in town. And stick around for "FOX News Watch." It's coming up next.

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