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This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on June 30, 2007.
FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," you can put a fork in it. Immigration reform is dead on Capitol Hill.
MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: We will take a look at the big winners and losers and where the issue goes from here.
BARNES: Dick Cheney finds himself back in the media glare and Congress' crosshairs.
KONDRACKE: And John McCain is behind in the polls and in the money race. Is it too late to turn it around.
BARNES: All that, plus this week's big Supreme Court decisions, coming up on "The Beltway Boys." But first the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the only victory here is for the American people. And symbolically a government of the people and for the people.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We gave it the old college try.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of us worked hard to see if we couldn't find common ground. It didn't work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: I'm Fred Barnes.
KONDRACKE: And I'm Mort Kondracke. We're "The Beltway Boys."
BARNES: Hot story number one, Mort, is it is over. Immigration reform, with many, many different parts, but particularly tougher border enforcement and a temporary program for foreign workers to come to the United States, plus Z visas and a path to citizenship for those 12 million illegal immigrants that are already here, plus some other things, gone, dead. And it's not going to come back. I mean, the—until I would say at the earliest it could come back would be when we have a new Congress and a new president in 2009. All of this raises the question of course, which we are going to deal with, who caused the death of this immigration reform? And I think you have to start with this conservative revolt on talk radio, politicians, magazines, the conservative base of the Republican Party. But it spread way beyond that to become I think really a national resistance. You know, even a poll I saw that was done by Stan Greenberg showed that Democrats were evenly divided for and against it. They had been expected to be strongly for it. But still at bottom I think you have to say that conservatives and Republicans deserve most of the blame or credit, depending upon how you look at it.
KONDRACKE: Yes. I call it blame.
BARNES: I do too.
KONDRACKE: One Republican senator confessed to a group of Hispanics outside the Senate chamber, that what he—after he voted against the bill, that what he had done and what was happening on the Senate floor was a profile in political cowardice. And I think that's correct. I mean, this is a big national problem. Everybody agrees that it is a big national problem. It can only be solved on a bipartisan basis. But it failed. And it makes you wonder about any other big—solving any other big American problem like energy or Social Security or health care or something like that. I mean, when a group of demagogues can get together and pick pieces out of the bill nobody likes and hammer away at them, the whole deal falls apart, and that's what happened here.
BARNES: I like some of those things they picked at. Anyway, let's move on and let's take a look at some of the winners and losers on this issue. First winner, Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina. He is the one we saw he at the opening of the show talking about this was a victory for the American people.
KONDRACKE: Yes, well, look, he claims that this bill lacked adequate security enforcement and worker verifications and all of that kind of stuff. That's just false. I mean, this bill took a big step in the right-wing direction compared to last year's bill but it still wasn't good enough. And he is wrong about this being the American people who spoke here. The fact is that most of the polls that I have seen showed that elements of the bill, including earned legalization, were favored by the American people. I think the American people turned against this bill because all they heard was the bad news about it and furthermore they don't trust Congress.
BARNES: Mort, look, I liked the bill too. I was for it, but the truth is the American people turned against it. Maybe based on things that weren't true but they turned against it. There is no question about that. And Jim DeMint had a lot to do with it, along with two other Republicans, senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama and David Vitter of Louisiana. And they tied up the Senate, and they also helped stir up the country and really sparked this national revolt against what I thought was a very meritorious immigration reform measure.
KONDRACKE: See, I think they pandered to a revolt that was already under way. The radio talk show hosts started it. We'll talk about them.
BARNES: Well, they played a role too. All right. The loser in this whole immigration bill collapse, Harry Reid. Mort, there was one chance when this bill could have passed, it was headed toward passage, and who stopped it? Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader peevishly wouldn't give Republicans time to package together some amendments, a limited number that they would agree to and then so they could move on and in a few days come to actually a final vote on the debate. Reid took the bill off the floor. Now—and then brought it back a few weeks later. But it is what happened in between that was the killer here. I frankly thought the opposition had peaked. Boy was I wrong. I mean, it exploded and talk radio had a lot to do with that. No question about it. But it spread way beyond the talk radio audience and Harry Reid. So Harry Reid bears some of what I think is the blame.
KONDRACKE: Yes, well, I think he made a major tactical mistake by pulling the bill off the floor, no question about it. And I think he is also a loser insofar as this is a Democratic Congress, he is one of the leaders of it and it failed to accomplish a solution to a major American problem. But look, it was Republicans who killed the bill. Only 12 Republicans voted in—to keep the debate going. And most of the Democrats voted in favor of it. So I think another loser in this is Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republicans who could not hold his troops together in something that he claimed he wanted and ultimately even he voted against it.
BARNES: Well, but his vote was not meaningful. He was the one who hatched it in the first place. And he just couldn't bring his conference with him ultimately. All right. Another winner, talk radio. Mort, here is one of your whipping boys, talk radio.
KONDRACKE: Yes, well, look, I mean, what—talk radio pumped.
BARNES: Succeeded here. Succeeded, you have to say that.
KONDRACKE: It did succeed. Look, what they do is they pump up ratings by whipping conservatives out there in the country into a frenzy. And usually what they do is accuse Democrats of being soft on terrorism and weak on national security and selling out the country and all that kind of stuff. Well, I think the Iraq War and the unpopularity of that war has put a crimp into that sales pitch and so they have to find a victim someplace, so they decided to pounce on illegal aliens. And most of—and a lot of this — you have to admit, a lot of this radio talk show stuff was pure nativism, hate speech I would say. Not all of it. Some of it had to do with the fact that illegals have violated the law and the borders are not secure and all that kind of stuff, but a lot of was very nasty and ugly.
BARNES: And do you really listen to talk radio?
KONDRACKE: Some. Some. And I know what I am talking about.
BARNES: All right. Well, look, I think talk radio obviously played a big role here. I wish talk radio had not targeted the immigration reform bill. I think there are better things for talk radio to target, like a lot of liberal legislation that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton and a lot of other things. I hope they get to them. But I haven't seen talk radio be as effective on anything else but this recently. All right. Loser, the Republican Party. You know, I don't think there is any way to get around it, not just for the reasons that you say, that they were the ones who killed the bill, but Hispanics watch this, pay very close attention to it, as did other Americans, and what would they draw from this? They would draw from this that these people don't want any more of our kind there. You know, The Wall Street Journal editorial, which I thought was very good, said this: "The Republicans are caught between a passionate minority of their party who oppose any reform that allows Illegals a path to citizenship, and the larger electorate, which is more moderate and wants to solve the problem. Like Democrats on national security, this is a classic case in which pandering to the base will harm the GOP overall."
KONDRACKE: I agree with that completely. And one of the real heroes of this debate, a profile in courage, was Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican. Here, watch what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: If this is doing the will of the American people, bringing this bill down, our numbers should go up. We have a group of people in Washington that cannot get their act together as Republicans and Democrats to meet in the middle and solve a hard problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KONDRACKE: The numbers for the Republicans certainly are not going to go up among Hispanics. President Bush managed to get 40 percent of vote in.
KONDRACKE: Forty-four percent of the vote in 2004 among Hispanics. In the 2006 election, Congressional Republican candidates got about 10 percent less than that.
BARNES: Yes, 29, 5 percent less.
KONDRACKE: And now—and exactly.
BARNES: Trajectory is clear.
KONDRACKE: Exactly. And the Gallup poll shows that only 11 percent of Hispanics now identify as Republicans. So—and furthermore, all the Republican presidential candidates, except for John McCain, basically were denouncing this bill and declaring that it was "amnesty," which it—of course, it is not. Coming up, Britain's brand news prime minister faces his first big test in office. And Democrats take aim once again at Vice President Dick Cheney. We tell you what that's all about coming up.
KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys," I'm Mort Kondracke. Hot story number two is "Darth" Cheney. Look, Dick Cheney has become a caricature of a right-wing, hard-line bad guy. I mean, he is being portrayed by the media, by Democrats as cruel, secretive, manipulative, cold-hearted, I mean, all of that is sort of the picture that comes out of a big long series in The Washington Post this week, and certainly the way he is portrayed on Capitol Hill. And you and I have known this man for 30 years and we both agree, I think, that he is a man of principal. I mean, he honestly believes that what he is doing is for the best interests of the country. But I think he has carried this to wretched excess. The worst—his worst idea after 9/11 was these military commissions for terrorist captives whereby you could hold these captives, some of whom by the way, were 90 years old, and some of them who were little teenage kids, you could hold them...
BARNES: Not many.
KONDRACKE: Not many, that's true. But you could hold them, you could try them, theoretically you could even execute them without any opportunity for review by the civilian courts. Now this was has total overreaction to 9/11. And the courts have struck is it down. You know, so the administration is going to be net minus on Dick Cheney activities like that.
BARNES: Mort, you are just echoing this longtime Washington phenomenon of strange new respect. You know how it works? Anybody who moves from left to right, and Dick Cheney has become more conservative, no question about that, then he is regarded as somebody who is horrors, it's terrible. He can't do that. He sold out. Mort, you even heard it said about you because you used to be a lot more liberal. But what happens when you move from—if you move from right to left, then you get strange new respect. You have grown. And it is wonderful. And they say nice things about you. And this is just the way the Washington community always operates. You know, all the lobbyists and the bureaucrats and old hangers-on and leftover officials and the press and now you are echoing it, Mort. I mean, look, Dick Cheney—I read The Washington Post series. I think he would—they had him—on four separate issues they were trying to say how terrible he is. I agreed with him on all the issues. For instance, Mort, he is in favor of saving 10,000 farmers rather than a bunch of salmon. He prefers to protect people rather than fish. I think most Americans agree with that. I certainly do.
KONDRACKE: Well, his decision ruined the fisheries of the salmon industry in Oregon.
BARNES: No, it didn't.
KONDRACKE: Yes it did.
BARNES: No, it didn't ruin it, come on. They were recovered fine. And look, Dick Cheney, you know what makes him powerful, and it is what—it helped Ronald Reagan, it helped Jesse Helms, and it has helped George W. Bush at times, and that is just to ignore the buzz in Washington. What you are reflecting here of course about Cheney, you ignore that and you are a much more powerful person. Coming up, the conservative majority in the Supreme Court flexes its muscles and John McCain brushes off talk that his campaign is in free fall. Stick around, our ups and downs are next.
BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Let's check out our ups and downs for the week. Down, John McCain. He is behind in both the polls and in fund-raising. His positions on immigration and Iraq hurting him. But McCain is undaunted. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It has been very tough. There are a lot of candidates and there is—the people are a little dispirited but we are working hard and we weren't going to win this campaign on money anyway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KONDRACKE: The latest FOX poll, you know, you know I had to bring up a poll, shows that McCain is 12 points behind Rudy Giuliani with Fred Thompson nipping at his heels. But an average of all the national polls by realclearpolitics.com shows that McCain is in third place even behind Fred Thompson and...
BARNES: Yes, who is not even a candidate yet.
KONDRACKE: Right. Well—and the money numbers are coming out this weekend. The thing is not what the money numbers necessarily say, it is that they create a kind of—an atmosphere. And when it is shown that for the second quarter in a row McCain has not been able to raise money to match his opponents, it makes it more difficult to raise money in the future.
BARNES: Yes, that's true. Look, listen to this, Mort. Commander-in-chief from day one. This is what I think needs to be McCain's slogan. Commander-in-chief from day one. This is his strength. He is strong, he is experienced, he knows national security, he is right about Iraq, he is right about the war on terrorism. And I know you want him to talk about global warming and 500 other things. Maybe he does some, but he needs to concentrate on that one thing because that's what is distinctive about him. Commander-in-chief from day one. Nobody else can claim to be that. I mean, Rudy Giuliani can't. Mitt Romney, well, you know the rest of it. All right.
KONDRACKE: I like that slogan. McCain, listen. Up, Sam Alito, the Supreme Court justice is showing his conservative colors, tipping the scales on some highly publicized decisions this is week.
BARNES: You know, the appointment—or the nomination of Alito really matters. He replaced a more moderate justice, Sandra Day O'Connor. And you can see it on decisions. Partial-birth abortion, which she was the key vote in allowing that procedure to continue, just the opposite was struck down with Alito there. This case this past week or just a couple of days ago allowing—or saying—barring school officials from using race as a blunt instrument to create some artificial racial balance in schools. Again it was Alito who was important there. So I mean, look, I think George W. Bush, his legacy domestically is going to be—heavily rely on making the Supreme Court and the other federal courts more conservative.
KONDRACKE: Yes, well, the five members of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court are young. Average age 53 years old. So the next president, even if it is a Democrat, she or he will not be able to oust this majority. The only hope that a Democrat might have, and frankly I might have as well is that either Justice Roberts or Anthony Kennedy will — in Anthony Kennedy's case, will continue to grow, to gain strange new respect and mellow and we will have a moderate court. Somebody can take the place of Sandra Day O'Connor.
BARNES: I hope not. All right. Up, Gordon Brown. Britain's new prime minister is promising a new government with new priorities. Brown took his first whack at revamping the Labour leadership this week, chucking out all cabinet members over 50. You know, Gerry Baker wrote in The Weekly Standard, in this—our issue coming out, you know, he is The Times of London's chief Washington correspondent, he said this about Brown. "Brown is a kind of British version of Hillary Clinton. The experienced, intellectually gifted frontrunner who has vanquished all challengers by creating an aura of inevitability about his succession, but who manages to engender no real affection or enthusiasm among the voters." He is not Tony Blair. I mean, Blair was just so charismatic. But he is pro-American. I think he will probably move away a little bit on foreign policy, but unlike Blair, and I think this is important, Mort, he admires America's brand of capitalism which, of course, Blair thought was this crazy cowboy capitalism. As chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown learned how it works and how it works so well.
KONDRACKE: Well, Brown got hit immediately with a terrorist plot which fortunately did not come off, presenting him with his first crisis. I guess he got through it fine because there was no bomb that went off, fortunately. But there will be more to come.
BARNES: All right. Don't move a muscle. The buzz is up next.
KONDRACKE: Here's the buzz, Fred. This is the 10th anniversary of the America's Promise Alliance, established in 1997 by all the living ex-presidents dedicated to helping America's disadvantaged kids. And this anniversary was celebrated and it was a rededication to the next five years when 15 million kids are going to be helped. Attended by Bill Clinton, George Bush 41, Colin and Alma Powell, you can see them all there, and me.
BARNES: That is you.
KONDRACKE: A full disclosure, that beautiful blonde lady there is Marguerite Kondracke, my wife, who happens to be president of the organization, full disclosure.
BARNES: She is lovely. You know, all of the buzz in Washington this week was about the performance in pursuit of immigration reform by Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who had everything to lose really in a state like South Carolina where Jim DeMint, his fellow senator, was the leading opponent of it and was obviously more popular. But Graham pursued it consistently. He is running reelection. And that didn't seem to matter. He did the right thing.
KONDRACKE: That's all for "The Beltway Boys" for this week. Join us next week when the boys will be back in town.
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