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This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys", November 17, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," Hillary Clinton faces another round of attacks from her Democratic rivals. We'll tell you how she did this time around.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Meanwhile, the Republican presidential race takes a feisty turn on the immigration issue. We'll tell you who is scoring the most points.

BARNES: Mike Huckabee is surging in Iowa inviting new praise and new scrutiny.

KONDRACKE: How is this for a turkey? Democrats are 0 for 41 in trying to stop the Iraq war.

BARNES: That's coming up next on "The Beltway Boys", but first, the headlines.


KONDRACKE: I'm Mort Kondracke.

BARNES: I'm Fred Barnes. We're "The Beltway Boys".

Tonight's hot story, off her pedestal. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton no longer above the Democratic presidential race arrogantly as if she doesn't have to be part of the fray. She's such a prohibited front runner.

We got a taste of the new fighting Hillary Clinton in Thursday night's CNN debate among the presidential candidates and she responded to criticism from Barack Obama and Edwards and offered criticism of her own. It was a completely different performance from the earlier debate when she was vague on things and didn't respond to criticism and generally acting like an obnoxious front runner. She probably is the front runner in this race, no question about that.

Now, she didn't do this out of kindness of her heart. She did it because it was a political necessity. Her role on the pedestal was not working in this campaign, just didn't work.

You know, I read some of the reviews. I know you read a lot of them. Some of they will seem to think that Hillary's performance — Mrs. Clinton or maybe we should call her Senator Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama may just call her Hillary — But in any case, her performance was, you know, the greatest debate performance since Lincoln beat Douglas and that Obama's was the worst since Douglas lost to Lincoln 150 years ago, whatever it was.

The fact is that Hillary did well. Obama, except for one clumsy answer, did pretty well. And I'll let you go into at that the clumsy answer. And Edwards, you know, at the end, he seemed to fade in that debate. And I'm drawing from this that in Iowa, January 3rd, first big event, that it's going to be Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama. And it's, it's going to be very close. Now, I could be wrong, I may have underestimated John Edwards.

Anyway, Hillary responded, but when Edwards accused her of corruption, using the C-word then she took umbrage. Watch.


BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What the American people are looking for right now is straight answers to tough questions. And that is not what we've seen out of Senator Clinton on a host of issues, on the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.

JOHN EDWARDS, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton defends the system, takes money from lobbyist, does all of those things, and my point is people have — no. (BOOING) Wait a minute. Voters have those choices.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't mind taking hits on my record on issues, but when somebody starts throwing mud at least we can hope it's accurate and not right out of the Republican play book.


KONDRACKE: I don't think he was throwing mud we'll get into that in a second. I mean, and I agree with basically that she — she had to get into the fray because there's a turning point in the horse race in Iowa. The latest Rasmussen poll shows that Barack Obama is within five points of Hillary and Edwards within four points. And a "CBS News" poll shows that the race is even tighter, Edwards within 2 points and Obama within 3.

And I thought that the attack on Edwards was a significant point in the race. I mean, she slapped him as though he had thrown mud, which I don't think he really did, but then he sort of slinked away and didn't come back into the fighting at all. I think he was...

BARNES: I'm glad I brought it up.

KONDRACKE: Yes. He was the big — I thought he was the big loser in the race and if that — if that debate was being watched by people in Iowa and he fades, the question is, you know, what happens to his support? And if it goes, it's not in her interest to have it go to Obama, obviously, because he — if it does, the main part of the Edwards support floods to Obama, he's going to beat Hillary in Iowa. She's still got reserves in New Hampshire and South Carolina and other places, but it won't be a good beginning for the primary.

BARNES: You know, the one thing that helped Senator Clinton was she got pretty easy questions. You know, she wasn't questioned about her hidden records and archives. She didn't get a question about whether she had planted questions in the earlier debate and some of these would have been tougher questions. And so she came of easy on those.

And we also saw, Mort, related to the debate, some of the usual Clinton heavy handedness. Did you hear the boos when they were booing John Edwards, and I think Obama got booed once. And the Clinton people in the audience, booing any criticism of Hillary. And that's heavy handed. And afterwards, the rush by the Clinton people to claim victory and she's the comeback queen and all that. Oh, but they do it.

KONDRACKE: No, all campaigns to that. It's called spinning.

BARNES: Of course, it is. and they're the spinners supreme. In the memo that was put out by the Mark Penn, chief strategist for the Clinton campaign, dealing with the electability issue, you know, claiming that she had locked up 360 electoral votes in the general election. That's preposterous. It's not knowable. Come on, that was ridiculous. And I know you had your favorite moment.

My favorite moment of Senator Clinton was this one of minimal candor when she denied ever using the gender card, you know, seeking sympathy because she's a woman. Watch.


CLINTON: I'm not playing, as some people say, the gender card here in Las Vegas, I'm just trying to play the winning card. And I understand very well that people are not attacking me because I'm a woman. They are attacking me because I'm ahead. And I understand — (CHEERS)


KONDRACKE: Well, I mean, I agree that she's being attacked because she's the front runner not because she— because she's a woman, but she's also playing the gender card. And Mark Penn, who you referred to, has been arguing that, not only is she going to win Iowa because she's a woman, but she's going to win the whole election because she's a woman.

There may be some truth to that. Women are obviously partial to the first, who will be the first woman candidate, but for her to say she's not playing the gender card is just nonsense.

Now on the Obama front, the various commentators have always been saying that Obama was a big loser in this debate. I don't agree with that. I thought he was a perfectly — did a perfectly acceptable job, except for one moment which you referred to, and that was when you know, he was asked about how Hillary had been waffling — his charge that Hillary had been waffling on the issue of driver's licenses for illegal aliens and he came back with this. Watch.


WOLF BLITZER, DEBATE MODERATOR: Do you support or oppose driver's licenses for illegal immigrants?

OBAMA: I am not proposing that that's what we do. What I'm saying is that we can't be — no, no, no, look, I have already said I support the notion that we have to deal with public safety and that driver's licenses at the state level can make that happen. But what I also...

BLITZER: All right.

OBAMA: But what I also know, Wolf, is that if we keep on getting distracted by this problem, then we're not solving it.

BLITZER: Because this is the kind of question that — it's sort of available for a yes or no answer. Either you support it or you oppose it.

Senator Clinton?



KONDRACKE: When it came to his turn to answer, he said yes. That he would agree to driver's licenses for illegal aliens, which may play well now, but it's going to be dynamite in the general election if he were the nominee. And we'll talk about that later.

Now, Hillary is trying to make herself friendly and, you know, pleasant and all that. Well, this is the ad that's running for the Iowa caucus.

BARNES: That's Senator Clinton to you.



ANNOUNCER: Exercising is hard.

For the land of the free and the home of the brave, singing is hard. Caucusing is easy.


KONDRACKE: That's not a TV ad. It's stuck in people's doorknobs, their door places.

BARNES: It's good though.

KONDRACKE: Coming up, illegal immigration and the A-word and the C takes stage in the presidential election race. Stick around. Hot story number two is straight ahead.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys".

Top story number two is the A-word. That's amnesty, of course. The immigration issue. Right now, in the Republican race the main focus is on things like driver's licenses and in-state tuition and also sanctuary cities, you know, the charge against Giuliani. But the amnesty issue is lurking out there and Fred Thompson is already warming up to use it. Watch this.


FRED THOMPSON, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans know we have an illegal immigration problem. and most of us have a good idea how to start fixing it. Secure our borders and enforce the law. Giving up by granting amnesty is not the answer.


KONDRACKE: Now, with all of the Democrats favoring comprehensive immigration reform, what's going to happen in the general election, unless John McCain is the Republican nominee — he's in favor of comprehensive reform — is you're going to hear the amnesty word thrown at the Democrats no matter what. And what the Democrats have got to do is get ready for it by making it very clear that they want tough enforcement, border enforcement, as well as a path to earn legalization for illegal aliens.

BARNES: Isn't that's going to be hard for them. Because they don't want tough enforcement.

KONDRACKE: I think they do. I actually think they do.

BARNES: I've seen no evidence of this. I really don't think amnesty will be a huge issue next year. But I do think the smaller ones, which are safer for Republicans — look, Republicans have already going to long way toward alienating Hispanic voters in America. And I think they can save themselves further agony with that growing block by emphasizing the driver's license thing and the in-state college tuition thing, because those are very popular issues. And they're not as harsh as some of the attacks that Republicans have made, otherwise. And I don't think they'll be overriding importance, but they will help them some.

I mean, these are, and they are classic wedge issues. You know, my classic narrow definition of a wedge issue. It's one you use to divide the party. And you know, potentially, in some places it could peel off some Democrats to vote for the Republicans. We'll see. But, again, you know, I just think Republicans, when they get into this issue, they're playing with fire. They have to be so careful because, remember what President Bush did in 2004? 44 percent of the Hispanic vote — used to be an all-time high — and he really did make wonderful inroads — that Karl Rove was keen on that. Boy, Republicans, would be crazy to blow that.

KONDRACKE: I think they've blown it already and they assume it's blown and therefore they're going to ride this issue to their detriment long term to gain short-term benefits, what they think is short-term benefits. That's what I'm worried about.

BARNES: Well, I don't know. We'll see.

Coming up, more on Huckabee's surge in Iowa. And we'll tell you if he's the real deal.

And further evidence the crowd is calling the shots in the Democratic-led Congress. We'll be right back.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys".

Let's check out the "Ups and Downs" for the week. Up: Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee. Two new Iowa polls show the former Arkansas governor surging into second place in the first in the nation caucus state.

BARNES: It's amazing to me. Look, I never thought we'd be doing an up, Mike Huckabee, because he'd be doing so well in the polls. He doesn't have a lot of money. Doesn't have the organization, but he does have himself and campaigning very effectively in Iowa.

It's a smaller field that he's opposing because Rudy Giuliani isn't doing much. And Ron Paul is not there at all. And I think McCain is essentially skipping Iowa as well. He's just got Romney to run against and Fred Thompson to a certain extent, and I have to say he's doing well.

The down side, he is raising scrutiny — his Arkansas record as governor that he didn't get before. In the beginning here anyway, and this hasn't broken into the major media, but it will, but — and it's been sort of critical.

Now, here is the question, after Iowa where does Huckabee go. His support in the next two primary states, New Hampshire and South Carolina, is in single digits. As you can see there. Remember what happened to Pat Robertson with the Christian coalition when came in a close second in Iowa 1988. And when he got to New Hampshire, one of the most secular states in the country, his campaign died. And Huckabee, if he does well in Iowa, will have to worry about that.

KONDRACKE: He evidently thinks he can do the Jimmy Carter thing, come from nowhere and take Iowa.

BARNES: I thought that was inconceivable, but — it's inconceivable.

KONDRACKE: Probably inconceivable. Huckabee comes off as a very likeable guy who is the one Republican candidate who seems to have some sympathy for the middle class and I.T. economic angst. And there's a new study by the Pew Charitable Trust that shows only one-third of Americans can now expect to move into a higher economic bracket than parents, and two-thirds are stagnant or falling.

BARNES: How do they know that? That's not knowable, moving ahead of your parents.

That sounds like a phony study.

KONDRACKE: Read the study. It's quite...


KONDRACKE: Well, in any event, but — so that's Huckabee's advantage. And various commentators looking, as you mentioned, at the scrutiny machine, including, for example, who used to be an editorial writer for an Arkansas newspaper, says that Huckabee is a guy who can be very nasty, who's got ethical problems in his past and so the press is going to start looking into that, I assume.

BARNES: Yeah, I guess you're right.

Down: Congressional Democrats. They are 0 for 41 in pushing for an end to the Iraq war. The House passed a measure this week tying funding to troop withdrawals, but it hit a roadblock in the Senate. And the divide within the Democratic Party is growing. Watch this.


NANCY PELOSI, (D), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We do have a military crisis not seen since Vietnam. The deployment schedule of the Bush administration is wearing down our forces. Plain and simple.

BRIAN BAIRD, (D), WASHINGTON: The facts on the ground are the situation is improving in Iraq. Courageous Americans have given their lives, time away from their families to make that happen.


KONDRACKE: Sad to say, Brian Baird and — by the way, a very courageous man for saying that and probably, almost undoubtedly get a primary opponent in the state of Washington because he's telling the truth. But you know, there were very few House Republicans who voted his way tore his reason, namely, that we're doing better in Iraq, and we have a chance of winning.

And in the Senate, there were no Democrats who did it, except Joe Lieberman. So, and it's really sad.

And then on the presidential campaign trail, in that debate, not one single Democrat said you know, hey, we have a chance of winning this thing and we ought to stay there and we ought to see this thing through to a successful conclusion. It really is sad.

And what the Democrats are now arguing is, well, the Iraqi government has fallen down on the job. They're not — they're not doing political reconciliation. And our military is saying, the same thing, as a warning to the Iraqis. But, you know, that is not a reason to pull out anytime soon the way they're demanding our doing.

BARNES: Certainly, since the civil war is essentially over and there's a lot of reconciliation going on at the prevention level. It's just not with the dysfunctional national government which, I agree, has to get its act together sometime. And these Democrats are in an either in a state of denial or else it's pure intellectual dishonesty or maybe both.

But, Mort, just to show you how unpopular this Democratic Congress is, check out the numbers from pollster John Zogby. His current poll shows the president's favorability at 24 percent. Congress is at 11 percent.

KONDRACKE: Low. Even lower.

BARNES: Zogby points out that it is 5 points lower than O.J. Simpson's favorability numbers back in 1995 when his murder trial was going on. I mean, it really — Zogby does have the lowest number, but this Democratic Congress does not seem successful.

I find is encouraging. The word is finally trickling down about what's going in Iraq to the American people. The latest FOX poll shows a whopping 59 percent say the troop surge in Iraq led to improvements there. That's up ten points since September. And you know, this is the first — I think the first poll that's really shown the beginnings of a serious change in attitude on the American people's part.

KONDRACKE: Let's hope so.

Down: The airline industry. Long lines, delayed and canceled flights, lost bags, high profile security lapses, all this is now getting presidential attention, heading into the busy holiday season. President Bush announced new measures to ease congestion and told travelers this week he feels their pain. Watch this?


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Airport's very crowded, travelers are stranded and flights are delayed, sometimes with a full load of passengers sitting in the runway for hours. These failures carry some real costs for the country. Not just in the inconvenience they cause, but in the business they have struck and family gatherings they cause people to miss.


KONDRACKE: My question to you is very simple. He's been in office seven years, where has he been while this problem has been developing?

BARNES: Yes, and Congress should have done something, too, and they both ought to do something on highways. We need a lot more. There's a simple answer to the airport problem. That is privatize them. The free market would make these airports much more efficient.

Down: The U.S. Dollar. It's no secret the greenback is plummeting in value. But you have to know it's bad when rappers are flashing euros in music videos. He's one of Mort's favorites, Jay-Z.


JAY-Z, RAPPER: No, I don't spend on my head I spend working the pot so I spend my bread. I'm getting it, I'm getting it. I ain't talking about it. I'm getting it.


KONDRACKE: I'm going to Paris next week. I'll tell you just how bad it is. I think it's pretty bad.

"The Buzz" is up next, stay there.


BARNES: What's "The Buzz," Mort?

KONDRACKE: Mike Bloomberg is now telling friends that chances are 50- 50 he'll run for president as an Independent candidate.

BARNES: Yes, he'll lose. There's no rational for it.

But, Mort, in the controlled uptight Hillary Clinton campaign, every now and then there's a moment of spontaneity. And I want you to see it and everyone in "Beltway Boys" nation to see. Watch.



CLINTON: Thank you all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, thank you. Thank you very much. Good to see you. Careful.


CLINTON: OK, we've got cameras galore here. And get the flags back up here, guys. There we go.


BARNES: All for "The Beltway Boys" this week. Have a great Thanksgiving and join us next week when the boys will be back in town.

Watch "The Beltway Boys" Saturday at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday at 1 and 6 a.m. ET

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