This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys", November 24, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.
FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: I'm Fred Barnes.
JUAN WILLIAMS, GUEST CO-HOST: I'm Juan Williams, in for Mort. And we're "The Beltway Boys".
BARNES: Hot story number one is turning point. In Iraq, Juan, nobody is erecting a mission accomplished banner, but, in fact, the war is being won. I'm going to run down the list of achievements. One, al Qaeda has been driven out of Baghdad and out of the suburbs of Baghdad and has no strong hold anywhere in the entire country. The civil war is almost nonexistent. The Sunnis rather than being part of the insurgency, thrown in with the U.S. and the government. Syria and Iran, rather than trying to help any insurgency will, since there barely is one, now, they've sort of backed off and the level of violence is down so much that Baghdad is now a city where people are shopping and going around and as people normally do.
Democrats who are opposed to war are having a hard time dealing with this new reality in Iraq. Watch John Murtha, the Congressman from Pennsylvania.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN MURTHA, (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Because the Pentagon says it, you believe it? Do you believe what the Pentagon says? Huh? Of all the things they've told us? Do you believe what, what, I mean, go back and look and mission accomplished, al Qaeda connection, weapons of mass destruction, on and on and on and you believe the Pentagon?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: You know, the problem with John Murtha, it's not the Pentagon in the past week that's been saying how much better things have gotten in Iraq, it's the press, reports — skeptical reporters coming in saying be rob of news week, Damien Cane and Alicea Ruben of the "New York Times" and Doug Smith and Sahe Rasheed (ph) of the "Los Angeles Times" and a guy we know, General Bob Scales spent a week there and came back and said the same thing, that progress is really tangible and important.
WILLIAMS: Fred, I think there's a lot of things seeing through rose colored glasses on your side. The question, our purpose is not simply to pacify Baghdad, like we're a police force going over there, the policy has been to prevent bad from- and all of the Iraq from becoming a base for terrorism in the future. That's our purpose there and so far, what we've seen is that the Maliki government has been unable to make progress on the kind of reconciliation that would allow for a settlement between Sunni and Shia that would stabilize the country politically.
General Odinerno just said last week, time is running out and we've got about six months, I think, before you're going to start to see reductions in the U.S. troop force presence in Iraq. If that's the case, what happens when we leave, when you suddenly have Shia and Sunni in position, some of them now heavily armed. The question, are they going to engage in some kind of civil war? Are we really going to have a stable force there or just going to leave, and allow chaos to ensue?
That's the challenge and I think that's what where is the diplomacy that would force Maliki, force people to take advantage of the good work that the U.S. military has done?
BARNES: Look, I agree that the national government needs to do some things, but there are no rose colored glasses on the part of the press in writing about Iraq, come on, Juan. The reporters opposed to war, and terrible it is. The improvements go back months and months and they're finally recognizing them.
The truth is reconciliation is happening. For instance, listen to General Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: All of the indicators from a security standpoint with respect to violence are headed in the right direction. And we've had a significant impact on al Qaeda. In addition to the other things that are going on, there's local, there's provincial reconciliation to some degree going on. We think it's an important thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: It is an important thing. this is what the "New York Times" wrote about it, Shia and Sunni joining in the concerned citizens groups driving out terrorists that were there. You talk about the chances of renewal of the civil war, that's going to happen. The Sunnis have thrown in with the government and they don't want to have a civil war and the other Iraqis. The only people that might fight are the Shia militias, against some other Shia militia and other than, that there's no chance of had a civil war.
I like what Bob Scales said when he got back after a week and said, you know, Iraq may have reached a culminating point, which means that the advantage has gone to one side, our side, that the outcome is clear. The war may go on for a while and the outcome is clear and the surge worked.
WILLIAMS: The surge is working. I'm thrilled that it's working.
WILLIAMS: But I would just like to see our boys home for the holidays, our boys and girls, men and women. And what I don't see is what happens once they leave. But I reiterate, the surge as a military tactic, a military strategy, my hat is off to General Petraeus and the men and women on the ground. but when it comes to saying that we have some political stability there, I think that's where you're going overboard and where I worry. I worry because we should be achieving political stability and we don't have it.
BARNES: Coming up, charges that Barack Obama may have gotten a little too candid with a bunch of New Hampshire high school students. And a series of nasty phone calls in New Hampshire attack Mitt Romney's religion. We will have the finger pointing and the fallout.
WILLIAMS: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." I'm Juan Williams, in for Mort Kondracke.
Today's second hot story, Fred, personal politics. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are throwing sticks and stones in the form of words that hurt on the campaign trail, Fred.
Obama has been saying that Hillary will say anything, speaks with forked tongue. And that an example of this is how ambiguous she is on big issues, such as driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. In addition, he's also said that she's old school, polarized politics and she'll polarize the electorate. She's not going to change the tone and atmosphere in Washington. And he also said that living overseas better prepared him to be a man, a master of foreign policy.
Hillary Clinton fired back and says, you know, when it comes to health care, his plan doesn't cover as many people as her plan does and also says his plans to have superior policy experience, well, let me read exactly what she said. "Voters will judge whether living in a foreign country the age of ten prepares when to face a big complex international challenges, the next president will face. I think we need a president with more experience than that."
Now, Fred, in the middle of this mud slinging came our friend, the columnist, and our colleague, Bob Novak. And Bob said that sources in Clinton's campaign have told him that he had dirt on Obama, they had dirt on Obama, but they decided not to release it. Kind of a gracious act on their part.
Obama then accused Clinton of GOP Style attacks by rumors inside of what happened to John McCain in 2000, the Swiftboating of John Kerry in 2004. And then he spoke about mistakes he made — this is Obama — as a young person before an audience of high school kids. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I've made some bad decisions that I've actually worked on, and times when I got into drinking, experimented with drugs and, you know, there's a whole stretch of time where I didn't really find myself a lot. And it wasn't until I got out of college or got out of high school and went to college that I started realizing, man, I've wasted a lot of time.
WILLIAMS: You know, he got criticized for that.
FRED: That's what I was going to say. I don't understand that. That sounds perfectly all right to me. It's not as if high school kids hadn't heard about someone trying drinks drugs and drinking some. And he cleaned up his act, got out of college, graduated law school and now he's running for president. So the experimenting with drugs, he wrote about that in his book "Dreams of my Father." It was not that he was revealing some long held secret. So, that struck me as being something that is perfectly all right.
WILLIAMS: By the way, the latest polls show Obama now climbing into a narrow lead, nip and tuck, with Hillary Clinton in Iowa.
BARNES: You know, I was struck by the initial response of Hillary Clinton's campaign to the Bob Novak story that, you know, that the — that her campaign had been telling some Democrats you know, we have this dirt on Obama. Line here is what Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer said, quote, "This is how Republicans work. A Republican leaning journalist runs a blind item designed to set Democrats against one another, experienced Democrats," — we know who they are, right? — "See this for what it is. Others get distracted," — we know who those are; that's Obama — "And get thrown off their games. Voters should be concerned about the readiness of any Democrat inexperienced enough to fall for this."
I know Bob Novak well and he's not a partisan conservative or Republican at all and spends half his columns trashing Republicans. And so the notion that this was some Republican scheme — he said he hadn't talked to any Republicans at al before writing this column. The notion that it was a— you know, something cooked up by Republicans is nonsense. And I think there's every reason to believe that Bob Novak column is true. and I'll bet you there's one guy that believes every word testify that's Barack Obama.
WILLIAMS: I agree with you. The question, do you think it ever comes out? I don't know.
BARNES: I don't know.
WILLIAMS: We'll see what happens.
WILLIAMS: Now, let me just say on the Republican side, there's been a little bit of dirt thrown around as well. And what you've had is a push- poll. A poll that calls up and makes negative suggestions in the name of getting your opinion.
WILLIAMS: And the negatives have been aimed at former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and the negatives had to do with the fact that he is a Mormon and questions whether he — why he didn't serve, I should say, in Vietnam.
Also, in this push-poll there have been nice words said about, guess who, Senator John McCain. so, now, McCain has asked the new Hampshire attorney general to investigate this to find out who the source of these, because he figures it might be a dirty trick. So let's se what Mitt Romney had to say about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We celebrate the diversity of different religious thoughts and beliefs. and the idea that people would attack religion at a time like this is frankly un-American. I'm very disappointed in the political process that someone is pursuing to use this kind of underhanded, un-American technique and to try and influence a political campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: You know, if people don't understand what a push-poll is, if I called up and said, you know that Juan Williams, he's a child beater and then follow up with.
WILLIAMS: What do you think?
BARNES: Positive or negative? So a piece of negative information.
You know, Mitt Romney said he would like to give a speech sometimes like John F. Kennedy's in 1960, about his faith and how he should be treated, but he said his aides are against it. you know what that means? He has to give it he can't kaput capitulate to his aides.
WILLIAMS: You know what? If you look at the polls? The Americans are worried about it.
BARNES: That's why he has to talk about it. I wanted to mention Mike Huckabee, you expected him to be up there in Iowa. I certainly didn't, but there he is.
All right, coming up on "The Beltway Boys", will social conservatives abandon the Republican Party if Rudy Giuliani is the nominee? We'll ask a prominent conservative leader next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need judges who embrace originalism, endeavor to determine what others meant when they wrote the words of our Constitution. Justices like Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts, that would be my model.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys". That was presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani hoping to bolster credentials, among those he's trying to convince is Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council.
Tony Perkins, thank you for coming in.
TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Good to be with you, Fred.
BARNES: You heard Rudy Giuliani. I know after he appeared at the Value Voter summit that you organized in Washington a few weeks ago you talked to him. What does he have to do to get your support, just reverse his position entirely on abortion?
PERKINS: Well, I think it's going to be very difficult when he holds a position defending abortion rights to get support from those who have been actively working to return America to being a pro-life country. and I think he's actually treading on very thin ice — not he himself — he's been right in his comments. but when he talks about strict constructionist judges, has surrogates, that's code, saying that he will appoint judges that overturn Rowe.
And he's been on the record himself. Larry King — he made the statement on the "Larry King" show. When I talked to him about it, he was very forth coming. That does not mean that they would be, that strict constructionists would be judges that would overturn Rowe. so he's going to have a hard time convincing pro-lifers to abandon that bedrock principle they've been standing on to get on board his campaign.
BARNES: Let me mention a recent CBS poll that shows 61 percent of evangelicals would support a less conservative candidate if they thought the candidate had a chance of winning the general election. wouldn't that apply to Rudy Giuliani say if he's running against Hillary Clinton?
PERKINS: Well, if you get 61 percent, that's not enough. Actually, other polls recently — the Pew research said 55 percent of evangelicals would vote for a third party pro-life candidate if it were between Giuliani and Clinton.
It's not a matter he won't get votes. I was in Iowa last weekend meeting with a number of conservative activists and I tell you that pretty much tracks what I see, about half would vote for him, if it came to him and Hillary. And others would find a minor candidate to vote for and simply would not vote at the top of the ticket.
BARNES: Tony Perkins — Juan Williams, good to be with you.
Now, Pat Robertson has endorsed Giuliani and the National Right to Life Committee has endorsed Fred Thompson. Let's get to the heart and soul of the matter. Are you likely to endorse anyone with the power and the significant, I think, stature of the Family Research Council behind that endorsement?
PERKINS: That's not my role. My role is to help shape public policy, and life is one of those issues, marriage one of those issues, and family another one of the issues. We obviously want folks that we communicate with across the country to know where the candidates stand on the issues.
and there's a number of fine candidates running. I mean, you've got about eight candidates dividing up the social conservative vote and one candidate who is out there on the life issue. The first time you've had a Republican candidate out there, rather, I should say, against the right to life position, the first time in the Republican ranks for, since the 1970's. so, I mean, there are good candidates to pick from.
This week, a major development that I think is going to go, not just a baby step forward, but a giant leap forward in separating the sheep from the goats and that was the finding that humans skin cells can be used for embryonic type stem cells — embryonic type stem cells, which have all the versatility there. This is when they're requiring...
WILLIAMS: Let's come back to the campaign for just a second. Let me ask you about someone who is an opponent of abortion, a Baptist minister, the former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee. He says he's a conservative, but I've heard you say he's not your kind of conservative, that he's always is qualifying what kind of conservative he is, saying he's not an angry conservative. Do you think he's pointing a finger at you and folks on the far right, saying that's not the kind of conservative he wants to be?
PERKINS: You know me, I'm not angry. I'm happy, happy to be here. You know, I don't think he's pointing a finger at me. But I think that — this is what social conservatives are doing. And I think you guys know this. The conservative movement has been success feel when they've put together really the three key elements of the conservative movement, the social conservatives, the fiscal conservatives and the foreign policy or defense conservatives.
I think we have been very sensitive to our colleagues within the conservative movement. We know we can't elect a president on our own, but in the same respect, we want them to be respectful and not thrust a candidate on us who is the complete opposite on our issues from the positions that we hold.
I think that there are some within the ranks of the conservative movement that have concerns over Governor Huckabee. and what we're watching, as I say we, conservatives, I was, as I mentioned in Iowa last week, talking to a number of conservatives who are watching him, a lot are behind his campaign.
it's interesting to note that a lot of those actively working in his campaign in Iowa are new to the process. they're not more of the seasoned veterans, but I think he's got a lot of promise. He's a very good orator. He connects with people. This is far from decided at this point.
BARNES: Is Mitt Romney more your type of conservative?
PERKINS: Well, I mean, I like his policy positions. you know, earlier in the program you were talking about some of the challenges he has. I think again, going back to just the — very recent trip to Iowa. First, it's overcoming the policy changes he's had on some of the key issues. I, in fact, believe they're genuine. I've talked to him a number of times. I believe these are his policies regardless how he may have come to them. The people can dispute that. but he has really, I think, and intentionally painted himself into a corner on the issues and these will be his issues if he's to remain political.
WILLIAMS: Tony, one last quick question on Fred Thompson. He's going down in the polls. Huckabee is going up. So, what's happening? Very quickly, in your opinion, what's happening?
PERKINS: Well, again, I think people — social conservatives think with their head and their heart. they want to be touched, want to be motivated and have a vision for the future. I think, in part, that Mike Huckabee is tapping into that on the campaign trail and he is a very good speaker. he's connecting with people the.
WILLIAMS: All right, thank you so much. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.
And you, you hang on. Don't go anywhere, "The Buzz" is up next.
BARNES: What's "The Buzz," Juan?
WILLIAMS: You know, Mitt Romney, Fred, has had thousands, ten of thousands ads up on air. But Rudy Giuliani is just now getting an ad up in the air in New Hampshire. Apparently, according to his sources, sources in his campaign, he's doing pretty well. Introducing him. Can you imagine, people just don't know him? A large percentage of voters, it turns out, are unfamiliar with exactly who is Rudy Giuliani?
BARNES: I've seen that, about what he did in New York City, an effective ad. What's happened in Iraq now, with the greater progress and improvements there, and the pacification of Baghdad and the entire country, this is going to change the politics of America. That will look different next year when there's the election than it does now.
All right, that's all for "The Beltway Boys" this week. Join us next week when the boys and Mort 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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