This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys", February 23, 2008, that has been edited for clarity.
MORT KONDRACKE, FOX CO-HOST: Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," John McCain is well on the way to the GOP nomination. He faces a rocky road on the way. Will look at the political potholes.
FRED BARNES, FOX CO-HOST: Hillary Clinton faces long odds in her nomination fight. So is the Democratic nod Obama's to lose?
KONDRACKE: Pervez Musharraf and Fidel Castro finally get ready to exit the global stage.
BARNES: Why are terrorists thanking actress Sharon Stone? You won't believe what she said this time.
KONDRACKE: "The Beltway Boys" are coming up next after the headlines.
BARNES: I am Fred Barnes.
KONDRACKE: I am Mort Kondracke. We are "The Beltway Boys."
BARNES: Hot story number one is bumpy roads. John McCain is obviously on his way to the Republican presidential nomination. That path has some rocks in it, some bumps in it, potholes in it. There's a chance he can get sideswiped. So far the biggest pothole he has faced is the "New York Times" article this week, one that was linking him to a very pretty Washington lobbyist for a number of corporations. The story was filled with innuendo, suggesting McCain had done favors for the clients of this lobbyist. There was also the clear implication there may have been something more to their relationship beyond just the professional relationship.
BARNES: What was that word you used?
BARNES: Sex. That was the implication the way I read it. Of course, both of them deny there was any sort of a sexual relationship. McCain responded pretty forcefully. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCCAIN, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When I was 17 I raised my hand and supported, said I would support and defend this nation. I have had the honor of serving it ever since. At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust nor make a decision which, in any way, would not be in the public interest and wouldn't favor any one or any organization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: I think this story really exploded in the face of the "New York Times."
But in any case, the second item on McCain's bumpy road, Mike Huckabee won't go away. Huckabee insists he could win Texas and Ohio and keep McCain from locking up the nomination. I don't think so.
Why is he staying in the race? My theory is this. He doesn't have anything better to do. He is having the time of his life. He gets to run from state to state, get enormous national attention on television. We are talking about him so why drop out. There is no reason to.
McCain has a third problem and that's conservatives who really haven't reconciled themselves to his candidacy. He is slowly getting elected Republican officials who are conservatives but he still has to line up the social conservatives and libertarians as well. There are not that many of them but he doesn't want Ron Paul to run off and have a third-party libertarian candidacy that would hurt him.
For McCain — the Republican Party is now a coalition party with McCain at the head. It's a slow process, putting this coalition together. He has to have a unified Republican Party if he's going to win in the fall against a resurgent Democratic party. Even if he has one, he is not necessarily going to win. He needs it at the least.
KONDRACKE: As you pointed out elsewhere, the "New York Times" story helped him with conservatives because you have the talk show host climbing in against the "New York Times." He is always vulnerable — he's got vulnerabilities against Barack Obama. I think the only part of that "New York Times" story that has any legs is the continuing connection between John McCain and lobbyists, who he has taken money from, he's surrounded by them in his campaign. Barack Obama intends to make lobbyists the source of everything that's wrong in Washington, D.C. And the more you can tie McCain to lobbyists, the better off he will be.
Some of the other vulnerabilities are allegations that he would represent a third Bush term. And here is McCain answering that when asked about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: The American people, always in the past and will in the 2008 election, judge candidates on their vision, on their principles, on their philosophies, their record, and how they think they would better serve their country in the future. It won't work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KONDRACKE: There are concerns about his age. He will be 72 in January of 09. He will be the oldest person ever to be president.
There's his famous explosive temper, which I must say he kept pretty well in check.
There's a lot McCain has going against him with Obama, specifically Obama can be represented as a throw back to McGovern style left liberalism. McCain can't concentrate on the negative. He has to have a positive uplifting message about the future of America and so far he doesn't have it.
BARNES: I think he does have to have that. I think he will have it.
Mort, if you talk to anybody at the Bush White House you tell him McCain will be the third Bush term, they hoot at that. I think that dog won't hunt. Democrats ought to give it up.
But McCain — Republicans, I think, even conservatives, ought to be rejoicing about McCain. He is the toughest Republican for Democrats to deal with. He has immunized himself on so many of these issues that drive conservatives, including driving him crazy. But think of the ones Democrats can't go after McCain on — torture, interrogations of terrace, global warming, closing down Guantanamo, guns. He's joined for gun control things with Joe Lieberman. Immigration — they can't go after him on that.
There's one word if Obama is the nominee. The core of his campaign is he is going to bring people together, he is going to work across the aisle in a bipartisan way. He has never done that in a serious way as a U.S. senator for the last three years.
On the other hand, there's one Republican in the Senate who has done that over and over again, driving people like me crazy, but he has done it. That's John McCain — immigration with Teddy Kennedy, on global warming with Joe Lieberman and, of course, famous for campaign finances reform with Russ Feingold.
KONDRACKE: That's his appeal to independents. There's one other problem McCain may have. That's money. He may be forced to keep getting public financing all of the way through his convention in September, which doesn't leave him a lot of money. Barack Obama, violating a promise if he does it, is talking about forgoing public financing, which will give him oodles of money to spend between now and August.
BARNES: Money is important but a snooze.
Coming up, does Hillary Clinton still have fight in her heading into the final stages of the Democratic primary race? That story number two is straight ahead.
KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys."
Hot story number two, advantage Obama. Barack Obama, of course, has won 11 straight contests. Right now he leads Hillary Clinton in total delegates, 1358 to 1264, with 20 25 total delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Also in the upcoming events, which is a must win for Hillary Clinton, an average of recent polls in Texas shows Hillary with a two-point lead over Obama. That's a tie. In Ohio, she has a 10 point lead but that is not really dependable.
She had this opportunity on Thursday night to derail his bandwagon and she didn't take it. She had golden opportunities. My favorite one was the question about Cuba. In the past, Obama has said that he would unilaterally and without preconditions lift the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba. He still said in this debate that he would go and meet Raul Castro without preconditions. Hillary had every opportunity to clobber him on this issue as a foreign policy naive and she blew it. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think it is important for us to have the direct contact not just in Cuba but I think this principle applies generally. I recall what John F. Kennedy once said we should never they go negotiate out of fear but we should never fear to negotiate. This moment, this opportunity when Fidel Castro has finally stepped down I think is one we should try to take advantage of.
DEBATE MODERATOR: Senator Clinton do you want to respond?
CLINTON: Well, I agree absolutely that we should be willing to have diplomatic negotiations and processes with any one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: She really did wimp out.
KONDRACKE: I know. Then she has been saying on the campaign trail — and she deeply believes this is guy, Obama, is not qualified to be president of the United States, commander-in-chief. Here's what happened when she was asked about that. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTIONER: Senator Clinton, yesterday you said, and I am quoting, "one of us is ready to be commander-in-chief." Are you saying Senator Obama is not ready and not qualified to be commander-in-chief?
CLINTON: I believe I am ready and I am prepared. I will leave that to voters to decide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: She ducked that one for sure. You are right about that. The question is, why did she wimp out in the debate dealing with him. I think there are a couple of obvious reasons. Look what happened the one time she brought up the plagiarism issue and the Xerox copy, the crowd booed.
KONDRACKE: Pathetic. Right.
BARNES: What did he say? Oh, come on. So it didn't work.
She has a big enough problem with being seen as mean and not likeable. If she is going after this — after all this very nice young man, who is running against her, I think that would be a problem for her, especially on national TV. She can't attack him from the right where she is vulnerable where McCain will obviously attack him from. Why not? Because she agrees with him on practically everything important. That wasn't a huge disagreement as it turned out on Cuba.
The honest thing had that happened after the debate that valedictory she had. Watch it and I will tell you my explanation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: You know, no matter what happens in this contest, and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored.
Whatever happens, we are going to be fine. We have strong support from our families and our friends. I just hope that we will be able to say the same thing about the American people. That's what this election should be about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: Mort, you may not be aware of this, I am honored to be here with you...
KONDRACKE: I am honored to be here with you, too.
BARNES: ... on "The Beltway Boys" this week.
What was she up to? I think she wanted to sound nice and so on. She did.
What's your explanation? Have you got a better one?
KONDRACKE: Yes, two things. She wanted to show the soft side of Hillary and that was presided by this story about the story of whatever has gone wrong in her life, consider the burdens other people, including wounded shoulders, face. It was an affecting moment. Then she finishes up with this.
There's a second point thought. She does not want to be accused of dividing the Democratic Party. She has a future in the party. If Obama becomes president, she may want to be a leader in the Senate and work with him. She doesn't want to be a splitter.
BARNES: That's smart. I agree with that. Maybe that is the real reason.
Let's see - look, if she goes and starts raising Michigan, insisting the Michigan and Florida delegates be seated, that will be contrary.
KONDRACKE: She will be a splitter.
Coming up, so long, Pervez and Fidel.
And actors have been a source of anti-war rhetoric, but now terrorists are taking note. We'll tell you how it's time to put a sock in it.
KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Let's check out the "Ups and Downs" for the week.
Down: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. This week the country successfully held parliamentary elections. Musharraf's party was defeated. The big winner was Benazir Bhutto's party, the PPP and Nawaz Sharif, a secondary opposition party. They are going to form a coalition government. They don't have enough votes to impeach Pervez Musharraf but they have enough votes to bring back the old Supreme Court, which he ousted. And that court might decide his election as president was invalid.
Now, the Bush administration is worried about continuing anti- terrorist cooperation. But Benazir Bhutto always maintained that she would be tougher against terrorists than Musharraf was. Now it's up to her husband to keep that promise.
BARNES: That doesn't make sense to drive Musharraf out or impeach him or invalidate his election as president. The fact is we, the U.S., need Musharraf. He was the one who scheduled the election. He didn't have a military coup or anything to block him. He scheduled it and it worked very well. It worked very well at his own expense and his party.
He is not a great ally of the U.S. but he is an ally. I think it's a waste of time for them to try to drive him out.
He was under pressure from the U.S. to call that election and not try to block it.
Watch what President Bush said after the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was a victory for the people of Pakistan. That is there were elections held that have been judged as being fair and the people have spoken. I view that as a significant victory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: He is right about that. Elections aren't the subtotal of what democracies are to consist of but you've got to have them. No question about that.
BARNES: Up: Cuba. After nearly a half century brutal communist rule, Fidel Castro announced he is stepping down as president. He wasn't exactly running the show the last couple years. When you see the pictures of him and the videos, you can se he is probably not long from spaceship earth.
But those who want to rush to normalize the relationships with Cuba — it seemed popular at the Democratic debate when Obama said he wanted to talk to Raul Castro, who runs the show, Fidel's brother, thunderous applause for that. But this is crazy. They didn't understand — a lot of these liberals — what Cuba really is. It's a police state where they lock up librarians for a quarter century, even the most mildest of dissenters. It's a place where because of the communist system, they have reduced it to an economic basket case.
What you need to do is say, look, we want to get along with the new Cuba, if there is one. What you need to do is release your political prisoners, have a fair and free election, and begin to do something about it to compensate the property and home that you seized.
KONDRACKE: Actually, both Hillary Clinton and Obama did not say they would lift the embargo without free conditions. Obama use to say that. You know why? They want to carry Florida in the general election, so they backed off. I agree in the basic principle, freedom for lifting parts of the embargo.
BARNES: Down: Sharon Stone. This week in an interview with an Arab publication, she said the United States should not have used 9-11 as a reason to wage wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Adding, quote, "I feel a great pain when the spotlight is on the death of 4,000 American soldiers while 600,000 Iraqi deaths are ignored. War is not a movie. It is a tragedy of dead bodies, victims, the disabled, orphans, widows and the displayed."
One terrorist, Mort, actually thanked Stone for her words, saying what Stone said strengthens what we have been saying all along that the Bush administration and the American evangelical Christian who's control U.S. policy are leading America to defeat.
KONDRACKE: Yes. You notice that anti-evangelical. That 600,000 Iraqi death figure has been discredited. I don't know what Stone expected the United States to do at 9-11, not attack Afghanistan. I suggest that if she wants to negotiate with Osama bin Laden, she do it herself. Maybe she'll try her basic instinct tactic and see if it works against Obama — I mean, Osama.
KONDRACKE: That's a problem.
BARNES: Careful there. Where do all these Hollywood actors and actresses — where do they get the crazy ideas? Are there people circulating around studios whispering in their ears telling them this crazy left wing stuff? I never understood it. You see it with Sean Penn and with — and you see it in these anti-Iraq movies that are made, which are busts at the box office and yet they keep doing them.
You would think if they did some movie that was about the success in Iraq and the bravery American soldiers and the amazing job the captains and majors and colonels are doing that they never had to do before not in, not only a military role but a political role, in opening schools and holding elections and this stuff, that those people would be treated as heroes and the movies would be a great success.
Can't do that.
BARNES: Why not?
KONDRACKE: Because it doesn't satisfy their buddies. They are all anti-war. All their bodies are anti-war and they think that America basically is the scourge of the world.
BARNES: All right. Maybe you're right.
Hang on to your hat, "The Buzz" is up next.
KONDRACKE: What's "The Buzz," Fred?
BARNES: Three words: John McCain's luck. I am not the first one this has occurred to about how John McCain, in getting to this point where he's going to win the Republican nomination has been very, very lucky. Others have written about it and talked about it. It's true. Things happened that were not in his control. Conservatives didn't get behind one candidate and allowed him to slip through. He was not their favorite. In Iowa, Huckabee beat Romney, upsetting Romney's earlier primary strategy. In New Hampshire, Rudy Giuliani pulled out. He appealed to the same group McCain did, allowing McCain to beat Romney. In South Carolina — I never figured this out — both Huckabee and Romney left early to go — Romney in Nevada, Huckabee to Michigan, and allowed McCain to win. And of course the surge had to work because McCain was behind it.
If McCain's luck holds...
KONDRACKE: The presidency, huh?
KONDRACKE: You know, Harold Ickes, he's the former Bill Clinton aid, now on the Hillary campaign — when in 1982, opposed the idea of having superdelegates at the Democratic convention. Now he is in charge with getting them for Hillary Clinton, only he doesn't call them superdelegates. He calls them the automatics.
That's all for "The Beltway Boys" this week. Join us next week when the boys will be back in town.
That's all for "The Beltway Boys" this week. Join us next week when the boys are back in town.
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