Hot Stories for the Week of August 18 - 22

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This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, August 23, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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


GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, CENTCOM COMMANDER: I think Iraq is at the center of the global war on terrorism, just like CENTCOM (search) stands at the heart of the global war on terrorism.


FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Juan, the hot story is, U.N. or you out? Now, I know, that sounds a little enigmatic. But…but what I mean is that after the bombing of the United Nations (search) headquarters in Baghdad, where 23 people were killed, the questions are, will the U.N. have a bigger role in Iraq now? And will other countries now come in to help out American troops in that country?

And I think the answer to both questions is yes.

First, listen to Kofi Annan (search), the U.N. secretary general.


KOFI ANNAN, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL: When you take on such a complex operation, one has to sort of do planning ahead. And I think there has been some wrong assumptions all around.

The coalition has made some mistakes, and maybe we've made some mistakes too.


BARNES: Yes, there have been mistakes made. Clearly, one of the mistakes was that the U.N. headquarters...


BARNES: ... was not sufficiently secured, didn't have the big, concrete planters out there to…stop a truck bomb from coming in.

But also, if the U.S. had made a mistake, I think has made it too difficult for other countries…and I don't mean France, I mean countries like India, who would like to send in troops, it's made it too difficult for them to actually come in.

And, and some sort of a U.N. resolution is needed that won't reduce American military control but might change the political control a little bit.

Now, the Indian troops could come in, say, for instance, and go through…and, and do security and military police duties, allowing the American troops to spend more time concentrating on finishing off the Saddam Hussein diehards and the terrorists that are mainly in the Sunni triangle.

One more thing. There is no reason to panic in Iraq at all, despite this bombing. The truth is that the terrorists found that the clashes with U.S. troops were disastrous for them, and they turned to terrorism. And I think terrorism is the last resort of people who are going to lose the war there.

Now, Democratic presidential candidates disagree, and I'll tell you what a couple of them said. Bob Graham, for instance, said, "His administration," meaning Bush's, "was totally unprepared for stabilization efforts in Iraq, as we are now witnessing with continued violence and the deaths of American soldiers."

And John Kerry said, "It is becoming increasingly clear each day that the administration misread the situation on the ground in Iraq and lacks an adequate plan to win the peace and protect our troops."

WILLIAMS: Well, it seems to me, Fred, that when you look at what happened with the bombing of the U.N. facility and the death of Sergio Mello (search), that really brave and oftentimes strongly pro-American values U.N. diplomat, you really have to conclude that this is a sad day. I mean, it's not good news any way around.

But the larger point that we have to take away from this, in my opinion, is that the United States has to make a strong commitment right now to get the job done. I think the time frame in which we can succeed there is very limited.

And that raises the question of whether or not we put more people, more American soldiers, into Iraq. So far, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is resisting that idea. But what you see as a result is, this emphasis on trying now to get other countries to commit their troops.

But that comes at a cost, Fred. The cost is American authority inside Iraq. How much authority is Paul Bremer willing to give away...

BARNES: Not much.

WILLIAMS: ... to the United Nations, to the World Bank...

BARNES: Not much.

WILLIAMS: ... to Italy, to the Germans...

BARNES: Yes, yes.

WILLIAMS: ... to anybody...

BARNES: Right.

WILLIAMS: ... and the answer is, as you're saying, not much.

BARNES: Right.

WILLIAMS: So what's the consequence? We need more American soldiers.


WILLIAMS: Does that play politically here at home? N-O, Fred.

BARNES: All right. Well, go on to the other hot story.

WILLIAMS: Well, I think with the football season coming, I think one of the hot stories right now is the California game plan, with Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) running right, right, right, while you got Governor Gray Davis (search) running to the left. So far, Arnold is coming out and making it very clear that when it comes to taxes, when it comes to any conservative issue, Arnold is a conservative.

Let's listen to him.


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: From the time they get up in the morning and flush the toilet, they're taxed. Then they go and get a coffee, they're taxed. They get into their car, they're taxed. They go to the gas station, they're taxed. They go for lunch, they're taxed.

And this goes on all day long, tax, tax, tax, tax, tax.

Before we promise anything to anyone right now, I think, stop, stop, stop, stop with the spending.


BARNES: Do you like that?
WILLIAMS: I like that, time out.

BARNES: You know, stop, time out, yes, right.

WILLIAMS: All right. Now, meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, keeping up this football analogy...

BARNES: Right.

WILLIAMS: ... he's trying to pull an old surprise play by running counter. He's saying to the…to the California people...


WILLIAMS: ... You know what? I'm going to raise your taxes. I'll raise taxes on cigarettes, I'll raise some taxes on business, because we need a stable economy...


WILLIAMS: ... in California. We need a functioning government.

BARNES: Right.

WILLIAMS: And I'm a stable, strong governor, I'm the kind of guy who can make you feel that you can have trust in Sacramento again.

That could work, Fred.

BARNES: Yes, no, I don't think it's going to work. And it wasn't any surprise to me that he came out for a big tax increase, and essentially no spending cuts. I mean, it would create a stable economy in a depression if he, you know, taxes commercial property, taxing employers, taxing businesses, shifting health costs to businesses and so on. I think that would be a disaster.

Now, you're right about Arnold, though. Arnold Schwarzenegger has gone to the right. He knows he needs to woo conservative Republican voters. You know, he can get crossover votes, some of them, but he still needs this Republican vote. They're a minority, but he needs some of these conservatives, and he had a, I think, a pretty strong message for them.

And he was enormously effective at that press conference. I think you're going to see, and we can ask Jill Stewart about this later, but I think you're going to see Arnold soar into the lead. His polls will go up, and he'll be in such a position that some of the other Republicans are going to have to think about...

WILLIAMS: Oh, Fred, Fred...

BARNES: ... dropping out.

WILLIAMS: ... you…Fred, you betray your true worries. In fact, Arnold wasn't so spectacular at that press conference...

BARNES: Yes, he was.

WILLIAMS: ... he was reassuring to you, because you thought might be a blithering idiot who couldn't absolutely get through it. That was your worry.

BARNES: No, I...

WILLIAMS: So OK, so he did well enough.


WILLIAMS: But the fact is that conservatives are worried as to whether or not he's a true conservative...


WILLIAMS: ... especially when...he's sitting there with Warren Buffett by his side, a man who's really saying, right out of Cruz Bustamante's...

BARNES: I know.

WILLIAMS: ... playbook, We need to...raise taxes.

BARNES: He doesn't have to be a real conservative, I think, to get conservative voters. He just has to be conservative enough. So far, it looks like he is. OK.

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