Hot Stories for the Week of Dec. 6

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", Dec. 11, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: I owe an enormous apology to the president and his staff for causing whatever distraction this may cause.


FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: I’m Fred Barnes.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: And I’m Mort Kondracke. We’re “The Beltway Boys.”

Well, the hot story of the day is help wanted. That was Bernard Kerik (search) we saw. He’s out as Homeland Security chief. President Bush has got to find a new one. The stated reason that Kerik gave for, for withdrawing his nomination was another one of these illegal immigrant Nannygate cases, although I can tell you that there were going to be a lot more questions about a lot more things asked of Kerik if he had gone through the confirmation process.

And in the, in the process of that, his great advocate and, and cheerleader, his old boss Rudy Giuliani, might have gotten nicked a little bit too.

BARNES: Oh, I don’t think so. Look, it’s not Giuliani’s fault. He recommended Kerik. But it’s up to Kerik as the nominee to tell the White House of any things in his resume that might cause a problem or anything in his career or whatever. And it’s up to the White House to give him a full frisk before nominating him. And, and neither of those things happened.

Look, I have a way out, and that is for the president to beg Senator Joe Lieberman (search), a Democrat, to take the job. After all, it was Lieberman’s idea of having a homeland security department in the first place.

KONDRACKE: I’m sorry Joe Lieberman’s not the president, but Homeland Security would be great.

Now, aside from this Kerik withdrawal, I got to say that George Bush has been roar, roaring into his second term before it even begins. Here’s a list.

He got the intelligence reform bill that he wanted. People said Democrats and the press said this is a big test, it’s him versus conservatives in Congress, guess what, he won.

Second point is the Iraqi election is on track for January 30, you know, he’s not wavering, and his message to the Sunnis, Sunni Muslims is, get on this train before it leaves the station or you’re gone. Or you’re not, at least not going to participate.

Third, he’s moving on Social Security reform. We’re going to get to that in, in detail little later. But the fact is that he’s putting it forward, and there’s beginning to be a debate. And, you know, it’s, it’s good that it’s on the agenda.

And he’s hosting a White House economic conference next week to lay out his strategy for a, for the second term, with, surprise, surprise — John Snow staying as Treasury secretary.

Among the items that are going to come up at this economic summit are tort reform. I mean, President Bush regards trial lawyers as the, as parasites on the economy.

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: And wants to limit their role. And, and the second point is tax reform. He is not coming out for a sales tax, contrary to rumors, rather it is to lower taxes on savings and investment to make this more of a society of owners.

BARNES: That’s an excellent rundown, Mort. Comprehensive. Although you could have said, mentioning Snow, that his Cabinet is mostly in place. I mean, the Kerik thing is obviously a bump in the road, but it’s mostly in place.

Bush is going to start talking a lot about Social Security at this summit and then over the next month, leading up to the inauguration, talking about why he thinks it’s needed that we do have Social Security reform and actually focusing on making it solvent.

Now, the conventional wisdom in Washington is that the only way you get this kind of reform through of an entitlement is in a bipartisan way. I don’t think he’s going to get much help from Democrats. I mean, the new Senate minority leader, Harry Reid (search) of Nevada, says that he tried to destroy Social Security.

Tort reform, look, trial lawyers are the biggest donors to the Democratic Party. They’re going to be against that. Tax reform, I think they’ll be against that as well. I think Harry Reid ought to remember one thing, and that is, look what happened to Tom Daschle when he emerged as Mr. National Obstructionist.

So maybe that will tame Harry Reid now.

Hot story number two is all pumped up, by which I mean Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi and, and who knows who else in Major League Baseball. Look, with Bond, what’s happened here is that the integrity of major league baseball is jeopardized. Records that we thought, like Bonds’s 73 home runs in 2001, we don’t know whether they’re authentic or not.

I’m not sure whether Major League Baseball, given the strength of its players’ union, can actually handle this, and if it can’t, Congress may step in. Listen to Jim Bunting (search), a former great pitcher in Major League Baseball, now a Kentucky senator.


U.S. SENATOR JAMES BUNTING (R), KENTUCKY: I’d rather see a private settlement between the players and the union, but I’m afraid that that’s not possible. I think the union has gone overboard in trying to resist, and so the John McCain is absolutely right. We’re going to have to intervene.


KONDRACKE: Well, Barry Bonds has got, now got 703 career home runs. The record is Hank Aaron’s nonsteroid 755. If Barry Bonds actually hits 52 more home runs, or whatever he needs, 53 actually, what I think fans should do is boo and not cheer and there ought to be an asterisk in the record, because, because this is obviously not achieved on his own, it’s not a level playing field.

Now, as to the union, I mean, you’re undoubtedly right that the union is what’s standing in the way. But it’s also management’s fault. I mean, it takes two involved in this. If management doesn’t regard the integrity of the game of baseball as a lockout issue, I don’t know what is a lockout issue.

So, I mean, this is worth, this is worth going to strike over, or, or going to a labor dispute over, because, because the fans are not going to, are not going to depend on the game any more.

BARNES: Well, and Congress will step in if something doesn’t happen one way or the other.

KONDRACKE: Absolutely, and should.

BARNES: All right.

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