This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", Jan. 22, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Renewed in our strength, tested but not weary, we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.


MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, the hot story of the week is, let freedom ring, which is obviously the theme of President Bush’s inaugural (search). And he was soaring in his idealism and his eloquence. He was exhilarating in his dedication to human liberty. Mike Gerson (search) deserves credit for writing one of, perhaps, the best-written speeches, inaugural speeches, ever, and George Bush deserves credit for leadership, for painting a picture of the world that he wants to create.

And it’s, and it’s a lofty vision. Here, listen. Listen to this.


BUSH: So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.


KONDRACKE: I mean, it, it’s breathtakingly ambitious what, what he has in mind. And what worries me is that this is like a rocket ride that he’s got us on. I mean, he wants to, to do things, historic things, in both domestic and foreign policy, convert FDR’s welfare state into an opportunity society, and run this ultra, ultra- Wilsonian foreign policy.

The question is, is this extravagant? Is this perhaps grandiose? What it reminds me most of was John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, in which he said that we would bear any burden and pay any price and support any friend and oppose any foe to ensure the success of liberty. That’s what led us to Vietnam, which was a noble cause, but was also a disaster for the United States.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Yes. Well, we didn’t win there, that’s for sure. I mean, and I liked the JFK speech. Now, before I deal with the, you, you know, the quibbles and the trivial complaints about, about the Bush speech, I want to show you, Mort, my favorite passage in the speech, the, in the speech, the best quote, I thought. Watch this.


BUSH: By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well, a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.


BARNES: Well, you liked that, didn’t you?


BARNES: OK, good. Now, look, and this speech was designed to inspire, not just Americans, not just Republicans, not just Bush’s administration, but the entire world, and let them know that our, our policy now is that we’re going to, our disposition is toward enhancing democracy everywhere in the world, in countries that are allies, in countries that are enemies.

Now, let me deal with some of the complaints here. Peggy Noonan (search), the former Reagan speechwriter said, in a Wall Street Journal piece, that she wanted more nuance in the speech. This is not the kind of speech that you want nuance in at all. People in the media, said, Oh, he should have reached out more. Well, you know why they wanted him to reach out? Because that would have showed weakness, and that’s what the people in the media and Democrats wanted.

KONDRACKE: Reaching out is not weakness.

BARNES: Yes, that’d be exactly what it would be, weakness, to admit mistakes, and I’m going to reach out. It would have been, it would have sounded pathetic. I thought he handled that just right.

Now, you suggested he was unrealistic. I mean, what would have him do, set the bar lower, saying, Well, we’re going to, we want freedom around the world, but, you know, we’re not going to be too passionate about it. You know, he set the bar very high.


BARNES: Let, let’s shoot for that. I thought this inaugural address, look, it wasn’t in the class of Lincoln’s second inaugural, the greatest ever. But was in the class of Reagan in ‘81, and I think getting close to FDR in 1933.

Now, the other hot story is, petty, petty. And I’m referring to Democrats, and, and they just can’t seem to help themselves sounding often, not all of them, but some of them, as sore losers. I mean, these holds, these delays they put on the confirmation of, of Condi Rice (search) as secretary of state and Alberto Gonzales (search) as attorney general are merely mischief. They’re to cause trouble. They know they’re going to be confirmed and they’ll be in office. This is a, it’s harassment, there’s no purpose for it.

Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leaders, can’t seem to resist the obstructionist temptation, which ultimately caused his predecessor, Tom Daschle to be defeated. Here he is on Social Security reform (search). Listen to this.


U.S. SENATOR HARRY REID (D), MINORITY LEADER: It’s a nonstarter to talk about privatizing Social Security. And then, if you look a little more closely, to think that benefits will be cut up to 50 percent, and you also consider that he’s going to borrow $2 trillion, not billion, but $2 trillion to try to effectuate this plan that is a disaster for the most successful social program in the history of the world. We are not going to allow that to happen.


BARNES: Look, nobody’s going to cut Social Security by 50 percent. He’s already called his plan a disaster. Bush hasn’t even endorsed a plan. And in fact, I happen to know, the plan is still a thing in the works, so I don’t know how, how he knows all this stuff.

Now, you know, but there was one, one person in the Senate I do not include as a member of the sore losers’ club, and that’s Senator Joe Biden (search), who, who was critical in the Senate Foreign Relations Committees of, of Condi Rice and as secretary of state, but he voted for her.

Listen to Biden.


U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: I remember a quote from Samuel Johnson, who was talking about second marriages. And Samuel Johnson said, Anyone who marries a second time is choosing the triumph of hope over experience. Well, this is a second administration, and I acknowledge, I am choosing the triumph of hope over experience.


KONDRACKE: I love Joe Biden.


KONDRACKE: He is really a standup guy and he did the right thing there.

Holding up Condi Rice’s nomination for a day, that is, that is petty, and holding up Gonzales for indefinitely, as they are, is also petty. And I think the Democrats are making a serious mistake. After all, Bush was elected with a majority of the vote this time. They have no business filibustering his judicial nominees, except in the most extreme cases, perhaps. But, certainly not doing that.

Now, it does not look, on the basis of what we saw on the inaugural podium, that there’s going to be a filibuster or any kind of a vote, even, of consideration of William Rehnquist’s successor. William Rehnquist is determined to, he was determined to swear Bush in, and he did, and he’s determined, apparently, to set the record, or break the record, for service as chief justice of the United States, in spite of his thyroid cancer, which is two and a half more years from now.

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: So he’s going to, he’s going to hang in there for as long as he can.

BARNES: You know, on Rehnquist, Peggy Noonan did write something that I agreed with. As, as you said, his performance was a show of gallantry. And, and I think it really was on his part. OK.

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