This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", June 19, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, the hot story of the week is lies, damn lies, and I'm referring to the, the media coverage of the 9/11 commission. I used to be skeptical about your case that the media were all biased against...


KONDRACKE: ... President Bush, but I have to say that the coverage of Iraq and now the 9/11 commission has, has finally ripped it for me. The 9/11 commission said that there were ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda (search), but...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... when, when it came to actually putting it in the paper, most of the media, practically all the media, in fact, said, as The New York Times did and USA Today said, that there were no ties at all between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and that President, one of President Bush's major cases for the war in Iraq had been discredited.

Here's President Bush responding to this 9/11 charge.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, the reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and Al Qaeda because there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

This administration never said that 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and Al Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.


KONDRACKE: Now, the beheading of Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia just reminds you of the nature of, Al Qaeda. And the stakes that, that civilization faces. I mean, this outfit would kill us all if it, if it possibly could.

I do think that, that instead of just making assertions about the connections between Al Qaeda and Iraq, the way the administration's been doing, and leaving it up to one single reporter out of all of them...


KONDRACKE: ... your Steve Hayes...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... at the, at the Weekly Standard, but the administration ought to declassify whatever it can about that connection, get it out on the record, and try to prove its case.

BARNES: Yes, no, look, I agree with you on that. I agree with your analysis of the press coverage in this whole thing. And remember how the headline we put it on the Weekly Standard when Steve Hayes's last report? "Case Closed." And the case is closed.

And, this question that the 9/11 commission, and I have a problem with the press, but I also have a big, big problem with the 9/11 commission itself on several grounds, and one is, no collaborative relationship?

Now, what do they call it when, when Iraq ... who worked for Saddam Hussein train al Qaeda members? What do they call it when Zarqawi is, is driven out of Afghanistan back in, what, 2001, where does he go? He comes to Iraq.

Obviously there's a collaborative relationship, as President Bush said. It may not be on 9/11, but, but it may be on 9/11. And, and then, and that gets to this question of whether there was a meeting in Prague prior to 9/11 between hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence official. Now, for some reason, the commission, way off its mandate, says, Oh, that didn't happen, when, in fact, they don't offer any evidence, whether we should believe it or not one way or the other...

KONDRACKE: Well, they certainly refer...

BARNES: ... and they didn't...

KONDRACKE: ... to cell phone calls and stuff like that.

BARNES: I know, but those cell phone calls don't make any difference. We know that the Al Qaeda members handed around cell phones and besides, Atta had a cell phone that wouldn't have worked in Prague anyway. So that really doesn't lead you anywhere.

You know, and so the bottom line, of course, is that they were one, the commission was going into an area and fury all, all this stuff about the intelligence, going into it, undermining the administration while the administration is fighting a war still in Iraq, trying to create a stable democratic government.

That is not what the commission is supposed to be doing. OK.

The -- now, let's turn to the other hot story, which is the silent recovery. Now, Mort, although you've done some press-bashing today, normally you don't do that, and you leave that to me. But, but I agree with you this time that the press has practically boycotted news of the economic recovery, which is a booming recovery, entirely. It's the fastest in 20 years.

And so the Bush operation had to leave a team their ads to get this across to the country that there is an economic recovery. Listen.


ANNOUNCER: After recession, 9/11, and more, now our economy has been growing for 10 straight months. The largest tax relief in history, John Kerry's response, he's talking about the Great Depression (search). One thing sure, pessimism never created a job.


BARNES: The ... actually probably figuring that no news is good news, the public seems to be figuring out that there is a real economic recovery that affects them. Look at this poll, which shows it was done by the Pew Research Center, shows 43 percent approve of President Bush's handling of the economy. That's not that big, but it's up 4 points since April.

And while I'm mentioning polls, let me throw in a couple more that are good for Bush. His job approval is also up 4 points since last month. He's currently at 48 percent. Of course, we know he needs to get over 50 to ensure reelection. And he's up 2 points over John Kerry in a head-to- head matchup. Just last month, Bush was 5 behind John Kerry.

KONDRACKE: Well, contrary to what the Bush ad says, Kerry insists that he is not an economic pessimist but rather an optimist. Watch this.



SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm running optimistically about how we make America stronger. And I have a better record to run on than they do because in the 1990s, we did it, we balanced the budget, we paid down the debt, we created 23 million new jobs. And George Bush has lost jobs. The middle class will get a tax cut under my plan. Under George Bush's plan, the middle class has been losing their income.

I'm going to do better for the middle class.


KONDRACKE: Now, Kerry ought to tell, at least tell the truth. I mean, the fact is that per capita disposable income is up 4.6 percent from the middle class has not been losing income. Also, Kerry goes around exaggerating the, the job losses during the, this administration, he says 2 million, it's actually 1.2 and, and declining.

And when he talks about a middle class squeeze based on tuition, health care, and gasoline, he neglects to mention that inflation, general inflation is very low and so, so are interest rates.

If I were Kerry...


KONDRACKE: ... I would not talk down the economy. What I would do is make the case, and I believe this, one, that the tax, that the Bush tax cuts were enormously too big, two, that they were skewed to the rich and didn't help ordinary working people who only pay for, only pay payroll taxes, three, that, that he built up a deficit so big that it's going to be difficult to pay for the baby boom retirement, and four, that his tax cuts squeeze out the possibility of spending or investing in things like medical research or education, and particularly to finance a health insurance plan that will reverse the scandal ... that 43 million people are uninsured.

BARNES: Mort, we have this booming recovery because of the tax cuts. Tax cuts only help when you give tax cuts to taxpayers. That's when they help.

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