Hot Stories for the Week of March 10-14

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, March 15, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Mort, the hot story, time's up. You know, it's been a -- not a rush to war but a crawl to war, and -- but the crawl is over. The last stop is this summit tomorrow in the Azores with President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the Spanish prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar.

Now, look. They, and especially Bush, have devoted more time to giving peace a chance than practically anyone in history. And yet Saddam Hussein will not disarm, the United Nations will not enforce its resolutions that require Saddam to disarm, and the French -- your friends the French -- have a lot...they have a few -- they have a lot to answer for in blocking any significant U.N. action against Iraq. And not only, and not only doing that, but being willing to shadow the Atlantic alliance so they could block any effort, so they could try to contain not the Iraqis but contain the United States' use of, of any power. I mean, of its power.

Look. We have just simply reached the point of last resort. No more U.N. action, no reason to go back there next week. It's time for war. And it will be a just war to liberate Iraqis.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Yes, I predict that we will be at war one week from tonight. Do you agree?

BARNES: Yes, that's roughly true.



KONDRACKE: Well, in the Azores, what Bush and Aznar and Blair are going to do is to pull the plug on this diplomatic disaster of looking for a second U.N. resolution. I mean, this was all designed to, to help Tony Blair with, with his, with his public, and Bush expended an enormous amount of political capital, both at home and, and abroad, by groveling and, you know, begging and bribing foreign leaders all over, all over the world, and failing...

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: ... at -- to, to vote and to get them to vote for another U.N. resolution. Why? Quite correctly, you say, Because of the perfidious French.


KONDRACKE: Now, also to help Tony Blair, the president this week rolled out the prospect of a new, or of the road map for peace in, in the Middle East, although it was conditioned, as it has been in the past, on one, Palestinian reform, and two, renunciation of violence on the -- or progress toward violence. And also, three, some, some movement on the prime ministership.

Here, watch, watch Bush.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To be a credible and responsible partner, the new Palestinian prime minister must hold a position of real authority.


KONDRACKE: Now, the other hot story is not so hot, that is, Bush on the, on the domestic front. The latest FOX News poll shows that President Bush's job approval rating is still pretty good at 60 percent. But that's a slight drop from the beginning of the year. Other polls are not so good.

But he's taken a hit on his handling of the economy. A majority, 52 percent, disapprove of that, and 54 percent think that the country is on the wrong track, up 7 percent since last month. And what's worse for Bush, 58 percent will either definitely vote for somebody else or are considering voting for somebody else in 2004.

Now, the Democrats smell blood. They think that he's vulnerable. Watch John Kerry at the California Democratic Convention.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This administration has taken the budget to bust it, the economy down, the stock market down, unemployment up, the uninsured are up, the crime rates are up, and America is increasingly isolated in the world. I will tell you, there is a far simpler way to bring Saddam Hussein and Iraq to its knees. Just send the Bush economic team over there to run the country.


KONDRACKE: Now, Bush is going...


KONDRACKE: ... to get, will get a, a popularity bump from a successful...


KONDRACKE: ... war, but then he's got to fix the American economy...

BARNES: Right, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... and if he does not fix the American economy...

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... he could follow in the path of his footsteps -- father, his father.

BARNES: So you -- yes, you think he needs...

KONDRACKE: ...something about...He could follow in his own footsteps, yes, right.

BARNES: Yes, right, good. So you think...a big tax cut is what's needed, right?

KONDRACKE: No, no. A medium-sized...

BARNES: What...

KONDRACKE: ... tax cut.

BARNES: OK, well, at least you're for one. Did you happen to watch John Kerry there? He, he's going to have to learn those lines. He kept having to his notes, you know, he's, he's going to have to do better than that. OK.

Look. Bush's numbers are down for sure. Partly it's the natural erosion from the heights he rose to after the September 11 terrorist attacks. It's partly, though, because of something you touched on just a minute ago, Mort, the dithering at the United Nations for six months. You used the word "groveling," it was the right word to use.

And, and the whole U.N. thing was a disaster. Look at this poll, and this will tell you a lot of why his numbers have gone down, this poll that shows a whopping 71 percent of Americans think it's time to get it over in Iraq and stop the uncertainty. I think you probably have to agree with that, don't you, Mort?

KONDRACKE: I -- yes, the war's...


KONDRACKE: ... going to start, you know, and I told you...

BARNES: ... I want to add one more thing. All those Democrats who you talked to who think cynically that Bush has just trumped up this Iraq thing so he could get some political gain out of it are wrong, they're simply wrong. Here he's gone six months at the U.N., he's leaned over backwards to help Tony Blair, and now Aznar as well. And he's suffered because of that.

This is not a cynical ploy by the president. He believes in this...

KONDRACKE: I think he absolutely...

BARNES: ... and I think he's doing the right thing.

KONDRACKE: ... I think, I think he absolutely believe in it, and he's sincere. But he always had war in mind at the beginning. He didn't really think that 1441 was going to promote disarmament.

BARNES: Yes, and he was right. OK.

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