Hot Stories for the Week of September 1 - 5

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, September 6, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, the hot story is ugly, and I…this is shaping up to be the nastiest presidential campaign that I think I've seen in all the years that I, that I, that I've been covering politics.

The Democrats at this debate that they had, so-called debate that they had in New Mexico on Thursday, accused the president of being arrogant, of being a liar, of being a menace to civil liberties, of being an economic disaster, and of being a shill for corporations.

Here, let's watch some of it.


REP. DICK GEPHARDT, D-Mo, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This president is a miserable failure...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman, we'll get to health care soon.

GEPHARDT: On foreign policy and on the economy. And he's got to be replaced.

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will never send our sons and daughters and our brothers and sisters to a foreign country in harm's way without telling the truth to the American people.

SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-Mass., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it would be wonderful to have a president of the United States who could find the rest of the countries in this hemisphere.



KONDRACKE: You know, I mean, President Bush on his side has been pretty positive. I mean, he's been going around saying, Here's what I'm doing about terrorism...


KONDRACKE: Here's what I'm doing about the economy, here's what I'm doing about Iraq.

But just remember in 2002, how Republicans went after Democratic senatorial candidates based on patriotism, on the fact that they were, that they were interfering with the war on terrorism because they wouldn't pass the homeland security bill.

You can be sure that when the going gets tough that the Bush campaign will be back on that, on that wicket again.

Who is going to win this I think depends on, you know, how things turn out in, in Iraq and how things turn out on, on, on the economy. But I'll tell you this, the Democrats are doing themselves no good by declaring that John Ashcroft is a greater threat to American security than Usama bin Laden, which is, in effect, what they're all doing.

BARNES: Mort, that's the kindest thing you've ever said about John Ashcroft. And you're right, of course. It's not going to help, it's not going to help Democrats at all.

Just a slight correction, the 2002 campaign was not homeland security. It wasn't about patriotism. Democrats, whenever security is an issue, and they lose, oh, they're challenging our patriotism.

KONDRACKE: First told me that that homeland security...was code for...

BARNES: Yes, I don't care what...

KONDRACKE: ... patriotism.

BARNES: I'm telling you what the campaign was about, not what Bill Frist (search) said.

Now, so far, all of the nastiness has been on the Democratic side. Look, Republicans are capable of it. So far, it's been on the, on the Democratic side, all that stuff about a Republicans' conspiracy to overturn elections and so on.

And you mentioned Bush. Let's show a bite from what Bush is saying out on the stump compared to the Democrats. Watch this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our economy is starting to grow again. Americans are feeling more confident. I am determined to work with the United States Congress to turn these hopeful signs into lasting growth and greater prosperity and more jobs.


BARNES: That wasn't nasty at all. Not that you said it was, but it was. OK.

I had a couple of impressions about that Democratic debate. One, it was kind of time warp to hear these people talking about rebuilding America and some government-run national health care plan and, and so on. I mean, on the issues that are irrelevant or have already been decided and so on, they were...rebuild America, what are they talking about, rebuild America then?

But I was amused, potentially, to see since, since this debate was sponsored by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to hear these Democratic candidates try to speak Spanish. Listen to this.


REP. DENNIS KUCINICH, D-Ohio, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ahora es el tiempo de bover nuestros soldados de Iraq.

DEAN: Deron pro llamos se seguro America para todos, los ninos, ninos de dias y ocho agnose dilladan.

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, D-Conn., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Muchos palabras pocas obras.


BARNES: I hope they tell, try to do rap singing when they're at this debate next week before the Congressional Black Caucus. OK.

Hot story number two is, they're back, by which I mean the U.N., the Germans, the French, the Russians, and all those other people…those other countries who opposed the…intervention in Iraq in the first place.

Now, they've been invited back by the Bush administration, which wants them to help out with troops and money in postwar Iraq. Now, this is a shift that I think, by the Bush administration, which I think is headed for disaster.

First, it makes Bush look weak. Second, Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) is circulating a U.N. resolution that would bring more foreign, that would lure more foreign troops and money into postwar Iraq, but he hasn't…he didn't wire it ahead of time. He hasn't gotten the approval of people at the countries that matter ahead of time. And of course the French, the Germans, and all the other, and, and the Russians, and balking at it.

Here's how Powell describes the situation, I think, a little optimistically.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are in the process of discussing a resolution with all of the Security Council members, and I'd be delighted to receive their constructive input and take it from there.


BARNES: I'm just afraid no good can come of this whole foray in the United Nations. Either Bush caves further and the U.N. gets control of the rebuilding of Iraq and even of the military situation there, which I think is a mistake, or the referendum gets nowhere, and that's just an embarrassment for Bush.

KONDRACKE: Look, across the board, Bush is in deep trouble on, on Iraq. We've had four major strategic bombings, the Jordan embassy...

BARNES: That's not strategic.

KONDRACKE: The U.N….Oh, yes...

BARNES: No, it's not.

KONDRACKE: Jordan is a…was an ally of ours. The U.N....secretary general was for…OK, all right, the most pro-American Shi'ite leader...

BARNES: Yes, yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: ... killed, and a bombing at the, at the police headquarters in Baghdad. And nobody knows who did it.


KONDRACKE: I mean, we do not, we do not how to make it stop.


KONDRACKE: Bush finally agreed...

BARNES: I don't know how to make you stop.

KONDRACKE: That we need more troops in...


KONDRACKE: He's going to the U.N. to try to get them...


KONDRACKE: Putting himself, as you be extorted by the French and the, the…Congress is howling. What all this reminds me of is Abraham Lincoln in those dark early days of the Civil War (search). I hope that's the right analogy.

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: Not Lyndon Johnson...


KONDRACKE: ... in 1968.

KONDRACKE: Yes, yes, yes. Actually, that is, come to think of it, a very good analogy.

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