Transcript: 'The Beltway Boys,' April 21, 2007

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This is a full transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on April 21, 2007.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": I'm Mort Kondracke.

FRED BARNES, "THE BELTWAY BOYS": And I'm Fred Barnes, and we're "The Beltway Boys." The "Hot Story": "The Aftermath." We're talking, of course, about the aftermath of the massacre of the - of the innocents at Virginia Tech on Monday. Thirty-two students and professors killed, one killer who killed himself. And I think this is one of the saddest weeks I've experienced in America. Certainly one of the saddest in my life. I know lots of people who are associated with Virginia Tech, students who have gone there. There - a lot of them are from my neck of the woods in Northern Virginia, where I've lived my life. You know, this is a school that's really come on strong in recent years as a - as a - as a really great university. And I think most people - I think you would, too, Mort - think of Blacksburg, Va., as sort of this idyllic, rural college community. And - and - of course, all that's been shattered. Now this week's rampage has raised a lot of issues. Here's just a few: First, the role of colleges as parents, especially when it comes to troubled kids.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Not only that, but the whole - the whole - the role of the whole mental health care system. There was lots and lots of warnings that there - that Cho - Cho Seung-Hui, who was a troubled, mentally disturbed kid, and - and he was a danger to himself and - and to - and to other people. There were faculty and students who tried to bring him - him to the attention - the - of the authorities. There was even a judge who ordered that he - that he seek mental health treatment. But he fell between all the - the cracks, because the law required that in order to involuntarily commit him to a mental hospital, you have to be an imminent threat of - to - to somebody. And he - and they couldn't prove that he was an imminent threat. They couldn't suspend him from school for mental health reasons. That's against the law. And the police couldn't take any action because no one would file charges. Here's the - the head of the Virginia Tech mental health counseling center, and also the head of the Virginia Tech, demonstrate - making the point. Watch.


DR. CHRISTOPHER FLYNN, COOK COUNSELING CENTER: One of the issues that just came up is that there are specific rules for - under HIPA, about how hospitals can share information and to whom they can share information. And much of that is dependent on what the client is willing to agree to.



CHIEF WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE: From the police department perspective, it was not a criminal matter. We had taken it as far as the police department could take it. We notified the university administrator on call. After that, I do not know what - what happened to the case.


BARNES: Yes, and they - and they call the students "the client." Well, that's - that's who they are. Look, the truth is that colleges now have separated students from their own parents. You know, you can't - you can't get the grades - I have a son in college - I can't get his grades unless he says `OK,' I think in writing. And - and you can't get medical residence. You know, it ought to be the parents who are the client; but no, it's - it's the students who are the client. In Virginia, the legislature passed legislation unanimously that would bar colleges from suspending or expelling students that are clearly troubled, even if they've tried to commit suicide - they can't do that. In used to be, in our day to some extent, that colleges acted in loco parentis. In other words, they acted like parents; they looked out for students. But now, colleges have become - campuses have become almost lawless frontiers. I know that's a bit of a - an exaggeration, but not completely an exaggeration.

KONDRACKE: Well - well, as you said, I think quite - quite correctively, a permissive environment - a totally permissive environment does not lead to compassionate results, as in this case.

BARNES: All right. Number two, the second issue, noticeably absent in the aftermath of this week's horrific tragedy - a substantive debate on gun control. Well, one of the reasons, of course, is that the usual suspects who would jump in here demanding more gun control are Democrats, and they've realized that this is an issue that's - just hasn't helped them politically, so they've laid off. And I think that's right. But not all of them. Jim Moran, from the Virginia - who happens to be my congressman - blamed the Republicans and the NRA and Bush and so on. Watch.


REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: If you are a criminal or mentally deranged or simply emotionally upset, virtually anyone can go to a store, even a retail department store, and buy a weapon of mass destruction. That is what has happened here, and will happen again.


BARNES: Now the question is whether tighter gun laws would have prevented this massacre. I don't think so. Actually, the public doesn't think so. There is a poll on this, Mort, you'll be happy to know. The latest FOX poll shows 71 percent think tougher gun laws would not have stopped the Virginia Tech massacre because - quote - "people will always find guns." And even this gun shop owner in Roanoke, Virginia, who sold Cho one of his guns agrees with that. Watch.

KONDRACKE: Especially this guy.


JOHN MARKELL, OWNER, ROANOKE FIREARM: The truth is, there is no law that would have prevented this. There is no law. I don't care what kind of law you pass - he broke how many laws to kill 30 people? Laws are not the answer in this case.



BARNES: Of course, he did nothing wrong.

KONDRACKE: Well - well, of course.


KONDRACKE: Yes, OK, it's a legitimate business. But the good news is that a Democratic congressman, John Dingell from Michigan, a former board member of the National Rifle Association, is actually trying to get the NRA to bless a tightening up of the laws so that more mental health information would be included in the national background check that every gun dealer is supposed to perform before giving him a gun. Now if - it's conceivable that had the - depending on how the law was written, that Cho might have been actually caught in such a - in - in such an event. Now the.

BARNES: The NRA is for that.

KONDRACKE: Well, it's not - it hasn't blessed it yet, according to - according to Dingell. Now the most disappointing reactions that I have heard this week were from John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. John McCain used to be in favor of expanding the background-check requirement to - to gun-show sales. Now he says that he's against all gun control. Rudy Giuliani, you know, used to be in favor of actually registering all firearms and firearms owner. And he's now, you know, sort of defending the - the - the - the Second Amendment. You know, these guys are - are joining the right-wing pander brigade, led by Mitt Romney, who's already well in advance of them.

BARNES: Well - well, as you left, Mort, the call for gun control. So at least there's that. All right, the third main issue raised this week, the press and the blame game. You know, the press, the first thing they did when they go to Virginia Tech after this massacre was to start judging rather than reporting. Almost instantly they attacked Virginia Tech officials for not shutting down the campus after the first two murders in a dorm, which were two hours before the other murders in - in the various classrooms there. And - and blame - but look, I mean, there was all blame going - blame going on. It's not clear that it was unreasonable for Virginia Tech officials not to shut down the campus, lock it down. And even if they had, would that have prevented the killing of a lot of students and - and professors? I - I don't think that's clear. The truth is, Mort, that the press made the ordeal for the students and professors and others in the Virginia Tech community worse than it already was. And, you know - and - and it - one telling sign was when there was a convocation, I think the day after the shootings, when Virginia Tech students got a chance to register an opinion, and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger stood up to talk - they gave him a standing ovation.

KONDRACKE: Right. Well, I think there was a - there was vast overkill as far as the media was concerned. I mean, this was a very big story, and it had to be covered, and - and so on. But the amount of coverage, and the - I mean, it practically wiped out every other news story - Iraq, Gonzales hearings, all the rest - all - all week long, it was - it was nonstop Virginia Tech. And what I - what I'm afraid of is that encourages potential copycats to try to exceed Cho in - in - in - in murder. Not good.

BARNES: All right. Coming up, anti-abortion advocates get a big win in the Supreme Court, and Alberto Gonzales gets raked over the coals this week on Capitol Hill. So stick around; our "Ups and Downs" are next.


BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Let's check out our "Ups and Downs" for the week. Down: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He may have done himself more harm than good after his less-than-stellar performance this week on Capitol Hill. Here's Gonzales making his case, and Republican Senator Arlen Specter commenting on whether he was convinced.


ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: My misstatements were my mistakes. No one else's. And I accept complete and full responsibility here as well.



SEN. ARLEN SPECTER ®, PENNSYLVANIA: I believe, as I have said before, that his ability to manage the department has been severely undercut by the way he has handled these resignations, and by the way he has handled his news conferences, his press statements and his testimony before the committee.


BARNES: Yes, he didn't handle that - that testimony well. One of the things you don't want to do is get in a fight with Arlen Specter. It never works. Now look, my take on Gonzales is - is very simple: that clearly he handled the firing of these eight U.S. attorneys very clumsily. But you don't fire a Cabinet member for being clumsy. You know, Pat Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that there was growing evidence of wrongdoing. He cited none. There is none, and for that reason, I think Gonzales will stay.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well, in fact, the - the Justice Department showed this week that it is still pursuing investigations of a Republican politicians - Congressman John Doolittle of Congressman, Congressman Rick Renzi of - of Arizona. They're not prosecutions yet, they're - but they're investigations.

BARNES: Yes, they weren't impeded .


KONDRACKE: The Nevada governor, Jim Gibbons - they're all - they're all continuing the investigations. These were cases where the U.S. attorney was - was actually fired. So it - it - the - the proof of - that this was all political to stop investigation just isn't there. On the other hand, look - the - poor Gonzales had to say that he couldn't remember something about 65 times. He clearly is not managing his department strongly or at all, practically. I mean, he delegated - seems to delegate every - practically everything. I - I - he has no confidence in any - on the part of practically anybody left in Congress. So I say he's going to resign, and soon. My prediction.

BARNES: All right.

KONDRACKE: OK. Up: right-to-life advocates. They got a huge win this week, after the Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to uphold partial-birth abortions. Now, look, I - I think that - the - the good news here for abortion-rights advocates is that there are not the votes on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. So that's - that's pretty safe. On the other hand, here you have the Congress of the United States and the Supreme Court making - imposing their ideology ahead of medical, scientific opinion. I mean, what - what Justice Kennedy was saying was that, `Look, all these procedures for second-term abortions are ghastly. But this procedure, so-called partial - partial-birth abortion, in tact DNE, you know, can - can't be performed because - because he thinks it's - that there are other procedures that are more safe, for - for the - to protect the health of the woman.' That's not what the American College of Gynecologists and - and - and Obstetricians says. They say that this procedure, ghastly as it is, is the safest way to protect the woman's health.

BARNES: Theirs is not the only opinion though, Mort. There were all kinds of opinions for doctor - from the doctors and the - and the AMA that are much.


KONDRACKE: Now who knows better than the gynecologists themselves?

BARNES: Well, it was a very political decision by then made very late in this whole years of argument over a partial-birth abortion. They're not the only person to decide. And look, what the court did - they didn't make an opinion on - on what they thought about partial-birth abortion. What they said was that Congress has a right to act in this area. Now just because there's not some health care exception, that shouldn't matter. You can have a health-care exception. You know what that is, Mort? That is a 100 percent loophole. It says, `The abortion can decide whether it - it's for the good health of the mother to have this abortion.' And how do abortionists decide? They decide in favor of abortions. So you had to get that out, and - and that was the difference between this law. Congress said, `There is no health reason,' as the AMA said - `there's no health reason ever for a partial-birth abortion.'

KONDRACKE: Well, I submit to you that it's possible to write a health exception that's tighter than a - than - than a 100 percent loophole.

BARNES: There is none. The court has said how broad it has to be, and and it means, you know, if you wake up in the morning and - and think it'd make you unhappy if you didn't have an abortion when the - well, that's a health exception right there.

All right. Coming up, the man in charge of the U.S. troop surge in Iraq comes to Capitol Hill next week. We'll have a preview, after the break.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." We're continuing with the "Ups and Downs" for the week. Up: General David Petraeus. The man leading the surge in Iraq is headed to Capitol Hill next week to reassure lawmakers that the U.S. plan is beginning to work, and to fully - to press for fully funding the troops. You know, nothing President Bush can say anymore about the Iraq war seems to make a dent at all. Nobody's - nobody's listening to him. The only people with any credibility left are General Petraeus and maybe Defense Secretary Bob Gates. (AUDIO GAP) - that - that there are signs that the - that the surge is working. Maybe - maybe somebody will listen, and - and it might make a small dent, although I don't think it's going to make a significant defense - dent in - in what the - in what the Democrats think. Now, the Senate Democratic leadership, to its credit, when it - when Petraeus was made available, scheduled an all-senators briefing for this coming Wednesday. The same did not apply in the House of Representatives. As my newspaper "Roll Call" reported, when first given an opportunity to - to hear from Petraeus, Nancy Pelosi said, `No, we've got scheduling conflicts.' It was only when "Roll Call" actually called her office that they changed their mind and gave him a hearing.

BARNES: Well, good for "Roll Call." That's great. Because they ought to hear him, and I - I think he'll be great convincing even the Democrats. At least to some of them. Look, I agree about - about President Bush. Now I think he has credibility, but the public has - has really turned him off on Iraq I believe. The problem for Petraeus though is that Democrats really don't want to give his - his counterinsurgency as chance to succeed in Iraq. I mean, here - watch what Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, said the other day. Watch this.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Now I believe myself that the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and you have to make your own decision as to what the president knows, that this was is lost, and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday.


BARNES: You know, he's also said - Harry Reid has, that, you know, it Democrats are going to win seats in the Senate because of this war, and - and - and - and you know how he knows? He's gotten the poll numbers from Chuck Schumer, and they're astounding and compelling. Jeez. I tell you. Anyway, we're kicking off an occasional feature this week, adding some of the second and third tier presidential candidates to our "Ups and Downs." And so this week's "Up" goes to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He's launching bio ads in Iowa and New Hampshire beginning Monday, the first commercials in the Democratic presidential race. We've seen them in the - on the Republican side. Mitt Romney's had some. Well, you know, the truth is about Richardson, Mort: he has become the favorite to win the nomination - the vice presidential nomination. Now he is a guy who is I think enormously qualified, particularly in the foreign affairs area - he was U.N. ambassador, and he was just recently in North Korea on a mission that actually had the blessing of the Bush administration, unlike Nancy Pelosi's pratfall in Syria. But, you know, from where he starts, with his amount of money and so on to really get anywhere, it's going to take probably both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to collapse - their campaigns to collapse. I don't think both of them are going to collapse.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Well, look, even to be vice president, I think Richardson's got to get his support out of the - out of the single-digit levels, hence these - hence these ads. There's going to be - once there's a nominee selected in February, there's going to be a natural tendency to - for the party to want a unify around the No. 2 finisher, either Hillary or Barack Obama. Probably not John Edwards if he's not the nominee. So - but - but Richardson does have going for him, as you say, this foreign affairs experience. And he's a Hispanic, and the Democrats are going to want to lock up the Hispanic vote.


KONDRACKE: .which is the fastest-growing constituency in the country.


KONDRACKE: Up: France, for the first timed in "Beltway Boys" history. Believe it or not, the French could actually be on the verge of electing a pro-American president in candidate Nicolas Sarkozy. The French presidential election is on Sunday, at least the first round of it is.


KONDRACKE: Now The Economist of London said that this was France's last chance.


KONDRACKE: Why? Do you realize that 50 percent of the - of France's GDP is government? BARNES: Yes.

KONDRACKE: You know - I mean, so that - that's a - that's just a total dead weigh on the economy, and as a result it has the fast - the slowest growth rate of any major country in Europe. Now Sarkozy's not perfect. He's not a free marketer. And he's against letting Turkey into - into the EU. But - but at least relations with the United States should improve, if he gets elected.

BARNES: Well - well, I like the way you said. Not France - but France! That's about the way I feel. Look, some guy who's a pro-American, running for president of France, that goes - that goes a long way with me. And you can see the kind of stuff he likes about America. We're tough on crime, and - and Americans work more than 35 hours a week. That's one of the reasons why we have this great domestic product, and do so much more than France itself does. All right. Hang on to your seats; "The Buzz" is up next.


KONDRACKE: Here's "The Buzz," Fred: You know, Iran used to be an adversary of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. But according to the rule - the old rule, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, Iran has flipped. And now it is supplying, we've discovered, IEDs to the Taliban to use against NATO forces in - in Afghanistan. Another example of Iranian mischief.

BARNES: Why am I not surprised? You know, Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana, a Democrat, is not running for re-election. John Breaux, the former senator, has declined to step in and run for governor of Louisiana. And you know what that means? It means the congressman, the Republican Bobby Jindal, is a prohibitive favorite now to be elected governor of - of Louisiana later this year. It would be a big win for Republicans.

KONDRACKE: Should have been elected the first time. (INAUDIBLE) last time.

BARNES: Indeed. That's all for "The Beltway Boys" this week. Join us next week, when the boys will be back in town. And stick around - stick around, please. "FOX News Watch" is coming up in just a few seconds.

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