Transcript: 'The Beltway Boys,' July 14, 2007

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This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on July 14, 2007.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Coming up on THE BELTWAY BOYS, a mixed bag of progress on Iraq as the White House moves to prevent more GOP defections.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Al Qaeda regroups and Democrats slam Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff for his quote-unquote "gut feeling."

BARNES: John McCain says his campaign is just fine after a major shake- up. We'll give you our assessment.

KONDRACKE: And what does the DC madam have to do with the Giuliani campaign? We'll give you the scoop.

BARNES: THE BELTWAY BOYS are next but first the headlines.



GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: The real debate over Iraq is between those who think the fight is lost or not worth the cost and those that believe the fight can be won. And that is as difficult the fight is, the cost of defeat would be far higher.


BARNES: I'm Fred Barnes.

KONDRACKE: And I'm Mort Kondracke. And we're THE BELTWAY BOYS.

Well, the hot story of the week is, give war a chance. This war. The Iraq war.

The government released the initial interim report on Bush's surge in Iraq. And the benchmarks that the Iraqis are supposed to achieve distinctly mixed picture, on the second issue, the benchmarks. And Bush came out and made an appeal for patience from the public and from Congress.

Here he is on Thursday and also John Lewis on the House floor as the Democrats passed a resolution calling for a withdrawal. Watch.


BUSH: This September, as Congress has required, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will return to Washington to provide a more comprehensive assessment. By that time, we hope to see further improvement in the positive areas, and the beginning of improvement in the in the negative areas.

REP. JOHN LEWIS, (D) GA: He is asking Congress to wait, telling the American people to be patient. We cannot wait, we cannot be patient! The American people want an end to this war, and end it now!


BARNES: Wooh. John Lewis. A great civil rights leader but war critic, I think he leaves a lot to be desired.

Look, you mentioned the benchmarks, and these were in, what? A bill passed in February or something or other. But the Iraqis weren't supposed to meet all these necessarily by the middle of July. They better be doing better by mid-September, and admittedly, it was a mixed bag.

Some of the biggest hurdles left for them, among the benchmarks, are one, deploying Iraqi troops to Baghdad, that's actually the most important one, a leading indicator, and one they've achieved.

On the other hand, the oil revenue sharing law, noop (ph), haven't seen that. A measure to institute provincial voting, which is important, and I know President Bush happens to think, because I was in a group that met with him on Friday, thinks that's probably the most important one. And then the whole de-Baathication process, they haven't gotten anywhere on those.

So it's a mixed picture but some are leading indicators and those political ones are lagging indicators. But the truth is that I think the president has what I called a prevent defense. I guess what is that in? In football, a prevent defense, when you're ahead and want the other team to score — not to score, well in this case it's to prevent the Democrats from passing legislation that would really restrict the president's hand and cause a withdrawal of troops. And to keep Republicans, and heaven knows that some of them are starting to fall off the Iraq wagon, anyway, to stop that from happening.

I think it's a process that can work. And I think it can work right through February. Or March or April of next year, whenever it has to, to let the surge work in Baghdad in particular. But the truth is, this past week, this past week we just finished, the prevent defense worked fine. So I say, so far, so good.

KONDRACKE: Well, so far, not to good, actually. And by the way, I was not at the session with the president today. Another example of great White House communication strategy. Speak only to the in group.

BARNES: Mort, you weren't there. And maybe you should have been there. Mort, Mort, Mort, Mort.

KONDRACKE: Terrible communications strategy.

BARNES: You know what one of the worst traits of reporters in Washington is? Envy. Don't exhibit it.

KONDRACKE: This isn't envy. This is a critique of administration communication strategy across the line.

BARNES: Well, you could have fooled me.

KONDRACKE: Well, anyway, Karl Rove was at the Aspen Institute which I attended this week and he was magnificent, going, talking to the non- converted. And they ought to do more than that.

BARNES: By the way, I was not invited to the Aspen Institute. Nobody invited me there. Their communication skills are not very good at the Aspen Institute.

KODNRACKE: You're invited next year, I can guarantee it. I'll see to it.

Anyway, so far not so good, the Democrats with very few exceptions have all given up on this war and want to bail. But what's happening, as the 2008 elections loom, that the Republicans are beginning to get swishy on — squishy on the war, and there are already three of them, and I count 12, who have said something negative about the Bush strategy.

John Boehner, the House Republican leader, calls them wimps. And three of them are voting with the Democrats, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Chuck Hagel who has been against it from the beginning.

But as the pressure mounts and if there is not more progress, especially on the benchmark front, more and more Republicans are going to flake away, and Bush - it's not inconceivable that ultimately, there could be 67 votes, enough to override a Bush veto on this, which would repeat the example of Vietnam, which was a catastrophe for the United States.

But that's the way it happened. Republicans eventually turned against the war.

BARNES: Do you agree with Boehner that the flaky Republicans are wimps?

KONDRACKE: Well, some of them are wimps, and some of them aren't.

BARNES: That's very diplomatic. Look, I think these Republican defections really reflect the lack of influence. The war is unpopular. He is unpopular. He doesn't have much influence.

But Mort, he does have power. And that is the key to this prevent defense that can allow and I think will allow the surge and the counterinsurgency and General Petraeus to proceed in Iraq in the next year and actually win, secure Baghdad.

The president has the veto, the president is the commander in chief, after all, and he can, at least for now, depend on the filibuster in the Senate.

Now I know Democrats only need for more votes to get to 60. I think they are going to have a hard time getting there but I think the president is doing well. He says he thinks he has some real tools that he can deal with. And he intends to use all of them. And what he wants to do is proceed with the war in Iraq and protect the war policy here at home.

KONDRACKE: Look, the support is withering, and you know it is withering. And next week, there's going to be an amendment introduced by two very influential Republicans, John Warner and Richard Lugar which is going to call for Bush to prepare an alternative strategy. And the amendment is going to say something to the effect, quote, "that the American military and diplomatic strategy in Iraq must adjust to the reality that sectarian factionalism is not likely to abate any time soon and probably cannot be controlled from the top."

Moreover, Mitch McConnell of all people, the Senate Republican leader has said that if things don't improve in September, there's got to be a change of strategy. So that's why I'm saying the president's support is withering away, unless there is significant demonstrable success to report in September.

I hope there is.

BARNES: I think there will be. And you were wrong about Lugar and Warner, they're not very influential, they're not influential at all. They're just high ranking. They don't influence anybody. I think it's very unlikely .

KONDRACKE: Their colleagues .

BARNES: No they don't.

KONDRACKE: They are respected among their colleagues. Yes they are.

BARNES: No, they aren't. I think Mitch McConnell, when he hears General Petraeus' report, will be with Petraeus and with the president.

Anyway, coming up, John McCain says talk of his campaign's demise was premature.

And Michael Chertoff's off-the-cuff remarks draw jeers from Democrats. Stick around. Ups and downs are next.


BARNES: Welcome back THE BELTWAY BOYS. Let's take a look at our "Ups and Downs" for the week. Up: Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff. Democrats slamming him for telling the "Chicago Tribune" he has a quote- unquote "gut feeling" that al Qaeda may strike soon. But with the terrorist group rebuilding, that's just the kind of straight talk we need. Here is Chertoff on his comment.


MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: In the context of an editorial board from Chicago it's a guy from New Jersey using a plain English word instead of a typical bureaucratic phrase, informed assessment or semi speculative judgment or something of that sort.


KONDRACKE: Look, I give him high marks for candor, especially in view of the national intelligence estimate that's about to come out that indicates that al Qaeda is back, mainly due to the fall down of our ally Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan.

But you've got to give him a down for preparedness. There are all kinds of empty jobs at the Department of Homeland Security. And if we got hit by a dirty bomb or by a biological attack, anthrax, or something like that would you know what to do?

BARNES: Would I know what to do? Mort, we're going to be dead. We're right downtown in Washington.

KONDRACKE: Suppose it was someplace else. You see the signs along the road, report suspicious activity. What kind of suspicious activity? The problem is again, a communication problem on the part of the administration. Nobody knows what to do.

BARNES: I think that's wrong and I don't know if the jobs that are unfilled are important ones or not, that it would make any difference. I like Chertoff.

KONDRACKE: I like Chertoff, too.

BARNES: I don't think he should have been zinged for this at all. I think that's wrong. And, look, you still can't get around one thing, al Qaeda is stronger than it was a couple years ago, not as strong as before 9/11.

But we have not been attacked since 9/11. Now, I think we're lucky. But it's not just luck. The one thing, and you cited it, the one thing we have to worry about is that President Musharraf of Pakistan has allowed that area of Northern Pakistan to become a safe haven for al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Now it's not quite as good as Afghanistan where they had the whole country and the airport to go in and out of but it's a safe haven. You're right.

KONDRACKE: And down: Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Two high-profile dismissals from his campaign. Long time campaign strategist John Weaver and campaign manager Terry Nelson set off a new round of speculation that his campaign is in deep trouble. Here's McCain after the shakeup.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was a collective decision. We sat down and talked about and decided what was best for the campaign, and we think the campaign is going fine.


BARNES: It was a collective decision of one guy, John McCain. I think he did the right thing. His campaign was going nowhere. And now, at least, it has a chance of surviving. It was running out of money and they were just in trouble everywhere.

And McCain has changed a bit, already. In his speech on Friday in New Hampshire on Iraq, he was very, very tough. He has always defended the war, defended General Petraeus, defended the surge, but this time he has finally taken on Democrats and attacked anti-war Democrats, including, importantly, Hillary Rodham Clinton for this piece that she and Bobby Baker had - Bobby Byrd, the senator had in the "New York Daily News" saying it's all a civil war in Iraq and we must retreat. Not mentioning al Qaeda or mentioning terrorists at all. Not those are the real enemies in Iraq whether they know it or not. But to dodge that was wrong, and McCain has gotten tougher.

KONDRACKE: I hope McCain has a chance for survival in his campaign, because he is the real conviction politician almost on both sides. His problem is that his campaign is out of money. He's going to be in debt, and this is because they blew through what money they had.

They have not put a single ad on the air, even though they have a first- rate ad team. And in addition to that, regular Republicans don't like him, latest, because of immigration. And independents who used to be his base don't like him because they think he's been kowtowing to regular Republicans.

BARNES: Is that all?

KONDRACKE: It's a lot unfortunately.

Coming up, we'll tell you what the DC madam has to do with the Giuliani campaign. And did you watch any of last weekend's Live Earth concerts? No? Well, you're not alone. More ups and downs are next.



We're continuing with the ups and downs for the week. Down: Rudy Giuliani, just weeks after his South Carolina campaign chairman was indicted on cocaine charges, the name of his southern campaign leader, Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, winds up on the DC madam's naughty list. Here's Giuliani's reaction on Tuesday.


RUDY GIULIANI, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a personal issue. You'll have to hear from Senator Vitter. I think you look at all the people I appointed, a thousand or so, I'm sure some of them had issues and some had problems, a vast majority of them are outstanding people.


KONDRACKE: That's three people with issues and problems, not to mention Giuliani himself.

BARNES: How about the other 997?

KONDRACKE: Right. Exactly.

There's Bernard Kerik, his former police commissioner, and recommendee for homeland security director, no less, who's been accused of mob ties and the South Carolina chair and now Vitter. Who would Rudy Giuliani pick for secretary of defense, maybe Al Capone?

BARNES: Ho-ho-ho. Actually, that was a pretty good line.

Look, the truth is, as embarrassing as both the Ravenel thing in South Carolina as in the Vitter thing is in Louisiana Giuliani, these are not really tests of his judgment. He had no way of knowing Vitter was on some whorehouse madam's list. He wouldn't know that.

And I even talked to the governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford the other day about Ravenel and he was completely floored by this out of the blue.

So embarrassing yes, but not really a test of Rudy's judgment, anyway, that's my view.

Down: Al Gore. For all the hoopla and media attention surrounding his Live Earth concerts, last weekend, the ratings for the 24 hour extravaganza were less than stellar.

One way he touted all these live shows and everything and he said - he quoted Bob Dylan's famous song about "The Times They are a-Changin'" and he even knew a stanza from it.

On the other hand, in April, "Rolling Stone" editor Jann Wenner interviewed Bob Dylan who actually wrote that song, "The Times They are a-Changin'" and asked him about climate change.

And Wenner asked, "Do you worry about global warming?" And Bob Dylan's response was, "Where's the global warming? It's freezing here."

KONDRACKE: Well, look, Gore may be exaggerating the levels which the sea will rise.

BARNES: Boy, he is.

KONDRACKE: But there's just an overwhelming consensus, which even the Bush administration now accepts.

BARNES: Wrong word, wrong word, and the word is "consensus." There are many, many people believe that global warming exists and it's almost as bad as Al Gore says. There's no consensus.

KONDRACKE: I don't know whether you asked President Bush about this at your little meeting with him.

BARNES: No. I didn't. I don't have to. Because I know .

KONDRACKE: But the position of the Bush administration is that the world is warming and that man is partly responsible for it. And the intergovernmental report says there is going to be drought around the world and some flooding and dislocation of people.

BARNES: And their computers.

KONDRACKE: And there's a lot of money to be made in green technology, and there's lots of industries very that are dedicated themselves to it.

BARNES: There's a lot of money to be made in trash collection, Mort, a lot of money to be made in a lot of everything. Here's the point: the earth has warmed one degree in the last 100 years, we know that. Above and beyond that we know nothing at all.

KONDRACKE: In direct proportion to CO2 emissions.

BARNES: OK. Well, Mort here is what - I still want an answer to this question. The world — I was on a glacier in Alaska a few weeks ago .

KONDRACKE: And it's melting.

BARNES: And that glacier - yes, but it had gone down. It had been much lower, but it had melted in the past and come back again. Now, there were no SUVs, there was no CO2. How did it happen?

KONDRACKE: I have been — I flew over the North Pole and its water.

BARNES: How did that happen when you didn't have humans there to cause it to melt in the past? You don't have an answer for that.

KONDRACKE: Down, former Bush Surgeon General Richard Carmona. He accuses President Bush of putting politics before science, but he never seemed to raise the issue, at least publicly, while he was in office.

BARNES: You want me to start on this one, because I .

KONDRACKE: Go right ahead.

BARNES: . really think he is down, Mort.

You've heard of a profile in courage. This is a profile in cowardice. This guy was in for four years. Never mentioned any of these - that he was being muscled on issues. And you know what it means to be muscled on issues when in an administration? You don't talk about things that are not administration policy. He was not an independent operator. He worked for the president of the United States. And he took orders.

But now he comes out and trashes the president when the president is unpopular. Come on, Mort. Those are the guys that you invariably dislike. So if you defend him, I'm going to be very disappointed.

KONDRACKE: He should have quit. No question about it. And he said that this is a pattern dating all the way back to before the Clinton administration and even before that.

However, the idea that this guy was prevented from going to the Special Olympics by his superiors?

BARNES: Do you believe that?

KONDRACKE: Yeah, I do.

BARNES: I don't believe that at all.

KONDRACKE: I do. Because it's a Kennedy family operation.

BARNES: No Republican president has ever gotten along with the Kennedys the way George W. Bush has.

KONDRACKE: Someone in HHS prevented him from going.

BARNES: It was just some yo-yo. He shouldn't have paid any attention to it and should have gone.

KONDRACKE: He did go.

BARNES: Well, good, that's the only thing he did that wasn't cowardly.

All right. Hang on to your seats. "The Buzz" is up next.


BARNES: Here's "The Buzz," Mort. In that session at the White House with President Bush, you so egregiously you were not invited to. The president really knocked down this idea leaked to the "Washington Post", remember, he wasn't going to talk about the surge in Iraq. He was just going to talk about the future, how wonderful it was going to be after the surge. Quite the opposite. I think what they need to talk about is what will the consequences be if we fail in Iraq. And that's what he is going to concentrate on.

Not this happy talk about the future.

KONDRACKE: Well, he's right about dire consequences, unfortunately nobody listens to him.

But look, the Democratic candidates were all at the National Education Association, the teachers' union, and they all pandered. Even Barack Obama is turning against No Child Left Behind and accountability standards and that sort of thing.

He did said something positive about teacher pay, merit pay. The teachers' union hated it.

BARNES: Good. Good.

KONDRACKE: That's all for THE BELTWAY BOYS for this week. Join us next week when the boys will be back in town.

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