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This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on June 16, 2007.
MORT KONDRACKE, FOX CO-HOST: I'm Mort Kondracke.
FRED BARNES, FOX CO-HOST: And I'm Fred Barnes. We're "THE BELTWAY BOYS". And the odd story tonight is the do-little Congress. Mort, as unpopular as President Bush is—and I'm sure you can remind me exactly how unpopular he is.
KONDRACKE: He is.
BARNES: As unpopular as he is, the new Democratic Congress is even more unpopular. And you'll be delighted to know there are polls to back this up, which I'll get to in a second. I think broadly speaking, Democrats have gotten off track by spending so much time trying to please their special-interest groups and trying to make Republicans and President Bush look bad, that they've achieved practically nothing. And it seems that everybody in the country is unhappy, right, center, left. They're all unhappy. Here's some polls for you, so start smiling. Sixty-four percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing, according to a recent NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll. And only 19 percent have a favorable view of Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader. That's 19 percent.
KONDRACKE: That's pretty dismal.
BARNES: And Nancy Pelosi's rating is 36 percent. That's pretty good, actually.
KONDRACKE: Yes, well, Bush—you wanted me to cite the Bush number. The bush number is 32 percent, average poll. He was down to 29 in the Wall Street Journal poll. The public is unhappy with both Congress and the president, and why? Both sides, both teams said after the 2006 election that the lesson of this election is the public wants us to work together to solve its problems on a bipartisan basis—health care, immigration, energy, all that kind of stuff. Have they worked together to solve any problem? A little bit on immigration. There's progress there. But on the rest of the agenda, all the public sees them doing is fighting. And who is fighting the hardest and the loudest and the most over the top? Harry Reid. So he's the least popular of the lot. So fighting and not getting stuff done is the explanation for this, I think.
BARNES: So, Mort, why specifically is it so bad, going so poorly for Democrats? Here are five problem areas. After yanking it off the Senate floor last week, Reid was forced to put the immigration reform bill back on the docket. When he took it off—I think it was unnecessary—and Reid tried to blame on it President Bush and the Republicans. And he had trouble convincing people that that was right, including the very slow to anger David Broder, the columnist for the "The Washington Post," who wrote this "Reid may think that Bush will suffer if immigration reform is killed. But the public is likely to put the blame where it principally belongs—on the leader of the party that runs the Senate." That's the Democratic Party.
KONDRACKE: Finally, Reid got the message because he was under a lot of pressure from the media, from Republicans and from Ted Kennedy and other Democrats.
BARNES: And Hispanic groups.
KONDRACKE: Exactly. To get that bill back and try to save it, if he possibly could. So he said if the Republicans will agree to a limited number of amendments I'll put it back on the floor. Looks like that's going to happen. And I think the chances of passing the Senate are pretty good. BARNES: Yes. I agree.
KONDRACKE: It will be an accomplishment.
BARNES: Another problem area, Democrats are also facing big-time pressure from the left on Iraq. The left of the party, its base, seems to think that Democrats were supposed to come to Washington after the 2006 election and immediately withdraw all the troops from Iraq. That's not exactly what Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have done. They tried timetables. When those couldn't get through they had to fund our troops in Iraq at least through September. And the base of the party is furious. Just as the base of the Republican Party is furious at some Republicans who want immigration reform, the left wing base of the party is furious about Iraq.
KONDRACKE: I thought from the beginning that what the Democrats should have done is to criticize on the floor, but not try to cut off funding, which they couldn't do and so on, and instead allow Bush the option of seeing whether the surge would work or not. And the problem is, with the surge, is that violence is not down all over the country. It's down in Baghdad, but not all over the country. And Republicans, by September, if things don't improve, Republicans will start be demanding that the troops be pulled.
BARNES: Unfortunately, you're right.
And another sign of weakness on the Democratic side, they're pandering to the left wing bloggers. Listen to what Reid said. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY REID, (D), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I had a long conversation today with the five top blogs in America today, and they've been driving this debate very well. I understand their disappointment. We raised the bar too high.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: For one thing, it seems like these bloggers have a direct line to Harry Reid's brain, but also, what was he talking about when he said we raised the bar too high?
KONDRACKE: They created the expectation that they would be able to either end the war or establish a deadline, which they couldn't do because Bush has a veto and they couldn't override it. That's what it was all about.
BARNES: OK. And then there was the no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales blocked earlier this week. Now, Mort, there was no reason for this. That was one—Harry Reid, when he stopped the immigration debate said he was going right to the energy bill but he went right to Alberto Gonzales and tried—we do not have a parliamentary system. We don't censure people. This was a purely political gesture that accomplished nothing. It was a waste of time.
And, as Mitch McConnell said, if they had kept going on the immigration bill through the weekend, by the time we would have gotten to the end of Monday, the bill would have passed.
KONDRACKE: I have a question for you.
KONDRACKE: Do you have confidence in Alberto Gonzales?
BARNES: Well, I wouldn't leave it up to Democrats in Congress to decide whether he stays or not. And that's what they seem to think, it's up to them.
KONDRACKE: Yes, it is up to Bush. And the reasons why Bush is keeping him obviously, is, one, loyalty, two, stubbornness, determination not to give in to the Democrats, and three, he knows if he throws Alberto Gonzales over the side, the Democrats will just come back and go for somebody else's scalp. So he's there. He's the whipping boy.
BARNES: And Gonzales is lucky that his chief enemy is Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senator. The White House doesn't want to give in to him. And then the fiasco over earmarks or as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called them, directive legislative spending. Mort, do you have confidence in some leader in Congress who wants to call earmarks directed legislative spending?
KONDRACKE: You mean like revenue enhancers?
KONDRACKE: That's the Republican equivalent of that. That—go ahead.
BARNES: The earmarks thing—John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House, just tied Democrats in knots when they tried to fudge on their promise to be up front and public about earmarks from the very beginning of the appropriations process. Poor Apropriations Cairman, Dave Obey, who would like to get rid of earmarks entirely, had some process where the staff would look at them and you would see them after they got through a Senate conference and so on, and that didn't work. The whole thing blew up in the Democrats' face.
KONDRACKE: Let's not forget that it was Republicans who developed earmark abuse to a high art. And now the reforms are under way and the Democrats, no question, reneged on a promise and got in a whale of trouble for it. But now they've decided to go back to full disclosure and voting, which is good, but now the Republicans are still going to be after them because they can't come up with an ethics reform package. It's warfare all the time. And the public is sick of it.
BARNES: Somebody ought to say, weather it's Democrats, Republicans, the White House, who says we're going to get rid of earmarks entirely, the public will line up behind them and be very happy about that, but I don't think we're going to get it. So of the six items of the Democrats' Six in '06 scorecard, only one item, minimum wage, is law, Mort. Mort, that's not a good record.
KONDRACKE: Yes, but if you look at the list, a lot of that is not passing because the Republicans won't allow it. And some of it has passed. I mean the stem cell bill has passed, and the president will veto it.
BARNES: Is it law?
KONDRACKE: No, because the president's going to veto it, foolishly, I think.
BARNES: Yes, but that's not an accomplishment if it doesn't become law.
KONDRACKE: Coming up, Al Qaeda steps up the violence in Iraq. And prospects for Middle East peace are in tatters after Hamas militants take over Gaza. We'll tell you what could be next, coming up.
BARNES: Welcome back. Let's check out our "Ups and Downs" for the week. Up, Hamas. The so-called Palestinian Unity government under Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas, comes to an end after days of fierce street fighting leaves Hamas in control of Gaza.
KONDRACKE: This is a terrible development. It basically creates an Islamic terrorist statelet right on Israel's border where they can fire rockets into Israel. And they'll get lots of weapons from Iran across the border with Egypt. I'm sure the Israeli navy will try to keep out arms by sea. But what Abbas is doing, he's eliminated the government. He wants to call new elections hoping that he'll get a mandate for Fatah. But the chances are just as great that Hamas will take over the whole country and push Fatah out. And then we've got a horrible crisis. And the Israelis have got an Islamic government ready to clobber them from both sides.
BARNES: And friends with the Iranians, as well.
BARNES: I think one thing is clear, there is not a negotiating partner for the Israelis now among the Palestinians. I mean, Mahmoud Abbas, whatever happens to him, if there's an election, is weak. There's only so much you can do to prop him up. The U.S. has done that. It didn't work. And Hamas, you can't negotiate with them. They don't want to negotiate. They want to extinguish Israel. There's another complaint, I read in "The Washington Post" and elsewhere, that somehow the Palestinian collapse was caused by what the Bush administration did or didn't do. That is pure fantasy. I mean the Palestinians have brought this on themselves entirely. They're to blame. You can say maybe some of the moderate Arab governments might have helped, but then they've never help the Palestinians.
KONDRACKE: Up, Al Qaeda, they pulled off another attack on a major Shiite mosque in Samarra all in an effort to inflame sectarian tensions as the U.S.-led surge kicks into high gear.
BARNES: You have to grope for good news. And I'm going to grope for some here and that is that the reaction to this second bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra, the reaction was not the great outburst of sectarian violence that occurred after the first bombing back in February of last year. And you have to give some credit to the Iraqi government, the Iraqi army and, of course, the American army, as well. They've done a good job in holding down a hugely violent reaction. Now it may yet erupt, but so far, it hasn't been as bad as everyone expected.
KONDRACKE: You would think that between the United States and the Iraqis, they could figure out how to guard that mosque. And what the United States out to do is lead an effort to rebuild it. But Lawrence Wright—we've read his book, "The Looming Tower," which won the Pulitzer Prize, a great book—says we could have knocked Al Qaeda out in Tora Bora in 2001. But instead, what we've done with the Iraq war is to give Al Qaeda a training ground and a rallying cry. And, you know, if we lose in Iraq, Al Qaeda is going to be one of the big winners and will be able to spread violence all over the Middle East and scatter than their trained terrorists all over the world.
BARNES: Lawrence Wright's book is a great book. But I don't think we could have wiped out Al Qaeda. We could have wiped out Osama bin Laden.
KONDRACKE: Osama bin Laden.
BARNES: But I think Al Qaeda—as we know, these cells have cropped up all around the world without any instigation by Obama.
Coming up, Fred Thompson soars in the polls. And YouTube strikes again. We'll tell you how the Obama campaign is reacting to this unsolicited publicity.
KONDRACKE: Welcome back to "THE BELTWAY BOYS." We're continuing our look at the "Ups and Downs" for the week. Up, Fred Thompson. He skyrocketed to second place in an average of national polls. Rudolph Giuliani still leads, but Thompson is ahead of both John McCain and Mitt Romney. And this week on "The Tonight Show," Thompson left no question about his plans. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRED THOMPSON, FORMER TENNESSEE SENATOR: I've never craved the job of president, but I want to do some things that only a president can do. So the answer is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: That's good. I mean, but what are these things? He's never a guy who has been noted as someone with a deep and broad substantive agenda, actually far from it. He didn't leave much of a footprint in the Senate. You can see there, Mort, how likable and avuncular he is. I think there's no question about that. But personality is not going to be enough to carry him through. He's going to have to come out and say things and he's going to have to make people excited and interested. The expectations are extremely high. I'm not sure whether he can meet them. But he has touched off an amazing Fred Thompson fad for now. That's for sure.
KONDRACKE: Yes, I agree. I agree. All he's doing is taking standard conservative positions on stuff, but he's got to have a leadership vision.
Now, George Will had a—the attacks have begun to come. George Will started with it. And concluded—this is Will, "Thompson is burdened by a reputation for a less-than-strenuous approach to public life and his thoughts on immigration look suspiciously symptomatic of a mind undisciplined by steady engagement with complexities." Typical George Will. And that's not friendly.
BARNES: No, you're right about that. Up, Hillary Clinton. She is keeping her lead in the race for the 2008 Democratic nomination thanks to women. She's got a double-digit lead over rival Barack Obama, according to an average of the latest national polls. But check out this number. Among women, Clinton has a whopping 22 point lead over Obama. This according to a Quinnipiac University poll this week.
KONDRACKE: Well, she's clearly the front-runner. And she leads even among African-Americans, leads Obama by about six points, 41 to 35. She's ahead in all of the major states, except Iowa, where she is slightly behind John Edwards. So I think she is solidly the front-runner and staying so.
BARNES: Why don't we just skip these unnecessary primaries and caucuses and go to the coronation of Hillary at the Democratic convention next summer in Denver. Why bother with these silly primaries and caucuses -- Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, Neva. Come on, Mort.
KONDRACKE: They're to come.
BARNES: I think holding a lead in a presidential race is a lot like holding a big lead in a basketball game, it's the hardest thing to do. She's the establishment candidate. We'll see where she is next summer.
And Obama gets help from the outside. But things pop up and this amazing crush on Obama song and dance on YouTube is amazing. Watch it.
BARNES: Amazing. Yes, here it is. Watch, watch. Don't be a prude, Mort. Watch it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNEDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): You're into border security. Let's break this border between you and me. Universal health care reform, it makes me warm. I got a crush on Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: What did you think?
KONDRACKE: I don't have a crush on Obama. Hang on to your seats. "The Buzz" is up next.
BARNES: What's "The Buzz," Mort?
KONDRACKE: Israel on Monday launched a new spy satellite, the OFEC-7, which is very high resolution, can spot tiny things on the ground in all weather. It would be perfect for spotting and targeting Iranian nuclear facilities.
BARNES: So do we think they the Israelis are going to take the Iranian nuclear facilities out?
KONDRACKE: They are very much opening that—keeping that option open. And I wouldn't be surprised.
BARNES: That's quite interesting.
Mort, did you know, "The Buzz" among those in the permanent Washington community this week has all been about Ed Gillespie. Ed Gillespie has been hired by the White House to come on and to replace the former communications advisor, Dan Bartlett, who was with Bush from Texas. Ed's a Washington figure. He's a Republican. He's been Republican national chairman. He's currently the chairman of the Republican Party in Virginia. But he's been a lobbyist, and a successful one, in recent years. IN other words, have you have pointed out, Mort, the kind of person that Bush came to Washington and spurned for years. Bush dislikes Washington's permanent community. And I think for good reasons. But hiring Ed Gillespie makes a lot of sense.
BARNES: All right, that's all for "THE BELTWAY BOYS" this week. Join us next week when the boys will be back in town.
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