Transcript: 'The Beltway Boys,' May 19, 2007

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This is a full transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on May 19, 2007.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Coming up on THE BELTWAY BOWS, Rudy Giuliani scores some big-time points at this week's GOP debate, but he still has a ways to go with social conservatives.

JUAN WILLIAMS, CO-HOST: Hillary Clinton gets slammed by fellow Democrats for her quote, "evolving stance on funding the war."

BARNES: President Bush and Congress finally strike a deal on immigration. We'll name the big winners and losers.

WILLIAMS: And is an independent presidential bid by Michael Bloomberg for real?

BARNES: It's all coming up on THE BELTWAY BOYS, but first the headlines.


BARNES: I'm Fred Barnes.

WILLIAMS: I'm Juan Williams in for Mort Kondracke. And tonight, we're THE BELTWAY BOYS.

BARNES: And in case you're you're wondering, Mort is in Tibet finding himself these next few weeks. He'll be back June 2nd. In the meantime Juan, thanks for filling in.
And tonight's hot story is front-runner fracas. Or is it fracas?


BARNES: All right, we'll stick with fracas.
Anyway, Juan, what I'm talking about is this new sizzle in the presidential races for 2008 for both parties, Democrats and Republicans, and what's the sizzle from? It's the front runners fighting with each other, as they're doing in both parties. And here's what's amazing, this is eight months before the first actual voting contest, which I guess will be the caucuses in Iowa in January. Let's start with the Republicans, and of course both of us watched that great FOX News debate this week that was also watched by something like 2.5 million American households and who knows how many people overseas. But anyway, the frontrunners disagreed on terrorism, they disagreed on whether you should under some circumstances actually torture captured terrorists, and then there was that hearty perennial, abortion that was brought up again.
Now the question on dealing with terrorists who have been captured is how far do you go in questioning a captured terrorist who may have information about an imminent attack? How far do you go to get that information out of him? First, here's what Rudy Giuliani said.


RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd say every method they could think of, and I would support them in doing that, because I've seen what - (APPLAUSE). I've seen what can happen when you make a mistake about this. And I don't want to see another 3,000 people dead in New York or anyplace else. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BARNES: I'm sure you noticed that loud applause, and it was a big crowd there, something like 2,500 people. And I watched John McCain, who took a different tact. Watch.


JOHN MCCAIN ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I as the president of the United States would take that responsibility. That is a million to one scenario. But only I would take that responsibility. The use of torture, we could never gain as much we would gain from that torture as we lose in world opinion. We do not torture people.


BARNES: Well, and here's Mitt Romney, here's his take, watch.


MITT ROMNEY ®, PRSEIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president of the United States has to make the call and enhanced interrogation techniques have to be used. Not torture, but enhanced interrogation techniques, yes.


BARNES: Of course McCain thinks that enhanced techniques actually amount to torture in some cases. But in any case, my verdict is that Rudy Giuliani won that round.

WILLIAMS: Sorry Fred, can't agree on that one. I don't think there's any question, John McCain wins. And here's why John McCain wins. John McCain is standing there as a man who has been a prisoner of war, a man who said right there on the stage, he's never heard another military man say, yes, we should use torture. To the contrary, he says the American military understands that people, when they're being tortured, will say anything you want them to say, so it's not very effective. But maybe most of all, what he said about losing in terms of high moral ground as opposed to the terrorists - the terrorists have no moral ground and the idea that we want to get in the mud and muck with them, I think America has to stand for something higher. And while you're right, there was applause from that Republican base at that moment, I think it pushes away so many people in the American electorate, swing voters, Democrats. I think it's just damaging to the party to get off in that deep and dark and to my mind, sad corner of torturing people.

BARNES: The corner is one where you have as your highest priority saving American lives. But in any case, let's turn to Rudy Giuliani and abortion. He's had, as we know, trouble explaining his pro-choice position in a way that somehow might not be totally repugnant to pro-life Republicans, and he tried again at that debate. And I thought he did pretty well. Watch.


GIULIANI: I ultimately do believe in a woman's right of choice. But I think there are ways in which we can reduce abortions. Abortions went down 16 percent when I was the mayor. Adoptions went up 133 percent during the eight years that I was mayor compared to the prior eight years.


BARNES: As better as he was in explaining his position, he's a pro-choice Republican in a pro-life Republican Party, and he still has this huge problem with social conservatives who are pro-lifers, particularly with we know now, Dr. James Dobson. You know, he's head of Focus on the Family, and an enormously influential social conservative in America. And here's what Dr. Dobson said. "If given a choice between Giuliani and senators Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, I will either cast my ballot for an also-ran or if worse comes to worst, not vote in a presidential election for the first time in my adult life. My conscience and my moral convictions will allow me to do nothing else." Take that, Rudy Giuliani.

WILLIAMS: Well you know the problem is that Rudy Giuliani is flip flopping and flailing, Fred. I mean, he's in trouble on this. He should simply say that he supports a woman's right to choose on abortion. In fact, I think there are lots of people who would find it bracing in the Republican Party to get away from all those who don't say what they believe, and that he would say we have this difference and let's move on. So that would be good news. But what we're seeing - instead he's talking about adoptions, he's talking about—well, I didn't mean it to be OK if the court did away with Roe V. Wade, OK if they didn't do away. He, it seems to be, is lost in obfuscation and that's why I say guilty of flipping and flopping. And you see these attacks now coming from Romney, coming from everybody else lined up there, saying, you know what, you don't have a position. And remember, I think there was a great exchange where McCain says I don't change my positions - that was to Romney. But he said I don't change my positions, given what office I'm running in, what year I'm running. I stand by my post. So if you look at the polls, the polls will tell you something about Giuliani. The polls indicate, according to the latest FOX News poll, that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani still leading the Republican field but by seven points, only seven points. His support has slipped sharply since last month, Fred.

BARNES: What about the Democrats?

WILLIAMS: Well now on the Democrats side, what you've got is a real difficult situation. The front runner fracas is again a fight between Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois, and Hillary Clinton because this week Hillary Clinton - talk about confusing. Confusing, hazy on getting the troops out, setting a deadline. She says she wants a deadline, but it's now becoming sort of confounding, even mystifying. She says she wants a debate on the March `08 withdrawal date. Then she says, I don't say I disagree or agree with it, I just want the debate. But later that very day this week, she said she did support that March '08 deadline for a troop withdrawal. And later, of course, she was one of the 29 Democrats who lost a procedural vote to try to bring that deadline to the Senate floor. So what you see is, it's not clear what she believers.

BARNES: She says so, it should be perfectly clear that she's always been for a withdrawal deadline. Watch what she said.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is consistent with what I've been saying for several years. And if you go back and look at the legislation I introduced back in January, it's consistent with what I introduced back in January. It is frustrating to see the same policy day by day, which is not getting the results that many of us have called for.


BARNES: Of course, she hasn't been consistent on this at all. It was some months ago, a year ago when she said she was against any deadlines or timetables. So she has kind of moved all around, and I'll have to say, I'm confused, as you are and many Democrats are, as well. Now Obama, Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois and her chief rival, he has hit her on another issue. Hillary says our positions are the same. Obama points out that she voted for the war resolution in October 2002. At the time he was an Illinois state senator, but he did sound off on it and said he was against the war from the beginning, and so that their positions are not the same. So there are polls on everything, and there's one that shows among the top tier candidates, Hillary Clinton has the highest percentage of people who say she'll say anything to get elected. That's according to our latest FOX News poll. So this issue on Iraq is going to continue, I think, to dog Hillary Clinton and help Barack Obama with Hillary still ahead.
OK, coming up, Michael Bloomberg's flirtation with a third party presidential run. And after months of negotiations, there's finally a deal on immigration reform. We'll name the big winners and the losers, next.


BARNES: Welcome back to THE BELTWAY BOYS. Let's check out our ups and downs for the week. Up, Ted Kennedy. He was a major force in crafting this week's bipartisan deal between Congress and the White House on immigration reform. Here is Kennedy and President Bush Thursday.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Year after year, we've all heard talk about reforming our system, we've heard the bumper sticker solutions, the campaign ads, and we know how divisive it is. Now it's time for action. 2007 is the year we must fix our broken system.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I reflect upon this accomplishment, important first step toward a comprehensive immigration bill, it reminds me of how much Americans appreciate the fact that we can work—when we work together, that they see positive things.


BARNES: More than with the White House, this was a deal worked out between Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats, mainly Jon Kyl, the senator from Arizona, and Teddy Kennedy. You know what I like about Teddy Kennedy as a senator? He is somehow who wants to pass legislation on the issues he cares about, not just exploit the issues to pound on the president and Republicans. He wants - he actually wants to do things. And he may be a liberal, but he's certainly not a hack. And he reached a great compromise here with Republicans and got a lot of the things he wanted, one of which was to have all 12 million illegal immigrants here given almost immediately legal status in America—not citizenship, but this measure also would provide a path to citizenship if they wanted, for the illegal immigrants here. Now Jon Kyl and Republicans got a lot too. They got their beefed-up border enforcement and they also set high qualifications, or rather requirements for those who do want to become citizens. You know, they'll have to get a green card, eventually, they'll have to go back to their home country and so on. I think it's an excellent bill that would not be a bill that could pass without Senator Kennedy.

WILLIAMS: Well Fred, I like the bill. I've got to tell you, but what's interesting to me is there are two things that make me wonder. One, imagine how the labor unions, and already we know the labor unions are going to mount some opposition. Why? Because you have a guest worker provision that allows people to -requires people, I should say, to go home after two years. What that means is you build in a low-wage base of workers in the country, it is going to drive down wages for everybody, and that's a problem, that's a big problem. In addition, it may in fact invite people to try to then violate the law again by staying after their two years are up. They have no chance of citizenship after that two years. They have to go back home. They can get another two years, but no chance of citizenship. Already you're seeing complaints. And of course the voice on the presidential levels will be Edwards. Edwards is going to come out and say this is not what he wants, this is not going to help deal with poverty in America. The second point, family reunification. It didn't quite get thrown under the bus, but definitely pushed into the shade as opposed to being in the center of the stage, which is where family reunification used to be with regard to immigration in this country. We keep families together, we believe in family. Instead now the emphasis is on this point system where if you have an education, if you have specific skills, you have an advantage in getting a green card and getting into this country, getting on the path to immigration.These are different systems, I think, and Americans are going to have to come to terms. Now I agree with Harry Reid, it's a starting point, but this is a wonderful starting point because the fact is, they're here, Fred, you've got to do it.

BARNES: They're not going back.

WILLIAMS: Down, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The White House continues to stand by its man. But Democrats are planning to hold a no-confidence vote in the Senate next week on the embattled attorney general. Five Republican Senators have called for him to resign. And Republican Senator Arlen Specter says a congressional inquiry on the attorney firings won't be pretty to watch.


SEN. ARLEN SPECTER ®, PENNSYLVANIA: I have a sense that went we finish our investigation, we may have a conclusion of the tenure of the attorney general. I think when our investigation is concluded, it will be clearer even to the attorney and the president that we're looking at a dysfunctional department which is vital to the national welfare.


WILLIAMS: Now, the attorney general has its defenders who point out that the Justice Department did nothing illegal in terms of trying to get those wiretaps, and that's what they were doing, they were going to John Ashcroft's bedside in a hospital to get his approval, but they really didn't need it. And the second thing is, they point out, this was going on the day before the Madrid attacks. And they were desperate to get information, possibly to thwart that attack. But the fact is, it reads like a novel, Fred, and it's not attractive. This is like you know, remember when Woodward said he went to Bill Casey's hospital bed? Terrible stuff, and I've got to tell you, everybody in the country is talking about it. And it actually, for some people on the liberal side, it makes John Ashcroft look good. They're wondering what happened here.

BARNES: Gonzales is staying. You know why he's staying? Because he's done nothing wrong, the White House knows he's done nothing wrong. And just because Chuck Schumer and a few Democrats want to throw him overboard and even some Republicans want to throw him overboard, they're not going to do that, and they shouldn't do it.

WILLIAMS: It's a dysfunctional Justice Department under this guy.

BARNES: The firing of the U.S. attorneys was perfectly legal. What he did, going to Ashcroft's bedside was, as well. There are no grounds for firing, and the White House is right not to.

WILLIAMS: All right, coming up, Tony Blair's Washington swan song. And rumors are flying that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is thinking about a third-party run for the presidency. A pie in the sky or does Bloomberg have a real shot? We'll take a look after the break.


WILLIAMS: Welcome back to THE BELTWAYS BOYS, I'm Juan Williams in for Mort Kondracke. We're continuing with our ups and downs for the week. And here's an up, New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he's floating the idea of a third party bid and friends say he's prepared to spend as much as a billion, B-I-L-L-I-O-N dollars, to make it happen.
Fred, this is a truly interesting development, because what you've got here is the situation where an independent bid by Bloomberg is likely, I think, to hurt Democrats. Let's look back. You remember Perot, way back, he took votes I think from Democrats and to some extent, Clinton in that Clinton race against Bush. But you come forward and you think for a second about Ralph Nader, he definitely took votes from Democrats. So here we have an independent run likely by Mayor Bloomberg. It seems to me that an independent run by Bloomberg is going to be really, not have much to do with what we just heard about name identification and money, because he has got so much money, and he's going to put a lot of that money into TV ads. So people are going to know who he is. I think it's going to be an interesting development. Don't forget, he's been meeting with Chuck Hagel and Chuck Hagel has been saying, maybe this could be a Bloomberg/Hagel ticket and I think that will peel off some votes from Democrats, especially those swing voters in the middle.

BARNES: Yes, right now on your point about whether Bloomberg is well know or not, I think his name recognition is something like 27 percent, it's not very good. And here's the problem. There is no rationale for a Bloomberg presidency. He doesn't have an issue. Perot had the issue of the deficit. George Wallace was a third party candidate, race was his issue. But there's none for Bloomberg. He's not even a particularly distinguished mayor of New York.
What's his great achievement there? He doesn't have one at all. Here's the only way he could credibly run, I think, for president. If there's a far right wing Republican nominee and a far left wing Democratic nominee, say Tom Tancredo versus Dennis Kucinich, then he could jump in and be the centrist candidate. Other than that, forget it. All right, up Gordon Brown. Britain's labor party backed him as the only candidate to be prime minister succeeding Tony Blair. Blair held his final meeting this week with President Bush at the White House in which he made no apologies for backing the American president. Watch.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Anybody who is sitting there advising a politician in any part of Europe today, if you want to get the easiest round of applause, get up and attack America, you can get a round of applause, you attack the president, you can get a .
BUSH: Standing ovation.

BLAIR: And that's fine if everyone wants to do that, but when all of that is cleared away, you're left with something very, very simple, fundamental and clear, that that battle for values is still going on.


BARNES: Who says Bush doesn't have a sense of humor? That was a pretty good line. But look, Gordon Brown is not going to be exactly Tony Blair, but you know, he's already visited with Bush over here. He has many, many American friends, I think a lot more than Blair did in the beginning. And everyone I talked to in England, whether they're conservatives or liberals, labor or Tory, they all say the best friend for America coming along would not be the head of the conservative party David Cameron, but is Gordon Brown.

WILLIAMS: I think that you're going to see a big difference and I think you see it in terms of public opinion. The reason, let's admit it, the reason Tony Blair is gone is the war in Iraq.
It's the war in Iraq, by the way, that goes back to Mayor Bloomberg. That's why an independent candidacy from Bloomberg might work. But you wait around, Tony Blair is going to be all around the country in the United States. He's going to be pretty popular. But I just don't see Gordon Brown in any way supporting the troop levels that Blair put in place. Now don't move a muscle, because "The Buzz" is coming right up.


BARNES: Here's the buzz, Juan. The bipartisan bill on immigration has revised this long-standing debate over immigration among Republicans and conservatives, and it's an ugly debate. The best thing that can happen for Republicans, since this debate drives away voters and Hispanics in particular, is to pass that bill and get that issue off the table by November 2008, anyway.

WILLIAMS: Fred, here's another piece of buzz, and this one is really speculative, but there's a possibility that Tony Blair may be the replacement for Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank. Now wouldn't that be interesting because as you know, the president of the World Bank has always been an American. But if there's one non-American that the Bush administration would embrace, guess who, Tony Blair.

BARNES: I think you got that right.
All right, that's all for THE BELTWAY BOYS this week. Join us next week when the boys will be back in town. And stick around, "FOX NEWS WATCH" is coming up in just a few seconds.

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