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This is a full transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on May 5, 2007.
MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," Republican presidential hopefuls duke it out in their first television debate of the season. We'll tell you who won.
FRED BARNES, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Barack Obama is courting the black vote in a rather unconventional way. We'll explain.
KONDRACKE: Immigrant-rights groups take to the streets demanding reform. We'll tell you what the hold-up is in Congress.
BARNES: And are Americans too ga-ga over the queen? We'll tell you what we think.
KONDRACKE: All that's coming up on "The Beltway Boys." But first, the headlines from New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: The war was terribly mismanaged. The war was terribly mismanaged, and we now have to fix a lot of the mistakes that were made. Books have been written, but we have a new strategy and a new general. And these young and men are committed to winning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KONDRACKE: I'm Mort Kondracke.
BARNES: And I'm Fred Barnes, and we're "The Beltway Boys."
KONDRACKE: Well, the "Hot Story" of the week is "Up for Grabs." And that refers to both the Republican presidential nomination and Iraq war policy.
What you saw John McCain saying there in the presidential debate at the Reagan library in California on Thursday was pretty much what the other top tier Republican candidates had to say about - about war policy.
On other matters, Rudy Giuliani was off the party line on the issue of abortion, and Mitt Romney got pressed on whether he would allow or not allow his Mormonism to affect his policies as president.
Here, watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I support the ban on partial-birth abortion. I support the Hyde Amendment. But ultimately, I think when you come down to that choice, you have to respect the woman's right to make that choice differently than my conscience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a nation after all that wants a leader that's a person of faith. But we don't choose our leader based on which church they go to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KONDRACKE: Now I didn't see any particular winners and losers in this debate. And I don't - to some extent - I mean, Sam Brownback was very relaxed, and I thought he may have done himself a little bit of good. But he's still way, way, way down in the pack.
So there's plenty of room left for a surge by Fred Thompson, former senator from Tennessee, who's not even a candidate, and yet in a Quinnipiac poll this week, comes in with 14 percent of the Republican vote, No. 3, ahead of Mitt Romney, who is - you know, has been campaigning for months and spending a lot of money in the process. Sixty-five percent of voters don't even know who Fred Thompson is, and yet he's No. 3 in the - in the campaign. Which just shows you that there's still a lot of hunger out there among Republicans for an alternative.
BARNES: Yes, there is. I think there's a - what - room for Fred Thompson to get in this race, and it - it already looks like you - you may have this impression, too, that Fred Thompson, if he gets in would take votes not from John McCain, who actually Thompson backed in 2000, but from Rudy Giuliani.
And look, why should Fred Thompson jump in? He's doing great; he gets all this attention. We're talking about him as a non-candidate candidate. And - and that's a lot less expensive. It's a lot easier to do. He doesn't have to be - show up with, you know, nine other guys in a - in a debate.
I agree with you; there were no winners and losers. You mentioned Sam Brownback, who I thought did fine. I thought Mike Huckabee did well, the former governor of Arkansas. And - and so did Duncan Hunter.
Duncan Hunter, the congressman, knows a lot. You know, he was the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. And - and most of them did. I mean, even Ron Paul was interesting.
The one thing that stuck out - I think was the one you talked about, too, Mort - was that Rudy Giuliani still has trouble explaining himself. And sometimes it'll change from week to week on where he is on abortion and Roe v. Wade.
But it's going to - and - and the more he does, the more trouble he has, the more he's going to be asked about it, you know, and - by reporters and in debates.
Now, Mort, don't faint - I want to control yourself. I'm going to cite some polls. I want you to take them with a grain of salt. But I think they are suggestive of something. Now polls don't mean much, but they can mean a little bit at this time. So just hold on. And control yourself.
A Real Clear - a Real Clear Politics average of the national polls show Giuliani with a 10 point lead over the rest of the GOP field, Mort. That's the national number, OK?
KONDRACKE: Yes. Yes.
BARNES: But take a look at the polls in the early primary and caucus states, and they show the race to be much tighter. In Iowa, Giuliani's lead is a .8 percent higher than John McCain, who's nipping at his heels. In New Hampshire, McCain's actually leading the field by nearly six points. And in the most recent South Carolina poll, McCain has a - a 13-point lead.
Now, what I draw from these numbers, a very tentative judgment at this point - what? - eight months or nine months before the first contest is that, one, McCain's gotten a bounce, and Rudy Giuliani slipped a little bit. Would you agree with that?
KONDRACKE: I would definitely agree with that, yes.
BARNES: OK. OK. Well good; we got past that.
I want to move on to one other thing that I think was show in this debate that really - as you say, no winners and losers. But it did tell you something about the Republican Party as opposed to the Democratic Party. And that is, the Republicans showed so much more diversity on issues than the Democrats did in their debate whenever that - what was that? A couple weeks ago.
On abortion, Democrats lockstep pro-choice on abortion. Republicans - Giuliani's pro-choice - most of them are - are pro-life. Jim Gilmore's a little different because in the early stages of pregnancy he would allow for abortions.
Stem-cell research, Republicans are all over the lot (ph) on embryonic stem-cell research.
Iraq, some criticize Bush. Some don't. I mean, McCain backs Bush but says terrible things about how he managed Iraq in the beginning.
And - and then immigration reform - I think Democrats are all in the same place. I happen to agree with them; you do, too. Republicans are all over the lot. In other words, they're the party of diversity. The press would have you believe - you know, the Democrats are the free thinkers and so on, and the Republicans are robots. And that's entirely wrong.
KONDRACKE: Yes, well, you could also say that the Democrats are unified on - on a lot of issues, and that they all - you know, it's not necessarily lockstep; they just happen to be in agreement. I don't know that it's a particular strength.
BARNES: On abortion..
BARNES: ..it's lockstep.
KONDRACKE: Well, it may be on lockstep, but I think on - on other issues, it's - it's - it's just conviction.
Now look, on the Iraq front, where there is an increasingly total polarization between - between the parties, the negotiations have started between Congressional Democrats and the White House on the terms of the war-funding bill. The - the Democrats now are split, actually, between the House Democrats, who seem to want to put President Bush on a short leash by giving him 30-to-90 days of money to - to run the war, and the Senate Democrats, who are willing to give him a whole year. And how that's gong to get resolved, it's - is not exactly clear.
But I think the - the big event of the week on the Iraq front was the total cave-in of Hillary Clinton. I mean, here she was, having rather courageously taken all this year from left-wingers by saying that a deadline, a fixed deadline for withdrawal would be a very bad idea. All of a sudden, she comes forward and co - co-sponsors with Robert Byrd demanding that all troops be out of Iraq by the end of October, this October. That would put her at the far left of the - of all the Democrats running for president. Further left even than John Edwards or .
BARNES: Barack Obama.
KONDRACKE: Or Bill Richardson, who wants them out by the end of the year.
BARNES: Yes, Mort, you're right about this.
But this has really been the story of the whole presidential race in the Democratic Party this year. It's Hillary moves to the left. I mean, she's done so many things that she didn't originally plan to do. Remember, she was going to cling to the center so she wouldn't have to veer off on some left-wing limb that would hurt her in the general election? And Bill Clinton was not going to be a part of her campaign, at least publicly. And she's brought him in all the time to raise money and so on. She was going to play that down.
And the truth is, even with these things, Obama is still gaining on her, and may even have - have reached even stance with her. And none of these things have really helped her.
You know, there's some things - all that money Hillary has, but there's some things money can't buy, Mort. And one of those is your party's presidential nomination. You got to be a candidate who really knows what you believe in and can convey that message.
Coming up, "Time" magazine's rather unusual take on who's most influential in the world.
And Barack Obama takes a politically risky path to attracting the black vote. We'll explain.
Our "Ups and Downs," they're next.
BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." Time for the "Ups and Downs" for the week.
Up: Barack Obama. The battle is on for the black vote, and Obama's not afraid to dispense some tough love to the community. Here he is speaking to a predominantly black audience in Selma, Alabama, back in March.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We understand the unfinished business that remains. We know that we've got your - more young black men in prison than in college all across America. We know that there is an achievement gap in every school, in every community across the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KONDRACKE: Well, Obama is preaching the Bill Cosby gospel, which is.
BARNES: That's the Juan Williams gospel.
KONDRACKE: Yes. Shut - shut the television set off and make your kids do their homework. Quit thinking that academic success is being - acting white. Try to achieve; try to take advantage of the opportunities in the - in the college. And this is a big departure from the Jesse Jackson-Al Sharpton gospel, which is whatever our problems are, they're all whitey's fault.
Now it's also to Obama's credit that he is in favor of - of at least experiments in educational reform, where teachers' unions would have to give up their inflexible union contracts in return for higher pay. And Obama is still trailing behind Hillary Clinton among black voters by about - by about 10 points.
But I think he's on the right track.
KONDRACKE: And - you know, because for one thing, black voters are a lot more socially conservative than you would know from listening to the leaders, so-called, that the white media choose to reflect them. And - and I think that - that he can - that he can get a lot of ground. And Hillary Clinton goes around, you know, trying to sound black with these - with this gospel talk in white churches - in black churches. I don't think that sells particularly well.
BARNES: I don't - I don't think it does either. And at the end of the day, are African-American voters going to pass up a chance to vote for the first African-American candidate who has a real chance of becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, and then winning the presidency? I don't think they're going to pass that up. They're going to go for Obama; that's for sure.
You know, there's another area in which Obama splits with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and that's foreign affairs. He gave a speech a couple weeks ago in which he came across as an internationalist who believe that America should be the leader in the world. He's not someone who's an apologist or who has a fondness for third-world dictators and so on the way Jackson - well, particularly Jackson does.
And - and he says what we have to do is promote the national interest around the world, and freedom has to be pursued pretty much in the way President Bush has. I know you're a little dubious about this because the case for - actually, for Obama the internationalist comes down to one speech. But it was a good speech.
KONDRACKE: It was a good speech.
Down: immigration reform. Immigrants-rights groups took to the streets this week to push Congress to act on immigration reform. But they shouldn't hold their breath.
BARNES: Well, they shouldn't, but, you know, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has set May 15 as the day - I mean, it's on the schedule - the day to begin a debate on immigration reform. And it's up to Republicans now - the ball's in their court. They have to come up with a bill that they can get some Democrats - a lot of Democratic supporters for, starting with Teddy Kennedy, and get that on the floor. And Republicans can get this immigration thing off their back. I mean, they need an immigration reform bill. Not just because President Bush likes it - because they need it substantively, and they need it politically a bill that's not going to drive away Hispanic voters the way they drove them away in 2006.
I think this means that one person has to step in. And the one person who can get Republicans to act in what I think is a responsible on immigration reform is not President Bush - it's Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader. He can do it.
KONDRACKE: Yes. Well, so far, Mitch McConnell has let John Kyl from Arizona - Republican of Arizona - do the negotiating with Teddy Kennedy on immigration reform. And right now, what Kyl - where Kyl is stuck on the idea of giving guest workers a three-year time to work in the United States, after which they would have to go back home for a year before they could come back to the United States.
Now the Democrats will not accept this. They couldn't bring their families, too. The - the Democrats won't accept this. And the business community doesn't like it either, because here they will spend these three years training - training up these workers, and then they'll lose them. So it - it doesn't really make any sense, and it seems to me that since guest workers are basically doing work for the business community, that - that - that the business community ought to be working on McConnell and other Republicans.
Coming up, Queen Elizabeth gets the royal treatment on her visit to the United States. But how much is too much?
Stick around; more "Ups and Downs" are next.
BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." We're continuing with our "Ups and Downs."
Down: Queen Mania. It's Queen Elizabeth's first visit to the former colonies in some 16 years, and the press is having a field day.
Mort, one of the least attractive traits of Americans is their bowing and scraping and curtseying before royalty, particularly British royalty, and particularly Queen Elizabeth. You know, we had a revolution about this, and we won. We are republicans - small "r" - Republicans. The only good news about this trip by Queen Elizabeth - I know she's a perfectly nice lady - is that a - is that this Queen Mania is not quite as fevered and fawning as it's been in the past. Crowds are down. And you know what? It's a bad time.
KONDRACKE: Fred, you are fevered with anti-royal mania. For Americans, this is a perfectly harmless form of celebrity worship. A lot less than idolizing somebody likeBritney Spears or Snoop Doggy Dogg or whatever his name currently is. It - it's expensive for the Brits, but - you know, they seem to be willing to pay for it in order to promote tourism, and also keep their - their country together. So I say, harmless.
BARNES: It's fine for them. Not for us.
KONDRACKE: Up: French President Nicolas Sarkozy (sic). The - the pro-American candidate has a decisive lead over his closest rival, Socialist candidate Segolene Royal, going in to the final election this Sunday.
BARNES: You know, this is one of the greatest races - elections that I've seen in a long time. I mean, "Sarko," as they call him, is the free-market future of France. And "Sego," as they call her, is really the Socialist past. I mean - I mean, Sarkozy is - is a new kind of French presidential candidate. He's - his father was from Hungary, so I guess he's only half French. But he really wants to jolt the French, get rid of that 35-horu work week, and really turn France into a - into an economic, entrepreneurial powerhouse again, or maybe for the first time. And - and Sego Royal - her last name Segolene Royal, who is probably the prettiest presidential candidate.
KONDRACKE: Dazzling. Dazzling, I would say.
BARNES: .in the history of the world - dazzling fits, no question about that. But she represents an ideology that clearly isn't going to work in the globalized world.
You know, this thing about Sarkozy about being pro-American - for a French candidate, he is pro-American. He's - he's not for the war in Iraq, but he likes the American style and looseness and our economy that booms and the individualism and all those things.
KONDRACKE: Yes, he's a lot - he's - he - he would be a vast improvement on everybody since Charles de Gaulle. I mean, he would be pro-American. And, you know, when it comes to other things, like putting pressure on Iran, it would be - it would be nice to have a pro-American.
BARNES: The best Frenchman since Lafayette.
KONDRACKE: That's right.
Down: "Time" magazine. If you thought "Time"'s decision to make "you" the 2006 Person of the Year was over the top, the list of 100 Most Influential People in the World completely missed the mark. For example, among the - the top 100 people that "Time" deemed most influential, Rosie O'Donnell, Justin Timberlake, Tyra Banks,Leonardo DiCaprio and all the Democratic leading president - Democratic presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Not on the list: President Bush.
Now look, I - I'm sure that "Time" magazine was trying to be provocative, get people to read the magazine by leaving President Bush off the list. I mean, it's perfectly ridiculous that any American president would not be among the most influential American - world - people in the world, even if he is a lame duck.
What I found more interesting, actually, was who they picked as the only Republicans on their list. They were: Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York; Arnold Schwarzenegger; and Condi Rice. Now I only wish that moderates like that were the Republican - face of the Republican Party, the true face.
BARNES: Yes. When the fact is, it's guys like Mitch McConnell and Karl Rove.
I mean, look, here's a question for you, Mort: who's more influential, Rosie O'Donnell or Karl Rove? That's an easy one to answer.
I mean, these - I don't know. Does "Time" want to look ridiculous or just provocative? If they want to be provocative, they've achieved it. They've been provocative; no question about that.
KONDRACKE: And they also look ridiculous. OK.
Hang on to your seats; "The Buzz" is coming up next.
KONDRACKE: Here's "The Buzz," Fred: regardless of whether a Republican or a Democrat is elected president next year, one person who could be offered a top in either administration is retired General Jim Jones, former Marine Corps commandant, for commander of NATO, could end up back as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or even secretary of defense.
BARNES: Impressive guy. Former guest on "The Beltway Boys," actually. We interviewed him once.
Look, Mort, you know perfectly well as I do that this book, this new book by George Tenet, who was - what? - CIA director for five, six years under President Bush.
KONDRACKE: And Clinton.
BARNES: . "At the Center of the Storm" - and Clinton, yes, before - everybody's been talking about in Washington this week. And I have never seen a book get shredded by its critics almost instantly. I mean, he tries to say there was no serious debate about invading Iraq. There was a debate for years. And the - you know, he didn't get all his advice through. He saw the president every day, every day. You know, six days a week.
Nonsense. It's a book that I was going to read, but now I'm not.
KONDRACKE: That's all the time for "The Beltway Boys" for 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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