Ups and Downs for the Week of December 12

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", December 17, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Let’s check out this week’s ups and downs.

UP: the wall, actually a security fence nearly 700 miles long, the U.S.-Mexican border. That’s one of the provisions included in a new border security bill passed by the House last night that dramatically clamps down on illegal immigration.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Well, I’m actually not against the idea of a wall. I think we should seal the border as best we possibly can against illegal immigration. But what this House bill fails to do is anything about the 11 million illegal aliens who are here in the United States.

And, you know, we’re not going to send them back home. Various members of the House of Representatives would like to harass them and send local police enforcing the immigration laws, as if the local police don’t have enough to do already fighting, you know, real crime. And, you know, most of these illegal aliens are here to work. And they ought to be allowed to work legally, as in work permits, as recommended by, by President Bush.

And if they’re decent, honorable, hardworking people, and they pay their taxes and they pay fines and stuff like that, we ought to make it possible for them to stay in the United States and — because a lot of them have families and become United States citizens.

You know, it’s not an amnesty if you put them at the end of the line after all the legal immigrants who have come to the United States and make, and make them pay a fine and stuff.

Now, President Bush is in favor of work permits. There’s going to be a comprehensive bill that’ll come out of the Senate. Nothing has actually been done yet. This bill got hustled through in order that House Republicans could go home and satisfy all these constituents who are demanding something be done about homelands, border security, which, as I say, something should be done about it.

But it remains to be seen whether this Republican Party, President Bush and the Republican Congress, can do the right thing and effective thing about, about immigration policy. And the jury is really out on that subject.

BARNES: Yes, what’s the Democratic plan? They’re not doing anything...

KONDRACKE: No, the Democratic plan is much more like the McCain-Kennedy bill.

BARNES: Come on.


BARNES: They do nothing on this.

KONDRACKE: No. That’s not true.

BARNES: No, they’ll be against anything Republicans are for. That’s the way it’ll happen. Now, look, I am against a 700-mile wall. I think it’s a horrible symbol. Normally, I don’t even, I wouldn’t argue against a symbol. But this one shows we have the Statue of Liberty in New York, saying to immigrants, “Come on in, you’re welcome here.” Then we have a 700-mile wall that says, “Don’t even think about it.”

You know, is that what we want? We don’t need the wall. The truth is, we can secure the border with short walls, like the one in San Diego, and only in urban areas, more border guards, and electronic sensors, and things like that. We can do a perfect job.

Now, I agree with you on the kind of bill we need. It needs three things. But to get it passed, Mort, and you disdain Republicans and people who want the border to be secure...

KONDRACKE: I don’t, I don’t. No, no, and then you say, I just said… I wanted a wall, for heaven’s sake.

BARNES: I know, but yes, you did it, while dumping on these Republicans who are the ones who can get a border security through. Nothing that you want or I want is going to happen, except in the context of border security. So if you can successfully add to it in the Senate or in a conference, a guest worker plan where you can have illegals get green cards and work, plus some sort of plan that gives the 11 million illegal immigrants here a path to citizenship that somehow does not encourage millions of others to come here illegally.

If you can pull all that together and then get the House to swallow it, it would be a great comprehensive achievement.

KONDRACKE: You and I agree on the basic policy. I just question whether the Republicans are capable of doing it.

UP: Arizona Senator John McCain. After months of resistance, the White House agreed to accept McCain’s call for a law specifically banning cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of foreign suspects in the War on Terror. Here’s McCain on Thursday.


U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We’ve sent a message to the world that the United States is not like the terrorists. We have no brief for them. But what we are is a nation that upholds values and standards of behavior and treatment of all people, no matter how evil or bad they are.

And I think that this will help us enormously in winning the war for the hearts and minds of people throughout the world in the war on terror.


BARNES: You know, and the policy over interrogation policy, in the debate over that, I think you have to score McCain one and Bush nothing. I’m sorry to say that, because I think this all about sending a message to the world and changing our image is a waste of time because people are going to hate us anyway, as long as we’re expanding democracy in the world and sending troops to Iraq.

But clearly, the concern over our image trumped the concern over getting information that might save American lives from terrorists who are captured. And Mort, you pointed it out, the problem so well in that column you wrote a couple days ago, saying, “What if we captured Zawahiri, the number two to Usama bin Laden, or Zarqawi, the number one terrorist in Iraq?” Now, I would want to use waterboarding to, which, you know, gives the sensation of drowning while they’re not really drowning, to get information out of them, because they know everything about terrorist plans all over the world.

McCain says that would be illegal. I think this puts us in a horrible bind, going along with McCain.

KONDRACKE: Yes, look, I love John McCain, but I think that this is not going to help the United States, even in its image problem, because the Bush administration thinks that even under the terms of the McCain bill, you can still waterboard and keep people cold and all that kind of stuff.

When the world finds out that we’re continuing to do that, our image will be worse than what it is even now.

BARNES: Right, right. All right, DOWN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Just weeks after he said Israel should be, "wiped off the map," Iran’s president makes another over-the-top comment, this time calling the Holocaust a myth.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well, the good news is that the Iranian president has exposed the radical nature of this regime. The bad news is, they’re working on nuclear weapons.


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