Ups and Downs for the Week of December 15 - 19

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, December 20, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: It's ups and downs time. Are you ready?



DOWN: Attorney General John Ashcroft

One federal appeals court ruled this week that the U.S. cannot hold Jose Padilla (search), an American citizen accused of being part of a dirty bomb plot, as an enemy combatant. The upshot, the Bush administration will have to try Padilla in a civilian court.

And another federal court ruled that detainees at Guantanamo Bay should have access to lawyers.

Now, this is going to go through a lot of appeals, but ultimately the Supreme Court, I think, will side with the Second Circuit that says that Padilla's got to be tried in a civil court because there is a law actually on the books following the Japanese internment that people cannot be arrested on the executive branch's say-so without an act of Congress being passed, and there is no law on this matter other than that.


BARNES: You mean American citizens, yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: American citizens, right.

And, I predict that the Supreme Court will allow the administration to keep the Guantanamo people where they are, because they were captured on a foreign battlefield, they're not Americans, and they're not on American soil.

BARNES: Yes, all of those are true, which is a reason why if the Guantanamo detainees are, if it's ruled that they should have lawyers and be able to go into American courts, I would advise the president to defy that ruling and just say, No, you have no authority there.

It would be judges so far overstepping their authority that I think the president would be entirely justified in thumbing his nose at their decision.

Now, the Padilla case, as you point out, is a lot trickier, because he is an American citizen, was arrested on American soil. I think the law you talked about should be trumped by the inherent power of the president from the Constitution to protect national security. However, I think the Supreme Court will probably agree with what you said and not with what I said.

Down: Senate Democrats

This week's retirement of Louisiana Senator John Breaux makes five the number of open Senate seats the Democrats must defend in the South. A tall order in GOP-leaning Dixie. Let me show you the seats, Mort.

They are, these will be hard to defend, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and now Louisiana.

Now, I think it's all but certain that Republicans will win in South Carolina and Georgia. Democrats don't have good candidates there, Republicans will have good candidates. North Carolina and Florida, I think the Republican candidates will be favored. Louisiana, it's probably 50-50.

But if Bush is running a strong race, and, which means he'll be even stronger in the South, the Republicans could win all five of those seats. I think they're going to hold their heavily contested seats in Oklahoma and Alaska and probably lose only Illinois, which means a net gain of four for the party.

Ideologically, it's not that good, because they will be losing Zell Miller, who is a big supporter of Bush and is a conservative and votes with the Republicans, and Breaux, who often votes with Republicans.

KONDRACKE: Yes. I would quibble with you a little, maybe, about South Carolina and Alaska, where I think the Democrats have a little better chance than you give them. But...

BARNES: South Carolina?

KONDRACKE: Yes, exactly...

BARNES: You're kidding.

KONDRACKE: ... Inez Tanenbaum is...

BARNES: South Carolina's the most Republican state ... in the country, Mort.

KONDRACKE: ... I know, but she's a fairly good candidate...

BARNES: ... has no chance. No chance.


BARNES: None. Zip. Zero.

KONDRACKE: All right. No matter how it works out, the Democrats are going to lose more seats.


KONDRACKE: But the Republicans are not going to be up to anywhere near the 60 votes that they need to break filibusters, and that's what really counts in the Senate.

Meanwhile, I mean, the loss of Breaux has for more impact than that. I mean, he was one of the principal centrist dealmakers in the Senate, and able to bring Republicans and Democrats together.

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: And unfortunately, what's happening is that the Senate of the United States is becoming every bit as polarized as the House is.

BARNES: Yes, Breaux will be a great lobbyist, however.

KONDRACKE: He will be that. OK.

UP: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

He finally says enough's enough and puts the Palestinians and the U.S. on notice, if the Palestinians don't stop terror attacks, Israel will take unilateral action, including building a wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories.

BARNES: Now, we'd have a bite from the speech, except he gave it in Hebrew, and so we don't. Look, I think Sharon had no choice, because he doesn't have, a real negotiating partner in the Palestinians under Yasser Arafat, because they're still encouraging terrorists to attack Israeli civilians, women and children.

Now, what he said is basically this. Look, if you guys won't negotiate, won't stop the terrorism and stop the incitement of Palestinian children, encouraging them to be suicide bombers that, and leaving them to believe that the greatest thing they could achieve as teenagers is death, then I'm going to, in a few months, build this wall all the way around Israel.

It's going to cut deeply into the West Bank (search), into what you think is your territory. It's going to be bad news for you. The only way to stop me from doing this is to stop the terrorism stop the incitement, and begin to negotiate responsibly, and keep your promises.

I think he's done exactly the right thing...


BARNES: ... I'm all for it.

KONDRACKE: ... look, I agree with all, everything you've said except that there's one problem. That is that nobody agrees with this plan except Sharon himself.

BARNES: Yes, I don't count.

KONDRACKE: Well, the Israeli left and the Palestinians and the Bush administration don't like it because he's delivered an ultimatum unilaterally.


KONDRACKE: The Israeli right doesn't even like it because he's going to pull back a bunch of settlements. It remains to be seen whether Sharon can impose this just on his own, that, I don't know if he's got the political power to do that.

BARNES: Yes, maybe not, maybe not.

UP: Essie Mae Washington-Williams

Senator Strom Thurmond's illegitimate mixed-race daughter finally proclaimed her heritage this week. This as the Thurmond family recognized her as one of their own after nearly 50 years of silence. Here's Ms. Washington-Williams Wednesday.


ESSIE MAE WASHINGTON-WILLIAMS, DAUGHTER OF STROM THURMOND: I decided that I would no longer harbor such a great secret that many others knew. I feel as though a tremendous weight has been lifted. I am Essie Mae Washington Williams, and at last I feel completely free.


KONDRACKE: Yes, there's a lot we don't know about this case. But I'll assume the worst, even though this is the season of charity. Here's an arch-segregationist bigot who took advantage of a black maid and got her pregnant, paid God knows how much in the way of hush money over these many years, all the time that he was fighting to keep miscegenation, so-called, you know, legal.

Merry Christmas, Strom, wherever you may be.

BARNES: Mort, your anti-Southern bias is showing, but you're probably right in this case, and certainly Ms. Washington Williams is one of the most sympathetic people I've come across in a long time. This was very brave, what she did. She's to be congratulated. OK.

KONDRACKE: All, all Southerners are not ... Strom Thurmond, thank heavens.

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