Ups and Downs for the Week of December 5

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", December 10, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Let’s check out the ups and downs.

UP: the air marshal program. This week’s shooting of a commercial airline passenger who said he had a bomb puts more focus on the struggling program and could lead to more funding for air marshals.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Now, Mort, aren’t you surprised that there’s been so little second-guessing of the marshals in this, in this incident in Miami? I certainly am.

You know, the marshals there, the air marshals, who come in pairs had a choice. They could have paused after this fellow ran down the aisle of the plane yelling that he had a bomb, and then reached inside his backpack, maybe he had it in front, but it was a front pack. In any case, he reached in as if to get a bomb or to detonate a bomb or something like that. They could have paused.

Or, they could have shot him, fearing that a bomb was about to go off. As air marshals, I think they had to; they had to shoot at him. They had every reason to believe that he had a bomb. Turned out he was a manic-depressive. He didn’t have a bomb. And so they shot someone who was innocent.

But, I mean, that had to happen. This is what the air marshals are supposed to do. I think the guy shouldn’t have been on the plane in the first place, at least without a straitjacket or something like that that would have, you know, kept him from doing what he did.

KONDRACKE: Well, he didn’t take his meds is what his wife said.


KONDRACKE: Anyway, you know, I mean, you’re right, I mean, the air marshals had no choice.

Now, meanwhile, on the homeland security front, we had the final report of the 9/11 Commission, which pointed up major flaws still in our homeland security protection. Congress still insists on distributing homeland security money all around the country not based on risk. There are still lapses in our cargo and baggage checks on airplanes. Congress has not distributed or seize back part of the electronic spectrum in order to provide radio frequencies to the first responders, and so on.

BARNES: Yes, yes.

KONDRACKE: Now, the blame in the media for a lot of this stuff went to the executive branch, the Bush administration, and it should have gone to Congress.

BARNES: I don’t understand why Congress can’t move on these things. They’re not, I mean, for the most part, they’re no-brainers.

KONDRACKE: Well, it’s largely because of the Senate, which, you know, there are two senators from every state, and they all want money for their home states, where the risk is in New York and, and Washington.

BARNES: Yes, for sure.

DOWN: Tom DeLay. The good news for Tom DeLay, the conspiracy charge against him was dropped this week. The bad news, he’s still under indictment for money laundering, which means regaining his leadership position is still very much in doubt.

KONDRACKE: Well, now, look, everything depends on whether DeLay gets acquitted down in Texas in January, and it’s not clear that it will, because apparently the trial is not going to begin until the middle of January.

But in any event, the House Republican leadership, in deference to DeLay, has postponed the reconvening of the House until the end of January, in order to give him a chance to get through with his, with his business.

Now, there are a lot of people who would just as soon not see DeLay come back, because if he did come back, the chances are that he’s going to be enmeshed in this Abramoff lobbying scandal. And then the Ethics Committee eventually will get around to investigating DeLay’s lavish trips, paid for by Abramoff, and probably will at least admonish him, if not do something more severe.

BARNES: Well, we know about one lavish trip. I don’t know whether they’re lavish trips. But in any case...

KONDRACKE: That’s all it takes is one.

BARNES: I know, but that’s not plural. The truth is, I think Tom DeLay is probably innocent, but I don’t expect him ever again to be majority leader. And I think that just these things have caught up with him. And, you know why it’s happened? It’s happened because Democrats declared war on him, Democrats and all their minions and their prosecutors in Austin, Texas.

KONDRACKE: You think he’s perfectly clean.

BARNES: Yes, I do. And their prosecutor — Well, look, I think he’s perfectly clean of any wrongdoing. I think he should not have gotten on the gravy train that all members of Congress did and Democrats did for 40 years and Republicans said they weren’t going to do. And yet, and, and yet that’s happened with a lot of it.

Let me finish here. The, the gravy train is not illegal, it’s just all the perks that congressman have, and so on. Maybe they’ll open the House bank again, who knows?


BARNES: I hope not. But anyway, this war by Democrats and liberals against Tom DeLay is one that they are winning.

KONDRACKE: UP: Republican moderates. After years of wandering in the political wilderness, House Republican moderates are finally flexing some muscle, on everything from the budget and stem cells to oil drilling in ANWR.

BARNES: You love every minute of it, don’t you?

KONDRACKE: I like these people.

BARNES: I know, you’ve been a champion of them. And I’m going to ask you a question about that. But first, let me say, you know, Sherry Boehlert, the moderate Republican from New York, says it’s the moderates’ moment, but he explains it that it’s really thanks to Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, because she has cajoled and arm- twisted and gotten all the Democrats to not join Republicans on anything, to not cooperate with them, to not do anything with them.

So they’re a unified vote against anything Republicans do or propose or anything, which means that, with no Democrats that Republicans can get, the moderates, they have to have the moderates to win any votes. And so the moderates are the swing votes. They have clout. They can influence things. And, and suddenly they’re powerful.

But it may be fleeting. And the other question there was, Mort, as a student of and a fan of Republican moderates, do they really have the moxie to make the most of this situation? I personally doubt it.

KONDRACKE: Well, you know, they are, they are moderates, and so the answer is, sometimes. I mean, they did exercise their muscle to, to pass campaign finance reform. They, they did it, or at least they’ve tried to do it, and they’re on their way to doing it, on stem cell research, change the Bush policy.

Now, lately, what they’ve done is to get the ANWR drilling in ANWR removed from the agenda. I don’t know why they’re defending caribou at a time when we need energy independence, but that’s it.

Now, the key test comes is whether they are willing to act as a bloc on the DeLay issue if there is a leadership election and try to elect Roy Blunt, presumably, as the next leader.

BARNES: All right, that’s the plan.

KONDRACKE: Yes, I know.

BARNES: Yes, will they rise to the occasion?

KONDRACKE: Right now, I don’t think so.

BARNES: All right.

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