Ups and Downs for the Week of June 14 - 18

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys", June 19, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: OK, it's time for the ups and downs.

UP: John McCain

After several Shermanesque denials that he won't run on the Democratic ticket, McCain finally takes the guesswork out of where his allegiance is. Here's McCain introducing President Bush at Fort Lewis, Washington.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: He has not wavered in his determination to protect this country and to make the world a better, safer, freer place. You will not yield, nor will he, and that's why it's our great privilege to introduce to you your commander in chief, the president of the United States.


KONDRACKE: Well, the question is, is John McCain (search) going to go around the country and campaign vigorously for President Bush over the next four months...


KONDRACKE: ... and if he does, will the media cover it, or will they forget about their, their vaunted hero?

BARNES: Well, that's not the question. I don't know why you think that's the question. Constantly campaign? Look, that's, look, he's told Kerry, face to face, I'm not going to be your running mate. If he occasionally campaigns for Bush, I think that'll be fine, and we'll get media coverage. But if he does TV ads for Bush, then, whoo, that'll be plenty.

DOWN: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist

With several important bills, including the federal budget, in legislative limbo, Frist faces the very real possibility of a lame duck session of Congress this fall and charges he just can't get it done despite a Republican majority.

Mort, you have heard me talk many times about the Lyndon Johnson (search) test for a majority leader. It's what you achieve, not what you block, and of course...

KONDRACKE: And it's what you used to do to bash ... Tom Daschle (search).

BARNES: ... not to bash Tom Daschle, but to assess him correctly, as the rest of the media would not do, because he achieved nothing. Now, yes, that test to Bill Frist. And I don't think he's going to get a budget, he's not going to get an energy bill, he's not going to get any of these controversial judicial nominees through. Now he's telling the House, don't send over any more bills, because I can't anything through here.

He's not meeting the LBJ standards.

KONDRACKE: Well, the, the Republicans are saying that it is obstructionist Democrats who are preventing ... any of this kind of stuff from passing.

BARNES: It's true.

KONDRACKE: And to some extent it's true.


KONDRACKE: But it is the majority leader's job to finesse that and, and actually get things passed. And part of his problem is also moderate, moderate Republicans that he, that he can't get in line.

Now, Bill Frist is running for president in 2008...


CRAWFORD: ... and, you know, this problem is evidence why Senate majority leaders almost never become president...

BARNES: Yes, you're probably right.

KONDRACKE: ... at least not directly.



UP: John Kerry

Much to his credit, Kerry and Jim Johnson, head of Kerry's vice presidential search and probably Treasury secretary if he gets elected, continue to keep the selection process extremely private, leaving the media and many campaign aides in the dark.

So here's speculation on the short list. Dick Gephardt, whom Kerry met with this week, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, retired general Wesley Clark, Florida Senator Bob Graham, North Carolina Senator John Edwards, and Indiana Senator Evan Bayh.

BARNES: You know, I think Gephardt, Vilsack, and Bayh make sense. You know, they're from the Midwest, the industrial belt, where the election, this presidential election is really going to be decided. Now, and a, and I'd endorse Dick Gephardt again, except I don't want to jeopardize his chances of being picked by Kerry.

I think they have, they really have done a good job with ... and it produces benefits in keeping the whole selection process private. It means that Kerry ... it means, for one thing, it's orderly, and they can make a careful assessments, and two, it means that there won't be some huge drumbeat, if it were public some huge drumbeat for somebody who Kerry may not want as his running mate.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well, as you mentioned before, who John Kerry really wanted...


KONDRACKE: ... for, for vice president is John McCain.


KONDRACKE: So whoever gets picked is the number, is the number two choice. I mean, that, that, that fact has to be faced.


KONDRACKE: If he wants to balance the ticket, should be Evan Bayh (search).

BARNES: All right.

UP: Mississippi Governor Hayley Barbour

And a huge blow to the trial lawyer lobby. Barbour signs into law one of the most comprehensive legal reform bills in the nation this week. For three years running Mississippi has been named the worst state in the country for lawsuit abuse.

KONDRACKE: Well, Mississippi actually lost a, an $800 million Toyota plant because of trial lawyer abuse, and doctors are leaving the state because they, they can't practice medicine.

What's remarkable is that Barbour got this thing through a Democratic legislature. Now, the next step is to prevent the trial lawyers from electing the next Mississippi supreme court.

BARNES: Yes, yes, yes, you know, I think this is a, gives Mississippi a chance of rising out of poverty, you know, 50th in the nation or wherever it is, and as somebody from the state chamber of commerce said in Mississippi, Mississippi is now open for business.

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