This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," April 1, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, GUEST HOST: Let’s check our, our ups and downs.

UP: New White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. The Bush loyalist now has one of the most important jobs inside the White House, and reportedly has a free hand in making more personnel changes inside the West Wing, and maybe the Cabinet.

Now, you know, President Bush says that he never looks at polls. And he never listens to his critics. Well, somebody in the White House is doing it, because they’ve changed a lot of things that they’re doing. One, Josh Bolten has been appointed to replace Andy Card as the White House chief of staff, and may make other changes in the White House, as we’ve said, probably not to the Fred Barnes extent of shaking up the entire place, but, you know, but there’s going to be some changes.

They are doing a lot of outreach to members of Congress, including a lot of Democrats. They are, the president is out making speeches to try to bolster support for his Iraq policy and try to get Cabinet officers to do the same. And they’re talking to small groups of Republicans who are visiting the White House all the time in order to get them to shut up about criticism of Bush and start going out and promoting what the Bush administration’s trying to do.

BARNES: Look...

KONDRACKE: That’s change.

BARNES: Well, yes, I know, but they’re not responding to critics. They’re just doing what’s smart politics.

KONDRACKE: Oh please?

BARNES: Now, wait a minute. What was the one thing that their critics inside the Beltway wanted to do?

KONDRACKE: Shake up the administration?


BARNES: Hire some old hands in Washington. You know, Ken Duberstein...

KONDRACKE: That hasn’t...


BARNES: Yes, it has been ruled. That’s not going to happen.

Now, what makes you think there won’t be a big, sweeping overhaul facelift of the administration? I don’t think that’s been ruled out. Josh Bolten has carte blanche with the president to do whatever he wants, particularly with the White House staff, but I think in the cabinet as well. And he knows more than most at the White House that fresh blood is needed in this administration. So I’m standing by my advice.

KONDRACKE: Donald Rumsfeld staying at Defense?

BARNES: I think he is.

KONDRACKE: All right. Well, you said he shouldn’t.

BARNES: No, I didn’t. I said, look, when I wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal , I was suggesting possible sweeping moves you could make. There are plenty they can do. But, you’re right, it won’t be Don Rumsfeld.

Anyway, DOWN: Democrats. They tried to wrest the national security mantle from the GOP by unveiling a new blueprint for bucking up U.S. security. The problem, they unveiled merely goals, not specifics or strategies. Here’s minority leader Harry Reid at the kickoff rally Wednesday.


U.S. SENATOR HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: The Bush Republicans, dangerous incompetence, has made America less safe. It has taken a great toll on our military, active and retired, and it must come to an end.



BARNES: You know, this plan of the Democrats is three pages long. I’ll hold it up to three pages long, or six if you include that part of it’s in Spanish, you’ll have it in English and then Spanish. Three pages long. I mean, that, to call it thin, I think, is putting it mildly.

Don Rumsfeld, who we were just talking about, the defense secretary, got a copy of it. He read the page that affected the Defense Department, and he said, and I think correctly, that they’re only doing all of these things and have, in the case of most of the things in the Democratic plan, they’ve been doing them for months, even years.

I mean the truth is, this is just not a serious document. And that, of course, is, explains why Democrats, who are fractious and have a hard time agreeing on anything could agree on this document, because there’s not much in it.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Well, the Democrats, if there’s one hard promise in this thing that they say that they are going to eliminate Usama bin Laden, and they are going to destroy terrorist networks like, like Al Qaeda . You can depend on the Democrats to do that.

BARNES: Ha, ha.

KONDRACKE: OK. Well, then...

BARNES: But they don’t say how.

KONDRACKE: .Wait a minute. First instance, Bush comes up and does this secret NSA spying, and admittedly, they’re not all following Russ Feingold to censure him, but nonetheless, they have been heavily critical of the NSA spying program, which, you know, is a lot less than destroying the Al Qaeda. It’s wiretapping Al Qaeda in order to find out where they are. Now, the, the, what the, what the Democrats ought to be doing is figuring out how to help President Bush get done what he wants to get done, instead of beating him up for what he has done.

Coming up, a former top aide to Tom DeLay pleads guilty to charges in connection with the Jack Abramoff corruption probe. We’ll tell you about the charges and what could be next.

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