War on Terror: Republicans and Democrats Angle for Political Advantage

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This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on August 12, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "The Beltway Boys" Saturday at 6 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. ET and Sunday at 2:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. ET.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to — to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation.


MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: I'm Mort Kondracke.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: And I'm Fred Barnes, and we're "The Beltway Boys."

KONDRACKE: Well, Fred, the "Hot Story" is "It's One More, Stupid." And by stupid, I mean those people — and I'm afraid most of them are Democrats — who don't believe that we're involved in one war with Islamic radicalism. But it is one war, and there are three main fronts right now.

One is with the Al Qaeda network, which is very much alive, as evidenced by this plot — very sophisticated plot — to blow up U.S. airliners as they're going over the Atlantic Ocean. There is Israel's fight with Hezbollah; that's all part of it. And then there's our war in Iraq.

You know, after Pearl Harbor and after 9/11, the country pulled together because we were facing one common enemy. And you'd have thought when the plot was uncovered this week over in Britain that we'd pull together again. Not so. I mean, the parties are going to their respective corners.

For example, Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate leader, said:

"The Iraq war has diverted our focus and more than $300 billion in resources from the war on terrorism. And it's created a rallying cry for international terrorists. This latest plot demonstrates the need for the Bush administration and the Congress to change course in Iraq and ensure that we're taking all the steps necessary to protect Americans at home and across the world."

Now that's an attack on Bush. And then along comes Ken Mehlman, the Republican National chairman, responding and says:

"Instead of focusing on political attacks, we should focus on the fact that we are at war and we need every tool to win the war on terror. If Harry Reid had his way and killed the Patriot Act and ended the terrorist surveillance program, authorities would be less able to uncover terrorist plots."

Now, Reid and the Democrats have a point in saying that in 2003, Iraq might have been a diversion from the main war on terrorism. But it's not that way anymore. I mean, Iraq is clearly a central front in the war. If we lose in Iraq, the Islamic radicals are going to win across the board. Al Qaeda will win. The insurgents — the Baathists will win. Muqtada al-Sadr will win. Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, the whole gang of them will win.


KONDRACKE: The Islamic fundamentalist movement wants to take over the world in very much the same way that the Nazis did, or the Japanese wanted to take over Asia. And the communists did in the Cold War. And they need to be fought.

BARNES: Yes. Let me go back a minute and let's identify exactly who's stupid. Let's see, it's those Democrats like Harry Reid — would you like to name a few more Democrats — cite them by name.

KONDRACKE: I'll let you this end of…

BARNES: And obviously it's those liberal bloggers that are always filled with hate, and I assume the entire left-wing gang basically. And I think this is the people you're talking about — basically, it's the people who think that the idea of a terrorist threat is something that George Bush uses as a political ploy against Democrats, that it's not really that great there.

I would say to them one thing: August 16, 2006. That is the date — which is next Wednesday — that is the day that the terrorists had scheduled to get on the airlines with their explosives, or their ingredients for explosives, and blow up those planes over the Atlantic. And the truth is, they are very clever — you know, they had those liquids they had mixed together. They probably would have gotten on. And if it hadn't have been for a tip — starting with a tip last year sometime in England, they probably would have gotten on and the plot would have worked, and it would have been 9/11 the sequel.

As it turned out, it didn't work. Because they were stopped. And the reason it didn't — one of the reasons it didn't — is because the U.S. and England, and in this case, Pakistan, has gone on offense. They weren't waiting around.

You know, Democrats are always talking about, we need more money for first responders here in the United States. When planes blow up over the Atlantic, there's not much first responders can do. And so they're irrelevant to this situation.

The joy is — and I think there should be real joy in America about this — that we've avoided another 9/11 once more.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Well I think that there are certain targets, soft targets in the United States that do need to be hardened. But you're right.

BARNES: I agree.

KONDRACKE: I mean, we have kept the enemy at a distance so far.

BARNES: Mm-hmm.

KONDRACKE: But look, politically speaking, I'd love to see the president and Ken Mehlman try to unify the country and not use the war on terrorism in order to save the Republicans in the 2006 election. But, I have to admit that on the merits, if you had to ask which party is more dependable for fighting terrorism, you'd have to say it's the Republicans. I mean, after all, the Democrats, when President Bush put into effect the National Security Agency domestic-surveillance program so-called — which is really an international terrorist surveillance program, what do the Democrats do? They scream bloody murder. Same thing with the Patriot Act; same thing with the Swift Financial Services tracking system.

So, you know, the Democrats, if I have to say they're stupid, they are.

BARNES: How about weak on terror?



Anyway, you know, we've sort of given short shrift — we talked about Iraq. We talk about Iraq every week. We really short shrift to the Israelis and their war against Hezbollah. And there is a U.N. resolution that the U.S. is supporting that has some teeth. Not as many teeth as we would like in driving Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon, far away from the Israeli border.

But it's going to bring in 15,000 U.N. troops — French troops I think are going to be the main ones. And, you know, the French are - I mean, they're kind of wimpish about a lot of things. But they have an army that really fights. So they could be good, and they may need to do it.

A couple things are unclear to me. One is, who is going to actually shove Hezbollah back farther than the Israelis have shoved them?
And who is going to disarm them? I mean, it calls for that in this resolution. But you know, U.N. resolutions often lead to nothing.

KONDRACKE: Yes, I'm not convinced that the Hezbollah front of this War on Terror is being won, actually.

BARNES: I'm not either.

KONDRACKE: I mean, I would hope that it is.

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