White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten Makes His Mark on West Wing

This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on June 3, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys." We're continuing with the "Ups and Downs" for the week.

DOWN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The U.S. and the major world powers finally present a united front in the nuclear standoff, and now it's decision time for Iran: come to the negotiating table, or face sanctions.

Here's President Bush saying that time is running out.


PRESIDENT BUSH: They continue to say to the world, We really don't care what your opinion is. And the world is going to act in concert. And the — the next step of acting in concert is going to the United Nations Security Council.


KONDRACKE: This was a big move for the United States, and it's the moment of truth for Iran and for our allies. What the United States has said is that we will join in direct talks with the — the Iranians, along with our allies, if the Iranian will suspend enrichment of uranium, which would require a big step for them. If they do, they get a bunch of goodies that the world community has agreed upon. If they don't, then - then that's when the test for the allies comes. It's - you know, will the U.N. Security Council, the Chinese and the Russians included, agree to some sort of a sanctions regime.

The United States — we talked to a high-ranking U.S. official who said that if — if that doesn't happen, there is an alternative course whereby the Europeans and the Japanese would impose kind of informal sanctions to deny access of the Iranians to the world banking system and to international commerce and that kind of thing. We'll see if any of that happens.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Mort, you did a great job of pronouncing the Iranian.

KONDRACKE: Ahmadinejad.

BARNES: Very good. You finally got it down. I'm not going to even try. I agree that this was the right move to take by the Bush administration, and we'll see how it works. But it, you know, the one part that it depends on that worries me is the Europeans. You know, they're not exactly the tough guys in cracking down on anybody in the Third World, or anywhere else for that matter. And it — it really depends on them. If the Iranians don't go along — you know, then moving to really tough sanctions against the Iranians. And the assurances have been giving to President Bush and Condoleezza Rice and so on that they're going to be there, that they really mean it this time. I don't know. You think so?

KONDRACKE: Well, I have — you know, I actually have some hope. The French in particular on tough on this issue.

BARNES: They're actually fairly — yes, this is a hope, but not based on experience. All right.

UP: White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. The man charged with shaking up the White House is wasting no time making his presence felt in the West Wing. His latest coup: landing Goldman Sachs bigwig Hank Paulson as Treasury Secretary. And, you know, Mort, there was actually a funny twist to this. You know, there'd been lots of talks with Paulson over the months this year, and finally he got Paulson in — Josh Bolten did — in with President on May 20, out of which came the nomination Paulson. Nobody thought — I didn't — that a bigwig from Wall Street, a really major financial figure, could get this job. It turns out that Paulson was easier to get than President Bush. President Bush was the one who was worried that somehow Paulson would be hard to control, and he wanted somebody he could control as Treasury Secretary. Anyway, that May 20 meeting, arranged by Bolten, was crucial.

KONDRACKE: Yes. All right, you know, Bolten has been working with President Bush continuously since before Bush elected. 1999, he was the - the issues director of the campaign. You know, that's a very long time for anybody to keep active, keep — keep from being exhausted, both mentally and physically. And here the guy comes in as chief of staff. And now he's doing - you know, pulling one coup after another.


KONDRACKE: Paulson's the latest; Tony Snow was a great — a great move.

BARNES: I agree.

KONDRACKE: He got Karl Rove to concentrate on politics and high-level policy, instead of, you know, doing busy work the way - the way he'd been doing before. And it was even Josh Bolten who negotiated the time out between congressional leaders and — and the Justice Department over this invasion of — of Bill Jefferson's congressional office.

BARNES: I agree. He should soon be returning our phone calls, right?

KONDRACKE: Yes, Josh, call back. OK. DOWN: Pinch, otherwise known as New York Times published Arthur Sulzberger Jr. You probably missed it in the mainstream media, but Sulzberger used a commencement speech at New Paltz, New York, and he turned it into a left-wing rant, offering - this apology from his generation to the graduates: "You weren't supposed to be graduating into an America fighting a misbegotten war in a foreign land. You weren't supposed to be graduating into a world where we're still fighting for fundamental human rights, whether it's the rights of immigrants to start a new life, or the rights of gays to marry, or the rights of women to choose. You weren't supposed to be graduating into a world where oil still drove policy and environmentalists still fight relentlessly for every gain."

You know, fair and balanced, all right? I mean, you know…

BARNES: It is.

KONDRACKE: It finally occurred to me that I never read The New York Times anymore for information. I read The New York Times only to find out what the left-wing slant on stuff is, so that I'll know where they're coming from.

BARNES: Yes, and they never let you down.

KONDRACKE: They've never let me down.

BARNES: And I get four papers at home. So I read The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal, and fourth, The New York Times. And you know, a lot of days - a lot of days I don't get to The New York Times. I don't miss much, as it turns out. All right.

DOWN: Republican candidates who are distancing themselves from President Bush. He may be down in the polls, but President Bush is as popular as ever on the campaign trail, bringing in record amounts for GOP candidates and committees: over $105 million since last year. You know, Mort, I think it's counterproductive for these candidates to stay away when President Bush comes there. Look, they're stuck with him. You know, he's the leader of their party; he's their president. And all it is - if they stay away while taking the money he raises, I think it looks cowardly and becomes a character issue, actually.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Well, you know, there aren't really very many of them. I mean.

BARNES: That's true.

KONDRACKE: Mostly that he's raised — at $105 million, he's out there a lot. But he, you know, he joked — the president joked at a fundraiser for Jeff Davis of Kentucky, that I'm sure that Jeff Davis would have rather had Laura there. In fact, Laura is very popular on the campaign trial, but she's raised about $7 million. Bush — Bush is way ahead.

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