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Hot Stories: Hamdan Verdict, Immigration Reform

Beltway Boys

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": Coming up on "The Beltway Boys," there's a potential deal on immigration. We'll tell you how the Senate's warming up to a plan to put border security first.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": The White House runs into roadblocks in the war on terror courtesy of "The New York Times" and the Supreme Court.

KONDRACKE: Could tensions in the Middle East erupt into full-scale war?

BARNES: And President Bush and Japan's prime minister commune with the King at Graceland.

KONDRACKE: "The Beltway Boys" are up next, right after the headlines.


BARNES: I'm Fred Barnes.

KONDRACKE: And I'm Mort Kondracke, and we're "The Beltway Boys."

Well, the "Hot Story" of the week is "Get Me Rewrite." That - as you know, that's - that's an old newspaper expression which applies to the Hamdan verdict by the U.S. Supreme Court. The mainstream media and even some conservatives are saying that the Court dealt a devastating blow to President Bush that affected -- in the war on terror. Not - that affected not only the ability to try prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in military tribunals, which was the target of the ruling, but implicitly they say that it challenges Bush's entire executive authority to order NSA spying, tracking, electronic bank transfers, even interrogation policy.

Now I - I think that's an overstatement of - of - of the fact. In fact, the - the Court did not say that Guantanamo had to be closed. It did not say that the prisoners there all had to be released. It did not say that they couldn't be held for the duration of the hostilities, as in a normal way. It did not say that they had to have trials like civilians. So there is a possibility here for Congress and the Bush administration to write a law which could cover this and allow court-martials that would be perfectly legal to proceed.

Here's President Bush and Lindsey Graham - Senator Lindsey Graham talking about that possibility. Watch.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I understand it, certain senators have already been out expressing their desire to address what the Supreme Court found. And we will work with the Congress. I want to find a way forward.



SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We don't need to have these terrorists tried in civilian courts. It'd put jurors at risk. It is not the proper form from a national security perspective.

I think this is easily fixed. If the Congress would come together and create a military tribunal system, I think the court would allow that to go forward. And I intend to try to do that.


BARNES: You know - look, he may be right; it may be easily fixed. But I don't think it needs to be fixed at all. I mean, this is a - there's no real need to rewrite the - the law to give the president this authorization. And this ruling was no vindication of the Constitution or a victory for the rule of law. It was just judicial intervention of - I think of the worst kind, where - where judges shouldn't go.

Presidents have traditionally had the authority to make wartime decisions on tragedy and tactics on their own. Franklin Roosevelt did during World War II; Abraham Lincoln did famously during the Civil War. And yet now we have judges intervening and second-guessing their decisions.

I agree with you. Look, this decision could have been worse; it was bad enough when they imposed the Geneva Convention on - you know, on these prisoners when it shouldn't apply at all. But it - what they've done is - the judges, the Supreme Court, has stuck another impediment in to fighting the war on terror. So you already had liberals and Democrats and the media trying to impede the war on terror. Now you have judges jumping in and they act as if - and Mort, you've - this is a point you've often made, about many people in Washington and around the country, where they act as if we're not at war.

And - and again I think it's an example of the polio fallacy. You know, when we grew up everybody took the polio vaccine so nobody gets polio now. So people start - stop taking the vaccine, and polio is recurring again. They think we had 9/11, and we got a lot of safeguards against it in fighting the war on terror effectively. So people think, Well, we don't need to do that anymore; I mean, we haven't had any more attacks. The truth is that this decision I think weakens our defenses. It's just as simple as that.

KONDRACKE: Yes, well.


KONDRACKE: It may do that, but the - the fact is that the Court has decided, and the president has to respond to this. And - and you know, this could work out. The fact is that you -- that this is going to be a very long war, and - and it's just as well that we get the entire government of the population on the same page, and see how - and fight this as effectively as we possibly can.

BARNES: It's not just as well. We want presidents to have discretion to act quickly. That's what President Bush did after 9/11, and - and you don't want judges horning in, applying things like the Geneva Convention, which really don't apply at all. I think it's a huge mistake.

All right. "The New York Times" in the crossfire on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue.

And President Bush tries to broke a compromise in the immigration debate. We'll tell you why he's optimistic about a breakthrough. "Hot Story" number two, straight ahead.


BARNES: Welcome back to "The Beltway Boys."

"Hot Story" number two: "Not Dead Yet." You got that? Not dead yet. I'm referring to a comprehensive immigration-reform bill that many people have said, it's impossible, it won't go through, there's too - the House and the Senate are too different and so on.

But the truth is, a comprehensive bill got a huge boost just a few days ago in the Republican primary in that House seat, held by Chris Cannon in Utah, probably the most conservative congressional district in the entire country. And the only issue was immigration. Cannon favors, as President Bush does, a comprehensive bill that would do the three things that border security, temporary-workers plan and earned citizenship - and - and - and that was - that was the issue in the campaign.

His opponent threw in - who didn't - wanted only border security to be beefed up, spent $400,000 of his own money. Another congressman, Republican Tom Tancredo of - of - of Colorado intervened to - to pay for radio ads against Cannon. I never heard of anybody - a congressman intervening in a primary against one of his colleagues. Anyway, Cannon won 56-44. I mean, that gave a huge boost - and I'll have to say, John Jacob, his challenger, said afterwards - he said, Look, I lost because on immigration, the voters here agreed with - with Chris Cannon.

KONDRACKE: He didn't blame it on the devil.


BARNES: He didn't.

President Bush has also gotten very active here. This is why that - I mean, with Cannon and also the White House, I think we're seeing movement almost daily. The White House has had many, many meetings - I think two or three a week or now - where the president talks to people, where - where people involved in this issue or involved are invited into the White House. And - and President and others at the White House have become optimistic about actually getting a comprehensive bill.

Listen to Mike Pence, the congressman from Indiana, who has a plan of his own, which we're going to get back to later.


REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Well, he seemed in an awfully good mood about immigration reform in the Oval Office today. I - I found him to be optimistic, positive. I think he is very confident that the American people want some form of a comprehensive solution.


KONDRACKE: Well, look, there - there are conversations - lots of conversations going on. And there has - and there has been movement on the - on the other side of the fence. John McCain and Ted Kennedy, who are the most - the strongest supporters of a comprehensive bill, probably as much as Bush is, are in favor of the idea at least of border security first, because it - it - it has to come first, because it's already - it's already entrained - as long as there is eventual citizenship for - for the illegals who are here.

There are against, however, this blue-card idea, where illegal immigrants would never be able to be - become United States.

BARNES: Yes, but it would make them legal.

KONDRACKE: They'd be legal, but they could never become citizens. They would be - and - and what Kennedy and - and McCain said, Leave - leave them in a kind of a limbo the way the Turks are in Germany. Who - you know, that they could never be part of the - of the entire society.

Look, I still think that this is a - this is a long shot to get this done by Election Day because a conference - a House-Senate conference - is not going to start meeting until after Labor Day. You're going to have these hearings, which are going to whip the various constituencies before then. And - you know, I think maybe after - maybe after the election could happen. And I'll get into an alternative in a second.

BARNES: Well, I think there's reason for optimism it'll happen this year. I wasn't saying it was going to happen by Election Day, although I think the chances are better. They're probably less than 50-50.

Now let me mention three key people here. One, House Republican Majority Leader John Boehner; Senator Johnny Isakson of - of Georgia; and Mike Pence, who would just saw, who's the leader among conservatives in the House of Representatives.

Let's start with Boehner. Listen to what he had to say.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, there are a lot of options for how we would proceed to get a strong immigration bill that secures our borders and enforces our laws. And it's been interesting to note over the last several days the - the movement amongst senators to - to a position closer to where the House is.


BARNES: Well, there has been some of that. He may exaggerate a little bit.

But what some of the senators are trying to do is appease these House Republicans to go along with a comprehensive bill and not insist just on border enforcement, which can't get through the Senate. That would mean you'd wind up with no bill at all.

And so what they've come up with - and here's where Johnny Isakson comes in, because he has proposed this thing, where you would stagger what happens. Border security first - you were talking about it - then a few years later, a temporary worker plan. And then maybe around that time or a little later, earned citizenship. And a particular type of earned citizenship that should appeal to at least some of the House conservatives, and that's where someone who's lived here, say, five years and wanted to become a citizen, would have to go back - and they're mainly from Mexico - would have to go back and very briefly - I mean, very briefly, across the border to Mexico and then come back. And then get on this 11-year or so path to citizenship.

KONDRACKE: That's the Pence idea.

BARNES: Yes, that's the Pence idea. When I - when Pence first described it in a speech, I have to say, I thought it was some (INAUDIBLE) scheme that would never work and it might be confusing. But it can wind up in a bill. And if he got all three things in a bill, I think President Bush will be pleased. And Republicans and some Democrats will have a lot to be proud of.

KONDRACKE: Yes. Look, I think that Pence's idea is a recipe for chaos. Imagine you're - you're picking fruit in the state of Washington and you're going to have to go down to Tijuana and tap your toe down there to get, and then go back? I mean, it's.

BARNES: I know. But Mort, what's the alternative? There's none - there is none.

KONDRACKE: Well, actually, there is a backup strategy here which people haven't paid attention to.

In the House Appropriations bill, the money bill for border - homeland security.

BARNES: Right.

KONDRACKE: .there is a lot more money for border security, including the extension of this fence.

Now, in the conference - House-Senate conference, you could add into this bill some authorizing language and beef up the employer sanctions and stuff and pass that appropriations bill before the election ends. And the Republicans could go home to their constituents and say, See, we did something about border security first. Then after the election you could revisit the issue and - and go for comprehensive.

That's - it's being talked about.

BARNES: I just don't think - I think that's a nonstarter, basically.

Look, the public wants this issue, immigration - everybody has an opinion on it; people are really watching this. They want immigration dealt with, and I think comprehensively.

KONDRACKE: OK. Coming up, Hamas faces a key test as tensions mount in the Mid East.

And President Bush and Japanese prime ministers - the prime minister pay homage to the king.

For more visit the Beltway Boys web page.

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