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Hot Stories: Shotgun Wedding, Fall Guy

Beltway Boys

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": Coming up on THE BELTWAY BOYS. Hello, Nancy and Harry. Goodbye Rummy. It's a whole new world in Washington after this week's elections.

MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Both sides say they are ready to bury the hatchet but how long will the love fest last?

BARNES: The Pentagon is under new management. We will tell you what it means for U.S. policy in Iraq.

KONDRACKE: Plus, the midterm elections sort out the playing field for 2008 and we will review the big winners and losers.

BARNES: That is all coming up on THE BELTWAY BOYS right after the headlines.

(NEWSBREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CA: We both extended the hand of friendship, of partnership to solve the problems facing our country. The challenges that America's working families face.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The elections are now behind us and the congresswoman's party won. But the challenges still remain. And therefore, we are going to work together to address those challenges in a constructive way.

BARNES: I am Fred Barnes.

KONDRACKE: And I am Mort Kondracke. We're THE BELTWAY BOYS.

Well, the first hot story is shotgun wedding, that's the new marriage between .

BARNES: I like that.

KONDRACKE: You like that? Between the Republican White House and the Democratic Congress. And both sides as we saw are talking the language of bipartisanship and cooperation and problem solving and all that. I love this music but I have to say that I have heard this song before.

Now the president did offer as a peace offering to the new Democrats the head of Don Rumsfeld, outgoing secretary of defense. There are things that the Democrats and Republicans could work together on if they were of a mind to starting with immigration.

But I think that the marriage is not going to last very long because the level of Bush hatred that exists among Democratic activists and the level of right wing ideologuism, if you like that .

BARNES: Ideology.

KONDRACKE: . among Republicans - ideology is so great among the Republicans that this is going to break apart especially when we do not pull out of Iraq fast enough to satisfy the Democrats, when the subpoenas start flying toward the administration from the Congress and when the Democrats start spending a lot of money on health, education, and homeland security programs that Bush starts vetoing their appropriations bills.

BARNES: The truth is he is going to have the votes if Republicans - they are a minority but they are not that far out of the majority so he will have the votes to sustain his vetoes and while he never vetoed Republican spending bills over the last three years he might be more inclined to veto Democratic spending bills.

Obviously, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are going to be at least for now conciliatory toward the president and they would like to make some compromises to pass legislation but the left is going to intervene. And it's going to be hard to do it.

Already we have these unelected Democrats stepping in. George McGovern, there is a blast from the past, coming in and saying, we have to get out of Iraq pronto and Bob Rubin, actually the very well respected former treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, he says, oh, you have got to raise taxes right away and so that's the problem the three Democratic horsemen of the Apocalypse, John Dingell, Henry Waxman and John Conyers, these three committee chairmen who want to investigate the Bush administration which means to persecute the Bush administration and I think it is going to be hard to really get anywhere.

Now Mort, the guy to watch in the Bush administration is really the new treasury secretary Henry Paulson who has been given this incredibly long leash in discretionary authority by the president to make some deals on entitlements and taxes and trade and so on.

And I think Bush is ready to make some concessions. I think they will get an immigration bill. He will not have to make many there since he and Democrats pretty much agree already on a comprehensive bill.

I think the president is going to let a minimum wage bill go through and he will sign it. But beyond that, on all these other things, I think Paulson has got his work cut out for him.

KONDRACKE: Well, the first sign that sweetness and light is not going to prevail was the Senate Democrats' decision to not confirm John Bolton as the UN ambassador. He has done a very good job. He has basically been a negotiator. He has not been an ideologue and he should have been retained.

But I think that what the Republicans and the Democrats are saying right now is what the country desperately wants: get stuff done on entitlements and health care reform and that sort of thing. I am afraid that they are just so ideologically hidebound, for example to have a deal on entitlements the Republicans would have to agree to raise taxes and the Democrats have to agree to means test or something like that and it is just not in the cards in the next two years.

BARNES: Look. Trying to dump John Bolton is purely vindictive. Any reasonable person, Republican or Democrat, would looks at the job he has done there, would have to stay he has done a fantastic job in promoting America's interests there and I hope President Bush gives him another recess appointment which I think would be perfectly legal.

I want to mention one more thing, Mort, and that is that President Bush is not going to fade quietly into the horizon as a lame duck president. He is still the central figure in Washington. And I think he has many powerful political tools -- not only the veto, he has got the megaphone, after all, he has got the biggest one, and so he is going to be somebody that we will hear a lot from him. He is going to be not dominant but central.

KONDRACKE: I remember Bill Clinton at one stage in his second term said "I am still relevant. I am president."

BARNES: It turned out Clinton was, actually.

KONDRACKE: Actually, he did.

Coming up, like father, like son? We'll tell you what role Bush 41 is playing in his son's final years in office and moving to shake up the Pentagon.

Stick around, hot story number two is straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Mr. President, thank you for the kind words and the wholly unexpected opportunity you provided me to serve in the Department of Defense again. These past years, six years, has been quite a time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNES: Welcome back to THE BELTWAY BOYS. Hot story number two, fall guy. Mort, I have a rule of thumb on national security and that is in a democracy, a war without victory in sight cannot be sustained for long. Something has to give. And of course, what gave was Donald Rumsfeld. What the president has done, I believe, is not to change the strategy but to change the strategist.

And so Rumsfeld - well, now he has brought in Bob Gates who was what, the CIA director under his father, Bush 41. And I am told, reliably, I think, that the instructions to Gates are look, the strategy has not changed. We want to win and we want victory in Iraq and we want to set up a stable democratic Iraqi government that can defend itself and is friendly with its neighbors.

Now, of course, all the buzz in Washington is that aha, finally, the realists from Bush 41 are coming it to take over the national security policy of Bush 43 -- in other words the realist replacing idealists many of whom have been accused of being neoconservatives, whatever that means.

I think that's nonsense. I hope it's nonsense, anyway.

KONDRACKE: Well, we will see what the strategy is after we get the report from the Baker Hamilton commission, that is James Baker, secretary of state under Bush 41, who is a foreign policy realist who opposed the Iraq War and wants to negotiate with Iran and Syria which are not Bush 43 policies.

I don't think Baker is going to recommend a bug out but whatever the policy is, it is going to be called "pursuing victory." But we do not know what the policy is going to be, or how he is going to do it or whether there is going to be timetables or demands that the Iraqis get certain things done by certain dates or what kind of policy there is going to be.

But you can be sure of one thing, that there is going to be constant pressure from the Democrats to get out as fast as possible. And as if to prove the point, Brit Hume asked Nancy Pelosi the other day, do you want to win in Iraq? And here was her answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CA: The point is this is not a war to win, it's a situation to be solved. And you define winning any way you want but you must solve the problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BARNES: That was not "stay the course" was it?

KONDRACKE: I think what she means by that is, losing is OK. I think that they think we have lost and we should get it over with as fast as possible.

BARNES: I don't think we have lost but a lot needs to be done in a new direction, Mort. Here's what I drew from what you just said. You suspect that the policy will be called "seeking victory" but it will actually be a disguised retreat?

KONDRACKE: It is exactly what my fear is.

BARNES: Your fear.

KONDRACKE: Exactly what my fear is. I cannot prove it. I don't know. I have not seen results yet, the report yet. But we will see.

BARNES: Everything I know about President Bush and about Iraq, from interviewing him a number of times and so on, tells me that is not true but I fear it, too.

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