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In the Crossfire

Assessing Clinton connection on campaigns

(CNN) -- The campaign trail is full of former Clinton Cabinet members and advisers. Are they running on or away from the Clinton legacy?

Republican strategist and former U.S. Rep. Susan Molinari of New York and Illinois Democratic congressional candidate Rahm Emanuel step into the "Crossfire" with hosts James Carville and Tucker Carlson.

CARVILLE: Former President Bill Clinton says his political career is over. But that isn't true for other members of the Clinton administration. Sen. Hillary Clinton, of course, is the only first lady to be elected to the United States Senate. And other members of the Clinton club are running for offices, with mixed results.

We're going to [do a] survey right now. ...

CARLSON: Congratulations [Rahm] on being one of the few, perhaps the only veteran of the Clinton administration to do well. It does seem like the closer the Clintons get to a candidate, the worse [he or she] does. Witness [New York gubernatorial candidate] Andrew Cuomo, who put Clinton in his ads.

But earlier than that, Steve Grossman in Massachusetts, who was endorsed by the former president and then dropped out of the race because after that nobody wanted to vote for him. What is -- why does Clinton hurt candidates so much?

EMANUEL: Well, listen, I happen to think that it's not that the president, in fact, hurts. In fact, I think that without that credential of having worked for him, you really would lack essential ingredients to run. But you have to translate that into what you've done, what you're going to do.

And you know, as the president used to say, elections aren't about the past; they're about the future as it relates to people's lives, and you have to make a case what you're going to do to help people help their lives, whether it comes to retirement security, health-care security, helping afford college education.

Without the credential of having worked in the White House or the administration, you're not going to have what is, I think is, essential -- the credibility kind of bar to run and to announce.

After that, you've got to make it on your own and be able to translate that into what it means to people's lives going forward, not the past. The credential's essential, but you've got to make the case about the future to the voters and to their concerns.

CARVILLE: ... A person who was reputedly close to President Clinton, namely, his wife, Mrs. Clinton, ran in the state that you know something about, and she won in a crushing landslide, I think, by 12 points. What are we having this show about? I mean, Ron won big, too. The truth of the matter is some people [are] doing very well, and some people don't do as well.

MOLINARI: Well, the truth is ... as we look into this election cycle, when people have had time to mull over the Clinton presidency, there are people who fall into two camps.

Those people who he doesn't help or don't want his help, like Erskine Bowles, Janet Reno, Andrew Cuomo, Robert Reich, and then, there's Rahm Emanuel, who seems to be able to do pretty well, but that's it.

CARLSON: Bill Richardson [is] doing very fine.

MOLINARI: The Clinton legacy is over. Bill Richardson was a member of Congress. He really established himself internationally before he became a member of the Clinton administration.

CARLSON: I think Susan Molinari makes a great point. If you look at each race individually, I think your point stands that voters judge the candidate by his own credentials and ability, etc., etc.

You're right there. But if you stand back a little bit and look at the statistical picture of this, the vast majorities of the veterans of the Clinton administration are failing. There is a pattern. How could there not be?

EMANUEL: Tucker, what's out here -- listen, you have the first lady won. I haven't won my election yet. I'm actually, as soon as I'm done here, I'm going to walk a precinct. I'm not taking anything for granted here.

But the fact is the president -- if the question is, is he a liability? No, it's an asset. But you have to translate it, and I don't think you can draw a conclusion about Steve Grossman or about Andrew Cuomo if you're not going to and then look at the first lady or happen to be -- I had them in. I talked about my record, what I did with them on health care for kids. That is essential, as I talk about what I want to do to the future. It is an essential threshold of credibility.

CARLSON: But you just said a second ago -- this is a little off track, but I can't let it go. You said that you're not ...

EMANUEL: Try, it will be good for you.

CARLSON: ... taking this election for granted. You're not taking this election for granted, yet there was this very amusing New York Times piece the other day about how you were trying to get a seat on the Ways and Means Committee, even before the election. So if you're not taking it for granted, why were you trying to elbow your way into a seat on that committee?

EMANUEL: Susan knows. And maybe this'll be good for you, Tucker. If you run for Congress, somebody's going to ask you what you want to do and where you want to serve. If you can't announce what legislative committee you want to serve on, you should think of another line of work.

I've announced what I'd like to do. That is the committee I'd like to work on because it deals with health care. It deals with taxes. Those are things I've worked on. [I'm] not going to say that I'm going to be on it, but that's my interest. And that's what you do when you want to run.

CARVILLE: I want to give Rahm an A-plus for delivering his message. ... I think Rahm is a great friend, a great guy. What member of Congress would not want to be on the Ways and Means Committee?

MOLINARI: The truth is that one of the reasons why I wanted to come on tonight was to talk about New York, which is just another show of how the Clinton legacy sometimes can hurt and sometimes can hurt badly. I mean, here we have a man who didn't even stand by his own secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

CARVILLE: ... Hey, [New York gubernatorial candidate] Carl McCall is a great Democrat, is a friend of President Clinton's, is a friend of Sen. Clinton's, and it would be ludicrous for him to get involved, and if he got involved, then, you all would say, primary people would howl and say, "What's he doing?"

MOLINARI: But by not getting involved, James, he really got involved. I mean, Chuck Schumer [New York's other senator] got involved.

CARVILLE: Of course, he did.

MOLINARI: I mean, Chuck Schumer got involved, and this is -- I want to just say one thing because all the media, everything I read played up this whole thing about how Cuomo, I mean, Clinton came in, and he tied this thing, and he really cut the deal, and he was the one that helped to make, you know, McCall the stronger candidate.

And the truth is that if the Clintons put a hammer in the nail of the coffin of Andrew Cuomo, it was really Chuck Schumer who built that coffin for him.

CARVILLE: I just want to say, if he came out and endorsed somebody, and say, well, here, he is. He just moved to New York, and now he's endorsing someone. I mean, all this is -- if Clinton is so bad for New York, why did Mrs. Clinton win by 12 points?




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