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Where Is the New York Senate Race Heading?

Aired October 9, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET



HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: And if New Yorkers can't trust him to keep his word for 10 days, how can they trust him for six years?

REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), SENATE CANDIDATE: Mrs. Clinton, please, no lectures from "Motel 1600" on campaign finance reform.


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Did Rick Lazio break his word? Did Hillary Clinton misuse the White House? Tonight, the latest on the New York Senate race.

ANNOUNCER: Live, from Washington: CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Mary Matalin. In the CROSSFIRE, Democratic strategist James Carville, a Hillary Clinton supporter; and in New York, Republican Congressman Vito Fossella, a supporter of Rick Lazio.

PRESS: Good evening, welcome to CROSSFIRE.

What's going on? Politics is getting nicer and nicer. Another nice debate yesterday, in the mother of all Senate races between Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio. No pushing, no shoving, no food throwing, no name calling. But Hillary couldn't resist reminding everybody of how he invaded her podium in their first debate. And Lazio still got in a dig about her being a new New Yorker.


LAZIO: I believe that New Yorkers can take care of New Yorkers.

CLINTON: And it is a place that I have always known welcomed everyone from everywhere, including immigrants from Washington, D.C. So for me...


PRESS: Instead of trading insults, believe it or not, the two spent almost all their time debating issues, from soft money to Supreme Court nominees, from abortion rights to a new football stadium for New York's west side. The two even agreed in condemning the U.S. for abstaining from a U.N. resolution blaming Israel for the latest troubles in the Middle East.

Today, both candidates went after the huge Italian vote, marching in the same Columbus Day parade in New York City, as the latest Quinnipiac University poll shows the first lady leading Mr. Lazio by 7 points, 50 to 43.

Tonight, with one month to go, will the debates give Rick Lazio a chance to turn the tables, or has Hillary Clinton established an unshakable lead in her march to the U.S. Senate? -- Mary.

MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST: Well, let me say at the outset for the purposes of full disclosure, I'm married to one of the men on this show tonight, the one who disagrees with me the most.

Welcome, Mr. Carville.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Hey, thank you. This is kind of historic, I think this is the first time I have ever done CROSSFIRE with you.

MATALIN: You have, and we welcome you.

Now, let me ask you if you...


PRESS: Now what I want to know is -- what I want to know, did you practice this over breakfast this morning? I mean, you know, this is no fair.

MATALIN: No, we don't speak of things political.

CARVILLE: Breakfast at the Golden Arches this morning, had the kids when we were driving back, and they fought the whole way back, so we couldn't fight.

MATALIN: That's right, and we do disagree on most things political.

But do you disagree with this, Mr. Carville...

CARVILLE: All right.

MATALIN: ... adviser to the Hillary Clinton campaign, and it's the carpetbagger issue. In June of this year, in a Miringoff poll voters were asked how much it concerns them and 26 percent said it concerns them very much. Last month, the same question was asked of New York voters, and that percentage went up 2 points to 28 percent. Do you disagree that she has not been able to overcome this newcomer problem despite blanketing the state?

CARVILLE: Yes, of course I disagree. I mean, first of all, that means that 72 percent don't care about it, because 72 is better than 28 in this business. Secondly, you know, to start out June, all of the hot air crow, she has a ceiling of 41, then she had a ceiling of 44, then she had a ceiling of 48. And now they say she has a ceiling of 50.

Well, it don't take but 47 1/2 to win, they got five people in the race. But I think she has done -- not just because she stomped Lazio in two debates -- I think that she has done a remarkable job, but I talked to people in the campaign today, Mary, and they are mortified -- $50 million has been run against her in advertising already by the combination of Giuliani and Lazio.

MATALIN: All right, all right, all right.

CARVILLE: They have all these people that are ganging up on her.

MATALIN: We're going to get to that. No, no, we're going to get to that.

CARVILLE: I know, but I'm just saying.

MATALIN: She is not a victim, we're going to get to that.

CARVILLE: I'm -- no, and she is not.

MATALIN: The reason -- we're not talking about the 32 percent.


MATALIN: We are talking about this slender segment of the electorate who is undecided, and it's of concern to them, and you know why it's of concern to them?


MATALIN: Rick Lazio had this to say, and I think he hit the nail on the head about why it is a concern to them that she is not a native New Yorker. Listen to this.


LAZIO: Now, New York sends $15 billion a year more to Washington than we get back. I think we need somebody in the majority party who can work well with others, who can cross party lines, who can be independent, and who has the ability to make sure that New York gets its fair share, and I think I'm that person.


MATALIN: All right, everybody this year is concerned about working together, working well with others.


MATALIN: We have seen no evidence of this with Mrs. Clinton, her health care business is done behind closed doors, and to this day, she won't apologize to what she considers the entire Republican Party of -- members of the vast right-wing conspiracy. So she is going to go to a Republican majority-controlled Senate and get anything done for New York? CARVILLE: Is this a question, or a speech, Honey? This is...


MATALIN: Well, you know, you know...


CARVILLE: Yes. OK, look, let me tell you first of all, this is the same Rick Lazio that was Newt Gingrich's gopher that voted to shut the government down, so we don't need a lecture about -- I think he voted twice, I think he voted twice, is that right, Bill, to shut the government down?


CARVILLE: So how are you going to get something there if you want to shut the government down? Now, the truth of the matter is, is that she has performed admirably on the campaign trail in spite of the most vicious sea of negativity that you could imagine from Lazio and from everybody else. This is one strong person, this is a person who New Yorkers are looking at, and who New Yorkers are deciding that they want in the United States Senate to represent them.

And that's what's the encouraging thing about this campaign, the encouraging thing is, yes, she defeated him bad -- even Peggy Noonan, the czarina of all Hillary haters, said that she won the debate big. The "New York Post" said she won the debate big.

MATALIN: All right.

CARVILLE: I mean, she beats him in debates and I think she'll beat him in November....

MATALIN: We have another guest.

CARVILLE: ... if the people of New York do that.

PRESS: Here is one person who probably disagrees, Congressman Fossella, good evening and happy Columbus Day. Thanks for joining us

REP. VITO FOSSELLA (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Bill. But I would much prefer my wife ask me the questions.


PRESS: Sorry.

CARVILLE: Congressman, you can't say she went easy on me.

PRESS: That would only be fair, I know, but we just can't deliver there.

Congressman, you know, 10 days ago, Congressman Lazio signed an agreement, or at least they shook hands with first lady Hillary Clinton, to get all soft money out of the race, and ban other groups from spending in this campaign, and yet just last week, he accepted $1.4 million in advertising from the Republican National Committee. To quote this morning's "New York Times": "How could he be so bone- headed as to break his pledge 10 days later?"

FOSSELLA: Well, I don't think this campaign is going to be about that ad, or the fact that Rick made that deal with Mrs. Clinton. I think -- I disagree with Mr. Carville, that a lot of New Yorkers are deeply concerned that Mrs. Clinton comes to New York to run for Senate. Like it or not, a lot of people will not vote for her for that very reason.

Now, having said that, I think there are other matters that Rick has been trying to underscore throughout this campaign, like education, giving the people of this state the choice to send their kids to schools of their choices and empowering localities; taxes -- Mrs. Clinton doesn't believe that we are overtaxed, I think Rick Lazio does, and we'll vote for tax cuts; national defense -- he will vote for a strong national defense.

Now, if trust -- I know Mrs. Clinton invoked this yesterday, and I think Rick had a good response on referring to the White House as "Motel 1600" -- if trust is the core issue in this campaign, I believe Rick Lazio will win hands down.

PRESS: Well, you -- I want to get to that issue of trust, and you don't answer trust with a cheap shot. Rick Lazio said that this agreement between the two of them was all about trust and all about character. He broke the pledge. Here is how Hillary Clinton put it yesterday. Please listen in case those -- not everybody saw what she had to say.



CLINTON: You know, last month, Mr. Lazio said that this was an issue of trust and character. He was right. And if New Yorkers can't trust him to keep his word for 10 days, how can they trust him for six years on issues like Social Security, Medicare, prescription drugs, and education?


PRESS: Now, forget the cheap shots at the White House, Lincoln Bedroom, she is right, you can't trust the guy. He proved it.

FOSSELLA: Oh, goodness gracious. I think he -- frankly, he -- if you'll play the next part of that debate I think the viewers will know that Mr. Lazio took full responsibility for it, unlike Mrs. Clinton's explanation of her health care fiasco of seven years ago, she referred to it kiddingly almost as a learning experience, something that would not only have nationalized our health care system, but would have devastated New York hospitals, our teaching hospitals, which are really the backbone of the country.

So I think there is a core difference that when Rick Lazio perhaps made a mistake, or happened contrary to what originally intended, he took responsibility, returned the money. Now, I think New Yorkers are entitled to know whether Mrs. Clinton has refused, or will refuse to nationalize our health care system once again if she is elected to the Senate.

MATALIN: OK, let's play the oft alluded to now response to Mrs. Lazio -- or Mrs. Clinton falsely trying to impugn Congressman Lazio's integrity. Here is her -- his response.


LAZIO: Mrs. Clinton, please, no lectures from "Motel 1600" on campaign finance reform. I mean, the fact is, I took a legitimate contribution of clean, hard money.


MATALIN: You know what -- and I disagree with him for returning it. It was hard money. But let's talk about Mrs. Clinton's using the taxpayer funded White House for a personal piggy bank, over $800,000 raised from state dinners where she's invited her contributors, hundreds of more thousands of dollars from sleepovers at Camp David and the White House, and not to mention the $900,000 taxpayer funded Air Force One travel. It might be legal, James, but is it fair and is it ethical?

CARVILLE: Same thing as when anybody else runs for president, and they're the president of the United States, of course they've got to have the security. Look, I want to go back to this disagreement they are talking about. Not many people realize this, you know that Rick Lazio broke an agreement. When he walked over there to put that -- when he got all in her face like, I don't know, like some kind of 7th-grader, there was -- and Tim Russert had to go after the thing and inform press that there was an agreement that they stay by the podium. Now, this is a man who can't even keep his word on an agreement that he gave in a debate.

Now, somebody needs to give this young man a lecture about keeping your word.

Then he makes this deal, and 10 days later he's up there saying -- spending $1.4 million, which is clearly not part of the agreement. And then he said, well, it was really a side agreement that nobody could find. And then they come up and now they're saying taking he's responsibility. Well, does he take responsibility...

MATALIN: Could you -- James, James.

CARVILLE: Let me finish here.

Does he take responsibility...

MATALIN: When you make some sense, I'll let you finish.

CARVILLE: I'm make plenty sense. MATALIN: This is not -- do you really think that Mrs. Clinton has -- that people think that Lazio has lower integrity on campaign finance...

CARVILLE: Well, certainly they do.

MATALIN: ... than Mrs. Clinton does?

CARVILLE: Why -- why would he break an agreement right there, blatantly, in front of the thing? Why would he break an agreement when he agreed to stay behind his own podium other than he thinks -- I guess he must think that makes him look like some kind of a big shot or something. I mean, people are...

MATALIN: Oh, poor Mrs. Clinton, the victim.


CARVILLE: I didn't say she was a victim. Look, she beat him -- she beat him like a drum in two debates. She's not a victim.

PRESS: Congressman -- congressman...

FOSSELLA: I disagree.

PRESS: For the record, so stated.

FOSSELLA: I disagree. I think...

PRESS: So stated for the record.

Congressman, let me ask you about another issue that's come up. This morning's "Wall Street Journal" of all places had an article talking about campaign style and how hard they're working, suggesting another problem that even some Republicans are complaining about with Mr. Lazio: that he's lazy.

"The Wall Street Journal" points out that Hillary Rodham Clinton has campaigned in upstate New York over 100 days. They've hardly seen Rick Lazio. The head of the Marist poll is quoted as saying, quote, about Hillary: "She's put in her 24-7; the other guy hasn't."

I mean, is Lazio taking this thing for granted? Is he slacking off up there? What's going on?

FOSSELLA: No. I don't think -- I disagree with that. First off, let's be fair. Mrs. Clinton has been on her listening tour, "Wizard of Oz" tour for over a year and half. Correct? Rick Lazio entered this race just several months ago. So I think it's logical that Mrs. Clinton is going to have all this time to campaign, especially when you reinforce the fact that Rick Lazio was also a member of Congress and had to work in Washington -- we've been in session -- since Rick entered the race.

So I think Rick, in fairness to him, has been disadvantaged just in the number of days that he's been able to campaign. Moreover than that, this is not a campaign -- I don't think New Yorkers are concerned with form over substance; they want the substance, and I think in Rick Lazio they have it. They have a guy with a record, a guy who's committed to helping New York now and when he gets elected to the Senate, someone who's going to stand up for things that New Yorkers want, like tax cuts, improving education, improving health care, and not someone who's just going around the state, listening, and now, just a month before election, telling us what she really wants to do.

MATALIN: All right. Thank you, congressman. Thank you, James. The New York voters may want substance, but we can't stop talking about Mrs. Clinton's personal life.

More on that when we come back on CROSSFIRE. Stay with us.


MATALIN: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're post-debating the New York Senate race, the second-most closely watched in the nation.

Everyone says it's irrelevant, but they can't stop talking about Hillary Clinton's personal life. Will it make a difference to voters? In Hillary's corner, longtime Clinton family caretaker James Carville, and for Rick Lazio, fellow New York Congressman Vito Fossella -- Bill.

PRESS: Congressman Fossella, this may be an historic night. You and I may actually agree on one thing, which is that the candidates these days are behaving better than the moderators.

I'd like to replay for you, congressman, the most outrageous question of the debate yesterday, just to remind everybody. Please listen.


MARCIA KRAMER, WCBS-TV: Quite frankly, Mrs. Clinton, they wanted to know why after all the revelations and pain of the last few years, and because you are such a role model, why you stayed with your husband?


PRESS: Wouldn't you agree, congressman, that has zero to do with the U.S. Senate race, and moderators ought to stop asking that question?

FOSSELLA: Bill, I agree with you.


PRESS: Save the tape. Save the tape.

All right, now, let me see if I can get...

CARVILLE: Actually, congratulations. That was one of the best answers I've ever heard.

FOSSELLA: Thank you very much.

PRESS: Now let me see if I can get you to agree to something else, which is -- and I don't think this not a trick question. The first lady yesterday said that "a vote for Rick Lazio doesn't stand alone. People have to understand when they rote for Rick Lazio, they're also voting for Trent Lott as majority leader of the Senate, for Jessie Helms as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and for Orrin Hatch as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Agree, congressman?

FOSSELLA: I think it's a little more than that, Bill, and I think you know that. I think it's a question of ideology and views of government.

PRESS: And leaders.

FOSSELLA: I think the Republican Party in the last several -- and by extension, what policies are going to be implemented.

For example, the Republican Party stands foursquare for tax cuts. The other side does not.

When it comes to education, it calls for empowering parents and localities. The other side wants to just defend the status quo and enhance the bureaucracy. And when it comes to our defense, it means building, restoring our military. And yes, those leaders have done that.

And I don't see the problem. In the last -- in the last several years, you know, our country has grown and our economy has grown because of the Republican Party and its leaders...


... and its leaders have allowed the American people to keep a little more of their hard-earned money and understand that with enhanced productivity we're better-off.

PRESS: Some of us actually think a 1993 economic plan by Bill Clinton for which not one Republican voted has something to do with that, but I want to comeback to the question.

MATALIN: And some of us could be wrong about that.

PRESS: If Rick Lazio, as James pointed out earlier, voted 83 percent of the time with Newt Gingrich, we can bet he's going to vote 83 percent of the time with Trent Lott and Jesse Helms if he were elected, right?

FOSSELLA: You know, you referenced the '93 budget deal. I don't see Mrs. Clinton -- that includes the largest tax increase in the history of the world. That's according to Senator Moynihan. I don't see Mrs. Clinton running these days on increasing tax...

CARVILLE: Did Senator Moynihan vote for that, by the way? Congressman, did Senator Moynihan vote for the '93 budget?

FOSSELLA: The point...

CARVILLE: Answer the question. Did Senator Moynihan vote for the '93 budget? Yes or no?

FOSSELLA: That's...

CARVILLE: Yes or no. Did he vote for it?

FOSSELLA: Excuse me, Mr. Carville. Excuse me, Mr. Carville. Excuse me.

CARVILLE: I'm just asking.

MATALIN: Well, let him...

FOSSELLA: Let me finish my statement.

CARVILLE: All right.

FOSSELLA: Let me finish my response and then you can jump all over me if you like.

CARVILLE: I'm just asking you. All you've got to do is say yes or no.

FOSSELLA: The point is -- the point is that I don't see Mrs. Clinton today running on increasing taxes, which is what the '93 budget deal did. And I think it would be a huge mistake -- I would love to hear, Mr. Carville, for example, if you think Mrs. Clinton should be running on raising taxes. Do you?

CARVILLE: Let me ask you a question. Did Senator Moynihan...

FOSSELLA: Yes or no? Yes or no?

CARVILLE: Did Senator Moynihan vote for...

FOSSELLA: Yes or no?


MATALIN: Answer his question.

CARVILLE: I'm going to ask this question. Mrs. Clinton has a plan to cut taxes on the middle class. Now, answer mine. Did Senator Moynihan vote for the '93 budget?

FOSSELLA: That's...

CARVILLE: Man, you can't talk straight.


Just say, hey, hoss, yes, or hey, hoss, no. Just get it out your mouth, get it out your mouth. Come on...


Did he vote...

FOSSELLA: It's such a pleasure...

MATALIN: That is enough. You know what?

CARVILLE: What? He's just got to say it. It ain't that hard.


PRESS: Can I answer it?

MATALIN: No, no.

PRESS: Yes, yes.

MATALIN: Mrs. Clinton...

FOSSELLA: If we can get back to the...

CARVILLE: Senator Moynihan didn't vote for the '93 budget.

FOSSELLA: That's correct.

CARVILLE: He did not vote.

FOSSELLA: And you know, if we can get back to Mr. Press' question...

PRESS: Oh, no, no. We're moving on. Mary, go ahead.

MATALIN: All right. Let me -- but you know what? This exchange...


Stop! Stop! Excuse me!


PRESS: It's the congressman who's talking, Mary.

MATALIN: No. No, Bill.

PRESS: It's the congressman who's speaking.

MATALIN: It was both of them that were speaking...


MATALIN: ... and which brings me to my next topic. That exchange reminded me so much of what people do not like about the last eight years: this tactic of attacking... CARVILLE: I didn't attack anybody.

MATALIN: Well, look, this is -- you started it earlier in the show and Mrs. Clinton did in the debate, and I want to tell you -- let's listen to what Rick Lazio had to say about these old tired attack tactics that you keep doing. Play that Lazio bite.


LAZIO: If Mrs. Clinton wants to run against Newt Gingrich, she should move down to Georgia.


MATALIN: All right. Gore wants to run as his own man, she wants to run as his own woman, you want to run against something that's not even in Congress anymore.

CARVILLE: All I did is asked the man a question. Did Senator Moynihan vote for the '93 budget? He couldn't, and that's negative campaigning.

MATALIN: I'm asking you a question. And he asked you a question. Should Mrs. Clinton run on the tax increases that were in the '93 budget?

CARVILLE: She sure ought to run on the results of the '93 budget plan, and I think people (UNINTELLIGIBLE) economic thing. And she has her own tax cut, a tax cut, by the way, unlike Rick Lazio's -- a George Bush-style tax cut that's huge and would blow a hole in the deficit...

MATALIN: That would fuel the economy.

CARVILLE: ... as opposed to that. But what I don't understand is, if you ask these people, did Senator Moynihan vote for the '93 budget, they can't answer it. They get tongue-tied.

If you say, was Rick Lazio Newt Gingrich's floor leader, they can't answer it. They say, ooh, that's negative campaigning. No, it's not. I just asked him a question.

MATALIN: Well, then, you can't hear his answer if you won't shut up.

FOSSELLA: The point is as a gentleman I allow you to talk.

PRESS: Go ahead, congressman.

FOSSELLA: And I want respect in kind.

And the fact of the matter is that we run away -- I don't want to run away from what the Republican Party has done for this country. It was the one that forced the hand on welfare reform to really force President Clinton to sign welfare reform into law, to balance -- not so much to balance the budget, to control spending. Over the years, if President Clinton had his way, we'd be spending away this surplus that the American people have generated.

And I think times are good and we need to keep them going, and if we want prosperity, we need a policy that limits government spending, cuts taxes, and strengthens our defense. I think that's what Rick Lazio is all about.

PRESS: All right, congressman. Quick last word, James.

CARVILLE: Yes. The Republican record on the deficit, in 12 years, $3 trillion in debt...


CARVILLE: And when Bill Clinton took office, $270 billion per year in debt. And these guys come back and say they're going to do something about government spending. You know, sometimes, you've got to have a good humor in here when you listen to this kind of stuff.

PRESS: All right. Well, we always have a good time.

Congressman Fossella, thank you very much for joining us. Enjoy the rest of your Columbus Day holiday.

FOSSELLA: Always a pleasure. Thank you kindly.

PRESS: James, thank you very much for coming in. So...

MATALIN: Congressman, thank you. James, I'll talk to you later.


PRESS: And we'll be right back. Mary and I will be right back, sans James, for our closing comments.


MATALIN: OK. Look, she has no record for New York, she's done nothing for New York. This opportunistic candidacy of hers is going to bite her in the end.

PRESS: When?

MATALIN: And when she had a chance to do something for New York, she hurt New York with a big health care plan that would have shut down their hospitals. People are going to take that into consideration going into the voting booth. We're going to have an upset.

PRESS: Let me just tell you something: Little Ricky can't stand up to Hillary...

MATALIN: Oh, that is...

PRESS: She is a stronger -- she got off to a rocky start, I'll agree to that. But she's working harder now. She's a better candidate. And she's better on the issues. And I've got to tell you -- and she's ahead in the polls, Mary. The next senator from the state of New York. Deal with it.

MATALIN: Then why don't you treat her like an equal instead of this Little Ricky business...

PRESS: I treat her like an equal. I don't treat him like an equal.

From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

MATALIN: From the right, I'm Mary Matalin. Join us again tomorrow night for more CROSSFIRE.



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