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CNN CROSSFIRE

Should Hillary Clinton Run for President?

Aired April 29, 2003 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE, it's her party and she'll write if she wants to. Attack the president if she wants to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Unacceptable efforts by this administration to turn the clock back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: But would they ever want her to run for the White House?

And it's getting ugly on the campaign trail. Just who is qualified to be commander in chief? Today on CROSSFIRE. Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, CROSSFIRE: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. The junior senator from New York state is making quite a few noises these days. Should her fellow Democrats be excited or be running for their political lives? We'll debate that in a few moments, but first, it's our pleasure to provide you with the most exciting political briefing in television. That would be our "CROSSFIRE Political Alert."

Not long after American soldiers had liberated the Iraqi people from 30 years of Stalinist terror, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean told CNN he wasn't sure if getting rid of Saddam Hussein was such a good thing after all. A few days after that, Dean predicted that the U.S., quote, "won't always have the strongest military," which, of course is a sure thing if Dean is elected president. Within hours, Senator John Kerry's rival campaign released a statement pointing out that, quote, "no serious candidate for the presidency has ever before said something like that." Of course, Dean is not a serious candidate for the presidency, and everyone but John Kerry seems to know that.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST, CROSSFIRE: That last point is, I think, very interesting and very smart. Why does Kerry rise to debate? Well, I think it's because the report we saw on "INSIDE POLITICS WITH JUDY WOODRUFF" just before that, Dean is within five points of Kerry in New Hampshire. They're both New Englanders. It's going to be a good campaign. I think it's going to be a lot of fun to watch.

CARLSON: Yes, but he's -- that's right. I understand why they are getting spooked, but step back a little bit. He's a boutique candidate. As you said, he lives right next door to New Hampshire. He's not in the mainstream, he's not even in your mainstream at all, he's way more liberal than you are. Way more liberal, I think, most than Democratic primary voters are. He's not going to be the nominee. So if you are John Kerry, step back, take a deep breath, don't blow yourself up trying to react to this guy (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BEGALA: I like a fighter. I like any kind of fight. Even sometimes within my own party.

President Bush, of course, claims that his tax cut will create 1.4 million new jobs. But in today's "Washington Post," economists, including some who advise Mr. Bush, say that's just not true. They say, according to the "Post" today, quote: "Virtually all of the jobs created by the Bush package by 2004 would be hiring that would have happened anyway." One expert who consulted for Mr. Bush told "The Post" that over time, the Bush program would actually do more harm than good, as the deficits Mr. Bush is creating will choke off economic growth. Quoting his hero, Otter from "Animal House," Mr. Bush replied, "you screwed up. You trusted me."

CARLSON: You know, Paul, Democrats have complained from the beginning that the stock market, the stock market is down. I think everybody agrees, I'm sure you would agree, that eliminating the tax on corporate dividends would raise the S&P 500. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the same story said by 8 points now. So the down side is, interest rates might rise. Well, I've got news for you. They are going to rise anyway. They can't get any lower. Interest rates will go up no matter what happens, and that's probably not a bad thing.

BEGALA: We had a different view in the Clinton administration. We drove the job market, which improved, and then the stock market improved because people had more money. We focused on jobs, jobs, jobs. That's what this president ought to do. If he had a brain in his head, he'd follow the Clinton economic policy, and that was successful.

CARLSON: Actually, the Clinton years rode a bubble that burst.

BEGALA: That's not true. That's not true.

CARLSON: What if you ran for president and no one noticed? That's the heartbreaking position of Congressman Dick Gephardt. He finds himself in that these days. Gephardt's entire White House strategy is based on winning the Iowa caucuses, something he did when he ran the first time back in 1988. Doesn't look like that's going to happen again, however. According to a story in the Hill newspaper, Gephardt convinced just three Iowans to give him money during the first quarter of this year. Three. Total take, $1,000. That's not enough to buy Mr. Gephardt's staff a decent steak dinner. Dick Gephardt; you may not like him, but you've got to feel sorry for him.

BEGALA: Now, Tucker, as you know, but our viewers should know, way back then, 14, 15, whatever it was years ago...

CARLSON: Thirty, yes, whatever. BEGALA: When Gephardt ran in '88, I worked for him in that campaign. I went around Iowa. Now, here's how Iowa works. You don't take money out of Iowa. You pour money into Iowa. It's not a cash cow for the Democrats in Iowa. You raise your money on the coast, you raise your money in your home town, but you spend the money in Iowa.

CARLSON: Nice try. Paul, that is actually valid. I must say, you get points for coming up with that.

BEGALA: It's also true, from my experience.

CARLSON: But three donors? Because it's not just about the money. It's about the support. It's not simply, you know, if he raised $50,000 by the small donations, he would say, well, it's not much money, but he's got a lot of support. But three donors, that says it all. He's in trouble.

BEGALA: He's still -- he's still -- he's the next door neighbor to Iowa. He ran the last time, he carried Iowa. He went to all 99 counties. He's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) guy. Don't count him out yet.

CARLSON: Three voters like him.

BEGALA: Well, the Associated Press reports that EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman diverted highly trained and highly paid criminal investigators from their duties to perform personal chores, such as keeping her table at fancy restaurants, returning her husband's rental cars, all for Mrs. Whitman. Meanwhile, reports indicate high levels of a rocket fuel component, perchlorate, may be contaminating our nation's lettuce supply. Now, think about those two stories tonight as you are munching on your salad. A multimillionaire Republican is using environmental crimes investigators as her personal valets while you're eating rocket fuel.

CARLSON: I love this. She's diverting highly paid criminal investigators from their duties. Their duties are to follow her around. They're part of a, that's true, read the story, they are part of a large contingent of Secret Service officers, up to 10 of them, whose job it is to follow the EPA administrator around 24 hours a day to protect her -- from what? We have no idea. It's an outrage that she has full time Secret Service protection, or that any of these people in government do, apart from the president and vice president. It's an outrage.

BEGALA: In defense of the Secret Service, they are some of the great heroes of our government. They're not defending Christie Whitman. It's not the Secret Service. It's within the EPA, she has reassigned criminal investigators from the field who are supposed to be investigating crimes...

CARLSON: They all do it. They did it during the Clinton administration. It's outrageous. These people run around with bodyguard with guns. That's a total outrage. Your tax dollars at work.

Still to come, the fastest question and answer segment in politics. We call it "Rapid Fire."

But next, she's getting ready to peddle a book, and you won't believe what she's telling people about our current president. Stay with us for Clinton versus Bush, part two in a series. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. My friend, our hero, Hillary Rodham Clinton, wowed the Connecticut Democrats last night with a fiery speech at a fund-raiser that took in a total of $350,000, by the way. Our former first lady and the finest senator out of a group of 100 blasted the current occupant of the White House for squandering America's surplus and ruining America's economy. She said, quote, "We are unfortunately reaping the bad consequences of a wrong economic policy. They must have the most wrong-headed economic policies that we've seen since Herbert Hoover," unquote.

In the CROSSFIRE, Republican strategist Cliff May and former Clinton administration official Lynn Cutler. Thank you both.

CARLSON: Lynn Cutler, I want to ask you a pure business question here. I can understand why people would buy this book if it were an explanation of what was really going on in the White House during, say, Monica or Whitewater. But are people really going to buy this book by the hundreds of thousands to hear more banalities about children? This company spent $8 million on this book. They'll never make it back.

LYNN CUTLER, FORMER CLINTON ADVISER: First of all, Tucker, banalities about children, we have more kids going to bed hungry in this country right now than we had two and a half years ago, and we have kids getting lost in the system, and we have all kinds of problems around kids. So we can't have too many people speaking out on behalf of children.

(CROSSTALK)

CUTLER: It's not just about children. It's about her and her life. And this is one of the most admired women not only in America, but around the world. I've traveled with her. I've seen the reaction, and young girls looking at her with expressions that are quite incredible. This is one of the most admired and accomplished women of my lifetime, and I'm an old lady.

BEGALA: Well, you're not at all an old lady. The fact, Cliff, Lynn is right. The current, this year's -- every year there's a big poll of the most admired person in America. Most admired man, our president, George W. Bush. The most admired woman in America, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Now, why is it that some on the far right hate her?

Is it -- I think it's because they're guys' mothers didn't breast feed them, they liked them ad a friend of something. And they're wigged out about a woman. It's a boy-girl thing that these haters have, isn't it? CLIFF MAY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Look, I think you are right she's admired, but she's also a very polarizing figure. There's no secret. But the fact that she's admired, that's why she's the leading Democratic candidate in the race right now for president. Oh, she's not running. I'm sorry. I plum forgot.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Let me shed some light on why people have questions about Mrs. Clinton. Last night she gives a speech in Connecticut. She's an hour late, taking a page from her husband's book.

CUTLER: Oh and that's never happened to any Republican politician.

CARLSON: It has but that's, unfortunately, just the beginning. Then she tells the crowd, look, it's patriotic to disagree, to argue, to debate. So some people come into the lecture hall -- that's right. And it is. Come into the lecture hall to protest. She has them taken by force, physically by armed guards . The head of the Democratic Party in Connecticut, George Jepsen, physically removes the protesters. This is deep Stalinist irony, isn't it?

CUTLER: First of all, why do you assume that she's responsible for the removal of...

(CROSSTALK)

CUTLER: Yes it is patriotic to protest. And I think for some of us right now the best course we have is protest and raising our voices and trying to help the American people to speak out about all of the things that are going on.

BEGALA: No, but you can't give a heckler a veto, and that's what these people were trying to do. They were trying to stop her right to free speech. I mean Hillary Clinton turns up to debate everyday on the floor of the Senate and is a terrific debater, can defend her ideas.

And one of those ideas in that speech I want to ask you about, she talked about the economy. And she said, as I quoted her earlier, it's the worst economy since Herbert Hoover, and actually I disagree with her. I think that's unfair to Herbert Hoover.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Hoover inherited a mess from Calvin Coolidge. Bush inherited the strongest economy in American history from Bill Clinton.

Now, just so -- she does make a good point, even if she's unfair to Hoover, isn't it?

MAY: I think that you do understand there are certain things that have happened since Clinton left office and Bush came in. One is we're involved in a global war against terrorism. We had 9/11. During the Clinton administration we were able to take and spend the peace dividend.

I don't think even you and most Democratic candidates think, oh, let's have a peace dividend at this point. What we need is right now is a very muscular national security policy. And I would argue that any Democratic candidate who does not take that view is not going to win right now.

We need the kind of -- we need a Democrat to win who is going to be like Jack Kennedy or FDR or Truman or "Scoop" Jackson. Not frankly like Mondale or McGovern or Carter or, frankly, Clinton. Now these are men of great achievement, but we need a muscular policy.

BEGALA: Clinton was attacked for using the military too much by Dick Cheney, by the way, in the last campaign. Now you're saying he was too weak.

MAY: I'm saying -- look, we took a big peace dividend that we weren't spending on the CIA, we weren't spending on the military. I think you agree that at this point we need to spend and that's going to mean some suffering for people. That's going to mean some sacrifice.

What we have to do is while we spend on the military...

BEGALA: Cut taxes.

MAY: ... we also have to grow the economy. Let me say, grow the economy and create new jobs. If we can do those three things we win the American people.

CUTLER: Cutting taxes is going to mean that we're not going to have the funds we need for that security and for the CIA and the FBI. I mean, this is the worst idea.

CARLSON: And speaking of bad ideas, and I'm glad you used that phrase. You said a moment ago that Mrs. Clinton is one of the most accomplished people in world history or something to that effect. One of the accomplishments she's best known is for the 1993 health care debacle.

Just this last week, Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who is running for president, was asked about fellow candidate Dick Gephardt's new plan to nationalize health care, in a sense. And he said on ABC, he said, I have a problem with this -- and I'll just paraphrase -- because we tried this, Mrs. Clinton tried this in 1993, and it didn't work.

But that's what she's best known for, isn't it? Trying to screw up American health care.

CUTLER: No. And let me say that had any piece of that succeed this country would be so much better off today because millions people more are without health coverage.

CARLSON: You're defending Mrs. Clinton's health care plan? CUTLER: I am defending the concept of health care reform, which is where they were going with this before it got totally demonized by all kinds of people, and there were mistakes made. But she is so much more than that.

I mean, this is a woman who is expert in so many issues. She's now on the Armed Services Committee. She's beloved by the mayors of this nation of both parties because she has stood up for them and said, excuse me, homeland security. Why isn't this money going to local governments who have the firefighters and the police officers and oh, yes, ports? Wait until they strike at the Potomac River and tell me you think it's pork then.

BEGALA: In addition to being a former spokesman for the Republican Party, you also run a foundation called the Foundation for Defense of Democracy. Do people who are expert on terrorism think that firefighters and homeland defense is pork?

MAY: No, no, no. We need a good and strong...

BEGALA: Hillary's done a great job on that, hasn't she?

MAY: Let me suggest that she has taken a good role on this. But this is also something, to get back, that we didn't have in the previous administration. We didn't think we needed it. Now we do. It's going to require a lot of spending on whatever level you spend it at. And this again is going to be a sacrifice for the American people.

And the question is how do we pay for it? The difference I have with you on this I think that you grow the economy by leaving more money in the hands of workers and local communities, not sending the money to Washington for a lot of bureaucrats to dispense as they see fit. That's the distinction.

CARLSON: I just want you to -- maybe you can't comment on this -- but one of the controversies about Mrs. Clinton and her book coming up comes from Steve Brill, former publisher, television network founder who has a new book out about 9/11. And he claims, claimed on ABC Radio the other day, that Mrs. Clinton fabricated meetings with the -- families of people killed on 9/11. Can you comment on that? Is that true? And if it -- as a long-time defender of him, of the Clintons, why would Steve Brill say something like that?

CUTLER: Well, I certainly am not going to speak to why he would or would not. But if Mrs. Clinton met with survivors of 9/11, you better believe she did it. I mean this is a woman who...

CARLSON: So Steve Brill's then lying?

CUTLER: Well, of course. She was devastated by what happened in her city. And has worked tirelessly, as have her people, since the day of 9/11 to bring some relief to the city and to this state.

And I'll tell you to many times she's had to fight this administration to get there. And that city now is in such fiscal trouble, I'm sure you've read about it. They're having to lay off firefighters, they're having to lay off police officers. And to question her honesty or the authenticity her feeling around that event is about a bad a thing as I've seen in public life.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: ... even Jesse Helms praised Hillary's conduct as a senator. he's not part of the leftwing conspiracy, is he?

MAY: No, I don't think so. Look, Hillary Clinton is a very effective senator. And she -- but the fact that she has a book coming out, the fact that she is getting huge cheers from Democratic crowds, that she is raising money, this is going to make it very difficult for those Democrats who actually hope to be the Democratic candidate because she's overshadowing them all.

BEGALA: Interesting point, Cliff May. Very interesting point. Both of you keep your seats because when we come up next, we'll have our "Rapid Fire" segment where the answers are short, the action is fast and there are two kind of guests, the quick and the dead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's time for the quickest question and answer in television, "Rapid Fire."

So unlike the junior senator from New York, our guests cannot take two years and 576 pages to give us their side of the story. And our guests are former Clinton administration official are Lynn Cutler and Republican strategist Cliff May.

BEGALA: Cliff, one thing I love about you is you are not a hater. You're a conservative and not a hater. Tell us something you like about Hillary.

MAY: Hillary is a great advocate for all of her causes. She is very persuasive. She is very articulate. She's a formidable presence on stump and she is a very talented politician.

CARLSON: Lynn, Cutler, how many mentions of Monica Lewinsky will be in the index of this book?

CUTLER: I haven't read the book and have no interest in that topic.

BEGALA: Will other right-wingers try to stifle Hillary's right to free speech boycott stuff like they are doing to they're doing to the Dixie Chicks, who everybody should buy their CD home Dixie Chicks. Are they going to try to stifle Hillary?

MAY: I think a lot of them will be like me, we're going to wait for the movie.

CARLSON: Do you think there will be mentions of the right wing conspiracy the book? CUTLER: I certainly hope so as a person who outside the administration during the first term spent a lot of time trying to fight what was going on. You bet.

BEGALA: Is Hillary right when she says the economy was better on Bill Clinton?

MAY: Was the economy better under Bill Clinton? There is such a thing as a business cycle. They were on the -- you got me on that. That was before the tech bubble burst. We thought we were at peace with the world. We had no enemies anywhere. Clinton had great luck, and that's a wonderful thing for generals and presidents to have.

CARLSON: Lynn Cutler, does Hillary Clinton embody the values of the Democratic party?

CUTLER: I think so, yes. Absolutely. Commitment to people working. I know where you're going with this.

CARLSON: I'm just asking a question, Lynn. You answered it, yes.

CUTLER: Commitment to people having jobs. Commitment taking care of kids, feeding them, educating them. Commitment to building a strong economy. These are basic Democratic values. What was right with the Clinton years, and couldn't quite get the words out, was we had people working every day, bringing home (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BEGALA: Was Hillary Clinton right to vote for President Bush's authorization of force in Iraq?

MAY: Yes, she was right to vote for the authorization of force in Iraq and anyone who didn't vote for that is not going to be the president of the United States.

CARLSON: Lynn Cutler, speaking of the president of the United States, is Hillary Clinton going to run in 2004?

CUTLER: No.

BEGALA: The last question and the answer, absolute no, Lynn Cutler knows what she's talking about. Thank you Cliff May, Foundation of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Democracy. Lynn Cutler, my pal from the Clinton administration.

Thank you both very much.

Next "Fireback," we'll hear from a viewer who hopes my friend Tucker is ready to feast on a little shoe leather. We'll tell you why in "Fireback" stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Hey, gang. Welcome back. Time for "Fireback."

A little e-mail on our president's tax plan from Pete Chandler of Arizona who say, "The president's tax plan will not help the security of this country. Before you know it, it will be safer in Baghdad than Washington, Dick Cheney unless we start a rumor that there's oil under the Mall." Well, there we go, not a bad idea, Pete.

CARLSON: Leave it to liberals reduce liberation to oil.

Tom Page, of Syosast, New York writes about Hillary Clinton, " How does a woman who could not remember where she put her billing records, or any input on the Castle Grande project, possibly remember enough true facts to fill a whole book?"

We'll find out, Tom.

BEGALA: Of, course the Lindbergh baby. Which I know, right wingers think she kidnapped the Lindbergh baby.

(CROSSTALK)

Winifred Kelso, Ridgewood, New Jersey writes, "How long after Mr. Bush builds schools in Iraq do you think he will find the money in his budget to build and improve American school? Is it the Iraqi children he's talking about when he states, 'No child let behind'?"

CARLSON: You know, people on the left used to be idealistic and concerned with human rights around the world. Now they are not. That's small-minded and cynical, like Henry Kissinger.

Tim Barbour of Smithfield, North Carolina writes, "I hope your shoes aren't very big my friend, because Mrs. Clinton will sell a million copies of her book without any problem."

BEGALA: Well, she is going to sell a million and you will have to eat your shoes. That was a promise.

CARLSON: If this women sells a million copies, I'll eat my shoes and my tie.

BEGALA: You will?

CARLSON: Yes.

BEGALA: And your tie too?

CARLSON: Yes, and I'll enjoy it. A million copies.

BEGALA: You know what they say about guys with big shoes, they have to eat them.

CARLSON: That is what they say, I've got big shoes.

BEGALA: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hubert Jackson (ph), from Chicago. I was just wondering if Hillary Clinton were to win the White House, would she be winning on her own or riding Bill's coattails into the White House? BEGALA: We certainly know, George Bush never had anybody with the same name run for president. So that couldn't have anything to do with it. We can figure this out. We knew we were voting for the son those who did.

CARLSON: You are choosing -- forcing he me to choose between the two and you know, can't do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question is for Tucker, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from Manhattan. If the presidential election were to be held tomorrow, who would then Democratic candidate that the Republicans would least like to face?

CARLSON: Would least like to face?

That could have to be Dennis Kuchinic of Ohio, because he has in addition to all his plans, he does a mean Donald Duck imitation and the Republican candidates would -- it would get annoying after awhile.

BEGALA: Yes, sir what's your question (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Thompson (ph), from Los Angeles. Do you think in this day and age that America is ready for a woman president?

CARLSON: I think the Democratic party is ready for Hillary Clinton to run for president, and I can't wait until it nominates her.

BEGALA: I watched the Republicans and then W. George Bush attack and humiliate Elizabeth Dole when she ran. So I think the Republicans are not ready for women. I think the Democratics are. And American is run Hillary run.

CARLSON: It has nothing to do with gender. Some people are appealing to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) some people aren't appealing candidates.

BEGALA: Mrs. Dole is an appealing candidate, she won the senate race.

CARLSON: You have obviously never covered Mrs. Dole, I did, not an appealing candidate.

BEGALA: Unlikely as I am defending Mrs. Dole from the left, I'm Paul Begala.

CARLSON: And from the right I'm Tucker Carlson. Join us again tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

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