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Will Hillary Clinton Run For President After All?

Aired June 9, 2003 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left: James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right: Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE, the book's out, and at least one review is in.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: He has read it, and he's urging everyone to buy a copy and read it.

ANNOUNCER: Is this the start of something big, like her own race for the White House?

CLINTON: That's obviously flattering, but I have a wonderful job that I am very proud to have.

ANNOUNCER: Plus, will Californians terminate their current governor and replace him with "The Terminator"? Today on CROSSFIRE.


ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.


PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Or should I call it Hillary land? The vast right-wing conspiracy must be going nuts, because everybody is talking about and praising one of their -- one of the right wing's arch enemies, my pal, my Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton from New York. We will talk about Hillary's soon to be here bestseller -- here it is again -- and here political future with an adviser to the New York senator and a top Republican strategist.

We'll have that debate in just a minute. But first, the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE Political Alert.

President Bush attacked Iraq because he said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and close links with al Qaeda's terrorists. But now he noted the Defense Intelligence Agency wrote before the war, "there is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons." "The New York Times" reported this weekend that some experts who have examined the mobile labs Mr. Bush said were intended to make weapons of mass destruction say that, in fact, they were not used for germ warfare. And the CIA in today's "New York Times" says that before the war two top al Qaeda leaders in American custody told U.S. intelligence that Osama bin Laden had rejected an alliance with Saddam Hussein. What did the President know, when did he know it, and why didn't he level with us?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Where are you going with this, Paul? Is this the Democratic attack against this popular President who won the war? Are you going to say now instead that he is an impeachable President as much as yours was? Is that what you're saying?

BEGALA: I didn't use the "I" word, Bob. You did. I was moved on Mr. Bush's book, which I picked up, and not selling as well as Hillary's. But on Mr. Bush's book, on the back cover, he has this quote from the bible. "It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful."

I want to know if Mr. Bush has been faithful to his trust and faithful to us?

NOVAK: Well you people have been searching for something and I think you think you've found it. I doubt it.

Just as "Terminator 3" is being released, its star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is making sounds again about going into the exterminating business, elected politics, running for governor of California as a Republican.

He told "Esquire" magazine, if the state needs me, and if there's no one I think is better, then I will run. Democratic Governor Gray Davis was reelected just last November, but he's so unpopular, he may be removed from office in a recall election.

And there may be so many candidates on the ballot, the best-known name may win. Governor terminator, anybody?

BEGALA: It's unbelievable. This is the conservative model now. If you lose an election, try to rig it or overturn it any way you can. Right?

Go to Florida, change the votes there. They lost in California. The people of California elected Gray Davis, and I don't care if it's Arnold Schwarzenegger or any other right wing crank. They're going to lose because people want a Democratic governor in California.

NOVAK: Oh, you're so certain they're going to lose. I'm never as sure as things as you are. But all I know is this is the liberal's dream of the -- of 80 years ago.

Hiram Johnson, the great progressive, he put this crazy system in with all this stuff. And it had 31 attempts to remove governors by recall in California. This is the one that's going to succeed.

BEGALA: Oh, well hold that tape. I don't agree with you, Bob. We'll see if your prediction holds out. White House chief of staff Andy Card has admitted that both President Bush and his top aide, Karl Rove, spoke with House Republican Leader Tom DeLay about the Texas Democrats who had fled Austin to kill a Republican redistricting scheme. Now Mr. Card says no one did anything wrong. Glad to hear that.

Mr. DeLay, however, admits to calling both the Justice Department and the FAA about the matter. But he, too, insists he did nothing wrong. Another relief there.

But, in fact, the federal government, specifically the Homeland Security Agency, was reportedly used to track down the missing Democrats. So if the Feds were used to spy on Mr. Bush's political opponents, it would be the worst abuse of federal power since J. Edgar Hoover hung up his brassiere.

They ought to get to the bottom of this. Joe Lieberman is pursuing this, and god bless him for doing it.

NOVAK: Well, Paul, I'll tell you, I think it's the worst abuse since Bill Clinton used the Internal Revenue Service to persecute and prosecute and harass his political opponents.

BEGALA: What are you talking about?

NOVAK: And I hope, Paul, that you're not taking that communist word that J. Edgar Hoover was a cross-dresser. He had a lot of problems, but not a cross-dresser.

BEGALA: He was a nut and he savaged the Constitution. And I don't think Mr. Bush is anything in the league with J. Edgar Hoover, let me be clear.

NOVAK: Well you just said that...

BEGALA: No. I said, if this is true and we need to get to the bottom of it. I'm not just going to take the White House's word for it. We ought to have an independent...

NOVAK: We've all heard about shouting matches between the Clintons inside the White House. But last night, Bill and Hillary disagreed publicly. Politely, though, on national television.

ABC's Barbara Walters asked Senator Clinton about her husband's call to change the 22nd Amendment which limits presidents to two terms. Here's Hillary's reply.


CLINTON: I'm a supporter of two terms. To make sure we don't have anyone who gets too powerful.


NOVAK: Meanwhile, at that very hour over on CBS's "60 Minutes," which had fewer viewers, former President Clinton debating Bob Dole stuck to opposing the two-term limitation. Bill, you can't run in 2008 anyway. That's Hillary's year.


BEGALA: Be careful what you wish for, Bob Novak. Be careful what you wish for. Hillary Clinton -- I've got some experience with watching Clintons beat the Bushes. And I'd like nothing better than to see another Clinton back in the White House.

But we don't know if she's ready to do that yet. In fact, she said the opposite on that Barbara Walters' interview. She said she had no plans to run.

I hope she changes her mind. I hope she runs. She'll bet the Bushes like a bad piece of meat.

NOVAK: Didn't Bill say he wasn't going to run for president?

BEGALA: Thank god he did. Thank god he ran.

NOVAK: OK. She's got the book of the day. But in a minute, we'll debate whether the junior senator from New York is really trying to be the next president of the United States.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Scores of people lined up at a Manhattan book store last night so they could buy copies of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's book, "Living History," the first moment it went on sale last night at midnight. Today, the senator herself was greeted by a crush of book buyers and reporters when she arrived for a book signing.

The frenzy of support made Democratic hearts go pitter patter and gave Republicans a little heartburn as well over the prospect of Hillary, perhaps, returning to the White House this time as president. In the CROSSFIRE to debate Mrs. Clinton's red-hot book and her political future, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, along with Democratic strategist and Hillary Clinton adviser, Mandy Grunwald.


NOVAK: Mandy Grunwald, the -- Senator Clinton was on -- was interviewed by Barbara Walters last night on ABC. Huge ratings.

Tom Shales, the distinguished critic -- television critic of "The Washington Post, " no conservative, said, among other things, and we'll put it up on the screen, "Despite obvious attempts to do otherwise... Clinton still comes across as almost chillingly chilly. She may have emotions like normal people, but she doesn't like to admit it..."

Now that isn't just an elitist opinion by a television critic, because the CNN-"USA Today" Gallup poll just taken asked, "Is Hillary Clinton power hungry?" Strongly applies, 50 percent; somewhat applies, 26 percent; does not apply, 20 percent.

Three out of four think she's power happy. This is not a good base for somebody to run for president, is it?

MANDY GRUNWALD, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, she said she's not running for president, Bob. And I guess agree. I'm biased, of course, with Tom Shales.

I think she's not chilly at all. I think she's very warm. I thought she laughed a lot and had a great sense of humor about some very tough questions.

But she is ambitious. But I think she's ambitious about issues she cares about. Issues like children and unemployment benefits and some of the work she's doing in the Senate. I think that's where her energy is focused, and I think it's clear from reading the book and it's clear from what she said in the interview.

BEGALA: Well, in fact, Alex, when I hear from my friend Mr. Novak every night saying, oh, Hillary's going to run; we want her to run, that's what you conservatives say when you're whistling past the graveyard. I hate to do this, but I do this because you're a friend and because you are about the smartest Republican in America. But the only time in your life you've made a mistake was on the topic of Hillary.

You were asked in the year 2000 about Hillary running for the Senate. Let me play you a piece of tape of genius Alex Castellanos, wrong about Hillary in the past. Here's what you said about her in 2000.


ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Last time she was on the ballot, she elected a Republican Congress. She's been tested. So to borrow a phrase from her husband, go, baby. She could be -- this is the best thing that happened to the Republican Party in a while.


BEGALA: Well, as you know, with Mandy's help, Hillary went to New York, a state she never lived in, and beat a high-quality Republican like a barred (ph) mule. Now aren't you worried that she may run for White House and beat Bush as well?


CASTELLANOS: Well, first of all, as Mandy said, you know she said she's not running for president. And since when has a Clinton not told the truth? So we have to believe her there.

BEGALA: Oh, as opposed to Bush, who just makes up stuff about going to war.

CASTELLANOS: If she's going to be president of New York I think she has a terrific shot. However, look, let's...


BEGALA: So you're going to underestimate her again, right?

CASTELLANOS: No. I think she's a tough, very cold, very calculating and efficient politician. So I think she is worthy of respect as a political animal. But let's look at why she's really doing this.

I thought Bill Clinton was the only Clinton who reinvented himself. Turns out, Hillary has -- a lot of that has rubbed off on her, too. She is a '60s leftist in the Democratic Party, has a lot of support there, but none in the middle.

So what does she do to humanize herself? She's playing the victim now. And that's the whole thing, trying to reach across the middle.


GRUNWALD: You know, I just have to say, I have a lot of respect for Alex, but that's a real cartoon view of who Hillary is. Just look at her Republican colleagues in the Senate. That's where you judge what she does.

She's introduced about 200 pieces of legislation with 36 different Republicans, including Lindsey Graham, who led the impeachment charge against her. She is a centrist who is getting work done for the people of New York.

CASTELLANOS: She's the most polarizing figure, though.

GRUNWALD: She is dedicated and relentless about it.

CASTELLANOS: But wouldn't you admit she's the most polarizing figure in the Democratic Party today? Both the Democratic Party and Republican Party use her to raise funds.

NOVAK: Mandy Grunwald, let me ask you this. A lot of people wonder why in the world she's going to all this trouble. She's going to be at Wal-Mart in Virginia in Fairfax County on Wednesday night. Can you imagine?

GRUNWALD: Bob, that's not that scary for her. It may be frightening for you, but really a lot of us have been to Wal-Mart and enjoyed the experience.

NOVAK: I'm sure you hang out there, yes. I think I've broken the code. And you're a tremendously sophisticated political strategist.

And what all this is, this idea that, well, I just didn't know that Bill was cheating on me, everybody else knew. He had this long record, and through all those bimbos. But what she was trying to do was trying to tell America, I am -- and particularly the women -- I am just another woman. I'm an ordinary person. I'm not a superwoman. She was trying to show that she was just a kind of woman that's been abused and cheated on by her husband. GRUNWALD: I think what she was doing is what every first lady has done. Betty Ford did it, Nancy Reagan did it, Barbara Bush did it. She wrote a memoir about her extraordinary time in the White House. And that's an appropriate thing to do.

NOVAK: I'm not talking about the book. I'm talking about the interview.

GRUNWALD: And to the question of what she knew and all of that, I think the truth which she told in the book is actually much more poignant than what you all accused her of. I think the fact that she didn't know and that she trusted him is actually a much more poignant thing. As a friend and someone who cares about her, boy, it would be a lot easier if it was just all some calculated -- he did a horrible thing and...

CASTELLANOS: I have a problem with that. Why does she drag all this out now? If the only reason to do this, and drag her family through it, the country through it -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) much rather leave it -- the Democratic Party through it -- the only reason here is political rehabilitation, victimization of Hillary so she can wash all this laundry before the next election.


BEGALA: Alex, by the fact that, just like every first lady in modern times, she was asked to write a book. She's paid handsomely for it. That's the market.

Now look how the market is working, by the way. Number two on, second only to "Harry Potter," which is a great phenomenon. By the way, President Bush's book, 38,518. That's what number it is as of now. So isn't that the marketplace for it? We love Hillary and we don't much like GW.

CASTELLANOS: Well, I'll tell you, I think just like "Harry Potter," summertime fiction really sells well. But here's the problem...

NOVAK: We have to take a break. I'm sorry. I hate to interrupt you.

After a quick break and Wolf Blitzer's headlines, we'll finish dealing with the Hillary for president (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in "RapidFire," where we and our guests have to keep it short. We'll also ask our audience if they're buying Hillary's story.



NOVAK: It's time for "RapidFire": short questions, no 528-page books for an answer. We're talking about the liberal's dream, Hillary for president, with Democratic strategist and Hillary adviser, Mandy Grunwald, and Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos.

BEGALA: Alex, according to the Gallup poll, who's the most admired woman in America?

CASTELLANOS: Let's see, Mother Teresa?

BEGALA: Give you a hint, Mother Teresa's in heaven.

CASTELLANOS: Mandy Grunwald?

BEGALA: Give you a hint?

CASTELLANOS: "Harry Potter."

BEGALA: Most admired woman in America.

CASTELLANOS: And also the most polarized.

NOVAK: Mandy, isn't Hillary Clinton sucking the oxygen out of the -- out of the Democratic candidates running for president?

GRUNWALD: Absolutely not. I think Dick Gephardt addressed this yesterday. And he said he was glad she was out there talking.

This is going to be a short book tour. She's got Senate duties. And there's plenty of time for the Democratic Party to get to know our presidential candidates. There are a lot of great ones.

I'm working for Joe Lieberman. I think he's the best.

BEGALA: Alex, doesn't it in fact get Hillary more supporters and admirers when your party practices politics of personal obstruction against her?

CASTELLANOS: I think she's a very polarizing figure already who has stepped into some big problems here with this book. She's making $8 million, when her publisher is really Viacom. Simon & Schuster is owned by Viacom.

If Newt Gingrich had to give the money back, she should have to give the money back. They've got tons of issues before the Senate.

NOVAK: We're going to put a picture on the screen. On the left, that young woman is Hillary Clinton. Hillary Rodham when she was a young Republican intern next to future President Gerald Ford.

She was a Republican. And where did she go wrong?

GRUNWALD: I think she got smart. She did start out as a Goldwater Republican. But I think when you look at some of the stuff that Bush is doing these days with the politics of economic destruction she was talking about today, I think she's glad to be a Democrat right now.


BEGALA: That is the last word. Mandy Grunwald, my friend and Hillary's adviser. Alex Castellanos, also my friend and a big-shot Republican. Thank you both for a fun discussion. Now all of you can see Hillary herself tomorrow night right here on CNN. She'll be the guest on "LARRY KING LIVE" Tuesday night 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I know I'll be watching. I hope you will.

Right now, though, we're going to ask our studio audience this question: Do you plan to read Hillary Clinton's book? If you do in the audience, use the little devices, press one if the answer is, yes, you're going to read it. Or press two, if the answer is, no, you're not going to read it.

If you're a Republican, press two even if you're going to burn it. We will have the results for you in just a minute, along with our Fireback, where one of our viewers wonders why George W. Bush has such a hard time finding things. Stay with us.


NOVAK: The Fireback from the audience into our question. Do you plan to read Hillary's book? Republicans, only 8 percent plan to read it. Ninety-two percent no.

But the 36 percent of the Democrats say they plan to read it, only 64 percent no. It will be a big, big best seller if 36 percent -- oh 64 percent say they will read it, I'm sorry.

Thirty-six percent say no. That's a huge thing if they're telling the truth.

BEGALA: But 92 percent of Republicans have a closed mind about it. I guess that's a point of being a Republican.

NOVAK: Well, I like (ph) a closed mind. Our first e-mail is from Edward Bass of Neenah, Wisconsin, who asks "Why is it that when Newt Gingrich (a Republican) writes a book he is vilified, but when Hillary writes one Barbara Walters and other press help sell it?" Well, Edward, this just proves that there still is a vast left-wing conspiracy in the media.

BEGALA: No, it's a terrific book, now that I've got it. Everybody read it and decide for yourselves.

Stan Deese of Signal Mountain, Tennessee, writes "Bob, my Republican neighbors are starting to howl louder and longer. Hillary's book tour has them shaking like Chihuahuas in the bobcat cage at the Washington Zoo." Isn't that part of why you guys are attacking her, because you fear her?

NOVAK: No. We're attacking her because it's fun.

OK. Don Anderson, one of our Canadian friends, a smart Canadian -- that rarity -- from Kingston, Ontario says "When Walters asked Hillary about first fitting into the Arkansas political team, instead of answering, 'I had a Northern accent,' she says, 'One of the problems was I didn't have an accent.' That says it all about a self- obsessed chameleon-like personality."

Don, you qualify to come to this country.

BEGALA: Boy, not a hater. My goodness, what a hater Mr. Anderson is.

Greg Hewitt in Brownwood, Texas, writes "Saddam had ties with al Qaeda? Saddam had nuclear capability? I still haven't seen any proof. The only proof that seems to be coming out is proof that Bush is willing to stretch the truth like a rubber band."


NOVAK: Are you writing Greg's stuff?

BEGALA: No, but I agree with him.

NOVAK: Question?

BEGALA: Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, my question's for Paul.

NOVAK: Hi. Your name?

KINNEY: My name is Dennis Kinney (ph) from Cambridge, Massachusetts. And my question is for Paul. I wanted to know if -- should Hillary profit from her husband's indiscretions?

BEGALA: Oh, she suffered from them grievously. She's got a story to tell. Excuse me for talking while you're interrupting, Mr. Novak.

She has a story to tell. Mrs. Reagan, you know, wrote a terrific book about her time in the White House and talked about how her husband was shot. Did she profit from her husband's suffering? No. She told the truth about an important part of history.

God bless Nancy Reagan for doing it. Bless Hillary, too.

NOVAK: What does it say on your shirt?


NOVAK: Indians. OK. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patrick Hanido (ph), Akron, Ohio. Mr. Novak, isn't the right's obsession with Hillary Clinton running for president a little more than deep-seeded fear and jealousy for one of the handful of Democrats who have successfully stood up to the bullies in the Republican Party?

NOVAK: Fear yes, jealousy no.

BEGALA: I think they are afraid of her. I remember, Bob, and I've talked about this before, I remember the Carter people telling me that they wanted Ronald Reagan. Just like the conservatives today say they want Hillary. Well, guess what? Reagan beat our buy bad. If Hillary ever decides to run, she'll win. From the left, I am Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.


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