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Interview With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

Aired July 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: Is he ready for a recall?

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Listen, politics is not for the faint-hearted.

ANNOUNCER: And what could the repercussion be in next year's presidential election?

Plus, she sold a million books. Will Tucker Carlson keep his promise?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: I will, in fact, eat my shoes.



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.


There is sad news we're reporting tonight. A hush has fallen over the land of America. Hillary Clinton may have indeed sold her one millionth book. But we have many items our menu today, including a governor who may be eating crow when he loses a recall election. So, just like any good dinner party, we're going to start with the appetizers and work our way up. Here comes the best political briefing in television: our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Democratic presidential candidate and committed vegetarian Dennis Kucinich is collecting endorsements faster than you can say, meat is murder. He has already gotten nods from Gandhi's grandson, Ben & Jerry of ice cream fame, and, most impressively, from singer and future Agriculture Secretary Willie Nelson.

Now he is getting ready to roll out Granny D, the 93-year-old social activist who walked across America to promote campaign finance reform. It can only get better from here, needless to say. There's no official verification yet tonight, but sources from deep within the Kucinich campaign say the congressman may soon win the most coveted endorsement of all, that of Carrot Top. PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: But you mock Willie Nelson. Shame on you.

CARLSON: I don't mock...

BEGALA: Hey, look, I'm from Texas. In Texas, we call an atheist somebody who doesn't believe in Willie Nelson. I love Willie.

CARLSON: Any 70-year-old who smokes dope, cheats on his taxes and endorses Dennis Kucinich, hey.

BEGALA: That's your kind of guy and my kind of guy, though. I love Willie. There's a big hit song. It's one of my favorites. "What Would Willie Do?" It's a hit in Austin. A guy named Bruce Robison sings it. If Willie is for Dennis Kucinich, there's millions and millions of people who are going to follow him. You watch.

CARLSON: Look, as I have said from the very beginning, the candidates who most purely embody the spirit, the values, the ideas, such as they are, of the Democratic Party...

BEGALA: Sure. Who would they be?

CARLSON: That would be Al Sharpton, needless to say, but it's also Dennis Kucinich. And to some small extent, it's Howard Dean. And I'm glad to see all of them thriving.

BEGALA: Well, at least Willie Nelson has an excuse why he doesn't remember anything. George W. Bush, on the other hand, was speaking at a press conference today with South African President Thabo Mbeki. Mr. Bush offered today yet another rationale for his war with Iraq.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world peace. And there is no doubt in my mind, the United States, along with allies and friends, did the right thing in removing him from power.


BEGALA: So there it is. Saddam was a threat to the world peace, not a threat to the United States, which we know he was not, not a threat to use weapons of mass destruction, because we know he didn't use them, not a threat to buy uranium from Africa either, which even Mr. Bush's administration knew was false when Mr. Bush made that claim in his State of the Union address.

Sadly, no reporter traveling with the president today had the guts to ask Mr. Bush if Saddam was a threat to world peace when Dick Cheney's firm was selling him oil field equipment.

CARLSON: I personally, as I think I have said before, hope the Democrats in 2004 run on Cheney oil field equipment story, because it is just dumb enough that it won't go anywhere. However, I don't think there's any question that Saddam was a threat to world peace. Agree with the war or not, he was a major destabilizing agent in his region, the most flammable region in the world. So to say he wasn't a threat to world stability and peace, it is really hard to make that argument.

BEGALA: I didn't say he wasn't. I said he was when Mr. Bush's handpicked running mate was selling him oil field equipment. That is an outrage. And I think people ought to know that Dick Cheney sold oil equipment to Saddam Hussein.

CARLSON: That is a pure lie, as we've explained many times.


BEGALA: ... true.

CARLSON: The topic of another show.

The nanny state bites again. In a few years, all packaged foods sold in America will have to carry a large label telling you how much trans fat you're swallowing, whatever trans fat is. In announcing the change, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson promised, this is just the beginning of still more rules and regulations about nutrition claims and food labels. Soon, you are going to need a degree in the hard sciences to decipher all of the labeling on your Ho-Ho. We hope you eat Ho-Hos.

Here's an idea. Why doesn't government, for once, resist the temptation to meddle in our lives, to lecture us about what sort of snack cakes and sugar cereals we eat, and get busy doing something important, like fighting terrorism? I like that idea. You like that idea?

BEGALA: Well, I like them fighting terrorism. I think they should do it more and better.

CARLSON: Maybe they should just leave us alone and stop telling us what to eat.

BEGALA: It is very rare that I praise George W. Bush or his health and human service secretary, but they are doing the right thing here. All they are doing is giving us information. You can decide to eat that kind of poison, if you want, Tucker. And I can decide. But we ought to know.

It ought to be labeled on there for people to see. That's all that Mr. Bush is doing. And I think George W. is doing the right thing here. It's a rare


CARLSON: I am a grown man. I not in kindergarten anymore. I have a mother. I don't want another one. I don't want the federal government telling me what sort of snacks they think I ought to eat, how much trans fat. BEGALA: They're not. They're just telling you what's in it. They're making corporate America be honest and level with you about the garbage they put in the junk food that they're giving our kids.


CARLSON: They are not feeding our kids anything. We as parents are feeding our kids. Corporate America never fed my kids anything.

BEGALA: Well, Simon & Schuster, in happier news today, announced that, as you have learned earlier in the program, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former first lady, the current U.S. senator, and the most admired woman in America, according to the annual Gallup survey, has reached another milestone. As of today, Senator Clinton has sold one million copies of her wonderful memoir, "Living History."

Now, of course, we know what that means here at CROSSFIRE. It means that my friend Tucker Carlson will in fact have to eat his shoes. But Tucker needs your help, my friends. So send us your recipe for shoe leather. We'll have expert chefs whip up the best recipe for our resident gourmand. E-mail them to us here at

And, as they say in France, Tucker, bon appetit.

CARLSON: Paul, sometimes I -- and, in France, Hillary Clinton is very popular, it goes without saying.

BEGALA: And in America, too. She just sold one million books.

CARLSON: But I must say, I feel like I'm living in the Twilight Zone sometimes. She's the most admired woman in America?

BEGALA: Says the Gallup survey.

CARLSON: I don't hate Hillary Clinton. I never have hated her at all. I think she's kind of amusing, in a perverse way. But the idea that she's the most admired woman, that one million people bought her book? What kind of sick world is this, Paul?

BEGALA: It's called freedom and democracy. We love it.


BEGALA: And I think you have a secret crush on her. That's my


CARLSON: No, but you just said trans fat is a major problem in our society? I submit that Hillary Clinton selling one million books, a much bigger problem than trans fat.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BEGALA: As you know, for months, Tucker has belittled Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's chances of selling a million copies of her terrific bestselling memoir "Living History."

CARLSON: But if they make $8 million on that book, I will eat my shoes. If they sell a million copies of this book, I'll eat my shoes and my tie. I will.

BEGALA: And your tie, too?

CARLSON: Yes. And I'll enjoy it.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: I can't wait to see Tucker Carlson eat his shoes as promised, if Hillary sells one-million copies of her book. Pass the barbecue sauce, please.

BEGALA: Tucker, my friend, get ready to be munching on a little shoe leather coming up pretty soon.

CARLSON: Paul, I -- you know, I will, in fact, eat my shoes because I'm a man of my word.

BEGALA: Guess what? You're going to be eating those shoes. This is a terrific book.

CARLSON: If she sells a million copies, I will eat them. There's no chance she'll sell...

BEGALA: Two shoes for two million?

CARLSON: Two shoes for two million.


CARLSON: Five shoes for five.

CARVILLE: Oh, really. I'm going not be curious as to what sort of shoe he chooses, flip-flop or soft leather. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton...

CARLSON: Now I -- I admit it was stupid of me to say that. I've never weaseled out of anything, and I won't now.

CARVILLE: All right.

BEGALA: Well, today, Simon & Schuster announced that Senator Clinton has passed the million-book sales mark in just one month. It kind of reminds of the old prayer, "Dear Lord, make my words sweet and tender, or I may have to eat them."

Tucker, you're going to have to eat some shoe leather, brother.

CARLSON: You know, Paul, it wouldn't be the first time I've had to eat my words.

(CHEERING) BEGALA: Oh, my God! Ladies and gentlemen, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton! Welcome.


BEGALA: You brought some accoutrements there. Mrs. Clinton, thank you.

CLINTON: Well...

BEGALA: I'll be -- I'll be...

CLINTON: You know, I really -- I really want you to notice, Tucker, that this is a wingtip. It's a right-wing wingtip, and...


CLINTON: ... and I was a little worried about, you know, how you were actually going to be able to eat and digest a shoe. I didn't even know what kind you were going to choose, but...

CARLSON: Thank you.

CLINTON: So I had a friend of mine, Colette (ph), who's here somewhere from New York, do this for you because I figured you've had enough embarrassment and humiliation over this episode.

CARLSON: Yes, I have. Thank you.

CLINTON: That the least I could do was to, you know, give you something a little...

CARLSON: Well, you are awfully gracious. I appreciate that, Senator.

CLINTON: Thank you so much.

BEGALA: Now would you like to do the honors here, Senator?

CLINTON: Well, I -- really -- don't you think it's Tucker's...

BEGALA: Tucker, which piece of the shoe are you going to start with?

CARLSON: Well, obviously, the heel.


CLINTON: Here you go.


CARLSON: ... join me in...

CLINTON: Now, though I have nothing to do to help with the tie you also promised to... CARLSON: Yes, ma'am. I...

CLINTON: I'll wait and watch how you handle that.

CARLSON: Thank you. I -- I'm going to get a marzipan tie, and I think they make them.

CLINTON: Here you go.

CARLSON: And congratulations on your book selling a million copies.

CLINTON: Thank you so much.


CARLSON: I have to say I -- I didn't predict it.

CLINTON: Well, there's a lot that you've been wrong about.

BEGALA: Now were you surprised at the velocity, though? It's just a month.

CLINTON: It is just a month, right.

BEGALA: I had faith you'd sell it. I was surprised that you did hit a million in one month.

CLINTON: I was, too. I was, too. But it -- you know, it's been very exciting, and I've now probably signed probably 15,000 of them for people who've come through to see me in various places, and it's really been wonderful to hear what people have to say, and it's so positive.



CARLSON: ... who, in fact, voted for you, is a big Hillary Clinton fan, said there's no way she'll sell a million copies, and I thought if my left-wing friend thinks that, you know, I believe him.

CLINTON: That's why I...

CARLSON: ... That's why I believe one of them.

CLINTON: That's why I'm a centrist.


BEGALA: Now you inscribed -- this is the one-millionth book. The bad news, Tucker, is Bob Novak bought the one-millionth book. He wanted you to...


CLINTON: No. Actually, I said that, you know, here..

CARLSON: Well, that is so very nice.

CLINTON: Tucker, you're number one million in my book.


CARLSON: Thank you.


CARLSON: Thank you very much.

CLINTON: Thank you. Thanks, Paul.

BEGALA: Thank you, Hillary.

CLINTON: Thank you all very much.


BEGALA: Well, Tucker, our (UNINTELLIGIBLE). What do you think?

CARLSON: Well I would say that's remarkable, Paul.

BEGALA: You were surprised, really?

CARLSON: I was actually shocked. In fact my first thought was that woman looks a lot like Hillary Rodham Clinton.


BEGALA: Hillary and James Carville and I cooked this up actually weeks ago. And I'm thrilled that the staff hear at CROSSFIRE kept it a secret. It shows that liberals can be trusted with nation security secrets.


CARLSON: I'm actually shocked. I have to say. I'm glad to know I am one million in her book. That is fantastic.

BEGALA: Thanks again for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In just a minute, we'll ask a couple of guests if they know of any good shoe recipes. We may not let Tucker off the hook just yet.

While we're at it, we'll talk about the shoe leather politics out in California. Plus, Governor Gray Davis' opponents claim they've already gathered enough signatures to force a recall. My view is, if it's good for California, why not a law that let's us recall the president? We'll debate that when CROSSFIRE returns.


BEGALA: Thank you for that update, Wolf. We look forward to your report at the top of the hour.

Here at CROSSFIRE, of course, it is a red-letter day. Not only did we have Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton giving Tucker his just desserts, we have two more of (VIDEO GAP) former Republican congresswoman from New York. She's now a Republican strategist; and the president and CEO of the (VIDEO GAP) She was President Clinton's communication director and now runs the Democratic National Committee women's outreach program.

Ladies, thank you both very much.


BEGALA: Susan, I want to see what it looked like on TV. We'll go to the serious issues in a minute. You're a serious person, a former member of Congress. But, you got to admit, as a Republican, even, this is pretty good TV, wasn't it?

MOLINARI: It was great TV.

BEGALA: Can we look at it again?

MOLINARI: I just have to emphasize, I love you, but you were groveling.


BEGALA: Let's take a look. Oh, there she is.


BEGALA: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton!

CLINTON: Hello, Tucker.

CARLSON: Thank you very much.

CLINTON: You're very welcome.



CARLSON: Republicans are well-bred and well-manner. And Tucker was true to his party.

MOLINARI: But Tucker looks young anyway. And then, in this scene, he looks like he's 10 years old.


CARLSON: I almost have a 10-year-old.

(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: Hillary did not lecture him about trans fatty acid content of that or whatever those things are that we're not supposed to eat now.

MOLINARI: It was very good. It was good TV. It was. And you know what? And to get serious, it is a nice moment when, in the midst of all the partisan bickering that CNN and CROSSFIRE is particularly known for, that there's a nice moment where people do come together in human moments, which happens a lot more in Washington than TV sometimes does show.

CARLSON: Ann, let me get back to the meanness and the bickering, if I could.


CARLSON: Terry McAuliffe crossed even his own very threshold yesterday when he issued the following statement about the claim the White House had made, then retracted, about uranium cake coming from Africa -- quote -- "Either President Bush knowingly used false information in his State of the Union address or senior administration officials allowed the use of that information. This was not a mistake. It was no oversight and it was no error."

Now, Terry McAuliffe does not know that to be true. He would have no way of knowing that to be true. This is an outrageous thing to say, to allege a lie in a conspiracy when you can't prove it. Why would he say something like that?

LEWIS: What he said -- and I would think we would all want to know -- let's get to the bottom of this -- is, either someone deliberately gave the president incorrect information and said, oh, go ahead, this is so important we want to get this out, or it got covered up somewhere along the way.

Tucker, we are serious about this. You know what? This is about national security. This is about the level of intelligence our troops get. I would think we would have a bipartisan agreement here on this stage that, if American troops are going to go out there and risk their lives, we want them to get the best quality information. We want it to be candid. We want it to be real. We want to know that American policy-makers, when they make those fateful decisions about sending in our troops, do it on the basis of the best information.

This didn't happen. In the State of the Union, the president of the United States said something that was factually incorrect. People in other agencies all along the line now, the CIA and others, say, we knew it was incorrect. We want to know how that happened. So should you.

BEGALA: Doesn't this leave us, all of us, with two very bad conclusions, right? Either the president -- this is what Terry McAuliffe said. It's inarguably correct. Either the president knowingly misled us or he was a hopelessly incompetent manager of national security leading us into a war, right? Which is it? MOLINARI: You know what? That is not spoken by people -- you and Terry -- who want to get to the bottom of how we in fact solve intelligence problems that have existed throughout different presidencies of different backgrounds.

Let's face it. Let's go back. I wish I had the votes of all the Democrats that continuously defunded the intelligence agencies over the last decade to put us in this position. But you know what? If you want to get to the position that Ann wants to, where we say, what, in fact, really happened, which I think the president of the United States does, and if you really want to look at me and say, now, I think he deliberately misled the American people, put it in the State of the Union, had every U.N. Security Council member issue Resolution 1441, so that we would drum up a beat of arms inspections and weapons of mass destruction that don't exist, then I don't think we're acting in the best interests of anybody in these United States, nevertheless in the world.

That is not the appropriate reaction to what has happened today.


Now, Ann Lewis, moving to California, Governor Gray Davis totally mismanaged the state, as you know, his approval rating down to 22 percent. He's probably going to get tossed out in a recall effort. Democrats are claiming that this is a right-wing conspiracy. But, ultimately, this will be left up to the voters of California in a purely democratic process, this recall vote this fall. How can you argue with the democratic process? How are you going to spin this?

LEWIS: Here's a question. And, one, I didn't say it was a right-wing conspiracy, but I will tell you it's a right-wing power grab, because this is being funded by somebody who spends $1 million to say, I didn't like the outcome of that election last year, so I want to have another one this year.

Do we really want to live in a country where, every time someone is dissatisfied with the outcome of an election, if they can write a $1 million check, they can call their own election, no matter what it costs the voters?


LEWIS: ... do a recall. That's what's happening in California. That's what is at stake here. And it's a very important issue.


MOLINARI: ... what happened in New Jersey, where Bob Torricelli looks at a poll and says, "I'm going to lose, so I'm pulling out and we'll put somebody in," then when people sign a petition to recall a governor?


BEGALA: Well, if it's good enough for California, why not America? Would you support America having a chance to recall its president? Because I will.

MOLINARI: If there was a law that allowed for that. There was a law that came pretty close. And it was called impeachment.

BEGALA: And it disgraced your party when they tried it. I'd like to see them try it again.

MOLINARI: It did not disgrace our party. Our party was not the party disgraced on that issue, Paul.

BEGALA: Susan Molinari, former Republican congresswoman from New York state, thank you very much for joining us -- Ann Lewis, former Clinton White House communications director.

It's time now for our "Ask the Audience" question. Take out your little voting devices that we gave you at the beginning of the show. Cast your vote on this question. Should Tucker Carlson have to eat more than just the cake that Senator Clinton so graciously brought him? Press one if you say, yes, Tucker is not off the hook until he sinks his teeth into real shoe leather. Press two if, no, you think Tucker has been a good sport and satisfied his pledge by eating the cake that Senator Clinton brought him today.

We'll have the results right after the break. Tucker may also eat a little shoe, but maybe just a little more of the cake.

Stay tuned. You'll find out which.


BEGALA: Should Tucker get off just by eating a beautiful cake or should he have to eat real shoe leather?

Tucker, bad news, pal. Whoa. Three out of four Americans want you to go further. I don't know.

CARLSON: This is like the Coliseum, Paul, up, down.

BEGALA: How is it? Pretty good?

CARLSON: It's excellent, excellent.

BEGALA: And, by the way, our audience should know, Colette Peters is here, the woman who baked this cake, from Colette's Cakes on Washington Street in Manhattan.

Colette, stand up, a constituent of Senator Clinton's. Hillary is a big fan of Colette's Cakes. And now I am, too. And so is Tucker. That was just terrific. Colette, thank you very much.

Let's look at the e-mail bag here.

Gisele Bonfrager, I guess, of Kalamazoo, writes: "I sure hope Tucker has American-made shoes and eats them. By buying another pair to replace them, it would help the economy that our court-appointed president managed to mess up in such a short time." Well... CARLSON: About four different ideas in a single e-mail, none of them right.

Next up, Nancy Deveau of Saint John, Nebraska, writes: "It could be worse. You could have been in a position to eat Hillary's book. I'd rather eat my shoe and tie any day."

Good for you, Nancy. It's a solid state, Nebraska.

BEGALA: That's -- I have to say one more time, that was incredibly gracious of Senator Clinton. What do you suppose the fat content of that entire shoe is?

CARLSON: But, really, Paul, what we're looking for is the trans fat content.

BEGALA: The trans fat.

CARLSON: That's exactly right.

BEGALA: What does that mean, by the way,?

CARLSON: I haven't the faintest idea. And you know what? I'm not interested. I'll put just about anything in my mouth and I don't care what is in it. That is my No. 1 rule.

BEGALA: That is just terrific. Tucker, thank you for being such a good sport.

CARLSON: Thank you, Paul.

BEGALA: Thanks to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, our very special guest tonight.

From the left, I am Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE.


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