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Hillary Stealing the Spotlight?

Aired November 14, 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: Jefferson, Jackson, Iowa, and Hillary Clinton? They all have something in common. We go looking for ulterior motives -- today on CROSSFIRE.



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


PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is the keynote speaker and emcee for tomorrow's Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa. The senator is such a rock star, she sold thousands of tickets in just hours. Indeed, the entire arena was sold out before the tickets were even printed. She tops the Gallup poll as the most admired woman in America, but she's not running for president.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: In that case, why in the world is she stealing the spotlight from her own party's presidential candidates?

We'll debate that right after the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Throughout the 40-hour debate in the Senate, Democrats claimed they were blocking the confirmation of only, only four judges nominated by President Bush. That was a straight-out falsehood. Six judicial nominees are being blocked. In the early hours this morning, Republican Senator Rick Santorum challenged the Democrats to permit a vote on any one of the six. They would not permit majority rule, of course.

What's more, the Democrats are prepared to block confirmation of any other anti-abortion conservative nominated by the president. Why not let a majority rule? Because the left-wing special interests would lose.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: This is silly. There's 168 of these right-wing Bush judges that the Democrats in the Senate have let go -- let on the courts. I'm angry about that. They shouldn't have let any of them in, until we have a president who gets the vote of the people, not the courts. So he shouldn't be packing the courts with any kind of right-wingers, Bob.

NOVAK: You see -- you see, a patriotic American would say, the president, we only have one president. He has the right to name his judges. And for 200 years, they have had the standard that you have to find something wrong with these nominees to reject them. Your party has created a new standard.


BEGALA: That's not true. The Senate is working its will. And he has to persuade the Senate. He's not a dictator -- yet.

BEGALA: Well, "The Washington Post's" Al Kamen...


BEGALA: ... reports in his "In the Loop" column today that Fox News actually helped to choreograph that Republican gabfest which shut down the Senate for 40 hours.

Mr. Kamen prints an e-mail from a top Senate Republican aide that claims that a producer for Fox's Brit Hume requested that all 51 GOP senators walk out on the floor together at precisely 6:02 p.m., so Mr. Hume could open his show with the dramatic, if staged, footage. A spokesman for Fox denies the report. And it did not happen at 6:02, as predicted. But if it is true, maybe Fox ought to change their slogan from the hilarious, we report, you decide, to the more honest, we just make this stuff up.

NOVAK: Well, Brit..


NOVAK: Well, Brit Hume is one of the fine journalists in America. I have a great deal of respect for him. If he says he didn't do that, I believe him more than some anonymous aide.

But when you don't have any issues, you go into gossip-mongering of anonymous reports. And I'm embarrassed -- embarrassed that you're doing that, Paul.

BEGALA: This wasn't anonymous. The woman's aide -- the Senate aide's name was in the newspaper today. I didn't happen to memorize it.


NOVAK: She said a producer, a producer. She didn't even know.

BEGALA: She said and -- they named the producer. Fox denies it. The Republican Senate staffer says it's happened.

NOVAK: Well, I believe -- I believe Brit Hume. He's a good -- he's a good journalist.

BEGALA: I like Brit Hume a lot, but I also know Fox ain't on the level. So, I'm mean, which is -- Brit's a good guy.


BEGALA: He covered Clinton, I think, very fairly.

NOVAK: An event that Paul Begala and his friends never dreamed could or would happen will take place in Sacramento, California, on Monday. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator, will be sworn in as governor of California.


NOVAK: The official vote totals were announced today. And they're pretty interesting. Arnold got 48.6 percent of the votes. Conservative state Senator Tom McClintock collected 13.5 percent. Add another 1 percent cast for Republicans who had dropped out of the race. That all adds up to 63 percent GOP...


NOVAK: ... in a state supposedly locked up for the Democrats. Are the Republicans picking the Golden State lock?

BEGALA: Do you think George Bush should go out there and try to contest California?

NOVAK: Yes, I do, because -- I'll tell you one thing. He has nothing to lose. And if he wins that, forget this election. If he loses it, he can still be elected.

BEGALA: He has a lot to lose. He has a lot of time and money. I guess he has a lot of money -- to waste his time. Schwarzenegger is pro-gay rights, pro-abortion rights, pro-gun control. Bush is none of those things. I hope he spends all his time and all his money in California, because they're beat him like a borrowed mule.

NOVAK: He's...



NOVAK: He's anti-tax cut. And -- and George Bush is -- I mean, he's pro-tax cut and George Bush is pro-tax cut. And that's something the Democrats tonight realize.


NOVAK: People love tax cuts.

BEGALA: Well...

(APPLAUSE) BEGALA: President Bush, speaking of our president, has awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation's highest civilian honor, to Lord George Robertson, the secretary-general of NATO. Again, the name is Robertson, George Robertson. You figure our president's got the first name nailed, right? George. But watch him wrestle with that tongue-twister, Robertson.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Lord Robertson's (ph) leadership has been crucial to meeting these challenges. Lord Robertson's (ph) efforts and vision leave behind a legacy of effective multilateralism.


BEGALA: Robinson, Robertson, well, Secret Service agents no doubt were prepared to wrestle the president's tongue to the ground. But Lord Robertson -- and that is his name, Robertson -- graciously explained to CNN's own Wolf Blitzer, Mr. Bush didn't mispronounce his name. It was just the president's Texas accent. Well, Georgie, I am a Texan. It's not the accent. It's the ignorance.


NOVAK: I don't really know...


NOVAK: I know how hard it is for you to find something every night, Paul, on these "Political Alerts" to bash the president with. But, honestly, on that one, I don't even understand what the point is. He said it -- I understood what he said.


BEGALA: He's an embarrassment to our country. He can't name the secretary-general of NATO?

NOVAK: He named him...

BEGALA: Come on.

NOVAK: He named him perfectly.

BEGALA: He got it wrong.

NOVAK: I think it's an embarrassment to the country when people of your ilk...


NOVAK: ... go on television and bash the president of the United States.

BEGALA: He made -- I show the president on TV. He made a fool of himself, Bob.


BEGALA: He doesn't need me.

NOVAK: Most of the Democratic presidential candidates are headed to Iowa this weekend. But who is getting all the publicity for the big Jefferson-Jackson Dinner tomorrow night? Hillary Rodham Clinton. We'll look at how the senator from New York is bigfooting, overshadowing, her fellow Democrats, just ahead.

And later: Louisiana, the home of James Carville, is known for its spicy politics. We'll look at the history-making possibilities in Saturday's bayou ballot for governor.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

It's going to be a big political weekend in Iowa. The Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner is attracting six of the nine Democratic presidential candidates. And the dinner's moderator is none other than Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. No, she's not running for president in '04, but she naturally attracts attention and admiration, not to mention a crowd.

To debate what, if anything, could possibly be wrong with Senator Clinton speaking in Iowa, we're joined by Republican strategist Greg Mueller and Ann Lewis of the Democratic National Committee's Women's Vote Center.

Thanks a lot.



NOVAK: Ann Lewis, tomorrow night, at the Jeff-Jack Dinner in Iowa, Hillary Rodham Clinton will perform a political striptease.


NOVAK: Now, I said political striptease.


NOVAK: Because she's going to tease them and say, will she run for president, will she run? And, at the last minute, she says no. But what she does is, she sucks all the breath out of her own party's candidates for president. Why is she doing that?

LEWIS: Your consideration for the health of the Democratic Party is really touching. (LAUGHTER)

LEWIS: But let's be clear.

Hillary Clinton is in Iowa for one reason. The Iowa Democratic Party asked her to come. The Iowa party -- and this is a target state. They can use the resources. This is an important night for them. They said, if you come, helps make it a success. And you know what, Bob? If she hadn't come, if she don't do these kind of events, you'd be sitting there saying, oh, she's on the bench. She won't even help her own party. She doesn't want them to win.

NOVAK: Well, they...

LEWIS: She can't win, can she?

NOVAK: They want to sell tickets, because you know who the speaker for this event was last year?

LEWIS: I don't think I do.

NOVAK: It was Paul Begala.

BEGALA: It was me.


NOVAK: And they sold -- they sold nothing, see?



BEGALA: Case in point.

LEWIS: You think Hillary Clinton is a bigger draw than Paul Begala?


LEWIS: Well, that's worth a show right there.

NOVAK: So, I don't criticize them. After Begala, they want to get somebody, somebody is interested in.


NOVAK: But the problem -- the problem is, why would she do that, because she minimizes all those -- the six dwarfs on the stage?

LEWIS: Because the party asked her to come in to help raise the funds that eventually are going to be used to make sure that Iowa is in the Democratic column. It's an important Electoral College state. She has said she's going to do what she can to elect Democrats. That's the right thing to do. I'm proud of her for doing it.

BEGALA: And Greg Mueller, first...


BEGALA: ... good to see you again. Thanks for coming on the program.


BEGALA: The chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, as Ann points out, is the person who invited Hillary, because she can raise the most money and get the most attention for these Democratic issues.

But he answered, I thought quite effectively, Bob's suggestion that maybe somehow this is a move toward running for president. Here's what Gordon Fischer said, the state party chairman: "This is the penultimate statement that she is not running herself. She wouldn't come to emcee this dinner if there was a ghost of a chance that she was going to run. She will be introducing each of the candidates and will be required to say flattering things about them."

Now, that's obviously true. You're a veteran strategist. So why have you all got your panties in a wad?


But I, frankly, think it's two things going on here. No. 1, it's these party events are about fund-raising. That's why we have straw polls. That's why we have speakers. When I was with Steve Forbes, we had Margaret Thatcher in Iowa. Those things do...


BEGALA: And Steve's checkbook, which was a fund-raiser of its own.


MUELLER: It was never big enough.


MUELLER: The problem with all that, though, is that there is a calculation going on here. I mean, she brings out her book just before the process gets going. Now she's in the fever pitch of the process now. And she is coming out to Iowa, giving a big speech.

I think there's a little bit of stop-Dean going on here, Paul. And I think you got to admit it. There's been rumblings about this. There's a campaign within the campaign to stop Howard Dean, because he's taking the ticket away from the kind of power brokers of the Democratic Party.

BEGALA: But she -- she...

MUELLER: And that's a problem. BEGALA: But she wrote the book because she had a contract that obligated her to deliver it by a date, certainly. She honored her obligations, something I wish our president would do more, but he doesn't.


BEGALA: What's -- so, this time, this is all a conspiracy by Hillary against Howard Dean?


MUELLER: You're a great strategist. You know very well that if you're planning for 2008, or maybe to get elected again in 2006 in New York against maybe Rudy Giuliani, who you're now losing to by 12 points in the latest polls, you're going to get out and make yourself a national candidate.

They're doing a brilliant job of it. I'm not taking it back. I'd be doing it if I were setting somebody up to run for president soon. The problem with the Democratic Party right now, though, is, they're moving so far left, they've become the party of Mondale and McGovern, a dove on foreign policy and raising taxes back here at home. And that's trouble.

NOVAK: Let me -- let me say what's going on. And I bring forward as a witness Michael Moore, the best-selling author. He's a -- you should know him well, Ann, because you both belong to the far- left-wing conspiracy.

And in his new best-seller, No. 1 on the best-seller list, "Dude, Where's My Country?" he writes -- "Democratic leaders have told me something they will not admit in public, that they have basically written off 2004, that they see little chance of defeating George W. Bush. They would rather save their energies for 2008, when Hillary or one of their bigger marquee names, whoever the hell that may be, will run and win."

Isn't it a fact, the worst thing that could happen to Hillary is for George W. Bush to be defeated this year by anybody, any Democrat?

LEWIS: Hey, the best thing that could happen to the United States is for George W. Bush to be defeat, so we get this country going in a different direction. That's what Hillary is committed to. That's what she's working on.


LEWIS: And let me tell you, I'm -- I appreciate Greg saying that the campaign Hillary is in is for her own reelection for the Senate in 2006. That's right. She's headed towards reelection in 2006.

Meanwhile, she's going to what she can to turn this country around, because she sits there in the Senate every day and she sees the mistakes


NOVAK: Michael Moore's wrong? Michael Moore's wrong?

LEWIS: You agree with everything Michael Moore says?


LEWIS: I'd like to have that on the record.


MUELLER: We agree with that thing Michael Moore says.

BEGALA: First off, we all know President Bush's reelect in the last poll was 38 percent, so certainly not anything to brag about. It's going to be a tough race. I think he's going to lose. But let's set that aside.

There's a different poll that came out. It comes every year, has for 40, 50 years, most admired woman in America. And, almost always, it's our first lady, as I think it ought to be. I think Laura Bush is a wonderfully admirable person. This last year, Hillary Clinton actually topped the list. This is no -- no -- no diminution of Mrs. Bush, who is a delightful person and a great first lady.

But isn't that striking? That really must make you lose sleep at night, that the most admired woman in America is Hillary.


MUELLER: Oh, I don't think so. I admire you, Paul, but I wouldn't vote for you for dog catcher.



MUELLER: It doesn't necessarily convert to votes.

I mean, you got to take a look at the big picture of these things. Look, there's a lot of things to admire -- admire Hillary Clinton about. She went through, I would argue, hell in that White House with that president. I'm sorry. It must have been very -- it must have been very...


BEGALA: ... million jobs, that was hell?

MUELLER: It must have been very, very, very tough. And I think there's a lot of things to admire about people. That doesn't necessarily translate into votes.

And I would also argue, if you're going to get to 2008 and run for president, you better win reelection in New York in 2006. I think she needs to be spending more time in Rochester and Syracuse and Utica, not Des Moines.

NOVAK: Ann Lewis....


NOVAK: Speaking of polls, I want to show you a couple polls. The Quinnipiac poll shows that, for the Democratic nomination, personal sentiment -- this is just amazing -- Democrats only, Clinton 43 percent. Second is Clark. Who is Clark? Is that Joe Clark? He's dead now, isn't he?

BEGALA: He's a four-star general, the former leader of NATO. I guess Bush doesn't know his name either.



NOVAK: And then Lieberman and Gephardt, 8 percent, and then Dr. Dean and John Kerry, 7 percent. But 43 percent. That's a national poll.

Now, the Marist Poll...

LEWIS: That's the poll that had Bush losing for reelection, as I recall.


NOVAK: Forty-three, forty-three.


LEWIS: If you're quoting it as an authority, I would like all


NOVAK: Can I finish? Can I finish?

LEWIS: Please, Bob.

NOVAK: The Marist Poll in New York state, New York state only, would you like to see Hillary Rodham for president one day? That's such a vague question, not this year, not next year, not -- just some day. Yes, 35 percent. No, 58 percent. Her own New Yorkers, the people who know her...


NOVAK: ... don't want her as president. It's the other people around the country, who have no idea who she is. Isn't that it?

LEWIS: It's the people of New York who know what a good job she's doing for Senate. And she spends a lot of time in Rochester and Syracuse and Utica working. They want her to go on being their senator. I don't blame them. She's been a terrific senator. She's working hard to make a difference. She's met every commitment she made to the people of New York, including working on that upstate economy. And they'd like to continue it.


NOVAK: Does she like it in Utica?

LEWIS: She likes it in Utica and she's going to like it even better when all these plans


NOVAK: Maybe she ought to stay there, huh?

BEGALA: Let me just say, I want to bring it back to this. Let me call as my witness -- he talked about Michael Moore -- Lindsey Graham. You remember Lindsey Graham, one of the right-wing nuts who led that pathetic, failed, unconstitutional impeachment effort.


BEGALA: Here's what he said about his colleague now in the Senate -- Lindsey is now in the Senate -- his colleague Hillary.

He says: "I think all of her colleagues on both sides respect her work ethic and the way she conducts herself. People will attribute motives to her on anything she does. I feel sympathetic to her situation as a junior member with such a high-profile status. It's hard, because people get jealous. She has handled this better than I think anyone expected."


BEGALA: Pretty strong, pretty strong...


BEGALA: ... praise from a guy who is a very conservative Republican, isn't it?

MUELLER: But I that get back to the point.

I'd say that he was probably one of those people that probably voted that he admires her. I don't think Lindsey Graham would vote for her if he were running as -- if she were running in his state. I think that's the point. You guys are getting into all the personal politics. Let's look at the policies.

And, again, I get back to, the Democratic Party is not the party of Paul Begala, James Carville and Bill Clinton anymore.


BEGALA: The attacks on Hillary are rather personal. The attacks on Hillary are rather personal, aren't they, Greg?

MUELLER: Well, I don't participate in attacks on Hillary like that.

I will stick by the issues. And on issues, the Democratic Party, including Mrs. Clinton, is moving farther and farther to the left. It's no longer, the era of big government is over. It's no longer the party of ending welfare as we know it. It's no longer the party of tax cuts. They're all trying to raise taxes again. Every one of the candidates wants to raise taxes...

BEGALA: We've got to raise money for this network, though.


MUELLER: ... and surrender the flag in the war on terror.

BEGALA: We're going to take quick break. Greg, keep your seat.



BEGALA: Ann Lewis, hang on just a second.

And next in "Rapid Fire"...


BEGALA: ... I'm going ask Mr. Mueller why Hillary is the feature attraction on a Republican Web site.

But first, our "Question of the Day" relates to the traditional Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. Originally, these events were designed to honor Andrew Jackson. So who added Thomas Jefferson name to the event? Was it Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, or John F. Kennedy, three great Democratic presidents? Pick one of them. We'll have the answer for you just ahead.

And then, right after the break, Wolf Blitzer will bring us the latest on Operation Iron Hammer, as the U.S. fights back in Iraq.



NOVAK: Our audience was asked, who added the -- Jefferson to the Jackson Dinner? And you were wrong. It was not Harry Truman. It was not John Kennedy. It was good old FDR -- 22 percent.


NOVAK: So you flunk.


NOVAK: Anyway, who knows. Maybe some day, they'll be calling them the Jefferson-Jackson-Clinton Day dinners, God forbid.


NOVAK: But which Clinton? Let's give the question our super- short "Rapid Fire" treatment.

Ann Lewis, Democratic National Committee's Women's Vote Center, Republican strategist Greg Mueller.

BEGALA: Greg, as you pointed out, Hillary is up for reelection in 2006. That's a long way away. Yet, on the Republican Senate campaign Web site, on the front page, is this huge attack on Senator Clinton, of all people.

Take a look at the Republican Senatorial Committee Web page. There it is. "Stop Hillary now," a big stop sign there, huge attack on Senator Clinton. My theory is that they hate her because their mamas didn't breast-feed them. Is that right?


MUELLER: I don't know.

BEGALA: It's a psychological, woman thing, right?

MUELLER: I think it's a fund-raising thing. Did your mama breast-feed you?

BEGALA: She loved me as a friend, actually, Greg.


NOVAK: Ann Lewis, since Bill Clinton lied to the people of Arkansas and said he would not run for president in '92, isn't Hillary relieved from her promise not to run for president in 2004?

LEWIS: As I recall, Bill Clinton went around the state of Arkansas and asked people before he made the decision to run for president. And they encouraged him to go for it. When you see how much good he was able to the country, I can understand why.

BEGALA: Well, Greg, bashing Hillary didn't work in 2000, when she beat a strong Republican congressman in New York. It's not going to work in 2004, does it?

MUELLER: I don't think it has anything to do with really working in 2004. I think, again, are you saying she's running for president in 2004?

BEGALA: No, they're just bashing her for the 2004 elections.

MUELLER: I think you're overplaying the bashing. The bashing that's going on is Democrats bashing George Bush.

NOVAK: Ann...

MUELLER: You do it every day on this show, Paul.

NOVAK: Ann, would you say that she's dead meat if Rudy Giuliani runs for the Senate in 2006?

LEWIS: As you will recall, she started running off for the Senate against Rudy Giuliani.


LEWIS: You were trying to call her dead meat then. Now she's a United States senator.

BEGALA: Ann Lewis, my former colleague from the Clinton White House, now with the Democratic Party's Women's Vote Center.


MUELLER: Good to see you. You bet.

BEGALA: Greg Mueller, veteran Republican campaign strategist.

Thank you both.


BEGALA: Well, the bayou state of Louisiana is getting -- is fixin', as we would say in the South, fixin' to elect a new governor tomorrow. And I think the state's missing out on a pretty important potential celebrity candidate. I'll tell you who ought to be running Louisiana right after this.


NOVAK: Louisiana voters go to polls tomorrow to pick a new governor. The Democratic choice, Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Blanco, she would be the state's first ever woman governor. The real excitement is generated by Republican Bobby Jindal. His parents came to Louisiana from India. He would be the first Indian-American governor in U.S. history.

BEGALA: I think Kathleen Blanco, the Democrat, is closing in. Lewis just told me that before she left the set.

But here's -- in the Schwarzenegger tradition, here's who they ought to nominate. Look at this. Here's my guy for governor of Louisiana. There it is. Why not? By golly, that'd be fun.



NOVAK: Let me tell you something. Louisiana is one of the last -- is the last Democratic strongholds in the deep South. But Bobby Jindal is a star. He's going to be terrific. He's going to be a national figure.

And eat your heart out, Paul Begala.

(APPLAUSE) BEGALA: If he wins, maybe James will go home and whoop him for reelection. Go, James, go.

From the left, I'm 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.


NOVAK: And "WOLF BLITZER" is next.


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