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President Bush and Senator Clinton Most Admired People in America

Aired December 30, 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: If you believe the polls, he's the most admired man in America and she's the most admired woman.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America is following a new strategy.

ANNOUNCER: The ultimate split ticket. Bush and Clinton?

Plus, John Ashcroft bows out of the CIA leak probe, making way for a special prosecutor.



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


ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE, or, as you might call it today, the odd couple.

A new Gallup poll shows the most admired woman in America is Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: We'll debate whether Mrs. Clinton is, in fact, admired by all of us. She's certainly is by me, but perhaps not as much by Mr. Novak. And, of course, our president, maybe he ought be a little worried, although he's the most admired man.

But first, the best political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

Bowing to pressure, Attorney General John Ashcroft today reaccused himself from the investigation into the potentially illegal leaking of the name of an undercover CIA agent.

"The Washington Post," citing an administration official, has reported that -- quote -- "Two top White House officials disclosed the CIA agent's identity to at least six Washington journalists" -- unquote -- in order to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who, of course, is the man who blew the whistle on President Bush's false claim that Saddam Hussein had sought uranium in Africa.

Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, will now oversee the investigation. And he'll report to Mr. Ashcroft's deputy. Now, although he'll not be fully independent of John Ashcroft's Justice Department or of the Bush administration itself, Mr. Fitzgerald has a very strong record of prosecuting mafia kingpins and terrorists. So, he's well prepared to look into the leakers and liars in the Bush White House.

Good luck to Mr. Fitzgerald.


NOVAK: Paul, as you're -- as you're well aware, but perhaps some people in the audience may not be, that I have a personal interest in this.

I was the person who -- the journalist -- who printed the identity of Mr. -- Ambassador Wilson's wife. A lot of people don't understand that the morals and the ethics of journalism is that you don't reveal a source. If newsworthy information is given to you and you print it, you do not give away the name of the source. And so that's where I am. I can't really talk more about the case. But, some day, maybe I'll be able to.

BEGALA: I understand your situation, Bob.

For those of you who don't have a life and probably don't have a New Year's Eve date, have I got a deal for you. The Howard-Dean-for- president campaign is holding 1,300 fund-raising parties around the country tonight.

Now, you get to listen to a conference call with Dr. Dean and guess what? He will be introduced by none other than Al Gore. It will be a relief for Howard Dean. He is being battered by his rivals for the Democratic nomination. Senator Joe Lieberman says the good doctor will melt in a minute under Republican attack if he's nominated for president. Howard will be treated more nicely at his own parties tonight.

BEGALA: I suppose he will be. Of course, President Bush will be spending the holidays with his loved ones, the board of directors of Halliburton.


BEGALA: I think it's great that Governor Dean raises money in these small increments honestly, through the Internet. It's one of the revolutions that Howard Dean has brought to my party. And I think it's terrific.

NOVAK: What do you think about Joe Lieberman saying he'll melt in a minute? If Howard can't take a little abuse from his fellow Democrats, which is mild, is he ready for the onslaught he's going to get from the Republicans in the fall?

BEGALA: Well, there's a long debate to come and a long campaign to come. I'm not choosing up sides. I think Howard Dean is a pretty tough guy. I don't think anybody should be complaining about these primaries. I don't think they've been enough. I think they ought to fight more.


NOVAK: How about melt in a minute? Do you think he will melt in a minute?

BEGALA: No, I don't.

NOVAK: He seems to be a little unnerved, don't you think, Paul, just a little bit?

BEGALA: No, I don't like people complaining about attacks in a primary like that.


NOVAK: You never complained, did you?

BEGALA: No, not about attacks. I like attacks, by God.




BEGALA: Well, the secretary of our Homeland Security Department, that is, Tom Ridge, told CNN's Bill Hemmer this morning that our nation's terror alert level will remain high, or orange, throughout the remainder of this week.

A recent exercise showed that thousands of Americans would die if terrorists attacked us with anthrax because of the federal government's inability to deliver antibiotics quickly enough. Now, two years ago, Democratic senators and others were the targets of an anthrax attack. And yet Americans still remain highly vulnerable.

Why? Because our president has devoted trillions of dollars in your tax money for tax cuts for the rich, but only invested $29.4 billion for homeland security. But, you know, look at the bright side. You might die from anthrax, but at least you'll have the comfort of knowing that your estate won't be taxed after you're dead.

NOVAK: Well, you know, Paul, it's...


NOVAK: I'm disappointed in you. It took you almost three minutes to get the tax cuts for the rich into the program. These paper exercises, where they figure your out how we'll do in a crisis, I believe, in the paper exercise at the U.S. Naval War College, we lost World War II to the Japanese already in the paper exercises. So don't -- don't get too worried about these anthrax exercises, how they're going to work out.


NOVAK: I think we're spending a lot of money on -- on the homeland security.

General Wes Clark may not be first in peace, first in war, and first in his hearts of his countrymen, but he is the first Democratic candidate to put Bill Clinton in a campaign ad.

Let's take a look at it.


NARRATOR: What if we could have a president who, in his lifetime, has seen ordinary people do extraordinary things, because he believed in them, who was decorated for valor and for service to our country?


NOVAK: That's Bill giving Wes the Medal of Freedom.

Now, Clark, immodestly, calls him a war hero, in contrast to draft-deferred skier Howard Dean.


NOVAK: And he brings in President Clinton, who hasn't much use for the doctor from Vermont. You know, that's pretty clever for a general.

BEGALA: Well, General Clark is a war hero. He was wounded in the service of our country in Vietnam, while Lieutenant George W. Bush was AWOL from his National Guard duty.


BEGALA: All he had to do was show up and he wouldn't even do that. So if you want to talk about war records...

NOVAK: I knew you'd bring that in. But what do you think about your probable nominee, Paul, bringing in a doctor's excuse from his mother and then going into Colorado, get his 4F, and then going to Colorado to ski for a year?

BEGALA: At least he showed up for his medical. Bush didn't even show up for his medical.


BEGALA: And I want to know why. He didn't show up for duty. He didn't show up for his physical.



BEGALA: He ought to be ashamed of himself.

Well, up next, reaction to a political bombshell on that CIA leak investigation.

Also ahead, what qualities do President George W. Bush and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton share that makes them the most admired people in America?

Stay with us.


ANNOUNCER: Join Carville, Begala, Carlson and Novak in the CROSSFIRE. For free tickets to the live Washington audience, call 202-994-8CNN or e-mail us at Now you can step into the CROSSFIRE.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

We'll get to our debate about the most admired people in America in just a minute.

But first, we want to take a second to ask our guests about this afternoon's developing story, the appointment of a special counsel to take over the CIA leak probe.

Joining us in the CROSSFIRE, Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway and Ann Lewis of the Democratic National Committee's Women's Vote Center.


BEGALA: Folks, let me ask you. I'm going to start, Kellyanne, with you.

First, happy new year. Happy holidays. Good to see you.


BEGALA: Today, our attorney general, surprising me and a lot of critics, stepped aside, put what seems to be a very credible prosecutor in charge of this case.

Isn't that a suggestion, at least, that there could be some very serious criminal wrongdoing in the Bush White House?

CONWAY: It's a suggestion that this White House actually does the right thing in their administration.

It seems to me that the attorney general is applying less a political standard and more a judicial standard to this investigation, meaning, in the law, people apply the appearance-of-conflict standards, that the moment -- it's not even a smell test. It's actually the sniff or the whiff test, the moment there even looks like an appearance of impropriety. And to silence critics like you, really, we allow the investigation to go forward without the background noise of the peanut gallery.

There's no indication of wrongdoing. And those who run around saying that there are a bunch of leaks and liars in the White House, then why have the investigation at all if you've already concluded that? It's nice to see folks like you, Paul, approving of an independent counsel, when we couldn't get you to like one when Al Gore was bowing to those monks in California over that thing that you said wasn't a fund-raising, no controlling legal authority, genuflecting to raise money.

This is -- this is an area where this attorney general, unlike Janet Reno, has respectably come forward and said, I recuse myself. I'm turning this over to folks, because he may end up being a witness.

BEGALA: He may be a witness, Ann?


BEGALA: He may be a witness, the attorney general?

LEWIS: If this is about the appearance of a conflict, the time to worry about appearance of a conflict was when this investigation began.

I understand the deputy now says, well, there are facts in evidence that have come up. Well, what new facts have come up? This is about the behavior of


LEWIS: Well, here's what we already know.

This is about the behavior of senior administration officials. The attorney general, John Ashcroft, is a senior administration official. So at what point did he figure out that, whoops, I may know some of these folks? It is, in fact, according to law a felony to reveal the name of a CIA agent working undercover. We all know that that is what happened.

So, again, you want to talk about suddenly deciding we're going to make this an independent investigation after how many months? This is about locking the door, locking

CONWAY: But what was the recourse? What was the recourse?

LEWIS: The recourse was, in the beginning, to make this a separate investigation.


LEWIS: We've now just locked the door -- barn door after the horse was stolen. That horse is out there. That horse has been frolicking around in the meadow for several months.

There were foals and colts that will be around next spring...


LEWIS: ... because that horse has been out there. So I'm glad...



LEWIS: No, I'm glad they finally noticed that it would be good to have an independent investigation. But if you want to really please me -- or -- let me do it this way. If you want to be taken seriously...

CONWAY: If it's also about sex and how


BEGALA: Republicans know how to prosecute sex, Kellyanne. That's what they're good at.


BEGALA: It's things like lies and leaks that they're not very good at.


LEWIS: If it's about sex, we should spend $60 million and get to every last bit of it. But because it is about national security


CONWAY: ... tells you that her life was not put in jeopardy.

BEGALA: One at a time. Let me move on to...


LEWIS: The people who know her name, unfortunately, would be the people on the other side who care about the CIA.


NOVAK: The bell.

(CROSSTALK) LEWIS: Ann Lewis, Kellyanne, hang on just -- I want to come back to this, to our -- to the topic we brought you here for, though. And that is the issue of who is the most admired man and most admired woman in America. A new Gallup poll came out yesterday.

Mr. Novak, do you want to begin with the most admired woman in America?

NOVAK: Let me start -- the most admired woman in America is Hillary Clinton. Do you know how this -- this is done?

What they do is, they go to the voter, to the responder and they say, who is the most admired woman? Now, ordinary people don't think about that much. They say, who -- I don't know. Who could it be? Ah. Oh, yes, Hillary. This is really a dumb way to do it. Why don't they do it like say, who do you admire more, Hillary Clinton or Laura Bush?

LEWIS: Let me see if I got this right. You don't like the results of the poll, so you've started to attack the voters who got questioned.


NOVAK: No, I attack the methodology.

LEWIS: Because what they do is, they call people up and, who do you admire, people say Hillary Clinton.

If you're suggesting that they've never heard of Laura Bush or Oprah Winfrey or any of the other names that were in that poll, I'd say, on the contrary, they do know about them. And you know what people think? They like Hillary Clinton. They had admire her. They like...

NOVAK: Why don't they put all the names out, so they can vote?


LEWIS: They like her because she's someone who has been consistent on her values. This is someone who cared about children.

CONWAY: They didn't say why they liked her, so you can't spin it that way.


LEWIS: But here's what we know. We know that she's been consistent about working for children, from her days at the Children's Defense Fund, until today in the Senate, when she is out there worrying about children's health.

This is the woman who went to China and spoke up and said, you know what? Women's rights are human rights.

(CROSSTALK) LEWIS: And it is wrong to use violence against women.


LEWIS: But, now, if you're suggesting that people don't know who Hillary Clinton is or what she does, I would say the results of this poll come out very well.


NOVAK: It's the first name that came to their mind.

All I am suggesting -- I'm going to ask you a question. I've known you a long time.


NOVAK: You're a very honest person. Do you think that, if the American people were given a choice, who do you admire more, Hillary Clinton or Laura Bush, who do you think would win?

LEWIS: They're not running against each other.

CONWAY: OK. All right. All right.


LEWIS: But here -- but here is the point.

This is not the first time this has happened. In fact, they got the same results last year. And her margin has increased this year. So there is something going on, even if you don't like it.

CONWAY: Her high watermark -- Ann, high watermark -- the high watermark for Hillary Clinton and most admired woman was 1998 at 28 percent. That was the year that her husband used her like a doormat. He cheated on her. He humiliated her, which suggests to me that, when people say I admire her, when people keep saying, I admire her, they actually feel sorry for her.



BEGALA: Let me ask about this point that Ann just made, though.

A year ago, Senator Clinton was only about one or two points ahead of our very admirable first lady, Laura Bush, terrific woman, who I think is very deserving of respect and admiration. Only one or two points, was Hillary ahead. Now, she's ahead by 9 percent. She's got more than twice of the number...

CONWAY: This isn't a horse race. They have two very different jobs.

BEGALA: No, the question -- my question is, though, doesn't that suggest that the Hillary-bashing strategy of you and your friends on the kook right has failed, that the more you all attack Hillary, the more popular she gets?

CONWAY: The kook right.

No. It actually does not. At 16 percent, she's going to need to quadruple that before she can even pretend to run in 2008. The fact that people say they admire her -- and if you split it down by gender, you see there are people feeling sorry for her. That was a woman who had a very conflicted relationship with America's women until they identified with her as the victim, as someone who had been scorned by her husband, someone who had been used like yesterday's trash by her husband, left out there hanging, lied to.


CONWAY: Then they feel sorry for her. They admire her.

But I think what's really neat about the poll for both Bush and Clinton is that you don't have people in the law. You don't have people in entertainment and media. You don't have sports figures. You don't have tech giants. You don't have corporate magnates who are being most admired. They're politicians.


NOVAK: ... we had Steve Spurrier.


CONWAY: There you go.

You have politicians, actually, which really belies the fact that so many people say they don't care about politics. It suggests to me that more and more people believe that politics is such a part of our culture. They're paying attention.

NOVAK: Ann, let me talk to you about a real poll taken by the Quinnipiac this month, Quinnipiac College.

Who is your -- of Democrats only nationwide, who is your choice for president? Hillary Clinton, 43 percent. Second place, a guy named Dean, 14 percent. Now, in a real democratic process, this is the candidate of your party. That's who they want to run for president. They even don't know who this little doctor is. Why don't you run Hillary? Are you afraid?

LEWIS: Can we just point out that we now have a poll of people who were given a list of names? They put Hillary first. And now you want to complain about that one.


LEWIS: Bob, it is very hard to find a poll that pleases you.

(APPLAUSE) NOVAK: It's apples and oranges, apples and...

LEWIS: But, having said that, Hillary Clinton said, when she ran for the Senate -- and let us be clear -- she did something that very few people have done. She stepped aside from her job as first lady, went and took another job, put her name and her position and her beliefs on the line...


LEWIS: ... got elected to the -- and got elected to the Senate from New York. And she has said, she has said...


NOVAK: Did she have to spend less time with Bill when she did that? Is that



LEWIS: She was working for New York. She had said she's going to be the senator from New York for six years. That's her first job and that's her responsibility.


NOVAK: Why don't you answer my question? Why -- why don't -- are the Democrats afraid of how she'd do in a general election? She's the choice of the party.

LEWIS: She has said no so many times. She says no whenever she is out. And what she said is: I've got a job to do for the people of New York and I'm going to do it.

BEGALA: So, as much as I'd like her to run -- I think Bob probably would -- apparently, that's not going to happen.

So let's deal with the real world. The guy who is going to run for your party, of course, is our incumbent president...


BEGALA: ... since -- ever since the Supreme Court appointed him, George W. Bush.


BEGALA: He tops the list as the most admired man in America. Here, he comes in. A strong 29 percent of us say that he's the most admired man in America.

But, Kellyanne, that's down from...

CONWAY: But I like the fact that Bill Clinton is the same as the margin of error, 3 percent.


BEGALA: He's the same as the pope, too, the holy father. So I guess I wouldn't diminish the holy father either.


CONWAY: You just did.

BEGALA: No, I didn't.

The president, a couple of years ago, was at 39. Now he is down to 29. Let me suggest why, because the most admired woman in America is going after him. Here's what Hillary has said about our president.

She says, "Of all the criticism we could level against this president, the most damaging is that he has no vision for a future that will make America safer and stronger and richer and better."


NOVAK: My goodness.

BEGALA: Hillary's criticisms of our president are working, aren't they, Kellyanne?

CONWAY: Well, talk about getting richer. That piece of stuff she wrote there, or someone wrote for


BEGALA: Free enterprise system, babe. It was the top-selling book in America.


BEGALA: The No. 1 political autobiography of all time right there.

CONWAY: Paul, the fact that she actually would say, prior to Saddam Hussein being captured in his little rat hole, that we are no safer in this country under George Bush's leadership, she is in disagreement with the 84 percent of Americans who apparently doesn't make her the most admired woman.

America doesn't believe that. When you ask them, are we safer now under George Bush's leadership, do they trust him as commander in chief, yes, yes, and yes. This is why she's at only 16 percent.



BEGALA: Safer? Four hundred and seventy-five men for a war? NOVAK: Let me -- let me -- you know, Hillary Clinton did something I've never seen before. She went to -- at the end of November, she was in Iraq.

And here's what she told the troops: "Americans are wholeheartedly proud of what you," meaning the troops, "are doing, but there are many questions at home about the administration's policies."

Now, I have never in my life -- and I've been around a long time -- seen an American politician go to the troops and say, the troops -- the folks aren't behind you.

LEWIS: There's one thing you left out. She was answering a question from the troops. And, surely, Bob in the long time -- in the long time we've known each other, you have known American politicians who give honest answers to questions.


LEWIS: What Hillary said, when they asked her, how do people feel about what we're doing here, is, she said, they're very proud of you. There are some questions about the policies.


NOVAK: How do you think that makes a soldier, trooper feel?

LEWIS: How does that make the soldier feel? Well, if he's been watching CNN, if he's been reading the Internet, if he's been getting mail from his folks...


LEWIS: ... he already knew that. He knew she was leveling with them.


NOVAK: All right.

Just ahead, we'll put our guests into the "Rapid Fire." Would Hillary make a good running mate for Howard Dean?



NOVAK: It's time for "Rapid Fire," where the questions and answers come so fast, we don't have time to take a poll about what our guests say. We're talking about the screwy Gallup poll that says George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton are the most admired man and woman in America.

BEGALA: Kellyanne Conway, welcome back, and Ann Lewis.

Kellyanne, the names of the most admired men, the list includes a lot of names. The second most admired man, behind our president, is Secretary of State Colin Powell. But nowhere on this long list, which includes Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Gates, Billy Graham, Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair, does the name Dick Cheney appear. Should George Bush dump Cheney and put Colin Powell in there, somebody we can all admire?

CONWAY: No, because it's not a popularity contest. This vice president has done what most vice presidents should do, which is...

BEGALA: Lied his butt off.

CONWAY: No. No, not at all.

Do his job, stay in the background, and not worry about the next political ambition. Look at what Al Gore did. It didn't pay off for him to try and be out there out front: I invented the Internet. I'm goofy.


CONWAY: And then he lost the presidency.

BEGALA: He won.

NOVAK: Ann -- Ann Lewis, since Hillary did not make a promise about not running for vice president, what about a ticket for Dean for president, Hillary for vice president? How does that strike you?

LEWIS: She said, again, that she was going to be the senator for six years. Now, you know, the presidential candidate is going to make that decision, but I just have to say, I'd be surprised.

CONWAY: I'd be thrilled. Let's raise money.


BEGALA: Pointed out Hillary's book, "Living History," still available for the New Year's.


BEGALA: Hillary Rodham Clinton, the best-selling political autobiography ever. She's -- the only other person I've seen recently who has been named the most admired woman who wasn't the first lady, Mother Teresa. Don't you think she and Hillary have a lot in common?



CONWAY: I think that you couldn't even keep -- he couldn't keep from laughing. That is very funny and actually a disgrace to the memory of Mother Teresa.



NOVAK: Ann Lewis, how about Al Gore? I didn't see his name on the list. Is he with Dick Cheney or something? I didn't see -- no admiration for Al Gore?

LEWIS: Well, you know, once you endorse another candidate for president, you've pretty well announced that you've stepped off the public stage. I think Al Gore is doing what he thinks is in the best interests of this country, which is trying to elect another Democratic president. Let's go in the right direction.

CONWAY: He doesn't even have a day job yet. I think the guy should get a day job.



BEGALA: Is there anything you admire about Hillary Rodham Clinton?

CONWAY: Yes, her ability to be existential, to believe in something for that moment all the time.


NOVAK: What do you admire about George W.?


NOVAK: Quickly.

LEWIS: Oh, I think he has great political skills and he's been underestimated before. We won't make that mistake again.

NOVAK: All right, Kellyanne Conway, thank you very much.

CONWAY: Thank you.

NOVAK: Ann Lewis, thank you.


NOVAK: Up next, just when is a candidate too sexy to be president?


NOVAK: Trial lawyer and lame-duck Senator John Edwards of North Carolina is having trouble on the presidential campaign trail. So he'll use just about any argument to convince people to vote for him.

But you won't believe this one. In a "Jane" magazine quote, picked up the -- "The Washington Post," Edwards says there's only one candidate who was named sexiest politician by "People" magazine and it's not Howard Dean. Edwards was the magazine's sexiest politician in 2000. See how far that got him. And this year, "People" named James Carville -- can you believe this -- as one of the sexiest men alive.


NOVAK: You've got to wonder about those editors.


BEGALA: Well, there's a picture of James. Let's put that back up. He's a sexy man.

NOVAK: Yes, he really is.

BEGALA: Maybe John Edwards should shave his head -- and that's a great shot of James. Clearly, Mary thinks he's sexy.


NOVAK: What do you think about John Edwards saying he's sexier than Dean and that's an advantage? What do you think?

BEGALA: I'm not a very good judge of men's sex appeal. But...


BEGALA: But I think that they ought to get down to the issues. Edwards -- the first vote hasn't even been cast. And I don't think they ought to be worrying about who is sexy or who is cool. They ought to go say who has got a better plan than George Bush, who cost us three million jobs and he's got 475 of us killed in Iraq and the rest of the disaster he's brought to the country.

NOVAK: One of the great presidents was Calvin Coolidge. And nobody ever called him sexy.


BEGALA: Calvin Coolidge. Bill Clinton was mighty sexy, but also a great president. So maybe that's what need in the White House.

BEGALA: 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.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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