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2008: Year of the Woman Candidate?

Aired February 23, 2005 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, Paul Begala; on the right, Bay Buchanan.

In the CROSSFIRE: Is it time for a woman in the Oval Office? A growing number of Americans say they would vote for a woman as president. And another new poll shows Hillary Clinton leading the Democratic field. On the Republican side, there's buzz over another well-known possible candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Condoleezza will lead us, brother.

ANNOUNCER: A group of conservatives want to draft Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to run for president. Will 2008 be the year of the woman candidate?



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington, Paul Begala and Bay Buchanan.


PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello and welcome to CROSSFIRE.

The calendar may say it's 2005, but you can't always trust your calendar, because an amazing number of politicians are already running like it's 2008. We'll have the results of recent polls that handicap the 2008 presidential election, because, here at CNN, we believe it's never too early to encage in meaningless speculation.

Joining me today with some very meaningful insights from the right, the president of the American Cause, Bay Buchanan.

Bay, welcome back. Good to see you.

BAY BUCHANAN, GUEST CO-HOST: Always good to be with you, Paul.

BEGALA: And we'll begin, as we always do, with the best little political briefing in television, the CROSSFIRE "Politics Alert."

BUCHANAN: President Bush met today in Germany with a critic of his Iraq policy, Chancellor Schroeder. Earlier, he met with another critic, French President Chirac. Both warmed up to the president's efforts to improve relations.

That, along with European Union and NATO increasing their efforts in Iraq, it has been a particularly successful trip for the president. Why the change of heart among these leaders, who desperately wanted the president defeated only last November? It may be that they realize the cowboy was the only game in town for another four years or it could be that the election last month in Iraq. Even these hardened souls had to be impressed by that.

Or maybe it was just the president's personal charm that won them over. Whatever it was, this much is very clear. We didn't need a new president to reestablish relations with Europe, as Democrats suggested, only a few days with the old one -- Paul.

BEGALA: Well, Bay, let me inject a little realism to your triumphalism. How many Germans are coming to Iraq now? Zero. Nein, I think they say in German. Not the number nine, zero. How many Frenchmen? One. How many Americans? One hundred and fifty thousand. And one lonely Frenchman? I think that's an astonish failure on the part of the president.

Our soldiers needs allies. And our soldiers need a president who can get them. And this president failed. And he ought to be ashamed of himself.



BUCHANAN: That's ridiculous. That's utterly ridiculous. You don't even want to admit when he's successful. But he was.

BEGALA: Well, right-wing Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania never been a big fan of Social Security. He once called for raising the retirement age to at least 70 and maybe beyond.

And he supports President Bush's plan to privatize part of Social Security, which, of course, would require borrowing $2 trillion, cutting benefits and replacing Social Security's guaranteed benefit with guaranteed fees for Wall Street stockbrokers.

So, yesterday, in Philadelphia, Senator Rick Santorum tried to sell Social Security privatization to his constituents. Perhaps knowing that most Pennsylvanians opposed privatizing Social Security, Santorum's supporters came up with a catchy chant that summarizes Santorum's position perfectly.


CROWD: Hey, hey, ho, ho, Social Security has got to go. Hey, hey, ho, ho, Social Security has got to go.


BEGALA: Hey, hey, ho, ho, Social Security has got to go? No, I think, in 2006, Pennsylvania is going to be saying, hey, ho, ho, Rick Santorum has got to go.

That's ridiculous, Bay. They hate Social Security.

BUCHANAN: The young people who are chanting that, those are young Democrats and Republicans. Look, the young people are very much for this privatization. And you should know. Clinton's own -- Clinton himself said there's three ways to solve this, cut -- raise taxes, cut the benefits or privatization. What's your answer?



BUCHANAN: You only know what you're against.

BEGALA: What he did was cut the deficit. He removed the deficit. That changed everything.


BEGALA: Social Security is fine.

BUCHANAN: What is your answer?


BEGALA: Get rid of Mr. Santorum and have retirement security.

BUCHANAN: That will save Social Security.

The judge's order to block the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was set to expire in just moments, but a judge just extended it another 48 hours. Schiavo suffered heart failure 15 years ago, which left her severely brain-damaged. She breathes on her own, but needs nutrition and hydration from the tube to stay alive.

Her husband says she can't recover and wants to remove the tube. But Terri's parents believe their daughter, who appears to laugh and cry and react to them, can improve with therapy. These good people want to do -- want to give their disabled child all the love, care and, yes, dignity that she so deserves.

But the Florida woman's husband instead wants to force her parents to sit by and watch their daughter starve to death. It is inexplicable to me why this man, who has started a new life with another woman, can't find it in his heart to give Terri back to those who still love her.

BEGALA: Well, Bay, that was beautifully put. This is a terrible, tragic story. I think, if there's a lesson more generally for those of us who are not in that terribly stricken family, is that we ought to think these things through. People ought to leave a living will. They ought to think about their medical conditions.

And Terri Schiavo was a young woman, but that can happen to anybody. And my only lesson from this is, we all ought to think these things through with the ones we love. Clearly, her husband loved her. Clearly, her parents loved her.


BEGALA: And now it's just a heartbreaking story.

BUCHANAN: But to go to the courts for this, when somebody is there ready to take care of her be with her...


BUCHANAN: ... and not put any burden on the husband, it just doesn't make any sense to me.

BEGALA: A heartbreaking story.

Well, on a lighter note, thank God for the radical right. While some faith leaders are focused on caring for the poor, trying to stop war, maybe teaching us to love our neighbors as ourselves, the right- wing Republicans are more concerned with -- get this -- gay cartoon characters.

Our old friend Reverend Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition is warning parents not to let their children see the cartoon "Shrek 2" because of an evil bartender who in the film is changing from being a man to a woman. Reverend Lou also doesn't like the scene in which Pinocchio's nose grows when he denies wearing women's underwear.

So, add the evil bartender and Pinocchio to Tinky-Winky, Peppermint Patty, Marge Simpson's sister, SpongeBob SquarePants, even Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie, all of them ink-stained threats to the American family. By the way, the evil bartender's voice belongs to our own beloved Larry King of CNN, who...


BEGALA: ... by the way, is most definitely straight, despite that famous on air-kiss with Marlon Brando.

BUCHANAN: You don't really let your kids play with Tinky Winky toys, do you?


BEGALA: I don't like Tinky Winky, but I love "Shrek." And, yes, my kids saw "Shrek."


BUCHANAN: I have got both the movies.

BEGALA: It's great.

BUCHANAN: They're excellent movies. I have to go back to see them to be -- to realize that I must have overlooked this frightening aspect of the bartender. (LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: I do wish that my friends in the conservative ministry would talk more about the poor and the war...


BEGALA: ... and things of real social justice and religious consequence.

BUCHANAN: I'm probably going to get phone calls for laughing at that and not being very serious.

But now -- and we're going to take a look at 2008. Is it going to be the year of the woman candidate? Next, we'll debate some of the names being tossed around for the next presidential run, including a possible Hillary Clinton run and Condoleezza Rice. What a matchup that would be.

And is Ross Perot ready for a political comeback? We'll tell you which one of the congressmen say he's needed. We'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: Join Carville, Begala and Novak in the CROSSFIRE. For free tickets to CROSSFIRE at the George Washington University, call 202-994-8CNN or visit our Web site. Now you can step into the CROSSFIRE.



BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

A new poll earlier this week echoed results from previous surveys that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is leading all potential Democratic presidential candidates in the 2008 presidential race, which, of course, does not exist. But a straw poll at a right-wing political conference last week had a rather surprising result for the conservatives. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in a virtual tie for first place among the conservative activists surveyed.

The fact that both Senator Clinton and Dr. Rice already have important jobs which probably prevents them from doing very much jockeying for a presidential race three years away, so we'll do it for them.

Today in the CROSSFIRE, Republican pollster and consultant Tony Fabrizio and Democratic strategist Vic Kamber -- Bay.



BUCHANAN: I can see that you have already used that hand to beat up some Republicans, so I hope we're safe here today.

KAMBER: It's for sympathy. I want you to be gentle with me today, Bay.


BUCHANAN: Listen, we're hearing a lot about a possibility of a woman being on top of one of the tickets; 62 percent of the people in a recent poll now say that they are ready to have that happen.

It seems to me, though, that same poll suggests that the reason they think women will be strong, the issues are education and health, which are not two issues that usually run strong in a presidential campaign. You usually have security or the economy. Do you think, as a political consultant, that women right now, possibly '08, would have a good strong possibility a winning a presidential campaign?

KAMBER: I absolutely do. And have I believed it for a while. I don't think it's just '08.

I think that this country has been ready. The world has had women leaders. Some of the major countries, as we know, in the world, India, Israel, etcetera, had women leaders far before us. I think the issue is, have we had the quality of leadership and the kind of women? I think both parties, frankly, are blessed with several women who could lead this country and lead it very well.

BEGALA: In fact, Tony, you conducted a survey at the Conservative Political Action Conference.


BEGALA: CPAC, which is a collection of absolute mouth-breathing kook right, rabies-shot...


FABRIZIO: Normal, mainstream Americans.

BEGALA: OK. Anyway...

BUCHANAN: My brother was there.

FABRIZIO: That's exactly right.

BEGALA: There we go, Patrick Buchanan, one of the stars of the conference.


BEGALA: But they are good people. And they are great Americans. And they had an interesting -- I thought, very interesting result that you found. And let me put some of the results up there. These are among the most conservative activists in the country.

At the top of the list, Rudy Giuliani and almost tied, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. And then it drops way down to George Allen, the conservative senator, Republican, from Virginia, John McCain, a perennial Republican favorite. And then way down at 5 percent is my own favorite Republican, Newt Gingrich.



BEGALA: Let me ask you, what is it that these activists see in Dr. Rice? Is it the lies she told about the war or the incompetence she showed in the reconstruction? Which is more appealing?


FABRIZIO: I think it's -- I think it's -- I think it's the strength Dr. Rice shows.

I think Dr. Rice...

BEGALA: Takes a strong woman to lie a country into a war. That should be her slogan.

FABRIZIO: No, no, it takes a strong woman to lead a country. And I think Dr. Rice projects that...


BEGALA: To mislead a country.

FABRIZIO: No, to lead a country, Paul. Bill Clinton misled a country.


BEGALA: About his zipper, not about a war.

FABRIZIO: Well, you know, he still misled them.

But the point is, is that Dr. Rice is seen as a strong leader. And, you know, you need to go back and think about, like, Jeane Kirkpatrick. You remember, Jeane Kirkpatrick, there was a boomlet for Jeane Kirkpatrick, too, because of her foreign policy credentials, the strength...


BEGALA: This was President Reagan's ambassador to the United Nations.

FABRIZIO: Exactly. Exactly.

BEGALA: A very strong woman.


FABRIZIO: And we're seeing the same thing here. But the interesting thing about both parties is, is that, on the Republican side, when you look at the top two here, at least from the CPAC straw poll, it's, Republicans really don't know what they are buying yet, or conservatives really don't know what they are buying yet, because no one really knows what Dr. Rice's positions are on a whole myriad of issues.

BEGALA: Good point.

FABRIZIO: And definitely Mayor Giuliani, there are a number of issues where he's in direct contrast to the mainstream of the Republican Party, whereas, on the Democratic side, when you look at Senator Clinton, you know, the party knows her. The base of the party knows her. They know what they are buying with Hillary Clinton. On the Republican side, not so much.

BUCHANAN: Yes, but what is interesting on the Republican side is both -- what they do know about those top two people, Rudy and Dr. Rice, is that they are strong on security.

KAMBER: Absolutely. Absolutely.

BUCHANAN: And that's what they are responding to.

KAMBER: Absolutely.


BUCHANAN: That's what Hillary does not have.

KAMBER: Or they known names. Or they known names. They are responding just to a name.

BUCHANAN: There's a possibility there. But -- yes, but both of them -- there's other names up there, and these two seemed to have hopped up on the top.

But let's go back to Hillary, OK? Her name is being tossed out there. What are three, four years -- three years away from an election. There is real value in not surfacing until maybe 18 months, two years out, and be kind of fresh and new. Isn't this harmful to Hillary, to have her name out this early, for people to talk about it? Like, three years from now, we're going to be saying, oh, not her. Gee, we have been hearing about her for years.

KAMBER: Well, I don't -- I think that, three years from now, we're going to be saying Madam President.


KAMBER: And it's going to be Madam Clinton President.


BUCHANAN: Are you taking a lot of drugs on...



KAMBER: Having said that, I think that the reality is, today, if you are running for president in 2008, you had to start now. Do you want to be the front-runner always from now, to be the shotgun that people shoot at? Probably not. You would rather not be up front.

But the reality -- to put the list together, to be able to raise $25 to $30 million, which is going to be probably the starting gate for the primary process, to understand the whole process of the election, anyone who has thought about it has to have started by now.

BUCHANAN: All right, let me just follow up on the Hillary note. You have Democrats around on the red states, the governors out there. And one of them from Oklahoma actually said, listen, our problem is, Republicans keep putting -- defining us as Hillary Democrats or Kerry Democrats or Kennedy Democrats. That hurts us out here.

How can, then, Hillary go into the red states when, actually, Democrats say she is harmful out there?

KAMBER: Well, I mean, there are several states -- while I believe in a 50-state strategy, I'm sure there are several states, Idaho, Utah, that Democrats aren't going to carry, in the same way I believe -- I don't care who you nominate -- you are not going to carry New York. You are not going to carry California with whoever you nominate, including Ms. Rice or Giuliani.

So, I think there's some reality there. The question is the Missouris, the Ohios, those battleground states that will make a difference.


BUCHANAN: ... take Clinton there?

FABRIZIO: I would -- I would -- no, no, no. The thing I would point out is, is that Hillary Clinton has already started positioning herself not for the primary challenge in 2008, but for the general election.

And so she knows that the base of the Democratic Party is with her. The question is, who is going to pop up and how she evades whoever pops up to be her ultimate challenger, if she decides to run. And she is already moving to the center or trying to reposition herself towards the center with an eye towards the general election in 2008.

BEGALA: But one of the things I think has surprised some observers, of course, as first lady, she didn't have a voice in national security and foreign policy. Now she is a senator and she's on the Armed Services Committee.

The few times she did speak out, for example, she went to China and took on the communist dictatorship in their own country and spoke out for human rights against the communist dictators, showing a streak of a bit of hawkishness, perhaps. And there's no stronger defender of America, I would suggest, than Senator John McCain. Himself, he suffered grievously in a POW camp when he was in the Navy. He now, in the Senate, has always been a leader on national security.

And Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" this past weekend asked Senator McCain if he thought Hillary was up to the job. And here's Senator McCain said.


TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Senator McCain, a serious question: Do you think the lady to your right would make a good president?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Oh, we can't hear you, Tim. We can't hear you.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: You're breaking up.


MCCAIN: I am sure that Senator Clinton would make a good president.


FABRIZIO: What do you expect him to say?



BEGALA: I'm sure, too.


BEGALA: He believed -- John McCain was not afraid to say he thought George Bush would make a bad president when he was running against George Bush. He's a courageous man. He would have spoken out if he thought Hillary was not strong enough, wouldn't he?

FABRIZIO: I think he was put on the spot. I think that was a very embarrassing situation.

KAMBER: No, but, Paul, you said something. Let me just follow up.

Senator Clinton hasn't changed her position on...

BEGALA: Right.

KAMBER: ... military or strength of the country. We didn't know her positions before.

BEGALA: Right. She revealed them. KAMBER: And that's really the issue. While she has been in the Senate and been on the Armed Services Committee, she has been able to expose herself to a whole series of issues and knowledge.


BEGALA: I'm sorry. We're going to have...

FABRIZIO: I think this is a fundamentally different Hillary Clinton than 1993.

KAMBER: Oh, I don't believe...


FABRIZIO: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

BEGALA: We are going to have to put that on hold.


BUCHANAN: She is in motion. You've got to admit that. She is in real motion...


BEGALA: No. These are views that I knew privately from having talked to her for the last 10 or 15 years. But she...



BEGALA: Yes. We'll do that in the next segment. Hang on just a second.

Just ahead, what about a Hillary-Rudy matchup in '08? Who do you think would win that one? We've got some poll data to show you.

And why is President Bush delivering a warning about China to Europe's leaders? Wolf Blitzer will give us the details just ahead.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, President Bush warns that lifting the ban of arm sales to China could threaten Taiwan. Is Europe listening?

Did the Harvard president, Lawrence Summers, go too far in his comments about women, math and science? We'll hear from both sides, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz and criminal defense attorney Wendy Murphy.

And love her or hate here, Martha Stewart is ready to try a comeback beginning next week.

All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

BUCHANAN: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.


BUCHANAN: Recent polls are suggesting some interesting choices for 2008. Do people really want Al Gore to run again? Maybe some of us do.

Let's get back to our look ahead. Let's get back to our look ahead. Still with us, Democratic strategist Vic Kamber and Republican consultant Tony Fabrizio.

BEGALA: Tony, there's an interesting poll out in New York, where Hillary Clinton is a senator. Rudy Giuliani was the popular, successful mayor of that city, New York City. And Rudy is at the top of your poll for Republicans. Hillary at the top of the poll for Democrats. Let's match them both up in their home state. It ain't a pretty sight for your party.

Here is my hero, Hillary Clinton, trouncing Rudy Giuliani, beating him like a bad piece of meat.

FABRIZIO: Hardly trouncing.

BEGALA: Nine points...

BUCHANAN: She's the incumbent.

BEGALA: ... in a state where there's a Republican governor, Republican mayor, Republican state Senate?

FABRIZIO: No, no, no.


BEGALA: Hillary is beating him like a barred mule.

FABRIZIO: Hardly, hardly trouncing him.


BEGALA: As they say in New York.

FABRIZIO: Hardly trouncing him.

How much did John Kerry win New York by? A lot more than nine points.

BEGALA: So you're happy to see your leading contender unable to carry his home state? (CROSSTALK)

FABRIZIO: Let's put it this way.

BEGALA: He doesn't carry his own state.

FABRIZIO: I am happy -- I am happy in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 20-plus percent to only be nine points down against the reigning queen of the Democratic Party.



BUCHANAN: Your position is, Hillary can't be beat if she chooses to run in '08.

KAMBER: No, I don't think anything -- you say you can't be beat. But I think today, she's the front-runner, clearly.

BUCHANAN: But it's obviously in strong. If she chooses not to run, who beats her?

KAMBER: Well, if she chooses not to run, one of the things, I think the Democratic Party is blessed with a number of quality candidates.


BUCHANAN: Gore and Kerry at the top?

KAMBER: No question about them. Joe Biden, Tom Vilsack, Bill Richardson, Mark Warner, Governor...


BUCHANAN: Who wins in that race?

KAMBER: Well, I think then it becomes all a matter of organization, money.


KAMBER: Organizing, money. What are the issues?

BUCHANAN: It could take three years to figure that out.

KAMBER: What are the issues at that point in time?

Again, I think probably John Kerry would jump to the front today based on name I.D. and so forth. But I would probably put some money on Biden or Mark Warner as probably the sleepers.

FABRIZIO: These guys are going to try to stretch the Democratic Party like a rubber band, because you are going to have guys running far to the left to try to recapture the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. And you are going to have guys that are trying to be Republican-light, thinking that's the way you win.

And what is going to happen is, they are just going to keep on stretching and stretching and stretching until they snap that rubber band.

KAMBER: You know, you are talking as if we were a minority party of such minority. We lost by three million votes, 49 percent in the general election, the election before, 49 percent. This country is split. And, frankly, a good solid candidate will win this election.


BUCHANAN: If Hillary looks like she is going to win and you all know she can't win the general election, will you try to -- is there anybody who can try to take it out?

KAMBER: If she is going to win the primary, she will be the nominee. And I don't believe we'll ever know she can't win the general election until the vote is held on that November 8.

BEGALA: Tony, quick yes-or-no question. Can a pro-choice, abortion-rights candidate win the Republican nomination for president?

FABRIZIO: Yes, although the chances against them winning it would be 3-5 against them...



BEGALA: Fascinating.

Tony Fabrizio, ace Republican...

BUCHANAN: One-half in five, that person has a chance.

BEGALA: Even lower than that.


BEGALA: Ace Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, thank you very much.

Vic Kamber, the walking wounded joining us. Thank you both, guys, for...


BUCHANAN: I won't squeeze that hand.


BEGALA: Just ahead, is it time for old Ross Perot to get back under the hood? You'll be surprised to learn who is trying to lure the crazy Martian billionaire back on stage.

Stay with us.




BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

According to "The Washington Times," one congressional Democratic believes he has found the right way to convince the American people that the president's Social Security plan is dangerous. "The Times" reports that House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland has asked Ross Perot, the jug-eared Dallas billionaire, to bring back his 30- minute infomercials on the dangers of federal deficits.

Perot, you may recall, ran a series of half-hour, half-crazy ads blasting the deficit when he ran for president in the early '90s. He came in third in a field of three. Hoyer, though, believes that what he called Perot's down-home way would convey the real crisis of the president's plan.

I would love to see him come back. I make fun of him, but...


BUCHANAN: Hey, you know, he did a heck of a job. You say he came in third. Actually, he was running as an independent. What, did he come in with, 16, 17 percent?

BEGALA: Nineteen, 19 million votes and 19 percent.

BUCHANAN: Nineteen percent. That's amazing for a...

BEGALA: That's a good point.

BUCHANAN: It is. And the issue is there. I will tell you, I wouldn't mind having somebody with a big name talking about deficits.


BEGALA: That's a good point. OK, I stand corrected.

From the left, I Ross Perot. That's it for CROSSFIRE.



BUCHANAN: From the right, I'm Bay Buchanan. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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