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Continuing Discussion of DeLay Troubles; Hillary Clinton in '08?

Aired April 14, 2005 - 16:30:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE: on the left, James Carville. On the right, Joe Watkins. In the crossfire, a former House speaker warns fellow Republicans look out for Hillary Clinton in 2008. If Republicans don't take her seriously, she might be the next president. Is Newt Gingrich on the money or totally off base?

Baseball comes full circle and winds up back in Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The team has merely been on a 34-year road trip. They finally come home to play now.

ANNOUNCER: The Nationals home opener is tonight. At least one political player will have a major role to play.

Today on CROSSFIRE, live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Joe Watkins.


JAMES CARVILLE, CROSSFIRE: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. You may wonder why I'm dressed like this at the end of the show you'll find out.

Even Newt Gingrich gets it -- the former Speaker of the House, a dyed-in-the-wool conservative Republican says New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will probably be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2008, and last night, he said she might even win.

JOE WATKINS, CROSSFIRE: Let's hope there's a message to Mr. Gingrich's madness and that he has sent a wake-up call to his fellow Republicans, like me. I agree with one thing: Senator Clinton is a formidable political force. We're going to look at her prospects of pulling off a White House bid, but first, the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

President Bush doesn't shy away from facing the very people who give him the most heat. Today, Mr. Bush took his Social Security reform message to a meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors here in Washington. The president says his biggest hurdle is to first convince the American people that the system needs fixing, and it does.

So does Congress's attitude about his judicial appointments. President Bush's clearly exasperated. He's called on Congress to approve more of his judges whose appointments are getting bottled up. They have to get an up or down vote. He's right.

President Bush tackled politically sensitive issues head-on and doesn't waiver, where others play it safe and simply do nothing. That for me is the sign of a true leader.

CARVILLE: So, let's say, most of the newspapers in the United States have George Bush and the Republican-owned people say goes to them and his priorities are privatizing Social Security and appointing 10 ultra-right wing judges that the special-interest right-wing groups want, and that's courage?

WATKINS: No, the judges that deserve to be considered. At least bring them to the floor for a vote. Let them have an up or down vote.


CARVILLE: What's the problem? We don't need -- we need to do something about gas prices, health care costs, we need to do something about declining...

The outstanding Americans at the Center for American Progress have taken it upon themselves to issue a quarterly report to U.S. taxpayers on how the country is doing since President Bush has been elected. This administration has piled an additional 2.2 trillion, yes, that's right, I said trillion dollars of debt on our children over the last five years. For that the Center of American Progress points out we have a 15 percent decline in the stock market, a 46 percent increase in the price of the gallon of gas, a 30 percent increase in unemployment rate, and it goes on and on and on. A pathetic record.

It's not like Americans don't know this. When Bush took office our own Gallup poll showed that, by a margin of 58-41, people were generally satisfied the way things were in the U.S.; now the margin is 38-59. Hail, hail, Bill Clinton. Shame, shame, George W. Bush.

WATKINS: Well, you know, the president is not playing for the polls. He is all about leadership. Just like I said in my first alert. He's about leading the American people. He's not afraid to tackle the tough issues. Sometimes the tough issues may get low grades in the poll in terms of popularity. Being popular isn't always the...

CARVILLE: $2.2 trillion in debt? Here's a president taking America right in the ditch.

WATKINS: If we follow the president's lead that debt will be eliminated...


WATKINS: four years. This president has a plan to do that.

CARVILLE: The stock market is down 15, after today it's probably down 16, 17 -- it tanked again. WATKINS: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has caught a lot of flack lately over revelations that he paid his wife and daughter for the work they did in his campaign. Well, a review of records by the Associated Press found that Representative DeLay is hardly alone. Dozens of lawmakers Republicans and Democrats have also hired spouses and other relatives to do campaign legwork and fund raising. Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, for instance: Lieberman's '04 presidential campaign paid his wife Hadassah at least $22,000, his son Matthew about $34,000, and his daughter Rebecca $36,000. The campaign fund of California Representative Zoe Lofgren paid her husband's firm more than a quarter million dollars. Representative Howard Berman, also a Californian, paid out about $200,000 plus to relatives. Critics of Tom DeLay should think twice about throwing stones over this issue. Listen, Congress's work is supposed to be about the American people. It seems to have sunk to nothing but partisanship and witch hunts.

CARVILLE: Now, Joe, let me get this straight. If, 1992, we would have paid then-citizen Hillary Rodham Clinton for all the work she did on the campaign I guess, all right -- that's fine. I mean, the lady is working on her husband's campaign, they should pay them. Of course not. They would have come out of the woodwork screaming, having a hissy fit, God knows what else. It doesn't matter if you pay your wife and daughter 500 grand you will get a little heat for it. That's the way it goes.

WATKINS: We'll talk about Hillary a little later on.

CARVILLE: Now, if your mom and daddy left you $7 million, do you think you can get by? I think you could do pretty good. But not the Republicans. They want to repeal all taxes on estate and claim that a $7 million exemption is not enough for their friends to get by on. Do you think they are worried about the declining state of the American military, the skyrocketing price of gas, and healthcare, the drop in personal income? No, as E.J. Dionne of the "Washington Post" the pointed out, they are really concerned about the Paris Hilton may have to pay some taxes on all that money grandpa left. I guess we really don't have to wonder why Americans are in such a foul mood these days, do we?

WATKINS: Well, you know, I'm so glad, I mean, the estate tax has got to go. It's got to go.



CARVILLE: You leave your kids seven million, they ain't got to pay nothing. You can't get by on seven million?

WATKINS: Think of all those Americans, all those entrepreneurs who start -- took all the risk that the government didn't take with them -- to start a business, to start something, to build it...

CARVILLE: The government didn't send their kids to government schools? Ride on government highways? (CROSSTALK)

WATKINS: Then the government says we're going to tax you while you are alive and we are going to tax you when you are dead.

CARVILLE: You are going to tell me a kid can't get by an seven mil? That's a pretty good figure for me.

WATKINS: It's only fair that if people work hard and build something they ought to be able to pass it on to the family members.

CARVILLE: They can pass on seven million.

WATKINS: Ought to be able to do that.

CARVILLE: Seven million tax free, Paris Hilton. You need the money, Paris, and Joe Watkins, Republican, is right there for you.

Even some Republicans are saying Hillary could be the next president of the United States. Next we'll debate whether she will run and what her prospects would be in 2008.

Later President Bush and I found something to agree on and it has something to do with why I'm not wearing a coat and tie today.


CARVILLE: Would we have another Clinton in the White House four years from now? Joining us on CROSSFIRE to talk about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's political prospects in 2008 are Republican Representative Mike Pence, of the Hoosier state of Indiana, and Representative Charles Rangel, a Democrat from the great state of New York.


WATKINS: Congressman Rangel, it's so good to have you here, of course. And thank you for realizing I'm a minister, also. That was fun , let's move -- lots of fun.


REP. CHARLES RANGEL, (D) NEW YORK: I hope it ends up as funny as it started.

WATKINS: Well, you know, Hillary Clinton is obviously -- she's got nation-wide name I.D. So, I mean, the question is not whether or not she is well known enough to be able to run for the presidency. She is known all around the country. All around the world. I mean, former first lady, presently the junior Senator from the state of New York and from your state -- and but she's also a very polarizing figure. I mean, she is popular but she is also polarizing.

Does the Democratic Party, especially with Howard Dean who also is a polarizing figure -- and we have talked about this before in the past -- but does the Democratic Party want somebody that polarizing as their early on frontrunner for the presidency? The Democratic nomination.

RANGEL: We had an elderly guy in the Congress called Claude Pepper. And he once said when a question like that was asked, I'm 75, and he says, at that age I don't buy green bananas.

The truth of the matter is that this lady, Hillary Clinton, is one of the most exciting politicians this country has ever seen. Naturally she's a Democrat, and Republicans being as mean as they are, you know, that it has to be polarizing, because she really effectively gets our message across. She is so good, that right now as she is up for reelection next year, the Republicans cannot find a candidate.

So it would appear to me that if she is able to do that not to New York City but the entire state which is a very conservative state. We have Republican majority leader in the Senate, a Republican governor for God knows how long, too long. And he's going to be defeated if he runs.

And so I think if you come from a state like New York, we normally produce national leaders. And she will be considered one.

CARVILLE: Congressman, green bananas aside for a second here, I want to go back to these numbers I talked about to you. They are quite astonishing. And I think that they say something.

When after eight years of President Clinton's reign, and when President Bush took office, 56 percent of Americans said there was generally satisfied with the way things were in the country and 41 said they were dissatisfied. After five years of President Bush that 56 percent has turned to 38 percent and that 41 has gone up to 59.

My point here is, don't you think America will be begging Senator Clinton to run for president? Don't you think not just Democrats, but people out there that watch their country being plundered into debt, the dollar dropping, the price of gas skyrocketing, don't you think they are going to be turning to someone who has the talent, the intelligence, the savvy, the absolute commitment to the American people -- Hillary Clinton may be the greatest living American.

WATKINS: Do you think he likes Hillary?


REP. MIKE PENCE, (R) INDIANA: Well let me say I think there's going to be an awful lot of people in the country that are going to be turning to the Democratic Party. And there's no question that Senator Clinton is, as a politician, as a public person, is all of the things that Charlie just said.

But I would draw two distinctions from Senator Clinton to President Clinton. No. 1 is personal, but the other is policy. I think on the personal side, your old boss, James, President Bill Clinton, was an extraordinary political figure. He had the ability to reach Americans in ways that very few public people ever have. And we grant him that point. I'm not sure the consensus is that Hillary Clinton possesses that kind of personal appeal. On the policy side, though, I truly believe that Hillary Clinton's big government views expressed in the famous Hillary care, the attempted takeover as it was characterized of the healthcare system, her strong abortion rights positions, those are not positions of the mainstream of the American people across the country. And we would love to take her on.


CARVILLE: I think that you have a good contrast here. Senator Clinton worked very hard and didn't succeed to bring healthcare to all Americans. President Bush has worked very hard and is not going to succeed in privatizing Social Security. Don't you think that is kind of a contrast is going to -- more people would like to see Americans getting healthcare than privatize Social Security? Don't you think that's going to work in our benefit?


PENCE: It's a contrast, the contrast really is what that complex chart that -- of the famous Hillary care proposal, the commission that she headed up, complex bureaucracy of healthcare in America versus a president that wants to give younger Americans ownership of their own retirement system and personal retirement accounts. It is a conflict of visions.


RANGEL: I really don't see -- first of all, we're not going to have Social Security reform, we should. But this type of a complex problem.

WATKINS: Good for you.

RANGEL: We should.

Screams out for bipartisanship. If the Democrats were in charge, we could not possibly do it without working with Republicans, and that's the reason why Hillary Clinton's plan failed.

WATKINS: Let me ask you a question about Hillary. I mean, because she's the main course today.


WATKINS: Is this going to be a coronation? After all, it looks like the party is set to move everybody else aside for Hillary Clinton. I mean, we had some pretty major candidates in '04 running and the '04 cycle and I'm sure that they might want to at least be considered for '08. You have John Kerry, you've got John Edwards who said it is far too early four years before an election to be talking about who the nominee is going to be for a party. Are these guys dead in the water? Is this going to be a coronation for Hillary?

RANGEL: No. First of all, being a Democrat means automatically you are not organized. And -- the truth of the matter is that's the reason why I'm so reluctant to deal with five years in the future. There could be a lot of people that would be able to be considered.

The remarkable thing about Hillary Clinton is that she is not just cared for and supported by Democrats, upstate New York is rough for a Democrat to win anything. But they are more and more dissatisfied with the war, the questions of the war, these old folks, that are concerned about Social Security, these are conservative people that are concerned about the deficit. And so she is not really going up there as a Democrat.

WATKINS: New York, of course, the numbers are pretty good. But what about around the country? In the heartland of the USA, how do you think Hillary will play?

RANGEL: How much did she get on her sale of books?

WATKINS: Book sales are one thing, votes are another.

PENCE: I want to agree with Charlie on point. I think Hillary Clinton is an enormously appealing individual, I would say coast-to- coast for my district out in the middle of heartland America, this is -- this is one of the most admired, not only women, but public people in America.

We would love to take her on, though, because I believe she represents that strong center left liberal tradition, big government tradition in the Democratic Party. And the Republican Party is going to be a great race, a great nomination, I know we'll have a great nominee to take her or whoever the Democrats come up with on.

WATKINS: Hold on one second.

When we come back, Bill Clinton's controversial comments about one of his wife's critics. James Carville attempts to explain them next.

And it's being called the largest fugitive arrest operation ever. Wolf Blitzer has details right after the break.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up at the top of the hour, 10,000 arrests in a single week. We'll have the details in a massive effort to get fugitives off the streets.

Prosecutors announced the indictment of an American businessman in the U.N. Oil for Food scandal.

And tomorrow, guess what? It's tax day. Is everyone paying his or her fair share? The commissioner of the IRS, he's here. He'll join us live. All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now back to CROSSFIRE. WATKINS: Welcome back. We're talking about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and her prospects for a White House run in 2008. Should we even be discussing the next election now, much less who has the best hope of becoming either party's candidate?

Our guests today are Democratic Representative Charles Rangel of New York and Representative Mike Pence, a Republican from Indiana. The great state of Indiana, Hoosier state, all right.

CARVILLE: Now, Congressman Pence, you have, I think a justified reputation of being a fiscal conservative and you don't like big government. You keep referring to Senator Clinton as big government. But, $2.2 trillion is the figure that we spent that we don't have since President Bush became in office. You don't think Hillary Clinton can do better than that? You think if she is president four years she can do a little better than spending $2.2 trillion in money that we don't have?

PENCE: Well, look, this president came in, as you know, James, as well as I do, national emergency in 9/11, the recession, the advent of the war on terrorism and two-theater war. We've had our challenges, but Hillary Clinton, with stronger majorities for the Republican party in the House and Senate, might be able to do a little better.

CARVILLE: Don't you think if she...

PENCE: With a Republican president, we'll do even more for the taxpayers.


WATKINS: Congressman, can you picture Bill Clinton as the first spouse? Wouldn't that be amazing?

RANGEL: We really, you know, we had one Bush for president. Then we had a son. Now we got to have Bill Clinton, we have his wife. Who knows?

WATKINS: He came to his wife's defense, recently, you know, there was some comments made about his wife. The former president came to his wife's defense. He caused a little bit of stir in his comments about Arthur Finkelstein and self-loathing and all that kind of stuff. How do you respond to that?

RANGEL: I am disappointed with him as a politician, but I think as a husband, he's a loving husband.

CARVILLE: Make a -- he was raising money, because they wanted to do to President Clinton's wife what they did to do John Kerry.

I wouldn't have attacked him verbally, I would have walked up and clocked him. I think he should've just laid him out. You know what I mean? Let's hit the pavement, boy. If you say you're going, to my wife, what these guys did the way, they maligned John Kerry and everything, I would have just hauled off and slugged him. But at any rate, let me just -- I think anybody can understand somebody coming to their wife's aid. I tell you what, if he wouldn't have said that, I would have called him and said, what kind of man, what kind of guy are you? What kind of husband are you?

Congressman Pence, I want to go to you. Jack Welch, a former super, uber-CEO, last night said that he thought that Senator Clinton could be elected. Congressman Gingrich, former speaker of the House, said he thought that she could be elected. Senator Lindsay Graham, one of the more promising young Republicans, who actually voted for impeachment, said that he's completely rethought the way that he thinks about it. Thinks that she -- he likes her and takes on a job with relish and things like that. Senator McCain said that she'd make a very good president.

What is it with all of these Republicans, CEOs and Senators and former speakers of House and everything -- don't you think that this is kind of demonstrative maybe this woman could really bring this country together in a way we haven't been able to be brought together before?

PENCE: Before I respond to that, given your view of chivalry, I want you to know I never said anything about Mary Madeline...

CARVILLE: No, I -- you are -- I will defend you on this.

PENCE: Never will.

CARVILLE: You are not a man of personal attacks of any kind. You might be wrong about things but you're a man of...

PENCE: Look, I grant the point. Hillary Clinton is a national figure. She is an admirable person. She would make a worthy opponent for, I hope, another mainstream conservative Republican nominee.

CARVILLE: Well, both of you guys are just great guests. We love to have you on the show. We had a very interesting show here. Any time you get -- amazing you can keep a show like this when you get a topic like Senator Clinton but, you know, we can disagree, but we all agree she is a great person. Thank you very much.

When we come back, find out the only reason I would possibly be wearing a "W" hat.



GEORGE W. BUSH, US PRESIDENT: I've got a decision to make today. Do I go with a fastball or a slider?


CARVILLE: Until eventually politics was the main topic of the conversation in Washington. Now baseball is, all anyone from either party seems to be talking about. The national past time is returning to D.C. after more than three decades. The Washington Nationals host the Arizona Diamondbacks in their home opener tonight in RFK Stadium. 95 years ago, when the team was the Washington Senators, William Howard Taft began the presidential tradition of throwing out the first pitch. President Bush has been warming up his pitching arm because he plans to do the honors tonight, something he did for the Yankees in 2001. Play ball, I'll be at RFK tonight watching not just the first pitch but every pitch of the Washington Nationals. Five and four outs, a nine-game...

WATKINS: First pitch is a fastball from the president, right down the middle.

CARVILLE: No, it will be a sinker just like the economy. I promise you that. It will sink fast.

From the left, I'm James Carville. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

WATKINS: From the right, I'm Joe Watkins. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE. "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right now.



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