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Discussion of Hillary Clinton's Future Plans; Bush European Trip Analyzed

Aired May 10, 2005 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE: on the left, James Carville, on the right, Joe Watkins. In the CROSSFIRE, the political future of Hillary Rodham Clinton. The senator's one-time fund-raising director goes on trial today, charged with underreporting the cost of a Clinton fund raiser. What's the impact on a possible presidential run by the former first lady? Would Hillary Clinton be the Democrats' frontrunner in 2008, or would her candidacy become a circus of anti- Clinton attacks?
Today, on CROSSFIRE. Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Joe Watkins.


The right wing is gearing up to come after Hillary Clinton again. Even though she hasn't been implicated in any way, they are hoping that the trial of Senator Clinton's former fund-raiser will somehow sink the senator's political future and tarnish her high approval ratings.

JOE WATKINS, ON THE RIGHT: Well, this latest trial is just one of the things that may haunt Senator Clinton if she decides to throw her hat in the presidential ring. Plus, could the New York senator's husband be her biggest asset as well as her biggest liability? We'll look at both sides of the issue, but first, the best little political briefing in television, our CROSSFIRE "Political Alert."

The president will soon be back in the U.S. after a successful European trip. On his four-country trip Mr. Bush not only recognized the importance of the Allied victory in Europe 60 years ago, he also made it clear that the end of World War II didn't mean freedom throughout Europe, it meant Soviet domination for some countries, countries that now embrace democracy. People in Latvia and Georgia gave tremendous response to the president's message. The president of Georgia called Bush a freedom fighter and if Putin -- Russian President Putin -- was unhappy with President Bush's message, that's OK. It's important that he be reminded that this is still the best form of government out there. And that's definitely right.

CARVILLE: You know, his foreign policy team deserves a lot of credit. They've finally found two countries in the entire world this man can go to. I mean, he goes to Rome, he's holed up in his hotel room. He can't go anywhere. I want to get a (INAUDIBLE). George -- ladies and gentlemen, don't worry about it, Georgia and Latvia loves us out there. WATKINS: Well, look -- good things are happening all over the world. This president has been a real fighter for democracy and freedom.

CARVILLE: It's a good thing gas costs are down (ph), things are going well in Iraq, I tell you that, yes, sir.

As I said on CROSSFIRE last week, my favorite site in the world is observing right-wingers be a combination of fools and hypocrites at the right time. Oh, what a wonderful, rich, full life I have. It never stops.

The latest is a right-wing, pro-family values, gay-bashing, very devout, uber-conservative mayor of Spokane, Washington, who temporarily stepped aside after it was reported that he was on a gay internet chat room offering teenagers a City Hall internship, tickets to sporting events and other gifts. At one point, Mayor West, while acknowledging that he visited gay chat rooms and had some homosexual relationships, said he would not characterize himself as gay. All right, I'll just characterize you as a hypocritical, self--hating, right-wing, sexually confused buffoon.

WATKINS: Well, truth of the matter is is that he did the right thing by stepping aside. That's what he needed to do, and he did it. And we'll see what happens. Of course, in this country, folks who are innocent until proven guilty. And we wish him the best. This is a difficult thing.

CARVILLE: I wish -- you know what, I do, but I wish he would be charitable toward other people and not be such a hypocrite, but maybe he'll see the light.

WATKINS: Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic Party, isn't screaming this time, but his latest move probably makes some Democrats want to holler. Dean is supporting a non-Democrat in the senate race in his home state of Vermont. Dean says he supports independent Congressman Bernard Sanders to fill Jim Jefford's senate seat. This is the same Bernard Sanders who calls himself a Socialist when he was mayor of Burlington. Sanders often works with house Democrats which may be why Dean likes him. He calls a victory for Sanders a win for Democrats. I'm sure this is a giving -- this is giving Democrats a whole lot to think about. Certainly it's....

CARVILLE: Oh, yeah, I don't...

WATKINS: Good news for us to know that Dean is a socialist.

CARVILLE: I don't know, if there's a not a primary. I guess I don't know -- A, he calls himself that -- B, I don't know if there's a primary or not. It'd be unusual for the chairman of the Democratic Party to endorse someone if there's a primary. If it's a settled issue, well, I'm sure would he endorse someone at caucuses.

WATKINS: But why would he support -- why would he endorse a socialist? CARVILLE: Again, he -- he definitely -- his voting record is there. He'll defend it. He's probably the most popular politician in Vermont. So, you've got to take issue with the people of Vermont, not Howard Dean. If in fact there's a primary, I'm a little confused why the chairman of the party would endorse someone, but I'm not (INAUDIBLE) to speak on what it is.

WATKINS: That's exactly right.

CARVILLE: Well, how many times have you heard, it's the law and we must follow the law, no matter what. Well, it appears the state of North Carolina has a lot of people breaking the law, to be precise, about 288,000. Because you see, it's the law in North Carolina that you can't cohabitate and the sheriff, Carson Smith (ph), of Pender County, North Carolina, is hellbent on enforcing the law, until one of his employees, a Miss Debra Hobbs (ph) who had been breaking the law by living together with her boyfriend for three years, said she had three choices: get married, move out, or quit. Thank God Miss Hobbs had the good sense and integrity to leave and find another job, and thank God the ACLU is filing suit to put an end to this insanity.

You would think the right-wingers would have more to do than worry about who is living with who. But what will we tell the children?

WATKINS: Well, you know, the good thing...

CARVILLE: I mean, my God!

WATKINS: The good thing...

CARVILLE: Oh, my God, little cowboys and cowgirls...


WATKINS: There's something to be said, James, for people making a commitment. I mean, there's something to be said for..

CARVILLE: But it ought to be against the law (ph)?

WATKINS: I mean, you made a commitment to a woman. I made a commitment to a woman. I've been married for...

CARVILLE: You going to tell me that -- you're going to tell me that two people living together, that it's against the law -- they ought to be put in jail?

WATKINS: Well, I think that...

CARVILLE: You think the government ain't got nothing better to do? (INAUDIBLE)

WATKINS: I think that people ought to be encouraged, James, to do the right thing. I think people ought to be encouraged to do the right thing and to make a commitment to either get married or not be married.

CARVILLE: You're saying there should be a law against people -- unmarried people -- living together?

WATKINS: Well, there is a law in North Carolina.

CARVILLE: But it's an idiotic law. I mean, we just don't disagree on that. We'll have to move on to the next one. Boy, oh, we disagree.

WATKINS: Is Hillary Clinton about to take some political hits? One of her former fund raisers goes on trial and a well-known "Time" magazine columnist says a run for president in 2008 would be a disaster. We'll debate her political future next.

And later, is President Bush taking a little advice from his wife?


CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Senator Hillary Clinton has said she's not even thinking of running for president but she's still the frontrunner among Democrats. So it was inevitable that they nay-sayers would look to any reason to try to derail her. Is this mudslinging going to stick? In the CROSSFIRE, former Republican Congressman Bob Walker of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel of the State of New York.


WATKINS: Congessman Rangel, I know that, of course, you are a Hillary fan. You're somebody that's been a big supporter of Hillary Clinton. And she is clearly certainly a qualified candidate for the presidency. She's getting ready to run for a second term in the United States Senate. And her name is being bandied about as a possible candidate for the presidency. There's now little doubt that something is going on, because lots of money is being raised and there's lots of talk swirling about her running for the presidency of 2008.

And then now this unfortunate or possible link there's certainly this thing that's taking place today, this lawsuit certainly could take -- I'm not hoping it does. I don't wish ill on anybody. But at the same time it -- she could be linked in some way. Don't know if she will be. And the jury is still out on that.

She has a history, a long history, wife of the president, and she's been politically active for years. Has been very, very proactive on a number of issues. Don't you think that all of the baggage that you have to carry and -- and -- and maybe even the allegation of this -- or the possible implications of this lawsuit could so easily derail her. Wouldn't it be better for the Democrats to have a candidate for president who doesn't bring so much baggage into them for the presidency?

REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Do we have time for you to reword that question? That was a long question.


RANGEL: When you get carried away with Hillary these things happen. You know, she's such an exciting person. But I like to -- no, she really is, and that's why you are excited about it. We're trying to find some Republican to run against her so that it won't be just 90 percent against nobody. We need to beat a good Republican in New York. That's our...

WATKINS: Oh, in New York, in the Senate race.

RANGEL: IN the in the Senate race.

WATKINS: We're talking about the presidency, though. I mean, you know...

RANGEL: No, I think when talk about all this baggage, I take the position that you took about this guy from Seattle. You said something like in this great country you are innocent until proven guilty.

WATKINS: That's true, yes.

RANGEL: I take your position on that. As far as anything else, I really think we're fortunate as a country when someone is running for senator, and hasn't won yet even though it's going to be a landslide, that now she's being projected for president. I mean, that is just about as exciting as it gets.

WATKINS: Come on, Congressman. We know there is more going on than that.

RANGEL: No, no, no. And not only that, we've got an attorney general running for governor, we can't even find a Republican candidate. So I hope New York State is really setting the pace for the nation, because I can't think of one Republican that's prepared to come out to run against her.

CARVILLE: Congressman Walker, one of the things that -- are constantly here, is that Senator Clinton is changing her position, (INAUDIBLE) during the course of the next year and gearing up and run for president. Can you illuminate me and think of one position that she changed here in the last year?

BOB WALKER (R), FORMER U.S. REP.: Well, I'm not sure I can. I mean, the fact is that what happens in this country is that everybody who runs for office knows that you govern from the center. They either govern from the right center or from the left center. And so, I think what her positions are -- is that she is emphasizing a lot more of her centrist positions. I don't know of anything where she's changed her mind.

CARVILLE: But do you know thing -- do you anything she emphasizing that she hasn't previously emphasized.

WALKER: Well, I think that she is clearly a candidate who is making strong defense part of her agenda.

CARVILLE: But she's on the Arms Forces Committee isn't she?

WALKER: Precisely. And she went there and -- I don't criticize her from that standpoint. I think that -- I think that she recognizes that when she runs for reelection in New York, that it's better to run as somebody who is a centrist.

CARVILLE: (INAUDIBLE) We don't have any -- there's no examples of her like changing positions or anything.

WALKER: I'm not aware of any.

CARVILLE: I know pretty good I actually called the staff. And so we're both right here.

WALKER: But I think -- but I think that -- I think it's clear, also, that the way that you put emphasize on issues in certain ways and so on, people can interpret it...

CARVILLE: I understand. Thanks you sir.

WATKINS: Congressman, maybe I was a little bit wordy in asking my first question. I'll be more to the point this time.


WATKINS: That's good word.

CARVILLE: ... pull that one out. Spell it.

WATKINS: The question I suppose is is wouldn't Hillary's campaign enviably invite really kind of a circus environment? I mean, all the folks -- I mean, she has a long history. She has said that there's a vast right wing conspiracy out to get her and her husband. And she's had words for years and years with various groups. Don't you think that there ends up being a circus kind of environment if Hillary runs for president. And don't you think that couldn't detract from the candidacy when it really should be about the issue. Like, you know, what the issues are and where you stand on them?

RANGEL: Well, I think I would agree with them. Judging from the clowns that come out to be critical of her, I would think it could be a circus type event, you know. But, I mean, other than that -- I mean, using your words, the people that have come out against her have been the sickest people I've seen whether Democrat or Republicans. And some of the lawsuits.

WATKINS: Oh, no, there people who actually disagree with her. And they haven't -- they haven't said mean things about her. But they disagree with her on policy issues.

RANGEL: No, I mean, the ones -- No, I'm talking about the ones that have been hired, like, the ones they hide to shoot down this great Vietnam veteran, Kerry with this cruise boat thing. I understand the same people now are trying to shoot her down before she even wins the U.S. Senate reelection. But I think that's America, and I think it's exciting and I just wish I could see some faces on these clowns that are coming out, because most of this is undercover. I think if anyone differs with any candidate for the United States Senate it's important for the country. But when do you these remarks from under stones and you don't come out, and say, this is why I don't like Senator Clinton, that bothers me. I would think it would bother me whether it's Republican or a Democrat. If got something to say -- this is a gentlemen, he says he didn't know of anything. She's not a candidate, he hasn't heard of anything. That's why he has a reputation as a gentleman. And if he felt something strongly, knowing his reputation and the floor of the House, no one speaks more forcefully than Bob Walker.

CARVILLE: Congressman Walker, you have -- you said that you (INAUDIBLE) you'd much prefer to attack someone's policy than the person.

WALKER: Right.

CARVILLE: And you and I don't share a common political philosophy. We have both been around politics for a long time. And the recent -- most recent poll I saw in New York State, 67 percent of New Yorkers say that Senator Clinton deserved to be re-elected. In my experience that is an extraordinary number for United States Senate.

WALKER: Particularly in a big state like New York it is. And I think it's clear that that's one of the reasons why the Republicans are having trouble finding a candidate who would like to go up against her in that race. But I think that her race in New York, and I think that's where she is a smart savvy politician who understand that she has to concentrate there first. But I do think that the problems that she'll probably run into if she decides to go for the presidency have nothing to do with Hillary Clinton or her philosophy. The fact that she's in the United States Senate will be a problem. I think it's very difficult for somebody to run from the United States Senate, and run for president because you have a voting record that can be attacked. And I think it's much easier to run from a governorship, for example. So, I think that there are some issues that could come up in a presidential campaign, but her first job is to get reelected in the Senate.

CARVILLE: I don't know if he saying anything I disagree with.


WATKINS: Hold on one second we're got -- we're about to go to break.

When we come back, will Bill Clinton help or hurt his wife if she runs for president?

And police are trying to find the person who killed two little girls in Chicago. Wolf Blitzer has the latest on the investigation right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WOLF BLITZER, HOST "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up at the top of the hour, the latest on the slayings of those two little girls in Zion, Illinois. Police questioned the father of one of the victims. We're standing by for a news conference that we'll bring you live in the coming hour.

Also -- the fight for Iraq. More bombs and the U.S. military offensive continuing at this hour in the western part of the country.

And Britain's Prince Harry, beginning his military training. We'll tell you about his first days at the Sandhurst Military Academy. All those stories, much more, only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. From first lady to senator to president, what are the chances of Hillary Clinton making her own run for the White House?

Still with us, Bob Walker, former Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania and Charlie Rangel, Democratic Congressman from New York.

WATKINS: Congressman Rangel, Joe Klein wrote an article in "Time" magazine and said that Bill Clinton is really a one-man super market tabloid. On the one hand, he's her biggest asset. He's such an articulate guy. He's a great campaigner. But, on the other hand, he brings all kind of baggage with him. What is your take on that?

RANGEL: I wish he had run for president the last time. If he carries baggage, he's a winner. I mean, he's far more popular than the incumbent Republican president. I think you admit to that.

WATKINS: Presidents are often times more popular out of office than they are in office. So that's not...

RANGEL: Well, he's an exciting personality, and no matter what it takes, he has to be a plus as it relates to his constituents and those people like me who believe in him.

WATKINS: But do you think that, ultimately, he drags Hillary Clinton down? I mean, does the race becomes about Bill Clinton? Does he become a liability because he's a larger-than-life figure and would be the first, first husband?

RANGEL: I don't know the answer to that, but I think that it is better she is married to Bill Clinton than a dumb-dumb. You know, I mean, she's an exciting personality...


RANGEL: ...and I don't think men are treated the same way -- who you are married to. She has proven herself as a politician and as a person that is respected in the Senate. Like Bob was saying, that no one gets elected from the Senate. No woman has demanded the respect on both sides of the aisle as Hillary Clinton. CARVILLE: Again, let's go back and -- Joe Klein is a dear friend of mine and knew this is out (ph) -- I probably had discussion with him on Monday, but he is -- I'm crazy about him -- but, anyway, I think we've -- getting into pretty dicey territory here, where we are saying, even though her husband is the ex-president, that someone shouldn't run because their husband. I mean, I think that Senator Dole in North Carolina, did -- on a probably, somewhat smaller scale, but I mean, I think it's legitimate that her husband was one of -- probably the most powerful member of the United States Senate since Lyndon Johnson.

Don't you think that we're -- what -- we're starting to traverse into some pretty sort of sticky wicket here when we talk about what someone's husband did before? Don't you think that she'll have to answer for herself in her own position?

WALKER: I think any presidential candidate, that's true of, and that's absolutely right. But, I do think we have to admit that Bill Clinton, because of his years on the public scene, is a polarizing figure. He will help energize the base of the Democratic party. On the other hand, he will bring out a lot of people on the base of the Republican party who'd be opposed to it, and that is going to be transferred in some ways to Hillary.

CARVILLE: I suspect they will come and vote out against Hillary anyway.

WALKER: Well, well, that may well be. But there's no doubt that as a campaigner there are few equals to Bill Clinton in this country. He was recently in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where I'm from and he had mostly Republican audience.


WALKER: James, you know that area well.

And, the fact is he charmed every one of them at a chamber of commerce dinner there. So, clearly, I mean, he has his strengths but he also brings the fact that there was an entire record there that people are going to reflect on if she's the candidate.

CARVILLE: My wife and I spoke (INAUDIBLE) -- a lot of great people, Lancaster's got...

RANGEL: I can't (INAUDIBLE) saying that, don't vote for George W. because his daddy was the president. It didn't work.

CARVILLE: That's a good point.

WATKINS: Of course, and thank God it didn't. Thank God, thank God it didn't.


CARVILLE: When we come back, find out why Laura Bush may no longer be able to call herself a desperate housewife. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: I am married to the president of the United States, and here's our typical evening: 9:00, Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep. And I'm watching "Desperate Housewives."


CARVILLE: That was First Lady Laura Bush at the Washington correspondents' dinner, talking about her husband. Well, the president gave a different impression of himself during a trip to Europe over the last few days. He managed to have some fun, shaking his tail feather in -- (INAUDIBLE) The president show add couple of times during his European tour that doesn't have trouble finding the beat. Now, if he could just find the rhythm while governing this whole nation.

WATKINS: Well, the president, Mr. Excitement has some rhythm, doesn't he?

CARVILLE: Well, I agree. Congratulations, State Department -- you found two countries the president can go to! 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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