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Is Hillary's Past Haunting Her Future?; Is A Hillary 2016 Run Inevitable?

Aired February 10, 2014 - 18:28   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, baggage versus star power. Dramatic new documents reveal Hillary Clinton's private reactions to scandal. Just as questions about 2016 reach a fever pitch.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not thinking about it. I try to get other people to not think about it. I'll think about it, you know, in the future some time.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Van Jones. On the right, Kevin Madden. In the CROSSFIRE, Tracy Sefl, senior adviser to Ready for Hillary, and Tim Miller, who leads an anti-Hillary effort. The politics of the Clinton machine. Is Hillary's past haunting her future? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

KEVIN MADDEN, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Kevin Madden on the right.

VAN JONES, CO-HOST: I'm Van Jones on the left.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight we've got two political strategists who are at war over Hillary Clinton. While Republicans are so excited today they got a new excuse to attack Hillary Clinton.

A conservative Web site posted some documents revealing her private reaction to the scandals of the 1990s. Get this: Hillary Clinton apparently didn't think too highly of Monica Lewinsky. Wow. I guess she's just toast for 2016.

I don't know when the Republicans are ever going to learn. First of all, we already know this stuff. Second, trying to convince independent voters to hate the Clintons because of stuff in their personal life never works. It didn't even work in the 1990s when this stuff was actually news.

But apparently, the GOP thinks it can deflate the most famous woman in the world by chirping "Lewinsky" in every news cycle. It is not going to work.

But take note, Senator Rand Paul. Cynical tone-deaf attacks on a powerful woman will not help you close the gender gap. Stuff like that is what created the gender gap. I'm sure you agree with that, Kevin. MADDEN: Well, I don't know where you get all the chirping from. Look, here is why this is relevant.

In these documents we've seen revealed today, Hillary Clinton was calling women's groups whiners, and she was coordinating attacks on women who the only thing they wanted to do was tell the truth about Bill Clinton's own behavior. This is some relevant stuff.

In the CROSSFIRE, Tracy Sefl, senior adviser to Ready for Hillary and Tim Miller of America Rising, a group focused on opposing a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

Tracy, first question for you, we learned in these papers today, as I was talking with Van here about it, that Hillary Clinton, then the first lady of the United States, is calling Monica Lewinsky, an intern with whom her husband had an affair with, quote, "a narcissistic loon." Isn't this precisely Hillary Clinton's problem that she appears willing to take anyone down that gets in her way?

TRACY SEFL, ADVISOR, READY FOR HILLARY: Van used the word "new" earlier, and so let's start there and do a fact check, right? Because there's nothing new here. We're talking about something that's been recycled, rehashed. Maybe they put it in a new font for this PDF that was released. There's nothing new; there's nothing revealing. This is old; this is stale. This is also -- I don't know how many ways you can say -- irrelevant.

But what I love is that the Republicans think that they're on to something. By all means, here's a shovel. Keep digging. It is -- I agree with Van, of course, it's not going to help women feel motivated to move over to the Republican Party, which is something that certainly the Republican Party would need.

MADDEN: Calling women's groups whiny and it's actually in a coordinated attack, like I was saying to Van earlier, in a coordinated attack to smear, personally smear some of these women who had substantive truthful claims against Bill Clinton. That is going to be very hard for her to engender a lot of sympathy from a lot of women voters, don't you think? This is the -- in a sense, doesn't this kind of take away a veil that Hillary Clinton has put up?

SEFL: Again, it's important to remember what you're sourcing here, and that is a third person's account of...

MADDEN: Who is a very, very close friend. Best friend.

SEFL: Very good friend. And I'm sure that...

MADDEN: So you're not going to now coordinate an attack against -- against her, are you?

JONES: First of all, I'm sure no -- I'm sure no wife -- I'm sure no wife has ever tried to stick up for her husband in a tight spot. I want to bring you into this.

TIM MILLER, AMERICA RISING: Sure. JONES: I just think this is an amazing moment where the Republican Party is now scraping the 1990s, the barrel of the 1990s, trying to find stuff. This is not just a random thing. I want you to hear Rand Paul saying something. This shows how desperate Republicans are to try to make this an issue, try to get right with women and how badly they still just don't get it. Listen to Rand Paul.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The Democrats can't say, "Oh, we're the great defenders of women's rights in the workplace, and we will defend you against some kind of abusive boss that uses their position of authority to take advantage of a young woman" when the leader of their party, the leader -- the leading fund-raising in the country is Bill Clinton, who was a perpetrator of that kind of sexual harassment. You know, so they can't have it both ways.


JONES: I mean, look, first of all, how low can you go? But second of all, I'll get you in here, but apparently, the last woman in the workplace that Rand Paul cared about was Monica Lewinsky 15 years ago, because he's done nothing in the past 15 years, going after Republicans. Why don't you guys talk about policies and try to help women, rather than these personalities?

MILLER: I think that's a cheap shot. The Democrats are trying to set the terms of the debate here and act like the 1990s are only relevant when you get to talk about the halcyon Clinton days.

You know, Bill Clinton's DNC speech was two and a half hours of nostalgia of the '90s, you know. So now Rand Paul brings up one of the many Clinton scandals of the '90s that embroiled both Bill and Hillary, you know, this is out of bounds. I don't think that's appropriate. Sure, there are going to be a ton of other issues that are central to our case against Hillary in 2016, but that doesn't mean that this isn't relevant and shouldn't be brought up.

JONES: First of all, a couple things here. You guys are trying to cover up for an atrocious record on women's issues and a horrible reputation on women's issues, not by talking about your policies but by attacking personalities. Do you think that a personality-based attack against the Clintons is going to cover up this horrible reputation you guys have for taking rights away from women, from wanting to on Obama care?

MADDEN: And no, I think it's a good question. But it isn't Bill Clinton and, I'm sorry, Hillary Clinton somewhat compromised here, based on some of the revelations that we saw out of this?

MILLER: Hillary Clinton's absolutely compromised. And I think that, from the Republican standpoint, we have a ton of great women leaders and governors that are coming up in this party. And so the idea that we can't criticize Hillary without being anti-women, is ridiculous. If you look at Hillary's papers, the way that she treated women, the way that Bill did, this is absolutely relevant. And it will be relevant in 2016.

JONES: Women agree that Hillary Clinton is a terrible leader, is that true?

SEFL: I think there's a bit of a fantasy world happening here.

And I also just have to note that it's three guys and me having this conversation. You know, I appreciate being able to speak for, you know, all women, I guess.

But there is something very powerful about going back to the '90s, which I think Tim has also just acknowledged is an out-of-bounds attack. But what is important to really be digging up, if we're going to be digging up, it is about policy. It is about the values that drive policy. And it is about the outcomes that we've seen in the course of over decades...

MADDEN: How it is out of bounds? You said that the '90s are essentially out of bounds. So essentially we're talking about a record here. How is a record out of bounds?

SEFL: Being out of bounds when we talk about personal lives and the kinds of things that Mr. Paul and Mr. Private (ph) seemed really gleeful about. So if we're...

MILLER: I disagree with the premise. But let me say, look, another thing that was in the papers is Hillary Clinton's support for single- parent health care. This is absolutely in the policy discussion. So, you know, I think that when making the case against Hillary, you can make the case and talk about the scandals, a number of scandals, both Bill's and Hillary's when it comes to Travel-gate, but also talk about her record on the issues.

JONES: You guys are -- you're going to run on Travel-gate?

MILLER: Some voters aren't going to remember that. So you can talk about both the health care and about the scandals, absolutely.

JONES: When you guys impeached Bill Clinton, the people who were babies, little newborn babies that year, are going to be voting in 2016. Do you think they're going to care about Travel-gate?

MILLER: I do think it's important to give those voters, though, a full view of what happened during the Clinton era. And while I obviously think you two are going to run on '90s nostalgia and not the specifics of what happened...

MADDEN: I think you're trying to have only the -- only the best parts of the '90s.

SEFL: Well, actually, what I'm trying to have is what we're -- in this moment, what we have right now, which is two things are happening -- well, actually, let's say three things are happening.

One is Hillary Clinton has not said that she is or is not running. So that's point one. Point two is that the Republicans are futilely, desperately looking for things to have a conversation about someone who is not a candidate.

And then three, what's happening is that there are Democrats, independents and former Republican voters across the country, millions of them, who are saying, "Well, if she does decide to run, we're going to stand with her, because we know that what she would bring and represent as a potential candidate is what matters."

MADDEN: Well, that...

SEFL: And that's an inspirational moment, one, two, three.

MADDEN: That provides a good segue. Now we all remember Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign, some of the problems she had here.

But look, so Diane Blair wrote this about her in her notes from April 2, 1998. "Mostly she" -- Hillary Clinton, that is -- "can't figure out why these people out there are so anxious to destroy them. I told her I thought she was taking it too personally in the sense that it's the media's mission nowadays to destroy. And she and Bill just happen to be the victims du jour."

So Tracy, you and I have managed press relations for candidates before. We know about the level of scrutiny that comes to -- comes with that. Won't this kind of bunker mentality, the same kind of bunker mentality that I think hurt the 2008 campaign, hinder her, should she decide to run in 2016?

SEFL: I think there's experience, and there's lessons that come from that. And I think you and I also know that from experience ourselves, that we can learn from a failed campaign. We can learn from a loss. There are things that you can reassess, take a close look and think about who is it that you want around your table with you? Who is it that you think is going to best represent your interests? And I really do believe that, should she decide to run and make that very deeply personal decision, she will also make a series of accompanying decisions about who's...

MADDEN: What's the No. 1 thing she learned from 2016 -- from 2008 that she would change differently in 2018? You actually mentioned an inner circle. She's got an inner circle that's about 50 or 60 people right now, it looks like.

SEFL: I think it's actually been portrayed as a galaxy, well beyond a circle. I couldn't even begin to answer a question like that.

But what I do think is, again, worth emphasizing is that there are millions of people who are standing ready to say, "OK, we will trust that you will do this if you do it the right way."

MILLER: May I throw out there, among those millions of people are two super PACs and two other outside groups that are supporting Hillary Clinton right now. And so for Hillary Clinton to, you know, use this as a shield and say, "I'm a private citizen. I'm not going to have to weigh in on the issue of the day" when you have four super PACs that are out there supporting you, I think, is disingenuous.

MADDEN: We're going to talk about more about that when we come back. Hillary Clinton has a much bigger problem to worry about than today's revelations from one of her closest friends. She's still Hillary the inevitable. And next I'll explain to you why, if you look at the Democratic Party's history, it's not on her side.


MILLER: Welcome back. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Tracy Sefl, senior adviser to Ready for Hillary. And Tim Miller, who leads the anti- Hillary group, America Rising.

The inimitable Hillary Clinton is looking less inimitable after new revelations about her cold, often ruthless behavior laid out in a new documentary written by one of her best friends became public.

Here's a thing about inevitability. It's a very dangerous asset. Just ask President Cuomo in 1992, for example, and President Gary Hart in 1998.

So, what have we seen here in the last year? Well, it's been one headline after another about the unstoppable Hillary Clinton.

Is this really a good place to be right now?

So, Tracy, if I'm running a Hillary Clinton super PAC, I'm terrified about these expectations and I'm even more terrified about having to manage them for the next two years. You are, too, right?

SEFL: Two years. Any time the word "inevitability" comes up, it seems to me the most obvious response that I or anyone who supports a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy can say is that if she was inevitable, none of this would be happening. There would be no super PACs, there would be no organizing, there would not be Web sites and house parties and events and what-have-you if there was an inevitability about this.

It is precisely the lack of inevitability that is fueling all of these efforts. And the innovations and new ways of organizing and new ways of really capturing that energy doesn't have to happen --

MILLER: I think that was a valiant effort.


MADDEN: Did you notice, Tim, by the way, how careful she was when she said potential Hillary candidacy?

MILLER: Potential candidacy --


SEFL: It's true.

MILLER: I think it was a good effort, but what the voters don't want right now, the last thing they want is somebody anointed on high from Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C. could not be less popular right now.

And so, when you think about inevitability, there are a lot of political process problems that come along with that, but from a messaging standpoint, I think Hillary's biggest challenge is going to be how can you be a reform candidate when you've been in Washington for 30 years and you've been anointed by John Podesta and Jim Messina and everybody in the Democratic Party.

VAN JONES, CO-HOST: You guys seem pretty panicked about this and you've got a big effort up yourself. You talk about super PACs, you got a whole organization --

MILLER: It's needed to combat (ph) that.

JONES: But I think in some ways this whole attack on Hillary Clinton from you and folks like you is a facade. I think what's actually going on here is that we have a united party and you guys have a circus. And the only thing that's holding you guys together right now is when you hate on Obama or now you hate on Hillary Clinton, though you liked her half an hour ago.

So, isn't this a sign of a very weak Republican Party that you guys have to spend this much time and energy and the only thing holding you together is not liking Hillary Clinton?

MILLER: I don't think so. I think America Rising plays an important role in this process, which is making sure that Hillary is being held accountable and doesn't get to fly around the country from event to event without anybody challenging her and her message.

From our party's standpoint, we've got a really deep bench. I think it's the Democrats who are in trouble if Hillary doesn't run because who do they turn to? We've got Governor Walker and Paul Ryan, both in Wisconsin, Marco Rubio --

JONES: Chris Christie.


MILLER: So, I think from our perspective, of course, we're going to have a primary with a lot of, you know, rising stars in our party and that's OK.

JONES: That's good. But don't you think -- you've been criticizing all these other groups, but don't you think there's something kind of poisonous here?

I bet you that if Hillary Clinton were not rising in the polls, that we had another Democrat, you'd be sitting here attacking that Democrat or any Democrat. Why should we take groups like yours so seriously that it seems like there's a set of people, no matter Democrats do, you're just going to attack them?

MILLER: Look, we learned a lesson from 2012, and I think you saw in 2012, you had Priorities USA, and American Bridge and all these groups who are dedicated solely to beating Mitt Romney, going all the way back to the day that President Obama was inaugurated. And I think we learned from that, from a political tactic standpoint this time, and realize we need to start a group early that was doing the research and making sure Hillary Clinton's held accountable for her record.

SEFL: The biggest lesson I think and I hope that Tim and his colleagues would learn is that time and time again, there have been attempts to take down Hillary Clinton. There have been groups before yours, sorry. And they haven't worked. And people try and they try again and they pop up sort of whack-a-mole style and it doesn't work.

So, I understand and I appreciate the nature of all of this in the democratic process. I've yet to see it work.

MADDEN: Well, this is where I think --

MILLER: 2008 primary.

MADDEN: Yes, that's right. I think this is where the threat possibly comes for Hillary Clinton, who's got a lot of the energy inside your party is on the left. And whereas Hillary Clinton is seen as the inevitable candidate, where she's seen as poll-tested, a lot of folks inside your party right now, they're looking for somebody who is this old visionary, somebody who's going to take this confrontational approach against the right wing.

That's not Hillary Clinton, right?

SEFL: I would really unpack everything in your comments there because there is a record of what Hillary Clinton has stood for and believed and fought for. The values that hold up her efforts throughout her career, and while we don't know, (a), if she's going to be a candidate, and, (b), what she would say about her own candidacy, I do think there's certainty about the values that she would bring to that. I do believe that it represents the totally of Democratic interest the key core values --

MADDEN: If you look at the conversation that's taking place inside the Democratic Party right now, it's not focused where Hillary Clinton is, where she's giving $200,000 speeches a pop right now on Wall Street. Wouldn't you agree with that? That is a very big problem, the potential Hillary Clinton candidacy, as you said, has.

SEFL: The efforts to sort of churn up something about the left and that there's something happening and there's dismay, I don't know how else that is manifesting except in conversations like this, where it gets asserted. I'm not sure it's a true manifestation.

MADDEN: You're saying it's churned up. I mean, this is -- this is where your party sat. You've gone to caucuses out in Iowa, right? Those are pretty left-leaning folks -- the ones that show up in places like, at the primaries in New Hampshire.

JONES: And she's polling at about 70 percent in the party --


MADDEN: We're talking about a profile right now outside of the political arena. It's pretty easy to get to 70 percent, right?

JONES: Nobody has before done it.

MADDEN: Once you get in the arena, what happens?

MILLER: Once you get in the arena those numbers come down.


MILLER: If you look at her numbers historically, she's always been the best when she's been seen as nonpolitical, during her time as first lady, during her time as secretary of state. Her numbers historically have started to come back down to earth as soon as she re-enters the political arena. We saw it in the 2008 primary. We saw it during Hillarycare.

JONES: You would have to admit two things, though. You have to admit -- first of all, no front-runner in any party in history has had the kind of support that she has. I think that's pretty extraordinary.

But the other thing too you guys have to be very careful. One of the things that you have been really good at as a party when you started to taking on women and women's issues, you usually put your foot in your mouth. Your concern Republicans will create more problems for themselves, going up against the most famous woman in the world, one of the most powerful and successful women in the world, a presidential candidate who has a resume that's almost unheard of, unmatched. You're going to attack --

MADDEN: Similar to what Obama ran in 2008.


MILLER: I don't think so. I think Hillary Clinton has myriad vulnerabilities that the candidates are going to be able to speak to. So, that's not a concern.

SEFL: And she is the most vetted candidate in the world, I would venture to guess.

JONES: I would agree with you.

I want everybody to stay here. When we come back, we're going to hear the outrage of the day from me and from him.

On my outrage, I'm happy to say nearly 100,000 people in North Carolina already agree with me.

Now, we also want you at home to weigh in on our "Fireback" question of the day, very simple. Should Hillary Clinton run for president in 2016? Tweet yes or no using #crossfire. We're going to give you those results when we get back after the break.


JONES: We are back with Tracy Sefl and Tim Miller.

Now, it's time for our outrages of the day. Mine is in North Carolina Republican Party. Since they took over that state in 2010, they have passed a law making it harder to vote, thrown up barriers between women and doctors, slashed unemployment benefits, they actually raised taxes on the poor and middle class to pay for cutting taxes on the super rich.

Now, that's just a short list. Fortunately, I'm not the only one who is outraged. This past Saturday, 80,000 to 100,000 people joined something called the Moral March on Raleigh, North Carolina. They were black, white, brown, female, gay, straight, every kind of human being you can imagine, demanding a government that works for everybody.

So, as outraged I am I'm inspired and I hope everybody else's too.

MADDEN: A hundred thousand people, that's a lot of people.

So, here's an item that should stir up outrage on both sides of the aisle. Recent nominees to ambassadorships in Norway, Argentina and Hungary have either embarrassed themselves during their Senate confirmation hearing or they demonstrated a startling lack of expertise in the country they have been designated to.

Let's just take a look.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Have you been to Argentina?

NOAH BRYSON MAMET: Senator, I haven't had an opportunity to be there yet. I've traveled extensively around the world but I haven't yet had a chance.


MADDEN: So, they're not experts in diplomacy but instead they are experts at raising money for President Obama. Now, this is a practice that both parties have engaged in.

JONES: That's true.

MADDEN: But whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, it's troubling nonetheless.

JONES: I really can't defend that one. So --

MADDEN: As the future ambassador of Ireland, I will say I will raise no money and I will take that job happily --

JONES: Very good and well-deserved. Look, I want to thank both Tracy Sefl and Tim Miller. I want you to go to Facebook or Twitter. You can weigh in on our "Fireback" question, should Hillary Clinton run for president in 2016? Right now, 60 percent of you say yes, 40 percent say no. This debate will continue online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

MADDEN: From the right, I'm Kevin.

JONES: And from the left, I'm Van Jones.

Please join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.