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INSIDE POLITICS

Secret Clinton Papers Released; Obama & Biden in Video Fun Run; Tea Party Takes on GOP Establishment

Aired March 2, 2014 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama isn't getting many campaign 2014 invites, but insists he still helps Democrats more than he hurts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We won't just win in November. We'll win for America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Hillary Clinton is on the road. Sounding more and more like a 2016 candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Make no one can or should sit on the sidelines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But will newly released documents from the Bill Clinton presidency hurt her chances?

And don't forget Joe Biden. Well, how could we?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm really waiting for it but I can jump.

KING: Plus, the Tea Party throws itself a birthday party and sends the Republican establishment a message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), FLORIDA: Liberty is never safer than when politicians are terrified.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Tensions everywhere. Yet the GOP is more upbeat than ever about 2014.

INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters -- now. Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your Sunday morning.

And with us to share their reporting and their insights, is Nia-Malika Henderson of "The Washington Post", Robert Costa of "The Washington Post", CNN's Peter Hamby and Maggie Haberman of Politico.

Well here we go again. Another week, another so-called treasure trove of documents with new insight to Hillary Clinton; now this new set is from the Bill Clinton presidency. And Maggie Haberman, here is a fun one just as then-First Lady Hillary Clinton getting ready to run for Senate, this is back in 1999. Her political advisor Mandy Grunwald said "Don't be defensive. Look like you want the questions. Look for opportunities for humor. Don't use the administration's record as your own."

July, 1999, couldn't we send her the same memo today?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, "WASHINGTON POST": Words to live by really. The same advice that she got then is the same advice she can and is getting now. I mean essentially the main take-away from that document for me was Mandy Grunwald saying to her, be real. That was really what people want to see from Hillary Clinton. You've heard this over and over and over again. She did manage to achieve some of this at State. The question is whether that can translate to another campaign and we're not going to know until she is actually running. She may be acting more like a candidate. It's very different once you're actually on the campaign trail.

KING: Sometimes when they act more like a candidate it tells you they are not going to be a candidate.

HABERMAN: That's right.

KING: We'll see how this one plays out. The thing that's interesting about this is that we've never had a candidate like this in the digital age because we've never had a First Lady whose husband's records are now becoming more and more public. When governors run, they tend to be the sitting governor so all their records aren't available yet and when vice presidents run even they are in a sitting administration. And all the records aren't available. So we're going to have document reporters going through these for months and months and maybe years and years.

But the question is do they tell us anything new? This first wave my answer would be, not really. Like the Diane Blair diary they give you some nuggets, but they don't fundamentally tell you anything different about her.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": They don't. I mean reading these documents it was like going through a time machine. Right I mean there was a -- at some point there were --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I had color in my hair back then. HENDERSON: Right whether or not she should be -- right, whether or not she should be on "Home Improvement." Like it was sitcom back when -- you know way back when, they were talking about this new invention called the Internet.

KING: How did that go?

HENDERSON: Yes, right. Right, right. So I think it just reminds us how long Hillary Clinton has been on the public stage and that is her big Achilles heel. This idea that presidential elections are about the future, about new, fresh voices and people, that's what Obama campaigned on and here she comes with all of her baggage.

PETER HAMBY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: -- that jumped out at me as Maggie said -- the more things change, the more they stay the same. And in one of these memos where they're giving her advice about how to deal with the media, they're talking about having staff sit down with reporters, have her meet with reporters, just to sort of, you know, curry favor with them.

HENDERSON: Right.

HAMBY: Because we -- you know I'm not ashamed to admit it, reporters do crave access.

HABERMAN: Yes.

HAMBY: But that has always been a problem I think for Hillary Clinton and you covered her 2000 race so you know better than I about that. But in 2008 they kept reporters at arm's length until they started losing and then they started hanging out with the press. And then the coverage got better.

HABERMAN: That's true. And in 2000 actually that memo referenced it. She's more comfortable doing local interviews instead of the national press. In 2000 that was really true and this memo was written five years before that, or yes five years before that 1995, when she was actually enjoying decent press by the way at that point. But they've said she prefers these smaller groups. And that was true in New York, she got used to the local press, was not so into the national press.

KING: I owe her my life because I took a trip to Bolivia with her back in the day when she was First Lady. And I was shopping on the side of the road and the motorcade started to leave. And somebody -- somebody -- I'll give further credit -- stopped.

HENDERSON: And she was looking out.

KING: They didn't leave me and she was looking out for me, putting people first.

Robert, there's some other stuff we mentioned how uncanny it is. You can send a strategy memo from 1999 to her today. Some of the health care stuff is also amazing. In the sense that they're having a debate, can we have single payer, no we can't get the votes for that? What about this thing called an individual mandate? They are talking about that as a Republican idea in these Clinton-era documents. Didn't Hillary Clinton force Barack Obama to accept the individual mandate in the 2008 primaries?

ROBERT COSTA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think that's going to be a complicated argument for her to make. I think she's still going to be tied to the Affordable Care Act should she run for president in 2016. I sat down with some Republican strategists this week and I said all these new Clinton documents, what does that mean for the GOP as they look at Clinton potential candidacy?

And they say what they're really trying to do is tie her to the past, tie her to Bill Clinton. But that's a complicated strategy b Because right now Bill Clinton is one of the most popular Democrats on the trail. He was just in Kentucky for Alison Lundergan Grimes. And so as much as this is about to past and rethinking about Clinton -- Hillary Clinton's time in the White House in the 90s, the Clintons have refashioned themselves since then and they remain a powerful force and I think a force that's been largely rehabilitated.

HENDERSON: And all of that didn't work back then. Right?

KING: Right if Republicans can fix their demographic problems maybe you can make the case she's going backwards. But they can't hurt her in the Democratic primary unless somebody steps forward. Right?

HABERMAN: That's exactly right, that's exactly right. I think you -- and it would take I think really it would take more than say just Joe Biden. I think it would take an Elizabeth Warren and not even her necessarily. I think it would take a real threat to make her feel like she is vulnerable the way she was in 2008.

Barack Obama was just a singular candidate. You're not going to see that again, I don't think. We said that around this time in February of '06, March of '06, April of '06 nobody felt that this was going to happen.

KING: So there some state senator out there somewhere we don't know about --

HABERMAN: Right exactly.

KING: You mentioned -- you mentioned Joe Biden. He was everywhere this past week. He was on late night TV, he's speaking to Democrats, he said on "The View" and he said this before that her decision won't affect his decision. Let me put it this way -- does his being out there so much affect her decision?

HAMBY: I really don't think so. Any polls will show that, I mean that she is taken much more seriously than he is within the Democratic Party. But he really wants to be in the conversation and I think he is staying in touch, making phone calls in to these early states. That's something that flies under the radar when state legislators from Iowa and South Carolina happen to be in D.C. He's had them over you know to have a beer and talk to them. He definitely wants to run for president until he is not running. KING: Until he is not running. I think part of this energy though is because he thinks it might be his last campaign, 2014 that he's trying to get in as much as possible.

Let's focus what Hillary Clinton would be welcome on the campaign trail by most Democrats if she would go out there. Joe Biden will go out and do a lot of base and labor stuff. Bill Clinton was on the road this week. The one person we don't see on the road yet -- he went to Minnesota -- ok, Walter Mondale won that state -- is the President. And we know he's not welcome in Kentucky, we know he's not welcome in Arkansas. I could list the other key states. But he is in Washington doing a lot of events that he says will help frame the agenda. He gave a big speech to Democrats on Friday where he said I'm going to frame the agenda, I'm going to fight for you, I'm going to raise money.

Here's my fundamental question. Yes, Democrats have him to raise money. They have this technology example. But they also have this. Mid-term elections are about the President.

His approval rating, "The New York Times" poll this week -- 41 percent. How do you feel about the economy and how the President's handling it? Disapprove 57 percent. Is the country on the right track or the wrong track? 63 percent wrong track. If you're the Democrats, I know it is only March, but you have to look at those numbers and think we're about to get thumped.

HABERMAN: Oh yes I mean the Democrats are extremely nervous. It is either going to be that this is much ado about nothing, and a lot of the concern right now is related to Obamacare. Right now the Republicans are trying to frame it, but you know they are trying to seem positive and conservative in their estimates.

There is a lot of concern. Those numbers that you just cited are terrible. And also when you look at where Bill Clinton was at sort of similar points in his presidency, the argument about the economy was do you feel like your life is getting better. And he was able to make that case, as you know well, to people that their lives were. People don't feel that way right now.

HAMBY: And John, you reported this week too, the Republicans just got a top-tier senate recruit in Colorado. So you've got these Republicans who been you know maybe on the sidelines who are now leaning in a little bit harder because they do see an opening here. You know the NRC is still actively recruiting candidates.

HENDERSON: And even if Obama isn't out there on the stump, he's out there in all these commercials. I was down in North Carolina and Kay Hagen is facing an onslaught from these Democratic group and all the commercials are about Obamacare and her support of Obamacare.

KING: Republicans never loved him so much.

HENDERSON: Right.

HAMBY: I will say this about President Obama compared to President Bush before him. President Bush at this point in his presidency had really lost the base. And I think the base of the Democratic Party still generally likes President Obama as you saw today. If you go to early states, talk to activists, they still like him but that's a very small --

HENDERSON: And will they show up, that's the thing.

HABERMAN: And will they turn out.

KING: This is a very, very important request. Help me with this.

(VIDEO OF PRESIDENT OBAMA AND VICE PRESIDENT ON "LET'S MOVE")

That is the Vice President and President of this United States running around the White House in their shirts and ties to embrace -- I guess IF Michelle Obama says jump, they say how high? Is that what that's proving?

HENDERSON: That's right. That's part of Let's Move. And I guess at some point during that clip Joe Biden says I can't keep up with you, you know talking about Barack Obama. But yes, I mean Michelle Obama has this whole "Let's Move" campaign. It's four years old now she's all over. I think she's going to be in Miami this week talking about all of the advances in that movement. So fun stuff.

KING: That didn't happen in the pre-Internet presidency, shall we say.

Everybody, stay put. A Tea Party birthday and a big conservative gathering put this question front and center. Who's winning the struggle to control the Republican Party? The many pieces of that puzzle are next.

And as we go to break, well, sometimes politicians say the darnedest things.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told somebody once being president is a lot like being superintendent of a big cemetery. There's a lot of people under you and nobody's listening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer once again at center stage in a major Republican Party divide. Remember in 2010 she made the conservative base happy and the establishment furious by signing a tough immigration law. But this past week she sided with the establishment and infuriated social conservatives with a veto of legislation that would have allowed Arizona businesses to refuse services to gay people on religious grounds. Well, this week's puzzle sorts some of the recent skirmishes in the Republican civil war. As I noted, you'd have to score Governor Brewer's veto for the establishment. The business community wanted. Social conservatives didn't. She vetoed that law. One for the establishment there.

The establishment also thrilled their candidates beat Tea Party candidates both in Alabama House election and a Florida special election. In Florida we are waiting for the final election but the establishment candidate won the primary. Score that one there.

And as Peter noted in the last block, this past week a main stream Republican, a congressman joined a very important senate race in Colorado, two Tea Party candidates dropped out. Score that one for the establishment.

But, the Tea Party did block Speaker John Boehner. He wanted to deal with immigration this year. However, Tea Party said no. You do that, you get a conservative result. Score that this way. And this is unusual -- some of the rising stars in the party are big Tea Party figures. Freshman senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee -- oversized influence for a first term in the senate because not only do they have affiliation with the Tea Party, their conservative colleagues know it. Watch them.

Here's what I'll call the TBDs -- the establishment thinks it won the debt ceiling fight. Remember it raised the debt ceiling. Not much a fight here in Washington but the base vows revenge against the leadership for doing that. Still a number of Republican primaries to play out including a Tea Party challenge to the top senate Republican Mitch McConnell and several Tea Party groups have "fire the speaker" petitions now.

In my view, more fund-raising tools than anything else but we'll see how that plays out.

Robert Costa, here's a question. There's no question Governor Brewer signing the immigration law in 2010 hurt the party on the presidential level with Latino voters and the candidates veered to the right in 2012. Does her veto of the gay rights measure help the party in 2016, maybe even in 2014 appear more tolerant or have we not heard the last word?

COSTA: I think you're seeing the Republican Party right now trying to avoid distractions and trying to avoid poor candidates. I think with Brewer's veto you're seeing the Republican Party trying slowly to inch forward toward mid-term elections and focus on Obamacare, focus on jobs and not take up immigration in the House, not have these kind of skirmishes in Arizona become big issues.

I think that's what we're going to see for the rest of the year, playing it safe on the GOP side.

HAMBY: I don't think we've heard the last of it at all. Because -- I mean If you look at party control in the states, these things are coming out of the state legislatures. And in so many states there are maybe 25 Republican governors and Republican legislatures.

This reminded me of the fight Bob McDonnell had with his own party in 2012 about the Ultrasound Bill that was a real issue in the presidential race for Mitt Romney. So as long as you have really conservative state legislatures putting forward bills like this, you're going to have governors having to deal with this and the establishment, business community, especially is going to come down hard on them and say you can not sign this bill.

(CROSSTALK)

HABERMAN: The business this community issue is very important here. The business community, my colleague (inaudible) had a terrific story last week about this. The business community really swept in and did a huge push to get Brewer to veto this bill and it worked. Remember the business community was not feeling like it was able to affect too much during the debt ceiling fight and during a bunch of other crises we've seen.

This is an attempt to try to push back. I agree with Peter that it is going to be on a case by case basis but the balance sheet is tipping a bit.

HENDERSON: And I think it will be interesting to see whether it plays out in some of these senate races. I mean if you look at the states where it is sort of still an active issue -- you've got Georgia, you've got West Virginia, you've Mississippi and do these senate candidates at some point have to weigh in on it.

KING: One of the questions -- I like to put it this way. We know it is not Ronald Reagan's Republican Party anymore. It sure as -- excuse this Sunday morning -- hell isn't George W. Bush's Republican Party anymore.

Rand Paul this week -- he does a lot of interesting things. Here's his message to the Tea Party. He likes the Tea Party. He's one of their guys but he tells them, they've got to grow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: In order for us to be a bigger party though, we have to reach out to more people. Not just those of us here. It has to be a bigger party. It has to be a bigger movement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Does he get push-back from that at all? Some in the Tea Party like to stay in their opposition bunker, if you will. We were bored of opposing George W. Bush on bailouts, then we opposed Obama on continued bailouts, we opposed Obama on Obamacare, opposed Obama in just about anything. Can Rand Paul convince the Tea Party they have to have a happy, positive message?

COSTA: I think so. I think he's going to try for the rest of the year. I sat down with Senator Paul this past week. And he talked about, when you speak to his advisors, he feels like he has a strong libertarian base established by his father's campaign. And because he has that strong libertarian base he has room to explore ideologically in the coming year.

And that means when travels across the country to Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere, he's going to really float different kinds of ideas. He's going to talk about things like marijuana. He's going to talk about things like reaching out to young voters and minority voters. We've seen him go into minority communities and minority colleges.

So Paul I think he has the political capital with the base, with the Tea Party as well to do some bold things that other candidates just won't do.

HAMBY: If he does run, Ron Paul finished third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire. If Rand Paul grows that share of the electorate by a few points -- guess what, he's won two states.

HENDERSON: And Rand Paul, he's been consistent on this, right. He talked to Simmons College a (inaudible) black university in Kentucky, talked to folks at Howard. He's talking of about drug sentencing and prison reform -- something that's been a big focus of the civil rights community for many years.

I think the question is can he do that and be taken seriously but also stand next to Ken Cuccinelli and (inaudible)

(CROSSTALK)

KING: But one of the big annual tests -- they just had this Tea Party birthday party -- one of the bit annual tests at Washington is CPAC where we get a sense of what conservative mood is, what issues they want to talk about, what issues do they not want to talk about. For those of you who might remember, here's a little flavor from the last two years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was a severely conservative Republican governor.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, Bloomberg's not around. Our Big Gulp's safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Our Big Gulp -- if you like humor, you've got to give her credit. That was fun.

What do you look for as conservatives gather? We know they're mad at their own establishment. But we know they're also trying to look ahead to the elections. There are sort of tensions about that. We go after Democrats who are after our guys. What do they want?

HABERMAN: I think they want to be taken seriously and I think they want to remind their party that they remain the base, right? So where we're going to see a couple of tension points -- immigration, gay marriage. I am looking very closely to see what the language is going to be on both of these issues especially, remember, there is another very important headline that's coming out of this year's CPAC, is Chris Christie is going. And he was not invited last year. He was invited this year and for him this is a moment of acclamation potentially when he is having a really hard time. So if you're looking for things to watch for? These are it.

HAMBY: And there's two other potential presidential candidates that I've been looking at other than Christie. One is Rand Paul, you know, as Ukraine flares in the news. One thing that's going to hold him back from the establishment welcoming him with open arms is his foreign policy vision.

So how does he address these issues?

A third one that I --

KING: In a careful statement about that where he did not say pull back, he said it is important that Russia learn a lesson, that Russia not cross the line. He didn't say what the United States should threaten. He didn't get muscular, if you will but it was --

HAMBY: And the other one I'm looking at is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who's been bordering on shameless in his appeals to the Republican base. I just envision him rolling up there with a cooler full of red meat, just throwing it out in the crowd.

HENDERSON: We were talking about Marco Rubio at some point. He's going to be there.

HAMBY: On foreign policy especially. He's been quietly cultivating that resume.

HENDERSON: Yes.

COSTA: I think there's one other name we have to pay attention to and it's Ted Cruz.

HENDERSON: Right. There's no one right now who's more of a favorite of the conservative base than this Texas freshman. And I think when I talk to people who are organizing CPAC; they're just enthralled by Cruz. They can't wait for him to rile up this crowd. I think this may be the launching formally of Cruz 2016

KING: Launching of Cruz 2016.

All right. Everybody stand by.

Next tomorrow's news today: our reporters empty their notebooks, including a new twist on Jeb Bush and his 2016 plans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

Each week our reporters share some nuggets from their notebooks to help keep you ahead of the curve on the big political stories.

So let's go around the table -- Maggie.

HABERMAN: I'm hearing like you did and you were the first one to report that Jeb Bush was quietly reaching out to donors. But I'm also hearing that people who are close to him do not believe ultimately that he will run. They think he's going to go through a process of exploration. He's going to look very close and then ultimately decide this is not for him.

He was honest when he said in 2012 this really was when I should have run and that has not changed.

KING: A tease from Jeb Bush maybe. Peter?

HAMBY: I just came back from a few days in Silicon Valley actually where there is a really intriguing Democrat on Democrat House primary. Ro Khanna is a 37-year-old former Obama administration official who's the darling of the Silicon Valley tech elite. Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Meyer, Sean Parker are all funding him. He's got tons of money. But he's running against a liberal -- a reliable liberal, Mike Honda, who's represented that district for a long time.

And the constellation of interest groups that make up the Democratic Party are saying why would you run against Mike Honda, he's a good guy, what are you doing here? This is a really intriguing Democrat-on-Democrat fight in a moment where we're all talking about Republican-on-Republican fighting.

KING: Keep our eye on Silicon Valley.

COSTA: Since the budget deal in December Paul Ryan has been relatively quiet, wasn't a major GOP force during the debt ceiling. But I think if you're paying attention to Capitol Hill, pay attention to Paul Ryan in the coming weeks. He's going to unveil his GOP budget and I think he's going to really -- he's going to push for poverty to be one of the GOP's election year focuses.

KING: All right. (inaudible) Paul Ryan.

HENDERSON: Ready for Hillary is set to launch a big push for women voters. Just in time for women's history month that begins today in March. Also they have a big event this week on Thursday. They're really trying to figure out how to message Hillary Clinton's story as a feminist message and also how do they broaden sort of the idea of feminism beyond essentially privileged white women and include African-Americans, as well as Latinas and really sort of expand that idea of what it means to have a movement based on some girl power.

KING: Girl power. I'll close with this -- watch the special election in Florida -- the 13th Congressional district. I've talked about this race before. We're into the final ten days now and Republicans are nervous. This is a Republican held seat. The Chamber of Commerce has thrown in a ton of money. The polls show a dead heat. Early voting started yesterday. The Republicans are worried the libertarian candidate might get a little too much and draw her way. Keep an eye on it. More money will flood in, in the final two weeks. It is an important test of whether Obamacare can be a new Republican message and a huge test of new Republican technology to drive turnout.

That's it for us. Again, thanks for sharing your Sunday morning with us. We'll see you soon.

"STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley starts right now.