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CROSSFIRE

All Eyes on Hillary for 2016; Is Clinton's Record a Problem?

Aired May 19, 2014 - 18:28   ET

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


VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Congratulations, Wolf. Now look, Republicans need to stop picking on Hillary Clinton. It's only 2014. You guys can't get enough of it.

KEVIN MADDEN, CO-HOST: Actually if the Democrats tried listening, they'd avoid nominating a deeply flawed candidate. But of course, Democrats never listen to good advice. The debate starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, Hillary Clinton in the bull's-eye. Attacks from the right. And discomfort on the left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do worry about the inevitability thing.

ANNOUNCER: Will she decide not to run or listen to a possible rival's advice?

JEB BUSH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: Don't let the ugliness of politics keep you from pursuing public office.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Van Jones. On the right, Kevin Madden. In the CROSSFIRE, Mo Elleithee, communications director for the Democratic National Committee, and Sean Spicer, communications director for the Republican National Committee.

Are both parties so focused on Hillary Clinton they are missing opportunities in 2014? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDEN: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Kevin Madden on the right.

JONES: And I'm Van Jones on the left. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we've got the top message guys from both political parties.

Now, for the Republicans, the message is clear. Get Hillary Clinton. That's it.

Now this is May 2014. It's not fall 2016. So why are the Republican leaders throwing every attack they can think of at Hillary Clinton? Could it be they lack confidence in their own crop of candidates? After all, Chris Christie is in a ditch. Rand Paul's isolationism is in direct conflict with Marco Rubio's saber rattling.

Meanwhile, the Tea Party crowd can't stand Jeb Bush. It is a total mess over there. Here's the truth. Hillary Clinton unites Democrats. Every major Republican leader divides the GOP. So what does that leave the Republicans with? Nothing but the politics of personal destruction, which for them is politics as usual.

SEAN SPICER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: You know who Hillary Clinton unites?

JONES: Everybody.

SPICER: Hillary Clinton unites Republicans.

JONES: Well, OK. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we've got the Democratic National Committee communications director Mo Elleithee, and the Republican National Committee communications director, Sean Spicer. Now, Kevin, you're a guest host. I'm going to let you go first.

MADDEN: Thank you. You worked on Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign. You know how the inevitability message worked the first time around. I mean, did you guys -- did you learn anything from that campaign?

MO ELLEITHEE, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, look, as someone that was there last time, I can tell you I know inevitability does not work, and I think Governor Patrick was right over the weekend in guarding against that notion that anyone should be considered inevitable.

Here's the reality: I don't know if she's going to run. I don't think she knows if she's going to run. It's hard to project inevitability when you don't know that simple fact. But whether or not she runs, we're going to have a spirited contest, I expect. I think we are going to have --

SPICER: You're going to have a spirited contest inside the Democratic party?

ELLEITHEE: I think no matter who runs, there's going to be a contest. I don't think that anyone --

JONES: Why are you laughing?

ELLEITHEE: Should she run? She hasn't even decided if she's going to run yet. But regardless of who runs on our side, I like our bench a whole lot more than their bench.

SPICER: The problem is -- the problem is their bench has one seat. We actually added a second row to our bench. We can go on and on and on. The number of people that are competing.

ELLEITHEE: Please.

SPICER: You have a one --

ELLEITHEE: The more the merrier on your side.

SPICER: You have a one-seat bench. It's Hillary Clinton or nothing. I mean, if you want to card Martin O'Malley, but Elizabeth Warren is tugging the party to the left. And I don't see a ton of other people clamoring to get in. Bernie Sanders is talking about an independent run. God bless you. I mean -- I mean, that's the extent of your bench.

JONES: Well, and obviously having one person is enough to terrify your entire party into attacking her all the time, including your boss, Reince Priebus. I want you to hear it. I'm sure you saw this despicable, horrible thing he did over the weekend. Let's listen to your boss talking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I think that health and age is fair game. It was fair game for Ronald Reagan. It was fair game for John McCain. When people came at John McCain and said maybe he's psychologically not fit because he was a prisoner of war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: Now, where he's going here is saying that, in May 2014, Karl Rove is right to be making up stuff about brain damage? Is this your strategy, just to go down the garden path with this kind of stuff?

SPICER: First of all, it was President Clinton, as you recall, who actually came out and said actually the circumstances around her health were a lot worse than anyone ever thought. So if we're talking about RNC surrogates, we don't usually count President Clinton as one of them. But they're the ones who continue to bring this up. I think the health and fitness of any candidates for office, Republican and Democrat, is fair game.

JONES: Don't you -- don't you think you look a little bit desperate, though, at this early stage to be rolling out this kind of --

SPICER: Desperate? The Dems -- what the Democrats want, rather the Hillary Clinton machine wants, is to be able to go on this faux book tour, create a narrative that she's got great -- what is causing people pause, including I think probably the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party, is that her record is starting to get away -- in the way of her rhetoric. Whether it's Benghazi, Boko Haram.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: And you're hypersensitive to that record.

ELLEITHEE: I mean, look, I love this administration's foreign policy record. And I'll put it up against anything a Republican says any day of the week.

When Dr. Rove went on national television and made his ridiculous medical diagnosis that's about as bad as his political prognosticating, Reince Priebus and a lot of other Republicans ran to his defense, and they're welcome to do that.

I think that that was as much a play for 2016 as it was for 2014. Because I think Republicans right now are nervous about turnout in this midterm election, and so everything --

SPICER: Oh my God.

ELLEITHEE: Hold on. Everything you're talking about, if that were not true, then you would be talking about the issues that people care about instead of focusing on issues like Hillary Clinton's health, Benghazi, IRS, ACA --

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: Go ahead. OK. Real quick.

SPICER: I want to get a shot.

MADDEN: Hold on, hold on.

SPICER: Here's the shot. I'm going to give -- I'm going to quote Mo Elleithee to Mo Elleithee. February 13 we appeared at this very table. This is you. I will put my money on the table the Democrats pick up seats in House, that we hold the Senate and we pick up governorships.

ELLEITHEE: My money is still on that table.

SPICER: OK. I will bet anything you want on that. I will bet you one week of wearing a Republican tie to -- that you can't do that. You will lose seats.

ELLEITHEE: If it weren't so hideous, I would take you up on that. It's not my color.

SPICER: You will lose seats in the House.

MADDEN: I thought you guys had a no tie rule. But real quick, Mo, this is a crucial time in Barack Obama's presidency right now. These last six months heading into this -- towards this midterm.

The fact that we're talking about Hillary Clinton is a problem for President Obama's White House right now. He can't break through on any of the conversation that he believes is probably crucial to moving his agenda. What does that say about his presidency right now?

ELLEITHEE: I think it says more about the Republican Party that this is --

MADDEN: No, this -- Mo, let me for a second. For a second. Democrats from Elizabeth Warren to Tim Kaine are more excited about talking about Hillary Clinton than they are President Obama. It's a problem for your party.

ELLEITHEE: Look, I don't think that's true at all. I think the president's out there every day talking about an economic agenda to help grow the middle class and move our country forward. Democrats are there standing arm in arm with him in the Congress, trying to pass that agenda. Time after time when the bills come forward, the Republicans block them, whether it's anything from immigration reform or raising the minimum wage, Republicans are not honest brokers in this dialogue. And they're focused on --

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: I really do believe your party as well as the public has begun to tune the president out.

JONES: Why is it, Kevin, that when you guys have a thousand voices, it's a great thing. And we have two voices, and we can't somehow handle that? It doesn't make any sense to me.

I want to ask you a question. When you think about Hillary Clinton, you guys are saying have we learned anything, have we learned anything? The voters in Iowa who didn't like her much, "Washington Post" went to Iowa and talked to Democrats who were against Hillary Clinton. Let me tell you the kind of stuff they're saying about Hillary Clinton. They say she's seasoned, capable, smart, decisive, and amazing. Those are the words coming up.

Can you name one Republican that Iowa voters feel that way about? With that kind of list that we can put up? One Republican.

SPICER: Absolutely. Chris Christie.

JONES: Chris Christie is in the ditch.

SPICER: You asked for a name. I'm giving you an answer. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Mike Pence. John Kasich. Hold on. I'm giving you -- the problem is you don't like the answer. The problem --

ELLEITHEE: I love those answers.

SPICER: We have a bench that is so deep that we've added a second row to it. And the problem is, is that you guys don't like the fact you have one candidate. That's it. You put all your money on one candidate. And unfortunately, as her record continues to come out, it's not good.

JONES: Let me ask you about this, now. You mentioned a bunch of people, all of whom divide the party. The Tea Party doesn't like half the people you just talked about. The establishment is afraid of the other half. How is it that you guys are -- why don't you talk about your own party -- why are you spending so much time talking about --

SPICER: Sure, I'll be glad to talk about our party. Our party is going to pick up seats in the House. We're going to take the Senate. For all the talk about everything that's wrong with our party, we're winning. Right now, the president -- Politico did a poll, came out this morning, shows us with a seven-point advantage going into -- in the battleground states. It shows the president with a 40 percent approval rating. JONES: You're underwater on every issue. Underwater on minimum wage. You're underwater on unemployment insurance. You're underwater on everything.

SPICER: Right, and every circumstance when people are asked who they want to elect, it's Republicans, Republicans, Republicans.

MADDEN: Sean -- Sean is absolutely right. Sean is absolutely right.

SPICER: Smart man.

MADDEN: And Democrats have a big problem with Hillary Clinton. It isn't her health or her husband. I'll tell you what it is in a minute.

But there's a hint in today's "CROSSFIRE Quiz." How many bills did Hillary Clinton sponsor while she was in the U.S. Senate? Was it 53, 417, or 713? We'll answer -- we'll have the answer when we get back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDEN: Welcome back. Here's the answer to today's "CROSSFIRE Quiz." According to Congress.gov, Hillary Clinton sponsored 713 bills as a U.S. senator, but only three of them became law.

So, my Democratic friends are mistaking Hillary Clinton's name recognition for her record. Of course, everyone knows who she is, but can you name anything she's accomplished?

She spent eight years in the White House, eight years in the Senate, and four at the State Department without one signature accomplishment. But you'll find plenty of questions.

Hillary care, Benghazi, Russia, and now Nigeria. Couple all that with her lack of a record and it adds up to big trouble for the Democrats.

Mo, this is not just me. This is not just Sean saying this.

Jen Psaki, who's the State Department spokesperson, when she was asked for one signature accomplishment of Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state, she couldn't come up with any answers.

Knowing that, what's the bumper sticker for a Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016?

ELLEITHEE: Well, I'm not in the bumper sticker design business.

MADDEN: Oh, I bet.

ELLEITHEE: But let me tell you -- as secretary of state in the Obama administration, I'm very excited to any day, whether it's in the context of a presidential campaign or not, talk about this president, this administration's foreign policy record and compare it to the foreign policy record of his predecessor or of these who want to succeed him on the Republican side. When we look at the fact that this administration worked to bring tougher sanctions on Iran, when this administration worked --

MADDEN: OK.

ELLEITHEE: -- to bring a cease-fire to violence in between the Israelis and the Palestinians, when this administration negotiated a new START treaty, those are all --

MADDEN: Take, for example, Iran. Hillary Clinton's State Department was -- and if you talk -- this is from both sides of the conversation up on Capitol Hill. We'll tell you that the State Department was an obstacle on some of those sanctions on Iran.

ELLEITHEE: No, I don't think that's true at all. I think Hillary Clinton was part of this process from the beginning. I think she has been a partner with this White House from the beginning.

MADDEN: Sean, jump in here.

SPICER: OK. She owns the Russian reset that was a failure. She owns the failure in Syria. She owns failure to name Boko Haram a terrorist organization. She owns the failure of Benghazi. You can't have it both ways.

All of these things that went wrong went wrong on her watch. And to Kevin's point, when Jen was asked pointblank, name an accomplishment, they said we'd get back to you. When they asked Clintons for one, they talked about reorganization, reorganization of a department which has riddled in waste and bureaucracy.

So, they, themselves, can't name that singular accomplishment. That's a problem. It's not about a bumper sticker. They can't even put a white paper together.

ELLEITHEE: I don't think that's true at all.

And, look, I'm happy to compare the Democratic foreign policy to the Republican foreign policy any day of the week, especially when you look at the fact of those who are considering a run on the Republican side, you've got people like Rand Paul who is advocating complete disengagement from the rest of the world including allies of ours like Israel. When you look at the fact that you've got others out there who are -- and this is a serious global issue -- denying simple things like climate change, these are global issues.

VAN JONES, CO-HOST: And you guys have a problem, it's not just the overseas stuff, the foreign policy stuff. You have a problem with domestic policy. You have guys have a guy that's -- your establishment candidate, Thom Tillis in North Carolina who just came out and said he wants to abolish the minimum wage.

How are you going to deal with a Republican Party who's been pulled so far to the right, now your establishment candidates don't want a minimum wage in America? Is that popular? Is that popular?

SPICER: Can I ask you a question? If we're so wrong on issues, how come we're so right and winning -- JONES: We haven't had a campaign yet.

SPICER: Actually, all of your candidates, Kay Hagan is running away from the president. Mark, I mean, Mark Pryor is running from the president. Begich is running from the president, Landrieu.

They're running ads against their own party because they don't want anything to do with you guys.

MADDEN: And that's a good point and I want to go back to a point here, too. I mean, the president's approval rating is in the low 40s for a reason. How does Hillary Clinton in a potential 2016 campaign not -- how does she not -- how does she escape the idea this is going it be a third term for a president whose approval ratings are in the 40s?

ELLEITHEE: Well, the president's approval ratings are higher than the Republican Party's approval rating. So, let's start there.

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: We're going to (INAUDIBLE)

ELLEITHEE: You're not running as the -- you're not running for anything, either, right? And this is the problem that I think your party is going to have in 2014 and in 2016. I can't name a single thing that a Republican candidate running in 2014 --

SPICER: Why are you losing so badly?

JONES: We haven't had a campaign yet.

ELLEITHEE: Let's go state by state and I just want you to show me --

(CROSTALK)

SPICER: So, do you think that you will actually net pick up seats in the House?

ELLEITHEEE: I think we're going to do well in the House and possibly pick up seats. I think we are going to hold the Senate. I think there are going to be more Democratic governors at the end of the night than they were at the beginning of the night this November.

JONES: You guys want to point -- prosecute this thing. You are one of the top guys in your party. I have got to ask you real questions about your party.

SPICER: Right.

JONES: You love to call it diversity. It looks like complete and total disarray. You actually have people running for office now, running for the senate in Georgia saying when they get elected they're going to turn on Mitch McConnell. Do you support Mitch McConnell remaining the leader in the Senate? Yes or no?

SPICER: Absolutely.

JONES: You do?

SPICER: Of course. No one is asking my opinion.

If Mitch McConnell is re-elected in his race, it's up to the Republican senators to choose their leader. I don't see any reason why Mitch McConnell wouldn't be. I don't think anyone is looking at me to ask --

JONES: But don't you think it's somewhat bizarre you think your party is prepared to govern, and you've got people who -- you talked about running against Obama, you've got people running against Mitch McConnell in your own party.

SPICER: You think you can own (ph) the fact that you guys kick Joe Lieberman out of a party and Ed Lamont? There are things that happen when you don't have the White House.

Right now, your party is getting dragged left by Elizabeth Warren. I think that's a little odd that a women that's been in office for like 18 months, she's pulling the entire Democratic Party to the left.

JONES: I think the entire country is concerned about income inequality, Elizabeth Warren, she's championed for that. You guys apparently think income inequality is not that big of a deal.

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: You got a guy named Bill de Blasio up in New York now, that everyone is trying to figure out, are they to the left of Elizabeth Warren, or are they left to Bill de Blasio? But you guys without having a multiple --

ELLEITHEE: Here's the big difference. Here's a very fundamental difference. The Democratic Party is unified behind an agenda of increasing opportunity for everybody. The Republican Party is finally, finally unified, as well. It's unified behind the Tea Party.

The Tea Party has been fighting this war. It has won the war, because even the so-called establishment candidates are being pushed to the right.

JONES: One more question.

(CROSSTALK)

SPICER: You know what? Here's the thing. You guys don't want -- all of the policies right now of the Democratic -- of the left are failing. You can't name a single function of government that's working really, really well. Healthcare.gov is a disaster.

ELLEITHEE: How about the economy, Sean?

(CROSSTALK) SPICER: Hold on, hold on. We're at 33-year low of labor participation. More people are choosing to stay out of the workforce than in. That is hardly -- that is at best a D-minus. That's nothing to be proud of.

MADDEN: You think the economy right now is living up to its full potential? So, it's going to be --

(CROSSTALK)

ELLEITHEE: Come on now. I didn't say that. Everyone is saying there's room for it and need for it to grow, but it is certainly better than it was at the beginning when this president took office. It is certainly better.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: Tough message.

JONES: Imagine how much better it would be --

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: -- if Republicans would actually stop being obstructionists and work together.

(CROSSTALK)

ELLEITHEE: Thank you. Exactly.

As you're painfully aware, I mean, Kevin, this was litigated in 2012, as well.

MADDEN: You know what --

(CROSSTALK)

ELLEITHEE: This was headed in a better direction.

MADDEN: Contest for the future.

ELLEITHEE: Amen to that.

JONES: Stop, OK.

Now, we got -- want you at home to get in on this debate -- this argument. We got a "Fireback" question for you, are the Republicans just scared of a Hillary Clinton candidacy in 2016? Tweet yes or no using #Crossfire. We're going to give you those results after the break.

Also, we're going to have the outrages of the day. Just when you thought the gun control debate couldn't be anymore out of control, wait until you hear what a Republican in Arizona thinks about it -- when we get back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JONES: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Now, it's time for the outrages of the day.

Here's mine -- regardless of where you stand on the issue of gun control or gun safety. We can all agree that politicizing mass shootings is bad, right? Well, a Republican candidate for congress in Arizona apparently didn't think so.

During a debate on Saturday, Gary Kiehne said 99 percent of all mass shootings are, "Democrats pulling out their guns and shooting people." I'm not joking. That actually happened.

Look, fortunately, Kiehne issued an apology today. He said he since learned his information was inaccurate and incorrect, which begs the question, where was he getting his information from in the first place?

Now, just so everybody in America knows this, the mass majority of mass shooters in the country are deeply troubled, they're mentally unstable, but they don't have any political affiliation and 99 percent of Americans actually know that.

MADDEN: Here's my outrage. The 9/11 Museum that opened last week in New York is designed to be an educational and historical institution, honoring the victims of those horrific attacks. "The New York Times" called it emotionally overwhelming.

But the museum has fallen short of standards in one area, it has a gift shop, a 9/11 gift shop. It sells trinkets like caps, T-shirts, mouse pads. There are also earrings, key chains, and even dog vests.

According to "The New York Post", the mother of a young woman who was lost in the towers on 9/11 described the gift shop as, quote, "crass and insensitive." She was being polite. The victims of those attacks deserve a memorial that pays tribute with silence and remembrance, not merchandise.

JONES: You got no argument from me on that one. So, thanks.

Now, listen, let's check on our "Fireback" results. We asked the question, are Republicans just scared of a Hillary Clinton candidacy in 2016?

Right now, 72 percent of you say yes, 28 percent say no.

Now, what do you think of those results? Are you scared?

SPICER: No, I'm not scared. I don't scare very easily.

JONES: Neither does Hillary Clinton.

SPICER: We're not scared, no.

JONES: America thinks you're scared. What do you think about these results?

ELLEITHEE: I think they couldn't be more thrilled, because they want to talk about anything but their own agenda in 2014. So, this gives them something else to focus on. So, have at it. It's going to be a long two years.

SPICER: I want to end on a bipartisan note, these are our Bush socks. Everybody at the table gets a pair. I couldn't come without a pair I guess (ph). I want you guys to wear them with pride.

MADDEN: You are the swag king.

SPICER: I know.

JONES: Terrible.

ELLEITHEE: At least better than the ties.

SPICER: Come on.

JONES: I think you proved point, you'd rather talk about anything --

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: What happens to the president's approval ratings if he starts wearing these?

SPICER: I think President Obama -- we'll send President Obama a pair.

JONES: OK, OK. Well, I want to thank Mo Elleithee and also Sean Spicer.

The debate will continue online at CNN.com/Crossfire, where you cannot find these socks. Also on Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Van Jones.

MADDEN: And from the right, I'm Kevin Madden.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.