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Hillary Faces Criticism On Eve of Book's Debut; The GOP's "Hillary Strategy"

Aired June 9, 2014 - 18:30   ET


PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Wolf, thank you. Kind of like Christmas Eve for me. I'm just tingling with anticipation. I'm going to be up all night, because if we're good little boys and girls, tomorrow morning we can finally open the most wonderful gift of all, my friend Hillary Clinton's new book.

S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: Wow. Well, I hate to be the Grinch here, but I've seen an advanced copy, and your Christmas morning is going to be a real downer. The debate starts right now.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, Hillary Clinton facing attacks on the eve of her book release.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clinton's account is a low-salt, low-fat, low- calorie offering with vanilla pudding as dessert.

ANNOUNCER: Is America ready for Hillary? On the left, Paul Begala. On the right, S.E. Cupp. In the CROSSFIRE, Tracy Sefl, a Clinton supporter, and Tim Miller, co-author of "Failed Choices." Should Democrats place all bets on Clinton? Will Republican attacks on her backfire? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


BEGALA: Now, welcome to CROSSFIRE. I am Paul Begala on the left.

CUPP: I'm S.E. Cupp on the right. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, guests with different opinions of Hillary Clinton. Her new book comes out tomorrow, and she'll be starting a high-profile campaign swing. I mean, promotional tour. But she's getting a little lost in translation.

For one, she doesn't speak progressive. Just ask one. For another, she doesn't speak millennial, which she learned the hard way in 2008. And as you clearly see in her interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, unlike her husband, she hasn't figured out how to speak regular person.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education. You know, it was not easy. We had to make double the money, because of obviously taxes and then pay off the debts and get us houses and take care of family members.


CUPP: Dead broke. Get us houses. Plural. As in these houses in two of the most expensive neighborhoods you can find? So the two most recognizable politicians in America for two decades couldn't budget their money the way Americans have to?

Paul, even you have to admit, this one is not going to go over well in our land.

BEGALA: We only found the only millionaires in America who the Republicans don't like.

CUPP: Come on.

BEGALA: In fact, she understates when she says dead broke. They were $12 million in debt for legal bills, from Ken Starr and that whole right-ring machine that tried to drive them into bankruptcy. So thank God we live in a country where Hillary and Bill can actually now thrive.

CUPP: Well, nothing that a little Goldman Sachs ATM can't fix, right?

TIM MILLER, CO-AUTHOR, "FAILED CHOICES": Hillary had an $8 billion book advance before she even left the White House. You can't budget the mortgage on that, come on.

BEGALA: It's worth every penny. In the CROSSFIRE, Tracy Sefl, first, who advises the Ready for Hillary PAC, and Tim Miller. Tim is the co- author of the new perfectly timed anti-Clinton e-book call, cleverly, "Failed Choices."

CUPP: I see what you did there.

BEGALA: Full disclosure, you all know this, but I worked with President Clinton for many years. I've known Hillary now 23 years. I love her. I want her to run for president. I deeply hope she does.

You should also know that I advise Priorities USA Action, which is a super PAC that helped re-elect President Obama and which I dearly hope will elect President Hillary.

Now with that disclosure set, Mr. Miller, first welcome. Thank you for coming.

MILLER: Thanks for having us, Paul.

BEGALA: I hear this canard from my friends on the right, in fact, particularly your organization. "Hillary hasn't done anything as secretary of state; there's not an important accomplishment." So let me just give you the top ten.


BEGALA: OK. The toughest sanctions in our generation on Iran. There was a cease-fire.


BEGALA: She backed the mission -- we'll get to this. Backed the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. She freed a Chinese dissident. I go on and on and on. I hope we cover all ten of these, and then maybe we'll do a special edition to cover ten more.

But let me start with No. 3, which is the cease-fire in Gaza. Hamas terrorists were bombing Israel, shooting rockets into Israel. Hillary Clinton stepped in and negotiated a cease-fire. Now, I think, of course, that that was great. It's good for America, good for Israel, good for peace. More importantly, here's what the prime minister of Israel says about my friend, Hillary. Take a look.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I just had the opportunity to work with her to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Hillary Clinton is a strong and determined leader. She's both principled and pragmatic. And she knows how to get the job done.


BEGALA: Now, I'm sure that's going to be in your book. I haven't had that time to read your e-book yet.

Strong and principled. This is the prime minister of Israel. Tell me that you know more about Israel's security than Prime Minister Netanyahu.

MILLER: Well, I'm certainly not going to do that, Paul. But what I will tell you is, when it comes to Israel, on the campaign trail in 2008, Hillary promised that she was going to support an undivided Jerusalem.

Then she goes to the State Department. What does she do? She tries to support negotiations where she points fingers at Israel, says that Israel is the problem. And says that, in order to come to a negotiation, we need to not have a divided -- an undivided Jerusalem.

Also on the Iran sanctions, which was the top thing on your list, when Congress tried to past the toughest Iran sanctions that brought Iran to the table, that got us to this deal, Hillary Clinton and the State Department were over in the Senate talking to your buddy, Bob Menendez saying don't pass these, these are too harsh, these are too harsh.

BEGALA: Nonsense.

MILLER: Bob Menendez--

BEGALA: She got the Russian, Chinese, French, to sign on to the sanctions that delivered the-- MILLER: Nicolas Sarkozy said it was toothless.

BEGALA: -- to the -- to the table.

CUPP: I think -- I think it's a little early to say how those sanctions have worked out yet, but Tracy, I'm really glad that Paul brought up Israel, because I've read the chapter in her book on Israel, and let me tell you, there is a doozy in there. Let me just read.

She writes of her first visit to Israel, "I got my first glimpse of life under occupation for Palestinians who are denied the dignity and self-determination that Americans take for granted."

Now, I'm sure I don't have to remind anyone at this table that Chris Christie had to apologize for using similar language about Palestinian occupation. Is Hillary Clinton going to apologize to Israel for using that same language?

TRACY SEFL, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: Well, I hope that Chris Christie is going to write a book, because that's the one that I would read. But let me first say, you did -- you quoted from the book, and I think Tim spent all weekend reading it. I haven't read it yet. It's not out. So the answer that I'll give you is about a bigger issue when it comes to Hillary Clinton's diplomatic agenda.

And that is the way that she has expanded the notion of diplomacy in the State Department to include an incredibly important set of issues which have to do with women and girls.

CUPP: Tracy, let me just stop you before you--

SEFL: Education and health.

CUPP: -- don't answer my question. Let's take for granted that the quote I read is actually in the book. Does she owe Israel an apology for using the same language that Chris Christie used and then had to apologize to pro-Israel voters and pro-Israel groups?

SEFL: Hillary Clinton is going to stand by the words in her book. She is not going to apologize for something she need not apologize for.

CUPP: She believes the Palestinian territories are occupied, then?

SEFL: She will be making that point as she, herself, should.

CUPP: So then you think that she believes that the Palestinian territory is occupied? She's not going to apologize for that, and she asserted that on purpose?

SEFL: I'm sure that when we all actually read the book and listen to her give these interviews, her words will stand for themselves.

MILLER: She said it twice in the book. So I think--

CUPP: Yes, she said it, but I'll take your word for it that she is unapologetic.

BEGALA: And I am unapologetically pro-Israel, and Hillary is very, very strong on this. If that's the tree you guys want to bark up, I wish you luck.

So let's move on to another Hillary accomplishment, which is I think strategically very, very important. The pivot to Asia. Particularly a couple of things.

First off, she was the one -- in the United States, but she was our secretary of state -- who stood up against this Chinese expansionism into the South China Sea. Vietnam. An old enemy of America. Hillary sided with the Vietnamese, helped back off the Chinese. She in Beijing freed the dissident civil rights activist and lawyer Chen Guangcheng.

Do you think that was -- were those bad things or can you at least admit that, certainly in Asia, she's helped strengthen America, opening up to Burma, checking Chinese territorial expansionism, standing for human rights?

MILLER: I think that -- I think that -- I think she worked with Mitch McConnell on efforts in Burma. I think that obviously she tried to at least give lip service and make some progress in the pivot to Asia.

But here's the thing, Paul. What are the tangible results that she's going to talk about? I mean, you have this list of ten things you've talked about. The first thing on your list was something she opposed.

BEGALA: That's not true. I'm not going to let you get away with that. She is the reason we have sanctions on Iran.

MILLER: Now we're talking rhetorical.

BEGALA: She freed that dissident. Should we give him back? Should we give Chen Guangcheng back?

MILLER: No, I don't think so.

BEGALA: OK. So can you say that was a good thing?

MILLER: Sure, but this is--


MILLER: Do you really think voters are going to go to the polls and "She freed Chen Guangcheng? I'm there, then"?

SEFL: What they will go to the polls about is that the pivot to Asia also represents her understanding of workers and what the Asian economy, specifically in China, means for the American economy. And that is something that she's been unapologetic about and was also forward thinking with the very pivot that Professor Begala is talking about.

MILLER: But, again, none of these things when you look at the big issues that faced her, the Arab Spring, when you look at what happened in Iran--

BEGALA: Asia's not a big issue?

MILLER: -- Iran and the Green Movement, Syria, Russia, Libya, overthrowing Gadhafi. You know, where are these tangible -- tangible results that she's going to take to voters? Saying in Asia "I pivoted to Asia" does not count.

BEGALA: We're going to have to take a quick break. We can get through all of those specifics, believe me.

CUPP: I've got a long list.

BEGALA: I want to point something out as a political strategist is this. My Republican friends are looking at the prospect of a Hillary campaign. And they have Plan "A" and a Plan "B." I will let you know their secret strategy next.

But first, this question. How long did Hillary Clinton's first memoir, "Living History," spend on "The New York Times" bestseller list? Was it 12 weeks, 34 weeks, or 55 weeks? We'll have the answer when we return.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Hillary Clinton's brand new memoir "Hard Choices" comes out tomorrow. I for one cannot wait. But apparently, I'm not the only one. Booksellers have preordered a million copies.

Actually, it should not be any great surprise. The marketplace works. Her first memoir "Living History" spent 34 weeks on "The New York Times" bestseller list. If you guessed 34 weeks, you got it right.

CUPP: Winner.

BEGALA: Yes. Now, look, I have known Hillary Clinton for a very long time. I don't know for sure whether she's going to run for president. I'm wearing my knees out praying.

But I know this: my Republican friends have two plans for that eventuality. Plan A, try to keep her from running, while they're launching all these crazy attacks. Plan B, if that doesn't work out, Republicans lose to Hillary and she becomes president.

So, Republicans, if you want to avoid plan B, keep up the attacks like the one that ABC's Diane Sawyer asked Hillary Clinton about.


DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: Mitch McConnell said at one point, 2016 will be the return of the Golden Girls.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: That was a very popular, long-running TV series.


BEGALA: Yes. I speak Hillary, Tim, and here is what she means when she says that. That was popular in the long-running, she's saying bring it on.

I will point out that Mitch McConnell who attacked her apparently for that little snide comment is six years older. He's 72 running for a six-year term. Hillary is 66, hopefully going to run for a four-year term.

This is really counterproductive for your side, isn't it?

MILLER: Well, let's talk about two of the other questions that happened in that interview that shows --

BEGALA: Well, wait, isn't Mitch McConnell -- you can get to your shots. You have a whole book attacking Hillary. Isn't it stupid and sexist for Mitch McConnell -- by the way, again, who's six years older than Hillary -- to be raising these kind of snide comments?

MILLER: I certainly think there are lots more credible way you can attack Hillary Clinton and if you just look at the interview she did with Diane Sawyer, we've only seen two clips of them. And one of them, she's talking about how she struggled so much to pay the mortgage when she was getting an $8 million advance and her husband was selling access to himself and the White House to the highest bidder --

BEGALA: No, not true. It was driven -- $12 million on the debt --


BEGALA: -- by Ken Starr and right wing attack.

MILLER: They're worth $100 million to $200 million now. They haven't invented --

BEGALA: What is this, Russia? We're not allowed to get rich anymore?

MILLER: No, that's not what I'm telling you. They haven't invented a widget. They sold themselves.

CUPP: Right.


MILLER: Here's another --

SEFL: We're going to talk numbers, 40 percent of the speeches that Hillary Clinton is giving are for free. It's for charitable causes. She is raising money. She is out there.


SEFL: One night with Hillary, she can get paid over $1 million for excellent causes.

CUPP: She's a woman of the people. Tracy, now, we know you are ready for Hillary.

SEFL: That's is true.

CUPP: But not everyone in the Democratic Party is. And a recent poll says that 55 percent of Democrats want other Democrats to run against her.

And here's what former governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer, said about her. He said, "You can't be a candidate that shakes down more money on Wall Street than anybody since I don't know, Woodrow Wilson, and be a populist."

Now, he sounds a lot more like today's Democrats than Hillary does, to me. Is he wrong about her?

SEFL: Well, Governor Schweitzer and his sort of folksiness is an interesting line for him to go to and isn't the first time he said something like this. But what we're talking about when we look biographically as Secretary Clinton, someone who's been working her whole life on issues involving reducing the inequality.

And even as secretary of state, the notion of inequality for her was a guiding principle in why we needed to stabilize in certain countries, that growing inequalities are actually a grave danger for societies. This is something that has guided her as first lady, as a senator, as the secretary of state. It's been her principle.

So, inequality, Hillary Clinton -- go back and look at her words to the New America Foundation recently --

CUPP: Tim?

MILLER: I just think this is going to be a tough sell for her. I mean, Hillary Clinton is going to have the closest ties to Wall Street out of he candidate in either party. She was getting paid $200,000 per speech by the biggest Wall Street firm. So, the idea she's going to be able to tap into this Elizabeth Warren populist movement is pretty ridiculous and it sure doesn't help when she's lamenting her $100 million as having trouble putting food on the table.

SEFL: If we're so interested in talking about people who dared to go and earn a living and been successful --


SEFL: -- it's also worth noting that for her, the charitable events that they're doing is just a part of the story. That both Bill and Hillary Clinton have given upwards of 10 percent of their entire income to charity. A figure that --

MILLER: So did Mitt Romney, but that doesn't stop Paul from just ripped --


BEGALA: Mitt Romney bought companies and laid the workers off, took their pensions and health benefits. Those workers didn't much like him so they made --


BEGALA: Here's the problem with the theory. It ain't working. Let me show you some polls. Okay, you guys have been on this now banging Hillary for 20 years and especially the last two. Not you personally, but the right.

Here's where she stands according to the ABC News/"Washington Post" poll -- 59 percent approve of the job she has done as secretary of state, 67 percent say she's a strong leader. Look at this, 60 percent say she is honest.

So, keep it up. If you got her down to 59 after only 20 years, you've got her down to zero in like 200 more. So, keep attacking Hillary. You need a new strategy, dude.


MILLER: We've done a polling analysis of her story, Hillary polls the worst when she's in the middle of a campaign, when there's a partisan fight going on, because she doesn't wear well. She didn't in 2008.


BEGALA: Who polls better in the middle of the campaign?

CUPP: I was on your Web site today, and I noticed all the amazing merchandise you guys have for sale. Those are water bottles, there's a dog collar, there's a Hillary Clinton cell phone case. Aren't you afraid all this stuff will turn off average American voters, who are concerned that Hillary is seen more as a brand and less as an actual problem solver, who's down in the gritty dirt trying to solve the real problems of the American people?

SEFL: The supply and demand issue is a interesting one with ready for Hillary. They can't keep the merchandise in stock. There is a clambering by her supporters growing every day.

CUPP: The deficit isn't with her admirers. The deficit is with average Americans --


SEFL: The idea of Hillary as a brand is certainly been an exciting one that people --

CUPP: For her supporters, Tracy.

SEFL: There's Ready for Hillary bus that's going to be going around the country --

CUPP: That's what I'm talking about.


SEFL: -- getting high five.

CUPP: -- that inevitability and branding of Hillary did not turn on enough voters in the Democratic primary.

SEFL: I'm glad that you're giving me the opportunity to say something that I have said many times. If there was an inevitability about Hillary Clinton, Ready for Hillary would not exist and I don't know how much more plainly to make that case, so every time that word comes up, that is going to be my answer.

BEGALA: I think this whole notion of my party of inevitability is dangerous and damaging.

MILLER: Well, then, why does the Priorities USA board of Jim Messina, you --

BEGALA: Here's the answer. The answer to it is, when you right wingers attack her, it boosts her. It ends in inevitability. Oh my goodness, this talented woman is being attacked with all these right wingers. It's great for Hillary.

CUPP: Stay here. We want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Was Hillary Clinton an effective secretary of state? Tweet yes or no using #Crossfire. We'll have the results after the break.

We also have the outrages of the day. I'm outraged because of some narrow-minded music fans taking the fun out of rock and roll.


CUPP: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

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

Thousands of freedom haters have signed an online petition to remove the band Metallica from the Glastonbury Music Festival in England this year. Why? Because front man James Hetfield is a big-time hunter and NRA member. And that's, quote, "incompatible with the spirit of the music festival," according to one Facebook page demanding the band be kicked out.

Look, I'm not outraged that fans hate hunters. Music has always attracted some sanctimonious, self righteous people, and they are free to be misinformed about our lifestyle.

I'm outraged rock and roll has gotten boring. What's rebellious about the idea everyone has to think alike and support the same causes? What's cool about putting trendy bumper sticker political pieties before one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time? When did young rock fans get so prudish and, well, establishment? Good news, all this has helped plug Hetfield's new history channel

show "The Hunt." And I met this one hunter and Metallica fan who hopes he kills it.

BEGALA: Well --

CUPP: See what I did there?

BEGALA: I did see. As a hunter, I don't know anything about -- I'm Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett. So, I have no idea. But I am a hunter, but my outrage comes from my beloved Lone Star State, where I spend so much time.

The Republican Party, though, of Texas has voted to include support for so-called reparative or conversion therapy in their state party platform. The idea is this: being gay is somehow bad, so through counseling and some believe prayer -- gay people can be made straight.

Now, interesting, of course, I disagree with it. But it's more interesting New Jersey Governor Chris Christie disagrees with that. He signed a law banning such treatments in the Garden State, citing mental health experts at American Psychological Association did say reparative therapy can, quote, "pose critical health risks including but not limited to depression, substance abuse, social withdrawal, decreased self-esteem, and even suicidal thoughts", unquote.

If Chris Christie runs for president, he's going to have to deal with a lot of, shall we say, controversial conservatives who believe that you can pray away the gay. But for me, when I hit my knees tonight, I intend to ask God to bless Texas, including Texas Republicans. That will be my effort to pray away the hate.

CUPP: Very nice.

All right. Let's check back on our "Fireback" results. Was Hillary Clinton an effective secretary of state? Right now, 56 percent of you say yes, 44 percent say no.

Quickly, guys, what do you think about those results?

SEFL: I think it's heartening and just wait until everyone's actually reading the book and not just Tim and you.


MILLER: Fifty-six percent need to go to

CUPP: Ooh! Nice plug.

SEFL: For everyone who does, of course, he's making money off it. So --

CUPP: God forbid.

SEFL: It all comes back to that.


BEGALA: All right. Thanks to Tracy Sefl from Ready for Hillary. Thanks to Tim Miller from America Rising.

The debate continues online at, as well as on the Facebook and the Twitter verse.

From the left, I am Paul Begala.

CUPP: From the right, I am S.E. Cupp.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.