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In the Crossfire

Sen. Clinton of New York -- in the main ring?

(CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton came out swinging this week at a meeting of fellow Democrats. Were her attacks on the Bush administration's policies opening shots in her bid for higher office? Lynn Cutler, a former Clinton administration official, and Terry Jeffrey, the editor of Human Events, debate whether another Clinton could be on top of the presidential ticket in 2004, 2008 or beyond.

BEGALA: On "Crossfire" there's just no question who stole the show at this week's Democratic Leadership Conference meeting in New York.

My pal Hillary Rodham Clinton, the senator from New York, was not only the person everyone wanted to have their picture taken with, she wowed them with a speech blasting the Republicans on everything from economics to welfare.

Hillary says she's not interested in any political office except the one that she's holding right now, the junior senator from New York, but a lot of folks are dreaming.

Joining us now in the "Crossfire," former Clinton administration special assistant Lynn Cutler who, by the way, was just inducted into the Iowa Political Hall of Fame; and Terry Jeffrey, the editor of Human Events.

NOVAK: Lynn Cutler, Paul talks about people dreaming of Hillary on the ticket. The Democrats I talked to, they consider it a nightmare. And I want to show you -- take a look at the Fox News poll, and this is favorability -- not whether you want her on the ticket, just are you favorable: 44 yes, 44 no.


CUTLER: Now look at the date on that, Bob.

NOVAK: Well, it's November 2001.

BEGALA: That's why she's in the Hall of Fame.

NOVAK: But surely, surely you don't believe that the Democratic Party is suicidal enough to want to put Hillary on the ticket as vice president this year, do you?

CUTLER: I think I know how you feel about this. The fact is that there is no way that the senator is going to be looking at the national ticket in 2004. She's made a commitment to serve a full term...

NOVAK: Didn't our president make that same commitment?

CUTLER: This is Hillary, and you may have noticed that she does do her own thing.

She is committed to be a good senator. She's being a good senator. She's getting fabulous press, which I'd be happy to share with you at any point in time, and she's doing a wonderful job for her city and state, the city that, of course, underwent such trauma.

NOVAK: Well, I don't know if you read the New York papers, but about her fabulous press, they had a closed-door Democratic meeting the other day and she just wanted -- she didn't like campaign finance reform, which she had talked about and pushed in public. In private she was very upset.

And Senator Russ Feingold, a co-sponsor of the McCain-Feingold bill, a very principled, gentle man, she screamed at him. She said, Russ, live in the real world.

And isn't that the real Hillary Clinton? She's had this fake facade for these last year-and-a-half?

CUTLER: No. No. No.

NOVAK: Well, how did you explain that?

CUTLER: The last thing that Hillary Rodham Clinton is, is fake about anything.

NOVAK: How do you explain...

CUTLER: I've known a lot of political people, as you know, over many, many years -- more than I want to count at this point, and she is probably one of the most genuine caring, kind...

NOVAK: Please answer my question. Why did she yell at Russ Feingold?

CUTLER: Well, I don't accept that she did because it appeared in where, the New York Post?

BEGALA: Well, I like a senator that yells once in a while. I've had a lot of senators yell at me.

JEFFREY: I bet she yelled at Bill a few times too.

BEGALA: Well, you know, I'm old enough to remember when the Democratic Leadership Council actually was the forum that launched Bill Clinton's presidential candidacy in a meeting in Cleveland in 1991 where he wowed the crowd.

And it really is deja vu all over again. I want to read you just a brief excerpt from Hillary's speech. I can't pull it off like -- I'm not beautiful and brilliant like she is. Let me just read you the rhetoric, and it will strike fear into your heart.

"Some have called the Clinton economic record a binge," she said. "Young people able to afford college, and they call that a binge? Millions climbing out of welfare and into new jobs, and that's some kind of a binge? I'm reminded of what Abraham Lincoln said when his commanders complained about Ulysses S. Grant's binges. `Find out,' he said, `what kind of whiskey Grant drinks because I want to send a barrel to each of my generals.'"

That's the kind of stuff that can win a presidential election. That's why you guys are attacking her, right?

JEFFREY: Well, look Paul, I'll grant you this: In 1992 you guys had a brilliant strategy with Bill Clinton. You portrayed him as a more moderate Democrat, even a conservative Democrat. He saying he was going to cut taxes for the middle class, end welfare reform as we knew it. He said he wanted abortion to be safe, legal and rare. He dissed Jesse Jackson.

We now what we got from Bill Clinton: the biggest tax increase in history. He wouldn't sign welfare reform until he vetoed it twice.

Hillary Clinton is no moderate, but she doesn't have one advantage Bill Clinton had. Bill Clinton came out of the hinterlands of Arkansas, he didn't have a national record.

Hillary's already got a long national record. She's going to serve in the Senate from New York. She'll be one of the most left- wing members of Congress for the next six years until, I predict, she is the Democratic nominee in 2008 and goes down in flames.

BEGALA: Why do you suppose, though -- I have the burden of knowing her personally and professionally for more than a decade. She's actually, certainly, personally a conservative person in many ways. She was a Goldwater gal growing up in suburban Chicago.

And, for example, she has said good things about Bush's welfare bill, which many on the left hate.

How do you reconcile the real Hillary with the rhetoric you...

JEFFREY: Well, the fact of the matter is you still have 66 percent of the people on welfare not working. I'm not sure...

BEGALA: She's supporting Bush's reform, though. This doesn't make her a liberal.

JEFFREY: She didn't vote for George Bush's tax cut, did she.

BEGALA: No, thank God, it would've bankrupted the country. Thank God she's got a brain, you know, she's smart.

JEFFREY: You're saying Hillary Clinton is not a liberal. Is she for partial-birth abortion?

CUTLER: You know what, you are part of the hate Hillary crowd. This has been a cottage industry in the...

NOVAK: How about "dislike Hillary"?

CUTLER: No, no, no.




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