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CROSSFIRE

New Warning to U.S.: Terrorists Swarming Syria; Will questions about Hillary's Health Backfire?; Clinton's Record A Problem?

Aired May 13, 2014 - 18:30   ET

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


STEPHANIE CUTTER, CO-HOST: Thank you.

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Newt Gingrich on the right.

CUTTER: And I'm Stephanie Cutter on the left.

GINGRICH: And we're going to have two U.S. senators in the CROSSFIRE tonight. I think you're going to find it will be a great show. But I also say that it's been great to have Stephanie back, because I don't think things have changed all that much since she left.

CUTTER: It's great to be back. Let's get this debate started. I am not --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, the return of the Clinton conspiracies. Will Karl Rove's questions about Hillary's health backfire?

On the left, Stephanie Cutter. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, and Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican. Legitimate questions or the politics of personal destruction? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: OK, so, where are we at?

CUTTER: It's great to be back. It's hard to believe I've been gone since January. I didn't expect much to change in the last three and a half months, but I certainly didn't expect things to get worse.

I woke up this morning to a brand-new absolutely ridiculous theory about Hillary Clinton peddled by none other than Karl Rove.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: "I'm not suggesting Hillary Clinton may suffer from brain damage," where'd that come from?

KARL ROVE, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH ADVISOR: No, no, no, wait a minute. No, no, I didn't say she had brain damage. She had a serious health episode. This will be an issue in the 2016 race, whether she likes it or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUTTER: This is just a bunch of crap. Let's be clear, what Karl Rove is doing here, he's raising questions about Secretary Clinton's health in order to create rumors and speculation about her readiness to be president.

Let me be clear, Karl: she's ready. And you're clearly concerned about Republican prospects in 2016 if you're floating this piece of garbage now.

Karl Rove, the man who wasted $300 million in the last presidential campaign on a failed strategy, the man who predicted Mitt Romney would win in a landslide. The man who had a famous meltdown on FOX News when his prediction was proven wrong. The Republican Party doesn't need advice from me, or maybe it does, but here's a hint: ignore Karl Rove.

GINGRICH: Let me -- we're going to debate a lot about Hillary Clinton tonight and a lot in the future. A lot of policy disagreements that you're going to see Stephanie and me go at it, and you're going to see our guests go at.

But I do believe Karl Rove is totally wrong. I think he represents the worst instincts in the Republican Party. Just think about it for a minute.

If Senator Clinton, Secretary Clinton, First Lady Clinton, is still out campaigning in 2016, there's not going to be any health issue, just as there wasn't a health issue with Dwight Eisenhower, just as there wasn't a health issue with Ronald Reagan. This is an absurdity and it typifies the Republican consulting class, which wants to be negative, narrow, personal, avoid ideas, and not have to wrestle with the big issues.

Well, on this show, we're going to focus on wrestling about big issues where we disagree deeply, but they're serious real issues. They're not petty personal attacks.

And candidly, I think Karl Rove owes her -- Secretary Clinton an apology. To bring up that kind of thing and suggest that kind of thing is what keeps a lot of decent people from getting in public life, because it ain't worth the pain of that kind of attack.

CUTTER: So we agree?

GINGRICH: Shocks me.

CUTTER: That changed.

GINGRICH: In about two minutes we'll disagree on policy.

CUTTER: OK.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: It's fair to question our sanity for being in the United States Senate.

(CROSSTALK)

CUTTER: In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we have -- you've already heard from him,d Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

So, do I get the first two questions, because I'm back?

GINGRICH: You can. First time back. This is it.

CUTTER: Thank you, very agreeing again.

So Senator Graham --

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: No brain damage.

GINGRICH: That's right.

CUTTER: Well, I wanted to talk to you about Karl Rove. Anything wrong there?

GRAHAM: Well, I just think what Karl was trying to say is that she'll have to prove to people that whatever episode she had is not lingering. And I think she's proved it. She's all over the country.

And I don't think she's brain damaged at all. I think she's very engaged. I think she's been wrong on foreign policy, and I think she's wrong on health care. And if I were her, I'd rather be talking about my injuries than the world blowing up, but no, there's no logic to this idea that there's something wrong with Secretary --

CUTTER: Do you think he should apologize to Hillary Clinton?

GRAHAM: I don't -- I don't think he meant to say she was brain damaged. I think he meant to say she'd have to go through a medical vetting process.

GINGRICH: Let me -- Senator, shift out of the personality stuff to a much bigger political question, which I'm fascinated by.

In 2008, then-Senator Clinton followed a strategy of being the Washington insider, gathering up the establishment, making sure everybody was for her, and then she lost the nomination. She's going through the same cycle this time. Isn't it actually -- and I think you endorsed her as of last week.

KAINE: I encouraged her, because she's not a candidate. I encouraged her to be a candidate.

GINGRICH: You encouraged her so you could endorse her. But isn't it, in fact, setting up exactly the same cycle where she can't possibly run as a grassroots candidate, and she's going to clearly be the Washington insider candidate?

KAINE: Look, that's a good question. I do think trying to run as the inevitable victor was a problem in '08, and I don't think you do that in 2016. You do take advantage of your experience.

I mean, as first lady involved in so many things, like the formation of the CHiP program as a senator; did work on veterans issues; good work on minimum wage; as secretary of state, good things on the START treaty and on helping broker a ceasefire in Gaza. So she's got good experience, but she can't -- I don't think she should run as the inevitable candidate.

Gingrich: Doesn't it sort of cut out Joe Biden to have all of his many friends say basically, "Please don't run, Joe. We've already got the coronation set up:?

KAINE: It ain't a coronation. Here's why it's not a coronation. If it were easy for a woman to be elected president, there would have been one. There'd be more than 18 percent of women in Congress. There'd be more than 5 percent CEOs for a woman.

She could come in -- I don't care what the poll numbers are. Anybody who is supporting Secretary Clinton trying to do something never been done ought to go in with their eyes open that this is going to be very hard.

So the campaign does have to say, "Whatever folks think of me, I'm known in a household way more than other candidates might be, but you have to assume this is an uphill battle. Any presidential campaign is tough, this one is going to be very tough.

I want to talk about what's happening on the Republican side of the aisle, Senator Graham, in 2016, and I'm guessing, you know, I understand what you're saying about Karl Rove and I think you're being too kind there.

GRAHAM: That's a flaw I have.

CUTTER: That's what I hear.

KAINE: On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays, don't get on his bad side.

CUTTER: But you know, I think Karl Rove would rather keep a spotlight on Hillary Clinton than talk about the civil war that's going on in your own party. And we saw that a little bit this week.

Marco Rubio, one of your rising stars, or last week, one of your rising stars, who clearly wants to be president, said that scientists are over-exaggerating the impacts of climate change, and that stands in stark contrast to where you've been on climate change.

In 2009 you co-authored with then-Senator Kerry an op-ed that said "We agree that climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security." Is Marco Rubio wrong?

GRAHAM: No, I think our Democratic friends have made climate change impossible to embrace, because they've turned it into a religion.

Carbon emissions, I think, do contribute to heating up the planet. How much, I don't know, but cap and trade is not the solution. Turning the economy upside-down to fix this problem is not the solution.

So Marco has his own views about is there a dynamic called global warming? Is manmade emissions contributing to that? I think --

CUTTER: So he's wrong?

GRAHAM: Well, no I don't. I think manmade emissions are contributing to global warming to some extent. Can America solve this problem by ourselves? Do we need cap and trade to fix it? The answer is absolutely no. I'm an all-of-the-above guy when it comes to energy.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you, Senator, staying at this issue level, where I think we can legitimately vet Secretary Clinton's record. In 2010 she says, the Keystone Pipeline, essentially she says, "It's a good idea. And I am, in fact, in favor of it, and I think we're going to approve it." This is 2010. Now, it's in her department.

She leaves after four years of opportunity with nothing done. It is still sitting in her department. Two-thirds of the American people favor it. Isn't it legitimate for the American people to say, if Secretary Clinton couldn't get the Keystone Pipeline out in four years, why would we think that she could manage the federal government?

KAINE: She'll have to answer that question, sure. Here's my sense of it. I think most of us in the Senate, in Congress, in the American public, see this ultimately as a presidential decision.

Sure , it was in the State Department, but this is a State Department that, on this issue and others, are going to be looking to, you know, carry out the will of the president that made the appointment.

I'm in a different position than Secretary Clinton was in 2010 on Keystone. I don't think -- I don't think it's a good idea, not because of the pipeline. Pipelines are fine. Tar sands oil is a bad deal, I think. But -- but you know, she'll talk about her record with the State Department. Some of the things that I mentioned earlier.

GINGRICH: I just want to point out -- before we take a break, I just want to point out, the new Clinton defense line will be, if it worked, she did it, if it didn't work, the president stopped her.

Now, while I deeply oppose personality attacks on Hillary Clinton, there are serious questions about her policies and performance that are legitimate. Next, I'll tell you what Republicans should ask about.

But first, today's "CROSSFIRE Quiz." How many countries did Hillary Clinton visit as secretary of state? Is it 51, 89, or 112? We'll have the answer when we get back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GINGRICH: Welcome back. Now, the answer to our CROSSFIRE quiz. While she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton visited 112 countries, including Nigeria, twice.

You know, in the last three weeks, virtually every American has learned about a radical Islamist group called Boko Haram. They kidnapped captured several hundred teenaged girls in Nigeria, forcibly converting some of them to Islam from Christianity and threatening to sell others into slavery.

While Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, four agencies -- the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and the United States military's Africa Command -- asked that Boko Haram be designated a terrorist organization. Secretary Clinton is going to have to explain why she rejected all of those requests. Just like Benghazi, it isn't going away.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Senators Tim Kaine and Lindsey Graham.

Tim, let me just take that question straight to you, doesn't she at some point have to offer, get down from being the celebrity, giving the big speeches, and be willing to say, here's why I made the decision, here's why I defend it?

KAINE: Sure, absolutely. Absolutely. There was one fact in the recitation you left out, she did designate a lot of the leaders of Boko Haram as terrorists.

And the decision that you make about whether you designate individuals as terrorists or groups as terrorists, there's a lot of calculations. There I assume, one of the calculations would be, if I designate a group, am I elevating them? Am I enabling them to recruit?

So, she did designate some of these leaders, but sure she'll have to answer these questions. Everybody who's going to run for this position is going to have to answer these questions and she'll have to. But I think she's going to have solid answers.

CUTTER: Senator Graham, I'm guessing you have a couple of points to make here, but before I ask you the question about what you think about this, this is what John Campbell, President George W. Bush's ambassador to Nigeria, had to say about this charge this past weekend.

"I don't think the criticism of Secretary Clinton is fair. Along with a good many other Nigerian experts at the time, we all opposed designation."

As it turned out, Senator Kerry did make that designation of -- designating them as a terrorist organization last fall. Those -- the 300 -- almost girls were still kidnapped, so why are we debating whether Hillary Clinton did or didn't designate them as a terrorist organization? Why aren't we talking about what's happening right now and finding solutions for these 300 girls?

Isn't it -- I mean, Newt said it best, this is like Benghazi. It's not going away. This is a political attack on Hillary Clinton. This is not about looking at what our policy changes need to be to ensure that we're addressing what's happening over there.

GRAHAM: Well, let's take that on directly. If she does run for president, she's going to be talking about all the good things she's done in her life and there's a lot of to talk about, but did she miss threats. Did she miss the rising al Qaeda in Benghazi? Obviously, she did.

There were reams of information coming out of Libya. We need more security. She says she didn't know about the level of security in Benghazi.

Was this a failure of foreign policy rather than an Internet video? I think it was a broader failure of foreign policy. Did she miss it? Did President Obama miss the rise of al Qaeda?

CUTTER: Quick question about embassy security, you know, look at the budget.

GRAHAM: Boko Haram, did she miss the threat?

CUTTER: Look at the budgets coming out of the Senate. They're -- you know, the diplomatic security, embassy security every year, there's a different cut it.

GRAHAM: Cheryl Lamb said that there was no lack of funding that created a problem in Benghazi. And the State Department called me before the Benghazi attack to release $33 million from the OCO account for embassy security. That's not why we were attacked, because of lack of funding.

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: Tim, let me ask about the committee.

KAINE: Sure.

GINGRICH: You had today, both -- the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Obama and Secretary of Defense Panetta, both say that this is a legitimate committee. That the select committee, in fact, the Democrats should participate.

If you were advising the House Democrats, would you advise them to participate?

KAINE: If it was even representation and if both sides had the same ability to interview witnesses, both their staffs and members, I'd participate. They set up this not as even representation in denying Democrats the same access to witnesses.

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: -- never offered even representation --

KAINE: I'm saying that a select committee is different than a normal committee. And look, on Benghazi, it's not going away. But here's the issue: if we're going to focus on it, let's focus on fixing it. What I don't like to see is so much of the discussion appears about the blame game or the talking points. It ought to be about the accountability review board recommendations. Secretary Clinton impaneled it right way. There's a set of record on --

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: So, you disagree with Panetta?

KAINE: Let's fix it.

GINGRICH: You disagree with Panetta.

KAINE: I think -- you could make that hearing and that committee more fair. But the real thing is there's already been a set of accountability review board recommendation, embassy security, enhancing the marine security.

GINGRICH: So, should they boycott?

KAINE: That's what we should be focused on.

GINGRICH: So, should the Democrats boycott?

KAINE: If it's not set up as a fair hearing with equal representation and equal access to witnesses, I would understand their decision.

GRAHAM: May I suggesting something or are we out of time?

CUTTER: We're about to be out of time.

GINGRICH: (INAUDIBLE)

CUTTER: OK.

GRAHAM: If the administration steered the story away from a preplanned al Qaeda affiliated terrorist attack into a video Internet protest story that never existed six weeks before the election, that matters to me. I think that's what they did. And everybody should be upset if any administration does that. And I think that's what they did.

CUTTER: Dozens of committees, dozens of interviews, 25,000 pages of documents.

GRAHAM: Not even close to getting the truth of Benghazi. Not even close.

(CROSSTALK)

KAINE: We still have to provide more embassy security.

CUTTER: Exactly.

KAINE: I had a hearing today with two ambassadors, one to Djibouti and one to Jordan. We need to be focusing on security in these tough, challenging neighborhoods in the world. That's more important than the blame game.

CUTTER: All right. Stay here. We want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Will Karl Rove speculating about Hillary Clinton's health care -- health backfire? 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 at some of the students at my alma mater.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUTTER: Welcome back. It's time for our outrages of the day.

I'm outraged that Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, was pushed out -- was pushed to pull out of commencement speech at Smith College, my alma mater. Agree with her or not, Lagarde is one of the most influential women on the world stage today.

But some of the students didn't learn the lesson I learned at Smith -- to make a strong argument and to make your argument stronger, you have to listen to both sides. College is about opening your mind, not closing it. I might not agree with some of the policies at the IMF, and I don't. But I'm pretty sure there are some things I can learn from Christine Lagarde.

Unfortunately, commencement speech purity is a trend that's happening all over the place. Every American has the right to protest and speak their mind. There's no doubt about that.

But refuse to listen? That's outrageous. And it undermines the whole point of a liberal arts education.

GINGRICH: I'm outraged about what happened earlier today in New York City. In a city that had 333 homicides last year, a police officer valiantly and courageously stopped Alec Baldwin for bicycling in the wrong direction. And because Baldwin wasn't carrying identification while he bicycled, he was arrested.

Understandably distraught, Baldwin later tweeted, quote, "New York City is a mismanaged carnival of stupidity that is desperate for revenue and anxious to criminalized behavior once thought benign."

Now, personally, I think New York City is a wonderful place to visit. But remember, always make sure you bicycle in the right direction.

(LAUGHTER)

CUTTER: Let's check on our "Fireback" results. Will Karl Rove speculating about Hillary Clinton's health backfire? Right now, 67 percent of you say yes, 33 percent so no.

What do you guys think about those results?

GRAHAM: I think you've got some really liberal people watching this show.

(LAUGHTER)

KAINE: I'm not surprised in the least, in the least.

GRAHAM: They're probably right.

KAINE: We Dems say being attacked by Karl Rove is a badge of pride.

CUTTER: Thanks to you, Senators Tim Kaine and Lindsey Graham.

The debate continues online at CNN.com/crossfire as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Stephanie Cutter.

GINGRICH: And from the right, I'm Newt Gingrich. I do want to say, by the way, I actually voted that it hurts us. It doesn't help us to do that sort of thing.

So, join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.