How Will Sen. Clinton's Campaign Be Affected by Her Being Painted as Evasive on Issues?

This is a rush transcript from "The Beltway Boys", November 3, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

FRED BARNES, FOX CO-HOST: Coming up on The Beltway Boys, Hillary? Clinton's rivals paint her as evasive on the issue. We will do a damage assessment.

MORT KONDRACKE, FOX CO-HOST: One year since the Democrats took over Congress, we will have a report card.

BARNES: Rebellion at the State Department, diplomats balk at the prospect of working in Iraq.

KONDRACKE: And President Bush's pick to be attorney general could be in trouble.

BARNES: All that, plus, "Campaign Carl Cameron" coming up next on "The Beltway Boys, but first, the headlines.



SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In so many ways, this all college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics.

KONDRACKE: I'm Mort Kondracke.

BARNES: I'm Fred Barnes. And we're "The Beltway Boys."

Mort, the hot story is Slick, Hillary. I don't have to explain the illusion, Slick Willie, her husband.

KONDRACKE: I remember.

BARNES: Bill Clinton known for being evasive and using misdirection and ducking issues. After the debate a few nights ago guns presidential candidates, Slick Hillary. That's a good example of it, the bite we saw, of her at Wellesley college, her alma mater, playing the gender card — well, they ganged up on me and beat up on me these guys, my rivals.

And this is what they did at the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday. This debate and her performance have, one, raised a huge credibility issue that used to dog her husband as well about her, because she wouldn't answer questions about Social Security and driver's licenses for illegals and taxes on Iran and a few more. And this issue has just been reverberating through the entire Democratic presidential campaign.

Since then — you look like I'm overstating it. I don't think I am at all. So, what happened, of course, was not just that her rivals jumped on her for this, for being so evasive, also, the press, and not just the "Wall Street Journal", but here is the "Wall Street Journal", what they said in a very good and an editorial.

"Mrs. Clinton wants to roll to her party's nomination on the tide of inevitability while disguising her real agenda as much as possible, but Democratic voters ought to consider whether they should put all of their hopes in retaking the White House on Mrs. Clinton's ability to obfuscate like her husband without his preternatural talent for it."

I thought that captured something. But at the debate, what John Edwards and Barack Obama said, watch this.


JOHN EDWARDS, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the things we unfortunately saw last night was a lot of bobbing weaving, triangulating, everything, but being direct and open and straight.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That, I think, is something that you defers from the next president of the United States of America, somebody who's willing to stand up, even when it's hard to stand up. Somebody who's willing to talk straight with the American people. Somebody who doesn't have one position one day and then another position the other day.


BARNES: And those bites were obviously not in the debate, but that's pretty much what Edwards and Obama said in the debate and have been saying for the mess rest of the week.

Look, I think this was a serious bump in the road for Hillary Clinton and her campaign. It's not inevitable she'll get the campaign. I agree with Newt Gingrich. You know, he called in to "Hannity & Colmes" and said her odds have gone from 80-20 that's she'll get the Democratic nomination to 50-50. I think that's about right.

KONDRACKE: That's nonsense. If she was 80-20 before this debate, she's gone to 70-30. It's a nick, but it's not a wound. She's way ahead. You'd have to see a real collapse in New Hampshire to make it anything like 50-50.

I do think she has to have a straight answer, yes or no, on the business for driver's licenses for immigrants. No question about that. And just to show you — the Republicans are going to use the immigration issue like crazy in the campaign. And here is Giuliani using it against Hillary. Watch.


RUDY GIULIANI, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The question, my goodness was about driver's licenses. I mean, it's not like a tough question. If this is one of tough questions, I can't imagine the questions of Iran and Iraq, how tough they would be.


KONDRACKE: I'm told that she personally opposes this idea of driver's licenses in New York State that Eliot Spitzer advanced, if so, she ought to say so.

On the other issues friends of her, like the "Wall Street Journal", ho, ho, said she's evasive on — just a second. Let me run them down — Iran, Iran is one example. Do you know whether President Bush is going to bomb Iran in the end? No, you don't.

BARNES: I don't know what Hillary will — I have no idea what she favors.

KONDRACKE: Because he's being ambiguous.


KONDRACKE: Social Security, have you ever heard the expression everything's on the table? That means you don't give your negotiating position away at the get-go.

BARNES: She's not going to tell voters before Election Day a year from now.

KONDRACKE: George Bush didn't.

BARNES: Yes, he did. Oh, yes, he did.

KONDRACKE: In 2004, he did not talk about private accounts. Taxes, do you expect Hillary Clinton to parse every part and tiddle of Charlie Rangel's tax bill? I don't.

BARNES: That's the big part, she's did none of it.

KONDRACKE: You know she's going to raise taxes, on people, like you, over $250,000 a year.

OK, on the last point I agree, on the issue of presidential records during the Clinton administration, if she is claiming that this qualifies her to be president, her experience as deputy president, then we ought to know what she absolutely did.

On the other hand, we also ought to have the records, a full dump of the records of the regains and the Clinton administration. Specifically, I want to know what did Papa Bush have to do with the Iran-Contra scandal and what went on in Dick Cheney's little task force for energy companies?

BARNES: Mort, you know, I think that people, a lot of people after hearing you say that, and defend Hillary that way for her pathetic performance, would say, more drank the Kool-Aid — the Hillary Kool-Aid. I wouldn't say that. I'm saying there are a lot of people who might say it. Far be it from me to say it Mort.

Look, I mean, look, she was— this was a horrible performance and it brought up the worst side, exactly the side of her and her husband she wants nobody to see.

But there was another issue that was important that brought up in that debate for the first time. That's the question of electability. And that Hillary explained that — well, you know, she said that Republicans are attacking her because she's doing so well.

John Edwards didn't agree, watch.


CLINTON: I think that, you know, the Republicans and their constant obsession with me demonstrates clearly that they obviously think that I am communicating effectively about what I will do as president.

EDWARDS: Another perspective on why the Republicans keep talking about Senator Clinton is, Senator, they may actually want to run against you and that's the reason they keep bringing you up.


BARNES: That's exactly right. I usually don't agree with Edwards, but Mort, you know that's true. And I talk to his Republicans all the time and they start salivating at the idea of Hillary being their opponent. They may be wrong that, about how vulnerable she is, but that's what they want.

KONDRACKE: She's been the front runner so long they've gotten into the mental state they think she's beatable.

Look, the polling indicates that she is no more beatable than any of other rivals. Watch. Look at these polls. Hillary beats Giuliani by 3, Romney by 10, Thompson by 7, McCain by 3.5.

Now, look at the way Obama comes out. Obama, he beats Giuliani by even less, Romney by 10, Thompson by 8, and McCain by 3.8 and Edwards, Edwards does no better.

BARNES: You're going to rest your case on those soft polls?

KONDRACKE: At the moment, at the moment, there's no reason to think that Obama or Edwards would do better against any of the candidates than Hillary would.

Now, on this point about her using the gender card or the skirt card, whatever you call it, I think it's unworthy of her. After all, Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi did not whine how the boys are ganging up on me. They ruled.

BARNES: Mort, very good. I guess you didn't drink the Kool-Aid. I thought I was going to have to say that about the gender card. Well said.

Coming up, "Campaign Carl Cameron" has the scoop on the presidential race and what the Romney campaign has up its sleeve.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to The Beltway Boys. Joining us from Concorde, New Hampshire, is "Campaign Carl Cameron".

Carl, you got word that Mitt Romney is going to unveil a new strategy against Rudy Giuliani. What's that about?

CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's actually under way already. It started in the latter part of last week after the Democrats debate in which Hillary Clinton said she wasn't sure whether it was a good thing or a bad thing to license driver's license, illegal aliens.

The Mitt Romney campaign now sees an opportunity to take Hillary's gaff there, they believe, and link it to Rudy Giuliani's candidacy. In essence, they say, there is too much permissiveness. You've got driver's licenses for illegal aliens in New York, sanctuaries cities in New York, a reference to Rudy Giuliani being mayor of New York and that policy and he said, "We want people to come here and work if they're not documented," and assigning Hillary Clinton politics to Rudy Giuliani.

And it's the not just on immigration. In the coming two weeks, the Romney campaign is going to South Carolina and come back it New Hampshire and there will be direct mail on this. And the Romney campaign argument is, in effect, if Rudy Giuliani says he would be a great general election candidate against Hillary Clinton because he'd take issues of the table, gay rights, abortion rights because he's a moderate, so, ergo, he's Hillary, and therefore can't win the Republican nomination. So Romney will come out hard on it.

And Fred Thompson, to be fair, has been pounding Giuliani on immigration as well.

BARNES: Let me ask you about Giuliani in Iowa. Is Giuliani conceding Iowa to Mitt Romney or to whoever else might win there?

CAMERON: Publicly, no. They'll continue to campaign in Iowa. Realistically, they recognize there are 99 counties in Iowa and 2000 caucus places. And Mitt Romney spent so much time out there and has a very deep organization, and even though people know Rudy Giuliani, he doesn't have the organizational ability to compete with Romney there.

Having said that the Giuliani campaign is ramping up in New Hampshire, spending a tremendous amount of time here the next two weeks, because they see New Hampshire takeable. That was not what they envisioned early on in this race. But the Giuliani camp believes strongly with a little bit more money and presence here, they can beat Romney in New Hampshire.

He's from next door, Massachusetts, and he has next door favorite nephew status here. And if Giuliani beats Romney in his next door state — Romney even has a house at Lake Winnipesaukee, a few miles north of Concorde. If they can beat hem here they can eliminate any momentum he has from an Iowa caucus win and blow him out of the race all at once.

KONDRACKE: Thanks, Carl.

When we come back, the State Department diplomats go into full tizzy mode.

And it's been one year since the Democrats took back Congress. We'll take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly.


KONDRACKE: Welcome back to The Beltway Boys. Let's check out the "Ups and Downs" for the week.

Down: Congressional Democrats. It's been one year since they won control of Congress, it will be till January since they took control of Congress. But they have little to show for it so far. And it's not just president Bush calling them a do-nothing Congress. Late night take show hosts are getting into the act. Here, watch Jay Leno.


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": And our new Democratic Congress - - remember they promised longer work weeks. Remember, they were running — we're going to working longer and harder. Now they announce they're going to a four-day work week. They realized they don't need a full five days to do nothing. They can now do nothing in four days.


BARNES: Love Jay Leno.

KONDRACKE: Yes. It's dangerous when you start becoming the butt of late night talk show humor. And there's no question, but what the Democratic Congress is unpopular. Its approval rating is something like 24 percent which is, you know, rock bottom low.

On the other hand, if you compare Republicans and Democrats, there's no sign that the country is champing to get the Republicans back in power.

The generic ballot, who would you vote for, Republican or Democrat, gives the Democrats a ten point lead for house voters.

And as to the Senate, you and I both know, we've talked about this endlessly, the question is how big will the Democrats win? So, you know, there's the — as to the Senate races, the House Democrats can say, hey, we passed stuff, but it gets blocked in the Senate. Now why? Because the Republicans are filibusters and they've got a point. You yourself praised Mitch McConnell for blocking the Democrat's plan.

BARNES: I have. But whose obligation is it to get things through? Not the minority, the majority. They've done a lousy job.

Look, even Nancy Pelosi has said — she if a pollster calls her to see if she approved or disapproved of Congress's performance, she said she disproved. Even Nancy Pelosi, More.

Look, the election is a year from now. A lot can happen between now and next year and, right now, it looks like Democrats are doing fine.

But remember, what happened in '94 and the end of 2006. In '94 it wasn't at that voters were clamoring for Republicans, they just didn't like the Democrats in charge. 2006, exactly the opposite. Democrats, they weren't in love with them, but they wanted the Republicans out.

I think we're moving very slightly in a direction where Democrats may — may be — it's not going to be a landslide for Republicans, but there will be some — some of that feeling that you've got to defeat some of these guys.

Down: Foreign Service officers. They're up in arms over a department directive that would force them to do a stint in Iraq because there are no volunteers.

Here are a sampling of the hysterics at a town hall meting with employees this week.


JACK CRODDY, STATE DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEE: I'm sorry, but basically that's a potential death sentence and know it. And then, another thought, who will take care of our children? Who will raise our children if we're dead or seriously wounded?


KONDRACKE: I mean, this is an embarrassment to the Foreign Service. Look, the Foreign Service has a long and distinguished history of service in very, some very tough spots around the world, Vietnam, Africa, and so on, over centuries. But the fact is that, since 2003, precisely three State Department officials have been killed in Iraq. Two of them were diplomatic security personnel. One was a political officer.

Now, Baghdad and Mosul are not Belgium and Vienna, granted — Brussels and Vienna, but as Condi Rice says, they took an oath to serve where they're assigned and if they're not willing to do that what they ought to do is quit and become travel agents or work in a bank or something like that.

BARNES: Congressman Duncan Hunter, from California, the Republican, who is running for the presidential nomination, had a very good idea. Look, if these diplomats don't want to go, if they're weenies, there will be lots of disabled wounded soldiers who can't go back it combat units, but could go back as diplomats. They'll take the post. Very good idea.

KONDRACKE: Down: Attorney general Nominee, Michael Mukasey. His confirmation in a big-time roadblock this week. Democrats are not satisfied with his answer on torture, specifically the technique called water boarding.

BARNES: Water boarding is controversial. It's when you simulate drowning and when you have somebody you're interrogating, they tend to break, but — or to crack.

Look, Mukasey can't answer the question on what, as attorney general, he would do about water boarding, say it's legal or not legal. One, if he says he's for water boarding, he'll never get confirmed. If he says he's against it, then he'll put in some legal jeopardy — the CIA officials who have used it in the past or whatever the interrogators were. And besides, in a pinch, when you have somebody like Sheik Khalid Mohammed, the master mind of 9/11, and he's your guy and won't tell you anything when you know he has crucial information that save lives, you may want to turn to water boarding. And they don't want to ruin that option.

KONDRACKE: Right. I completely agree. In limited cases of high value targets or circumstances then you use water boarding if you have to and you ought to have the right to do it.

Ironically, the Democrats, who have been complaining about how the Bush administration uses executive power to make decisions and disses the legislative branch, in this case they're insisting that Mukasey, on his own, make a decision that water boarding constitutes torture and is illegal.

Why doesn't the legislative branch do it? Well, as a matter of fact, Congress had two opportunities to declare water boarding illegal and they failed both times. So if they want this to be the law of the land they ought to make it the law of the land.

BARNES: Down: Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. If his candidacy wasn't marginal enough, the Ohio congressman was forced to discuss Shirley MacLaine's assertion that he saw an UFO.

Here's moderator Tim Russert asking him that last week at the Tuesday debate.


TIM RUSSERT, DEBATE MODERATOR: Congressman Kucinich, I want to a different are because this is a serious question. The god mother of your daughter, Shirley MacLaine, writes in her new book that you sighted a UFO over her home in Washington State that you found the encounter extremely moving, that it was a triangular craft, silent and hovering, that you felt a connection to your heart and heard directions in your mind. Now, did you see an UFO?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did. And the rest of the account — it was an unidentified flying object, OK? It's unidentified. I saw something.


BARNES: Well, it didn't help his campaign. Although, you know, the Hillary campaign, they complained, well, that was an easy question for Kucinich. She got the tough questions.

KONDRACKE: I don't think that's an easy question.

BARNES: Actually, it really wasn't that easy, but tells you a lot about the Kucinich campaign.

KONDRACKE: Kucinich. Yes, it tells you where he gets his idea, socialized medicine and all that.

Hang on to your hats, "The Buzz" is up next.


BARNES: Here is "The Buzz", Mort. All political eyes in Washington on Tuesday, Election Day in some states, will be on Virginia where the legislative elections are. Now, Virginia has been a very red state, but Democrats won the governorship a year ago. And now have the chance of winning the state Senate. If they do, and there's a very good chance, it is a better than 50-50, we'll see Virginia getting bluer and bluer.

KONDRACKE: Tuesday night 8:30 at the Oxford Union in Oxford, you know, England, the battle of the titans between Al Sharpton and Tom Delay. You know something, I don't care who wins, I hope they beat each other to a pulp.

BARNES: All right. That's all for The Beltway Boys this week. Join us next week when the boys will be back in town.

Watch "The Beltway Boys" Saturday at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday at 1 and 6 a.m. ET

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