What Do Pres. Bush and Karl Rove Really Think About Sen. Hillary Clinton?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," February 27, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Our top story tonight: The political world is buzzing today about what President Bush and Karl Rove think about Hillary Clinton. In his brand-new book, "Strategery: How George W. Bush is Defeating Terrorists, Outwitting the Democrats, and Confounding the Mainstream Media," Bill Sammon quotes President Bush as saying that Senator Clinton will be a formidable candidate in the Democratic primary for president in 2008.

Sammon also quotes Karl Rove as saying, "'She is the dominant player on their side of the slate,' Rove told me. 'Anybody who thinks that she is not going to be a candidate is killing themselves. I mean, all this stuff about, you know, Warner or Richardson, all these guys are preening for the vice presidential slot. The question people will ask is: Do we want to have her as president?'"

Today, Hillary Clinton responded on an Albany, New York, radio station with this:


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: ... [he] spends a lot of time obsessing about me. He has people to the White House. He sends out e-mails. Well, I don't know. He spends more time thinking about my political future than I do.


HANNITY: Joining us now with an exclusive first look at his brand-new book, Washington Times White House correspondent and FOX News contributor Bill Sammon is back with us.

Now, remember, you're going to a new group of papers.

BILL SAMMON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it wasn't exciting enough to launch a book today. I also had to switch jobs. So I went from The Washington Times to The Washington Examiner, so I'm very excited about that.

HANNITY: Well, you've done some great reporting. I love the first part of this book. The first piece on this was "Misunderestimated." This is part two almost.

SAMMON: And I'm running out of malapropisms. We had misunderestimated, which is a word Bush coined, and now we've got "strategery," which is — Will Ferrell coined that word on a "Saturday Night Live" skit. But instead of being offended, Sean, the president's men sort of adopted the term "strategery" as sort of an inside joke. And to this day, they have a weekly meeting in Karl Rove's office in the West Wing called "the strategery meeting."

HANNITY: Tell us about the president and Karl Rove's thoughts on Hillary?

SAMMON: They basically said that she will probably win the Democratic primary. President Bush was more open than ever before about this. He talked about how, look, this woman has seen what presidential campaigns are like up close. She was through two of them with her husband and was unusually involved in that process. Plus, she's seen what it's like to live in the White House for eight years. So he called her a formidable candidate.

Rove also talked about her strengths, but I asked about her weaknesses. And Rove said there's a brittleness about her.


SAMMON: Plus she has a very liberal ideology, even though she's trying to tack as a centrist. And that's going to hurt her. So they both think that she's going to be pretty easy to beat in the general election but tough to beat in the Democratic primaries.

HANNITY: You also — now, this is amazing, because you had incredible access to the president, as you did for the last book. And one of the things the president now admits is that bin Laden helped him beat John Kerry.

SAMMON: Yes, it was astonishing because, if you remember, right before the election, the weekend before, bin Laden came out with a videotape diatribe against Bush saying, 'You know, if you vote for Bush, you're going to get four more years of the same kind of, you know, terrorism problems.'

And Bush told me there was a lot of discussion inside his campaign. "Is this going to hurt us? Is this going to help us? What does this mean?" Because, you know, there's always a stink bomb the last weekend. Remember the DUI thing?

HANNITY: Oh, yes.

SAMMON: And they worried about it. And Bush finally concluded, you know, this is going to help, because if bin Laden has a problem with me, that's going to make me look good. And I think, in fact, as it turned out, it did help him.

HANNITY: Well, it was interesting, too, because finally Ken Mehlman, the RNC [chair] admitted that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth helped. And the president also commented with you on what he called John Kerry's obsession with Vietnam.

SAMMON: I said, "Did it backfire, this whole preoccupation with Vietnam?" And Bush said, "I don't know if it backfired. It didn't work."

And you're right about Mehlman. For the first time, the president's men are now saying these Swift Boat Veterans were heroes. They had a major impact on the election. We couldn't say that during the campaign, but we can say it now.

HANNITY: You know, I got to give you credit. I can't put the book down.

SAMMON: Well, thank you.

HANNITY: I'm getting so much out of it. You had more access, I think, than anybody I know with the president of the United States. And I don't know anybody who he's been more forthcoming with than you.

One of the things I was glad to see — he talks at length about, for example, 55 days out of the election, the forged documents.

SAMMON: Oh, yes.

HANNITY: He discusses in detail for the first time that I've ever seen the decline of the mainstream media, the rise of the alternative media, and you discuss all of this in the book. He also talks about the Supreme Court and how it's moving away from being liberal to conservative. Tell us about those things.

SAMMON: Well, he talked about how he inherited a Supreme Court that was too liberal, too activist and definitely, in his words, too reliant on foreign law. And he talked about one of his important legacies will be that at least he will have two guys on there that weren't on there before that will not rely on foreign law, that will be strict constructionists. And so he was more forthcoming about the Supreme Court, as well.

HANNITY: And the media.

SAMMON: Well, yes, that was the other thing. The mainstream media, he actually talked about as the victim of CBS Memogate. He said it's interesting to watch these big media conglomerates lose market share as the alternative media rises from the Internet.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Bill, you know, it's interesting, Hillary responded to your book today.

SAMMON: Thank goodness. I want to thank her publicly for that. — Gave legs to my story.


COLMES: ... supporting her for president in 2008.

Look, she said that you guys — she said there's a lot of people obsessing about her. And don't Republicans — they really do obsess about her, to the point where she becomes a big topic of conversation, right?

SAMMON: Well, she's a polarizing figure, I think, just like George W. Bush is. And people get, you know, fired up no matter what side you're coming from.

And so when Karl Rove, who's, you know, a lightning rod to begin with, mouths off about Hillary, and the president of the United States — you know, I was towards — I was at the end of this interview with him in the Oval Office and we were talking about all these heavy issues like, you know, the Middle East and everything.

And I said, "Look, help me sell a couple of books. Tell me about Hillary." And he said, "OK." And so we started talking about Hillary. I marched down to Rove's office and said, "Look, your boss just told me about Hillary. Now you do so." So they, I think, said more than maybe they wanted to.

COLMES: What do you think you did that enabled Bush to talk in a way that he probably does not often open up to reporters?

SAMMON: I'll be honest with you. I'd like to think it would be my charm and good lucks, but I don't think that's what it is. I think what it is...

HANNITY: I think that's what it is...

SAMMON: I think what it is, is he likes to talk about big picture stuff. You know, we get so caught up in the media about this incrementalism. What happened 10 minutes ago? And he likes to pull back and say, "What are the seminal events of this presidency? Where did I screw up? Where did I do right?" And that's what...

COLMES: He also knows you're going to be friendly to him. You were friendly to him in the first book. You're friendly to him in this book.

SAMMON: I don't pull any punches. I think there's — I mean, James Carville has endorsed this book, hardly a conservative...

COLMES: Well, it's an interesting read.

SAMMON: ... bomb-thrower.

COLMES: But you say, for example, in the inside jacket, "This is a breathtaking audacious second-term agenda." There some people who might disagree with how well that second term is going so far...

SAMMON: Exactly.

COLMES: ... and if there really is an agenda that this administration has been able to get off the ground.

SAMMON: Well, that was one of the points I was trying to make, is that he tried to reform Social Security. And it crashed and burned.

COLMES: Right.

SAMMON: I mean, he came out — you know, and this is really the first book on the second term of George W. Bush. The first half of the book covers the election. And the second half of the book covers sort of the first 14 months of the second term. And it's been a rough 14 months.

COLMES: It also talks about wonderful Supreme Court victories. Look, but also you talk about Harriet Miers and what a debacle that was.

SAMMON: Oh, yes.

COLMES: You do a whole piece on that. That didn't work out so well.

SAMMON: No, and I talked to Bush about it. I said, you know, "Wasn't this painful?" I mean, here's a friend of yours, not just your appointee, but a close friend, your own lawyer. He said it was terrible. He said the one thing though, "I'm glad I got my lawyer back now." I think he's trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

COLMES: You see what's going on, and you see what's going on now with the lack of response to Katrina, and you see what's going on with the ports issue, how they didn't handle that way politically, the issue with Harriet Miers, you've been on the inside of the White House. What's going on? Why is this happening to this administration? They seem not to be in control of the news cycle or the politics of these things.

SAMMON: Well, they certainly have had some missteps. They were obviously misstepped with the Cheney shooting. They misstepped with the port issue. But on the lack of — in the response to Katrina, I was with President Bush. I was the only newspaper reporter with him on his first trip down there after the hurricane.

He walked up to these — a couple of black ladies came up and were crying. And he was kissing them on the forehead. And I was standing, from me to you to him — and I'm a pretty jaded guy — and I thought, "Maybe he's fooling me, but he doesn't look like a heartless racist to me."

And, you know, you had Charlie Rangel calling him "Bull Connor," and I just think some of that stuff was over the line.

COLMES: I think the issue was his response to Katrina, not whether he's a racist or not.

HANNITY: And that always works in his favor, and he pointed that out to you. Listen, I love the book! I honest — this is the best book you've done so far.

SAMMON: Well, thank you so much, Sean.

HANNITY: Congratulations.

SAMMON: It means a lot to me. I appreciate it.

HANNITY: I really enjoyed it. Thanks. All right. Bill Sammon, thank you.

Thank you.

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