Karl Rove joined me on my Presidents’ Day broadcast, and most of our time was spent looking forward to Hillary’s 2016 campaign:
HH: I’m joined now by the Architect, Karl Rove, Fox News consultant, advisor to presidents, White House Counsel as well, all that good stuff. Karl, happy Presidents Day to you.
KR: Same to you.
HH: I want to begin, five days ago, I talked to David Axelrod, your counterpart, in many respects, as a person who successfully advised a candidate for and then the reelection of a president, about Hillary. And I wanted to ask you where you think the former Secretary of State stands vis-à-vis the possibility of her winning in 2016 as of today in early 2015.
KR: Look, I think it’s very early. The early polls that are out there show her ahead. What’s interesting to me is that rarely is she above 50% against Republican candidates. I think this is one of the things that is going to, this election is going to depend upon the quality of the candidates and the quality of their campaigns. And if you look at the arc of the last two years, if you’re inside the Clinton campaign apparatus, you can’t be happy. Her favorable when she was leaving the office of Secretary of State, much higher than they were than they are today, her likability was much higher, she has had a bad year and a half, nearly two years since leaving the Secretary of State’s office, and particularly since she launched her book last summer. I thought it was probably one of the most ill-timed and ill-prepared and ill-executed sort of strolls on to the national stage. We were dead broke. You know, she takes apart a National Public Radio personality who attempts to give her a chance to talk her way out of her previous opposition to gay marriage. She goes out on the campaign trail and says it’s businesses that don’t create jobs. She does virtually no good for any Democratic candidate on the campaign trail, and then she ends just before Christmas by saying insofar as it’s possible, we ought to have empathy for our adversaries. I mean, come on, she’s getting worse, not better as a candidate.
HH: Do you think Elizabeth Warren could beat her if Elizabeth Warren got into the race?
KR: I think she might. She would certainly give her a scare. Remember, this contest opens up in some places that are not particularly friendly to Hillary Clinton. She came in third, as you may recall, in Iowa eight years ago. And so you know, I think this, Elizabeth Warren’s hard left prescriptions on the economy sing to the heart of Democratic primary voters. So yeah, I think she could give her a run for her money. I don’t know at the end of the day if she could beat her. I mean, Clinton is going to have a lot of money. She does have an expert political advisor in the form of her husband, and she’s about ready to get a mastermind of her presidential campaign in the form of John Podesta, who’s tough enough to probably, I think, keep the warring factions that always make up a Clinton campaign together.
HH: What David Axelrod told me last week, Karl Rove, was, “My strong feeling is that if she, Hillary, is a candidate, she can do well. If she’s the first candidate, if she retreats back into the cocoon of inevitability and is cautious, then she’ll have a much harder time. Do you agree with that?
KR: I agree with it totally. And in fact, that’s my point. her instinct is to say…what’s her message? She went out and tried to borrow Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren by saying corporations and businesses don’t create jobs, and it was so transparently sort of unnatural to her that she didn’t get any applause from anybody. So yeah, I think the problem with Hillary Clinton is what is it that she wants to do as president that gives the American people a sense that she’d be up to the job? What is it that she has done? She can’t point to the success as Secretary of State. That’s going to be a huge problem for her. Does anybody think that in a year or eighteen months that the world is going to look a lot safer and a lot more peaceful and a lot more calm than it is today? I don’t think so.
HH: Does she carry any of the burdens, Karl Rove, of the nightmare we see, the 21 beheadings over the weekend in Libya by the Islamists of Christian Copts, or of the attack in Denmark, or the attack in Paris, or just general chaos as the Islamic State metastasizes? Is any of that burden on Hillary’s back?
KR: Look, the burden of that is Barack Obama’s foreign policy. President Obama, when he came into office, admitted that Iraq was relatively stable, relatively peaceful, and moving in a democratic way. And what did he do? He withdrew all U.S. forces from Iraq. He initially said he wanted to have a stay behind force. His vice president talked about how a stay behind force was necessary in order to combat, you know, conduct targeted counterterrorism efforts. But then he screwed it all up by demanding of the Iraqis that they give parliamentary approval of any status of forces agreement. We’ve never required that from other governments. But he required parliamentary approval at a point where he knew Maliki could not get that, because of the nature of the parties in the parliament, and the moment right then that he was trying to form a new government. So what we’ve seen with the explosion of ISIS across Syria and Iraq is I think a direct result of the lack of an American presence in Iraq. Can you imagine what would happen if we had 15 or 16, or 19, or 20,000 American troops in Iraq when ISIS, if ISIS began to move across the border of Syria into Iraq like it did last year? I mean, they would have been quickly, the United States and the Iraqis would have quickly moved. We would have stiffened the Iraqis’ spine. We would have had sufficient forces on the ground between them and us in order to stop this from happening. And instead, what they have sensed is weakness of the United States in the region, and they’ve seized upon it.
HH: Now, but that’s the President’s foreign policy. How much of that sticks to Secretary of State Clinton?
KR: She was his Secretary of State during those critical years. 2009 through 2013, early 2013, she was there. She was the one who was there as he made these critical decisions to precipitously withdraw from Iraq, and precipitously draw down in Afghanistan. Now to her credit, there is evidence that she argued against the precipitous decline of forces in Afghanistan, and encouraged him to keep U.S. forces there longer. She clearly agreed with and supported the decision to conduct the surge in Afghanistan in 2009. Having said that, though, she was his Secretary of State, and when all of these chickens come home to roost in a very ugly way, how does she differentiate herself? Does she say all the good decisions that have paid off at the State Department and in our foreign policy I was part of, and I opposed him on all the bad decisions? She can’t do that.
HH: What does she have to say about Russia, Karl Rove, because she gave the Putin reset button, not to Putin, but to Sergei…
HH: Lavrov. She gave him the reset button, and now the reset button’s being reset again and again and again in Ukraine with every new round of talks. Does she own that one as well?
KR: Well, absolutely. In fact, and she bears an even bigger responsibility, because you had the sense in the early months of the Obama administration that this was how she was going to make her mark. She was going to remake the relationship that we had with Russia, and her mere presence there was going to remove any of the difficulties that had emerged during her predecessor’s time in office. And it was clearly, you know, the sense was this was all our doing to screw up the relationship, and it could be my leadership in order to solve the problems in this relationship. And instead, she got taken to the cleaners. Look, this guy, Putin, Bush knew this early on, that this was a guy you had to endeavor to have a relationship with so that he could see your resolve. And what happened is Hillary Clinton took half of that lesson. He needed to get to know her. And his people needed to get to know her. But they didn’t see resolve. They saw somebody who was desperate to win their accommodation and their approval, and shows up with a toy. As you may recall, it, they had the reset button that they got from I guess at Staples, but they had a mistranslation on the document they gave with it so that it didn’t even say reset the relationship. It had something even, that didn’t make any sense.
HH: Well, given all these handicaps, and we could catalog her failures at State, and they go on for a very long series, Karl Rove, if you’re Elizabeth Warren, how could you not take advantage of the opportunity that what may be a glass jaw is sitting right out there waiting for a hard punch?
KR: Well, Elizabeth Warren can’t attack her on foreign policy. I mean, Elizabeth Warren is to the left of Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton did argue for we don’t need to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan as fast as that. In fact, we ought to add to them temporarily. She was in favor of that policy. Elizabeth Warren, I don’t know where she was on this, but I find it hard to believe that she was in favor of it. Elizabeth Warren is to the left of Hillary Clinton on many of these questions. Hillary Clinton’s vulnerability is on the domestic side where Elizabeth Warren can come at her and say you’re the person who’s taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Wall Street firms for speeches. You’re the, the Clintons are the people who are in bed with Wall Street in the 1990s when we had deregulation. Remember, this is one of the interesting thing to me, President Obama and Elizabeth Warren share something in common. They blame the collapse of 2008 not on Fannie and Freddie’s misdeeds, but upon the deregulation of the Clinton years in office, of getting rid of Glass-Steagall and other changes that President Clinton made. They don’t blame it on Fannie and Freddie, as I think you and I do. You and I, I think, share the view that you know, when you’ve got the good credit of the United States taxpayer being leveraged by organizations like Fannie and Freddie to where they were holding mortgage instruments, they were leveraged 70 to 1, which means a 1.2% decline in the value of their assets bankrupts them, that’s exactly what happened with Fannie and Freddie. They don’t blame, Obama and Warren don’t blame Fannie and Freddie for that. What they blame is…
KR: …what Clinton did.
HH: I agree with that analysis, and what I want to go to, though, is can Elizabeth Warren borrow from President Obama his playbook in 2008?
HH: In other words, can she do to Hillary what Obama did to Hillary?
KR: Yes. She can enter late, because Hillary’s entering late. And if she comes with a focused message that says the Democratic Party has to cut its links to Wall Street and the financial excesses of deregulation that we saw under the Clinton regime, she’s got a chance to really do some damage to Hillary Clinton. Whether she’s ultimately successful in that, I don’t know. But my personal view is that I don’t think Elizabeth, I think Elizabeth Warren has a sense of time. I think she feels that she can be emboldened by serving in the Democratic Party, in a Democratic caucus in the Senate, and pulling them to the left, and that she’s got time and a future if she wants to exploit it. But you know, who knows? If she’s willing to go out there and say I’m 1/64h Indian in order to get law school appointments, she’s certainly capable of saying for months and months and months I’m not running, and then change her mind at the last minute.
HH: Will the money keep her off? Earlier today, or actually, two days ago, Tracy Sefl tweeted out the news that they had raised $1.2 million dollars for Ready For Hillary from 13,000 supporters in January. In other words, trying to portray that the Clinton money machine is so vast and so deeply netrooted that no one need apply for the position of taking on Hillary. Is that a false bravado?
KR: Well, it certainly is a sign that they are a little bit nervous about this. But look, they will have plenty of money. The money is not going to be the problem. It’s going to be properly spending the money, because they wasted a lot of it last time around, and more importantly, having a proper message, spending the money to share a message. And that’s where, look, the Clintons may have a big bank account, but when it comes to Hillary Clinton’s intellectual treasure, that’s bare. I mean, we’ve had every chance…when she, she, in my opinion, made a mistake by putting the book out in 2014. If I were her, I would have taken 2014 and avoided the campaign trail, and avoided getting the book out and instead said you know what? I’m working hard on my book, and I hope to get it out in early 2015. And I would have spent 2014 figuring out what it is that I wanted to make the campaign about, and get rested, and getting prepared, and thinking through these things, and practicing them so that when you emerge in 2015 with the book, you not only had a good book and a good book tour because you were ready and prepared and rested, but you also could flow naturally into the message that you wanted to lay out in 2016. But having, you know, that was my view last year. She obviously had a different view. Having done what she did last year, and by getting out in the world with the book and the book tour and the campaigning and the campaign stops, she’s given us a preview of what her mindset is. And right now, it is I’m entitled to this, I’ll be the first woman, I had to put up with Bill for eight years, it’s my turn, I’m the person. And that’s not a very substantive message.
HH: All right, last question, it’s a two-parter, Karl Rove. Can she be beaten by a Republican? And when will the superPACs begin to hammer her as the Democrats hammered Romney in 2012? How early will they open up on her with the big guns in media and social media, etc?
KR: Let me take the second part of that first. They will begin to open up, or they should begin to open up when she becomes a candidate and not before, because most of the American people, the people that are going to have to be reached, are people who are paying not much attention to politics, and will not pay a lot of attention to politics until next year. But once she becomes a candidate, they will begin to pay more attention to her, and to things that are being said about her. Having made that point, though, I’d say this. She’s not a federal office holder. So they’re going to all have to go out and raise 527 money in order to attack her. That’s going to be hard in 2015, because a lot of the people who are willing to write checks to superPACs are going to be more interested in writing checks to the superPAC of their favorite candidate for president for the Republican presidential nomination. The first question, though, that you asked is the important one – can we beat her. And the answer is yes. However, here’s the big question mark for Republicans. Will they be able to articulate and optimistic and hopeful conservative vision for the future of the country that causes people to say you know what, I know what you’re running for. We’re really good at knocking around Obama. And there’s going to be a role for doing that. We’re going to be really good about knocking around Hillary. And there’s a role for that. But at the end of the day, simply being the best person to knock around Obama, or to knock around Hillary, is going to be insufficient to either win the nomination, or more importantly, to win the general election. They’re going to, you know, look, Ronald Reagan spent some time in 1980 kicking around Jimmy Carter. But he spent an inordinate amount of time sharing a vision of what he thought America’s promise and possibility was. And he talked about it, and sometimes in very specific fashion. You and I both remember it, Kemp-Roth. He was out there talking about supply side economics in 1980, as well as kicking around Jimmy Carter for presiding over an economic debacle. That’s an important lesson for us. We win when we have an optimistic and positive conservative agenda that causes people to say I know what you’re going to do. We can attack them, but that serves as an entry point to discuss our values and views, and to draw people to us, not simply push them away from the opposition.
HH: 30 seconds, Karl Rove, is there anyone who’s done that better thus far than anyone else in the Republican field?
KR: No, and you know, we’re starting to see some of that. I think Scott Walker gave a great speech in Iowa. I think Marco Rubio has delivered over the last two years seven very substantive and meaty speeches. Jeb Bush is one of the smartest people, if not the smartest guy on our side. There are others who have contributed to this debate in very positive ways. But I think it is premature for us to reach a conclusion as to who can get that job done. But I think that’s what all the Republicans that I talk to are waiting to see. Those that haven’t committed to somebody, they’re specifically sitting on the sidelines because they want to see these people strut their stuff and prove that they’ve got what it takes to win in 2016. Our country cannot afford to have four more years of Barack Obama, a third term, which is exactly what Hillary Clinton or even worse, Elizabeth Warren, would represent.
HH: Karl Rove, we’ll see you on the Fox News Channel very soon, I’m sure. Thanks for joining me today on this Presidents Day for an exhausting and exhaustive look at what Hillary’s bringing to the table. Be well.
KR: Turn into Mr. O’Reilly tonight. That’s the next time you can see my ugly mug.
HH: All right, tonight on O’Reilly, Karl Rove, thank you.
End of interview.