Clinton had been offered a shot at Fox, but decided against it when her staff learned that Democratic presidential frontrunner Howie Dean was the lead guest.
“Fox was trying to make a big splash with its new host [Chris Wallace],” says a Hillary Hill staffer. “We didn’t care so much about him, but we didn’t want to share the same stage with Dean. It would just create too many opportunities for misunderstandings. She isn’t running against him. She’s not going to defend anything he says, and she doesn’t want to be asked to talk about him.”
Clinton generally performed well, and only appeared to come unruffled when ABC News’ George Will called her for claiming America’s civil liberties were somehow being eroded by the Bush administration. She continued criticizing the Bush team’s handling of the Iraq conflict, as well as its war against terrorism.
“She really offered nothing new to the discussion,” says an ABC producer. “We’d been led to believe she had some new material. She brought nothing to the table.”
Clinton was in demand after her return from Afghanistan and Iraq, where she angered the military with her expectations of first-class treatment, from being served first in chow lines, to motorcades and military escorts.
“It was like she was First Lady all over again,” says a civilian staffer in Iraq. “She came here just hoping she’d have an opportunity to make us look bad. It wasn’t a fact-finding mission at all.”
As for her decision to duck the Dean questions, neither the New York senator nor her husband have come to terms with the apparent momentum Dean has built up in the past three months. Neither has sought him out. Instead Bill has been feverishly working to bail out the campaign of Wesley Clark, while Hillary has been focusing on her own political appearances on behalf of the Democratic Party.
“At some point, Dean and Clinton are going to have to sit down. The next step for the candidate is to get the seeming approval of the true leader of the party,” says a DNC staffer.p>
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