The Fox Interview of Bill Clinton.
While I was in Maine (very lovely time, thanks), Bill Clinton made a remarkable appearance on Fox News. It may well pass as a blip on the national consciousness and we may well go back to politics as usual. But for the first time in the Karl Rove era, something new happened. Fox had Clinton on ostensibly to discuss his new Clinton Global Initiative. It was slated to be a 15-minute interview, and Chris Wallace began with a couple of random warm-up questions unrelated to the CGI. Then, without addressing the CGI, at the 3:40 mark, Wallace asked:
When we announced that you were going to be on FOX News Sunday, I got a lot of email from viewers, and I’ve got to say, I was surprised most of them wanted me to ask you this question: Why didn’t you do more to put Bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were President? There’s a new book out which I suspect you’ve read called The Looming Tower. And it talks about how the fact that when you pulled troops out of Somalia in 1993, Bin Laden said, "I have seen the frailty and the weakness and the cowardice of US troops." Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole... And after the attack, the book says Bin Laden separated his leaders because he expected an attack and there was no response. I understand that hindsight is 20/20 ... but the question is why didn’t you do more? Connect the dots and put them out of business?It was a characteristically bullshit question from Fox. Had this not been a sandbag job, had Wallace, like his father [Mike Wallace], been a real journalist, the question would not have had a solely political frame. Instead, he might have asked, "Looking back at your tenure in office, and knowing now what you know about 9/11, what would you have done differently if you could go back in time to, say, 1998." That's a real question. It is, pardon the cliche, fair and balanced.
But Wallace asked the quintessentially unfair question--the classic "have you stopped beating your wife" question--which damns the interview subject to moral failings even before he's spoken, and then asks him to defend himself.
Except for Howard Dean, on rare occassions (that comparison is intentional, as we'll see in a moment), we have yet to see anyone throw the whole steaming pile of bullshit back in the face of the smug questioner. And in failing to do so, by complicity, the Dems have endorsed the question. We have become a party of wifebeaters because we've agreed to the terms of the debate. But Clinton did not.
I'll put in a couple of clips, so you can watch for yourself. Since the debate, Fox has gone on a furious campaign to demonize the President. Wallace appeared even before the interview was aired to attempt some damage control--he ridiculed Clinton as unhinged--and has taken an identical approach that they took with Dean: Clinton's angry and insane. This is the choice Fox wants to give you--admit that you're still beating your wife, or accept that you're a deranged lunatic if you don't accept the terms of the question.
People who watched the interview will be the judge, however. And I hope that this is a lesson the Dems will absorb: fight the hell back.
As an FYI, Crooks and Liars has the transcript.