Sunday, September 24, 2006

I'll Bet Chris Wallace Is Sorry He Asked....

I just finished watching the video, posted at Crooks & Liars, in which Chris Wallace asks former president Bill Clinton why he didn't do more to capture Osama bin Laden.

Clinton absolutely demolished Wallace. He stayed calm, he never once raised his voice, and he did not allow Wallace to cut him off or change the subject or back away from the discussion -- as Wallace tried to do a number of times after he saw that Clinton knew what he was talking about and was not going to get flustered, sidetracked, or steamrollered.

The dishonest hacks on the right are trying their best to make out that Clinton was defensive, "red in the face with rage," "a basket case"; that he "really lost his cool," that Clinton was "looking for an opportunity to bash Fox" (!!). For sheer chutzpah, though, the prize goes to Sister Toldjah, who thinks that Clinton had some nerve saying that he, at least, tried to get OBL, while Pres. Bush did not:

You know what burns me up about the interview? Not the fact that Clinton gets uptight and defensive, but the fact that he says the Bush admin "didn't try" (that's who he meant when he referred to the "right wingers" who had several months to get OBL). Bush has never once blamed Bill Clinton for his failure to get OBL. Not once. This is an incredible cheap shot on the part of Clinton. Not entirely unexpected, but a cheap shot all the same.

Of course, it's too much to expect that bloggers like ST would hold Chris Wallace responsible for posing the question in the first place, rather than blaming Bill Clinton for answering the question truthfully. Or that they would question Chris Wallace's refusal to give Clinton a straight answer when Clinton asked Wallace to explain why he never asked anyone in the Bush administration the same question he was now asking Clinton:

WALLACE: I asked a question. You don't think that's a legitimate question?

CLINTON: It was a perfectly legitimate question but I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked this question of. I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked: Why didn't you do anything about the Cole? I want to know how many you asked: Why did you fire Dick Clarke? I want to know ...

WALLACE: We asked ... Do you ever watch Fox News Sunday sir?

CLINTON: I don't believe you ask them that.

WALLACE: We ask plenty of questions of ...

CLINTON: You didn't ask that did you? Tell the truth.

WALLACE: About the USS Cole?

CLINTON: Tell the truth.

WALLACE: I ... with Iraq and Afghanistan there's plenty of stuff to ask.

But not the question Wallace asked Clinton, obviously. Since Wallace would not say, Think Progress checked the matter out:

We fact-check Wallace's claim that he asked Bush administration officials tough questions about their pre-9/11 efforts to combat terrorism here, here and here.

Yes, indeed; the "unflappable, unrelenting, unapologetic" Chris Wallace of Michelle Malkin's vivid imagination was "visibly and demonstrably embarrassed" when Bill Clinton "nailed him to the wall" about why Wallace never asked anyone in the Bush administration why there was no response to the U.S.S. Cole bombing, or why Bush did not do more to capture or kill OBL, or why Richard Clarke was demoted, etc., etc.

TPM reader DK hits the essential point about Clinton:

Clinton is simply the most gifted politician of our times. I have my issues with Clinton, but I sometimes forget not just what a tremendously effective communicator he is but how much he just plain gets it. He understands politics at a level no one else does. He intuitively knows the subtext to questions and so not only answers the expressed question but in a very analytical way picks apart the subtext and answers the implied question, too. If you're a little younger and missed most of the Clinton years, it's something to watch.

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