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President Clinton on FOX Interviewed by Chris Wallace: Not Very Presidential, but I Understand the Anger

Take your pick: If you read the conservative blogs, President Clinton “blew his top” at seemingly innocuous questions. If you read the liberal blogs, Clinton “rips into” Chris Wallace on FOX for trying to feed red meat to the conservatives. As usual, Hot Air has the timely video feed.

In my opinion, I understand where Clinton gets his anger. You can’t tell me that book after book advertised on many conservative blog websites claiming that Clinton put the nation in peril for not doing enough to capture Osama Bin Laden (who may now be dead) wouldn’t get to him in an emotional way. Well, you can tell me, but I won’t believe it. I think Clinton was right; Chris Wallace wanted to feed red meat to the conservative base who watches FOX by asking the following (see Newsbusters for the transcript):

“WALLACE: ?may I just finish the question sir. 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.

CLINTON: No let?s talk about?

WALLACE: ?but the question is why didn?t you do more, connect the dots and put them out of business?”

From my readings, both Clinton and Bush II could have done more to get Bin Laden. However, Clinton was right in this interview to say, “Why didn’t you ask Bush administration officials that question when they were on your show?” The answer is because no one in the media would ask that to any Bush official, let alone Bush himself, for fear of getting cut off from the administration in terms of access (not in terms of press credentials, but administrations will refuse to be interviewed by some media personalities they feel are hostile to them).

However, Clinton needs to act more professionally. It is embarassing to watch the former president get angry at a reporter. It’s never cool to lose one’s cool; especially for a former president.

7 comments to President Clinton on FOX Interviewed by Chris Wallace: Not Very Presidential, but I Understand the Anger

  • I don’t think Clinton’s been challenged very much since he stopped being President. His reaction isn’t surprising, no.

  • Sometimes I really can’t believe the crap you write, Joshua…

    The answer is because no one in the media would ask that to any Bush official, let alone Bush himself, for fear of getting cut off from the administration in terms of access (not in terms of press credentials, but administrations will refuse to be interviewed by some media personalities they feel are hostile to them).

    Stop it. Seriously. That’s all people do is question the Bush administration (sometimes rightfully so, btw). Let’s not kid ourselves here. The media loves Clinton and his harpee wife. He finally had someone get slightly adversarial with him (surely you understand adversarial, it’s what everyone wants the press to be with Bush?) and he loses it.

    Goes to show exactly how little he had to put up with it while he was in the oval office.

  • von

    Seriously, what’s worse? This little interview, and a book, or what Bush has had to deal with. Bush has been convicted publicly daily of 1. Planning and executing an attack on the WTC, 2. Leading the country into an unjustified war for oil 3. Killing babies. These are just the tip of the iceburg. Many more people are out there spewing even crazier conspiracy crap that Bush is a dictator, the next Hitler, etc., etc.

    The point is that you can hardly compare what Clinton is going through recently to what Bush has gone through in the last few years. IMHO, this was a pretty crappy response from Clinton. You can’t tell me that he didn’t know this guy was going to ask such questions. Why hadn’t he prepared a better answer?

  • Morgan

    Woulda, coulda, shoulda..

    If anyone knew exactly what Bin Laden was planning, we would have stopped him. I don’t care if you were Democrat or Republican, no president, administration or Congress would have let something like this happen. The press including Fox News are looking at this with the benefit of hindsight.

    With that being said, I have no idea why President Clinton would bother doing an interview explaining his actions that were ten to twelve years ago. For some reason, he must think that history is going judge him unfairly for not being some sort of swami. To come out with such hostility at an interview is unbecoming of a president and did just the opposite of what it intended.

  • Joshua

    I believe very sincerely in the crap that I write, Vinny.

    I think it’s great that all people do is question the Bush Administration. That’s what we’re supposed to do. When we don’t question, we lose what little check and balance we have left.

    I heartily disagree with the sentiment that Clinton had it easier from the press when he was President. The Clinton presidency practically invented the term “media exposure.” Republicans AND the press tried to nail him to Whitewater, Monica, and a host of other issues. In fact, if you remember; back in 2000, part of Bush’s campaign was to be a moral president whose name wouldn’t be the subject of daily newspaper headlines. The Bush campaign thought that America was tired of an overexposed President and longed for an Eisenhower-like relationship between America and the President, like a benign father looking over his happy children. Of course, no president in the modern age, no matter how moral, can keep out of the press on a daily basis.

    Yes, Bush gets questioned. He should, considering that he led us into war. War and its reasons should be questioned daily. I can imagine Bush getting upset. Bush certainly got testy in the interview with Wolf Blitzer on Friday, but not many people reported on that.

    The question is why did Clinton get upset. Actually, after thinking about it some more, I think Clinton did this on purpose. Clinton is very used to the media. He knew what he was going to do on Fox news. Fox would, predictably, ask him questions on what happened a decade ago. I think Clinton thought about how he would respond and decided that anger would energize the Democratic base.

    Like Wallace threw red meat to the extreme conservatives, Clinton threw red meat to the extreme liberals.

    It’s not so amazing that politics enters everything a President does.

  • I heartily disagree with the sentiment that Clinton had it easier from the press when he was President. The Clinton presidency practically invented the term “media exposure.” Republicans AND the press tried to nail him to Whitewater, Monica, and a host of other issues.

    That is complete and utter horsecrap. Ken Starr and Newt Gingrich, and anyone else around it was portrayed as opportunistic ideologues while Clinton was portrayed as the unfortunate victim of evil right wing zealots.

    I watched the news then. I don’t just ask the local dems what happened.

    Secondly, the kind of adversarial tone that Wallace supposedly took with Clinton (God forbid!) is exactly what you just said we aren’t getting enough of with Bush.

    Which is it?

    Do you want more?

    Or do you want less?

    Or does the amount you want depend on the party of the President?

  • Joshua

    I’ll assume you’re not accusing me of being a blind partisan, and are asking these questions in a sort of rhetorical way.

    That being said, I never portrayed Clinton as an innocent. I watched the news, too. I know that Clinton had character flaws just as Bush has character flaws. Their flaws are of different types, but they are flaws nevertheless.

    That Clinton was bashed day-in and day-out by the news has been well documented and is not, in my humble estimation, “complete and utter horsecrap.” You could do a newspaper search with the NYTimes between 1993 and 2000 and find that Clinton was scruitinized at every angle. His wife and he were called vicious names by conservative pundits and the public-at-large. When it comes right down to it, calling Bush a War Criminal or Hitler is not that much different from calling Hillary Clinton a harpy.

    As for the adversarial tone: I like it when the press is adversarial with politicians. I think this is the way it should be. However, the critical distinction between adversarial and throwing red meat to the political base lies in how the question is phrased. For Clinton, for example, I would want pointed questions that deal specifically with the decision making process that led to how the UBL unit in the CIA was funded and otherwise supported. For Bush, for example, I would want questions dealing with his reasons for attacking Iraq as opposed to another country.

    I don’t see any point of asking Bush leading questions such as, “Why didn’t you go after UBL and stabilize Afghanistan with the same urgency as you went into Iraq?” It’s the same question as, “Why did you steal the pie from the window?” Here, the questioner presumes guilt, instead of asking for clarification of the issue. Wallace asked a similar leading question: “Why didn?t you do more, connect the dots and put them [Al Quaeda] out of business?” This presumed guilt– the assumption being that Clinton did not “do more.”

    What makes me cringe is the way some members of the media phrase the questions. It is clear to me that Wallace wanted to bait Clinton. It’s also clear to me that Clinton used it as a pretext to get angry on television.