Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Grand Inquisitor

I’m sure you’ve now seen Chris Wallace’s embarrassing interview of Clinton on Fox News.  So I’m just going to focus on Wallace himself, because it was obvious that he really didn’t expect Clinton to have any defense.  Because whenever Wallace hears this stuff, he never hears a defense.  Conservatives never do.  The few times they actually talk to liberals about it, they’re so confident that they’re right that they don’t even listen to the answer.  But usually, it’s just themselves bandying about how there was no defense of Clinton because Clinton didn’t do anything right.  

As usual, they’re high-fiving themselves for winning a contest they had only imagined.  The conservatives present these theories as a fait accompli, and that’s exactly how Wallace has accepted it.  

And so they’ve built-up their own bizarro world of Clinton culpability and they’ve never bothered double-checking what actually happened or waited to hear a response.  They’ve been given the conclusion and their borg-like minds imagine that they’ve already hashed-out the details before.  It’s like someone who thinks they’re clever because they read the last page of a mystery novel, rather than wading through the bogus stuff that comes before.  Except they’ve replaced Agatha Christie’s ending with a creation straight from RNC headquarters, and refuse to listen when you explain that they got it wrong.

And so we find that utterly atrocious “question” of Clinton, where Wallace raises a whole slew of issues hidden behind an accusation of incompetence, which Wallace clearly refused to hear the answer to.  Because again, he doesn’t believe there was one.  It’s almost as if in the fantasy interview Wallace had imagined, Clinton had simply lowered his head and cried in shame.  Because he kept acting as if all of Bill’s answers were superfluous side-trips, because there wasn’t supposed to be a defense.  The only answer Wallace would accept was an outright admission of failure; and as we saw, it was the only one he did accept.

Why Didn’t You…

I’ll start by combining all of Wallace’s pseudo-questions as one uber-question-statement, and then take apart each one.  And seeing as how Wallace didn’t actually listen to any of Clinton’s responses, this is probably the way he remembered it too.  You can just use the “…” part as Wallace’s recollection of this part of the interrogation interview.

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, I suspect you may have already read, called The Looming Tower.  And it talks about 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 U.S. troops."  Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the Cole.

May I just finish the question sir?  And after the attack, the book says, that bin Laden separated his leaders, spread them around because he expected an attack and there was no response. I understand that hindsight is always 20/20 –

But the question is, why didn't you connect the dots and put him out of business?

.. bin Laden says, but it showed the weakness of the United States.

With respect, if I may, instead of going through '93 and ... May I ask you (INAUDIBLE) question, and then you can answer?

Do you think you did enough, sir?

And when you look through that, you’ll find no actual questions.  Or specifically, what should have been questions were given as statements, and what he posed as questions were actually accusations.  Particularly if you bring-up several specific events that you don’t want the interviewee to talk about which would serve as a defense of his actions.  And had Clinton simply admitted that he could have done more, without a detailed defense, it is an implicit admission that all of those specific incidents were all screw-ups; which is exactly what Wallace wanted to hear.

Finish Him!

A real question could have been: It has been reported that Bin Laden saw our withdraw of troops in Somalia as a sign of cowardice.  Do you now think that was a mistake on your part?

And then Clinton would have said what he was trying to say about how Republicans wanted an earlier withdraw from Somalia and that Bin Laden didn’t have anything to do with Somalia, nor did it embolden him. And then Wallace could have asked follow-up questions; or at least he should have, seeing as how he didn’t seem to know any of this stuff.  This could have been a real learning experience for Chris, had he the least bit of intellectual honesty

But instead we get:
Why didn’t you do more?
Why didn’t you connect the dots?
And the trick question: Do you think you did enough?

And those aren’t questions; they’re accusations.  He’s not asking if Clinton made a mistake; he’s asking why Clinton made the mistake.  The interview had just started, yet Wallace seemed to think he had Clinton on the ropes and was going for the finisher.  For Wallace, the idea that Clinton was incompetent in fighting terrorism is a cold-hard fact.  It was kind of like watching a highlight reel from a real journalist; only focusing on the conclusions and not the build-up.  

Yet the build-up never existed, as the charges against Clinton were obviously bogus to any who actually remembers what happened; rather than remembering the RNC’s false memories.  And there was no real way to answer the “questions” that Wallace posed, because to answer those question is an admission of guilt.  It was like asking the question “Why did you kill your wife?” when you hadn’t even established that she was dead.

Blame Wilson

And when you really think about it, his “question” doesn’t even make sense; at least not in the context of Somalia.  It’s like Clinton was supposed to know that pulling out of Somalia would embolden a terrorist he had never heard of, and that Clinton should have done more to stop that.  Shit, that’s like attacking Woodrow Wilson for not having killed Hitler in WWI…well, except that Bin Laden wasn’t involved in the Somalia thing at all; which would make Wilson even more culpable for WWII and the Holocaust than Clinton was for 9/11.  But I suppose I can imagine conservatives making that argument too; if they needed to.

And when Clinton tried to explain this to Wallace, he was interrupted and told not to talk about what had happened in Somalia.  Somehow, Somalia is very important context to the “question” asked, so that he brought it up repeatedly, but is an irrelevancy when answering that same “question.”

And that’s what’s weird.  Clinton answered the question properly.  Or at least, he did Wallace the honor of rephrasing Wallace’s accusation into a fair question, and answered that question.  But in an obvious admission that it wasn’t a real question, Wallace wouldn’t accept what Clinton said.  And Clinton even called him on that.  

Were Chris Wallace to have any intellectual integrity, he would have accepted Clinton’s answer, or at least tried to get him to explain further, and questioned him more on what he said.  But Wallace didn’t want any real response at all.  He wanted Clinton to admit guilt and would accept nothing else.  And a person of true integrity would never have made those cheap accusations in the first place.

And again, what Wallace seemed to expect was a weepy confession; as if all you had to do was get the question out, and the answer was so entirely undeniable that even Slick Willy couldn’t slip out of it.  But he already expected Slick to pull some bull, and so Clinton’s honest and truthful response fell on deaf ears which already knew he was out of his element.  

Oh wait, I forgot.  It wasn’t Wallace who wanted to ask the question.  It was all the emailers who asked for the response.  Of course.


But another reason why Wallace disliked Clinton’s answers is that they were entirely unexpected to him.  In fact, Clinton was so far off-base with Wallace’s very limited knowledge that Wallace couldn’t even recognize them as proper answers.  He just imagined that Clinton was avoiding the question by wallowing in petty details.  He brought up the context of Somalia and the Cole bombing as evidence against Clinton, yet didn’t want any response.  Because he didn’t realize there was one.

And this is simply inexcusable.  I had honestly imagined that Wallace had some sports-reporter background with ESPN or something before joining Fox News.  I don’t know why, but that’s what I thought.  So I did some research expecting to find that, but instead find he had been a well-established journalist throughout the 90’s, so he has no excuse for not remembering what really happened.  And not even at Fox.  He was with ABC News for 15 years, including work as a substitute host for Nightline, and had been NBC’s chief Whitehouse correspondent throughout much of the 80’s.  

So there is no excuse for Wallace’s ignorance.  He should have known, but is now repeating the same absurdist anti-Clinton rhetoric that the whackjob dittoheads feverishly rant about.  It’s like all these people were born yesterday.  He seemed to have no idea that Clinton could defend himself based on the merits.  I’m sure Mike Wallace is just pining for the days he can roll in his grave over his son’s embarrassing antics.  I know I would be.

P.S. I’ve now seen the exchange in question, and the most disconcerting part was how much Chris’ voice sounds like his dad’s.  I’m not going to suggest that Mike Wallace was the greatest journalist in America, but I do admire the guy.  Chris sounds like his old man filtered through a watery turd.  Very disconcerting.

Clinton on the other hand laid the smack down so hard that I had to stop the video at several points to stop from reeling.  It was just as I said: Chris Wallace was so ignorant of the truth that he couldn’t even recognize it as such.  He just sat there with that stupid smirk on his face and imagined that Clinton was stone-walling; rather than appreciating that this was the correct answer to the question…assuming you were giving Wallace the benefit of the doubt by pretending he had asked a real question.  

No comments: