By now, I'm sure you've read many dissections and anayses of Bill Clinton's appearance on FOX News, and how he vigorously defended his actions regarding Al Qaeda and Somalia during his time in office.
Chris Wallace. Poor guy. It was like a train wreck, watching him lose control of his interview like that. And there was Clinton, systematically deconstructing the shaky foundation of Wallace's biased, conflict-provoking question, about why Clinton didn't do more.
I think it's funny, in the first few minutes of the interview, how tightly Wallace clings to Bin Laden's words about how the U.S. departure from Somalia showed the our frailty. Hanging his entire question on the rhetoric of a religious fanatic, when in fact, history shows - as Clinton points out - how the same conservatives criticizing Clinton today, wanted him to "cut and run" in Somalia the day after Black Hawk Down.
You have to watch the video to witness the spectacle in all its splendor, but I literally applauded when Clinton hit Wallace with this gem of an exchange:
WJC: I authorized the CIA to get groups together to try to kill [Bin Laden]. The CIA was run by George Tenet, who President Bush gave the Medal of Freedom to and said he did a good job. The country never had a comprehensive anti-terror operation until I came to office. If you can criticize me for one thing, you can criticize me for this: after the Cole, I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and launch a full scale attack/search for Bin Laden. But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan, which we got (only) after 9/11. The CIA and the FBI refused to certify that Bin Laden was responsible while I was there. They refused to certify. So that meant I would have had to send a few hundred Special Forces in helicopters and refuel at night. Even the 9/11 Commission didn’t do (think we should have done) that. Now the 9/11 Commission was a political document, too? All I’m asking is if anybody wants to say I didn’t do enough, you read Richard Clarke’s book.Exactly.
CW: Do you think you did enough, sir?
WJC: No, because I didn’t get him.
WJC: But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t. I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country: Dick Clarke.
So you did FOX’s bidding on this show. You did you nice little conservative hit job on me. But what I want to know..
CW: Now wait a minute, sir…
CW: I asked a question. You don’t think that’s a legitimate question?
WJC: It was a perfectly legitimate question. But I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you’ve 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…
CW: We asked…
CW: Do you ever watch FOX News Sunday, sir?
WJC: I don’t believe you ask them that.
CW: We ask plenty of questions of…
WJC: You didn’t ask that, did you? Tell the truth.
CW: About the USS Cole?
WJC: Tell the truth…
CW: I…with Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s plenty of stuff to ask.
WJC: Did you ever ask that? You set this meeting up because you were going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers because Rupert Murdoch is going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers for supporting my work on Climate Change. And you came here under false pretenses and said that you’d spend half the time talking about…
WJC: You said you’d spend half the time talking about what we did out there to raise $7 billion plus over three days from 215 different commitments. And you don’t care.
CW: But, President Clinton…
CW: We were going to ask half the [interview time] about it. I didn’t think this was going to set you off on such a tear.
WJC: It set me off on such a tear because you didn’t formulate [the question] in an honest way and you people ask me questions you don’t ask the other side.
Some other great posts on this topic: