In an interview aired on Fox News Sunday today, Chris Wallace asked Bill Clinton why he hadn’t done more to get Osama bin Laden. Clinton’s furious answer lasted several minutes, and included finger-wagging reminiscent of Clinton’s angry declaration that he had not had sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky.
According to Clinton, this was all a right-wing hatchet job, and Wallace had never asked similar questions of Bush officials:
So you did FOX’s bidding on this show. You did you[r] nice little conservative hit job on me. But what I want to know..
WALLACE: Now wait a minute sir…
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.
Wallace replied that such questions had been asked. Clinton replied: “I don’t believe you asked them that.”
I believe he did.
In 2004, Wallace asked almost the exact same question of Donald Rumsfeld that he asked Clinton today.
Here’s what Wallace asked Clinton today:
[H]indsight is 20 20 . . . but the question is why didn’t you do more, connect the dots and put them out of business?
And here is what Wallace asked Donald Rumsfeld on the March 28, 2004 episode of Fox News Sunday:
I understand this is 20/20 hindsight, it’s more than an individual manhunt. I mean — what you ended up doing in the end was going after al Qaeda where it lived. . . . pre-9/11 should you have been thinking more about that?
. . . .
What do you make of his [Richard Clarke’s] basic charge that pre-9/11 that this government, the Bush administration largely ignored the threat from al Qaeda?
. . . .
Mr. Secretary, it sure sounds like fighting terrorism was not a top priority.
Like Clinton, Think Progress shifts the argument to specific questions about the U.S.S. Cole, in order to argue that Clinton is correct:
Neither Chris Wallace, nor his predecessor, Tony Snow ever asked anyone in the Bush administration why they failed to respond to the bombing of the USS Cole, according to a Lexis-Nexis database search.
That may technically be true. If you simply plug the terms “U.S.S. Cole” and “Fox News Sunday” into a Nexis search engine, it may well be the case that Bush officials were not asked specifically about the response to the Cole. But that wasn’t Wallace’s question. Wallace had simply mentioned the Cole as part of a detailed question about terror acts that occurred on Clinton’s watch, culminating in a question asking why Clinton hadn’t done more — the same question Wallace asked Rumsfeld in 2004.
Clinton’s charge that Wallace hasn’t asked these sorts of questions of Bush officials is false.
More in the extended entry.