clinton fires back after fox news ambush

I’m not the biggest fan of Bill Clinton, but, Jesus, I love watching him put Chris “what an embarrassment to his father” Wallace in his place. The entire FOX News transcript can be found here. In case you don’t have the time, though, here’s a little taste (taken from Think Progress):

WALLACE: When we announced that you were going to be on Fox News Sunday, I got a lot of email from viewers, and I got to say I was surprised most of them wanted me to ask you this question. 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 which I suspect you’ve read called the Looming Tower. And it talks about how 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 US troops.” Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole.


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?

CLINTON: OK, let’s talk about it. I will answer all of those things on the merits but I want to talk about the context of which this arises. I’m being asked this on the FOX network…ABC just had a right wing conservative on the Path to 9/11 falsely claim that it was based on the 9/11 Commission report with three things asserted against me that are directly contradicted by the 9/11 Commission report. I think it’s very interesting that all the conservative Republicans who now say that I didn’t do enough, claimed that I was obsessed with Bin Laden. All of President Bush’s neocons claimed that I was too obsessed with finding Bin Laden when they didn’t have a single meeting about Bin Laden for the nine months after I left office. All the right wingers who now say that I didn’t do enough said that I did too much. Same people…

WALLACE: Do you think you did enough sir?

CLINTON: No, because I didn’t get him.


CLINTON: But at least I tried. That’s the difference between 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…

WALLACE: Now wait a minute sir… 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…


WALLACE: 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.

CLINTON: 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…

WALLACE: [laughs]

CLINTON: You said you’d spend half the time talking about what we did out there to raise $7 billion dollars plus over three days from 215 different commitments. And you don’t care…

CLINTON: What did I do? I worked hard to try and kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president we’d have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him. Now I never criticized President Bush and I don’t think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is 1/7 as important as Iraq. And you ask me about terror and Al Qaeda with that sort of dismissive theme when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s book to look at what we did in a comprehensive systematic way to try to protect the country against terror. And you’ve got that little smirk on your face. It looks like you’re so clever…

WALLACE: [Laughs]

CLINTON: I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get Bin Laden. I regret it but I did try. And I did everything I thought I responsibly could. The entire military was against sending special forces into Afghanistan and refueling by helicopter and no one thought we could do it otherwise…We could not get the CIA and the FBI to certify that Al Qaeda was responsible while I was President. Until I left office. And yet I get asked about this all the time and they had three times as much time to get him as I did and no one ever asks them about this. I think that’s strange.

I loved the completely disingenuous “I got a lot of email from viewers, and I’ve got to say I was surprised most of them wanted me to ask you this question” setup. What a transparent fucking lie. If you’re going to ask the question, ask the question, but don’t try to suggest that you were completely shocked when you received letters from FOX News viewers demanding that you ask Clinton why he didn’t want to prevent the 9/11 attacks. And Clinton is absolutely right to point out that FOX News has never asked a representative of the Bush administration why they didn’t, in their first eight months in office, do one thing to apprehend or kill Bin Laden, or why they never pursued the anti-terror strategy left by Clinton, or why they fired Richard Clarke?

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  1. mark
    Posted September 24, 2006 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    My guess is that Clinton, knowing damned well what Wallace would pull, went into this ready for the fight. He, in my opinion, was looking for a platform from which to respond to things like “The Path to 9/11” and he decided to take it right to Fox News. It was a good move on his part.

  2. mike_1630
    Posted September 25, 2006 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    I just watched the interview on Crooks & Liars – it was great.

  3. ChelseaL
    Posted September 25, 2006 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    >>>My guess is that Clinton, knowing damned well what Wallace would pull, went into this ready for the fight. He, in my opinion, was looking for a platform from which to respond to things like “The Path to 9/11” and he decided to take it right to Fox News. It was a good move on his part.

  4. mark
    Posted September 25, 2006 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Do you disagree, Chelsea?

  5. Ted Glass
    Posted September 25, 2006 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    From Arianna Huffington this morning:

    Hooray! Good for Bill Clinton. He finally called Fox News and the right-wing on their BS, right? Well, sort of.

    Sure, Clinton said exactly what he should have said during his interview this weekend with Chris Wallace on Fox News. Sure, it felt good to hear Wallace’s RNC talking points thrown back at him.

    But instead of popping champagne corks, let’s make use of this moment by stepping back and giving it some context. What can we learn from what happened?

    More specifically, what can Bill Clinton learn? That the bipartisan love-in he’s been engaged in over the last several years has resulted in jack-squat.

    After providing President Bush cover for his disastrous handling of Katrina, after trying to get himself adopted by George Bush, Sr., after giving Laura Bush the keynote slot at his Global Initiative Conference, after going along with Rupert Murdoch’s fundraiser for Hillary — after all that, he got exactly nothing……

  6. be OH be
    Posted September 25, 2006 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I loved the part where Bill is leaning in hard and starts striking Chris’ notepad with his finger for emphasis. I like to think Chris Wallace peed his pants a little right there.

    I too hated the way that question was framed so that it didn’t seem like Chris Wallace and his producers carefully crafted it themselves. I think they were hoping to catch Clinton off guard and get a cheap soundbite of him trying to deflect responsibility so they could rerun it a million times. I’m sure they weren’t expecting him to deliver such an informative and passionate response filled with so many truths.

    I’m glad Clinton reitterated a few times that at least he tried to do something and the current administration didn’t until it was too late.

    Another favorite bit was when Wallace tried to play the “fair and balanced” card and asked Clinton, “Would you like me to ask you another question about the Global Initiative?” Instead of accepting the invitation to avoid any further potential PR damage, Clinton shoots Wallace a very pissy glare, says, “No, I want to finish this”, and then continues to lay into Lil’ Wallace.

  7. egpenet
    Posted September 25, 2006 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    1 for Bill and 0 for Chris …

    2 for Arianna …

    And all these Bin Laden distractions for Bill came during the time he was perfecting his cigar tricks with the little fat girl with the berret.

  8. ChelseaL
    Posted September 27, 2006 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Augh! Where’s the rest of my comment? I said that George the First perpetrated a similar stunt when he ran for prexie: pretended to get angry at a reporter. I believe it won him the election.

  9. Ted Glass
    Posted September 27, 2006 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Mike Wallace needs to drag that boy back to the woodshed.

  10. ChelseaL
    Posted September 28, 2006 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    >>>Mike Wallace needs to drag that boy back to the woodshed.

  11. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted September 28, 2006 at 11:50 am | Permalink


  12. It's Skinner Again
    Posted September 28, 2006 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    As I recall, Republicans kept crying “Wag the Dog” whenever Clinton tried to go after Bin Laden, accusing him of trying to deflect attention from his sex scandals. And I also recall that when Bush took office, he spent that year racking up a record amount of vacation time at his ranch.

    There’s a good article (written back in ’02) on Clinton’s foreign policy, and on what he did and didn’t do about Bin Laden: Worth a look!

  13. ChelseaL
    Posted September 29, 2006 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Once again.

    I had added, “*I’ll* say.”

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