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Mailbag: Clinton vs. Wallace

Glenn -- I can see why Fox news would try to portray Bill Clinton in a negative way. I don't know why a supposedly objective journalist like yourself would lend his name to such an unprofessional propagandistic effort. You describe Clinton's response as "fireworks"- a strong exaggeration of his response. You also printed Wallace's comments about Clinton "Yelling at his staff"- did you verify this? What were these yells about? Was he really yelling, or is this another exaggeration?...In essence, do you usually print slanderous information about others without fact checking them?

Chris Wallace and Fox news do a great job of lying to the American people, but that is expected of them by now, and we all discount their statements accordingly. You have now joined their 24 hour spin zone. You have helped distort reality, not describe it. You are now a writer, but no longer a journalist, no matter what your card says. I am very disappointed in you.

Sean

Hollywood, FL

Sorry, Sean, but I don't agree that the word "fireworks" is pejorative. That was an extremely combative exchange between Clinton and Wallace, and a very unusual one, as Professor Sabato of the University of Virginia observed. As for verifying what Wallace said about Clinton yelling at his staff, I tried, calling Clinton's office twice to seek their comment. His press people didn't return my calls, so Clinton's version of what happened couldn't be included.

Your defending Fox News is so pathetic one can only laugh. You sir are a lap dog for the
right wing idiots who have been running the country.  Keith Olbermann  in his special
comments on the incident lays it out clearly and correctly. Even if you don't agree you should have at least made mention. But that would have been fair and that isn't what people such as yourself want is it?
T. Swonk
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

I've read back over the piece, T., and I can't find a single place where I defended -- or attacked -- Fox News. I quoted Chris Wallace -- who certainly did defend himself -- and I would have been happy to quote Bill Clinton or one of his press spokesmen if they had called me back. And if you think Keith Olbermann is delivering objective, spin-free news, think again, very hard.

You ended your article quoting Wallace's reference to Clinton's spin machine turned your piece into a comedy. Fox News is one large right-wing spin machine and I'm glad Clinton laid into Wallace. It's the only way to communicate with the angry white men who watch Fox.

Mario

Always glad to add a chuckle to somebody's day, Mario.

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Stephen

Glenn, what is frustrating about this whole thing is that many journalists, you included, have accepted without question Wallace's narrative that Clinton "blew his stack" or went crazy. But no analysis has gone into the substance of the claims outside of the partisan blogs and press. (the right wing says Clinton was lying, the left says that Wallace was)

But can't we objectively analyze this? Has Wallace asked Condi, Cheney, Bush et al about what they did to stop Bin Laden before 9/11? What of the claims that the right wing media was attacking Clinton for "wagging the dog" in regards to Bin Laden? There are real issues here, and the story is not how angry Clinton was. The story is what Clinton was angry ABOUT.

Lance

Glenn, your pro-Fox News and generally conservative bias has long been evident in your columns, but that's ok as long as you don't try to stuff it down our throats all the time. You're a good writer and I enjoy your columns.

But why did you go all the way back to FDR to discuss Presidential blow-ups, and ignore the first President Bush's reaction to Dan Rather, or Nixon's exchange with Rather? And the standard is unfair anyway, as Clinton is not a sitting President, while all the other examples involve present occupants of the White House.

And Stephen is right -- as Media Matters recently noted, over the many many years of interviews of top Bush Administration officials, Wallace (and Snow before him) only asked a question on this topic once -- once -- to Rummy. And no follow up. And no Administration official has ever been asked about the USS Cole bombing, which is really quite remarkable when you think of it.

Finally, no one has ever asked the President or his helpers why they shelved the bipartisan plan proposed by former Senators Rudman and Hart in early 2001 and refused to set up a high level anti-terrorist czar as set forth in the plan. Instead, the President announced in May 2001 that he allocated that function to Vice President Cheney. When is someone going to ask Cheney what he did when he was tasked with that job in May?

Mario

Lance is right on the money. It puzzles me how the FCC allows Fox News to operate without compelling disclosures that it is in fact not a news channel. That instead it propagates information to manipulate views in favor of the current administration's far right agenda. I'm sure Clinton wanted to reach out to the small but important typical Fox News viewers who never get to hear opinions or factual slants different from those of Roger Ailes, Ruppert Murdoch, et. al. The facts that Glen should have reported are that Clinton was in office less than a month when the World Trade Center was struck the first time by Al Qaeda. That Clinton did not blame his predecessor and instead went about the business of capturing each and every perpetrator of that crime. Moreover, he implemented an excellent CTU operation and his outgoing Secretary of Defense, Berger, with Richard Clarke's help, fully briefed Rummy and Condi on Al Qaeda, its then current operations and intentions. It was Bush who continued clearing brush in the summer of 2001 rather than review Clarke's PDF that Osama has designs to enlist hijackers to attack U.S. sites! Anyway, the fact of the matter is that this administration has a dismal record on combating terrorism, exploited a horrific event to advance a pre-election plot and used Fox News as its propaganda vehicle to mislead the public. Fox continues to further a misguided agenda and thank goodness Bill Clinton is still around to set the record straight.

Mario

Lance is right on the money. It puzzles me how the FCC allows Fox News to operate without compelling disclosures that it is in fact not a news channel. That instead it propagates information to manipulate views in favor of the current administration's far right agenda. I'm sure Clinton wanted to reach out to the small but important typical Fox News viewers who never get to hear opinions or factual slants different from those of Roger Ailes, Ruppert Murdoch, et. al. The facts that Glen should have reported are that Clinton was in office less than a month when the World Trade Center was struck the first time by Al Qaeda. That Clinton did not blame his predecessor and instead went about the business of capturing each and every perpetrator of that crime. Moreover, he implemented an excellent CTU operation and his outgoing Secretary of Defense, Berger, with Richard Clarke's help, fully briefed Rummy and Condi on Al Qaeda, its then current operations and intentions. It was Bush who continued clearing brush in the summer of 2001 rather than review Clarke's PDF that Osama has designs to enlist hijackers to attack U.S. sites! Anyway, the fact of the matter is that this administration has a dismal record on combating terrorism, exploited a horrific event to advance a pre-election plot and used Fox News as its propaganda vehicle to mislead the public. Fox continues to further a misguided agenda and thank goodness Bill Clinton is still around to set the record straight.

Anne

Fireworks may not be a perjorative term but it is a very descriptive one and one that does not describe President Clinton's interview. Intense, yes. He was probably angry but as someone with a bad temper if that's what you call a bad temper then you need to come to my house. Or better yet, join the military. That didn't even qualify as an ass chewing.

If someone accused me of something I was sure was false I would be furious too. But since the conservatives can never allow that they might be wrong about anything it only follows that Clinton is wrong about everything. Read wrong as "lying", therefore he has no right to be indignant and therefore he must be furious.

I'm glad the Clinton spin machine beat the Fox spin machine for once. It's a hard thing to do. And I notice the Fox spin machine is full throttle milking this for all it's worth and trying to put the worst possible light on Clinton. Poor Chris Wallace just can't figure out why his lil'ol question got Clinton so fired up. Now that's dissembling plain and simple.

Geoff

Oh brother, the commenters on this board are living in liberal la-la land. Can somebody please tell me that last time a former president (not a sitting president) got in a screaming match with a journalist, jabbing him, getting purple faced and accusing a journalist of having a "smirk" on his face. Clinton completely lost it and showed the reason that Gore lost the 2000 election despite a booming economy -- the reason is that the American public had grown tired of his act and his mendacity. People began to see the real person behind the curtain, and that real person is the scary, megalomaniacal person we saw in the Fox news interview. Clinton is desperate to get in office again (through his wife Hillary), so desperate that any questioning of his legacy turns him purple-based with rage.

Anybody who does not question Clinton's behavior should take a look at the history books and realize there is a long history of ex-presidents, through basic common courtesy, staying away from politics because it is simply unseemly. The only exceptions have been the two biggest recent failures: Jimmy Carter and Bill "Can't Keep His Cigar in His Pants" Clinton.

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