(photo from Crooks and Liars)
After the Clinton Global Initiative had ended and in the hours that followed, I was doing some writing and organizing of notes in the CGI press room where Fox News’ Chris Wallace was also hanging around — looking pensive, waiting for what I didn’t know then was an attempted mugging of President Bill Clinton.
Fox News had secured the exclusive interview with Clinton to talk with him about how the $7.3 billion that the CGI had helped raise was going to be directed at various global problems.
Instead, Fox News was there to hit Clinton for his failure to deal effectively with bin Laden and pre-9/11 terrorism.
Watch the interview here.
Here is the full transcript.
Read the entire thing, or better yet, watch it — but here is one of the many effective Clinton passages:
WALLACE: When we announced that you were going to be on Fox News Sunday, I got a lot of e-mail from viewers. And I’ve got to say, I was surprised. Most of them wanted me to ask you this question: Why didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you do more to put bin Laden and Al Qaida out of business when you were president?
There’s a new book out, I suspect you’ve already 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 U.S. troops. Then there was the bombing of the embassies in Africa and the attack on the Cole.
CLINTON: OK, let’s just go through that.
WALLACE: Let me — let me — 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. . .
CLINTON: No, let’s talk about it.
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. Now, I will answer all those things on the merits, but first I want to talk about the context in which this arises.
I’m being asked this on the Fox network. ABC just had a right-wing conservative run in their little “Pathway to 9/11,” falsely claiming it was based on the 9/11 Commission report, with three things asserted against me directly contradicted by the 9/11 Commission report.
And I think it’s very interesting that all the conservative Republicans, who now say I didn’t do enough, claimed that I was too obsessed with bin Laden. All of President BushÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s neo-cons thought I was too obsessed with bin Laden. They had no meetings on bin Laden for nine months after I left office. All the right-wingers who now say I didn’t do enough said I did too much — same people.
They were all trying to get me to withdraw from Somalia in 1993 the next day after we were involved in Black Hawk down, and I refused to do it and stayed six months and had an orderly transfer to the United Nations.
OK, now let’s look at all the criticisms: Black Hawk down, Somalia. There is not a living soul in the world who thought that Osama bin Laden had anything to do with Black Hawk down or was paying any attention to it or even knew Al Qaida was a growing concern in October of ’93.
WALLACE: I understand, and I. . .
CLINTON: No, wait. No, wait. Don’t tell me this — you asked me why didn’t I do more to bin Laden. There was not a living soul. All the people who now criticize me wanted to leave the next day.
You brought this up, so you’ll get an answer, but you can’t. . .
WALLACE: I’m perfectly happy to.
CLINTON: All right, secondly. . .
WALLACE: Bin Laden says. . .
CLINTON: Bin Laden may have said. . .
Here is another gem:
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’s supporting my work on climate change.
And you came here under false pretenses and said that you’d spend half the time talking about — you said you’d spend half the time talking about what we did out there to raise $7-billion-plus in three days from 215 different commitments. And you don’t care.
WALLACE: But, President Clinton, if you look at the questions here, you’ll see half the questions are about that. I didn’t think this was going to set you off on such a tear.
CLINTON: You launched it — it set me off on a tear because you didn’t formulate it in an honest way and because you people ask me questions you don’t ask the other side.
Crooks & Liars has more.
I will be writing more about the whirling, fascinating world of Bill Clinton’s philanthropic globalthon — but have to say that Chris Wallace deserved this throttling.
Fox News’ efforts to market this as “Clinton losing it” diminishes Fox’s credibility even more than the interview did as Clinton is clearly at the top of his game and did much to set the historical record right.
– Steve Clemons