Chris Wallace: Probing, hard-nosed journalist

The Fox News interviewer asks a question so obsequious that even the president was embarrassed by it.

Published February 10, 2008 6:39PM (EST)

Chris Wallace interviewed George Bush today on Fox News and, after asking Bush about his views on waterboarding, this was the "question" which Wallace -- sitting next to Bush in front of a cozy fireplace (after a borderline-romantic stroll with him down a picturesque, snow-covered Camp David trail) -- asked of him:

WALLACE: I want to follow up on that. Whether it is interrogation of terror prisoners or the intercepting of surveillance among al Qaeda members, are you ever puzzled by all of the concern in this country about protecting of rights of people who want to kill us?

Wallace's obsequious framing was too brazenly propagandistic even for Bush to accept:

BUSH: That is an interesting way to put it. I wouldn't necessarily define some of the critics of my policy that way. I would say that they want to be very careful that we don't overstep our bounds from protecting the civil liberties of Americans.

If the subject of a political interview finds the questions from the "journalist" too favorably slanted to embrace (basically: "I think you're being unfairly harsh to my political opponents"), isn't that a fairly compelling sign that there is something profoundly corrupt with the journalist?

In Chris Wallace's Fox News World, concern over America's use of torture techniques and warrantless spying on Americans (applied against people who have been convicted of absolutely nothing) is still about nothing more than "protecting of rights of people who want to kill us" -- just like those weak-willed Founders stuck all of those irritating rights in the Constitution to protect criminal defendants -- all the leftist garbage about due process and prohibitions on excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment and checks and balances and rights to confront one's accusers -- because they were so weirdly concerned "about protecting of rights of people who want to kill us."

Fox is obviously entitled to broadcast whatever propaganda it wants, but there are plenty of people who still insist that people like Chris Wallace and Brit Hume are real journalists, somehow distinguishable from the likes of Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly. Shouldn't this question from Wallace, by itself, preclude that assessment? Is Wallace's embarrassingly deferential inquiry really any different than the defining question asked of the Commander-in-Chief which exposed Jeff Gannon:

Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines. And Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work -- you've said you are going to reach out to these people -- how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

Both Wallace and Gannon -- with the opportunity to question the U.S. President -- basically asked: "Mr. President, how do you handle so well the fact that your political opponents are so crazy, malicious and anti-American"? Just compare Gannon's mentality ("how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?") with Wallace's ("are you ever puzzled by all of the concern in this country about protecting of rights of people who want to kill us?"). Brezhnev-era Pravda would have been too ashamed to ask such blatantly subservient questions of political leaders. But Chris Wallace is a Very Serious Journalist and Fox is a real news network.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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