Wallace: "I felt as if a mountain was coming down in front of me. "
Following today's buzz generating conversation with Bill Clinton, Chris Wallace shared some of his post-interview thoughts with FishbowlDC:
I was delighted to get the chance to interview former President Clinton. This was the first one-on-one sitdown he's ever given "Fox News Sunday" during our 10 years on the air.
The groundrules were simple — 15 minutes — to be divided evenly between questions about the Clinton Global Initiative and anything else I wanted to ask.
I intended to keep to the groundrules. In fact I prepared 10 questions, 5 on the CGI and 5 on other issues.
I began the interview with 2 questions about Mr. Clinton's commitment to humanitarian causes. His answers were cogent and good-humored.
Then I asked him about his Administration's record in fighting terror — fully intending to come back to CGI later (as indeed I did).
I asked what I thought was a non-confrontational question about whether he could have done more to "connect the dots and really go after al Qaeda."
I was utterly surprised by the tidal wave of details — emotion — and political attacks that followed.
The President was clearly stung by any suggestion that he had not done everything he could to get bin Laden. He attacked right-wingers — accused me of a "conservative hit job" — and even spun a theory I still don't understand that somehow Fox was trying to cover up the fact that NewsCorp. chief Rupert Murdoch was supporting his Global Initiative. I still have no idea what set him off.
Former President Clinton is a very big man. As he leaned forward — wagging his finger in my face — and then poking the notes I was holding — I felt as if a mountain was coming down in front of me.
The President said I had a smirk. Actually — it was sheer wonder at what I was witnessing.
I tried repeatedly to adhere to the ground rules — to move the President along — and back to the CGI. But he wanted to keep talking about his record fighting terror.
When it became clear he wanted to throw out the ground rules — then I just went with the flow of the interview.