by Ben Cohen
The notion that Fox News presenter Chris Wallace was ever a mildly serious journalist has surely been laid to rest after his nauseating non-interview with Dick Cheney. Wallace went about grilling the former Vice President with the same fervor Max Baucas showed when pushing for the public option. As Andrew Sullivan put it:
When it comes to Cheney, one of the most incompetent vice-presidents in
the country's history, with a record of two grotesquely botched wars,
war crimes and a crippling debt, Chris Wallace sounds like a teenage
girl interviewing the Jonas Brothers.
The interview basically went something like this:
Chris Wallace: Do you think you are guilty of committing war crimes as those silly liberals seem to suggest?
Chris Wallace: Great! Why do they hate you so much?
Cheney: Because they hate America and freedom.
Chris Wallace: Wow! Why are you so great?
Cheney: (growls and tries to force a smile)
Ok, you get the picture. But seriously, the interview with Cheney illustrates the role Fox News has played in condoning, supporting, and now celebrating the use of torture as an instrument of policy. Here's an actual part of the interview:
WALLACE: ....Why are you so concerned about the idea
of one administration reviewing, investigating the actions of another one?
Well, you think, for example, in the intelligence arena. We ask those
people to do some very difficult things. Sometimes, that put their own
lives at risk. They do so at the direction of the president, and they
do so with the -- in this case, we had specific legal authority from
the Justice Department. And if they are now going to be subject to
being investigated and prosecuted by the next administration, nobody's
going to sign up for those kinds of missions.
a very, very devastating, I think, effect that it has on morale inside
the intelligence community. If they assume that they're going to have
to be dealing with the political consequences -- and it's clearly a
political move. I mean, there's no other rationale for why they're
doing this -- then they'll be very reluctant in the future to do that.
WALLACE: Do you think this was a political move not a law enforcement
Absolutely. I think the fact is, the Justice Department has already
reviewed the inspector general's report five years ago. And now they're
dragging it back up again, and Holder is going to go back and review it
again, supposedly, to try to find some evidence of wrongdoing by CIA
other words, you know, a review is never going to be final anymore now.
We can have somebody, some future administration, come along 10 years
from now, 15 years from now, and go back and rehash all of these
decisions by an earlier administration.
Let me follow up on that. The attorney general says this is a
preliminary review, not a criminal investigation. It is just about CIA
officers who went beyond their legal authorization. Why don't you think it's going to stop there?
Wallace essentially framed the interview around Dick Cheney's opinion that the Obama administration is using the investigation into detainee abuse for political motives. Wallace refused to seriously confront Cheney with his horrific record of authorizing war crimes, and used no sources to attack Cheney's position. For example, when Cheney said:
I think the evidence is overwhelming that the EITs were crucial in
getting them to cooperate, and that the information they provided did
in fact save thousands of lives and let us defeat all further attacks
against the United States.
Wallace didn't come back and say: "Yes, but waterboarding and other 'EITs' are illegal under the constitution and illegal under international law". Instead, he asked the following:
Republicans have made the charge before, do you think Democrats are soft on National Security?
And that was about as hard as it got for Dick Cheney.
It was one thing to be fearful and subservient to Dick Cheney when he was in power. But after his spectacular approval ratings collapse and subsequent end to his career, it shouldn't be too much to ask for a featured political journalist to ask him some tough questions. But given Cheney will only ever talk to Fox hacks like Wallace, we'll most likely never see that happen. Instead, we'll get fluff pieces glossing over his tragic record in office and no serious attempt to hold him to account.
And torture, it seems, is a Fox News favorite. Tragic.