‘Reliable Sources’ Panel Rips Clinton’s 'Fox News Sunday' Tirade

When a panel comprised of newly ultra-liberal Arianna Huffington, Bloomberg political correspondent Roger Simon, former Bush speechwriter David Frum, and the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz unanimously believes you blew it, the likelihood is you did. Such was the case when the aforementioned gathered on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday to chat about former president Bill Clinton’s meltdown on “Fox News Sunday.”

Here are some of the notable quotables:

HUFFINGTON: Well, I don't know what the private arrangements were about what he could talk about and he could not. But frankly, once you go on the television show, you should know if you're the president of the United States, or the former president, or me, or anybody else, that you can be asked anything at all.

FRUM: I just went through the transcript and counted half a dozen urgings to people to go read Richard Clarke's book. It's a wonderful Washington moment. Here's this national best- seller, and he knows no one in Washington has in fact read it, because if you do it's a damning portrait of the Clinton administration.

SIMON: I think what his answer shows is that he believes, as his wife once famously said, there is a vast right wing conspiracy out to get the Clinton. That may be true. I'm not sure Chris Wallace is part of it, however. I think Chris Wallace was simply acting like a newsman.

KURTZ: And therefore, it would seem that, Arianna, that the former president just went overboard. I mean, it wasn't like a question -- it wasn't a personal question. It was a question about his record as president. What's wrong with that?

FRUM: Arianna's right, he's not a very convincing statesman.

What follows is a full transcript of this segment.

KURTZ: Welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES.

"FOX News Sunday aired an interview with Bill Clinton about an hour ago. Host Chris Wallace asked the former president about his record on terrorism which resulted in a long, impassioned answer that eventually turned into an attack on Chris Wallace.

Let's watch some of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Why didn't you do more to put bin Laden and al Qaeda out of business when you were president?

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So you did FOX's bidding on the show. You did your nice little conservative hit job on me. What I want to know is...

WALLACE: Well, wait a minute, sir. I'm asking the question.

CLINTON: No, wait. No, no.

WALLACE: You don't think that's a legitimate question?

CLINTON: It was a perfectly legitimate question, but I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked this question of.

WALLACE: Do you ever watch "FOX News Sunday," sir?

CLINTON: I don't believe you asked them that.

WALLACE: We ask plenty of questions.

CLINTON: You didn't ask that, did you? Tell the truth, Chris. Tell the truth, Chris.

WALLACE: With Iraq and Afghanistan, there's plenty of stuff to ask, sir.

CLINTON: Did you ever ask that? You set this meeting up because -- you're going to get a lot of criticism from your viewers, because Rupert Murdoch is 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: That was quite an answer. We saw just a part of that. Clinton was also talking about Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism official, and why supposedly Chris Wallace had hadn't asked Republicans about that.

Arianna Huffington, was it unfair for Chris Wallace to ask about Clinton's record on terrorism? And why did he fly off the handle on that?

HUFFINGTON: Well, I don't know what the private arrangements were about what he could talk about and he could not. But frankly, once you go on the television show, you should know if you're the president of the United States, or the former president, or me, or anybody else, that you can be asked anything at all.

What this may lead to which could be good news is that Bill Clinton may wake up to the fact that there is a real (INAUDIBLE) going on to define who is going keep America safer. And for him to try to have it both ways, to have Laura Bush do the keynote during his conference, as though we're all in this together, to have Rupert Murdoch, Chris Wallace' ultimate boss, do the fund-raiser for his wife, all that stuff is simply not making it as clear and as distinct as it to needs to be for the American people.

There are two very different views, and there should be leading up to the '06 election, about who is going to keep America safer. And Bill Clinton needs to decide if he's just a former president or a former Democratic president helping his party define what is at stake in the upcoming election. So this may be a good wake-up call for him.

KURTZ: A good wake-up call for everybody who was watching.

Just to clarify to Arianna's point, FOX says that there was an agreement that half the interview would be spent on his global initiative, and -- but at one point Chris Wallace tried to get back to the global initiative and Clinton kept going on this issue of terrorism.

FRUM: It looks like -- if you look at the transcript, it looks like about half to me.

I'll tell you, if I'm ever summoned to the vice principal's office, Bill Clinton is the guy I want next to me. I mean, what a filibuster and what amazing effrontery. I just went through the transcript and counted half a dozen urgings to people to go read Richard Clarke's book.

It's a wonderful Washington moment. Here's this national best- seller, and he knows no one in Washington has in fact read it, because if you do it's a damning portrait of the Clinton administration.

KURTZ: But why do you say effrontery? I mean, shouldn't the former president be able to defend himself forcefully, emotionally, as to Clinton's style, on this issue of what he did or didn't do on terrorism?

FRUM: Of course he should. Of course he should.

But to say, go read this book that says I did a did a great job when the book -- now, the beginning and end, because Clarke is personally loyal to Clinton, gave Clinton all kind of points, but when you read the actual substantive story, at one point, you know, Clarke comes out of a meeting with Clinton officials and says, "What is it going take wake this country up? Is al Qaeda going to have to smash a plane into the Pentagon?" And that's during the Clinton years.

Again and again, Clinton says, "I want to do something, but the CIA won't let me, the FBI won't let me." And this is the Richard Clarke's story, all in the book that Clinton kept telling them to read, counting on them not to.

KURTZ: We can debate Clinton's record on terrorism for hours.

What I want to know, Roger Simon, is, was he particularly sensitive maybe about being asked this on FOX News, where he's never before done a one-on-one interview? He brings in Rupert Murdoch and conservative (INAUDIBLE).

What do you think?

SIMON: Well, a couple of things. One, I think we've seen, as if we ever doubted, that making yourself available to the media is not the same thing as liking the media. And Bill Clinton still does not like the media, number one.

And number two, I think what his answer shows is that he believes, as his wife once famously said, there is a vast right wing conspiracy out to get the Clinton. That may be true. I'm not sure Chris Wallace is part of it, however. I think Chris Wallace was simply acting like a newsman.

KURTZ: And therefore, it would seem that, Arianna, that the former president just went overboard. I mean, it wasn't like a question -- it wasn't a personal question. It was a question about his record as president.

What's wrong with that?

HUFFINGTON: I mean, I actually like that kind of feisty Bill Clinton more than I like the one who congratulates the president on his handling of Katrina or lets Republicans get away on what is happening in Iraq. I prefer the feisty Bill Clinton.

KURTZ: All right.

HUFFINGTON: I mean, there's a -- there's a campaign going on.

FRUM: Arianna's right, he's not a very convincing statesman.

KURTZ: But he's always an interesting interview subject. Maybe he'll come on this show some time.

Thank you very much, David Frum, Arianna Huffington, Roger Simon.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.