Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich to see Adolf Hitler, Walter Winchell observed
in 1938, "because you can't lick a man's boots over the phone." Why did Mike
Wallace fly to Tehran?
Wallace's bio at the CBS website lauds his "no-holds-barred interviewing
technique," but there was little evidence of that on Sunday, when "60 Minutes"
aired his interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of the virulent Iranian
theocracy that is the world's most active sponsor of jihadist terror.
Time and again Wallace let Ahmadinejad brush him off with inanities and lies he
would have pounced on had they been uttered by a business executive or an
American politician. When Wallace asked, for example, why Iranian Revolutionary
Guards are helping terrorists in Iraq kill US soldiers, Ahmadinejad's non-reply
was that the Americans shouldn't be in Iraq, since it is "a civilized nation
with a long history of civilization." When Wallace didn't press for an answer to
his question, Ahmadinejad flung it back at him. "According to international
laws," he said, Iraqi security is the responsibility of "the occupation" that
is, the US military. "Why are *they* not providing security?" Flummoxed,
perhaps, by such Alice-in-Wonderland logic, Wallace dropped the subject.
And that, more or less, was the story of the interview. Wallace would pose a
question, Ahmadinejad would swat it away with a preposterous retort, and Wallace
would move on to something else.
Asked about the thousands of artillery rockets provided to Hezbollah by Iran,
Ahmadinejad sneered: "Are you the representative of the Zionist regime or a
journalist?" Confronted with Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, he declared that
President Bush and his supporters want to monopolize energy resources and "line
their own pockets."
You're a bigot who despises "the Zionists," Wallace challenged him. Not at all,
said the man who wants Israel wiped off the map, I merely despise "heinous
For some reason, Wallace neglected to ask Ahmadinejad about Iran's brutal
treatment of political dissidents. Or about the scores of anti-government
demonstrations that have taken place across the country. Or about the 18-year
trail of false reports Iran filed to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Or
about allegations by former American diplomats that Ahmadinejad took part in the
1979 seizure of the US embassy in Tehran. Or about the ballistic missiles
flaunted in Iranian military parades with banners reading "Death to America" and
"We will trample America under our feet."
Perhaps Wallace simply ran out of time. Even a seasoned pro can't fit everything
into one short interview, after all. Especially when he has to save room for
exchanges like this:
Wallace: One of your aides just gave you a note. What is he telling you?
Ahmadinejad: Yes. They have told me to rearrange my jacket.
Wallace: They've been why are they worried about your jacket? I think you
look just fine.
Ahmadinejad: That is right, they have told me the same thing, they tell me that
it's a very nice-looking coat.
Wallace: Are you a vain man?
Ahmadinejad: Sometimes appearances, yes, you have to look your best.
Wallace: Let me reassure you
Ahmadinejad: That is why I comb my hair.
Wallace: Let me assure you, you look your best. What do you do for leisure?
Ahmadinejad: I do many things, I have many hobbies.
Wallace: For instance?
Ahmadinejad: I study, I read books, I exercise. And, of course, I spend some
time, quality time, with my family.
Wallace: You have three children?
Fawning over despots is something of an old habit with Wallace. His "60 Minutes"
whitewash of the late Syrian tyrant Hafez Assad in 1975 so pleased the Damascus
regime that years later the Syrian embassy in Washington was still distributing
transcripts of the program. In 1990, as the Soviet Union was coming unraveled,
Wallace assured his viewers that many Soviets "look back almost longingly to the
era of brutal order under Stalin." Writing in Commentary the following year,
David Bar-Illan described an obsequious Wallace interview with Yasser Arafat:
"Had he treated American ... politicians this way, he would have been drummed
out of the profession."
No danger of that. Wallace told the Boston Globe last December that if he could
go one-on-one with Bush, he would ask him how someone so "incurious" could be
suited for the presidency and whether his election "has anything to do with the
fact that the country is so [expletive] up." A pity, Wallace must think, that
America's president isn't more like Iran's that "rather attractive man," as
he gushed about the world's leading Holocaust denier last week, "very smart,
savvy, self-assured, good looking in a strange way ... infinitely more rational
than I had expected him to be."