September 25, 2006

The Smackdown

By Mary Lyon

There's some good and some bad to come out of Bill Clinton's confrontational interview with that smarmy Wallace boy on the Pox "news" channel. Most of it's good, of course - watching Clinton seize the opportunity and go on the offensive while defending himself against too many unfounded accusations from the Dark Side. That was a thing of beauty. LONG overdue. Which brings us to the downside. What on earth took him so long???

It's LONG past time when he should have stepped up and smacked down all of the insidious crap that's been flung at him since, well - since he first emerged on the national political scene. Conservatives and republi-CONS were gunning for him from the very beginning. He usually did what most Democrats do. He took the high road, which gets you precisely nowhere except straight over a cliff with these people.

I'm beyond delighted to see Clinton get his dander up and grab some of those obnoxious, never-ending, and overwhelmingly false accusations against him by the collar, yanking them to attention. That's what you have to do these days, and I hope Democrats, liberals, and progressives everywhere get the message. THIS is how you play the game with the adversaries at hand - those who'll stop at nothing to flay you alive and feed your entrails to the dogs. You have to get in their faces and shove it all back, and HARD. I guess it tends to take the folks on our side a little long for lessons like these to sink in.

There happens to be quite a bit to sink in, at that. At the moment we're almost too loaded up with useful ammunition with which to take aim against those on the other side of the aisle and their hate-spewing friends and collaborators. There's the newly-issued National Intelligence Estimate that verifies from the highest and most credible quarters what many of us in the anti-war movement have been saying since the beginning: that the Iraq War would only aggravate terrorism, make us more enemies, and lose us more ground - literally AND figuratively. It's made us less safe. Period. Despite what the White House wants you to believe. There are now more retired generals speaking out (from a safe distance of course) in concurrence. We've even seen another one of them, Colin Powell, now putting his fears in writing about how our charming new torture policies have cost us the moral high ground we once had, and will gain us neither any advantage NOR useful intel.

But back to the Clinton Smackdown on Pox "news." It tells us a great number of things:

Clinton was angry? Awww. too damn bad! DEAL with it. I think by now, with what the vast right-wing conspiracy has put him through, he has every right to be angry. And note how critics use this attack line with such derision. They sneer about Democrats in general being angry. But let their boy, George, get angry when confronted with uncomfortable truths, and THAT'S okay. That's different. Downright admirable in fact.

It also tells us how sloppy and complacent people have become, over at that enemy stronghold. My husband tunes into Pox "news" fairly frequently to see and better understand what the enemy camp is saying. Most of the time he doesn't hear all of it because he's too busy yelling at our TV. Even so, he's a stronger soul than I am - I refuse to reward their bad behavior (I don't buy books by crooks, so why should I add to their Nielsen numbers?). Downloads from and kept me from having to soil myself thus. The hapless Chris Wallace should have seen this coming. Should have known that there might be fireworks. Hell, ANY interviewer worth his/her chair on the set hopes and prays for heated exchanges and controversy that might extend the life of the interview beyond just his/her own show - into other media and the national conversation around the ol' water cooler. You make further headlines, get your name out there farther, and bolster your arguments for more airtime, a promotion, and a raise.

But Pox "news" is slipping, much the same way Disney/ABC did with that ridiculous 9/11 Blame-It-All-On-Bill fairy tale. Substantial press attention has unavoidably gone toward the reaction from those aggrieved. The many complaints from Sandy Berger, Richard Clarke, Madeleine Albright, Clinton 's attorneys, assorted Democrats, activists and media watchdog groups forced the long-ignored "other side" into the spotlight. It was the first time in ages that we actually had serious rebuttals to all the crap that's been spewed in the conservatives' desperation to rewrite history and blame their own world-class botch-jobs, incompetence, indifference, and bad judgment on somebody else. Here, too, after the "Pox 'news' Sunday" program, clips of Clinton 's forceful retorts and commentary about them are everywhere. He got his side out. FINALLY. He could REALLY have gone on the offensive if he'd followed through on his attorneys' warning letters to Disney/ABC by filing a libel suit. He demurred there, unfortunately. But by now, I guess it was just one too many sucker punches and he'd finally had enough. (Took you long enough, Mr. President!)

Pox is slipping, though. I suspect they've just gotten lazy. They're used to Democrats in general just rolling over and playing dead. They're used to having a stuffed dummy to punch all the time - one that doesn't fight back, or is too tongue-tied, or too polite to get loud or butt in, or too intimidated by the "star power" of people like that-smug-SOB-whose-name-rhymes-with-Vanity (Sorry. I refuse to further flatter him by adding to his name recognition). I think Pox has grown flabby. They're used to being able to stack the deck and rig the game. The folks over there aren't accustomed to a Democrat who actually hits back, whose punches connect. Bill Clinton didn't just miss the memo, he refused delivery outright. He took EVERY advantage to get his points out. EVERY attack he answered with facts - some of them never heard before. He left no challenge unanswered. No lie undebunked. No fire unreturned.

Chris Wallace was clearly unprepared for that, either regarding content or tone. He's tried to cover himself by saying he was "surprised" that Clinton would respond as he did. That's like saying you're sorry if somebody was offended by the offensive thing you just said about them. Junior Wallace should have known. After all, he comes from a family that, for decades, has lived very well off the TV journalism business. He's old enough to know, as any self-respecting attorney does, that you don't ask the witness a question to which you don't already know the answer. Which means you know the material inside and out. You do ALL your homework beforehand. You don't just review your favorite parts. Perhaps he's spent so long at Pox "news" that his ability to be truly objective, to consider that there IS another side to the wholesale anti-Democratic bias and Clinton-bashing (the side that NEVER gets "fair and balanced" coverage), has been seriously compromised.

I suspect there's an additional dynamic here that explains Wallace-the-Younger. For years, I'll bet, he's chafed under the great weight of the reputation and accomplishments of his father, "60 Minutes" giant Mike Wallace. Mike Wallace put "gotcha" journalism on the map back when little Christopher was just graduating off his training wheels. Junior has probably been lusting for a chance to outshine his dad, and put the old geezer out to the Pasture of Yesterday where he supposedly belongs. Get lost, Pop. I'M running the show now. I'm the Decider. Hmmm. where have we seen THAT before? Unfortunately for this Junior, too, Dad actually knew best, put more thought into it, did ALL his homework - not just his favorite parts, and performed better - getting correspondingly better results. YOU got punked, kid. It's YOU who got "gotcha'd." Evidently you still need those training wheels.

I'm proud of Bill Clinton. And I'm tickled to pieces that he was able to get his long-ignored and misrepresented points across - on the very vehicle wherein he's trashed the most virulently. Everybody who watches Pox "news" does so to savor that single-minded strategy played out, day after day, timeslot after timeslot. Sure, some of them will refuse to see what they were shown on li'l Chris's show. Not all souls can be saved. But some of them can be. In this time when there are more wavering on that side of the aisle than ever before, some of them may indeed recognize the light of truth when it's force-fed to them. And perhaps they'll gain as much from that Sunday smackdown as we have.

Visualize IMPEACHMENT!!!
Then go DO something about it.


Mary Lyon is a veteran broadcaster and five-time Golden Mike Award winner who has anchored, reported, and written for the Associated Press Radio Network, NBC Radio "The Source," and many Los Angeles-area stations including KRTH-FM/AM, KLOS-FM, KFWB-AM, and KTLA-TV, and occasional media analyst for ABC Radio News.  Mary began her career as a liberal activist with the Student Coalition for Humphrey / Muskie in 1968 and helped spearhead a regional campaign, The Power 18, to win the right to vote for 18-year-olds. She remains an advocate for liberal causes, responsibility and accountability in media, environmental education and support of the arts for children, and green living. Mary writes for,, World News Trust, and's We! Magazine. Mary is also a parenting expert, having written and illustrated the book "The Frazzled Working Woman's Practical Guide to Motherhood."

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