Dover Bitch

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Attack everybody

ThinkProgress reports today:

Fox News chief Roger Ailes said Wednesday that President Clinton's response to Chris Wallace's question about going after bin Laden represents "an assault on all journalists." "If you can't sit there and answer a question from a professional, mild-mannered, respectful reporter like Chris Wallace, then the hatred for journalists is showing," Ailes said.

How interesting. In the annals of television history what example of a politician "assaulting a journalist" could possibly compare with Clinton's recent interview?

The gold standard, of course, was when Vice President George H. W. Bush went after Dan Rather in 1988.

DAN RATHER: I don't want to be argumentative, Mr. Vice President.

GEORGE H. W. BUSH: You do, Dan.

RATHER: No... no, sir, I don't.

BUSH: This is not a great night, because I want to talk about why I want to be president, why those 41 percent of the people are supporting me. And I don't think it's fair...

RATHER: And Mr. Vice President, if these questions are...

BUSH: judge my whole career by a rehash on Iran. How would you like it if I judged your career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York?

RATHER: Well, Mr...

BUSH: ... Would you like that?

RATHER: Mr. Vice President...

BUSH: I have respect for you, but I don't have respect for what you're doing here tonight.

Not only did Bush evade the issue of Iran-Contra, he forever shed his "wimp" image and turned a large part of the nation against "rude" questions from journalists. Even other journalists sided with Bush. Mike Wallace, father of Clinton's target, Chris, said "the style was wrong. Dan lost his cool."

In his book "Attack the Messenger," Craig Crawford writes about the incident and how it signified a milestone in political history -- the reporter became the enemy. But Crawford also enlightens us to another detail...

"How would you like it if I judged your career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York?"

It was not an offhand remark. It was on a cue card.

Bush's campaign manager, Roger Ailes -- a burly force of nature who would go on to revolutionize television news at the helm of FOX News Channel -- was holding the cue card. And he had to write the card in fist-sized letters.

Longtime CBS camera operator George Christian, who ran the camera on Bush that day, was surprised to see an aide prompting answers with a cue card during a live news interview. "I had never seen that before," Christian said.

Christian said that CBS producers instructed him to place his camera unusually far away from Bush for the interview. Producers expected that the vice president might walk out. They wanted their camera operator to be able to air any walkout live on the broadcast.

Ailes stood next to the camera operator, some thirty feet away from Bush. At the moment he wanted Bush to go on the attack, he held up a poster with a handwritten message. "NOW ASK," the homemade cue card began. It went on to prompt Bush to refer to an incident when Rather walked off his own set.

Never before has there been such a prime example of "hatred for journalists" and it was penned by Ailes, himself. But now that his own stooge has been on the receiving end, here's his big stand for principle.

Not buying it, Roger.