Wallace discusses Iraq war, ’08 election
By Steph Mostaccio
As the host of Fox News Sunday and a contributor to the network’s political and election news coverage, Chris Wallace is constantly up-to-date on the latest news in the nation’s capital and beyond.
His job even affords him conversations with the president about the hottest political issues.
“One of the great perks of my job is that occasionally the White House invites the evening news anchors and the hosts of the Sunday talk shows — there are about 10 of us — to come over to the White House to have lunch with the president and to hear what he has to say,” said Wallace.
In his speech “A View from Washington,” given to the Rider community Tuesday night, the veteran journalist shared some of what he learned during a recent lunch with President Bush.
Wallace noted that there is overwhelming opposition from the general public, as well as from many Democrats and some Republicans in Congress, to the war in Iraq. However, during his last meeting with Bush, Wallace said the president was more optimistic than usual.
“The president was as bullish, as combative as I’ve ever seen him,” said Wallace. “He knew that all [of] Washington was counting him and his Iraq policy out last summer. That despite the doubters, he has been able to hold onto enough Republican support in Congress to continue his war strategy.”
One reason for this extra support, according to Wallace, is the belief among some Congressional delegations that the troop surge Bush enacted in January was starting to work in Anbar Province, although critics say deals with Sunnis, not the surge, are responsible for decreased violence there.
Wallace added that Bush wants to build a long-term strategic relationship with Iraq and hopes to persuade the next president, whether Democrat or Republican, to maintain a strong presence in Iraq.
As for the next president, Wallace said Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Rudolph Giuliani, New York’s former Republican mayor, are currently the legitimate frontrunners to win their nominations.
After his interview with Clinton on last week’s Fox News Sunday, Wallace classified her as a “formidable candidate” who has tremendous appeal to Democrats as well as to those in the center and to the center-right.
Wallace attributed Giuliani’s popularity to his leadership during the aftermath of 9/11.
During his speech, Wallace also addressed the issue of bias in the news media. He acknowledged that many people think the media are either too liberal or, as in Fox News’ case, too conservative. However, he maintained that at Fox News, both liberal and conservative ideas are examined.
“Depending on your views, Fox News is either a right wing platform for Rupert Murdoch’s opinions or the only straight-talking outlet in the bunch,” he said. “My answer is that we come down somewhere in between.”
Yet, the Fox News journalist did admit in an interview prior to his speech that the network is more conservative than all the others.
“I think we have a more conservative slant or approach to the news, but is that because we are so conservative or is it because the mainstream media is so liberal?” said Wallace. “It’s interesting because I came from the mainstream media, and I thought we were fair and balanced. But since coming to Fox, I really have come to see a liberal bias in the mainstream media in the way they jump on stories.”
Before Wallace joined Fox News in 2003, he worked at NBC News as the chief White House correspondent from 1982 to 1989 and at ABC News for 15 years, where he served as the chief correspondent for Primetime Thursday and as a substitute host for Nightline.
Whether balanced or not, former President Bill Clinton criticized Wallace last year for doing a “conservative hit job” and having a smirk on his face when he asked the question, “Why didn’t you do more to put Bin Laden and Al Qaeda out of business when you were president?” Wallace did not think he was being biased.
“Far from having a smirk, I was utterly astonished,” he said. “I thought I had
asked a straightforward news question about something that was in the news then.”
During the interview prior to his speech, Wallace said one of the most challenging aspects of broadcast journalism is making sure the questions are based on facts.
“Our job ultimately is to provide information to the American people who watch our show,” he said. “So you want to make sure that you get it right.”
However, it is the mistakes and situations like the one with Bill Clinton that make reporters stronger, according to Wallace.
“I can’t help but feel that in some ways these controversies are good for us,” he said. “Criticism can teach journalists some humility. That is never a very pleasant lesson, but it sure can be a good one.”
Audience member freshman Mitchell Buonpastore, an avid Fox News viewer, said he would have enjoyed the speech regardless of Wallace’s or the network’s party affiliation.
“I like the idea of getting to see an experienced journalist,” he said. “It was interesting to get his opinion on some of the issues; whether he was Democrat or Republican was insignificant.”