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Botched "Gotcha" Game: Chris Wallace Fails to Make Sen. Harry Reid Squirm

Reported by Marie Therese - December 19, 2005

Wow! What a pleasant surprise! During an appearance yesterday on FOX News Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid showed signs of a backbone. At the tail end of the segment unctuous anchor Chris Wallace tried to play a game of FOX News "gotcha" using the usual mix of half-truth and innuendo, but Reid wouldn't play the game. In fact, he put Wallace in his place a couple of times during the segment. The general tone of the interview was, in my opinion, cordially antagonistic. That's fancy talk for they didn't seem to like each other!

Wallace started off trying to get Reid to admit that he knew all about NSA spying on Americans without proper warrants.

WALLACE: Well, I'm asking you, sir.

REID: Well, that's why I think we should have some committees look into this. I'm not going to speculate on a story in the New York Times, but Bob Graham, who everyone acknowledges is one of the finest members who's ever served in the Congress of the United States, says that he wasn't told about it when he was chairman, and ...

WALLACE: But I want to ask you directly, Senator, because, you know, you're raising an issue about consultation. Were you ever briefed on it? Did you ever object?

REID: Listen, the program has been in effect. It's been in effect for four years, according to the New York Times. I was briefed a couple of months ago. The program had been in existence a long time prior to that time.

This is something that's the President, the Vice-President, and there is no way he can pass the buck. The Vice-President came up to talk to us one day this week. I wonder if they checked that off as one of the times that they consulted with us. There were four members of Congress there. Maybe that counts for four of the 12.

This is the President's responsibility and the Vice-President's, and they cannot pass the buck.

After this exchange Wallace tried to make Sen. Reid squirm because Democrats and a few principled Republicans killed the Patriot Act last Friday. Reid again would not take the bait,

REID: ... The fact is that I voted for the original Patriot Act. It was the right thing to do. And the Patriot Act that I talked about there, at least some semblance of it, came out of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate unanimously. It passed the Senate unanimously. It was an improvement over what we had.

It was sent to the House of Representatives and came back in a fashion that I thought was very bad, as did a bipartisan group of Senators. Now, keep in mind what we're talking about. Two thousand and three, New Year's Eve in Las Vegas. Hundreds of thousands of people come to Las Vegas. And do you know that those people that came to Las Vegas had their credit cards looked at, they had what rooms they stayed in, what cars they rented.

Now, what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas, but not in this instance. It's in some federal data bank. That's what the Patriot Act is doing to the American people. And we have to make sure that big brother doesn't take over this country.

And yes, I think it was good for the American people that we stopped that conference report. It was a good thing we did it, and the president of the United States has a responsibility of extending this. We've agreed to extend this for three months.

To think that this is as important as it is — and I voted for the original Patriot Act — that he's going to let it expire — a bipartisan group of senators defeated cloture on this, because it was not a bill that's good for the American people.

******

WALLACE: Aren't Republicans going to be able to say, as they did in 2002, when Democrats blocked the creation of the Homeland Security Department, and they beat you around the ears and whipped you in the election — aren't they going to be able to say here are Democrats once again weak on the war on terror?

REID: As I stated early on in this interview you and I had, I'm opposed to evil terrorists as most Americans are. But we still believe in this little thing called the Constitution. And as you heard speech after speech on the Senate floor, the American people deserve our Constitution.

And if the president's talking about irresponsibility, and he believes that this Patriot Act is so important, why wouldn't he extend it for three months to let Senator Specter and Senator Leahy try to work out the differences? If...

WALLACE: And what's the answer to that question?

REID: If the Patriot Act is not in effect when this Congress recesses for this session, the responsibility is on the shoulders of the president of the United States, because he is playing politics. If he thinks this is important, as I think it is, extend it for three months.

The two men then discussed the siutation in Iraq and Reid threw a bucket of cold water on Wallace's "pie in the sky" approach to Iraq by telling him that at present there are about 1800 Iraqi soldiers who can actually stand on their own as a self-contained, effective fighting force.

WALLACE: ... 120 battalions, sir, 80 that can support, 40 that can take the lead.

REID: No, no, no, no. There is one. The people on the ground said there is one battalion that can fight alone. One. Eighteen hundred soldiers. No question about that. That's what they've said on the ground.

And the president simply refuses to acknowledge that we — the last speech he gave, he used the word "victory" 14 times. What does that mean? We're all in favor of victory. We're in favor of a political victory.

We're in favor of doing something — you know, right now, Chris, we're producing — the Iraqis are producing less oil now than before the war, less electricity now than before the war.

WALLACE: Sir, would you set a specific timetable for getting troops out?

REID: No. And what we have here — the Democrats agree that there should be a change of course, that next year should be a time of significant transition. And of course, everyone believes that there must be troop withdrawal, and there's differences to when they should come out.

I don't believe in timetables. But I do believe in benchmarks. And the president has refused, refused to give us benchmarks. That's why he doesn't have support for what's going on in Iraq.

Finally, in a typical FOX move Wallace accused Sen. Reid of accepting contributions from indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Reid would have none of it and shot Wallace down very quickly.

WALLACE: I just have to pick up on this, because you've been mentioning corruption several times here. One of the biggest scandals in Washington right now involves Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist who's under investigation, and his clients.

It turns out that you received $66,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff and his clients. Some of your colleagues...

REID: Chris, Chris...

WALLACE: May I ask the question?

REID: Don't try to say I received money from Abramoff.

REID: I've never met the man, don't know anything...

WALLACE: But you've received money from...

REID: Make sure that all your viewers understand — not a penny from Abramoff. I've been on the Indian Affairs Committee my whole time in the Senate.

WALLACE: But you've received money from his firm. You've received money from some of his clients. The question I'm asking if I may get the question out, Senator. Some of your colleagues, both Republican and Democrats, have given back campaign contributions that had any taint of Abramoff to it. Are you going to do so?

REID: Well, first of all, Chris, make sure that — again, I'll repeat, Abramoff gave me no money. His firm gave me no money. He may have worked a firm where people have given me money. But I have — I feel totally at ease that I haven't done anything that is even close to being wrong.

And I'm going to continue doing what I've done for my entire tenure in Congress. My record — any money that I've received — it's a federal law. You can look who gave it to me, how much, when they gave it to me, and what their occupations are.

So don't lump me in with Jack Abramoff. This is a Republican scandal. Don't try to give any of it to me.

WALLACE: Senator Reid, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much, and please come back soon, sir.

REID: OK.

COMMENT

As an anchorman, Chris Wallace is definitely not in the same league as his father.

Now retired from CBS, in his time Mike Wallace was one of the best, in command of his facts, cutting to the chase quickly, no B.S. allowed, no wiggle room given.

On the other hand, his son slavishly follows the FOX News script, each jot and tittle, including those that are riddled with innuendo and pseudo-facts.

Truly sad ...

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