Friendly Fox anchor defends Bush from Nixon comparison
This weekend's release of a new film examining the pivotal 1977 interviews that laid bare Richard Nixon's stunning abuses of power will inevitably lead to much discussion of Nixon's parallels to the current White House occupant.
Ron Howard, who directs Frost/Nixon, got an early jump on this comparison after a screening of the film in Washington this week. President Bush himself wasn't nearby to rebut the observation that his administration has been as power-hungry and corrupt as Nixon's, but he was not without a friendly voice in the crowd.
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace jumped to Bush's defense, with the stunning observation that Bush's abuses of power were all done in the name of national security, whereas Nixon merely lusted for power.
"Richard Nixon's crimes were committed purely in the interest of his own political gain," Mr. Wallace told Mr. Howard before an audience of a few hundred after viewing the filmmakers new film "Frost/Nixon," which is about the only U.S. president to resign from office.As others have noted, the pantheon of Bush scandals is replete with examples that had nothing to do with national security -- for example, snubbing Congressional oversight, politicizing the justice department, refusing to ensure preservation of White House records and outing Valerie Plame, among others.
"I think to compare what Nixon did, and the abuses of power for pure political self preservation, to George W. Bush trying to protect this country — even if you disagree with rendition or waterboarding — it seems to me is both a gross misreading of history both then and now," Mr. Wallace said.
Wallace's vigorous -- if misinformed -- defense of the president should come as little surprise. When Bush appeared on Fox News Sunday in February, the exchange was anything-but the aggressive interrogation Wallace gave to Bill Clinton two years ago.
Wallace was all smiles and kid-glove treatment, trading gossip about the ongoing GOP primary, begging Bush to attack then-surging Democratic candidate Barack Obama, and giving the president every opportunity to rebut his liberal critics. At one point, Wallace's conservative-talking-point-infused defense of Bush's war policies seemed to go too far even for the president.
WALLACE: I want to follow up on that. Whether it is interrogation of terror prisoners or the intercepting of surveillance among al Qaeda members, are you ever puzzled by all of the concern in this country about protecting of rights of people who want to kill us?Frost/Nixon, which opens Friday, dramatizes the series of exchanges between the disgraced former president and British television personality David Frost. The interviews, conducted over several weeks in the spring of 1977, produced several revealing exchanges, including Nixon's views on executive power.
BUSH: That is an interesting way to put it. I wouldn't necessarily define some of the critics of my policy that way. I would say that they want to be very careful that we don't overstep our bounds from protecting the civil liberties of Americans.
"Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal," Nixon told Frost in perhaps the most revelatory declaration of the interviews.
The interviews also caused Nixon to come to terms with his involvement in the Watergate burglary and subsequent cover-up, which ultimately led to his resignation before he could be impeached.
As viewers flock to the film, which is already receiving glowing reviews, a question likely to emerge is, Who will be David Frost to George W. Bush? One thing's for certain, it won't be Chris Wallace.