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Wallace: “I felt as if a mountain was coming down in front of me. “

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Following today’s buzz generating conversation with Bill Clinton, Chris Wallace shared some of his post-interview thoughts with FishbowlDC:

    I was delighted to get the chance to interview former President Clinton. This was the first one-on-one sitdown he’s ever given “Fox News Sunday” during our 10 years on the air.

    The groundrules were simple–15 minutes–to be divided evenly between questions about the Clinton Global Initiative and anything else I wanted to ask.

    I intended to keep to the groundrules. In fact–I prepared 10 questions–5 on the CGI and 5 on other issues.

    I began the interview with 2 questions about Mr. Clinton’s commitment to humanitarian causes. His answers were cogent and good-humored.

    Then–I asked him about his Administration’s record in fighting terror–fully intending to come back to CGI later (as indeed I did).

    I asked what I thought was a non-confrontational question about whether he could have done more to “connect the dots and really go after al Qaeda.”

    I was utterly surprised by the tidal wave of details–emotion–and political attacks that followed.

    The President was clearly stung by any suggestion that he had not done everything he could to get bin Laden. He attacked right-wingers–accused me of a “conservative hit job”–and even spun a theory I still don’t understand that somehow Fox was trying to cover up the fact that NewsCorp. chief Rupert Murdoch was supporting his Global Initiative. I still have no idea what set him off.
    Former President Clinton is a very big man. As he leaned forward–wagging his finger in my face–and then poking the notes I was holding–I felt as if a mountain was coming down in front of me.

    The President said I had a smirk. Actually–it was sheer wonder at what I was witnessing.

    I tried repeatedly to adhere to the ground rules–to move the President along–and back to the CGI. But he wanted to keep talking about his record fighting terror.

    When it became clear he wanted to throw out the ground rules–then I just went with the flow of the interview.

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