Memo To: Chris Wallace, Fox News Sunday
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Give Him a Vacation
To be honest, I almost never watch your show since you replaced Tony Snow early last year, as I recall. I do check the guest list in the Sunday NYTimes, though, to see if there might be someone you have invited who is not an advocate of war, in Iraq or anywhere else. Some years ago I dubbed FoxNews “The War Channel,” and suggested your boss, Roger Ailes, bore a resemblance to William Randolph Hearst, who saw circulation and profits in promoting the Spanish-American War. I say this because I always brace myself before checking the Times, always expecting to see Sen. John McCain [R AZ] on your guest list. McCain is almost always on one of the Sunday talk shows, but Fox leads the parade. On a commercial break on ABC, I clicked over to you and was astonished when you told him that when last you had him on the show, you got all kinds of e-mails from conservatives asking WHY you give him so much air time. You did so as a lead in to asking him how he expected he could win the GOP nomination in 2008 if he decides to make another run for the presidency. McCain properly answered that it is too long between now and then for him to be thinking one way or another about another presidential run.
What I want to suggest to you, Chris Wallace, is that the reason you and the other networks have McCain on your shows as a regular Sunday guest is that you love a politicians who speaks his mind. Lawrence O’Donnell, an NBC political correspondent when he is not writing scripts for the West Wing, was on the mark when he said a few weeks back that 90% of the members of the United States Senate are “robots,” who spout the Party Line. When they appear on the Sunday talkies, the only reason I tune in is to find out from the robots how the party line has evolved, in either party. With John McCain, there is no party line. You never know what to expect when you ask him a question, and for journalists, that is the meat and potatoes of their business. I spent much of my life as a newspaperman, and well know how much I loved to run into a politician who spoke his mind, which is only one reason I fell in love with the Gipper.
But step back for a moment. Journalists generally loved Ronald Reagan not because of what he said, but because he was terrific raw material for their dispatches. He never criticized the press or individual reporters and answered all questions put to him from his mind, heart and soul.
The difference between Reagan and McCain is that while the electorate would respond to polls with positive comments about both men “speaking their minds,” they liked what Reagan had on his mind and they don’t like what McCain has on his mind… and least not enough to propel him beyond the U.S. Senate. The package of ideas he has in his noggin could never appeal to a majority of American voters and he would be wise to think about his ‘70s as a time for phasing out, not going for the brass ring.
Although he is said to be the Democrats’ favorite Republican, please note that when you questioned him on Iraq, he was as hawkish as he has ever been. I’ve never understood why Senator Kerry tried so hard to get him on the Democratic ticket last year when the only reason Kerry came close to winning the White House was his dovish position on Iraq, at least compared to the President’s. McCain is and always has been “A Bomber,” the special category Colin Powell carved out for those who always reach for the gun when there is a foreign-policy problem to be settled. Democrats can criticize the President, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz for being “chickenhawks,” who never fought in war but are willing to send our kids into battle, but they can’t say that about McCain. He was a Vietnam warrior, in the air, and spent several years in a prison camp. He didn’t see any gore, up close, but he was there.
You may not recall, Chris Wallace, but in September 1996, when Saddam Hussein sent Iraqi troops into Kurdistan in response to a plea from Kurdish leaders for help, the neo-cons persuaded President Clinton to bomb Iraq “in retaliation.” For what? For “violating the no-fly zone,” when of course Saddam had not sent any planes to help the Kurd government resist the attempts of the Iran Kurds to overthrow the government. Our political leaders acted miserably at the time, with GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole rushing to support the President for killing Iraqis for no reason at all. But McCain stepped forward and blasted Clinton for dropping little bombs on the Iraqis, “pin pricks” he called them. I decided at that moment that McCain is and always be a menace. In his 2000 campaign for the GOP nomination, he was endorsed by the neo-cons at the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol & Co., but they are as witless and bloodthirsty as he is. I was thrilled to see Governor Bush defeat McCain, even though both have been programmed by the neo-cons.
You asked him this morning how he would consider “victory” in Iraq, and what did he say? He will not believe the mission is accomplished so we can bring home troops until he, McCain, can fly into the Baghdad airport and take an unprotected taxi into town!! There is no semblance of reason in the man. No response when you ask him what he would do differently. No plan. Just send more American men and women into Iraq to secure ground gained by blood and treasure, no matter how much it takes, so he can taxi into town. We will be in Iraq for a long, long time if that’s the best we can do.
Aside from being a “bomber,” what else is McCain about? He is opposed to cutting tax rates where appropriate to expand the economy. He is in favor of shutting down large parts of the economy because Americans are contributing to Global Warming by producing carbon dioxide. He has been out front on campaign-finance reform with Democrats, with legislation that has made things worse for the electorate. I’m just one fellow with one vote, but there has been no issue I can recall where I could find myself on the same side at John McCain… even though he speaks his mind. Do you see what I mean? We owe this man a debt of gratitude for what he did for us in the service, but I wish you wouldn’t have him on your show every second week just because he is a blabber.