\Memo To: Tim Russert, "Meet the Press"
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Clinton Interview
What a great interview! I don't think President Clinton was ever better, and I think your questions and follow-ups made it happen. They were tough without being disrespectful. We found out a lot more about what is on his mind than we usually do at a press conference, when he is peppered with questions designed to get a sound bite. I wish you had been a little tougher on the issue of Iraq, though. The President says all Iraq needs to do to get the sanctions lifted is to cooperate with the monitors, but there has been no evidence in six years of cooperation that the coalition has ever intended the lifting of sanctions. Tom Friedman said so in his NYTimes column last week and I recall Secretary of State Madeleine Albright saying so in a television interview sometime last summer. I talked to a U.S. Senator yesterday who says he heard four months ago that the Albright interview had opened the way for Saddam to argue within the Arab world that the United States had no intention of ever lifting the sanctions. We now see that Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz calls Albright a liar, after she called Saddam a "congenital liar," and Defense Secretary Bill Cohen takes offense at Aziz's remark. As far as I can tell, we have been lying to Saddam for six years, and Albright has been the most honest about it.
You should try to get Aziz for Sunday. Our policy now seems to do everything we can to not let the American people hear what he has to say. We are muscling the Security Council to not let him state his case. We have ordered our UN Ambassador not to talk to him. We are trying to get the Security Council to vote to close off the foreign travel of Iraqi government officials. We are doing everything we can to turn Iraq into one giant Waco, which is what we would have to do to get rid of Saddam. I'm shocked at how feeble the press corps has been in pointing out the illogic of our treatment of Iraq. There is no way we can ever rid the country or the Islamic world of weapons of mass destruction — especially by goading them into the effort. It only takes a small laboratory that can be hidden in a cave to produce biological weapons. If we are not careful, there will be a vial of poison slipped into the drinking water in DC or a suitcase bomb go off at the World Trade Center more potent than the last one. It need not even be directed by Saddam, but by some loonies who are enraged by our actions. Bill Cohen (or Clinton) boasts that we have confiscated thousands of tons of conventional weapons while searching for weapons of mass destruction; however, he is not telling us of any evidence that he has of weapons of mass destruction. If we tell the inspection teams that they are to root out every missile, handgun or slingshot, they will be in Iraq forever. Why not ask Colin Powell on the show? He might have a different view. At least it would carry more weight than what I'm hearing from Albright and Cohen. But Aziz would be the best. It is an absolute disgrace that the United Nations is not supposed to hear the petitions of a member nation's head of state. As Minister Louis Farrakhan told me recently, when a person has no institution to petition in an attempt to redress a grievance or injustice, he will turn into a beast. Farrakhan, by the way, will be the "Evans&Novak" guest the Saturday after next. Farrakhan is now planning a trip to the Middle East in November, and that will be the subject of the show. It was nice that you included a film clip of Farrakhan in your 50-year history. I started watching "Meet the Press" when I was 13, in 1949, so I did miss a few of your early shows. I really do think you are the best moderator the show has had, excepting only Lawrence Spivak when he was at his best.