So someone from the audience asked Reston, who worked on the interviews, about whether it was right to pay Nixon for the interviews. Reston gave a very self-serving answer. "More important than that is the abuse of power. The relationship of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal to the abuses of power today ... The younger generation feels that Richard Nixon was railroaded out of office and what he did was really trivial compared to what George W. Bush did. So it's important to go back to the source, to go back to the cauldron both for checkbook journalism and abuse of power." In other words, Reston basically admitted what they were doing was unethical journalism but then said the end justifies the means because they were out to get Nixon who was the real criminal.
At which point, Chris Wallace seized the microphone in the audience, apparently fed up with the Nixon and Bush comparisons: "I respectfully would like to disagree with that and I think it trivializes Nixon's crimes and completely misrepresents what George W. Bush did. Whatever George W. Bush did was after the savage attacks of 9/11 in which 3,000 Americans were killed and was done in service of trying to protect this country. I'm not saying you have to agree with everything he did, but it was all done in service of trying to protect this country and keep us safe and, the fact is, that we sit here tonight so comfortably and the country has not been attacked again since 9/11. Richard Nixon's crimes were committed purely in the interest of his own political gain, and I think to compare what Nixon did for pure political self-preservation to George W. Bush, even if you disagree with rendition or waterboarding, is a gross misunderstanding of history then and now." Somewhat surprisingly, given the political make up of the crowd, Wallace got a smattering of applause.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Chris Wallace at Frost/Nixon - Mark Hemingway