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Mike Wallace Buddies Up to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

Wallace has interviewed Ahmadinejad for Sixty Minutes. According to the Hollywood Reporter, "The 88-year-old Wallace, who has interviewed almost every notable person in his nearly 40 years on '60 Minutes,' said Wednesday that he wasn't going to let a little matter such as retirement stop him from doing a story about one of the biggest gets these days."

So what does he think of the man whose agents are killing scores of Americans in Iraq, not to mention thousands of Iraqis, and who also is the world's leading Holocaust denier and most dangerous anti-Semite [relevant aside: Wallace is Jewish], currently engaged in a devastating proxy war with Israel and threatening to wipe out the country entirely? "He's actually, in a strange way, he's a rather attractive man, very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking in a strange way.... He couldn't have been more accomodating. He had a good time doing the interview." These comments are not balanced out by any negative impressions from Wallace, except to note that his interview subject is "very, very short" but, he added immediately, "he's comfortable in his own skin." If Wallace doesn't feel revulsion at meeting the likes of Ahmadinejad, it really makes me wonder. [This can be dangerous stuff. I was going to post something along the lines that I'm sure Stalin was quite charming, too, but then I remembered that Stalin actually charmed the pants [actually the Poland] right off of FDR.]

UPDATE: Powerline has similar thoughts.

UPDATE: I guess I shouldn't have wondered. Wallace apparently has no moral sense beyond a belief that he should "get the story." Outside the Beltway recounts this hypothetical posed to Wallace:

With Jennings in their midst, the northern soldiers set up a perfect ambush, which will let them gun down the Americans and Southerners, every one. What does Jennings do? Ogletree asks. Would he tell his cameramen to "Roll tape!" as the North Kosanese opened fire? What would go through his mind as he watched the North Kosanese prepare to ambush the Americans? Jennings sat silent for about fifteen seconds after Ogletree asked this question. "Well, I guess I wouldn't," he finally said. "I am going to tell you now what I am feeling, rather than the hypothesis I drew for myself. If I were with a North Kosanese unit that came upon Americans, I think that I personally would do what I could to warn the Americans." Even if it means losing the story? Ogletree asked.

Even though it would almost certainly mean losing my life, Jennings replied. "But I do not think that I could bring myself to participate in that act. That's purely personal, and other reporters might have a different reaction." Immediately Mike Wallace spoke up. "I think some other reporters would have a different reaction," he said, obviously referring to himself. "They would regard it simply as a story they were there to cover." "I am astonished, really," at Jennings's answer, Wallace said a moment later. He turned toward Jennings and began to lecture him: "You're a reporter. Granted you're an American"-at least for purposes of the fictional example; Jennings has actually retained Canadian citizenship. "I'm a little bit at a loss to understand why, because you're an American, you would not have covered that story." Ogletree pushed Wallace. Didn't Jennings have some higher duty, either patriotic or human, to do something other than just roll film as soldiers from his own country were being shot? "No," Wallace said flatly and immediately. "You don't have a higher duty. No. No. You're a reporter!" Jennings backtracked fast. Wallace was right, he said. "I chickened out." Jennings said that he had gotten so wrapped up in the hypothetical questions that he had lost sight of his journalistic duty to remain detached.

UPDATE: A commenter notes that Chris Wallace says his dad has "lost it." In December, Wallace said that if he had the chance to interview President Bush, he'd ask: "What in the world prepared you to be the commander in chief of the largest superpower in the world? In your background, Mr. President, you apparently were incurious. You didn't want to travel. You knew very little about the military. . . . The governor of Texas doesn't have the kind of power that some governors have. . . . Why do you think they nominated you? . . . Do you think that has anything to do with the fact that the country is so [expletive] up?" Somehow, I doubt Wallace will be as hostile to the President of Iran!

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Kos Readers Reactions to Wallace Interview With Ahmedinejad:
  2. Mike Wallace Buddies Up to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:
Erasmussimo:
If Wallace doesn't feel revulsion at meeting the likes of Ahmadinejad, it really makes me wonder.

He met him. You didn't.
8.10.2006 1:31am
DavidBernstein (mail):
I would feel revulsion because of who he is, what he stands for, and what he does, no matter how charming he is in person. I can't imagine that there is anything Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, Idi Amin, Quisling and so forth could do that would make me inclined to praise them.
8.10.2006 1:36am
spider:
Assuming that Ahmadinejad is a bad guy (which I don't dispute) are you saying that Western reporters should not be interviewing him and other bad guys like bin Laden, Nasrallah, Hugh Chavez, etc. etc.? They are newsmakers, after all. Or are you just objecting to Wallace's fawning comments?
8.10.2006 1:37am
DavidBernstein (mail):
It's true that there are some people so loathesome that I can't imagine voluntarily being in the same room with them unless there was a much better reason than adding an interview notch on my belt. But my specific objection to Wallace is his fawning comments. Even if he thought it important to do the interview, he doesn't have to forget who his subject is and what he stands for. But maybe he was an appropriately tough interviewer, we'll have to wait and see.
8.10.2006 1:41am
limes (mail) (www):
"he's comfortable in his own skin."

That's probably why he stands on a box for photo-ops with others.

How about a question about Ahmedinejad's statement that Israel, 'whose philosophy is based on threats, massacre, and invasion, has reached its finishing line.'?
8.10.2006 1:41am
M. Stack (mail):
It's the same thing as with Saddam and Dan Rather. It's not the fact that they are interviewing these megalomaniacs, it is the questions, or lack thereof, that they are asking. Wallace and Rather cozy up to these thugs, and are so timid it is pathetic.

I'm with you Prof. Bernstein, if I was that close, it wouldn't be to chat. One of us would walk away alive, and the other dead.
8.10.2006 1:44am
Justin (mail):
Oh wow. Chickenhawk redefined.
8.10.2006 1:52am
joe (mail):
just wanted to say that his "harping on one topic" is what's kept me coming back here more often than i used to. it sometimes seems to be the only topic that matters at times.
8.10.2006 1:58am
K Parker (mail):
[Editor: Responding to a very rude post that was deleted.]

Sorry, CaDan, but if it comes down to a choice between Bernstein and Ahmadinejad, I'm voting to keep Bernstein.

Perhaps I should point out that the authors' names are prominently displayed right at the top of the post, and if you don't like reading what a given author says it's very, very easy to just avoid him.
8.10.2006 1:58am
John Armstrong (mail):
Why should there be revulsion? Evil simply isn't palpable -- it's entirely banal. Ahmadinejad is a misguided fundamentalist-Islamic anti-Semite, not a lunatic. To fail to recognize the banality of evil is to willfully ignore the fact that it can occur anywhere, and to willfully blind oneself to it when it happens to arise here.

The man is leading Iran in the wrong direction and Wallace probably didn't pin him to the wall as he should have, but Ahmadinejad is not Jeffrey Dahmer, oozing unwholesomeness and derangement. At the end of the day, he's just another guy.
8.10.2006 2:04am
DavidBernstein (mail):
BTW, it's not adding much in the way of insight to tell us that a successful politician is "smart, savvy, self-assured." The real question is how that interplays with his genocidal nuttiness.
8.10.2006 2:20am
ajftoo (mail):
If history has taught us anything, it's that short megalomaniacs who want to kill all the Jews are trouble for us all.

John: Isn't banality palpable by definition? Ahmadinejad particular brand of evil may be unoriginal, but it's quite perceptible.
8.10.2006 2:55am
Shivv:
Why even ask about how tough Wallace was? We all know that if he were sufficiently tough, that interview would never see the light of day. In that sense, no we shouldn't have reporters interviewing the likes of Ahmadinejad or bin Laden or Chavez. Such interviews only serve as propaganda for our enemies.
8.10.2006 3:02am
Mark F. (mail):
I would feel revulsion because of who he is, what he stands for, and what he does, no matter how charming he is in person. I can't imagine that there is anything George W. Bush could do that would make me inclined to praise him.
8.10.2006 3:13am
pmorem (mail):
but.. but.. Pol Pot was such a nice man in person. He was very personable.
8.10.2006 3:14am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Erasmussimo:

Suppose Mike Wallace interviewed the Imperial Wizard of the KKK, and pretty much made positive comments about him, and didn't ask tough questions. How would you feel about that?
8.10.2006 4:01am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Ahmedinijad answers any questions any sane person might have without the need for a reporter intermediary. These celebrity interviews seldom or never generate any real news.

What they do is allow dull-witted people (the only kind who watch '60 Minutes') to feel they have 'gotten to know' some distant personage.

It ain't journalism, but Wallace has not been about journalism for a long, long time.

Perhaps my definition of 'lunatic' differs from John Armstrong's, but by my definition, Ahmedinijad is a lunatic all right. That he is indistinguishsable from anybody else in the Iranian government doesn't change that.
8.10.2006 5:07am
spider:
I have a strong impression that Prof. Bernstein changed his 12:41am comment from the original text he posted. Originally, he wrote that he would rather shoot Ahmadinejad than interview him. Am I imagining things? If I am correct, why the change?

And because I don't have the ability to edit my posts: In my 12:37am post I meant "Hugo", of course.
8.10.2006 6:28am
orson23 (mail):
I admire David Bernstein's moral clarity. I'm also apalled - but not surprised - at Mike Wallace's vacuity.

It could just be me, but maybe that's why this compulsive newsjunky hasn't subscribed to a newspaper or newsweekly in 8 years, nor watched CBSnews or what's his name's progam for a lot longer.
8.10.2006 6:43am
AM (mail):
I have a question for other readers of Volokh.

Is anyone else tired of Professor Bernstein's pro-Israel propaganda on Volokh? In my opinion it is really getting ridiculous. You don't advance a position by obsessively flooding a law blog with transparently one-sided posts.

Does Eugene Volokh promote Mr. Bernstein's posts? If not, I would recommend the following for Professor Volokh: (1) Get an anti-Zionist blogger to help balance Professor Bernstein's point of view. (2) Move all Israel related posts to a subsection of the blog, where they can be accessed by those who want to read them, without suffocating the rest of the blog.

Just a thought.
8.10.2006 8:09am
Federal Dog:
The only thing that surprises me about Wallace's remarks is that he failed to characterize Ahmadinejad as "urbane." For some reason, leftists love this adjective when cooing in their infatuation with blood-soaked dictators. Virtually every two-bit thug who ever wiped out (or sought to wipe out) entire populations is extolled as "urbane."


So why are leftists so utterly infatuated with totalitarians? Because they ARE totalitarians.
8.10.2006 8:35am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
ajftoo-

If history has taught us anything, it's that short megalomaniacs who want to kill all the Jews are trouble for us all.

If history has taught us anything, its that short, genocidal megalomaniacs with any kind of ethno-supremicist, religio-supremicist, etc. bent are trouble for us all.

Harry Eagar-

What they do is allow dull-witted people (the only kind who watch '60 Minutes') to feel they have 'gotten to know' some distant personage.

Riigghht. I'd like to see a rundown of your weekly viewing habits. I'm sure we'd be in for some real cultural and intellectual enrichment.
8.10.2006 8:42am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Is anyone else tired of Professor Bernstein's pro-Israel propaganda on Volokh?

I'm sure someone is. I'm not. But I'm here because I enjoy reading interesting, educated and intelligent commentary from people I generally agree with.

For the same thing as Wallace's interview on a smaller scale, on Monday morning ABC reporter Matt Guttman in Beirut was doing phone conversations with various newsradio reporters. On WBZ-AM (Boston) he ended his call with Gary Lapiere by noting the damage that the Israeli airstrikes were doing to Beirut without killing the Hezbollah leaders they claimed were in bunkers they were going after. (There was an implication, or at least a drawable inference, that Guttman thought this was merely an excuse to destroy parts of Beirut.) Guttman concluded (close to verbatim, from memory -- this part of the interview was not on the website a few hours later) "If the Hezbollah leaders have survived this much bombing, more power to them."

I emailed WBZ about one of their reporters cheering for the terrorists and requested a response, which has not yet come.
8.10.2006 8:54am
johnt (mail):
pro Israel? At the moment what's wrong with that? I regard it as being pro civilization and anti savagery. Now it is possible, and I don't wish to jump to conclusions, that there might exist people who have a soft spot in their hearts for savagery, as long as it stays away from their own door. If that's the case, and it is possible, then it's understandable that Pro Israel comments might be a tad tiresome. But if that is the case then correlated to that there may be a more benign view of savagery, a willingness to overlook or minimize bloodlust. Normally I'd say to each his own but not this time.
Anybody care to comment on the UK's breaking up a plot to blow up numerous commercial jets filled with Brits and Americans? Like I said, savagery.
8.10.2006 8:55am
spider:
Yeah, how about some discussion of, say, this conflict, which judging from the statistics, seems to be more deadly than the Israel-Hezballah war? While the fighting in the Levant is terrible and tragic, we in the West (myself included, regrettably) take a grossly disproportionate interest in the conflicts of that region, compared to other deadly warzones.
8.10.2006 9:04am
Dustin (mail):
AM:
I like reading Volokh, but I love reading Bernstein. Often I don't agree with the exact degree of his opinions, but they are interesting to read, and once I've gone through the comments, I usually have a bettter understanding of whatever issue os being discussed.

I don't think 'Zionist' really represents any particular side in this battle. Israelis have their home now, and if it really was unjustly earned (which seems ridiculous) then that makes Israel no different from most other nations. They are just trying to survive in their home - isn't that clear? Could they be more accomodating?

What is going on in Israel is extremely important. It's a heck of a lot more important than crosswords and penumbras (though that stuff is also interesting). Bernstein is a great credit to this blog, and it's kinda tiresome to see anonymous people rag all over him when his posts are always critiqued very thoroughly. He's not exactly being a coward here, even if he is predictable.
8.10.2006 9:12am
Ty:
In theory, at least, I agree with AM. Mr. Bernstein's posts are decidedly one-sided in analysis and dramatically divorced from the rest of the blog in content. They don't turn me off from reading VC, largely because I usually just skip them, but they're certainly no draw for me.
8.10.2006 9:12am
davidbernstein (mail):
This post is quite transparently about Mike Wallace's lack of moral compass in cozying up to an Islamofascist, and only tangentially related to Israel. I have much the same reaction when movie stars cozy up to Castro, except that Castro, bad as he is, isn't a genocidal maniac, and I expect more from Wallace than from an airhead celebrity.

That one or more readers think this is a good occasion to suggest that the VC add an "anti-Zionist" commentator is very curious. How about just coming out and defending Ahmadinejad on substance? You know you want to.
8.10.2006 9:34am
AM (mail):
There is a problem with being ridiculously one-sided on the Israel vs. Islam debate. There are two billion Muslims in the world, and despite the fantasies of some (including I suspect Mr. Bernstein and Mr. Kopel) you can't beat and bomb Muslims into submission. This is true not just for moral reasons, but for physical reasons as is being learned in Iraq and Lebanon. They're simply not that easy to beat. To those lunatics who favor nuking them off the plant, one of their countries already has nuclear weapons and others will likely get them soon. Iran for one has excellent scientists as many in this country know. But even ignoring the billions of Muslims, there are also billions of non-Muslims who strongly disagree with Mr. Bernstein's point of view.
[FURTHER Complaints about Bernstein deleted. This is a comment thread for the post above, not the complaint dept. I've left the part of the post that is at least tenuously related to the topic of the thread intact.]
8.10.2006 9:34am
llamasex (mail) (www):
Heads of State are always treated with respect for interviews. I think it is how things should be, interviews should ask hard relevant questions (which have have no doubt Wallace did), but they shouldn't take pot shots outside of questioning. This seems like some superficial complaining.
8.10.2006 9:35am
davidbernstein (mail):
Nor, I should add, is Castro's government actively engaged right now in killing Americans.
8.10.2006 9:37am
Peter Wimsey:
Heads of State are always treat



ed with respect for interviews. I think it is how things should be, interviews should ask hard relevant questions (which have have no doubt Wallace did), but they shouldn't take pot shots outside of questioning. This seems like some superficial complaining.



I'm a big supporter of Israel, including Israel's attack on Lebanon, but I have to agree with this. Moreover, I'm pretty appalled by Bernstein's demands, which remind me of nothing more than a ceauceascu-ian demand that everyone in the country toe the line set by the rulers. And this holds true for several commentors as well.

I mean, get a grip. Wallace made *no* comments that expressed any support for Ahmadinejad's stupid or lunatic (it can be hard to tell). Instead, he wrote:
"He's actually, in a strange way, he's a rather attractive man, very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking in a strange way.... He couldn't have been more accomodating. He had a good time doing the interview."



These are Wallace's impressions during the interview; they don't strike me as being particularly sycophantic, nor is it surprising that a successful politician should be self-confidant or attractive. I think the the public benefits from knowing something real about A's personality and how he presents himself, even if he "self-assurance" is a positive trait.

So these stalinist-style demands that Wallace find/include/invent/demonstrate a series of traits that will balance out these comments is misguided and wrong.
8.10.2006 9:53am
Paddy O. (mail):
"Billions of people believe Arab and Muslim lives are just as valuable as Jewish ones and will no longer tolerate the inequities you wish to promote."
Inequities? Have you looked at a map? Arab and Muslim nations have vast swaths of land, the majority of all the oil, and a good many nations with decidely ruthless governments under actual theocratic law.

Israel is a little slice of land with resources built from the sweat and blood of those who would work the land. Where's the inequality? Equality does not consist of what Ahmadinejad wants which is the entire destruction of Israel so that Iran and Syria can oppress Palestinians.

Israel exists and has the right to defend itself from foreign terrorists and nations. Racism is indeed over. Deal with it.
8.10.2006 10:00am
A. Nonymous (mail):
Bear in mind Wallace was the man who famously in 1989 stated that even if he knew of an impending ambush on U.S. troops in the midst of a war he was covering, he would do absolutely nothing to report it and would in fact set up cameras to film it all.

Moreover, he castigated Peter Jennings who said initially that yes, Jennings would inform of the impending ambush.

That is all you need to know about Mike Wallace.
8.10.2006 10:10am
A. Nonymous (mail):
To be clear, I mean report the impending ambush to U.S. military forces. Wallace would do nothing but watch U.S. soliders get slaughtered and make no effort to tell our men and women beforehand.
8.10.2006 10:12am
llamasex (mail) (www):
Jesus fucking christ, you would think a lawyer of all things would understand why its important to put duties in a line. I don't recall Prof Bernstein calling out Defense Laywers who defend murders, or even terrorists.
8.10.2006 10:31am
alkali (mail) (www):
Here is the context for the quote:

After getting word two weeks ago from CBS's liason in Tehran, Sia Zand, that Ahmadinejad would be willing to talk, Wallace hopped a plane to Paris and then Tehran with producer Bob Anderson and associate producer Casey Morgan.

But when they got there they were told that the Iranian president was very busy and may not get to talk to them. The CBS crew cooled their heels, so to speak, in Tehran's 100-degree heat in a hotel without air conditioning.

"We waited, and they said, 'he's still busy, he doesn't know, he hasn't decided,'" Wallace said. "We were scheduled to return. If he hadn't talked to us by late Tuesday we were going to get on the plane. All of the sudden word came through he was going to talk."

The 3:30 p.m. interview didn't come off until 5 p.m., but Wallace said their talk stretched for an hour and a half. "We went on and on," Wallace said. "We were told we were going to get 30 minutes."

Wallace has spent a lot of time in Iran over the past four decades, interviewing the Shah, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and, most famously, the 1979 sitdown with the Ayatollah Khomeini who asked the Iranian leader what he thought of Anwar Sadat's desciption of him as a lunatic.

There wasn't any of that this time. Wallace dismissed the common perceptions of Ahmadinejad.

"He's actually, in a strange way, he's a rather attractive man, very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking in a strange way," Wallace said. "He's very, very short but he's comfortable in his own skin."

Despite problems with translation -- there was only one translator for a time during the interview -- Wallace said Ahmadinejad was patient.

"He couldn't have been more accomodating. He had a good time doing the interview," Wallace said. And he believes that it was Ahmadinejad's idea to do the interview. He acknowledged that he had become a much-desired interview subject but told the veteran CBS journalist that he remembered a discussion the two had over a year ago when Ahmadinejad was in New York.

"I don't know if you remember this or not but you and I had a talk over breakfast at the United Nations," Ahmadinejad told Wallace. "Do you remember that you asked me at the time if I would sit down with you ... and I said by all means, let's do it." Wallace said he was surprised that Ahmadinejad had remembered.
8.10.2006 10:32am
davidbernstein (mail):
Personally, I would never try to get someone I knew after thorough investigation to be guilty of a heinous crime off, though I might be willing to negotiate a plea bargain. Not surprsingly, criminals aren't knocking at my door for representation. But the real analogy is this: even if I thought it was my duty to try to get a murderer off, I (a) wouldn't fawn over him to the media, but consider it a distasteful part of my job; and (b) I wouldn't stand by and watch him kill someone else.

BTW, by commenting at all on what he thinks of his interview subject, Wallace makes himself part of the story in the sense that he isn't just letting viewers decide for themselves after watching his interview. A truly "objective" journalist wouldn't comment, but also would get less publicity for his interview. I guess ratings trumps all.
8.10.2006 10:37am
AaronC:
It's not Wallace's job to express moral indignation. He did his job and conducted a professional interview. His description of Ahmedinejad extended to his appearance and demeanor during the interview. he did not defend his policies or any of his controversial statements.
8.10.2006 10:41am
Public_Defender (mail):
I've probably spent more time with murderers and thugs than you have, and we usually don't do them a favor by giving them a microphone. That's part of why we defense lawyers are always telling our clients to shut up.

I think it's a good thing to let the guy talk. People have a better chance to see his evil.

If this were 1935, I would say, "Let Hitler speak his mind. The more we hear, the better."
8.10.2006 10:42am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I never hear people complaining about the single-issue focus of Dale Carpenter's posts...
8.10.2006 10:50am
Veritas:
I agree with AM. I know that when I see a posting by Prof. Bernstein, I have no choice but to read it. I am so tired of being coerced to read things I disagree with.

Moreover, Prof. Bernstein has the gall to state facts that would lead reasonable people view Israel in a positive light. That is very unfair.

AM is completely right. For balance, the blog needs an anti-Zionist, a hater of the Jewish nation. I suggest that Prof. Volokh recruit an anti-Israel blogger from Neo-Nazi writers, as it may be legally problematic to have direct contact with Al-Qaeda. The Neo-Nazi bloggers have impeccable anti-Zionist credentials. Thanks AM for your brilliant comment!
8.10.2006 10:55am
Medis:
It is an obvious mistake to claim that there is no morality behind journalistic ethics, even very strict versions like Wallace apparently has. Of course, one does not have to agree with the ethical conclusions of any given journalists, but that is different from claiming there is no moral underpinning to their views at all.

Indeed, the basic idea is quite simple: journalists serve a greater good by conveying their observations to people who cannot witness things (important people, events, and so on) directly. And if that is indeed a greater good, then sometimes it may be morally justifiable for journalists to choose to take actions that will help them gain and preserve access (for themselves and for future journalists as well), rather than following what would otherwise be the right course of action for a non-journalist in the same position.

And a lawyer should indeed at least understand this concept, even if he personally does not agree with its conclusions. In particular, lawyers should be quite familiar with the idea that a system in which different people have different roles to play, and where the participants are ethically bound to constrain themselves to playing their assigned role and not others, arguably may end up achieving a greater overall good than a system in which each person is tasked to be a completely independent moral agent.

Of course, some lawyers reject that notion with respect to the legal system (although usually not "conservative" lawyers--see "judicial activism"). Again, though, any decent lawyer should be able to recognize that there is in fact a moral underpinning to professional ethics, even if they ultimately disagree.
8.10.2006 11:07am
18 USC 1030 (mail):
I do not understand the outrage here. Wallace didn't say he was a good guy; he didn't express any positive judgement of him. In fact he didn't express any judgement at all. There is more to an interview than the words that come out of a man's mouth--and, a lawyer should know and understand this. Wallace merely expressed his perception of the interview. I am not sure what is wrong with saying so and so treated me nicely. That does not mean Wallace is saying he is a good guy--merely that he was cordial.

Besides, all the "positive" statements were preceded by "in a strange way..." This seems to indicate that he would expect his behaviors to be less than cordial, being that he is evil. Perhaps Wallace is actually giving us MORE--He is demonstrating that people are not defined by good or evil. Most people, though obviously not to the degree of this special kind of Jackass, exhibit both positive and negative qualities. Demonstrating that someone acted in a "positive way" does not translate to defending that person's evilness. It is merely offering observations.

In a legal analogy, if a man is being tried for some heinous act and counsel asks a witness to describe their interaction with the person, and that person responds with "he always seemed quite nice, he would always say hello when he saw you, if he saw you needed help, he'd offer his assistance, he was pleasent, and always smile. I also thought him to be quite self-assured, and based on his good looks, I thought he'd really make something of himself." ?

Are we to view that witness as evil as well, because they said something nice about the person? What about Capote interviewing the murders and writing "In Cold Blood?" Is that some moral deficiency?

As to the Jennings thing, I think Wallace is right. Sure, at first glance it's easy to say that it is absurd to sit back and watch. But, that is the duty of a reporter. The question itself is so hypothetical that it is borderline absurd. This is the same thing as the philosophy professor that, after hearing a student make some absolute statement, proposes the most far-out possible example of the question, and asks whether or not the absolute statement stands. It is easy to say you will follow the obligations of journalism when facing something minor, such as a car accident; but when facing the most serious of instances is when those obligations must be tested. And, if they are to be followed for every day events, ought they not be followed when facing the most horrific circumstances?
8.10.2006 11:10am
johnt (mail):
I think Helen thomas wrote a book on treating heads of state with respect. Andrea Mitchell wrote the forward, Dan Rather did the preface, [recall his overwrought attempt at a live debate with GHW Bush]. I know, don't tell me, that's different. It always is.

I understand politeness on Wallace's part, but the compliments were in piss poor taste considering what this islamic lunatic is. He at least leaves the door open to the notion he found Ahmadinejad personally attractive rather than how well he trims his beard. I don't recall anybody saying anything similar about Franciso Franco and you can substitute any of a number of other names where Wallace's comments would be disagreeable to the what's the big deal crowd.
Chances are whoever it is wouldn't quite measure up to Ahmadinejad. Try this one,"Walter Cronkite says Batista is just a regular guy and personally attractive". And batista wasn't even developing nuclear weapons.
Something to think about for the future and you may yet have an opportunity to remember Wallace's words then.
8.10.2006 11:14am
alcibiades (mail) (www):
David, are you aware that Chris Wallace believes his father "has lost it." This interview, by the way, got a lot of publicity at the time.
"He's 87-years old and things have set in," the Fox anchor continued. "I mean, we're going to have a competence hearing pretty soon."

Wallace Jr. quickly dispelled any notion that he was joking. When Carr suggested that his comments were likely to be covered by NewsMax, he responded: "You know what? Fine. Go ahead. Call them. That's fine. I'll stand by that."
It is not pleasant that his son said this publicly, but being unpleasant doesn't make it untrue.

I think it is quite possible that we will find him not asking any hard questions to Ahmadinejad at all.

I imagine we might even find him more admiring of Ahmadinejad than of Bush. I went to a debate a few months back between Chris Hitchens and Eric Margolis, where one of the audience members - two or three seats down from me - hated Bush so much that, to her own shock, she found herself nodding in agreement when a clip of Osama Bin Laden critiquing President Bush was shown. Likewise, here, I imagine Wallace's "admiration" for Ahmadinejad will shine even brighter because of his disdain for Bush and all of his foreign policies.

I didn't realize Wallace was Jewish though. That does put an even more disturbing slant on things.
8.10.2006 11:16am
Shangui (mail):
So why are leftists so utterly infatuated with totalitarians? Because they ARE totalitarians.

Yes, the right NEVER supports totalitarians, except maybe in Central America, or when arming Saddam in the 80's (remember Rumsfeld shaking his hand?). I believe it was George W. Bush who said he "looked into [Putin's] soul" and saw that he was good man and an ally.

There's no doubt elements of the far left HAVE been fond of totalitarians such as Mao and Stalin, but to say the left as a whole is "utterly infatuated" with them is absurd. And to say that they are totalitarians (which I assume is based on desire for more gov't power and control) is perhaps even more absurd when the the Bush admin. is an example of the right. Or do massive increases in gov't spending, aggressive new controls over private citizens, and attempts to hugely increase executive power not count as "totalitarian" any more?

And by the way, why should Bernstein be more "balanced" as some commentators are insisting? I often disagree with him but this is a blog, not a newspaper. He should be asserting his opinion. If you disagree with him on facts then state them. I'll admit that he has had a heavy hand with the comments-editing at times, but he typically doesn't shy away from an argument. I've learned a lot from these posts and the comments about them.
8.10.2006 11:18am
o' connuh j.:
Rofl @Daniel Chapman. Very astute.
8.10.2006 11:20am
DK:
I may have seen too many Stephen King movies, but IMHO, if we met the Devil himself, most of us would find him to be smart, saavy, charming, and attractive in a strange sort of way.

I don't interpret Wallace's comments as in any way judging Ahminejad or expressing a moral view; he is clearly trying to avoid doing so. And I agree with Wallace's goal -- neither our journalists nor our Supreme Court justices should pose as authorities on morality, which they are not. Wallace deserves criticism only for not being enough of a journalist to ask harder questions.
8.10.2006 11:22am
Mr. X (www):
It's obvious from Professor Bernstein's post and his subsequent comments that there's a reason he's a law professor and not a journalist or a defense lawyer. His strong negative opinions prevent him from being polite enough to obtain an interview with a controversial subject or from zealously advocating for a criminal defendant.

It's fine that the Professor has chosen a job where he is encouraged to express his strong opinions and not one where he has to compartmentalize to get the job done. His criticisms of Mike Wallace's comments about the Iranian President's personal demeanor and appearance will have a little more value when he is able to get an interview with a head of state.

Until then, he's just hurling invective from the ivory tower at a journalist who has chosen not to wear his personal opinions on his sleeve while doing his job.

he has strong negative opinions regarding Iran's President. It's also obvious that these negative opinions would prevent him
8.10.2006 11:27am
OK Lawyer:
Perhaps Wallace plans on reporting more on the state of the country, the views of the Iranian people and their lifestyles? Perhaps the interview was simply a cover to obtain access to the country and view it with a camera crew in tow? Until we see the piece it is difficult to judge.

As any one who has ever cross examined a cagy witness knows, that very often, a witness can seem convincing, and use the right words, and tonality, but upon further examination, the examiner determines the true heart of the witness. The examiner can not point to any one statement, but knows that the witness is a liar. Perhaps that is what Wallace will report.
8.10.2006 11:40am
SteveMG (mail):
If Professor Bernstein doesn't start posting and opining on every thing I agree with, I'm going to stop coming here.

Big internet out there; if you want "balance", I'm sure you can find it.

SMG
8.10.2006 11:54am
GlennB (mail):
Bernstein is one of those, shall we say, lesser minds who would have gotten all bitchy about Arendt's "The Banality of Evil." It was a stupid position then and it's a stupid position now.
8.10.2006 11:57am
Medis:
By the way, I think it is quite illuminating that Bernstein said: "If Wallace doesn't feel revulsion at meeting the likes of Ahmadinejad, it really makes me wonder."

Properly understood, this captures the newsworthiness of Wallace's observations. Bernstein has certain expectations about what it would feel like to be in this person's presence, and thus Bernstein might actually learn something from someone who was in that position and had an opportunity to test these expectations.

But Bernstein's approach to all this seems to admit no possibility of him actually learning something. The underlying idea seems to be that Wallace should merely be confirming Bernstein's expectations, and if anything Wallace observes contradicts Bernstein's expectations, then there must be something wrong with Wallace.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that one should simply accept what Wallace reports uncritically. But if there is any point to journalism at all, it would be that journalists can report things to us that we didn't know or wouldn't have expected. If you instead merely want journalists to tell you what you already know or would expect to me true, then they would indeed be pointless creatures.
8.10.2006 11:58am
Christy (mail):
Mike Wallace lost it a long time ago. I remember that during the broadcast of the Reagan funeral he couldn't string a coherent sentence together. He still does beautifully with a script in front of him, but off-the-cuff, not so much.
8.10.2006 12:03pm
Erasmussimo:
Bravo, Mr. X! Mr. Wallace is a journalist and his job is to interview important people. Mr. Ahmadinejad is an important person and very few Americans seem to have a clear notion of what this man thinks. I have read some of his speeches. I think it's fair to characterize him as a crazy in much the same manner that Pat Robertson is a crazy. I compare the two because Mr. Robertson can also be smooth and charming, and some of Mr. Robertson's ideas aren't that bad. (CYA statement for the flamers: I am not equating Mr. Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust with Mr. Robertson's suggestion that we assassinate Mr. Chavez.)

It is important that Americans get to see this man in person, get to hear his side of the story, so they can understand what drives him. Demonizing him, as so many prefer to do, is not going to get us anywhere.

I'd also like to remind everybody that Iran's government is not similar to America's. In their system, the President does not have anywhere near as much power as our President has. Our Vice-President has about as much power as Mr. Ahmadinejad has. His statements should be interpreted in the same manner that statements from our Vice President would be interpreted. Mr. Khamenei is the leader of the Iranian government; his opinions are the ones that truly matter.

Next, I'd like to remind those who are quick to condemn Mr. Wallace that they are jumping the gun. The interview is the substance of Mr. Wallace's work; why are you condemning Mr. Wallace before you have seen the interview? Surely you can afford to wait a few days before you take up the cudgels. May I also suggest that Mr. Wallace, as a canny journalist, might just be using you to generate audience for his interview? By leaking some vague positive comments about Mr. Ahmadinejad, he can set tongues wagging and spread the word about his upcoming story. He appears to have been remarkably successful with this tactic.

A.Zarkov asks me Suppose Mike Wallace interviewed the Imperial Wizard of the KKK, and pretty much made positive comments about him, and didn't ask tough questions. How would you feel about that?

Mr. Wallace's 'positive comments' are about as bland as could be: "he's a rather attractive man, very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking...". I read them as deliberately uninformative -- they are sweet nothings. Notice that these comments communicate absolutely nothing about his political beliefs. Yet some people are up in arms about these sweet nothings. Your hypothetical scenario asumes that Mr. Wallace did not ask tough questions. You don't know that to be the case in the real scenario. Why do you rush to judgement? Why don't we all hold our fire until we've actually seen the interview? I don't know if you recall some of Mr. Wallace's interviews from the 70s, but this man is no amateur. He knows how to set up the interviewee, make them feel comfortable, and then ask the killer questions in a manner that isn't immediately obvious. There are some idiots here who would prefer to ask questions such as "You fucking moron, how can you justify your insanely evil notion that the Holocaust never took place?" Questions like that don't elicit revealing answers.
8.10.2006 12:04pm
Erasmussimo:
An additional thought: suppose that Mr. Wallace had said:

"he's a rather ugly man, very stupid, unsophisticaded, unsure of himself, ugly...". I

Mr. Bernstein, would this have made you applaud Mr. Wallace?
8.10.2006 12:11pm
davidbernstein (mail):
[Hypothetically] Mike Wallace on David Duke: "he's a rather attractive man, very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking...". Now tell me it doesn't make you naseous.
8.10.2006 12:12pm
W.D.:
Let's be honest: a VC without Bernstein would be like NASCAR without the car crashes. Fine legal analysis is great, but that's not what fills the bleachers.
8.10.2006 12:13pm
Mongoose388:
""he's a rather attractive man, very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking..."
Are we sure Wallace wasn't looking for a date instead?
8.10.2006 12:16pm
Medis:
Personally, I'd say that is useful information to have about David Duke.
8.10.2006 12:16pm
Pete Freans (mail):
I think Ahmadinejad asked the question all of America was asking of Mike Wallace.
8.10.2006 12:16pm
Public_Defender (mail):
[Hypothetically] Mike Wallace on David Duke: "he's a rather attractive man, very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking...". Now tell me it doesn't make you naseous.

A little, but not as naseous as what David Duke actually says. If Hitler had good table manners, I would have no problem with a reporter saying so.

We should only be concerned about whether Wallace accurately described the guy. Further, if the West wants to contain (or destroy) Ahmadinejad, understanding him personally can be helpful. Not in an Oprah-like way, but in the way that you want to find where his soft points are.

Let him speak. The more Americans hear Ahmadinejad's actual words, the better. The more policy makers understand him, the better.
8.10.2006 12:19pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
WD-

Let's be honest: a VC without Bernstein would be like NASCAR without the car crashes. Fine legal analysis is great, but that's not what fills the bleachers.

LOL. David "Flaming Car Crash" Bernstein. It's catchy.
8.10.2006 12:23pm
Erasmussimo:
David, you answer my question with the question Now tell me it doesn't make you naseous. My answer is simple: no, it would not make me nauseous. I don't assume that evil ideas come in ugly packages, and good ideas come in pretty packages. I don't assume that Adonis is right and Quasimodo is wrong. I examine the ideas themselves, and judge them on their own merits. I ignore the speaker; if Saddam Hussein were to declare that 2+2=4, I would not challenge the idea because Saddam said it. I do not favor ideas promulgated by politicians for whom I have voted, nor do I oppose ideas promulgated by politicians against whom I have voted. I live in the world of ideas, not people. The ideas come first. I just the person by the idea, not the idea by the person. (Although in highly technical matters I do accept the authority of experts.)
8.10.2006 12:29pm
Houston Lawyer:
When I was in law school, a buddy of mine worked for the firm that defended Henry Lee Lucas. He had an autographed picture to show for it. He said the strangest thing about the seriel killer was how normal he seemed.

Journalists these days tend to see themselves as some type of high priests who are always above the fray. It appears not to occur to them that our country's enemies could be using them for propaganda purposes. I prefer a journalist who I know is on my side.
8.10.2006 12:32pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Public_Defender-

I hope you really aren't a public defender. I'd be very concerned for those you claim to be "defending".
8.10.2006 12:41pm
David Cohen (mail):
The Jerusalem Post quotes Wallace as follows:
Of Ahmadinejad, Wallace said, "He's an impressive fellow, this guy. He really is. He's obviously smart as hell."

Wallace said he was surprised to find that the Iranian president was still a college professor who taught a graduate-level course.

"You'll find him an interesting man," he said. "I expected more of a firebrand. I don't think he has the slightest doubt about how he feels ... about the American administration and the Zionist state. He comes across as more rational than I had expected." [Emphasis added]
8.10.2006 12:50pm
Public_Defender (mail):
American Psikhushka,
What did I say that you think is wrong? And why?
8.10.2006 12:51pm
Dan Hamilton:
I have only seen ONE media person a camera man for a local TV station do the right thing. He was in Dallas filming the rioting after some Dallas team won a big game. There was a couple walking down the street some rioters came up behind them and rabbit punched the man and started to attack him. The camera man PUT DOWN THE CAMERA and rushed to stop the attack. He did. The cowards ran as soon as someone confronted them. Other camera men just filmed the action. They were what Wallace wants. Media people devoid of humanity. People who would film a child dying that they might be able to save but the PICTURES ARE MORE IMPORTANT than the child.

I have never seen or heard of others putting right actions before their media jobs.
8.10.2006 12:52pm
Mr. X (www):
Journalists these days tend to see themselves as some type of high priests who are always above the fray.

The ideal of journalistic objectivity is not some sort of new-fangled invention; it's the nature of the profession.

It appears not to occur to them that our country's enemies could be using them for propaganda purposes.

Most journalists are well aware of the biases of their interview subjects and the attempts to use them as propaganda tools. Their job is to get the story anyway.

I prefer a journalist who I know is on my side.

I prefer that journalists be on the side of truth, not "my side," but that's because I find facts more useful than echo chambers of approval for my already-held beliefs.
8.10.2006 12:54pm
Toby:

Is anyone is able to understand that there is else tired of Professor Bernstein's pro-Israel propaganda on Volokh?

The two most consistent aspects of the modern leftist academic persona is

(1) a persistant nihiilsm that argues that every aspect of the culture that sustains and allows him is worse than all other cultures (and [he] might be the pest evidence of this)

(2) that not only should all contrary opinions be fought, but preferable never expressed. Anywhere.

I find Bernstein's analysis of the current crisis some of the best informed and wel lthough out anywhere and it drives more visits to this BLOG by me.

But then, I usually view most Rawlsian analysis as a cover-up for hidden agendas, whether spouted by academics or reporters.
8.10.2006 1:01pm
John Armstrong (mail):
I think the commenters in general have the right idea, as perfectly stated by Erasmussimo, "I don't assume that Adonis is right and Quasimodo is wrong."

I want to reiterate that Prof. Bernstein's assumption that meeting someone as evil as Ahmadinejad would be inherently revolting is itself dangerous. What it means is that when he sees someone running for public office here who is "a rather attractive man, very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking in a strange way..." he will assume that this candidate cannot be as dangerous as Ahmadinejad is. In clinging to assumptions about superficialities, Prof. Bernstein abdicates his responsibility for any true analysis. If most Americans behave in the same way, this country is in serious trouble.

Some may say we already are.
8.10.2006 1:02pm
Shake-N-Bake (www):
What Shangui said.
8.10.2006 1:04pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Many of y'all are still missing the point that I don't doubt that the guy is, in his own way, handsome, charming, et al. Stalin was personally very charming, Hitler was a great orator, blah blah blah. But knowing who they are and what they stand for would prevent me from considering those the primary impression I would get from meeting them. That might make me a poor "objective journalist," but a better human being.
8.10.2006 1:07pm
magoo (mail):
Forgive my ignorance on this:

Prof. Bernstein and several commenters assert that Ahmadinejad is "genocidal." Is this based on the assumption that someone (like him) who wants to destroy Israel as a nation also necessarily wants to slaughter all of its (Jewish) inhabitants? Or is it inferred from his stated desire to destroy Israel as a nation in combination with his pursuit of nuclear arms? Or has Ahmadinejad said elsewhere that he want to slaughter all the Jews?

If the description of him as genocidal is inferred from "destroy Israel as a nation+ pursuit of nukes", how do you distinguish Communist China, which has nukes and an ideology committed to the destruction of capitalism, but no one would argue that there's a serious threat of a Chinese nuclear attack on the U.S. in the short-term or mid-term.

If he hasn't said he wants to slaughter all the Jews, but that is in fact his goal as Prof. Bernstein assumes, why doesn't Ahmadinejad say so?

Many thanks for educating me.
8.10.2006 1:09pm
dw (mail):
After decades of cultivated ignorance of Iran, and most recently the incompetent handling by the Bush adminsitration of the opening offered by Chatami presidency, to stay ignorant of Ahmadinejad is to assume an unacceptable risk. Whether we like him or not, we need to know who he is, what has made him attractive to his electorate, what he would like to do, and what his powers realistically are. (Don't forget that it was critically important to the US war effort in WWII that Alan Cranston published his (unauthorized) translation of Mein Kampf to show Americans what Hitler was really up to). Wallace very carefully qualified his description of Ahmadinejad with in the phrase "in a strange way", and I don't think he could have chosen an apter phrase, as "strange" is both a pejorative and an indication of an alien nature. If he was diplomatic in his interview, that's simply the rules of the game with a head of state inside his own country.

And as for the potential questions for an interview with Bush, Wallace, as a senior American journalist, conducting an interview for an American audience on American soil, was asking precisely the sorts of questions that citizens want answered in these difficult times. The execution of the War in Iraq has not clearly gone as well as one would have hoped (oil is not cheaper, the Middle East is not blossoming with stable democracies, Israel is not more secure, terrorism has not been demonstrably reduced, and the balance of power has shifted alarmingly towards Iran), and there is a critical need to determine what went wrong in order to get it right.

Prof. Bernstein, you are clearly someone with whom I share a support for the state of Israel, but I find it continually curious that you attack those who are out to give us some useful information and analysis, rather than contributing to better policy making through analysis and criticism of clearly failed policies. Why isn't there a conservative Juan Cole out there, offering daily translations from the Arabic press, and simulataneously translating classic (small d) democratic documents into Arabic?
8.10.2006 1:15pm
Erasmussimo:
Toby, your characterization of academia is hyperbolic nonsense. Yes, you can find Ward Churchills out there -- but remember, he teaches at a junior college. And there are also David Bernsteins -- although I do not mean to imply that Mr. Bernstein is as far to one pole as Mr. Churchill is toward the opposite pole. My point is that there are plenty of conservative academics, some of them quite prominent. And as a group, academics cherish intellectual diversity. Remember, the point of a university in training young people is not to act as cheerleaders, but to imbue their charges with intellectual curiousity, a healthy skepticism, and the ability to think for themselves. There is something intrinsically contrarian in this. An academic should teach students to question the conventional wisdom -- that's the only way that they learn to think for themselves.
8.10.2006 1:23pm
Medis:
Bernstein writes: "But knowing who they are and what they stand for would prevent me from considering those the primary impression I would get from meeting them."

I'm not sure I understand this complex claim (literally--I'm not sure I understand what it is supposed to mean). But I think John Armstrong raised an extremely important point: if Bernstein cannot even consider the possibility that he would find charming someone who had abhorrent beliefs, it seems awfully likely that Bernstein is exceptionally vulnerable to charismatic manipulation.

And I would again note that Bernstein seems to be insisting on the idea that if Wallace tells him anything he wouldn't expect to be true, Wallace must be wrong.
8.10.2006 1:31pm
Mr. X (www):
But knowing who they are and what they stand for would prevent me from considering those the primary impression I would get from meeting them. That might make me a poor "objective journalist," but a better human being.

So, not only are you unable to do Mike Wallace's job, you're a "better human being" than he is because of that inability?

Keep on digging, the bottom of the hole is somewhere.
8.10.2006 1:31pm
Erasmussimo:
Mr. Bernstein, you write of Hitler and Stalin, But knowing who they are and what they stand for would prevent me from considering those the primary impression I would get from meeting them. That might make me a poor "objective journalist," but a better human being.

It reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago. By a strange set of coincidences, I very nearly had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Bush at a restaurant. I did not, but he did engage some other locals in conversation. I often wondered to myself, what would I have said had Mr. Bush approached me and asked my opinions? Remember that I have elsewhere recorded my judgement that Mr. Bush is the worst President in American history. Yet, upon reflection, I decided that I would not make hostile statements. Nor would I feel any personal revulsion toward the man. I would offer my criticisms in a sympathetic tone. I do not feel any personal antipathy towards Mr. Bush because I disagree with the man. He and I are worlds apart in values and perceptions. Yet I think I could enjoy dinner conversation with him. Does that make me a worse human being?
8.10.2006 1:35pm
davidbernstein (mail):
How many of you willing to interview Pol Pot at the height of the killing fields? And if you did, would you come back talking about how charming and handsome he is? What are your limits?
8.10.2006 1:36pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Eras says: "And as a group, academics cherish intellectual diversity."

That's the funniest thing I've heard this week.
8.10.2006 1:38pm
Mr. X (www):
UPDATE: Powerline has similar thoughts.

From those "similar thoughts":
What is this, a Tiger Beat interview? Just once, I wish MSM reporters would adopt the same adversarial attitude toward foreign leaders who are deadly enemies of the United States that they take toward members of the Bush administration.


Have you ever watched a White House press briefing? Bloggers get to be jerks precisely because they are on the sidelines and don't have access to actual interview subjects.

It's very easy to tell the Internet how totally hardcore you would be if you got to interview the President of Iran, in the exact same way as it was easy to brag on the playground about how "your dad could beat up my dad."
8.10.2006 1:38pm
egn (mail):
I understand Hasan Nasrallah is covered in scales, entirely lacking in internal organs, and smells of prunes.
8.10.2006 1:41pm
Mr. X (www):
I understand Hasan Nasrallah is covered in scales, entirely lacking in internal organs, and smells of prunes.

He has a strangely attractive and well-groomed beard, though.
8.10.2006 1:43pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
Well prof was Pol Pot charming and handsome in the hypothetical?
8.10.2006 1:49pm
Mr. X (www):
How many of you willing to interview Pol Pot at the height of the killing fields?

I would, assuming I was a journalist at the time.

And if you did, would you come back talking about how charming and handsome he is? What are your limits?

Given that a journalist's duty is to seek out and report the news, I would come back talking about the interview and what it revealed. If it revealed that Pol Pot was in fact "charming and handsome" in person, I would say that.

Are you suggesting that a journalist should hide the facts if they are positive observations about a "despicable" person? If so, it bespeaks either a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of journalism or a lack of respect for the profession.

Lawyers zealously advocate for their clients. Journalists observe and report the facts. That's their job.
8.10.2006 1:53pm
Erasmussimo:
Mr. Bernstein writes, That's the funniest thing I've heard this week. in reference to my comments about academic diversity. I would suggest, Mr. Bernstein, that your political biases have affected your judgement of academia in much the same way that they have affected your judgement of Mr. Wallace. Do you not see the irony of the claim that you making in a conservative blog hosted by conservative members of academia? Are you unaware of the many conservative thinkers in academia, some of whom have made important contributions to conservative thought? Do you deny the long list of eminent conservative thinkers who thrive in academia? Certainly it is true that there are more liberals than conservatives among academics -- but the existence of that minority is proof that the community as a whole remains committed to intellectual diversity.
8.10.2006 2:06pm
Gene Vilensky (mail) (www):
First, Ward Churchill teaches at U of Colorado-Boulder, not a junior college. U of Colorado has several Nobel Laureates on its faculty. It's not some unknown school. But let's not get the facts in the way of a good story.

On to more substantive matters:
Ahmadinejad has not just made remarks wanting to destroy Israel, but to wipe Jews off the face of the earth. I don't have time to look for them now, but they're there.

If you want to know his attitude towards Jews, why don't you ask him if he would allow Jews to live freely as Jews in Iran, or whether he would slaughter them.

If you read the Jerusalem Post piece (which no one has commented on so far), it's clear that Wallace is shilling for the guy. Zionist State? Saying that, in effect, justifies Ahmadinejad's rhetoric about destroying Israel.

Furthermore, Wallace's positive comments about the guy aren't preceded by something like, "You know, it's strange that a man who wants to commit repulsive acts would be so charming." But it's not. All there is are the positive comments devoid of context. I think the strange part isn't, "It's strange because he's a murderous loon" but rather, "It's strange because we ASSUME him to be a murderous loon."

If you think that Wallace couldn't get the interview to air if he actually had asked tough questions, then why did Wallace do the interview? I thought journalists are supposed to deliver the truth and explore all sides thoroughly. Why do the interview, then?

He asked a question about nukes and Ahmadinejad said something like, "We're not interested in weapons. We're interested in cooperation, blah blah." And after that, Wallace didn't observe the obvious, that this is a load of bull? Maybe he didn't, in which case he's a useful idiot. Again, what added value did Wallace bring here? What duty so compelled him to interview someone who is obviously a liar, has been proven to be a liar in the past, and was using this as a PR opportunity?

The NYT apologized for having Judy Miller be used by Chalabi and the Pentagon to beat the drum for war. And rightly, people criticize the Times for Miller's unquestioning reportage. Why shouldn't we criticize Wallace? The best Wallace could say after that answer on nukes was, "he seemed charming"? Pathetic.

Finally, let me get this straight from all those who criticize Bernstein for his Israel post. So, the fact that Bernstein doesn't sit here and write long nuanced dissertations that list all of Israel's crimes every time Israeli children get blown up on buses, makes his posts somehow not worth reading? He has an opinion on a subject. He expresses it. You can politely disagree with him in the comments. Unlike Brian Leiter or other bloggers, he won't delete them (unless you insult him). What is the harm here?

If you want to see the example of the difference between Israel and its enemies, Nasrallah yesterday issued a warning to the ARABS of Haifa, saying that they should leave. Israel issued a warning to EVERYONE in the areas it was attacking to leave. See, to Nasrallah, only Arab life is important. To Israel, all of it is. I think that distills the entire conflict. Right there, in that little statement by Nasrallah.
8.10.2006 2:19pm
Medis:
Gene,

You ask: "If you think that Wallace couldn't get the interview to air if he actually had asked tough questions, then why did Wallace do the interview? I thought journalists are supposed to deliver the truth and explore all sides thoroughly. Why do the interview, then?"

One basic answer is that a softball interview may be more informative than no interview at all. Moreover, as others have noted, usually just giving people like this an opportunity to talk reveals quite a bit, and often more than they realize. In other words, they think they are providing effective and self-serving propaganda, but their audience often sees right through it.
8.10.2006 2:31pm
Mr. X (www):
In other words, they think they are providing effective and self-serving propaganda, but their audience often sees right through it.

Much like this blog post.
8.10.2006 2:33pm
Erasmussimo:
Gene, thanks for correcting my error about Mr. Churchill's employment.

You write, If you read the Jerusalem Post piece (which no one has commented on so far), it's clear that Wallace is shilling for the guy.

I googled "Jerusalem Post" and "Mike Wallace" and found only an AP story, four paragraphs long, which said nothing about Wallace's comments. The story was dated August 10th at 1:16. Here is the only paragraph with any kind of political content:
During the midst of the American hostage crisis in 1979, Wallace interviewed Iranian leader Khomeini, locking eyes with the cleric when he asked for a response to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat calling Khomeini a lunatic.
Could you provide a URL to the article to which you refer?

You write, If you want to know his attitude towards Jews, why don't you ask him if he would allow Jews to live freely as Jews in Iran, or whether he would slaughter them.

I suggest you consult this article; here's an excerpt:

According to Roya Hakakian, the Jewish Iranian author of Journey From the Land of No, "There are signs in many parts of the world that attest to the rising tide of anti-Semitism. But Iran is another story." Jewish businesses, synagogues, and cemeteries have not come under attack in cleric-ruled Iran nearly as often as they have in countries friendly to Israel, such as Turkey, France, and Germany. "Tehran is still home to the largest community of Jews in the Middle East outside of Israel," adds Hakakian, who sought and received asylum in the West for reasons unrelated to her Jewish identity. Even though there were instances of harassment of Jews in the chaos and war that followed the Revolution of 1979, it is not clear if Jews who left Iran by the thousands were fleeing discrimination. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims also left Iran in search of a better life or more freedom.
8.10.2006 2:36pm
Federal Dog:
"And as a group, academics cherish intellectual diversity."


Patent BULL. You just lost any hope of credibility.
8.10.2006 2:53pm
R. Nebblesworth:
Federal Dog, what is the political composition of the academics on the very blog you are posting on?
8.10.2006 2:56pm
Observer (mail):
I, for one, am extremely grateful to the gods for giving us people like Mike Wallace. I think the world is big enough to accomodate people who are obsessive journalists, even to the point of being patriotism-challenged. In fact, I think there is a need for that.

Some of us like to think for ourselves. Ahmadinejad is, unfortunatly, a major player in the world today. I appreciate the opportunity to listen to what he has to say, in his own words. I have enough self-confidence to trust that I will not be hypnotized by his words. I certainly dont need editorial comments by his interviewer to set me on the "correct" path to interpret what he says. I could not care less whether his interviewer manages to utter a sufficient number of politically correct insults about his subject.

I dont have much respect for Bernsteins work. I find it ridiculously one sided propaganda, with no attempt whatsoever to help his readers gain deeper insights into the issues. That he mounts an effort to discredit an interviewer for ridiculous reasons like this, seems very much in character. If we had more people like Bernstein, we would all be dumber, less informed, less capable of drawing independent conclusions. Better sheep. That is the goal of all propagandists.
8.10.2006 2:58pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Many of y'all are still missing the point that I don't doubt that the guy is, in his own way, handsome, charming, et al. Stalin was personally very charming, Hitler was a great orator, blah blah blah. But knowing who they are and what they stand for would prevent me from considering those the primary impression I would get from meeting them. That might make me a poor "objective journalist," but a better human being.


Memorandum

From: David Bernstein, CIA Analyst
To: President Bush
Date: Sept. 10, 2001

I received some papers relating to something Osama Bin Laden might be planning, but I find him so loathsome that I get the vapors everytime I think about him. I'll try to look at it again next week if I can get my emotions in check.


Saying that a genocidal maniac also has good personal manners provides useful information. It isn't in anyway inhuman to say that. Some think that evil people all are drooling, ranting nutcases who don't take showers and who make children cry.

As to Pol Pot, I wish more people had given him air time in the West. Maybe there would have been enough of an outcry to try to stop him sooner.

If Wallace editted the interview to make Ahmadinejad look better, you'd have a fair gripe. If Wallace failed to ask Ahmadinejad about the Holocaust, you'd have a fair gripe.

But claiming that you're a "better human being" because you are unable to see reality through your emotional cloud is just sanctimonious crap. Are you vying for a guest spot on Oprah?
8.10.2006 3:00pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
It is very uncommon, outside of Hollywood fantasy, that we get visual or aural clues to show us where evil lies. For the most part, evil wears the mask of consideration, good intentions, and even piety.

We can certainly see that here at home, with the Evil War on Drugs. Would any of us consider Orin Hatch, or William Bennett, to be an "evil" person? I think not. Yet they openly promote one of the greatest evils currently besetting the Earth (and, I might add, greatly serves to facilitate international terrorism).

Surely, in his own mind, Ahmadinejad feels he is serving the greater good, by striving to rid the Middle East of the "evil" of Judaism, and subject the entire world to the cleansing effect of Islam. That, in order to do that, he evokes the skills of a politician, should come as no surprise. Whether his intentions were such or not, that Wallace points this out does us a service.
8.10.2006 3:04pm
Federal Dog:
Nebblesworth--


You are confusing a blog and the contemporary academy. No blog changes the decades-long reality that thinkers who are right of center have been almost completely purged from entire academic fields.
8.10.2006 3:07pm
R. Nebblesworth:
Really? The writers on this blog are not largely conservative and libertarian academics?
8.10.2006 3:10pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Orin Hatch and Bill Bennett may be misguided, but they are not "evil," unless you strip that word of most of its meaning.

Part of what makes the Holocaust so evil is that the people who perpetrated (at all levels) were very often polite people who otherwise led decent lives. You might even say that many were "rather attractive , very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking in a strange way.... [They] couldn't have been more accomodating. [They] had a good time [chatting with visitors]. . . ."

We shouldn't forget that good manners and goodness are two very different concepts.
8.10.2006 3:13pm
Erasmussimo:
Gene, I found the reference to the Jerusalem Post article among the comments. I disagree with your suggestion that he is shilling for Ahmadinejad. The only possible basis for any accusation of his bias is his use of the term "Zionist state". Before we can judge that, we need to know the context in which he said it. In any event, it's a tiny peg to hang such a large hat on. Let's wait for the full interview before condemning Mr. Wallace. Why are you so impatient to bring out the tar and feathers?

Federal Dog, your assertion that thinkers who are right of center have been almost completely purged from entire academic fields. is patently false. One need only look at the impressive list of conservative thinkers presently working in academic positions. Do you claim that there are no impressive conservative thinkers in academic positions?
8.10.2006 3:17pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I disagree with Professor Bernstein's criticisms of Mike Wallace. Wallace didn't say he agreed with Ahmadinejad's views on Israel, he just said the guy was charming and accomodating as a subject for an interview.

I also would not equate Iran's President with Pol Pot, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, or anyone else who is truly evil. As repellent as the guy's views on Israel are, he has not done anything concrete (that I or the Professor knows of) to implement them, apart from supporting Hezbollah (which also enjoys widespread support from the Arab world, which views it as an anti-imperialist force). I for one think we should talk to the Iranians, and try to work out a rapproachment with them on a range of issues, including Lebanon, providing for Israel's security, with an aim at reestablishing trade and encouraging reforms.

Our problems with Iran stem from the US' long history with that nation that often involved the US taking very regrettable actions (because of the cold war view that dominated our foreign policy), not just from recent events or the country's control by Islamists. The CIA toppled the democratically elected PM of Iran in the 1950s, even though he was a moderate whom our current government would doubtlessly embrace as an acceptable leader. The US (and Israel) during the 1960s and 1970s supported the corrupt Shah, despite his obvious human rights problems and brutal, police-state tactics, which gave rise to the Ayatollahs' rise to power.

While the current, cleric-dominated government has brutal and police state tendencies, there is a strong current of reform in the country among its citizens, who admire western cultural. Indeed, I found Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush to be an effort by him to try to understand why Iran and the US have such strong differences, and to reach out (albeit in an ignorant way) to someone who, like him, is religious, by convincing Bush of the error of the US' ways. That hardly strikes me as the actions of an evil madman whom we have no choice but to confront militarily. Maybe I am wrong, but I think Iran and its president can be moderated (see what happened to Qaddafi), before he has done anything too bad, although he and Iran will never turn into an ally of Israel (so long as the Palestinian issue remains unresolved). And, I am sure everyone agrees, if we could reestablish a constructive dialogue with Iran, and Iran stopped supporting Hezbollah's attacks against Israel as a result, we would all be better off.

On the other hand, by demonizing Ahmadinejad as someone we or our press shouldn't even talk to, as Professor Bernstein suggests, we are simply pushing him permanently to the camp of our enemies, and driving us closer to yet another middle east war.
8.10.2006 3:42pm
Public_Defender (mail):
On the other hand, by demonizing Ahmadinejad as someone we or our press shouldn't even talk to, as Professor Bernstein suggests, we are simply pushing him permanently to the camp of our enemies, and driving us closer to yet another middle east war.

Ahmadinejad has demonized himself. He is "permanently [in] the camp of our enemies. . . ." If Wallace's interview helps us to see Ahmadinejad for the man he is, then Wallace has done a public service.
8.10.2006 3:49pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Sorry, I forgot to add: I applaud Professor Bernstein for his often provocative posts, even though I don't always agree with him. So, I think it unfair to criticize him for speaking his mind and revealing his biases (although I do wish he wouldn't edit some of the comments as much).
8.10.2006 3:54pm
TallDave (mail) (www):
The hypothetical should be posed this way:

"Your children are about to be gunned down by North Kosanese. Do you just film the incident?"

And then the follow-up:

"Why are your children more worthy of defense than anyone else's?"
8.10.2006 4:03pm
Erasmussimo:
Regarding Mr. Bernstein's choice of subject matter, I think that he would be justified at this point to burst into a hearty rendition of "It's my website and I'll blog if I want to, blog if I want to, blog if I want to..."

We need Mr. Bernstein's commentary in the same way that we need Noam Chomsky's commentary, not because one or the other is right or wrong, but because it stimulates discussion in the body politic. We need people raising controversial points. It gives everybody a chance to sort out their thinking. It's especially useful when the nut cases present the extreme points of view that reasonable people can recognize as untenable. When stupid ideas are soundly refuted on boards such as this, we all learn something useful.
8.10.2006 4:27pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
The ideal of journalistic objectivity is not some sort of new-fangled invention; it's the nature of the profession.
Actually, it IS a new-fangled invention. A new-fangled American invention. I suggest you read papers in other parts of the world, or American papers from a century ago.

That aside, I wonder if Wallace's answer would have been the same if, for instance, the issue were that he were with a hired hit man who was going to kill the family of a protected witness in an ordinary criminal case. Or if it's only American soldiers whose lives he doesn't care about.

Lawyers have attorney-client confidentiality as a near-sacred obligation... but if we know our client is about to kill someone, our obligation to protect people outweighs attorney-client.


----

What it means is that when he sees someone running for public office here who is "a rather attractive man, very smart, savvy, self-assured, good looking in a strange way..." he will assume that this candidate cannot be as dangerous as Ahmadinejad is. In clinging to assumptions about superficialities,
No, what it means is that when we see someone running for public office who is evil, we don't spend lots of time dwelling on his pleasant personal hygiene habits. You have it backwards. It is Wallace that is distracted by, and reporting on, these "superficialities." Hopefully you would be revolted by David Duke, regardless of how "pleasant" he seemed.
8.10.2006 4:34pm
Public_Defender (mail):
No, what it means is that when we see someone running for public office who is evil, we don't spend lots of time dwelling on his pleasant personal hygiene habits. You have it backwards. It is Wallace that is distracted by, and reporting on, these "superficialities." Hopefully you would be revolted by David Duke, regardless of how "pleasant" he seemed.

Did Wallace "spend lots of time dwelling on his pleasant personal hygiene habits"? That's the excerpt that Bernstein quoted, but one quote doesn't show that Wallace "is distracted" by "superficialities." It's one thing if Wallace spent the whole interview discussing how cute Ahmadinejad was. It's another if that was a brief personal note in an otherwise substantive interview.
8.10.2006 4:44pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Erasmussimo,

You claimed that academics cherish intellectual diversity, and then say that the minority of conservative academics proves this. How is this proof of your claim? It is a good counterexample to the statement, "There are no conservative academics," which no one made (although someone said they were almost entirely absent).

Could you say that the existence of some Jews in Germany in 1945 proved that the German government cherished the Jews? I'd bet a fair number of leftist academics do cherish intellectual diversity, and that many more would claim they do, and more still would claim they do, but with reasonable limits. I don't have much experience other than my own undergraduate education, and I haven't done any research on the subject, so I don't know whether your claim is generally true. However, I do know of a handful of specific examples to the contrary.
8.10.2006 4:52pm
Erasmussimo:
DRWN, the question is whether academics cherish intellectual diversity. What substantiates my claim is the existence of so much intellectual diversity among academics. If they were all parroting the same line, then you'd have a case for a lack of diversity. It's not a matter of whether exactly 50% of all academics are left of center and 50% are right of center. The real issue is whether academics act in such a way as to insure that different points of view are expressed. Yes, there are plenty of individual cases that might be suspect, but we need to consider the big picture -- and the strong output of conservative scholarship clearly shows that conservative thinking is in no wise endangered.
8.10.2006 5:00pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Public_Defender:

Orin Hatch and Bill Bennett may be misguided, but they are not "evil," unless you strip that word of most of its meaning.

Nor did I label them as such. Yet it seems we agree (or at least that you allow for the possibility) that they have allowed themselves to become conduits for evil.
Christopher Cooke:

I also would not equate Iran's President with Pol Pot, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, or anyone else who is truly evil.

Through the prism of history (or, in Saddam's case, contemporaneous footage of him in the defendant's box), by examining them under the microscope, we have been able to determine that all these characters were/are quite mad. And, as we have judged them deliberate in their madness, we label them "evil".

But, do we know that much about Ahmadinejad? Certainly, his ends and his mechanizations are evil. But is he himself "evil", or just another deranged soul, such as Orin Hatch, or Bill Bennett?
8.10.2006 5:20pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Public_Defender-

On review I think I was mixing your comments up with those of others. My apologies.
8.10.2006 6:07pm
gramm:
I, too disagree with the point prof. b attempts to make in this post. but rather than explain why (and b/c the bulk of my thoughts have been expressed by other commenters already), I would like to offer a modest defense of prof. b's recent posts.

I must commend prof. b. in his intensity and his dedication in presenting "the other side of the story" in his recent posts related to the israeli incursions into lebanon. over the last six weeks, I have been more than a little surprised by the sloppy and slanted reporting of the goings-on in lebanon by the main stream media. at first, I suspected that the claims of doctored photos and other journalistic mischief were merely self-serving justifications for the loss of life caused by israeli strikes in lebanon. however, prof. b's informative and probing posts have tempered my initial skepticism of the claims of media bias against israel with respect to the current mid-east conflict (even though the posts have been overwrought at times). this has been so largely b/c prof. b seems to have been correct on many of his early hunches.

so, ahem, thanks prof. b. for working hard to help force a little honesty, and reveal what lies may yet be uncovered.
8.10.2006 6:25pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
My point is only that Ahmadinejah hasn't done anything remotely comparable to Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin or the other truly evil tyrants. Indeed, he probably doesn't have the power to do these things, as the clerics, not the Iranian president, call the shots in Iran (another poster made this point). He has mainly expressed hateful thoughts about Israel and jews that seemed to me to be largely the product of ignorance. I think such people are not beyond redemption and that, by talking to them, maybe they will lose some of their ignorance. For example, who could deny the existence of the Holocaust after visiting Dachau, or speaking with a Holocaust survivor (with the concentration camp tatoo still on the arm)? Who will not feel some sympathy for the plight of the jews after understanding what they have suffered?

Finally, it seems to me that Ahmadinejah's views probably are not unique to Iran or to the Muslim world. So, unless we want to write off a large portion of the world's muslims as "evil"--and thus declare ourselves at war with possibly a billion people--we should start talking to their leaders and trying to get them to see our perspective on a host of matters. It may not help, in the end, but I hardly see how it can do worse than the Bush Administration's current policies. Since he started the dialogue with his letter, I would try to engage him in some way, even if secretly at first and through intermediaries (as was done with Libya and Qaddaffi). If we could reach some deal with Iran, the payoffs for the US (in Iraq, the Middle East and elsewhere) and Israel could be enormous. Unlike Pol Pot, I don't think he personally has done something yet that should disqualify any civilized nation from dealing with him (contrast this with Hitler, at the time of Chamberlain's Munich Agreement with him, who had already started the wholesale round-up of Jews and began to implement the "final solution). Can anyone really say that Ahmadenejah is worse than Qaddafi, who sponsored numerous acts of terror in Europe during the 1980s, and who was personally responsible for these acts as the totalitarian dictator of Libya?
8.10.2006 7:38pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
We can always count on Erasmussimo to defend people who beat up Jews.

As a newspaperman, the question is not so much whether an interviewer found the subject more or less suave than he expected. The question is, why do the interview?

If just because the subject is celebrated, then that's not journalism, that's scalp-hunting.

If a man says a whole country should be wiped off the face of the earth, what else do you think you need to know about him?
8.10.2006 8:12pm
srp (mail):
What the worshippers at the shrine of journalistic objectivity are missing is that PR works, up to a point, and that friendly interviews with evil people tend to normalize them in the eyes of the audience. Particularly on television, where no one remembers what you said but everyone can comment about how you looked (if you've ever been on TV and talked to your friends, you'll know what I mean), the appearance of being treated civilly by a trusted and known figure like Wallace is of high propaganda value. Sure, some people may see through the guy if he's pushed really hard and induced to say a few nutty things, but the tone and atmospherics are way more important than the content from a PR point of view.
8.10.2006 8:12pm
Colin (mail):
"If a man says a whole country should be wiped off the face of the earth, what else do you think you need to know about him?"

Is he serious, or just pandering? Is he mentally capable of causing a war? Does he want war, or long-term hostilities? Does he have the sort of charisma that might keep him in power longer? Is he insane, or just playing politics (see serious v. pandering, above)? There are things to be gained from an objective interview, even if the subject is a monster.

"We can always count on Erasmussimo to defend people who beat up Jews."

That's a reprehensible thing to say.
8.10.2006 8:44pm
Erasmussimo:
Harry Eagar writes,

If a man says a whole country should be wiped off the face of the earth, what else do you think you need to know about him?

It might help to know that you have misquoted the man. The actual quote was a reference to an old Persian poem, and a better translation is "would disappear from existence". The verb, as I understand, is not imperative but subjunctive, referring to a supposed situation, not an active intention. I don't know enough about Farsi verbs to understand the precise mood they use, but the phrase has definitely been misinterpreted by the American media. It's not a threat, it's a wish.

Colin, thanks for standing up for gentlemanly behavior. My attitude towards comments such as the one you cite is not anger but bemusement. It's rather like going to the zoo and watching the chimps hurl feces. I don't get mad at the chimps for hurling feces at me; I find it amusing to contemplate the crudity and directness of the communication. It would be silly to scold the chimps for their bad behavior, or even respond to it; that's just the way chimps are. And I feel much the same way about the shit flying through the air around here. I suppose that the zookeepers could do a better job of keeping the aerial shit density down, but there are so many chimps and so few zookeepers that I can understand that they are overwhelmed. The best thing that civilized folk can do is carry on a decent conversation while trying to ignore the feces. It would be silly to respond to these people.
8.10.2006 9:15pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I too read the report that Ahmadinejad's speech about wiping Israel off the face of the Earth was a mistranslation, but I don't know enough to know whether that report is accurate. Assume, for the moment, that he said something like that. My question still remains, how can we compare him to Pol Pot, Hitler, etc., as Professor Bernstein does, when these men, by their deeds, demonstrated their evil? And, in fact, how is Ahmadinejad, or Iran's government, worse than Qaddafi or Libya's government? I for one am not willing to condemn Mike Wallace for talking to the guy. If we adopted Professor Bernstein's approach of not talking to our adversaries, all we are left with is war.

I also echo Colin's remarks about keeping the debate civil. I don't ascribe bad motives to anyone posting here, just strongly held beliefs. I would hope people would reciprocate.
8.10.2006 9:49pm
Lone (mail):
Dear Mr. Bernstein,

You are a sanctimonious prick, sir.

Regards,
A.
8.10.2006 11:12pm
Erasmussimo:
Lone, I object to your comment. I can disagree with Mr. Bernstein while maintaining an amicable tone. I would hope that we can retain a gentlemanly atmosphere here.
8.10.2006 11:29pm
theo (mail):
Reading the comments here it sounds like someone left the gate at HuffPo open.

Several posters up the thread have given Wallace the benefit of the doubt here by suggesting that if Ahmadinejad is indeed charming and savvy we should know that.

Fine.

But we should also know if that's a show being put on for Mike Wallace and CBS.

I'm probably misstating this, but there's a scientific principle I've heard regarding experimentation that seems apt here. Basically, it dictates that the person observing an experiment influences it just by observing it. In other words, you can't take the observer out of the picture ever.

Think of it this way—consider a zoo. It's interesting to see exotic animals and all, but because of the circumstances, they know they're being observed, they don't behave as they otherwise would.

This really has to be considered here. Ahmadinejad knew he was being watched. He knew he was being observed. Anything you could gather from him in an interview would be basically worthless unless you thought you were capturing him as he'd be without you there. Is there any reason to believe that?

No, not really.

Arafat comes to mind here. He was notorious for saying one thing to the world and another thing altogether to the palestinians.
8.10.2006 11:37pm
Medis:
"If a man says a whole country should be wiped off the face of the earth, what else do you think you need to know about him?"

If he might possibly be in a position to try it some day, pretty much everything I can.
8.10.2006 11:40pm
Medis:
"Anything you could gather from him in an interview would be basically worthless unless you thought you were capturing him as he'd be without you there."

That is a false dichotomy (that if it is not purely candid, it must be completely worthless). I understand that he is going to try to BS me, but I might still learn something. And again, people in these positions tend to reveal more than they think.

In fact, that is the only reason that I still watch ANY politician give a speech, interview, press conference, etc.--not for the BS they plan to say, but for what they inadvertently give away.
8.10.2006 11:47pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I too read the report that Ahmadinejad's speech about wiping Israel off the face of the Earth was a mistranslation, but I don't know enough to know whether that report is accurate.
All you need to know to know that that report was inaccurate was that it came from Juan Cole. The Iranians translated it the way he denied was correct.

For instance, read Hitchens on Cole's claim. Cole is at best wrong and at worst dishonest.
8.10.2006 11:48pm
Toby:

The real issue is whether academics act in such a way as to insure that different points of view are expressed.

And the point was, the number of drive-bys that suggest that Bernstein should not post anymore....

hmmm

And Erasmusimmo - do not preseume how many top 25 institutions and their academics I interact with regularly. As a group, those in the Humanities ar eprofoundly intolerant, those in the sciense oblivious in the sense that they are so focussed that the cannot see of their slide, and the administrations, well, they take the worst from both factions, to the detriment (and higher cost) of undegrad education...
8.10.2006 11:52pm
theo (mail):
Medis,

The problem is that this fellow has pretty much already given away the store in that regard. You act as though there's something more we could ascertain from anything he might say.

I'm already assuming he's completely dangerous and is an iminent threat to the safety and security of the United States. There's nothing left to know.

To sit back and claim we get something worthwile from allowing a man like this to broadcast propaganda is absurd.

Just think about it--try to give up an offer of proof of what you think we might learn about his intentions that we can't already gather simply by taking him at his word elsewhere. He's a sworn enemy of the United States and he wants Israel gone.

Giving a savvy fellow like him a platform that doesn't represent who he really is isn't perfectly harmless, you know. For many in the US, this will be their only experience with him. They'll see a man that by all appearances is perfectly rational because that's the way he wants to appear.
8.11.2006 12:23am
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
Egad, I've tipped the scale of drunkenness, from the sublime to the ridiculous. I had something really profound, upon which to comment, and now I've lost track of it.

Please disregard any further comment I might make tonight on this, or any other thread.

Oh well, time for bed anyway.
8.11.2006 12:28am
theo (mail):

If we adopted Professor Bernstein's approach of not talking to our adversaries, all we are left with is war.


This is unfair. I don't think this is what Bernstein is saying.

It's one thing to talk. To report. To investigate.

It's another thing altogether to lick the man's boots.
8.11.2006 12:38am
Medis:
theo,

You say: "I'm already assuming he's completely dangerous and is an iminent threat to the safety and security of the United States. There's nothing left to know."

I'm not sure I know what you mean by terms like "completely dangerous" and "iminent threat". Those are just generic phrases, and I would want details. What precisely is the danger? What exact form does the threat take? And so on.

And frankly, the idea that we would ever stop studying dangerous people, claiming we already know everything there is to know about them, strikes me as absurd. Human beings are complex, shifting creatures. So, I don't see why you would ever assume that you have completely and permanently figured out a dangerous human being, and stop gathering information about that person. In short, I would always want to know as much as I can about things like his current thinking, because that could be subject to change.

And I don't buy that we need to keep the American people sheltered in order to save them from the effects of propaganda. Give them a little credit, theo--they aren't complete idiots.
8.11.2006 12:47am
theo (mail):

Those are just generic phrases, and I would want details. What precisely is the danger? What exact form does the threat take? And so on.


It means that there's nothing he could say in an interview that would make me think he's more dangerous to us than I already think he is.

This isn't hard to understand.


[quote]And frankly, the idea that we would ever stop studying dangerous people, claiming we already know everything there is to know about them, strikes me as absurd. Human beings are complex, shifting creatures. So, I don't see why you would ever assume that you have completely and permanently figured out a dangerous human being, and stop gathering information about that person. In short, I would always want to know as much as I can about things like his current thinking, because that could be subject to change.[/quote]

All I asked for was one simple thing--an offer of proof. What do you think we have to learn from this guy that we don't already know about him? Give me your best case scenario about what we'd learn from him in a fawning Mike Wallace interview. Just give me your wish list.

[quote]And I don't buy that we need to keep the American people sheltered in order to save them from the effects of propaganda. Give them a little credit, theo--they aren't complete idiots.[/quote]

You know, it's funny that so many on the left complain about the easy treatment Bush gets. What do organizations like Media Matters even exist for?

If the people are smart enough to always see through a fraud, then what's the purpose in having any kind of truly investigative media?

Face it--people get mad when they think the media is letting someone off.
8.11.2006 1:02am
Cornellian (mail):
Jennings eventually acquired American citizenship though I'm not sure whether this was before or after the conversation referred to in the original post. Jennings' first instict was obviously correct, he's an American first and a reporter second (or third or fifth or whatever, depending on what other things you want to put in there). I suspect he backed away with Wallace present but didn't really change his initial view on the issue.
8.11.2006 1:14am
Brian G (mail) (www):
No one cares what the "President" of Iran has to say. Everyone knows he's a dirtbag. Even those who say otherwise.
8.11.2006 2:34am
Erasmussimo:
David, thanks for the link to the article critical of Juan Cole's take on Ahmadinejad's speech. Mr. Cole does seem to have misrepresented the facts (although I'd still like to know what he meant by the cryptic reference to an old Persian poem, which Mr. Hitchens did not explain.) Certainly the context of Iranian political forces argues in favor of Mr. Hitchens' interpretation.

Toby, your mudslinging against academics reeks of anger, not analysis. Were you to offer a thoughtful comment on the foibles of the academic world (of which there are many), I could take your comments seriously, but the hyperbolic tone you take, and the broad condemnation of an entire subculture composed of hundreds of thousands of very bright individuals -- that simply doesn't wash with me. I am hard put to think of any subculture as large as the academic world that sports so much intellectual diversity. I'm sure there must be something out there -- can anybody nominate such a subculture?
8.11.2006 2:38am
Medis:
theo,

"Couldn't be more dangerous" is still completely generic (and obviously false, I might add--bad as it is already, the threat to U.S. interests posed by Iran could indeed get much worse). Again, I'd want to know much more about the exact form of the danger, other than how you place it on some generic danger scale.

Or, to use the analogy suggested by another poster, imagine a CIA analyst who was asked to write a report on the political leadership of Iran. Imagine the Presidential section of the report just said, "He is completely dangerous, he couldn't be more dangerous, he is very, very dangerous." That CIA analyst would get fired.

As for an "offer of proof"--first, I'll note that is an odd question ("What do you think we have to learn from this guy that we don't already know about him?"). An "offer of proof" is a term used for when an attorney already knows what his witness will testify about, and is trying to show the judge why that would be relevant to a third party--the jury. But here, we are in the position of the jury, not the attorney offering the witness, so it is a bit odd to be asking me, as a member of the "jury", to give an "offer of proof" for this "witness" (and incidentally, I'm not sure why you get to be the judge). In short, my point is that I actually don't know what he is going to say in this interview, which is why it could contain information, and so it is odd to ask me to tell you what he is going to say.

But here is a short list of things I would certainly like to gather information about: his current thinking about Iraq and any goals he would have for a state in Iraq; his current thinking about America and its participation in Middle East affairs; his current thinking about the Israel/Hezbollah conflict; his current thinking about Iran's nuclear ambitions; his current thinking about Iran's role in the Middle East in general. Obviously, aside from general philosophy and long term goals (both of which are important), I'd also like to gather information about current plans and tactics. And so on.

Again, to me it is basically absurd to stop gathering this sort of information on the theory that we have already learned everything there is to learn in the past. To continue the analogy, it would be like asking the CIA analyst to update his report on Iran's political leadership in light of recent developments in the Middle East, and him saying, "I already wrote a report in 2004. Why do you need a new one? I already told you he is completely dangerous!"

Finally, you say: "If the people are smart enough to always see through a fraud, then what's the purpose in having any kind of truly investigative media?"

Obviously, in part so that the people have the necessary information to see through the frauds. In other words, I think it is obvious how these are complementary goals: give people the information that the politicians don't want them to have, and then let them observe the politicians and judge what they are saying.

In general, it makes no sense to me to say that the American people are better off just being left in total ignorance of what is going on, or that they should only be given whatever information that some elite thinks they are capable of handling. Indeed, this very idea is fundamentally undemocratic--an informed electorate is necessary to a functioning republic, and if you can't trust the electorate to critically assess information, then our entire political system is fundamentally flawed.

But I don't believe that.
8.11.2006 8:26am
Public_Defender (mail):
Kevin L. Connors,
I do not agree that Bennett and Hatch are "conduits for evil." Please don't put words in my mouth.

American Psikhushka,
Apology accepted. We all make mistakes.

No one cares what the "President" of Iran has to say. Everyone knows he's a dirtbag. Even those who say otherwise.

I doubt that "everyone" knows the depth of Ahmadinejad's evil. That's why it's important for people to hear him speak.

This post and the comments demonstrate the cliche that the remedy for bad speech is almost always more speech.
8.11.2006 9:55am
Harry Eagar (mail):
David's pointer to Hitchens' demolition of Cole is apposite, and shows once again that Erasmussimo is just a poorly informed antisemite.

But an even more persuasive and important documentation is found in Geraldine Brooks' 'Nine Parts of Desire,' published in 1994, which quotes another leader of the Iranian revolution to the same effect and in almost exactly the same words.

Fact is, the Iranian Revolution -- which is also the government of Iran -- is an antisemitic, genocidial organization. Those of us who pay attention to such things have known this for a long time.

I repeat, what else do you need to know?

The query, are they capable is meaningless. As Winston Churchill said, long after it was too late, 'There was a time when Hitler could have been stopped with the stroke of a pen.'

It's disturbing to find that defending the proposition 'no Jew should be murdered for being a Jew' is controversial.
8.11.2006 4:46pm
Erasmussimo:
Harry, you write, It's disturbing to find that defending the proposition 'no Jew should be murdered for being a Jew' is controversial.

Can you cite any commentators in this discussion who have argued that it's acceptable to murder a Jew for being a Jew?
8.11.2006 5:24pm
Colin (mail):
This thread is getting ugly. Eagar, you're throwing around some vile labels on very thin pretenses. As for your repeated argument that there's nothing we need to know about a genocidal leader other than the fact that he is a genocidal leader, I think Medis' answer was pithy and insightful - we need to know everything we can. More information makes it more likely that the threat will be taken seriously, and more likely that it will be accurately assessed.
8.11.2006 7:55pm
Public_Defender (mail):
How to write an "A" exam answer in Professor Bernstein's class:


I know there are a lot of legal thingies going on in this hypo, but the defendant is just so evil that I can't think about them objectively.

That makes me a better human being than my classmates who are so morally depraved that they can apply the facts to the law.
8.12.2006 9:01am
Shake-N-Bake (www):
Well, all this thought of the interview being just a puff piece and Wallace licking his boots turned out to be pretty much wrong. He's not lobbing softballs, he seems to really be trying to get him to answer for the "Israel should be wiped off the map", the "Holocaust is a myth" statements, Iran's funding of Hezbollah, etc. Now, Ahmadinejad isn't totally cooperating, but at least Wallace is trying to ask the questions that people would probably want answered, without being so inflammatory as to cause Ahmadinejad to end the interview.
8.13.2006 8:17pm
D Stewart (mail):
Anent Wallace's position, that he would witness and report the story, not warn the Americans: Now, change the hypothetical: Wallace learns of the American plan of battle, maybe in the very theatre in which he would have learned of the ambush of Americans. Report it or not? Well, the uncovering of the plan of battle is certainly uncovery of something newsworthy. Write your own headlines! So... report it or not? Wallace would probably do so, in my opinion---and a producer for NPR has said he would definitely go with the story.

The media's position seems to be: Report or don't report, using harm to Americans and America as the standard. Will it harm America or Americans to report? Then report. Will it harm America or Americans to not report? Then don't report.

At least that way, you can't be accused of bias toward America.
8.13.2006 10:29pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I saw the interview. I think Wallace did Americans a public service in asking hard questions.
8.14.2006 2:16am