I can’t be the only one who has absolutely had it with campaign theatre—especially when it pops up during media interviews with presidential candidates.

Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, anchor Chris Wallace went full tilt-a-whirl on presidential hopeful Marco Rubio over some alleged “flip-flopping” on George W. Bush’s decision to enter Iraq back in 2003. The issue itself is obviously fair game, but Wallace took things a step further by pressing the Senator on his answers to two separate-yet-equally-important questions: Was the war in Iraq a mistake? And, if you had known that there were no WMDs, would you have been in favor of the Iraqi invasion?

Except Wallace presented them as the same question. It didn’t go well.


(Real Clear Politics has the full transcript of this segment, which you can read here.)

…what the hell did I just watch?

This is a case of an interviewer really, really, really wanting to expose a flip-flop in the beliefs of a candidate who is growing in popularity. Let’s just focus on the content of the interview as-aired by Fox: we have two snippets from two separate broadcasts where Rubio addressed the Iraqi invasion. We’re not given any context, or extended audio—just two different questions.

(Even Wallace changed his mind halfway through the interview—hang out at about the 1:30 mark—about what the question posed to Rubio in the first clip meant.)

You can see in the video (at around the 10 second mark) the full context of the question posed to Rubio during the Council of Foreign Relations Q&A. Here’s the full context of the back-and-forth from Rubio’s appearance on The Five:

JULIE ROGINSKY, “The Five” SHOW GUEST CO-HOST: My question about that Senator, that’s a good point. But, we went into Iraq over a decade ago, and Iraq was a great counterweight to Iran, back when Saddam Hussein was there, that guy he was. So won’t you think having gone into Iraq, we’re these that empower Iran to then, be able to have that’s sphere of influence which that they did not have before we went in there in the first place. Was it a mistake to go to war to Iraq?

RUBIO: No, I don’t believe —


RUBIO: The world is a better place because Saddam Hussein does not in Iraq. Here’s what I think might have happened, had we not gone. And you might had an arms race to put Iraq in Iran, they are both would purse the weapon. I will be dealing with two problems, not just one. We forget that Iraq, at the time of the invasion, was an open defiance of numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, that the United Nations refused to enforce. They were, they were, they were refused to comply with allowing inspectors in. Repeatedly, this was a country whose leader had gassed his own people on numerous occasions. So I think, Hindsight is always 20/20, but we don’t know what the world would look like if Saddam Hussein was still there. But I doubt it would look better in terms of — it will be worst — or we are just bad for different reasons. I think it’s very difficult to predict, I think — a better notion is, at the end of the Iraq war, Iraq had an opportunity to have a stable, peaceful future.

Amazing what a little creative clipping can do. Igor Bobic said it best:

The phrasing of questions posed to Rubio is key. On Wednesday, he was asked the same question that tripped up Jeb Bush — whether he would have given the order to invade, even if he knew that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. But in March, he was asked whether he believed the war was a mistake, full stop. That gave him some room to essentially say that, while he wouldn’t have gone to war under similar circumstances, he’s ultimately glad we did.

(Follow the link and note the Bobic still doesn’t believe this puts Rubio on top of the issue; I don’t either, but for different reasons.)

Interviews like this are what put presidential politics fully through the looking glass. Anyone who watched this interview without the full context of those two questions probably (and was probably meant to) came to the conclusion that Chris Wallace, Truth Teller©, just smacked the crap out of Marco Rubio, Bumbling Idiot©. It’s good TV, but it’s terrible journalism. Real, effective journalism doesn’t have to prime the pump by planting the dirtbag seed before the question is asked, and that’s what Wallace and his editors did here.

This really has nothing to do with Marco Rubio. I’d be just as annoyed if Wallace had done this to Rick Perry, or Carly Fiorina, or Ted Cruz, because at the end of the day all the media is doing here is spinning a web of crazy for the right to fight over and the left to exploit.

I like Marco Rubio. I’ve dipped my toe in the tank and tested the water; but I still have questions about his experience and his capacity to handle the role of Leader of the Free World—and I’m 100% sure I’m not the only one in that position.

Unless journos like Chris Wallace hop off the merry mixer, they’re not going to be the ones helping voters answer those questions.


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