NBC used to tout its “must-see TV.” Now CBS seems to be pursuing “must appease TV.” Mike Wallace’s interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on 60 Minutes was pathetic, weaselly, and a huge missed opportunity. Not since Dan Rather’s “fake but accurate” story against President Bush using forged documents has CBS blown it this bad.
Wallace, like much of the American Left, seemed blind to the existential threat the Iranian leader poses to the U.S., Israel, and the British. He has called Ahmadinejad “rational.” This is about a leader who has talked about committing genocide. Wallace called Ahmadinejad “very attractive.” Had Wallace interviewed Adolf Hitler would he have committed on his nicely groomed mustache? But then, Wallace actually told Sean Hannity that he didn’t think Ahmadinejad was using the interview for propaganda purposes.
Worst of all were Wallace’s useless, “soft-ball” questions. Ahmadinejad has some bizarre views. Why didn’t Wallace try to draw these out? It wouldn’t require being confrontational — just appropriately inquisitive. Here’s what Wallace should have asked:
1. Mr. President, you are telling colleagues in Iran that you believe the end of the world is rapidly approaching. Why do you believe this? How are these views shaping your foreign policy?
2. Could you tell us more in the West about your belief that the “Twelfth Imam” (or “Hidden Imam”) will soon reappear and why you believe that the way to hasten the coming of this Islamic messiah is to launch a global jihad against Israel and the U.S.?
3. Mr. President, in Islam, Jesus Christ is considered a great prophet and teacher. In your lengthy letter to President Bush earlier this year, you talked a lot about Jesus Christ. You criticized the president for, in your view, not following the teachings of Jesus. What are some of your favorite teachings of Jesus? Do you believe Jesus was Jewish? Do you believe that He lived and taught and did His miracles in Israel? Do you believe Jesus wished for Israel to be wiped “off the map?” In the current crisis, what would Jesus do, in your opinion?
4. You have told colleagues that when you were speaking at the United Nations last fall, you were surrounded by a light from heaven and that for about 25 or 26 minutes everyone in the General Assembly was mesmerized by your speech — that not a single person blinked for that entire time. Would you describe that experience for us? Do you believe that God or an angel was with you at that moment? Do you believe Allah has chosen you to be the leader of Iran at this moment in history?
5. You say that the era of bombs is over. Why then did you sign a $1 billion deal with Moscow last December to buy Russian missiles and other arms? Why are you sending missiles, bombs and $100 million a year to Hezbollah? Why are you sending bombs and bombers into Iraq?
Iran is the new Germany. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the new Adolf Hitler. Radical Shiite Islamic jihadists are the new Nazi storm troopers. The pursuit of the Twelfth Imam is the pursuit of the new Third Reich. CBS News had both the opportunity and responsibility to help the world truly understand this regime and the danger it poses. It failed miserably, and we are all poorer for it.
— Joel C. Rosenberg, a one-time aide to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky, is a New York Times best-selling author of Middle East-based political thrillers. His new novel is The Copper Scroll. His forthcoming non-fiction book is entitled Epicenter: Why The Current Rumblings In The Middle East Will Change Your World.