GETTING RATHER-IZED. Did Chris Wallace get Rather-ized on Sunday? According to reporting by Norah O�Donnell on the NBC's Today show yesterday:

Liberals and conservatives alike are buzzing about whether Mr.
Clinton outfoxed FOX News by planning this attack. One of Mr. Clinton�s advisers admitted to me that, �We didn�t go into it looking for a fight, but we had our lead pipe ready.�

If this is true, that means that Clinton didn�t go ballistic, blow his Vesuvian top, or any of the other disparaging labels now being invoked by conservatives to disparage his performance -- and ignore the substance of his comments. Instead, this media moment harkens back to the famous exchange between then-Vice President George H. W. Bush and Dan Rather on January 25, 1988, when the elder Bush was trying to shake the �wimp� label. That episode, the transcript of which can be read here, is considered a great act of political jujitsu by Bush, who got himself a two-fer by showing some backbone and embarrassing Rather, live, on his own program.

Of course, maybe the Clinton adviser is just spinning after the fact what was an extemporaneous Clintonian outburst; given how quickly the interview came on the heels of ABC�s recent 9-11 �mockumentary,� Clinton�s comments may very well have been unplanned and unrehearsed. But the detail and specificity with which Clinton articulated his criticisms could be taken as a sign that Clinton had material �in the can� if Wallace provided an opening. (Of course, Clinton is known for his precise memory and communication skills, so what looks like a prepared soliloquy to most of us may have been completely off-the-cuff for him.)

Perhaps only Clinton and his closest confidantes will know if Wallace was set up. If so, Wallace ought not to be chirping and slapping himself on the back, because he got Rather-ized.

--Tom Schaller