Agassi, Wallace, And Williams

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OPEN UNIVERSITY SEPTEMBER 3, 2006

Agassi, Wallace, And Williams

The difference between a veteran tennis player in a major
tournament and a veteran journalist on serious assignment
appears to be that the tennis player has to perform at least
adequately or he'll be ridiculed off the court. I'm thinking
of course of the recent performances of Andre Agassi and
contrasting them with 1) Mike Wallace's recent interview with
President Ahmadineijad of Iran and 2) Brian Williams' end of
August interview with President Bush. Wallace's stumbling,
falsely jocular, ill-informed, and even rude interrogation
was in stark contrast to what was for me the totally
unexpected knowlegeability, courtesy, intelligence, and even
charm of the Iranian president. I had thought of the ill-
shaven man as a sort of nationalist thug, bellicose,
inflammatory, a loose cannon unmoored by good sense, decent
international manners or general decency. But he dealt with
the ancient, hollow journalist with a skill and charm that
made me realize that this well-educated (PhD in civil
engineering) man had not risen to his position by accident or
by being someone's puppet. It's clear that he should be
treated very seriously and talked to by serious diplomats.
To a degree then, Wallace's ignorance, vulgarity
and, yes, stupidity accomplished more than a good interviewer
would have. As for Brian Williams' patronizing interrogation
of George Bush's now celebrated summer reading, it would
have helped if Williams had picked up Camus' Stranger and
recognized that it was not a work of philosophy but a novel.
He could even have asked the president a question or two
about the book, but, no, it was clear to any watcher that
Williams knew next to nothing about it and was afraid of
leaving the safe, tedious waters out of which his other
questions were drawn.

--Richard Stern

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posted in: open university, person career, brian williams, mike wallace, president

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