In a scathing critique of the Iraq war, CBS News veteran Mike Wallace questioned President Bush’s “validity” as commander in chief.
Wallace, speaking at a Smithsonian Institution “National World War II Reunion” Friday, denounced the effort to oust dictator Saddam Hussein, saying, “This is not, in my estimation, a good war.”
The newsman, who served on a Navy ship during World War II, was on a panel addressing “World War II veterans as journalists,” which later was broadcast by CSPAN, reported the watchdog Media Research Center, or MRC. The event was held in a tent on the Mall in Washington the day before dedication of the World War II Memorial.
Along with fellow panelist Allen Neuharth – founder of USA Today and a World War II veteran – Wallace cited Bush’s lack of military experience, unfavorably comparing him to George Washington.
Wallace also contrasted Bush with President Franklin Roosevelt, but, notes MRC, failed to acknowledge FDR lacked any military experience yet managed to lead the nation during World War II.
“George Washington was commander in chief and president of the United States,” Wallace said. “Franklin Roosevelt was commander in chief and president of the United States. I don’t have to persuade anybody about the validity of those two guys.”
MRC said Wallace’s personal views comport with the disgust he showed toward President Bush in an April 18 “60 Minutes” interview with journalist Bob Woodward, proposing:
“The president of the United States, without a great deal of background in foreign policy, makes up his mind and believes he was sent by somebody to free the people – not just in Iraq, but around the world?”
During the Friday event, the “60 Minutes” correspondent said: “I don’t know how we got into a position where our present commander in chief and the people around him had the guts to take our kids and send them on what seems to be – it sure is not a noble enterprise.”
According to MRC, Wallace’s comments came as he contrasted World War II with today.
“We knew what we were fighting for,” he said. “We knew how important it was. We loved our country. We loved our commander in chief. We respected the people with whom we worked and we were caught up in a, as I say, in a mutual enterprise, if that’s the word, the world needed but the Americans were able to bring and when finally Pearl Harbor came and we were, we finally got in, it was a damn good thing that we did.”
MRC said while most in the audience applauded Wallace’s sentiments, a few stood up and came forward to yell their displeasure. They were urged by the moderator to wait until the question-and-answer session.
Neuharth questioned if the Founding Fathers were wise to have made the president “the commander in chief of our military forces.”
“They were right with George Washington,” he said. “He had been a military person. But I’m not sure whether a non-military commander in chief, no matter which party he’s from or no matter who he or she is, whether a non-military commander in chief has the background and the instincts to make a decision to take us to war.”
Veterans who served with Sen. John Kerry in Vietnam have questioned the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s fitness to be commander in chief.
More than 220 members of Kerry’s swift-boat unit in Vietnam have signed a letter of opposition, organized by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.