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Wallace wants Bush interview to keep up streak

Retiring ‘60 Minutes’ reporter interviewed every President since Kennedy
/ Source: The Associated Press

Before he retires from “60 Minutes,” Mike Wallace seems to have a better shot at interviewing the president of Iran than the president of the United States.

It’s not an obsession — more like a frustration — but the 87-year-old Wallace, who has interviewed every sitting president since Kennedy, is renewing his effort to sit down with President Bush.

“I’ve never even shaken hands with the man,” said Wallace, who announced last week he was retiring this spring as a correspondent for the CBS newsmagazine.

Ever competitive, Wallace is still shooting for some newsmaking interviews, and isn’t beyond using his senior status to get the story.

He expressed optimism about getting to talk soon to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Such an interview would recall one of his career triumphs: his 1979 interview with Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini following the taking of American hostages.

Wallace said he first tried to speak to Bush when the president was governor of Texas, for a “60 Minutes” story on legal reforms. But, he said, he was turned down by Bush aide Karl Rove.

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Several subsequent requests to speak to the president have also been rejected, Wallace said. The most recent was a few months ago, but he said he planned to ask again after making his retirement announcement.

Calls to White House counselor Dan Bartlett’s office about Wallace were not immediately returned.

Wallace’s desire to speak to Bush was plain in his memoir, “Between You and Me,” published last fall. The book’s last line was a request: “So how about it, Mr. President, isn’t it time you gave this old man a break?”

Wallace might not have helped his cause by describing the White House as “secretive” and “stonewalling” in an interview with National Public Radio last fall, or by saying Bush is “obviously an incurious man” while talking to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

He later called back to amend that remark with some praise for how the president handled himself during question-and-answer sessions with the public and press this week.

“He’s been damned good,” he said. “There’s nothing you can ask him that he’s not totally familiar with. It’s totally different. He’s a pro now.”