Should he have asked her that question? Should he have phrased it in a different way? What was he after with the question in the first place?
To me the more interesting question in the Wallace-Bachmann inbroglio is the fact that this has all of the hallmarks of the classic TV "moment" as producers call it.
First of all, Wallace's question was "the money question" because it's the wildcard and the type of question almost always guaranteed to produce news. And, not coincidentally, he chose to ask it at the end of the segment.
Second, Wallace asked that specific question to make it part of the record and he thought he had nothing to lose. As long as he asked it, it was out there whether or not Bachmann chose to respond. He never anticipated the backlash that question would provoke. BTW, while his use of the word "flake" was not an ideal choice what Wallace was trying to get at was Bachmann's history of inaccurate and inflammatory statements, which is a legitimate question to ask of any declared Presidential candidate.
Third, Wallace knew it was a "squirm" question with at least a 50-50 shot she'd physically respond with fidgets, uhms or some sense of visible discomfort. Tailor-made for live TV.
To Bachmann's credit she maintained her composure throughout, stating her qualifications and experience and not rising to the bait. I must admit she surprised me because I did think some of her prior statements in the past year have indeed been flaky.
Could she have come up with a better response like broadening out her answer to talk about how any Presidential candidate these days will inevitably face "flaky questions" just like this one? Yes, but she held her own and that's the bottom line.
Ironically, Chris Wallace has perhaps the best money quote of them all with his post-interview assessment of what this type of question-answer scenario comes down to: ..."in the end it's really all about the answers and not the questions."
Wallace's statement is what you should care about and what you must think about every time you put yourself into the line of media fire. Do I know, really know, how I will perform when that weirdo question comes at me with a live television audience watching? There are three critically important components in this type of situation:
- your body language
- your tone of voice
- what you say