CNN’s Gergen: ‘Liberal Establishment Doesn’t Exist Anymore’

CNN, David Gergen Just before 9:00 last night during CNN's Republican convention coverage, CNN political analyst David Gergen asserted that the liberal establishment "doesn't exist anymore," leading Republican strategist Alex Castellanos to poke back with, "I think if David Gergen thinks the liberal establishment does not exist anymore, I think he has become a part of it."

Gergen responded to Castellanos, "First of all, is there a liberal establishment in charge of Washington? I'm sorry. There has been another party that's basically been running Washington for the last eight years. If there has been a liberal establishment, it shrunk a lot and it's not right in Washington. That's a '70s concept, Alex." 

The dust-up between Castellanos and Gergen occurred during an analysis of the 9/11 video shown last night in which Wolf Blitzer noted President George W. Bush's absence from the video and suggested the absence made the video more "political," leaving the door wide open for Gergen, who has served as an advisor to both Democratic and Republican White House administrations, to go after Republicans for their "selective memory" and to fret that the convention has "been so combative." 

Later in the discussion Gergen characterized the tone of the Republican convention as being "reverse snobbery."  He continued to argue that Republicans are saying, "they look down on us but we're actually, we're better than they are. They're these terrible elites who've been running things. You know, it's the press, it's these terrible people in Washington."  Gergen attempted to discredit that argument with "as if Republicans haven't, you know, had their hands on the controls." 

Gergen is apparently forgetting that the "establishment" is more than just the presidency.  Sure, Republicans have controlled the White House since 2008, but which party has controlled Congress for the past two years?  And which party do the media admittedly favor?

The transcript appears below:

[8:49 PM EDT]

WOLF BLITZER: You know, David Gergen, that video, as John King pointed out, was dramatic. It showed a picture of Rudy Giuliani right after 9/11. But it's thunderously silent. There was no pithy picture of President Bush with the bullhorn as he went to visit the World Trade Center site at ground zero. And to a certain degree that makes that video even more political than might have been the case if they would have shown the picture of the president right after 9/11.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's absolutely right, Wolf. And also, I don't think it mentioned Iraq as a response to 9/11.

All conventions have cases of selective memory in talking about the past. I think what has been, you know, has been fine for the Republicans I think has been very troubling. This convention has been very troubling to a lot of Democrats, because it has not only seemed to have a particular case of amnesia as if, you know, they haven't been in Washington for the last eight years. They've been running us.

Mitt Romney tried to argue last night by some liberal establishment which doesn't exist anymore. And but they've erased, you know, George Bush from their sort of memory bank very quickly and it's been so combative.

And I think the critical issue that's hanging over this convention tonight is, can John McCain erase the images that a lot of people carried away from last night which built the Republican base but I must say, I think, there are a lot of signs that it also energized the Democratic base.

As you said earlier tonight, Barack Obama has had a big haul in money since last night, $8 million and counting. You know, I continue to worry what I have worried. I had deeper worries tonight than I did when we started. Can anybody govern this country when this race is over because it's going to be very combative from here on?

CAMPBELL BROWN: We got to let Alex Castellanos respond to that.

CASTELLANOS: In all honesty, I think if David Gergen thinks the liberal establishment does not exist anymore, I think he has become a part of it. I think Republicans at this convention would have a very different view of that.

And you know, there are differences that need to be drawn. I think sometimes David talks as if we'd all desire this politics where we can just have no partisanship. And I think people here would take exception to that. Pointless partisanship, bickering to get nothing done, everybody in America is tired of that.

But you know, there are differences between these parties that do make a difference in your lives. People actually fight and die for those things. There's certainly worth fighting about here.

BLITZER: : Let's have David Gergen respond. Go ahead, David. What do you think?

GERGEN: First of all, is there a liberal establishment in charge of Washington? I'm sorry. There has been another party that's basically been running Washington for the last eight years. If there has been a liberal establishment, it shrunk a lot and it's not right in Washington.

That's a '70s concept, Alex.
You know that. And the second thing, of course, there are differences. There are legitimate differences on issues.

What has been I think notable about this convention, so far, and we saw some of this in the Democratic Convention, there is that how personalized it is and how much is sort of "us versus them." And sort of, you know, is there this sort of reverse snobbery?

You know, they look down on us but we're actually, we're better than they are. They're these terrible elites who've been running things. You know, it's the press, it's these terrible people in Washington. As if Republicans haven't, you know, had their hands on the controls and as if we're not one country at the end.

And I think that's what's been discouraging about where we find ourselves now in this campaign is it's increasingly "us versus them," no holds barred. Very personal, not philosophical. Very personal.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, stand by. You know, Alex is itching to respond. But we have to take a quick break.