Veteran Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein appeared on Monday's "Morning Joe" to highlight the "masterful" leadership of Barack Obama in passing a stimulus bill and also to laud Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her dedication to service. Challenged by MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan over how much impact Hillary Clinton would actually have as secretary of state, Bernstein, author of the Hillary bio "A Woman in Charge," enthused, "You know, she is somebody who really believes in service. Both Clintons do. Whatever cynicism we might have about the Clintons, she believes in service."
He also asserted that celebrity is important on the world stage and cooed, "And nobody is more celebrated. Nobody is more famous than Hillary Clinton. Nobody can have more effect abroad." Earlier in the segment, the former Washington Post journalist applauded Barack Obama for passing his stimulus bill in a way that maneuvered around a "dysfunctional" Congress. "...The reason Barack Obama is showing such masterful- and I think we can use that word- leadership so far is that he's in the process of solving the problem of the U.S. Congress, the fact that it is a largely dysfunctional institution," he explained.
Host Joe Scarborough discussed with Bernstein the issue of how difficult it is to get things done in Congress. The author turned the question around on Scarborough, a former House member, and praised journalism as the place to get things done: "Look, what do you like better? You like better being on the air here or do you like being in the United States Congress? You can really do something and affect the way people think on the air." Of course, one would have to make the point that, in regards to Obama, the President has a large majority in the Senate. So, how is it "masterful" to pass a bill in that environment?
A partial transcript of the February 16 segment, which aired at 8:38am, follows:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Let's bring in right now Carl Bernstein. He is the author of "A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton." Carl, how do you think Hillary Clinton is going to fit in as secretary of state in the new Obama administration?
CARL BERNSTEIN: Pretty well. She knows who the president of the United States is. And happily for her, she recognizes she's out of the United States Senate. I think the most significant thing that I can say about that shot [onscreen video of Hillary coming off the tarmac in Japan] is that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama understood the futility of being a member of the United States Congress. Everything we have been hearing this morning on this broadcast indicates that the reason Barack Obama is showing such masterful- and I think we can use that word- leadership so far is that he's in the process of solving the problem of the U.S. Congress, the fact that it is a largely dysfunctional institution. That he's got to work around it to get this economic program moving and through. That it is just bedeviled by partisan gridlock. That it runs behind the real problems of the United States. And as his biggest task is to move the country and that's what he is doing and part of that is putting Hillary Clinton in that job. She didn't want to be a part of that institution anymore. John McCain didn't want to be a part of that institution anymore. 'Cause they all recognized it does not work.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Carl, you know, it wasn't so long ago that being a United States senator was the plumb job in Washington, D.C. Run every six years. It was called the world's most exclusive club. But, now like you said, I've heard that Barack Obama was tired of the institution after being there for a couple of weeks. Hillary Clinton couldn't stand it.
BERNSTEIN: That's just the point.
SCARBOROUGH: Judd Gregg was willing to become secretary- if you'd asked a senator 20 years ago to quit his Senate seat to be secretary of Commerce, he would have laughed. You talk to any governor who becomes a senator, they hate their life. Jeb Bush didn't want to run for United States Senate, despite the fact he can walk into the position. Why has that job been so degraded, apparently, over the past decade?
BERNSTEIN: Because it no longer- Congress of the United States and -- I would turn to ask you the same question. Look, what do you like better? You like better being on the air here or do you like being in the United States Congress? You can really do something and affect the way people think on the air. You really can't do very much as one member of the United States Congress unless you learn something there that I don't know about.
PAT BUCHANAN: All, right, Carl. Let me get back to you, the subject of your book, Hillary Clinton. She's is secretary of state. But, Holbrook has got the Afghanistan/Pakistan franchise. Mitchell has got Israel/Palestine. Geithner has got China. He's already knocking 'em for manipulating their currency. You hear, Dennis Ross may get Iran. The general sees the President everyday. Is she really going to be an architect to foreign policy or just a salesperson?
BERNSTEIN: Neither. I think that the architect of foreign policy is going to be Barack Obama. I think that Jones is next to the President of the United States. He sits next to him in the offices of the National Security Council. I think that Hillary Clinton is his executive officer. And I think she is relishing the opportunity. You know, she is somebody who really believes in service. Both Clintons do. Whatever cynicism we might have about the Clintons, she believes in service. It is a great opportunity for her to serve the country. She is a very good- can be a very good executive officer. She gets a good grasp of these concepts. George Mitchell and Holbrook are terrific appointments in terms of terribly complex problems. They are going to report to her. It is not just about making foreign policy. It is about making it work. And I think she's- she is really in a position there to help make it work. And, also, look, part of diplomacy is working on the world stage. And it involves celebrity today. And nobody is more celebrated, nobody is more famous than Hillary Clinton, nobody can have more effect abroad. Just looking in Asia now, on this trip, on the attention she is getting, is quite remarkable.