Carl Bernstein: Cantor, House GOP Are ‘Most Dangerous Demagogic Force’ Since McCarthy

Veteran journalist Carl Bernstein unleashed a tirade against House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and “his Republicans” on Wednesday’s Morning Joe. After co-host Mika Brzezinski read a passage from Thomas Friedman’s scathing indictment of Tea Party Republicans in The New York Times, Bernstein promised, “I’ll go farther than Friedman.” He certainly did: “Eric Cantor and his Republican Party are the most dangerous demagogic force in American politics since Joe McCarthy.”

Wow. That’s a serious accusation by the well-known investigative reporter. But there was more. According to Bernstein, President Obama’s new purpose is to protect the country from these demagogues:


"And I think what we’re seeing is a redefinition and understanding of Barack Obama’s presidency, which is to protect the national security from this dangerous demagogic element that is on the precipice of really having a kind of power that’s ruinous in America and ruinous to democracy."
 

Fortunately, there were conservatives on the set to challenge Bernstein’s hysteria. Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard called the comments “an incredibly cheap shot.” Host Joe Scarborough pressed Bernstein on the matter: “I would suggest that when you said Eric Cantor and... his Republican party was the most dangerous thing to happen to American politics since Joe McCarthy called out Communists in the State Department, Hollywood, and government in the Truman and FDR administrations, some people would take that as an insult.”

However, Bernstein only doubled down on his comparison of Cantor to McCarthy: “I think they’re very comparable, because I think they deal not from fact, but from wild accusations.” When Scarborough and Kristol demanded to know what those “wild accusations” were, Bernstein responded not with anything specific, but with a generalized perception of ObamaCare opponents: “The wild accusation is that the government and the people of this country are gonna be in hell if we have...this kind of health care.”

It’s clear that Bernstein is no Bob Woodward. Whereas Woodward provided calm and balanced analysis of the government shutdown on Morning Joe a couple of days ago, his old Watergate partner Bernstein is stuck in a hysterical liberal mindset. 

Below is a transcript of the segment:

CARL BERNSTEIN: I’ll go farther than Friedman. Eric Cantor and his Republican Party are the most dangerous demagogic force in American politics since Joe McCarthy. And that’s what this is about. And it’s about the parts of the Republican party that are willing to appease this awful force. And I think what we’re seeing is a redefinition and understanding of Barack Obama’s presidency, which is to protect the national security from this dangerous demagogic element that is on the precipice of really having a kind of power that’s ruinous in America and ruinous to democracy. And the appeasement of people like McConnell and like Boehner to this force in your party. I’d like to know what you think –

[crosstalk]

BILL KRISTOL: The president a month ago said ‘red line in Syria, we need to go to war in Syria.’ What did John Boehner and Eric Cantor, these demagogues whom you so despise, what did they do? They supported the president. Was that McCarthyite? Did they demagogue it? No. So that’s an incredibly cheap shot.

BERNSTEIN: Just a minute, Bill. Let’s stop about cheap shots. I think Obama did a stupid thing about saying, ‘line in the sand.’ And I think he backtracked because he knew it was not a wise move.

[crosstalk]

JOE SCARBOROUGH: You said let’s stop with the cheap shots. I would suggest that when you said Eric Cantor and the Republicans were the most dangerous thing to –

BERNSTEIN: No, his Republican party.

SCARBOROUGH: His Republican party was the most dangerous thing to happen to American politics since Joe McCarthy called out Communists in the State Department, Hollywood, and government in the Truman and FDR administrations, some people would take that as an insult.

BERNSTEIN: Well, they might, except he did more than that.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, that’s not a cheap shot?

BERNSTEIN: No, I don’t think so. I think Joe McCarthy’s historic role –



SCARBOROUGH: No, I’m talking about Eric Cantor.

BERNSTEIN: I think they’re very comparable, because I think they deal not from fact, but from wild accusations that are not part of the fact-based –

SCARBOROUGH: What’s the wild accusation?

KRISTOL: Yeah, what’s the wild accusation?

BERNSTEIN: The wild accusation is that the government and the people of this country are gonna be in hell if we have –

KRISTOL: Is that a quote?

BERNSTEIN: Can I finish? – if we have this kind of health care. This is somewhat equivalent -- let’s go back and look at the passage of –

KRISTOL: The Republicans are trying to suspend two parts of that health care law, delay one for one year and –

BERNSTEIN: Fine, let them try to delay it.

KRISTOL: They did try to.

BERNSTEIN: Let them try to delay it without shutting down the government, the national parks. As Eleanor Holmes Norton is saying, let them do it without this kind of demagoguery, without this horrible effect.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.