On Sunday, appearing on CNN's Reliable Sources, Carl Bernstein, who along with Robert Woodward, broke the story of Watergate for The Washington Post, claimed, “We are in the midst of a cold civil war in this country."
Bernstein, who along with Woodward relied on anonymous sources to discover information related to the Watergate break-in, made his comment about a “cold civil war” to distinguish the era of Watergate from the current political climate.
The difference between Watergate and now, one of the big differences is that we are in the midst of a cold civil war in this country, a political and cultural civil war, and all of our reporting is taking place in the context of that cold civil war, and nothing quite like that existed at the time of Watergate, and that part of the cold civil war itself is the configuration of media with Fox News, with CNN being perceived by different sets of viewers as representing different truths, when in fact Fox has changed American politics as perhaps no institution has since its invention in 1996.
Our politics has been changed inalterably by this right-wing counterforce; whatever you want to call Fox News, but also cable news itself is a different form than we had during the time of Watergate. We didn’t see reporters on television discussing their stories. We do go farther on the air now by having reporters from The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN expand on their stories on the air so that there is a visual component, that listeners and viewers at home are seeing; they’re getting more interpretive information. It is a different media universe, and it’s a cauldron taking place in this hothouse of political debate in which a fact-based debate is becoming impossible in this culture and that’s part of the difficulty here. We’re just lobbing accusations back and forth in which a fact-based environment is almost impossible to maintain as long as the principals are willing to engage in the kind of rhetoric and lying that we have seen in this exchange of late.
Bernstein is being disingenuous, of course; the war between Left and Right has been waged in the United States for roughly 100 years. He also ignores the stranglehold the Left had on the media until Fox News and the Internet arrived.
CBS Anchor Walter Cronkite was famous for ending his broadcast, “That’s the way it is,” implying he was giving the public the unvarnished truth. As The American Thinker has reported, after the Viet Cong started their Tet offensive in January 1968, long before Watergate, Cronkite helped the United States retreat from winning the war in Vietnam by closing his program one night by introducing “an analysis that must be speculative, personal, [and] subjective.” Among his comments were these:
Who won and who lost in the great Tet offensive against the cities? I’m not sure. The Vietcong did not win by a knockout, but neither did we. The referees of history may make it a draw.
It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate.
But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.
The American Thinker also noted:
When President Johnson heard of Cronkite’s comments, he was quoted as saying, “That’s it. If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.” In January 2006, Cronkite said his statement on Vietnam was his proudest moment. When asked then if he would give the same advice on Iraq, Cronkite didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes.”
Video of Bernstein below: