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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Carl Bernstein On the Parallels Between Hillary Clinton and Richard Nixon

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The audio:

07-21hhs-bernstein

The transcript:

HH: Sitting across from me, a legend of journalism, Carl Bernstein, author of, of course, A Woman In Charge: The Life Of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Along with Bob Woodward, of course, the names that made their bones in the years of Watergate bringing down Richard Nixon, my old boss, so it’s a unique moment on the Hugh Hewitt Show. I’ve talked to Bob Woodward before. I’ve never had Carl Bernstein on before, so I’ve covered the gamut of the two guys that took out my first boss. But Carl Bernstein, we’re not here to talk about him. We’re here to talk about Hillary Clinton. And the closing paragraph of A Woman In Charge: The Life Of Hillary Rodham Clinton says, closing two, “As Hillary continued to speak from the protective shield of her own making, and packaged herself for the widest possible consumption. She has misrepresented not just facts, but often her essential self. Great politicians have always been marked by the consistency of their core beliefs, their strength and character and advocacy, and the self-knowledge that it informs bold leadership. Almost always, Hillary has stood for good things. Yet there’s often a disconnect between her convictions, her words and her actions. This is where Hillary disappoints. But the jury remains out. She still has time to prove her case, to effectuate those things that make her special, not fear them or camouflage them. We would all be better for it, because what lies within may have the potential to change the world if only a little.” Carl, what you wrote about Hillary, you could have written about Richard Nixon.

CB: I don’t think so, because Richard Nixon was a criminal president of the United States.

HH: Well, she is, too. She’s just an indicted co-conspirator, according to Comey.

CB: No, no, I think, and the server, look, she has lied about the server. It’s indefensible. It’s reckless. It is an endangerment to the national security in the way she did it. And one would hope at some point that she is not going to just fess up, but perhaps show some real contrition about it.

HH: You think that’s possible?

CB: Well, introspection is not her long game.

HH: (laughing) Well said.

CB: And at the same time, as this book tries to tell in the story of her life, reportorially, this is a remarkable figure in our history. You know, we look at this election in terms of Trump celebrity, and I think we also need to look at it in terms of Hillary’s celebrity. She’s the most famous woman in the world, and has been for some 25 years.

HH: Oprah could argue with you, but you’re probably right.

CB: Oprah could argue, but you get outside of this country, and it’s not a horse race…

HH: Yeah.

CB: …with Oprah.

HH: Yeah.

CB: It’s Hillary Clinton. And so this bigger-than-life approach, and being in the bubble of popular celebrity culture for all these years informs her as much as the political calculations, I think, that we’re talking about, just as they do with Trump. And I think that her response to this celebrity, and being in this bubble explains an awful lot about her. The section that you read, which is the end of the book, begins by saying since her days in Arkansas, Hillary Rodham Clinton has had a difficult relationship with the truth. And then the previous four or five hundred pages in the book shows you how she got there, how she has, I believe, and admirable politics in many ways, stands for good things, and how at the same time she has come up short, largely because of this question of truthfulness.

HH: Well, as I said at the beginning, when Director Comey finished his press conference, I said the irony is that the woman who began her career prosecuting Richard Nixon has ended up an unindicted co-conspirator just like Richard Nixon. Isn’t that true?

CB: Look, I think that what she did with the server, had it been a lesser person, it is possible a case would have been brought. We’re talking about legalities here, splitting the hair of law, and I think at the same time, Comey is right looking at the statute, etc., etc., and it’s not a case a prosecutor would bring. At the same time, we’re talking about the Secretary of State of the United States who was entrusted with the national security. And indeed, there is a, back to this celebrity, I think is part of it, but there is a notion of entitlement that has attended the Clintons increasingly since they left office.

HH: She was with Charlie Rose two nights ago. Let’s play a little bit of this, Carl Bernstein, because it goes to A Woman In Charge: The Life Of Hillary Rodham Clinton. It goes exactly to what you say her troubled relationship with the truth, and also with candor. Cut number 23, Adam, and can you play that for Carl Bernstein and Hugh Hewitt?

CR: What were you thinking about the national security risk when you made this decision, because of the capacity hasn’t been, there’s been no hacking…

HRC: Well, there’s no evidence of it.

CR: But some would suggest that that’s the reason that they were very good at it, because there’s no evidence of it.

HRC: Well, no, well…

CR: And that you exposed, as you…

HRC: Now Charlie, there is no evidence of that. I take classification very seriously, and…

CR: That’s not even the question.

HRC: Well, but it is the question.

CR: The question is did you put stuff, not about classification…

HRC: No, there’s been so much talk and understandable confusion about all this. Let me just repeat what has been found. There has been no evidence that I was ever breached or hacked, contrary, may I add, to government systems for which there is great evidence. And this was looked for. This was not overlooked and speculated on. This was looked for, and there is no evidence.

CR: You know, when you said the private server, you were totally aware of this, and decided…

HH: You got that right there. I mean, Carl Bernstein, you hear Charlie trying to get her to answer the fact there would be no evidence of good hacking. She denies that she was hacked. It’s not true. There’s just, you can’t square it.

CB: It is defending the indefensible, and it is Hillary Clinton at war. And Hillary Clinton at war is where she thrives, in many regards. She’s somewhat like Donald Trump in this regard. It’s disturbing to listen to her push back. And then you see her in a different environment, thoughtful, on policy, knowing what the interests of the United States are, serving them very well in many instances. This is the story of Hillary Clinton’s life, and it is coming this election, I think what Comey did, forget about unindicted co-conspirator. What he did is he baked her in this crust of distrust and untruthfulness that now defines her for so many Americans, that her election has become endangered against a pathological liar. Look at Donald Trump. We’re talking about a different level of lying. There’s no attempt…

HH: Between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?

CB: There’s no attempt at truth telling in Donald Trump’s life. He wouldn’t know the truth if he fell over it. It just, you know, there have been 800 fact-checking organizations that have tried to keep up with him. It’s an impossibility. Hillary Clinton, there is a record of when she gets in a jam, reverts to obfuscation, lack of transparency, secrecy, privacy, there are really four pillars. And this book is, to some extent, about the four pillars of Hillary Clinton’s life.

HH: Again, the book’s name is A Woman In Charge. It’s just been reissued in paperback.

CB: They are, religion, we can talk about that in a minute. She is a deeply religious person and has been since she’s a teenager, carries a Bible with her, underlines it, looks for parables, is comfortable in her Methodism as she is in almost nowhere else. So we have religion. The public service, regardless of how ideologically one person or another might regard her, her commitment to public service is extraordinary. Public service, we’ve got religion, family, absolutely committed to family. Say what you will about the nature of the Clintons’ marriage, it is a love affair, and has always been. Each regards the other as the brightest star in the other’s universe, always has, and everything needs to be looked at through that lens as well. So we have religion, family, public service, and the desire for secrecy and privacy. Those four pillars, and that fourth pillar…

HH: You’ve thought about her a lot, haven’t you?

CB: Well, you spend six years working on a book talking to several hundred people who’ve known her since she was an infant, and you find out things that others haven’t, which is what we’re supposed to do as reporters.

HH: It may require, I’m going to go back at you again on this, because…

CB: Sure.

HH: I think she’s Richard Nixon. I worked for Nixon very closely. I spent hundreds of hours with Richard Nixon. She has the same insecurities and the same strengths. She will be the same president, and she’s going in with the people knowing this, if she wins. What do you think of that?

CB: I have said for many years, having been asked do you see the parallels with Nixon, and I have always said no. I think it’s apples and oranges. And as I say, Richard Nixon was a criminal president, really a criminal president, serious criminality from the day he got to the White House in terms of misusing the institutions of government until the day he left, and undermining the electoral process…

HH: Like the IRS that President Obama…

CB: Obama didn’t do the IRS, come on, you know better than that.

HH: All right, you know, we disagree.

CB: Hugh, you know better than that.

HH: We disagree, but go ahead.

CB: But that’s another discussion, but Obama doing that and knowing about it, forget about that. But let’s go back to Hillary Clinton and this question of Nixon. I said in a Q & A with CNN.com, and I’m here at the convention with CNN, where I’m on the air, I said in a Q & A ten days ago, I’ve thought about this some more, and I do see for the first time, and I want to be very careful here, some parallels with Nixon’s paranoia, obsession with enemies, and self-destructive tendencies because of that obsession. Yes, I think there are some parallels there. But in terms of having a criminal mindset, in terms of the misuse of institutions of government, no.

HH: When we come back, Carl Bernstein will still be with me for another segment. His book, A Woman In Charge: The Life Of Hillary Rodham Clinton, you’ll be seeing a lot of Carl between now and the election, because few people have written books. Well, I have. John Podhoretz has, and Carl Bernstein has, books about Hillary Rodham Clinton.

— – — –

HH: He’s also written a book about Pope John Paul II, which I didn’t know about. Would you give the full title? We lost it in the break.

CB: It’s His Holiness: John Paul II and the History of Our Time, and it’s really, a lot of it is about the secret relationship between the Pope and Reagan and how they collaborated to keep the solidarity movement alive in Poland, which is really the key moment in the denouement of the Cold War. And we got ahold of a lot of Politburo documents.

HH: Tell me a little bit about what you’re working on right now as well before I go back to Hillary.

CB: I’m doing a memoir about growing up in an old-fashioned newspaper from 1960-65, age 16 to 21. This kid goes to work, and not at the Washington Post, but the afternoon paper, the Washington Star, and gets the greatest seat in the country.

HH: When I moved to Washington, D.C. in 1980 for the first time, I read the Star. I loved the Star.

CB: It was a great paper.

HH: It was the greatest newspaper.

CB: And everything I know…

HH: Didn’t Mary McGrory work at the Star?

CB: Mary McGory, David Broder, Haynes Johnson, go down the line. I was Mary McGrory’s favorite copy boy.

HH: Oh, were you really?

CB: Oh, yes. Believe me, I carried Mary’s typewriter and bags many, many times.

HH: If you know…

CB: I went to all of Kennedy’s press conference, a way of growing up to dictate a text back to the office. I would get a mimeograph copy at the back of the State Department auditorium, and I would go into the phone booth and dictate the text back.

HH: Well, you may not know Mark Gearan, but he was…

CB: Sure, I know Mark Gearan.

HH: He’s my best friend, my college roommate.

CB: Oh, I didn’t know that.

HH: So Mark and Mary were close until Mary’s death, and he would tell me, because you know, Nixon people don’t like Mary McGrory much.

CB: Of course.

HH: And for reasons that a lot of our listeners will not understand.

CB: Neither did Joe McCarthy.

HH: Well, Mary McGrory was, but Mark told me she was the greatest wit. You could sit around and talk to Mary McGrory forever. Carl Bernstein, let’s go back to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. What do you expect these debates to be like? Since as you say they both have troubled relationships with candor and truthfulness, what are these debates going to be? Fact-checking hell

CB: No, because I think Hillary Clinton will be much, much closer to real existing truth about our culture and society. One of the things is we have an impossibility. You and I might be able to have a fact-based debate. In our political culture, and even in our social culture, we have an inability to have fact-based debate in this country, and that’s part of the problem of why we are in the situation. We’ve had 30 years of cultural warfare. This election, I believe, is the Gettysburg of the culture wars. Whoever wins this election, this is the seminal moment in the culture wars, because the next 20, 30, 40 years are going to be influenced by who the next president is. So what are we going to see? We’re going to see Hillary Clinton, who understands history, who has some real understanding and advocacy of real social policy, will, I believe, hew to the facts in terms of real existing history. But will she in terms of her own life? That’s the big question, and she’s vulnerable there because of this difficulty with the truth that I defined. But Donald Trump, I just read a column today in which Trump says to Maureen Dowd in the New York Times he has never read a biography of President Abraham Lincoln. This is an astonishing fact.

HH: He also made a comment last night about NATO Article 5 that has a lot of conservatives reeling, and has the president of Estonia tweeting hey, you owe us our help. We’ve met our obligations under Article 5. So…

CB: He never hears of Article 5 until the day before yesterday. Come on.

HH: Do you believe that the debates will occur?

CB: Yes.

HH: I tend to believe Hillary will walk away from them, like Nixon walked away from debates.

CB: No, I don’t think she can afford to walk away from the debates. I think she has to be there, and she has to be convincing. And I suspect that the debates will be definitive in the election.

HH: Who is a journalist respected in Washington would you nominate to moderate those debates in this new era? We have one minute.

CB: I’d put old Albert Hunt up there. Actually, I might put my colleague, Bob Woodward, up there.

HH: You’ve got to go television people, though. They’ve got to be television.

CB: I think Jake Tapper is absolutely terrific.

HH: He is terrific. I worked with him. I would put Chuck Todd and Jake Tapper in a hat and do all three.

CB: And yes, I think Chuck, you know, I ran the first political website, news, called Voter.com, and I tried to hire Chuck Todd, this was in 1997-2000, as my deputy. And he’s…

HH: And he’s forgotten more than I know. But I would let those two, and maybe Dickerson, those three.

CB: I think that’s a good choice. Yeah, I think that’s a good choice.

HH: Carl Bernstein, great to have you here. A Woman In Charge, people should get it to read up on Hillary. You have her candidly there. I think you’ve got to think more about the unindicted co-conspirator parallel, though, Carl, Good to have you on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

CB: Great to be with you.

End of interview.

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