Carl Bernstein on the political climate in Washington

Author Carl Bernstein, best known for uncovering the Watergate scandal with Bob Woodward, reflects on his long career in journalism in his new memoir, “Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom. “

Bernstein was the Pulitzer Prize winner for Watergate reporting. He recalled his long-standing interest in journalism. While still in high school, he covered John F. Kennedy’s presidency. Years later, he worked as a student at University of Maryland to help the Washington Star with its coverage of Kennedy’s assassination.

Bernstein told Major Garrett, CBS News’ Washington chief correspondent, that he was just leaving class at University of Maryland and saw students sitting around radios as Walter Cronkite covered the death of Kennedy. He ran to his job as “dictationist”, a person who typed up stories from reporters that had been filed by telephone. Bernstein was tasked with typing up breaking news reports from the Star reporter in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

” My hands were shaking as I took his dictated instructions. I also mispelled the hospital and added an “*” to it. Bernstein replied. An editor sent Bernstein to Lafayette Square to supervise a crowd that was growing upset by the news.
Bernstein added that “for the next 12 hours, until Kennedy’s body came back,” he stayed in the park. Bernstein stated that
passed right by him, and he could see the back window of his gray hearse through which he could see the casket covered with a flag. I covered the assassination attempt on the President of America over the weekend. “

Bernstein views his book is a kind of prequel to “All the President’s Men,” his book with Bob Woodward detailing how they investigated the people involved in the Watergate scandal.

“Chasing History” details “everything I learned at The Star about reporting…and about what [Bob] Woodward and I have called the best obtainable version of the truth, which really is what reporting is about,” Bernstein said.

He doesn’t like the practice of attaching the “-gate” to scandals at the end of stories, as it makes it easier for people to gloss over the facts. Bernstein claims it “trivializes the events leading up the Watergate Hotel burglary and coverup.”

“Watergate saw a corrupt president of the United States attempt to subvert the electoral process. This is a point that’s all too familiar today, as we have an ex-president of the United States, who has attempted to undermine it and seeks to do the same.

Also worse is the political climate — Bernstein noted that Congress is far different now than it was in the Watergate era.

“After our reporting early on in Watergate, there was a unanimous vote of the Senate… to create the Watergate Committee, the Senate Watergate Committee,” Bernstein said. Compare that with the conduct of today’s [congressional] Republicans, who refuse to look into the events of January 6 and answer the more fundamental questions about Trump’s actions in the attempted coup. “

Executive producer: Arden Farhi

Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson

CBSN Production: Eric Soussanin
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