Bernstein: System Doesn’t Work

Carl Bernstein joined Stephen Colbert last night as part of the Report now that the show is back from its long holiday break. Looking a little uncomfortable and swiveling distractingly in his chair, Bernstein batted back and forth with Colbert about the current situation in Washington.

Some highlights:

Colbert: You took down a president.
Bernstein: No, the president took down the president.
C: Well, you gave him a little nudge. You helped him over the step… over the cliff.
B: (laughing)

Colbert: Would you and Bob Woodward consider doing a reality show together? Maybe where they lock you inside the Washington monument together?
Bernstein: We have for thirty-something years now.

C: Our president, does he have the right to wiretap American citizens or the duty?
B: You keep coming to the same point: Our president has the right and duty to follow the law.

C: Has the culture of Washington changed over the last 30 years?
B: Yes.
C: How so? Fewer drugs?
B: The system doesn’t work.
C: What do you mean the system?
B: Meaning the Congress is no longer representative to the citizens of the country because it really only responds to money, and when that happens you can’t have a system of checks and balances that work. We’re seeing that in the Abramoff case but it goes way beyond Abramoff.
C: But Congress responding only to money, isn’t that just an extension of ‘It’s the Economy Stupid’?
B: No.
C: Strong corporations, good for you and me, right?
B: It’s campaign contributions, stupid. That’s what it’s about. The result is that there’s no response to what the needs of the citizens are, but rather to the needs of the contributors.
C: (pause)
B: I stumped ya!
C: No, you just made me wonder whether I’m contributing enough.

More after the jump.

Colbert: Compare this presidency to Nixon’s presidency. What could Nixon have learned from Bush?
Bernstein: They both have the same problem: Telling the truth…. I think they both would have been much better served by telling the truth–especially in wartime.
C: The problem right now is we’re dealing with a secret enemy, so we can’t necessarily tell the truth. If we tell the truth and our enemies don’t tell the truth, then they have one up on us, right?
B: I think the same thing happened in both the Nixon and Bush adminsitration.
C: No, Nixon got in trouble and it doesn’t look like Bush is going to.
B: Wait a while.
C: Oh really?
B: Yea. I think he’s in trouble. I think he’s in trouble because of the same reason Nixon was: He doesn’t tell the truth. His vice president doesn’t tell the truth. His party’s starting to have trouble with it the same way that Nixon started to have trouble with his own party. It’s a terrible situation in a war where we need a president who tells the truth.
C: But don’t we first need a president who’s strong? In a time of war, don’t we need a strong executives?
B: We’ve had strong executive who have told the truth.
C: This is a war against secret enemies that may not end. Don’t we need secret powers that have no limit?
B: (laughing) We tried it; it didn’t work.

C: You know something about wiretapping, right?
B: Little bit.