Carl Bernstein Rejects Comparing Trump to 'Principled' Barry Goldwater

Former Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein on Thursday rejected the comparison of “authoritarian” Donald Trump to a principled man like 1964 GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater. Bernstein appeared on CNN Tonight to discuss a vintage commercial in which a fellow Republican rejects the candidacy of Goldwater because he’s “scary” and “weird" people support him. 

Host Don Lemon found the spot “fascinating,” gushing, “When this Confessions of a Republican ad first surfaced, many people thought it was a fake made to look real. But it's not. It is so relevant to today.” New York Times TV critic Bill Carter found it “remarkable,” saying, “it is so relevant.” Bernstein set the two straight. 

He explained, “Goldwater was a very principled man through his whole career, and he was an ideologue unlike Donald Trump.” Lemon pressed the journalist  to agree on “similarities” between the two men. 

Bernstein retorted, “No. Because I think Donald Trump is an authoritarian. He's not an ideologue, he's not a principled man in the way that Goldwater was....I think that the times are different and I think the people are altogether different. ” The author added: 

CARL BERNSTEIN: Goldwater led the opposition of his party to Richard Nixon and eased Richard Nixon out of office and told Nixon that his crimes were too many and that he would lead the Republican Party against Nixon in a Senate trial. Altogether different. You know, Donald Trump is about Donald Trump. He's not about any political philosophy. He's not about anything but his own objectives. And that is one of the reasons why people are afraid of him, not because, yes, they're afraid of him with his finger on the nuclear trigger obviously, but not because of his ideology. 

Bernstein’s defense of Goldwater is a rejection of past comments by Dan Rather, who in December smeared Goldwater as like that of segregationist George Wallace and Trump. 

A partial transcript of the March 17 segment is below: 

10:44

DON LEMON: Joining me now to discuss it is Carl Bernstein, CNN political commentator, and Bill Carter, the author of "The War for Late Night." This is so fascinating, gentlemen. Bill, to you first. 

BILL CARTER: Yes.

LEMON: When these Confessions of a Republican ad first surfaced, many people thought it was a fake made to look real. But it's not. It is so relevant to today.

CARTER: It is so relevant that some of the lines you think were written today. The thing about not voting for a guy you can't believe in, the thing about the Ku Klux Klan. It's just remarkable. I'd never seen this ad. I didn't know it existed. I was amazed by it. 

LEMON: Carl, you heard Bill Bogert. Bill Bogert says that Goldwater scared him, the country had just lead to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, America was grappling with the threat of nuclear war. What was America's frame of mind back then? 

CARL BERNSTEIN: We had just gone into the Vietnam War and Goldwater was saying that we should possibly consider use be nuclear weapons in Vietnam. And Lyndon Johnson very effectively used that against Goldwater. And also Goldwater was a very principled man through his whole career, and he was an ideologue unlike Donald Trump. He was an ideologue of the right, he had written "Conscience of the Conservative," the conservative bible, and he was the head of this new movement. 

LEMON: Do you see the similarities now in the political climate between then and now? 

BERNSTEIN: No. Because I think Donald Trump is an authoritarian. He's not an ideologue, he's not a principled man in the way that Goldwater was. I think the similarities are that there can be a very rancorous convention at which there forces that would like Trump not to be the nominee, just as there were forces that wanted Goldwater not to be the nominee and tried to impose after Governor Rockefeller had lost the primaries to Goldwater. They tried to make Governor Scranton of Pennsylvania an alternative to Goldwater and they failed. But now I think that the times are different and I think the people are altogether different. 

...

BERNSTEIN: Let me go back to Goldwater being a principled man. I mean, Goldwater led the opposition of his party to Richard Nixon and eased Richard Nixon out of office and told Nixon that his crimes were too many and that he would lead the Republican Party against Nixon in a Senate trial. Altogether different. You know, Donald Trump is about Donald Trump. He's not about any political philosophy. He's not about anything but his own objectives. And that is one of the reasons why people are afraid of him, not because, yes, they're afraid of him with his finger on the nuclear trigger obviously, but not because of his ideology. 

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