Carl Bernstein: Trump Has “Made Monkeys Out Of” The Media By Getting “More Free Air Time ... Than Any Candidate In History”

Bernstein Warns Media Not To Let Trump Seem “Benign” And Ignore His “Neo-Fascistic Message”

From the May 9 edition of CNN's New Day:

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CHRIS CUOMO (HOST): Were you able to take a listen or take a read of the interview with Mr. Trump this morning?

CARL BERNSTEIN: I watched it. I thought he was fairly incoherent through much of it, and it raises many questions, both about the candidate and the press.

CUOMO: He says that that's on me, that I came at him hot out of the box, I didn't congratulate him and I asked him about something that is only a small part of what he said.

BERNSTEIN: He showed himself throughout to see himself as the victim in this campaign. The victim of you, the victim of CNN, The New York Times, the victim of Chuck Todd. On and on and on. Look, we have a new dynamic in this campaign, we have no idea where it's going to go, and the driving dynamic is two candidates who are distrusted, disliked and even despised by a majority of the American people, according to almost every poll. That is the definitive starting point of this campaign, and what the press does, and has not done so far, is to put these two candidates, or three, or four, in context of their whole lives. We've seen not a single documentary, biographical documentary, investigative on any network about the reality of Donald Trump's life, Hillary Clinton's life, Bernie Sanders' life, Cruz's life. It is a egregious failure.

CUOMO: Why is that?

BERNSTEIN: I think you have to ask the network executives. There's been precious little of it in the mainstream print press as well. This should have been done in the primaries. I suspect it's going to be done at The Washington Post and The New York Times as we move forward, but the cable networks, the old time three big networks need to start doing the same thing. We need to know who these candidates are, what the reality of their lives -- look, we've heard about "Lyin' Ted." What about "Lyin' Donald?" He is spouting untruths, one after another, and yes, you can call him in a given interview, like we just had, but it doesn't stick. And the object is to put his whole life in front of people in a coherent way so that they can make smart, independent judgments based on real, existing fact. The same with Hillary Clinton. We think she's the best-known woman in the world. She probably is. But most people really don't know about her whole life. They haven't read my book or other books. We need to take what's in those books, and what her record as secretary of state is, and put it into real documentaries on television, on the web, so that people can get past these factoids.

CUOMO: Trump seems to be making a bet based on what you're saying also. This morning, he talked a lot of policy. He chooses to blame Clinton exclusively for NAFTA, obviously Bush 41 started that, it wound up being that Clinton signed it. But he's using that as a policy-specific attack about her past. But he was also was talking about Hillary Clinton as an enabler. That, yeah, Bill Clinton is the one who had the infidelities, but did you know what Hillary did? He seems to want to do that redux, that look back at who she is. Do you think that's salable?

BERNSTEIN: Depends on how it's presented both by Trump and presented by the media. If there's context to it, I doubt that it's terribly salable in terms of hurting her any more than she's already been hurt by what the real record is. Look, she wants to turn this into a substantive campaign, and if Trump allows her to do that, and if the media makes that possible, she probably comes out of this thing a winner. If Trump is allowed to be seen as benign rather than the neo-fascistic message that he began his campaign with, about immigration, about Mexicans, about Mexican rapists, et cetera, et cetera. If he is allowed to continue to make those the issues without our looking at the whole of his character, his record, he could well win this thing. If he comes out of this benign, I keep using that word. The Democrats have to show, and the disaffected Republicans, that he is not benign, that he is dangerous, that we've never seen anybody throwing around the kind of ignorance about real policy, who's been a nominee of a party such as Trump is doing, then he becomes vulnerable. But right now, he has proved himself to be the master politician of our time. And he is running with it and he's been very successful with it in the primaries. Can he be successful with it in the general election, and especially if the press does its job?

CUOMO: Have you ever seen an election that starts off with two bigger celebrities?

BERNSTEIN: That's part of the whole point, is that these are the two biggest celebrities in the world, and Donald Trump has trafficked in celebrity culture throughout in his whole life in public. Hillary is somewhat uncomfortable with it. And, again, if judgments are going to be made and the driving media is going to be Drudge, TMZ, social media, rather than the regular mainstream and new-stream press that does real reporting, Trump is the beneficiary. He is a master of this. He has shown how good he is at it. He's made monkeys out of all of us. He's gotten more free air time for his rallies, among other things, than any candidate in history. I think he may be the best politician we've seen, certainly in the primaries, in terms of understanding the country and what the underlying tremor in the country is, since Jack Kennedy.


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