Lunch with Carl Bernstein

carl bernstein 2Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Carl Bernstein spoke in downtown Pensacola this afternoon about his years covering the “use and abuse of political power,” as well as the political and journalistic landscape of today.

“Washington has become a capitol of dysfunction,” Bernstein told members of the Tiger Bay Club, charging political leaders of existing in a “partisan and ideological cocoon.”

The journalist talked about the “dysfunction” of American politics, as well as the state of the country’s media, which he described as too often repeating “the views of the cocoon.”

Bernstein is best-known for his Watergate-era work, for which he shares a pulitzer. While working at The Washington Post, he and reporter Bob Woodward broke and covered the Watergate scandal—the scandal culminated in the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

“I look at things, perhaps too often, through the lens of Watergate. Why?” Bernstein asked the lunchtime crowd at New World Landing. “Because the system worked. The system worked magnificently in Watergate.”

He attributed his Watergate work to good reporting. Knocking on doors, persistence and common sense.

“What we did—what you saw in the movie, “All the President’s Men”—nothing exotic,” the reporter said.

Bernstein described how the White House consistently criticized the Post reporters, both in their late-20s at the time, throughout their time covering the Watergate scandal.

“So, they would attack us everyday,” he recalled. “—rather than ever asking the question: are the stories they’re writing true.”

He also told the Tiger Bay Club crowd about the night he and Woodward were ready to write the story connecting Attorney General John Mitchell to the Watergate scandal. He told them about the White House’s response—“the sources of the Washington Post are a fountain of misinformation”—and Mitchell’s insinuation that Post Publisher Katherine Graham stood to “get her tit caught in a big, fat wringer.”

“He said, ‘when this campaign is over, we’re all going to do a little story on you boys,’” Bernstein recalled his conversation with Mitchell. “And he hung up the phone.”