On Wednesday’s “Morning Joe,” Carl Bernstein, known for reporting on the 1970s Watergate scandal that ultimately resulted in the resignation of Richard Nixon, accused House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the GOP of demagoguery similar to former Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
“I’ll go farther than [Tom] Friedman,” Bernstein said. “Eric Cantor and his Republican Party are the most dangerous, demagogic force in politics since Joe McCarthy. And that’s what this is about. And it’s about the parts of the Republican Party that are willing to appease this awful force. And I think what we’re seeing is a redefinition and understanding of Barack Obama’s presidency, which is to protect the national security from this dangerous, demagogic element that is on the precipice from really having the kind of power that’s ruinous to this democracy. And the appeasement of people, like [Mitch] McConnell and like [John] Boehner to this force in your party — I’d like to know what you [Bill Kristol] think about this?”
That statement drew the ire of Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who called the allegation “an incredibly cheap shot” and turned tables on Bernstein by reminding him that McConnell and Boehner supported Obama when he sought authorization for military action in Syria.
Later in the segment, Kristol pointed out that under then-President Ronald Reagan, House Speaker Tip O’Neill was behind a number of government shutdowns. Yet the same sort of accusations never came from Reagan’s side aimed at the Democratic House leadership.
“I’m sorry, you’re saying it’s disloyal to oppose a president who’s been re-elected,” Kristol said. “Ronald Reagan was re-elected in 1984. I happened to be chief of staff of the Education Department in ’86 or ’87. Tip O’Neill and he had a disagreement — the Democratic Congress — and the government shut down for a couple of days. No one thought Tip O’Neill was disloyal, was being like Joe McCarthy. There were budget fights. There were fights on legislative priorities.”