Watergate reporter calls convention a success

Published July 30, 2004 4:35AM (EDT)

The man who helped bring down one disastrous Republican administration predicted the imminent demise of another. On Thursday night, while navigating a Fleet Center hallway so clogged with overheated Democrats it could have set off the fire sprinklers, we literally bumped into famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, who along with his Washington Post sidekick Bob Woodward sent Richard Nixon into a richly deserved exile.

Bernstein -- like Kerry and his fellow veterans, considerably grayer these days but just as ready for a good fight -- declared the Democratic convention a great success. "They succeeded in defining themselves as the mainstream party  and they really are, compared to the extremist Bush administration. The Bush people truly are the radicals these days. In fact this may be the most reactionary presidency in 100 years. And the Democrats are succeeding in defining it that way, and this message is starting to resonate with the public."

The challenge for the Democrats, said Bernstein, will be to stake out a clear position on the Iraq war. "The truth is that neither of these guys, Kerry and Edwards, supports this war. If they try to finesse that and thread the needle, their credibility could suffer. If they're going to hem and haw, they'll get in trouble. They need to level with the public."

Bernstein said that Kerry, as one convention speaker after the next shouted, really could be the man of the hour, because he had been shaped in the crucible of Vietnam. "I covered those guys when I was a young reporter, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. I was there at the demonstration when Kerry threw away his medals. I was really impressed by those vets -- and he was their leader."

By David Talbot

David Talbot, the founder of Salon, is the author of New York Times bestsellers like "Brothers," "The Devil's Chessboard," and "Season of the Witch." His most recent book is "Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of My Stroke."

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