Rick Perlstein's Nixonland is a surprising hit, a beneficiary of the goodwill he won with his masterful history of the Goldwater movement, Before the Storm (2000). Today Perlstein appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe, a show occasionally co-hosted by Pat Buchanan, whose young and innocent days as a Nixon strategist are recounted throughout the book. Giggly host Mika Brzezinski encourages Perlstein to engage Buchanan, and so he does. ("Barnicle" is faux workin'-man pundit Mike Barnicle.)
PERLSTEIN: You were the guy who said polarization was a great thing!
BUCHANAN:Yep, positive polarization. You divide the country in half and we get the larger slice.
PERLSTEIN: What do you think of that, guys?
BRZEZINSKI: Oh, boy.
BUCHANAN: What do you think about that, Barnicle?
BARNICLE: I think it's called "politics." It's called American politics.
PERLSTEIN: Yeah, that's what Ehrlichman said.
It gets better from there.
I don't know who comes off worst in this. Certainly Barnicle's inability to comprehend that the world might not be the sepia-toned CBS highlight reel that he wants it to be is amusing. "I was there!" he says to Perlstein, as if we don't know anything about the dirty 1972 campaign now that we didn't know then. Perlstein keeps catching the panelists dead to rights, and Brzezinski practically gets the vapors.
Jesse Walker's blockbuster interview with Perlstein is right here.