Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.
Jeb Bush is trying to pull off the mother of all chutzpah moves by blaming Hillary Clinton for today's troubles in Iraq and the rise of ISIS.
Yes, you heard that right: The brother of the fellow who invaded Iraq on false premises, and who did so without a coherent and comprehensive plan for what to do after the defeat of Saddam Hussein, is trying to jujitsu this issue and heave his hefty family baggage onto the shoulders of the leading Democratic 2016 contender.
Three months ago, Jeb Bush couldn't give a straight answer to a simple question about the Iraq War—a stumble that raised serious questions about his quest for the Republican presidential nomination. How could he be unprepared for such an obvious matter? And now—when he's not faring so well in the polls and trailing Donald Trump and others—he's attempting a new tack: pointing his finger at Clinton. Though this stunt wins Bush attention—the New York Timesfront-paged his attack with the headline, "Bush Asserts a Clinton Role in Iraq Decline"—it's absurd.
Donald Trump is certainly unlike most Republican presidential candidates of recent years. But as he has come to dominate the GOP's 2016 contest, there's been a touch of Richard Nixon in the tirade-friendly tycoon. At least, Nixonian rhetoric. In the past few weeks, Trump has deployed some of Tricky Dick's most memorable flourishes. Is this a mere coincidence? One of Trump's top political strategists is Roger Stone, a veteran political operative and unapologetic dirty trickster who is an ardent fan of the scandal-ridden but politically savvy Nixon. (On his website Stone, who has a tattoo of Nixon on his back, calls himself a "legendary American Republican political consultant who has played a key role in the election of Republican presidents from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.")
Whether Stone is prompting Trump to channel the only president who resigned, here are some of the signs that Trump is feeling the Nixon spirit.
E.L. Doctorow, who died on Tuesday, was one of the great storytellers of American literature. With Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, The March, Billy Bathgate, and other novels, Doctorow was able to interweave US history with worlds of his own concoction so that readers could barely discern the seams. He was a master of historical fibbing that explored universal human dilemmas. And he was, as far as I could tell, a lovely man. Doctorow was for decades a contributor to and supporter of The Nation, where I once worked, and I had the thrill to be in his company on several occasions. I don't recall whether he told me this or I heard or read it in an interview, but Doctorow once remarked that when he initiated a novel he usually did not know how it would unfold—an astounding comment given the intricacies and strength of his narratives.
My most meaningful encounter with Doctorow occurred several years ago, when my family had the chance to spend the afternoon with Doctorow, who at the time was living in a house next to the home of our mutual friend, Marc Siegel, a writer and doctor. At some point, Doctorow told us a story of his earliest days as a writer, when he was a boy growing up in the Bronx (very close to where my mother had lived at the same time). Some of the details are now hazy, but it went something like this:
My good pals at Huffington Post have announced a momentous decision: No longer will they treat Donald Trump—a.k.a. @realDonaldTrump—as a serious political candidate and afford him coverage in its news and politics verticals. Instead, they will relegate the tirade-prone and traffic-generating tycoon to the entertainment section. I'll let them explain:
After watching and listening to Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy for president, we have decided we won't report on Trump's campaign as part of the Huffington Post's political coverage. Instead, we will cover his campaign as part of our Entertainment section. Our reason is simple: Trump's campaign is a sideshow. We won't take the bait. If you are interested in what The Donald has to say, you'll find it next to our stories on the Kardashians and The Bachelorette.
Trump has indeed turned an important event—a major political party selecting its presidential nominee—into a stretch Hummer-sized clown car. A Trump-dominated GOP contest does have the feel of a super-charged reality show, with political consumers (that is, the audience) on the edge of their seats, eagerly awaiting the next Trump tweet—Trweet™—blasting another foe or critic. ("Hey Pope Francis, you suck!") Trump is campaigning as a bombastic buffoon, playing to the crowd and inspiring love-hate viewing. Yet, I believe my dear comrades at HuffPo (and I hope they will link to this article) are wrong.
On July 14, humankind will hit a historic marker: NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will glide past Pluto, the dwarf planet that marks the end of the solar system, and at 7,800 miles above its surface, it will start snapping photos. By the next day, homo sapiens on Earth will be able to see the first close-ups of this down-graded planet. Though the $728 million, nine-year mission was nearly derailed by a technical glitch, New Horizons has already zapped back movies and pics of Pluto, including what the clearest image to date of the dwarf planet and its moon, Charon. But the money shot is a few days away. No doubt, the guys and gals at mission control are on the edge of their seats, waiting for this galactic Kodak moment.
Finally, we'll get to see what mysterious Pluto truly looks like. And what might that mean? Dwayne Day, a space historian, has an interesting take. In an essay forthe Space Review, he boldly states, "Pluto is going to change us." Some of the change, he predicts, is, well, predictable. First off, there will be the scientific impact: "Every time a spacecraft encounters a new object in our solar system we are surprised. Every single time. And Pluto is going to surprise us and rewrite our textbooks." A taxpayer can say, "I certainly hope so." And a subsequent change in space policy, Day observes, might ensue: "The deluge of Pluto science may create a new group of Kuiper Belt Object scientists interested in using Hubble and other telescopes to search for other objects, or even lead to approval of another mission to head out into the Black, way out at the corner of No and Where."
But there's more. Day speculates that the flyby and the images it yields will change our culture, perhaps influencing our music and movies. He notes, "The 1994 crash of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into Jupiter inspired the 1998 movies Deep Impact and Armageddon and dozens of movies, TV shows, and documentaries about the dangers of killer asteroids. The 1997 Mars Pathfinder mission inspired the 2000 movies Mission to Mars and Red Planet." So perhaps one day a futuristic True Detective will take place on the tiniest and farthest planet.
But the most intriguing change Day ticks off is political:
The Pluto flyby will change our politics. Wars will not end because of a tiny spacecraft flying past a distant object in our solar system. There are over seven billion people on planet Earth, and most of them may not even hear about this event. But some will hear about it, and they will realize that it is an American spacecraft doing this, just as they saw an American rover land on Mars and American spacecraft orbit Jupiter and Saturn. NASA is one of the greatest goodwill ambassadors that the United States has. NASA demonstrates American ingenuity and quality and capability. It is the ultimate example of soft power, convincing other countries that the United States is a country to be admired and befriended. This is not a big thing, not a ratchet of a gear in global power politics. But this flyby, this accomplishment, adds a marker in the plus column for America’s standing in the world.
The gang at ISIS might not be impressed. But this feat—the United States spending close to $1 billion so the entire world can learn more about the far reaches of the solar system we share—does convey a positive message about the nation. We're not just a country that has promoted torture, pioneered death-by-drone, and poured climate-changing emissions into the atmosphere. We're exploratory emissaries for the human race. Earth, meet Pluto, courtesy of the USA.