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.
It is, unfortunately, an old and all-too familiar story. A Clinton, meaning Bill or Hillary, does something wrong (or possibly wrong). The media pounces; the Clinton antagonists of the right hit the warpath. Immediately, the Clinton camp and its supporters accuse the media and the conservative Clinton Hate Machine of trumping up a story to thwart the noble Clintons. Clinton spokespeople go into war-room mode. Resentful reporters grouse (privately and publicly) about the heavy-handed operators and obfuscators of Clintonland. And the right claims this latest fuss is a scandal that surpasses Watergate. Rinse, repeat.
The latest iteration of this Clinton-media dysfunctional spin cycle was triggered by the Hillary Clinton email kerfuffle that exploded last week. The Clinton camp's handling of the controversy was a sign that Hillary and her gang are stuck in the Whitewaterish 1990s when it comes to communications strategy, relying on always-be-combating tactics predicated on self-perceived persecution. It's bad news for anyone hoping that Hillary 2016 has learned from the miscalculations of the past.
Clinton's use of a private email account to conduct secretary of state business and, just as important, her failure to preserve her messages in real-time within the department's own record-keeping system were not, as Clintonites claimed, no biggie. Yes, Scott Walker had his own secret email scandal. And Jeb Bush, who tried to score political points by slamming Clinton, vetted his gubernatorial emails before releasing them to the public, while congratulating himself on his supposed devotion to transparency. (I've combed the Bush email archive for names and topics that ought to be there—and found obvious subjects absent.) So the Clinton defenders have a point when they gripe that the media is only obsessed with her email problem. But it is a small point. She was a Cabinet official. She had a duty to ensure that her records—which belong to the public, not her—would be controlled by the department, not by her private aides who operate her private server.
The New York Times set off a Clinton bomb when it revealed Monday night that Hillary Clinton, when she was secretary of state, used a personal email account instead of a government account for all of her official business. The newspaper reported that Clinton had turned over 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department—yet only after her aides had vetted the massive collection of emails and decided which ones to give to the agency. And it noted that the probable 2016 candidate "may have violated federal requirements that officials' correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record."
Ka-boom. Another round in the Hillary wars. Her Republican antagonists pointed to this as a sign of Clinton antipathy toward transparency. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza quickly penned a piece headlined, "Hillary Clinton's Private Email Address at State Reinforces Everything People Don't Like About Her." Clintonistas rushed to her defense. Correct the Record, a pro-Clinton outfit, zapped out talking points: She had followed State Department precedent with regard to the use of email; she knew her emails sent to State Department officials at their official accounts would be retained; she has fully cooperated with State Department requests to produce her emails; and Colin Powell used his personal email account when he was secretary of state. Some pro-Clinton observers pointed out that the federal regulation instructing government employees to "not generally use personal email accounts to conduct official agency business" was not issued until September 2013, months after Clinton had left Foggy Bottom.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress has been covered as a spectacle orchestrated (perhaps in a misguided fashion) by the conservative GOP-Likud alliance to undercut President Barack Obama's effort to reach a deal with Iran limiting that government's nuclear program. But this stunt did highlight a significant aspect of the the ongoing debate over Iran—Netanyahu's position is extreme and unworkable: Iran should yield completely, or there will be war.
The ongoing negotiations between the United States and its allies and Iran have been a tough slog. But at the heart of the issue is a simple point: Will Iran be allowed to engage in any enrichment of uranium? Iran insists it is entitled to pursue a nuclear program, if only for civilian purposes. Netanyahu contends that if Tehran retains any nuclear program, there will be a risk that it can develop nuclear weapons with which it can threaten Israel's existence. Obama's aim is to impose severe restrictions on Iran's nuclear program to limit any ability to produce a nuclear bomb—and to ensure that if there were to be an Iranian breakout from an agreement that it would still take Tehran some time to make a bomb. Obama wants to minimize greatly the risk of Iran going nuclear; Netanyahu wants to eliminate the risk.
Throughout the controversy set off by a recent Mother Jonesarticle about Bill O'Reilly's mischaracterizations of his wartime reporting experience, the Fox News host has angrily insisted that "everything" he has said about his journalistic track record has been accurate. But his accounts have been contradicted by O'Reilly's former colleagues and other eyewitnesses—and, it turns out, by O'Reilly's own reporting at the time. Mother Jones has obtained the CBS News report O'Reilly filed at the end of the Falklands war. It makes no reference to the dramatic and warlike action—soldiers "gunning down" Argentine civilians with "real bullets"—O'Reilly has claimed he witnessed.
CBS News today posted its reports from Buenos Aires at the end of the Falklands war, in response to a request from Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, who has been seeking to counter reports that he mischaracterized his wartime reporting experience. But rather than bolstering O'Reilly's description of the anti-government protest he says he covered as a "combat situation," the tape corroborates the accounts of other journalists who were there and who have described it as simply a chaotic, violent protest.
On his Monday night show, O'Reilly broadcast clips from the CBS video and maintained that the footage proved "I reported accurately the violence was horrific." But the issue has not been whether violence occurred at the demonstration. O'Reilly had previously claimed this protest—triggered when Argentines angry at the ruling junta's surrender to the Brits in the 1982 war gathered near the presidential palace—was a massacre, with Argentine troops gunning down civilians. O'Reilly has relied on that description to support his claim that he was in a "war zone…in the Falklands." The video does not show civilians being mowed down.
O'Reilly, who was reporting on the protest as a correspondent for CBS News, has asserted that during the demonstration, Argentine soldiers fired into the crowd with "real bullets" and slaughtered "many" civilians. As he put it in a 2009 interview, "Here in the United States we would use tear gas and rubber bullets. They were doing real bullets. They were just gunning these people down, shooting them down in the street."
Mother Jonesreported that O'Reilly's account of the protest was at odds with media reports from the time, which made no mention of troops firing real bullets into the crowd or civilians killed:
Dispatches on the protest filed by reporters from the New York Times, the Miami Herald, and UPI note that thousands did take to the street, setting fires, breaking store windows, and that riot police did battle with protesters who threw rocks and sticks. They say tear gas was deployed; police clubbed people with nightsticks and fired rubber bullets; reporters were assaulted by demonstrators and by police; and a photojournalist was wounded in the legs by gunfire. But these media accounts did not report, as O'Reilly claims, that there were fatalities.
On Sunday, CNN reported that seven of O'Reilly's former CBS colleagues disputed his claim that Argentine soldiers had fired live rounds at civilians. They also questioned O'Reilly's assertion that this protest constituted "combat" and occurred in a "war zone." Former CBS correspondent Eric Engberg, who wrote a lengthy Facebook post debunking O'Reilly's Falklands claims, said Buenos Aires "was not a war zone or even close. It was an 'expense account zone.'" And Richard Meislin, the former New York Times reporter whose account of the protest was selectively quoted by O'Reilly on a Fox News show on Sunday, noted on Facebook, "As far as I know, no demonstrators were shot or killed by police in Buenos Aires that night. What I saw on the streets that night was a demonstration—passionate, chaotic and memorable—but it would be hard to confuse it with being in a war zone."