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.
When Donald Trump strode onto the stage at Trump Tower on Tuesday to announce he would enter the Republican race for president, a rock and roll anthem blared: Neil Young’s "Rockin’ in the Free World." It was an odd choice, given that the 1989 song seemed to slam a Republican administration for not giving a damn about the poor. And Young has taken exception to Trump's appropriation of his tune. A statement issued to Mother Jones for Young by his longtime manager Elliot Roberts suggests Young was not pleased by Trump's use of the song:
Donald Trump's use of "Rockin' in the Free World" was not authorized. Mr. Young is a longtime supporter of Bernie Sanders.
In other words, it may be a free world, but you're not free to steal my song.
There were many absurd moments during Jeb Bush's official I'm-running-for-president announcement on Monday. But the most Bizarro World instance might have come when Bush, the brother of the president who committed one of the greatest strategic blunders in US history, and the candidate who has enlisted the architects of George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq as his own foreign policy advisers, embraced the right's Obama-is-feckless meme. Bush slammed President Barack Obama and his foreign policy team for failing "to be the peacemakers." He added, "With their phone-it-in foreign policy, the Obama-Clinton-Kerry team is leaving a legacy of crises uncontained, violence unopposed."
This has become a conservative mantra: Obama has done nothing to counter the foes of the United States. Forgotten are the raid that nabbed Osama bin Laden, the drone strikes that have decimated Al Qaeda, the special forces assaults on the Taliban, and the bombing raids mounted against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Obama's moves in the fight against these extremists are certainly open to debate. But his conservative critics keep insisting the guy essentially does nothing. Note Bush's brazen accusation that Obama refuses to oppose violence.
Running for president is tough. Candidates must spend long stretches on the road, devote many hours to sucking up to rich people to raise a boatload of money, and eat tons of bad food. Yet those who take the leap usually don't whine about all this. But not Ted Cruz. In one of the more unusual fundraising emails of this campaign season, Cruz, a tea party GOP senator from Texas, bitches about the hardships he is forced to endure as an official presidential wannabe.
In the note, Cruz moans that he's "sacrificing a great deal" to seek the White House. He has less time with his family. He and his wife Heidi, who until recently was a Goldman Sachs executive, are taking a financial hit because of the campaign. His personal time is encroached upon by campaign obligations. ("My days are no longer my own," he grouses. "Days start before dawn and many times don't end until early the next morning.") And, perhaps worst of all, the food is lousy, and—OMG!—campaigning interferes with his sleep needs: "My runoff campaign for the Senate in 2012 took a toll, but now I'm sacrificing even more sleep with long nights and constant travel."
The only thing that seems to be missing from the solicitation is this: Bwaaaaaaaaa!
But here's his pitch: if Cruz can suffer through all these awful sacrifices, other "courageous conservatives" can "make an instant and secure sacrificial gift" to his campaign. From $35 to $1000.
In other words, while Cruz is putting up with a "pizza diet" to advance the conservative cause, right-wingers ought to at least kick in the money for his junk food and hotel rooms.
If Cruz is now griping about the lack of sleep, imagine how much he'll complain if he does become president.
Here's the email:
Dear ----- ,
I'm about to ask you to make a sacrifice in the next 48 hours. But before I do, I want you to know: I wouldn't ask you if I hadn't already done it myself.
Please let me briefly explain.
You see, running for President of the United States is a significant sacrifice. Only through prayer and many late night discussions with my wife, family, and closest friends did I make THE decision. And I must share with you -- I've committed to sacrificing a great deal for our campaign:
Time with my family: Spending almost every day on the campaign trail or fighting on the Senate floor means precious little time spent with my wife, Heidi, and my daughters -- the very family that gives me the motivation and drive to fight.
Health and sleep: My runoff campaign for the Senate in 2012 took a toll, but now I'm sacrificing even more sleep with long nights and constant travel. And the pizza diet is a staple on the campaign trail.
Finances: the cost of campaigning back and forth across the country for president is increasingly expensive, but Heidi and I are willing to invest our livelihoods into this sacrifice.
Personal time: You think of this the least, but as a candidate, my days are no longer my own. Days start before dawn and many times don't end until early the next morning. There is almost no personal time when you run for president.
------, I've chosen to sacrifice part of mine and my families lives to run for President -- but I think you will agree with me that the sacrifice is well worth it.
Unless courageous conservatives are willing to make tough sacrifices to stand up and fight, we will not be able to restore America.
Will you be a courageous conservative and make a special gift today to help restore America? I can only reach this goal with your help.
I wouldn't ask you if 1) I wasn't willing to make the same sacrifice myself; and 2) the stakes weren't so high.
------, time is critical, and if you will, please make this special gift in the next 48 hours -- I would be so grateful.
It was Jeb Bush's first campaign. In 1994, the 41-year-old son of the former president was the Republican nominee challenging Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles. The race was close, with several political handicappers predicting Bush would dethrone Chiles. Then in the final days, Bush released what his campaign considered to be a game-changing ad. The TV spot featured a Florida woman named Wendy Nelson, who happened to be a Bush campaign volunteer. Fourteen years earlier, her 10-year-old daughter had been kidnapped on her way to school and then murdered. Her murderer was apprehended and in 1981 sentenced to die. Yet all these years later, he remained on death row. In the Bush ad, Nelson said, "Her killer is still on death row, and we're still waiting for justice. We won't get it from Lawton Chiles because he's too liberal on crime."
The ad ignited a firestorm. Chiles and his camp decried Bush for brazenly exploiting this horrific crime, noting that a previous governor had signed a death warrant for the murderer (but an appeal was pending) and that on Chiles' watch as many convicted killers had been executed as had been put to death during the stints of previous Republican and Democratic governors (eight or nine a term). Chiles' team also noted that he had moved to expedite the death penalty appeals process.
In 2003, TheNew Yorker dispatched acclaimed novelist Jonathan Franzen to write a mega-profile of Denny Hastert, who four years earlier had improbably become House speaker following Newt Gingrich's implosion during the Clinton impeachment scandal. (During the Clinton mess, Hastert was an advocate of impeachment, at one point castigating the president for his "inability to abide by the law.") With the developing news that Hastert has been indicted for allegedly violating banking laws while paying $3.5 million in hush money, apparently to conceal sexual abuse involving a male student at an Illinois high school where Hastert once taught and coached wrestling, Franzen's lengthy take serves up useful insights (and what now appear to be a few wrong notes) about a man who was often described as a rather forgettable politician.
Below are several snippets (subscribers to the magazine can find the full article here):
"Hastert's public persona, to the extent that he has one, is the Coach."
"When I asked him if he had gay friends, he replied that he has friends who are single. 'They're really good people,' he said. 'And I've never asked.' Does he care? 'If I cared,' he said, 'I'd probably ask.' (He is uncomfortable with Senator Frist's advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. 'I think the courts should decide that,' he said.)"
"'With me, what you see is what you get,' Hastert told me the first time we met, in June. 'There's not a lot of nuances here.'"
"Later in the speech, [Hastert] describes the Speaker's office in the Capitol. 'It has a great big chandelier in it,' he says. 'Yeah-oh, I was a high-school wrestling coach. I never thought I'd have an office with a chandelier."
"As a coach in Yorkville [Illinois], Hastert was famously impassive during matches. While opposing coaches paced at the edge of the mats and shouted at their wrestlers ('Stand up!' 'Grab the wrist!' 'Head up!'), he sat silently, with his arms crossed over a clipboard."
"For Hastert, though power seems always to have been more about service than about the advancement of his own ends or vision. He became a born-again Christian in high school, and much of his time at Wheaton College, an evangelical institution, was devoted to religious study... [H]e comes from a religious college that provided instruction in service and submission, rather than in partying and doubt."
"What you see there—a Speaker who delivers the Republican goods—really is what you get. It doesn't matter, in the public realm, what kind of person Hastert is. It matters only privately that, to do the brutal work in Washington, he requires psychic ballast back in Illinois."
Franzen wasn't the only one who promoted the Coach Hastert theme. When Hastert wrote his own autobiography 10 years later, he titled it, Speaker: Lessons from Forty Years in Coaching and Politics.