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.
John Dean, a principal in the Watergate scandal, in 1975Ken Stewart/ZUMA Press
This is interesting. John Dean, Richard Nixon's White House counsel and a star Watergate witness, has weighed in on the McConnell tape controversy. His take: This ain't Watergate, and the making of the tape probably wasn't illegal.
After Mother Jones and I disclosed a secretly recorded tape capturing Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and campaign aides discussing using actor/activist Ashley Judd's past struggles with depression and her religious views as political ammo (should she challenge McConnell), McConnell and aides claimed the minority leader was the victim of a Watergate-style operation and called on the FBI to investigate. McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, also played the Hitler card and compared the taping to "Gestapo" tactics. At the end of last week, local Kentucky media reported that two local Democratic operatives linked to a super-PAC called Progress Kentucky, Curtis Morrison and Shawn Reilly, were involved in the taping, having recorded a conversation they heard in a hallway after an open house at McConnell's campaign headquarters in Louisville. Subsequent reports fingered Morrison more than Reilly. And Morrison has set up a legal defense fund without publicly acknowledging any role in the taping. (I did not comment on the media reports naming Morrison and Reilly because I had promised my source confidentiality.)
On February 2, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the US Senate, opened up his 2014 reelection campaign headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, and in front of several dozen supporters vowed to "point out" the weaknesses of any opponent fielded by the Democrats. "They want to fight? We're ready," he declared. McConnell was serious: Later that day, he was huddling with aides in a private meeting to discuss how to attack his possible Democratic foes, including actor/activist Ashley Judd, who was then contemplating challenging the minority leader. During this strategy session—a recording of which was obtained by Mother Jones—McConnell and his aides considered assaulting Judd for her past struggles with depression and for her religious views.
Last month, Judd announced she wouldn't challenge McConnell, whose reelection campaign could become one of the most watched races of the 2014 cycle (if a serious Democratic opponent emerges). But at the February 2 meeting, McConnell and his team were fixated on Judd. McConnell told his aides that at the early stage of the campaign they had to clobber any potential challenger:
I assume most of you have played the, the game Whac-A-Mole?” (Laughter.) This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out.
The canonization of Margaret Thatcher began with nanoseconds of news reports that the former British prime minister and conservative icon had died at the age of 87. On MSNBC, my pal Chuck Todd remarked, "We lionize her over here." There was insta-commentary about how she saved Britain from economic despair and the rest of the world from the Soviets (with some help from a guy named Ronald Reagan). Excess ruled. Two small examples: Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the Democrat running for Congress in South Carolina (and sister of Stephen Colbert) issued this statement: "When I talk to younger women about their careers, I point to Margaret Thatcher as a role model; she's a tough consensus builder who cared about everybody and put her country's fiscal house in order." Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) proclaimed,
Baroness Thatcher's record of creating explosive economic growth and a stronger nation by embracing conservative values makes the utter failure of Obama's stale liberalism starker and more disturbing…She is still hated by leftists who would rather live in equalized misery than allow people to achieve as much as they can work for, leftists who now hold the levers of government in the United States…While many mourn, Baroness Thatcher reminded us "I fight on I fight to win." The best way to honor Baroness Thatcher is to crush liberalism and sweep it into the dustbin of history. What are you doing this morning to defeat liberal politicians?
On Valentine's Day, the Senate banking committee held a hearing with the nation's top financial regulators. As a junior member, freshman Democrat Elizabeth Warren had to cool her heels waiting for a turn. But when it came, she made better use of the few available minutes than most of her colleagues: "Can you identify when you last took the Wall Street banks to trial?" she demanded.
Flummoxed, the officials tried to sidestep the question. Then the Massachusetts senator brought down the hammer: "There are district attorneys and United States attorneys out there every day squeezing ordinary citizens on sometimes very thin grounds and taking them to trial in order to make an example, as they put it. I'm really concerned that 'too big to fail' has become 'too big for trial.'"
Ka-boom. More than a million people ended up watching viral videos of the exchange. Wall Streeters were ticked off. Warren had achieved what veteran legislators crave to do: shape the national discourse while winning attention—all in her quiet but forceful, law-school-prof way. And wittingly or not, she had accomplished another difficult task: establishing a path forward for herself within the clubby, tradition-bound upper chamber.
Basically, there are two ways for a newbie senator to start her tenure: with bombast or with reserve. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have been recent examples of the former, each roaring into the Senate looking to establish himself as the tea party senator. Two decades earlier, Paul Wellstone, the former professor and community organizer, hit the Senate as a progressive firebrand. He held a press conference at the Vietnam War memorial to argue against war in the Middle East and cornered George H.W. Bush at a reception, causing the president to ask, "Who is this chickenshit?"
Last year, we noted that HBO's hit show Game of Thrones—which features dragons, sword fights, and zombie armies—is at its core a tale of intense political intrigue. Alliances are forged and broken; backroom deals are cut; principles are sacrificed. It's a dirty game—and not just because there's no indoor plumbing. And we imagined what might happen if super-PACs and dark-money outfits existed in the Seven Kingdoms. The result: political attack ads that went viral. With the third season starting this week—and the show (according to our spies) becoming even bleaker—here are those ads once again. They remain a fitting commentary, for as in the real world, politics in Westeros is not getting any less sleazy.