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.
There was only one phone call Bobby Jindal needed to make on Wednesday--and that was to Jay Leno.
The Republican Louisiana governor utterly botched the GOP response to President Obama's address to Congress. In the White House press briefing room on Wednesday, reporters were cruelly joking about Jindal's performance, noting he had gone quickly from a political rising star to a black hole. "He made Sarah Palin look good," one said. Another quipped, "No doubt this was a strategic attempt to lower expectations--and it succeeded wildly."
The reviews have been universally awful. Even on the right. David Brooks called Jindal's speech "insane." Rightwing blog Little Green Footballs huffed, "Bobby Jindal...seemed to be trying for the same 'inspirey hopey changey' theme as the Big O, but came up with almost no specifics about anything at all....[T]the most specific point in his speech was the slam against volcano monitoring. And that came across as ignorant to me, and pandering to the anti-science far righties." Fox News commentators put it down:
BRIT HUME: The speech read a lot better than it sounded. This was not Bobby Jindal’s greatest oratorical moment.
NINA EASTON: The delivery was not exactly terrific.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Jindal didn’t have a chance. He follows Obama, who in making speeches, is in a league of his own. He’s in a Reagan-esque league.… [Jindal] tried the best he could.
Jindal ought to steal a move from Bill Clinton and seek salvation on Leno's set. In 1988, Bill Clinton, then a little-known Arkansas governor, delivered the keynote address at the Democrats' presidential convention. It was a horribly boring speech. He droned on for what seemed like forever. And when he began his summation and said "in conclusion," the audience cheered. He immediately became a national punchline. But Clinton moved fast to stop the bleeding. He joked with reporters about his terrible performance, and he quickly booked himself a spot on Johnny Carson's show. (For you youngsters, Carson hosted The Tonight Show before Leno.) Sitting next to Johnny--after Carson gave him a very, very, very long introduction--Clinton engaged in self-ribbing and made good sport of his abysmal performance. Four years later, he was elected president of the United States.
Clinton was a survivor who turned a lousy moment into an entertaining bit. By doing so, he showed he was in touch with reality and could pivot accordingly. (Of course, some might say that Clinton was able to pivot too easily.)
Can Jindal pull as deft a move? At this stage, Leno is his best bet. And if he can get on the show before Saturday Night Live takes its shot, all the better for him and his now-less-than-brilliant political career.
An organized mind at work is a wonderful thing to watch. During his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, President Barack Obama placed the mind of his presidency on display, and it was wonderfully organized. The speech—a State of the Union stand-in—presented a clear, mostly left-of-center agenda for his presidency and a series of forceful rationales for his proposed actions. Obama offered all this up with a now-familiar fair dose of charm and grace. It's been years since any BMOC in Washington has presented such an extensive and well-articulated plan for—dare one say it—change.
This was a political speech, so it had the predictable elements: Americans don't give up, we'll pull together and rise again. But the strategic thrust of the speech was deftly delivered: Obama declared that the crisis—make that, crises—of the moment offers opportunities for fundamental shifts in national policies related to the economy, energy, education, and health care. In other words, the current calamity provides additional cause to proceed rapidly and ambitiously on these fronts.
Here's a real political diss. Speaking to The Washington Times, Republican Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who has said he's happy to accept the stimulus funds for his state, had some choice words for his fellow GOPers on Capitol Hill:
The Republican governor of Utah on Monday said his party is blighted by leaders in Congress whose lack of new ideas renders them so "inconsequential" that he doesn't even bother to talk to them.
"I don't even know the congressional leadership," Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. told editors and reporters at The Washington Times, shrugging off questions about top congressional Republicans, including House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "I have not met them. I don't listen or read whatever it is they say because it is inconsequential - completely."
Just a week or so ago, Congressional Republicans were crowing that their lockstep opposition to President Obama's stimulus bill had brought them back from irrelevance and marginalization. Perhaps. But it has also sparked a civil war within the party between practical, give-me-the-money governors (such as Charlie Crist and Arnold Schwarzenegger) and ideological conservatives who are talking about eschewing some of the stimulus funds (notably, Bobby Jindal, Mark Sanford and Haley Barbour) and a clash between those pragmatic governors and the GOP's leaders on Capitol Hill. Good work, everyone. Obama's stimulus has become a wedge issue within the Republican Party.
On Monday night, I discussed this on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
That Bush-Cheney legacy is going to be a mean one for years. And there's likely to de a drip-drip-drip disclosure of all the damage done. For instance, on Tuesday there was news that the Bush administration screwed nursing homes residents. Bloomberg reports:
The Bush administration shut off a source of information last fall about abuse and neglect in long- term care facilities that people suing nursing homes consider crucial to their cases.
The change that affects the $144 billion nursing-home industry occurred with no public notice or attention, perhaps because of the array of last-minute rules that President George W. Bush’s appointees rushed out before leaving Washington last month.
“This is pretty stunning,” said Mark Kosieradzki, a plaintiff attorney in Plymouth, Minnesota. “Nobody was told. It was just done.”
The rule designates state inspectors and Medicare and Medicaid contractors as federal employees, a group usually shielded from providing evidence for either side in private litigation.
The restrictions affect about 16,000 nursing facilities in the U.S. and 3 million residents. The practical effect is to force litigants to go to greater lengths, including seeking court orders, to get inspection reports or depositions for cases they are pursuing or defending.
Wonder who asked for this rule change? Could it have been...the nursing home industry? This was truly a harsh move, making it harder for abused nursing home residents to gather information on the institutions in which they live. Big hat tip to Bloomberg for a fine piece of investigative reporting that uncovered a telling example of the Bush administration's compassionate conservatism.
Oh, they're out there, trying to taint the Obama stimulus by tagging it as wasteful spending (even while accepting the funds). But as S.E. Cupp, a rightwing author and commentator, reports, this year's Conservative Political Action Conference is notably short on rightwing starpower. She writes:
A number of the party's biggest names, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, aren't on the speakers' list so far, either. And Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- the Angelina Jolie of the GOP -- will address the conference only via video.
For those hoping that Sarah Palin will run for president, this may be bad news. In years past, GOP presidential wannabes--even moderates--flocked to CPAC to court (or kowtow to) their party's most ardent grassroots activists. The group usually holds a straw poll, and a good showing--or just a decent appearance before the crowd--could generate presidential buzz for a potential candidate within the politerait and conservative circles. (Is it possible that Palin has decided that the wise thing to do as a 2012 contender is to not attend and avoid placing herself once again in a spotlight that could show her shortcomings?) This year, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Mike Pence--don't know Mike Pence? he's a leading conservative congressman--will be at CPAC, but Cupp bemoans the absence of bigger box office draws. Does that mean she's disappointed that California Governor Arnold "Give Me that Stimulus Money" Schwarzenegger won't be attending?
Her gripe, it seems, is not really with the line-up. It's with the "feel" of the conference; there's no excitement about conservatives these days, she complains. Well, wake up and smell the economic collapse. If there was ever a cornerstone of conservatism, it was free-market fetishism. And that's a really tough sell nowadays. In noting what to expect at this year's CPAC, she reports:
We just elected Michael Steele the first African American head of the Republican National Committee. CPAC will be his first major public appearance and a chance to show what kind of leader he'll be. Republican lawmakers will weigh in on the stimulus bill, discuss their still-fresh experiences dealing with the Obama administration and tell us what they think we need to do while the Democrats are in power.
Conservative bloggers and activists will lay out the grass-roots efforts we can make to reach new voters, or those who abandoned us last year. Young Republican chapters will reach out to high school and college students and ponder what they might do to get a piece of the youth voter pie.
Wow, grassroots networking. But what's the right going to do about convincing the American public we ought to have less regulation, less government and more free enterprise? Or about reviving the culture wars? She doesn't really address these fundamental matters. Conservatives held power in Congress from 1995 through 2006, and a self-proclaimed conservative was in the White House from 2001 to 2009. They had a damn good chance and blew it big--twice. Will there be a panel discussion on that? More important, can one conference deal with the fact that the basic tenets of conservatism have been rendered irrelevant and inoperative? Probably not. But maybe at least Huckabee will whip out his bass and rock on.