David Corn

David Corn

Washington Bureau Chief

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.

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A McCain Flip-Flop on Osama bin Laden?

| Sun Oct. 5, 2008 11:38 PM EDT

On August 7, 1998, hundreds of people were killed when terrorists detonated car bombs at the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Almost immediately, the United States had evidence that a little-known group called al Qaeda was complicit in the attacks. Though al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden had been plotting against the United States for years, this act of mass-murder won the band of Islamic terrorists and its leaders worldwide infamy. Weeks after the attack, President Clinton fired scores of Tomahawk missiles at a suspected al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, and he also attacked a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan his administration claimed was a chemical weapons plant.

Ten years later, this past August 7, John McCain released a statement on the anniversary of the embassy bombings. It was a harsh indictment of the Clinton administration and others who in McCain's estimation had not regarded the threat of al Qaeda with sufficient seriousness back then:

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the al Qaeda terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 225 people, including 12 Americans, and injured thousands others. The attacks made it painfully clear that al Qaeda's terrorist call to arms to attack Americans anywhere in the world was not an empty threat. The attacks proved the vulnerability of U.S. installations overseas, and demonstrated -- to any that needed further evidence -- that al Qaeda was a well-funded, organized and treacherous terrorist organization determined to kill Americans. Tragically, the U.S. response to the 1998 embassy bombings was wholly inadequate in addressing the threat posed by Al Qaeda despite the horrific toll of the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Too many Clinton Administration officials refused to act effectively to counter the dangers posed by al Qaeda. Three years later, al Qaeda's commitment to kill was devastatingly brought to our soil.

But at the time--even after the embassy bombings--McCain, too, was slow to recognize the nature of the threat posed by al Qaeda and bin Laden. Weeks after these attacks, he even came across as dismissive of bin Laden as a danger and showed no enthusiasm for hunting down this terrorist and his al Qaeda allies. And he did so in a Mother Jones interview.

In mid-September 1998, journalist Jason Vest, on assignment for the magazine, conducted an hour-long interview with McCain. At the time, McCain's efforts to pass campaign finance reform and anti-tobacco legislation had made him, as Vest put it, "the darling of political reporters." Much of the interview covered issues of money and politics. But with the embassy bombings still in the news, Vest asked McCain about bin Laden and how to deal with terrorism. The following exchange ensued:

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Springsteen Does an Obama for Obama

| Sat Oct. 4, 2008 11:40 PM EDT

Throughout convention week in Denver in August, the word swirled that Bruce Springsteen would appear the final night. It did not happen. And for Democrats, that was a good thing. Barack Obama--accused by foes of being too glamorous--did not need a rock star on the set on his big night (though Sheryl Crow and Stevie Wonder did appear early in the evening). But Springsteen is indeed doing what he can.

On Saturday, Springsteen appeared at an Obama voter registration rally in Philadelphia. Tens of thousands of people were there. He performed a thirty-minute acoustic set. But he also speechified. And he practically outdid Obama in political eloquence:

I am glad to be here today for this voter registration drive and for Barack Obama, the next President of the United States. I've spent 35 years writing about America, its people, and the meaning of the American Promise. The Promise that was handed down to us, right here in this city from our founding fathers, with one instruction: Do your best to make these things real. Opportunity, equality, social and economic justice, a fair shake for all of our citizens, the American idea, as a positive influence, around the world for a more just and peaceful existence. These are the things that give our lives hope, shape, and meaning. They are the ties that bind us together and give us faith in our contract with one another.
I've spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality. For many Americans, who are today losing their jobs, their homes, seeing their retirement funds disappear, who have no healthcare, or who have been abandoned in our inner cities. The distance between that promise and that reality has never been greater or more painful.

Sarah Palin: Not a Charitable Conservative?

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 4:58 PM EDT

On Friday afternoon, the McCain-Palin camp released the last two years of Sarah Palin's taxes. (Only the last two?) The campaign's summary notes that Sarah and Todd Palin had a gross income of $166,080 in 2007, her first year as governor. The couple donated $2500 to charity that year and also made "non-cash" donations of $825. This represented 1.5 percent of their adjusted gross income.

The average American donates about 3.1 percent of his or her income to charity. Many churches recommend tithing 10 percent.

Veep Debate: An End to the Sarah Palin Reality TV Show

| Fri Oct. 3, 2008 1:36 AM EDT

For the past few weeks, it's seemed as if Sarah Palin has been a contestant in the ultimate version of the reality show America's Toughest Jobs. She passed the first challenge: give a Big Speech. She did fine on the next one: hit the campaign trail. She royally screwed up the third challenge: give a Big Interview. Then came the most difficult one: hold your own in a Big Debate. And she did.

For 90 minutes Governor Palin, who had become a bleeding ulcer for the McCain campaign, stuck to well-crafted talking points, recited them with passion and conviction, and played the part of the spunky, down-home, up-North middle-class-mom-turned-governor well. She did not demonstrate much depth in policy knowledge, but she managed to display treading-water familiarity with the obvious issues of the day. (Media and advocacy group factcheckers will soon be producing the list of her factual misrepresentations.) It helped that moderator Gwen Ifill did not pose questions that might push her off her script. Palin repeated buzz phrases--"greed and corruption of Wall Street," for instance--over and over. (She was obviously coached to use the word maverick repeatedly, former Republican Senator Rick Santorum observed after the debate.) For some viewers, her autopilot replies might be a turnoff. But for conservatives and independents who want to like her, she probably performed well enough--and she probably performed well enough to stop the hemorrhaging she had caused the campaign.

Which means that perhaps John McCain will return to center stage, as Palin--and her uninformed responses to Katie Couric's questions--becomes less of an issue.

Obama Up in Florida: Local GOPers Meet Secretly To Worry

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 3:04 PM EDT

Four recent polls showing Barack Obama moving ahead of John McCain in the all-important state of Florida--and leading McCain there by 3 to 8 points--have sent Sunshine State GOPers into a (secret) panic. The St. Petersburg Times reports:

Florida Republican leaders hastily convened a top secret meeting this week to grapple with Sen. John McCain's sagging performance in this must-win state.
Their fears were confirmed Wednesday when four new polls showed Sen. Barack Obama leading, a reversal from just a few weeks ago when McCain was opening up an advantage....
With some grass roots organizers complaining about coordination problems with the campaign, Republican Party chairman Jim Greer gathered top officials at the state headquarters in Tallahassee on Tuesday afternoon. He swore the group to secrecy.
When asked about it by the St. Petersburg Times, Greer confirmed the meeting. He largely declined to discuss what was said.

Or what they are planning. Note to Democrats, rent Recount--just in case.

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