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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McCain's New Target: The New York Times

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 1:00 PM EDT

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On a conference call with reporters on Monday morning, Rick Davis, John McCain's campaign manager, and Steve Schmidt, a top McCain strategist, were asked about a New York Times article reporting that Davis had been paid nearly $2 million for running a Washington outfit set up by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stop stricter regulation of these two entities. Davis said he had never engaged in any lobbying for that group and downplayed Fannie and Freddie's role in the organization. He joked that he appreciated "all the exposure I get" in The New York Times. He added that the newspaper must have "Davis envy."

Schmidt then went bad-cop. "We're First Amendment absolutists," he said, noting journalists are free to "write whatever they want to write." But, he continued, "whatever the New York Times once was," it is no longer a journalistic entity. Schmidt called it a "pro-Obama advocacy organization" and claimed the paper "attacks" McCain every day. Schmidt went on: the Times is "an organization completely, totally 150-percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate" and has "cast aside its journalistic integrity and tradition" to get McCain.

It was a blistering slam. And several times throughout the call, Schmidt chided the media for treating Obama more kindly than McCain. (In recent weeks, many news outlets have scored McCain's ads as being full of falsehoods.) Clearly, the candidate who once was beloved by the national media (and who joked the press was his base) has calculated that the old Republican play of bashing the media, especially The New York Times, will help him get elected. Also, Schmidt might also have been trying to establish a context for judging any future Times investigations that might pose a problem for McCain. ("See? I told you they were out to destroy Senator McCain.")

By the way, neither Davis nor Schmidt pointed out one error in the Times' story about Davis.

Photo by flickr user Joe Shlabotnik used under a Creative Commons license.

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Poorly Timed McCain Ad Hits Obama on Corruption

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 12:12 PM EDT

It's a case of really bad timing.

John McCain's campaign put out yet another slashing anti-Obama ad on Monday morning that accused Barack Obama of being part of "the corrupt Chicago machine." The evidence? William Daley, an Obama policy adviser, is a lobbyist and brother to the mayor of Chicago. (He also was commerce secretary during the Clinton years.) The ad goes on to note that Obama's "money man" is Tony Rezko, a convicted felon--making the disgraced developer sound like Obama's main fundraiser, which he was not. The ad also declares that "his governor, Rod Blagojevich" has "a legacy of federal and state investigations." His governor? Well, that's true, since Obama is a resident of Illinois. But this is guilt by association. Under such a standard, Obama could run an ad saying, "John McCain--part of a corrupt political machine. His fellow Republican legislator in Arizona--indicted for money laundering." (That would be Rick Renzi, who was cochairman of McCain's 2008 presidential campaign in Arizona.)

In response to this ad, Obama spokesman Bill Burton issued a statement: "Barack Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate as an independent Democrat. He took on the Chicago Democratic organization in a primary to win a seat in the US Senate. And in both Illinois and Washington, he has challenged the Old Guard for landmark ethics reforms."

But, more to the point, the ad came out the morning The New York Times reported that McCain's campaign manager was paid nearly $2 million for running a Washington outfit set up by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to stop stricter regulation of these two entities. Talk about the corrupt Washington machine. McCain's right hand was one of its major players. Yet McCain accuses Obama of being part of a corrupt system. No doubt, Davis approved that message.

Is McCain More the Populist than Obama?

| Fri Sep. 19, 2008 1:01 PM EDT

Is John McCain out-populisting Barack Obama?

On Friday morning, McCain, at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, delivered a speech on the financial crisis. He tore into Wall Street and Washington, proclaiming, "The crisis on Wall Street started in the Washington culture of lobbying and influence peddling." And he named names. He blasted Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae:

These quasi-public corporations led our housing system down a path where quick profit was placed before sound finance. They institutionalized a system that rewarded forcing mortgages on people who couldn't afford them, while turning around and selling those bad mortgages to the banks that are now going bankrupt. Using money and influence, they prevented reforms that would have curbed their power and limited their ability to damage our economy.

McCain noted that years ago he had tried to reform these institutions and had run smack into Washington's same-old/same-old:

At the center of the problem were the lobbyists, politicians, and bureaucrats who succeeded in persuading Congress and the administration to ignore the festering problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Moreover, McCain accused Obama of having been pals with Freddie and Fannie. Obama, McCain pointed out, has taken large amounts of campaign contributions (a total of $165,400) from donors associated with the two institutions. In addition, Obama put a former Fannie CEO, Jim Johnson, in charge of his vice presidential search committee. McCain also charged that Obama has been receiving policy advise from Franklin Raines, another former Fannie CEO. The Obama camp says Raines is no adviser to Obama and that earlier this week Raines sent an email to Carly Fiorina, a McCain adviser, informing her of this. Still, McCain declared:

Palin Contradicts Palin on Troopergate Explanation

| Tue Sep. 16, 2008 3:33 PM EDT

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As part of an effort to beat back the investigation into whether Governor Sarah Palin fired Alaska's public safety directory Walt Monegan because he refused to dismiss a state trooper involved in an ugly divorce with her sister, Palin's attorney filed papers on Monday claiming that Palin fired Monegan because of his "outright insubordination" regarding policy and budgetary matters. The problem with this explanation: it directly contradicts Palin's own story.

In mid-August, Palin spoke with New Yorker writer Philip Gourevitch, who was in Alaska--prior to Palin being named John McCain's running-mate--to do a piece on "the peculiar political landscape" of the state. During his time there, the controversy regarding Monegan's dismissal was in the news in Alaska. And Gourevitch asked Palin about it:

[Palin] said that one of her goals had been to combat alcohol abuse in rural Alaska, and she blamed Commissioner Monegan for failing to address the problem. That, she said, was a big reason that she'd let him go--only, by her account, she didn't fire him, exactly. Rather, she asked him to drop everything else and single-mindedly take on the state's drinking problem, as the director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. "It was a job that was open, commensurate in salary pretty much--ten thousand dollars less"--but, she added, Monegan hadn't wanted the job, so he left state service; he quit.

Top McCain Surrogate Says McCain's Not Qualified To Run a Corporation

| Tue Sep. 16, 2008 3:26 PM EDT

First, a McCain aide suggested John McCain invented the BlackBerry. But now, another top McCain aide--Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard--says that McCain (and Sarah Palin) would not be qualified to run a major corporation. Really, she did:

Update: The fallout of this comment has not been good for Fiorina.

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