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.
Historians and political writers will for years wonder and write about what moved John McCain to select Sarah Palin as his running mate. But perhaps a newspaper clipping from 1988 offers a bit of insight into how McCain thinks about a veep pick.
Two decades ago, another GOP vice presidential nominee was also something of a puzzling choice: Senator Dan Quayle. Many questioned George H.W. Bush's decision to tap a little-known senator as his running-mate. But some observers thought that Quayle's looks (he was compared to Robert Redford) would help the ticket with the ladies--female voters, that is. Was that a sexist? Whether or not it was, McCain accepted this perspective. According to a Newsday article from that time, McCain said, "A guy that good-looking just has to be attractive to women," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Twenty years later, did McCain take a similar view when searching for his ticket partner?
Who's the most socialistic governor in the United States? You betcha--it's Sarah Palin. That's what I said on Hardball (video below). But before we got to a highfalutin' discussion about ideology and the campaign, Chris Matthews, conservative radio talk show host Heidi Harris, and I discussed the troubles of GOP Republican Michele Bachmann, who might lose her seat because she played Hardball last Friday and lost. Bachman calling Democrats "anti-American," Palin spending $150,000 on clothes (which I discussed earlier on MSNBC)--these days, for left-of-center pundits, it's as easy as shooting pit bulls in a barrel
The latest neocon to turn tail on John McCain is Kenneth Adelman, a former foreign policy official in the Reagan administration. Adelman is most famous--or infamous--for having predicted in February 2002, 13 months before the invasion of Iraq, that "demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." Explaining his decision to vote for Obama, Adelman recently told The New Yorker:
"When the economic crisis broke, I found John McCain bouncing all over the place. In those first few crisis days, he was impetuous, inconsistent, and imprudent; ending up just plain weird. Having worked with Ronald Reagan for seven years, and been with him in his critical three summits with Gorbachev, I've concluded that that's no way a president can act under pressure."
And he said of the Sarah Palin pick:
"That decision showed appalling lack of judgment. Not only is Sarah Palin not close to being acceptable in high office -- I would not have hired her for even a mid-level post in the arms-control agency. But that selection contradicted McCain's main two, and best two, themes for his campaign -- Country First, and experience counts. Neither can he credibly claim, post-Palin pick."
He sounds so reasonable, right? But I remember the days when Adelman sounded more like the mad McCainiacs I recently encountered at a McCain rally. In fact, I once wrote about Adelman's use of extremist rhetoric, and that kept him from obtaining a spot on the board of a prominent Washington advocacy group.
From a Nation magazine column (not on-line) I penned in 1988:
At a John McCain rally in Virginia this past weekend, Mother Jones ran into a group of angry and frustrated McCain supporters looking for reporters to yell at. The now famous "Tito the Builder" was front and center. Here's what happened.
On October 29, 1991, Senator John McCain went to the floor of the US Senate. The former Navy pilot was angry and disgusted. In recent days, the news had broken that the previous month Navy airmen and others had gone wildengaging in sexual molestation, out-of-control drinking, and other misconductat the Tailhook Association convention in Las Vegas, an annual gathering of retired and active-duty naval aviators. "I cannot tell you," McCain proclaimed, "the distaste and displeasure that I have as a naval aviator concerning this incident." He bemoaned the fact that senior ranking naval officers and civilian leaders had been at the meeting. He called for an investigation and urged the Navy to suspend its traditional participation with the Tailhook reunions. "There is no time in the history of this country that something like this is more inappropriate," McCain said, "and we cannot allow it. It is unconscionable. And we in the military...should be ashamed and embarrassed...that this kind of activity went on. And there is no excuse for it."
Now, McCain has placed one of the men responsible for permittingand encouraging-- loutish activity at the Tailhook meetings in a powerful position: heading up his transition team.
McCain recently named John Lehman to oversee his transition effort and figure out how a McCain administration ought to get startedand whom it ought to hire for the most senior jobsshould McCain win the November 4 election. Lehman, now an investment banker, was secretary of the Navy during the 1980s, and he played a R-rated role in the Tailhook scandal.
Lehman was no longer Navy secretary when the Tailhook scandal exploded. But in 1991 and 1992, as military investigators and journalists probed what had happened at the 1991 conventionwhich included the so-called Gauntlet, a line of rowdy and drunk junior officers who harassed and assaulted women passing by--they learned that the events at the Tailhook convention of 1991 were predated by similar behavior in early years. And they discovered that Lehman, as Navy secretary, had been an enthusiastic participant.
In his 1995 book, Fall from Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy, Greg Vistica, the San Diego Union-Tribune reporter who broke the Tailhook scandal, described a scene from the 1986 Tailhook meeting:
When the door to the suite at the Las Vegas Hilton opened, a prominent member of President Ronald Reagan's administration and a naked woman were clearly visible. He was lying on his back, stretched out in front of a throng of naval officers. There were probably one hundred men watching him, laughing with him .