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.
The Clinton campaign keeps insisting that Hillary Clinton is the victim of a sleazy Obama campaign--though it engages in nasty tactics to denigrate Barack Obama. The Clintonites, it now seems, will even make common cause with the rightwing Hilary-haters to do so.
As Marc Ambinder reports, the Clinton campaign has distributed an American Spectatorarticle that claims that retired General Merrill McPeak, an Obama foreign policy adviser, is an anti-Semite and a drunk. An anti-Semite? Supposedly because he has noted that the Israel lobby in America influences Mideast policy and because he advocates Israel withdrawing to its pre-1967 borders. Of course, that definition of anti-Semitism is absurd. But for the Clinton campaign to turn to the American Spectator, a rightwing publication that led the Clinton witch-hunts of the 1990s (and which published stories by David Brock and others regarding Bill Clinton's personal life), shows a certain desperation--or a damn-history opportunism. The article argues that Obama is bad for the Jews. The Clintonites are disseminating it. That would be ugly enough. The source renders the episode damn ugly.
Meanwhile, Clinton herself cozied up to the Richard Mellon Scaife--the man who funded the "vast rightwing conspiracy" (which included the American Spectator) that tried to destroy the Clintons in the 1990s--in order to take a swipe at Obama. On Tuesday, Clinton met with editors and reporters of the archly conservative Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which Scaife owns. At that session, she did what she could to keep the Jeremiah Wright controversy alive by saying, "He would not have been my pastor. You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend." In attendance was Scaife. ("Hell has officially frozen over," rightwing journalist Byron York commented.) So has Clinton no shame? No pride? Or merely a sharp sense of political calculation? Did she ponder the irony of using Scaife's platform (in the key state of Pennsylvania) to discredit a fellow Democrat?
Don't just do something, stand there! And wait for somebody else to suggest a course of action.
That appears to be John McCain's approach to the housing credit crisis. On Tuesday, he delivered what his campaign billed as a major address on the housing crisis. What made it notable was that it contained nothing notable.
McCain started off stating the obvious: there was a housing bubble: "speculators move into markets, and these players begin to suspend the normal rules of risk and assume that prices can only move up -- but never down....The normal market forces of people buying and selling their homes were overwhelmed by rampant speculation. Our system of market checks and balances did not correct this until the bubble burst." Lenders went wild and some Americans bought homes they could not afford. And, he added, "the housing bubble was made worse by a series of complex, interconnected financial bets that were not transparent or fully understood....Because managers did not fully understand the complex financial instruments and because there was insufficient transparency when they did try to learn, the initial losses spawned a crisis of confidence in the markets."
If Barack Obama accepted the endorsement of a minister who called for eradicating Judaism, praised that minister, and campaigned with that minister, what would the media reaction be? Would Fox News not go nuts over that--especially if there were video? Would CNN and MSNBC not provide plenty of air time to outraged commentators demanding that Obama denounce this minister and reject his support? Would The New York Times and The Washington Post not devote inches of columns to news stories and columns dissecting the relationship between Obama and the minister and use the occasion for big-think articles probing the relationship between blacks and Jews?
With that in mind, let's turn to an exchange between Chris Wallace and Bill Kristol from this Sunday on Fox News:
WALLACE: With all the talk about Obama and Reverend Wright, I got a bunch of email this past week from viewers who said: "Why don't you ever talk about McCain and the evangelical -- some of the evangelical ministers who have endorsed him?" And let's put up a couple of these: Reverend John Hagee, who has called the Catholic Church a "false cult," and Reverend Rod Parsley, who has attacked Islam and said that Allah was a "demon spirit." Do you think it's fair, Bill, to compare McCain's, quote, "ministers" to Obama's pastor?
KRISTOL: No, because these are just individuals who've endorsed Senator McCain. I think, actually, some of the attacks, especially on Reverend Hagee, are unfair. But leaving that aside, no. This would be like attacking Obama because random individuals in the Democratic Party have endorsed him. Obama and Wright have a close relationship. Obama chose, not just to join Reverend Wright's church, but to stay there over 20 years. And that's what hurts him.
Talk about intellectual honesty--or the lack thereof. Kristol is right (to a degree) that the Obama case and the McCain case are different. Obama had a long and personal relationship with Wright (which, depending on your view, might make the matter better or worse). But McCain, out of political expedience, made common cause with Hagee (a well-known anti-Catholic, who called Catholicism the "great whore" and a "false cult system") and with Parsley, who has called for western Christian nations, in particular the United States, to destroy (literally) the "false religion" of Islam. McCain sought and accepted the endorsement of each of these fundamentalist pastors. He campaigned with Parsley before the Ohio primary and called him a "spiritual guide."
In Barack Obama's latest email pitch for donations, his campaign manager, David Plouffe, writes:
Senator Clinton and Senator McCain are reading from the same political playbook as they attack Barack on foreign policy.
They have both criticized Barack's commitment to act against top al Qaeda terrorists if others can't or won't act.
And they have both dismissed his call for renewed diplomacy as naïve while mistakenly standing behind George Bush's policy of non-engagement that just isn't working....
Barack is facing a two-front battle against Senator Clinton and Senator McCain.
Plouffe is trying to hit Clinton (and McCain) from both the left and the right (or the dovish and hawkish sides) simultaneously. But he stepped over the line regarding the former.
On the first point, Plouffe is referring to the criticism Obama drew when he suggested he would, as president, strike unilaterally against al Qaeda in Pakistan if he possessed solid intelligence and if the Pakistani government did not act. With this claim, he was obviously trying to show that he could be damn tough--even cowboy tough--when it comes to the fight against Islamic terrorists. Critics blasted him for recklessness, but it turns out that the Bush administration has mounted these sorts of attacks to take out al Qaeda leaders.
On the second point--that Clinton has "mistakenly" stood behind Bush's "policy of non-engagement"--Plouffe is stretching the facts. Clinton did jump on Obama when Obama vowed at the CNN/YouTube debate that he would meet with the thug-leaders of Iran, North Korea, and Cuba in his first year as president. But as Clinton has repeatedly said, refusing to promise meetings with these leaders in the first year of a presidency is hardly equivalent to a policy of non-engagement. She has repeatedly slammed Bush's unilateralism and called for a vigorous revival of American diplomacy and multilateralism.
Plouffe wants to lump Clinton and McCain together to show that Obama is the candidate of change taking on two candidates of Washington conventionalism. Obama does have a case in this regard. (Both Clinton and McCain share responsibility for the Iraq war.) But this argument does not extend to Clinton endorsing Bush go-it-alone-ism. Given that the Obama campaign often complains (justifiably) about the Clinton camp's truth-twisting oppo research, Plouffe ought to be more careful.
It's been over a week since this site broke the news that John McCain campaigned with (and accepted the endorsement of) a televangelist who has called for eradicating Islam, and McCain has not publicly renounced, rejected, denounced or disavowed the Reverend Rod Parsley, who is an important player in Ohio politics. McCain's campaign did tell Fox News that McCain does not agree with all of Parsley's views. But that's not much of a response to Parsley's call for a holy war to destroy the "false religion" of Islam. One could argue that Jeremiah Wright never went that far—and look what Barack Obama had to go through (justifiably).
McCain's campaign press office refuses to respond to a request for comment on this. He is trying to duck and cover. Not much courage there.