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.
Yesterday I posted tough questions that a dozen national security experts would like to pose to General David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, when he testifies before Congress next week. And two retired generals have additional queries to add to the list. Here they are:
Retired General William Odom, former National Security Agency director:
-- What historical example is there for rebuilding a collapsed state from the bottom up except by civil war in which a single leader wins?
-- Why is Iraq not on the road to Balkanization? Fragmentation?
-- What historical example is there of the U.S. military building an army for a government whose leaders have neither the power to rule nor the capacity to bring warring factions under their control?
-- Do you propose to string out the surge although the Army simply does not have forces to continue?
-- Why did the Iraqi forces you trained a few years ago fail to emerge as an effective fighting force that survives and serves as the core of the Iraqi army today? If you succeeded, then why do we have this problem with standing up an effective Iraqi Army?
It's time for what's become a semiannual ritual: General David Petraeus comes to Capitol Hill. Last September, the top military commander in Iraq testified before several House and Senate committees in what was widely depicted as a make-or-break moment for the Bush administration and its war in Iraq. Wielding charts and graphs, Petraeus, who was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, claimed that the so-called surge of U.S. troops in Iraq was working and that "it is possible to achieve our objectives in Iraq over time." Such an outcome, he added, "will require a long-term effort." The questions he received from the legislators were mostly softballs. (Neither senators Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama were impressive when questioning Petraeus.) But when Republican Senator John Warner asked Petraeus if the Iraq War "makes America safer," the general replied, "I don't know, actually. I have not sat down and sorted [it] out in my own mind." War critics zeroed in on that comment, yet Petraeus' performance was generally deemed a success, in that it appeared to have created political space (in the United States) for the war—six month's of space, at least. Petraeus told Congress that a decision on reducing the level of troops should be put off until March 2008 and that in half a year he would report back to Congress.
John McCain's new ad is titled, "Character Forged By Family." Here's a piece of the narration:
The family he was born into, and the family he is blessed with now, made John McCain the man he is, and instilled in him a deep and abiding respect for the social institution that wields the greatest influence in the formation of our individual character and the character of our society.
The ol' family values schtick—and McCain's family values—happen to incorporate military values. But for more on McCain and family values, let's turn to a 1999 Arizona Republic profile of McCain (which does not appear to be available on-line):
He prides himself on his personal integrity yet admits he wasn't faithful to his first wife, Carol, who was injured in a horrific car accident while McCain was in Vietnam....
McCain needed a divorce from his wife of 14 years, Carol, who had been badly injured in a car accident while McCain languished in Hanoi.
The marriage had been strained by his years of absence, along with McCain's admitted affairs after returning from Vietnam.
In February 1980, less than a year after he met Cindy, McCain petitioned a Florida court to dissolve his marriage to Carol, calling the union "irretrievably broken." Bud Day, a lawyer and fellow POW, handled the case.
"I thought things were going fairly well, and then it just came apart," Day recalls. "That happened to quite a few....I don't fault (Carol), and I don't really fault John, either."
McCain's entitled to use his life's story as part of his campaign narrative. But if his campaign is going to play the family card, there's more than, as the ad references, "honor, courage, duty, perseverance and leadership" in the story of John McCain, family man.
On Monday morning, Senator Amy Klobuchar endorsed Barack Obama--and joined Senator Claire McCaskill as another prominent female senator from a purple state backing Obama. During a conference call with reporters, Klobuchar noted that she expected the fierce Democratic nomination contest to continue "through the primaries." But what about after that? In an interview on Saturday, Hillary Clinton vowed she would stay in the contest past the primaries--which end in early June--until the convention, which opens at the end of August. Would Klobuchar echo the call of other fretting Democrats that the race should somehow be decided soon after the primaries conclude?
Clinton, she said, "has every right to continue her campaign." But, Klobuchar added that she had "faith our candidates will figure it out" and that the contest "will come to an end in the early summer." Our candidates, she remarked, "will do the right thing."
Perhaps. But Clinton is only digging in her heels, and there's no official mechanism through which the Democrats could declare the race over prior to the late-summer convention. Faith--and hope--may not be enough to settle the matter in June.
The American president Americans have been waiting for!
That's the tag line on John McCain's new ad, which features a film clip of McCain as a captured POW and a baritone-voice narrator asking, "What must a president believe about us, about America?" He kindly provides the answer: "That she is worth protecting." Could the implication be that Barack Obama is not quite American and that he is not interested in protecting our country, which the ad describes with the feminine pronoun. In other words, the half-black dude with a funny name--who might be a secret Muslim--can't protect her. Has Lee Atwater been resurrected? This smacks of the George H.W. Bush smear-tossing campaign against Michael Dukakis in 1988--but also of Hillary Clinton's claims that Obama is not yet ready to be commander in chief.
By the way, when has America not had an "American president"?
If the Republican campaign is this vulgar and creepy seven months ahead of the election, expect much worse in the fall.