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.
I am often reluctant to give advice to members of Congress. But in this case, it was hard to resist. Here's a posting initially put up elsewhere....
In reaction to the financial crisis, here's what the Democrats who control Congress ought to do:
1. Work vigorously on the bailout proposal submitted by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson but add the populist provisions that Robert Reich and others are suggesting.
2. Point fingers.
Assigning blame ought to be a key component of the Democratic response to the current meltdown. And that ought not be hard to do. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid could set up a joint select committee to investigate the causes of the financial crisis. This committee then could start holding hearings immediately and haul before it the heads of the companies that have screwed up and imperiled the economy. This will not be a short list. Call in top officials from Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, AIG, Bear Stearns, Countrywide Financial, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac. Demand explanations from them. Explore how much money they pocketed personally while overseeing their institutions.
That's just a start. The committee should bring in experts who can explain (clearly!) how these players and others abused credit default swaps, subprime loans, mortgage-backed securities, and other hanky-panky financial products.
Republican State Senator Lyda Green, the president of the Alaska Senate, has been no fan of Governor Sarah Palin. After John McCain tapped Palin to be his running mate, Green told the Anchorage Daily News, "She's not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president? Look at what she's done to this state. What would she do to the nation?"
For two years, Green feuded with Palin over key policy matters. But in recent days, Green has become even more dismayed with the Palin pick, for she believes the McCain-Palin campaign has undermined the rule of law in the Last Frontier. She says she has watched with outrage as McCain-Palin operatives have flown into her state and interfered with the so-called Troopergate investigation--the official, approved-by-the-legislature inquiry into whether Palin dismissed her public safety commissioner because he refused to fire her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper who went through a messy divorce with Palin's sister.
Calling herself a "raging Republican," Green says, she is "absolutely disgusted, embarrassed, and ashamed" by the McCain-Palin campaign's intervention in the Troopergate probe. Over a week ago, McCain campaign aides began handling the investigation for Palin. The campaign dispatched Edward O'Callaghan, who recently had been a terrorism prosecutor in the Justice Department, to Alaska to oversee Palin's legal strategy. O'Callaghan then declared she would not cooperate with the inquiry. (Before becoming the GOP vice presidential nominee, Palin had repeatedly vowed to cooperate. At one point, she said, "I'm happy to comply, to cooperate. I have absolutely nothing to hide.") And last Thursday, O'Callaghan announced that Palin's husband, Todd, would not heed a subpoena to appear before a state legislative committee to testify about his role in Troopergate.
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 Timesarticle 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.
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 Timesreported 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.
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: