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.
On Sunday, Karl Rove gave students of spin a prime example of a non-denial denial. He was a guest on ABC News' This Week and after discussing the presidential campaign, he was asked by host George Stephanopoulos about the Don Siegelman controversy. Siegelman is the former Democratic Alabama governor who was convicted and imprisoned for corruption and who charges that the Justice Department prosecution against him was part of a secret campaign mounted by Rove and other Republicans. Last week, the House judiciary committee subpoenaed Rove in connection with the Siegelman case and the firings of U.S. attorneys.
One has to wonder if Siegelman has been trying to save himself by pinning his case to the U.S. attorneys scandal, but the way Rove answered (that is, did not answer) a question from Stephanopoulos about the Siegelman affair was quite suspicious. Look at the entire exchange:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: As we know and our viewers probably know you were subpoenaed this week by the House Judiciary Committee to give testimony on any involvement you may have had with the prosecution of the former Alabama governor, Don Siegelman. He's claiming there was selective prosecution. He's out on bail now even though he was convicted. He said your fingerprints are all over it. Here's what the House report said.
It said, "In May 2007 a Republican attorney from Northern Alabama named Jill Simpson wrote an affidavit stating that in November 2002 she heard a prominent Alabama Republican operative named Bill Canary say that Karl Rove had contacted the Justice Department about bringing a prosecution of Don Siegelman. The question for Mr. Rove is whether he directly or indirectly discussed the possibility of prosecuting Don Siegelman with either the Justice Department or Alabama Republicans."
KARL ROVE: Let me say three things, first of all, I think it's interesting -- everybody who was supposedly on that telephone call that Miss Simpson talks about says the call never took place. I'd say...
Once John McCain had resolved on Thursday to repudiate fundamentalist preacher John Hagee (who had called the Catholic Church "the great whore" and who had said Hitler was doing God's work during the Holocaust), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee went on a roll, and in the same news cycle he also rejected the endorsement of Reverend Rod Parsley, the megachurch pastor who had said it was the United States' historic mission to see the "false religion" of Islam "destroyed."
After issuing a statement dumping Hagee, McCain told the Associated Press that he also was now refusing Parsley's support: "I believe there is no place for that kind of dialogue in America, and I believe that even though he endorsed me, and I didn't endorse him, the fact is that I repudiate such talk, and I reject his endorsement." McCain and Parsley had campaigned together in February in Ohio, and at a rally McCain had hailed Parsley as "one of the truly great leaders in America, a moral compass, a spiritual guide."
Two weeks after that rally, on March 12, Mother Jones first reported that Parsley in a 2005 book, Silent No More, had essentially called upon Christians to wage a "war" against Islam with the aim of eradicating it. For that article and subsequent pieces, I called the McCain campaign for comment multiple times to ask if the Arizona senator would repudiate Parsley, who is a powerful political player in the critical state of Ohio. McCain's press office ducked each call.
John McCain today finally denounced and rejected the endorsement of fundamentalist Pastor John Hagee. It wasn't Hagee's comments on the Catholic Church "the great whore") or gays (God sent Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans as punishment for a gay pride parade) that went too far for McCain. It was Hagee's claim on a 1990s television show that Hitler was doing "God's work" during the Holocaust by setting in motion events that forced Jews to return to Israel.
Now what about Rod Parsley? This political ally of McCain has decried Islam as a "false religion" and says it's the historic mission of the United States to eradicate Islam. McCain has yet to reject the endorsement from Parsley, with whom he campaigned in February. It's tough to figure out McCain's moral universe. Attributing Hitler's mass-murder of Jews to God--that's a no-no. Calling for the destruction of an entire religion? So far, that's no reason for McCain to reject an endorsement.
UPDATE: After McCain rejected Hagee's endorsement, Hagee withdrew his endorsement of McCain. In other words, you can't fire me, I quit.
BTW, McCain is also finally releasing his medical records--after postponing doing so for a year. But he's making these records available for only three hours on a Friday before a holiday weekend--to guarantee less media coverage--and his campaign has sort of bannedNew York Times reporter Lawrence Altman, one of the leading medical reporters in journalism, from reviewing the records. Only a handful of media outfits selected by the campaign will be permitted to send reporters to a conference room in Phoenix to examine the records. And the Times was not chosen. None of the reporters will be allowed to make any copies of the records.
I'm glad that Good Morning America covered the connection between John McCain and Rod Parsley, the Ohio megachurch pastor who has said it is the United States' historic mission to see the "false religion" of Islam "destroyed."
But did ABC News' top investigative reporter, Brian Ross, have to swipe the story from us?
In the lead-in to piece, Diane Sawyer calls it an "exclusive Brian Ross investigation." Exclusive? How so? On March 12, Mother Jonesfirst reported that Parsley, whom McCain had recently campaigned with and hailed as "a spiritual guide," had written a book in 2005, Silent No More, in which he essentially called for the eradication of Islam and branded the entire faith as a satanic conspiracy. The article noted that McCain had accepted Parsley's endorsement and explained that Parsley is a key political player in Ohio, where he has registered and driven to the polls tens of thousands of social conservative voters. Many websites and blogs linked to the article.
Following up on this piece, two weeks ago, Mother Jones and Brave New Films released a video which showed Parsley railing against Islam "as an anti-Christ religion that intends, through violence, to conquer the world" and basically calling for its destruction. The video juxtaposed Parsley's extreme anti-Islam rhetoric with video of McCain hailing Parsley at a February 26, 2006 campaign rally (the same rally featured in Ross' report). The footage of an excitable Parsley came from the DVD companion to his Silent No More book that is still sold by his World Harvest Church. It took me about six weeks to obtain the version of this DVD set that included Parsley's extreme anti-Islam remarks. One version of the DVD collection does not contain the disc covering Islam, and his church's store (which does not ship by first class or any overnight delivery service) was very, very slow in sending out the full collection that did.
Even though Hillary Clinton is campaigning onward, a key question for her is how gracious a loser she can be. How she handles what seems to be her pending defeat could affect Barack Obama's prospects in the fall and her own future political career, especially if Obama is defeated by John McCain in the fall. Regarding the former, much media attention has been showered on the possibility that many Clinton voters are so mad-as-hell that they won't vote for Obama in November. On Monday, The Washington Postfront-paged a piece on PO'ed women who support Clinton and suggested that some of these voters will choose John McCain rather than vote for the guy who dashed Clinton's glass-ceiling-breaking dreams.
For Clinton, a test will be what she does to mitigate the anger of her followers and lead them into Obama-land. Right now, she appears to be putting off this challenge until after the primaries end of June 3. Which is fine. But her campaign does seems content until then to flame her voters' sense of being aggrieved.