David Corn

David Corn

Washington Bureau Chief

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.

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Bush's Newest Secret: Who's Funding His Library?

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 12:38 PM EST

southern-methodist-university250x200.jpg

At a White House press conference on Thursday morning, George W. Bush was a bit too cute when it came to an important matter: the funding of his presidential library.

News reports have noted that the library, to be set up at Southern Methodist University, will cost more than $200 million. The question is, who will pay for it? The tabs for presidential libraries are not covered by the taxpayers. They are picked up by nonprofit foundations, and these foundations have no obligation to disclose their sources of money. Bill Clinton has refused to say who is funding his library through the William J. Clinton Foundation, though the Washington Post reported that the royal family of Saudi Arabia contributed $10 million to the Little Rock facility.

It is troubling when the spouse of a presidential candidate receives millions of dollars secretly from one or more overseas sources. But what's more problematic is the prospect of a sitting president obtaining foreign cash for a pet project and not disclosing it. (The Saudis reportedly also gave the presidential library of the first President Bush millions of dollars. After being generous to George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, it's unlikely they will stiff the younger Bush)

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Civil Rights Hero Makes It Official: I'm Dumping Clinton for Obama

| Wed Feb. 27, 2008 5:06 PM EST

Two weeks ago I identified a possible tipping point for Barack Obama: Representative John Lewis's statement that he probably would vote for Obama as a superdelegate at the Democratic convention.

Now the civil rights hero has made it official by actually endorsing Obama.

Lewis has a lot of cred among House Democrats, among African American Democrats, among superdelegates. His move is an indicator that Clinton, who has a lead in committed superdelegates at this point, may not be able to count on that support. Lewis's announcement--even though it's not so newsy given his previous statement--is rather bad news for the Clinton camp.

Obama and Clinton Debate in Cleveland: No Pain, No Gain

| Wed Feb. 27, 2008 1:40 AM EST

If the political winds in Ohio and Texas are blowing in Barack Obama's favor—and polls in each state show Obama gaining strength—Hillary Clinton did little during Tuesday night's debate in Cleveland to change the weather.

With a week to go before primaries in those important states, this debate was much a repeat of last Thursday's face-off. The two remaining Democratic candidates once again got hot and bothered over the issue of health care insurance mandates. But neither had anything new to say. The Clinton campaign has been pounding Obama for weeks on this front, but the wonky issue has not provided her any traction. And after 16 minutes of grueling back and forth—much of which was devoted to each candidate insisting that unnamed experts had pronounced his or her plan the best—Clinton did not achieve any breakthrough. She claimed the difference between their two health care proposals—she's for a comprehensive mandate that would force all Americans to purchase health insurance; he's for a limited mandate covering insurance for kids—is the defining issue of the Democratic presidential contest. His response: not really. He minimized the gap between their plans. And it's hard for a candidate to have a battle royale with a foe who deftly maintains, we ain't got that big of a dispute here, let's move on. By now it should be clear: mandates are not going to save Hillary Clinton.

The other big squabble of the night came right after the mandates mudwrestle, and it focused on NAFTA, which has emerged as an issue in the past week, with Clinton and Obama competing for blue-collar Democratic voters in Ohio. As part of this tussle, Clinton has in recent days complained that Obama has unfairly tarred her as a flip-flopper on NAFTA. (Her current position: the trade accord is flawed, needs to be renegotiated, and there should be a time-out in negotiating similar treaties.) At the debate, she declared that she's been a critic of NAFTA "from the very beginning." Obama called her out on this—and simultaneously, his campaign sent reporters a link to a YouTube video in which she praises NAFTA. (Obama's campaign website conveniently features a list of Clinton's pro-NAFTA remarks over the years.)

In Letter to Spy Chief, Four National Security Vets Suggest Bush is Fearmongering

| Tue Feb. 26, 2008 4:56 PM EST

Can it be that the evildoers are closer to harming the United States because House Democrats won't roll over for President Bush and pass a bill that awards legal immunity to telecom firms that participated in what might have been illegal surveillance requested by the Bush administration? That's what George W. Bush and his aides have claimed. But four former top national security officials yesterday sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell that challenges that melodramatic--and fearmongering--interpretation. The letter--written by Rand Beers, former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council; Richard Clarke, former head of counterterrorism at the NSC; retired Lt. General Don Kerrick, former deputy national security adviser; and Suzanne Spaulding, former assistant general counsel at the CIA--is a good retort to the Bush White House. Here are the key parts:

The sunset of the Protect America Act (PAA) does not put America at greater risk. Despite claims that have been made, surveillance currently occurring under the PAA is authorized for up to a year. New surveillance requests can be filed through current [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] law. As you have stated, "Unlike last summer, there is no backlog of cases to slow down getting surveillance approvals from the FISA court. We're caught up to all of it now." As court orders are received, telecom companies are required to comply. Also, existing NSA authority allows surveillance to be conducted abroad on any known or suspected terrorist without a warrant. It is unclear to us that the immunity debate will affect our surveillance capabilities.

Another Dem Debate Tonight? Another Chance to Go Round and Round on Health Care Mandates

| Tue Feb. 26, 2008 11:50 AM EST

Another Democratic debate tonight? Enough already. Hillary Clinton has been pushing Barack Obama for more and more debates. But these debates have lost their utility. Do we really need to see the pair bicker once more over health care coverage mandates? That's the only major current policy difference that the two have zeroed in on in their face-offs. They argue their points around and around in a circle like quarrelers in a bad marriage. And they're kinda both right.

If you want to achieve universal coverage at the most efficient price point, then you need as big a pool as possible. That's basic economics. So Hillary Clinton correctly notes that mandates are needed--especially to get into this pool those folks who may not need costly health care. Their premiums will help cover the cost of care for others. That's how insurance works: the more, the merrier.

But Obama has a point when he says that it would not be fair to force people to buy insurance they cannot afford and that may not meet their needs. I recently met someone from Massachusetts--where there now is a health insurance mandate--who complained that she and her husband could not afford the insurance they are mandated to purchase. And, she added, they make just enough money to be beyond qualifying for a subsidy. This couple is considering moving out of the state. Maybe they're over-reacting to the situation. But no one should be compelled to purchase substandard but costly coverage. Consequently, it seems fair to say, "Let's see the policy, before we accept the mandate." No doubt about it, Obama got somewhat trapped in all this. He put out a plan with limited mandates (only for parents regarding coverage for their kids) and was then raised (as in poker) by Clinton. At that point, Obama could not admit he had proposed an insufficient plan. He was forced into a corner--defending the absence of a comprehensive mandate in his plan--and this debate was born.

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