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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McCain: More of Nothing on the Financial Crisis

| Thu Mar. 27, 2008 11:05 AM EDT

Should we start counting the days before John McCain has anything real to say about the current financial crises? In a speech on Tuesday, he offered not a single concrete proposal. Today, as Barack Obama was delivering a speech on the financial crisis, McCain issued the following statement:

On Tuesday, I addressed the housing crisis and its devastating impact on our financial markets and the household budgets of millions of hardworking Americans. The fact is that there are about 4 million homeowners in danger of losing their homes. We have a responsibility to take action to help those among them who are deserving homeowners, and as I said this week, I am committed to considering any and all proposals to do so. Any action must further look to the future to make certain this never happens again.
As I said on Tuesday, I believe the role of government is to help the truly needy, prevent systemic economic risk, and enact reforms that prevent the kind of crisis we are currently experiencing from ever happening again. Those reforms should focus on improving transparency and accountability in our capital markets -- both of which were lacking in the lead-up to the current situation.
However, what is not necessary is a multi-billion dollar bailout for big banks and speculators, as Senators Clinton and Obama have proposed. There is a tendency for liberals to seek big government programs that sock it to American taxpayers while failing to solve the very real problems we face.
This is a complex problem that deserves a careful, balanced approach that helps the homeowners in trouble, not big banks and speculators that acted irresponsibly. I again call on our lending institutions, where possible, to step up and help Americans who are hurting in this crisis.

Again, not one specific proactive idea. McCain is quick with the usual anti-Democratic rhetoric. And he has a populist point about no bailouts for irresponsible corporate actors rings. But does he intend to spend the next seven months campaigning as Mr. No? McCain notes that he is willing to consider proposals placed before him. He's apparently not interested in coming up with any of his own. Is that a model of economic leadership that will play well in the fall?

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Can the Bush Administration Run a War? (You Know the Answer)

| Thu Mar. 27, 2008 9:42 AM EDT

Can the Bush administration run a war?

That is, of course, a rhetorical question. But if you needed any additional proof of the obvious answer, The New York Times provides it in a fine example of front-page investigative reporting that shows how a fledgling firm run by a 22-year old and by a licensed masseur has been the American military's lead supplier of arms--and shoddy and ineffective arms, at that--to the Afghan army. It's a tale of incompetence and absurdity. Due to the Times' probing, the company has been suspended by the military. But the real question is, will anyone in the military lose their job because of this massive foul-up? From Iraq to Walter Reed to this, Bush's adventures overseas have revealed how screwed up the military can be. That ain't a surprise. But heads ought to roll. Paging Congressman Waxman.

Update: That didn't take long. Waxman's House Oversight Committee has called the company's top brass, plus officials from State and Defense, to come testify.

McCain's Free Ride (in the MSM) on Rod Parsley

| Wed Mar. 26, 2008 3:20 PM EDT

John McCain has still not had to deal with his Rod Parsley problem. One reason he's been able to avoid controversy about his campaign connection to a megachurch pastor who has called for the eradication of the "false religion" of Islam is that major media outlets have not covered this story.

Media Matters, a liberal news-watching outfit, reports that a March 25 search of the Nexis database shows that

The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, NBC, ABC, and The Wall Street Journal have not reported on Parsley or noted his comments in the context of McCain's campaign. A March 17 USA Today article reported only that Parsley was "accused of urging war on Muslims."

MM adds, "The media have devoted extensive coverage to Obama's supporters, but have failed to report the controversial comments of supporters of McCain." And McCain's campaign press office refuses to take my calls regarding Parsley. On this matter, the Not-So-Straight Talk Express has so far gotten a free ride.

Clinton: Sleeping with the Enemy To Mess Up Obama's Bed?

| Wed Mar. 26, 2008 11:26 AM EDT

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 Spectator article 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?

McCain on the Housing Crisis: Quick, Do Nothing!

| Tue Mar. 25, 2008 5:47 PM EDT

mccain_closeup_250x200.jpg 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."

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