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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A Top Clinton Aide Fights a Blast from the Past

| Fri Mar. 14, 2008 2:59 PM EDT

Jamie Rubin called me a few days ago, and he was upset. A top foreign policy aide in the Hillary Clinton campaign and a past assistant secretary of state for public affairs, Rubin believed he had been slimed by the Obama campaign, and he suggested I had been an unwitting party to the sliming.

Here's what happened. Days earlier, the Clinton campaign had held a conference call to blast away at remarks recently made by Samantha Power regarding Senator Barack Obama's Iraq policy. That morning, Power, a talented journalist, academic, and human rights advocate, had resigned as a foreign policy adviser to Obama after a newspaper reported she had called Hillary Clinton a "monster." And during this conference call, Clinton's senior foreign policy aides insisted that Power's comments about Obama and Iraq suggested that Obama was not truly committed to withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. During that call, Rubin, as I wrote afterward, "derided Power as Obama's foreign policy 'Svengali or guru' and claimed her remarks about Iraq were proof that Obama cannot create an efficient and effective foreign policy team, calling the episode 'amateur hour' for the Obama campaign."

Rubin and the Clintonites' interpretation of Power's statements about Obama and Iraq was debatable, and their assault on Power struck some (read: me) as overkill and ugly.

Shortly after that conference call, the Obama campaign circulated a Washington Post clip to reporters that made it seem as if Rubin himself had his own "amateur hour" moment in 2004, when he was working for John Kerry's presidential campaign. The newspaper reported that Rubin had apologized for having misrepresented Kerry's position on Iraq by stating that Kerry would have probably launched a war against Saddam Hussein had Kerry been president in the preceding four years. (The George W. Bush campaign was enthusiastically using Rubin's statement to claim there was not much difference between the two candidates on Iraq.) The Post published a statement from Rubin: "To the extent that my own comments have contributed to misunderstanding on this issue...I never should have said the phrase 'in all probability' because that's not Kerry's position and he's never said it. That was my mistake."

A-ha! the Obama campaign was saying: Rubin's now slamming Power for an action similar to one he committed in 2004. In an article on the get-Power conference call, I reprinted a portion of this Post story.

After reading my piece, Rubin was livid at the Obama gang. Why? Because the Post story was false. Or sort of. At least enough so that it was, in Rubin's view, not fair for the Obama camp to be disseminating it.

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Day Three: No Straight Talk from McCain on Parsley's Call for Destroying Islam

| Fri Mar. 14, 2008 10:14 AM EDT

mccain-rod-parsley250x200.jpg No call back from the McCain camp yet.

For the third day in a row, I've called Jill Hazelbaker, the communications director for the McCain campaign, seeking a comment on televangelist Rod Parsley's call for destroying Islam. McCain, as I reported on Wednesday, has campaigned with this politically influential megachurch pastor, has accepted his endorsement, and has praised him as a "spiritual guide." And I've been told--once again--she is unavailable.

McCain and his campaign will not say anything about Parsley's advocacy of a Christian war against Islam that seeks to eradicate what Parsley dubs a "false religion."

Where's the straight talk now?

Obama and Rezko: Any There There?

| Tue Mar. 11, 2008 11:00 AM EDT

rezko.jpg In emails, on conference calls with reporters, on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton and her aides have repeatedly raised the issue of Barack Obama's relationship with Tony Rezko, a developer now on trial on corruption charges. Clinton aides have said over and over that there are "unanswered questions" about this relationship and have encouraged reporters to dig, dig, dig (even though several reporters have already done so). Clinton referred to Rezko during the debates. Though Obama has been accused of no wrongdoing in the Rezko affair, he did--as he has acknowledged--screw up by getting into a personal real estate transaction with Rezko when the developer was under federal investigation.

For anyone wondering if there is any there there to the Rezko matter (as it concerns Obama), the Associated Press has put together a handy primer on Obama and Rezko. A few Q & As from the piece:

Q: What is his relationship to Obama?
A: He's been friendly with Obama for years, even offering him a job after Obama finished law school. Obama turned down the offer, but a political friendship developed. Rezko and his family donated at least $21,457 to Obama - and helped raise tens of thousands more -- for his campaigns in Illinois, though not for his presidential bid. He also advised Obama on the purchase of a new Chicago home and, in his wife's name, purchased a vacant lot next to the new Obama home at the same time....

An Ugly Moment for the Clinton Campaign

| Mon Mar. 10, 2008 9:45 AM EDT

On Friday afternoon, the Clinton campaign took the unusual step of convening a second conference call of the day for reporters. And it was a sorry spectacle.

The call was prompted by the report that Samantha Power, who that morning had resigned as a foreign policy aide to Barack Obama after a news story noted she had called Hillary Clinton a "monster," had told the BBC, during an interview, that Obama's withdrawal plan for Iraq was a "best-case scenario." In that interview, she said, Obama "will, of course, not rely on some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator."

On the conference call, the Clintonites pounced on these comments. Retired General Wesley Clark said he found Power's remarks about Obama's Iraq policy "quite disturbing." Jamie Rubin, a Clinton foreign policy aide, derided Power as Obama's foreign policy "Svenagli or guru" and claimed her remarks about Iraq were proof that Obama cannot create an efficient and effective foreign policy team, calling the episode "amateur hour" for the Obama campaign. He claimed Power's comments showed that Obama's private position was different than his public posture on Iraq. Howard Wolfson, the campaign's communications direction, insisted that Power's statements meant that Obama's vow to withdraw troops from Iraq was nothing but a political promise. Also on the call for the Clinton campaign was Lee Feinstein, another foreign policy adviser to Clinton, and Representative Jim McGovern, a Massachussetts liberal and leading member of of the Out of Iraq caucus in the House.

This was overkill. During the BBC interview, Power had said that Obama, in removing troops from Iraq, "will rely upon a plan—an operational plan—that he pulls together in consultation with people who are on the ground to whom he doesn't have daily access now, as a result of not being the president. So to think—it would be the height of ideology to sort of say, 'Well, I said it, therefore I'm going to impose it on whatever reality greets me.'" In other words, a campaign proposal is just that: a proposal. And only a fool would think that a military plan would be applied to reality unchanged a year after it was first devised.

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