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.
That's the question I've tried to get the Mike Huckabee campaign to answer.
The surging social conservative who once was a Baptist preacher, as AP reports, is refusing to discuss theology and the "intricate, nit-picky things of church doctrine"--even though he recently attributed his success in the polls to divine intervention. For instance, he has declined in recent days to talk about his view of creationism (at an early debate he indicated he supports it) or to say whether he believes women should be permitted to serve in pastoral leadership roles (a controversial matter within some fundamentalist circles).
But what about angels? As I've noted previously and elsewhere, Huckabee gave a rather intriguing speech at the NRA in September, during which he deftly merged his heartfelt evangelical beliefs with his deep passion for gun rights and hunting. He recalled the time he was in an antelope hunting contest in Wyoming. After several hours of stalking prey on a miserably cold, windy and snowy day, Huckabee had his chance. An antelope was 250 yards away, but right at the edge of his range as a shooter. Then a miracle happened:
I decided that one way or the other, this hunt is about to be over, because I can't stand any more of this cold. And somehow, by the grace of God, when I squeezed the trigger, my Weatherby .300 Mag, which has got to be the greatest gun, I think, ever made in the form of a rifle -- for my sake in hunting, I've never squeezed the trigger and not gotten something -- did its work, and somehow the angels took that bullet and went right to the antelope, and my hunt was over in a wonderful way.
Thanks to those angels, that elk was dead.
After hearing that speech, I sent an email to the press office of the Huckabee campaign asking if the former Arkansas governor does "believe that angels literally intervene in the affairs of human beings and that such intervention includes hunting events." I received no reply. I tried again. Still silence.
Huckabee is delighted to let people know he's a firm believer in God. He's well aware that helps him with Republican primary voters, especially in Iowa. But he doesn't want to answer questions about his beliefs. That's trying to have it both ways--the glory without explaining. With less than month to the Iowa caucus, can Huckabee continue to duck questions about spiritual affairs? Maybe with the help of angels.
That's an intriguing notion. Does that mean those who are not religious cannot be free? Are atheists or agnostics not truly free people? Is belief in a deity a prerequisite for embracing and living in freedom? Seems as if Romney does not fully appreciate an idea he pushed in his speech: tolerance.
Elsewhere in the speech, there was a line that took a fair bit of chutzpah to utter:
Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world.
Romney was, of course, talking about spiritual beliefs. He wasn't talking about his beliefs regarding abortion, gay rights, stem cell research, or gun control--beliefs he has jettisoned for the 2008 campaign. During the address, Romney remarked, "Americans do not respect believers of convenience." The coming election might put that proposition to the test.
Don't ask me why, but I'm on the email list of several extreme Christian fundamentalist groups. And lately I've received a couple of warnings from them: watch out for Mitt Romney. He's a Mormon.
On Thursday, Romney is scheduled to give (finally) what's being called his "Mormon Speech." Romney recently said, "I can tell you I'm not going to be talking so much about my faith as I am talking about the religious heritage of our country and the role in which it played in the founding of the nation and the role which I think religion should generally play today in our society."
No one really wants to hear Romney expound on the history of religion in the United States. The issue is whether he can persuade conservative conventional Christians that he, as a Mormon, is as good a Christian as they (and Mike Huckabee) are. Why is he delivering such a speech just weeks before the Iowa caucus? Obviously he and his advisers have decided he has no choice, especially with Huckabee, the former Baptist minister, surging in the polls in the Hawkeye State.
There are Christians who consider Mormonism a heretical cult, but there's no telling if the fundamentalists who are gunning for Romney will have any influence on GOP Iowa caucus-goers, a relatively small slice of Iowans dominated by social conservatives.
One outfit called Godvoters.org has put out an email decrying Romney.
At a news conference on October 17, President George W. Bush dropped a rhetorical bomb: "I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
Now that bomb has turned into a rotten egg, for the U.S. intelligence community yesterday released a National Intelligence Estimate that concludes that Iran halted a secret nuclear weapons program in 2003, that Tehran is "less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005," and that Iran probably could not produce enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon until the 2010-2015 timeframe. That is, it seems there is no immediate reason to fret about Iran going nuclear and triggering World War III. This NIE may well make it impossible for hawks in and outside the administration to pull the trigger on any military action against Iran.
At a press conference this morning, Bush, looking comfortable, tried to deal with this new reality. He repeated a mantra: Iran was dangerous before the new NIE, and it's dangerous now. Nothing has changed, he insisted. He said over and over that if Iran transferred knowledge it has about enriching uranium to a "hidden" nuclear weapons program, that would pose a danger to the rest of the world. If. He was pressed by White House reporters asking whether his credibility--whatever existed of it following the Iraq WMD fiasco--was tarnished by the NIE? Of course, he refused to concede any such thing.
The issue is not just that his saber-rattling was not in sync with the intelligence but that Bush did not take care to vet his hyperbole before displaying it in public. At the press conference today, NBC News' David Gregory referred to Bush's World War III comment, noted that the Iranian program had apparently long been suspended before Bush uttered that remark, and asked Bush, "Can't you be accused of hyping this threat."
Bush replied by noting he had only been made aware of the NIE last week. But Bush went on to explain that intelligence czar Mike McConnell had told him in August that the intelligence community had developed "new information" on Iran. (This was obviously intelligence indicating that Iran was not operating an active nuclear weapons program.) McConnell, though, didn't tell Bush what this "new information" was. According to Bush, McConnell said it would take time to analyze the data.
Is the Bush administration preventing Congress from further investigating Rove's role in the Valerie Plame leak case and doing the same regarding the White House?
The answers: Yes, and it seems so.
Let's start with the first question. On November 21, Charlie Rose conducted an interview with Rove during which Rove claimed disingenuously that congressional Democrats in 2002, not the Bush White House, pushed for a pre-election vote on a resolution authorizing George W. Bush to attack Iraq. This comment kicked up a controversy. But in one portion of the Rose interview cut out of the TV-edit that appeared, Rove tossed out another whopper. This excerpt was posted by the Charlie Rose show on YouTube, and it covers questions Rose posed to Rove regarding former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's recent hullabaloo-causing statement about a key episode in the CIA leak case. If you just awoke from a coma, McClellan said,
I...publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. There was one problem. It was not true. I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration "were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the president himself.
Rove claimed to Rose that McClellan had emailed him a few notes maintaining that these few sentences had been misinterpreted. Rove added that he would not have anything else to say on this until a "more full disclosure" appears in McClellan's book, which is scheduled to be published next spring. But Rove went on to insist that he had not misled McClellan, and he claimed total innocence:
I did not knowingly disclose the identity or name of a CIA agent.
Wait a minute. Let's look at an email (first disclosed by Michael Isikoff of Newsweek) that Matt Cooper, then a Time correspondent, sent to his editors on July 11, 2003--three days before the name and CIA employment of Valerie Plame Wilson was first disclosed in a column by Robert Novak.