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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Selling His Foreign Policy Experience, Thompson Mispronounces Musharraf

| Sun Dec. 30, 2007 10:24 AM EST

This Sunday morning, the Iowa presidential race hits the television talk shows. Most of the leading candidates of both parties are appearing on one of the Sunday gabfests. Fred Thompson chose Fox News Sunday. In comparing himself with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, who both lead him in the iowa polls, Thompson repeatedly cited his foreign policy experience, noting that he had served on the intelligence committee during his eight years in the U.S. Senate.

But there was one problem with this sales pitch: Thompson mispronounced the name of Pakistan's leader. He called Pervez Musharraf "MOO-SHA-rav." The right way to say his name, according the Voice of America's Pronounciation Guide, is "moo-SHURR-RUHF." If Thompson is hoping for a late surge on the basis of his purported experience in national security matters, he ought to be more careful when drawling about current foreign policy crises.

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Would the New OPEN Government Act Really Open Anything?

| Thu Dec. 20, 2007 10:44 AM EST

After the House on Tuesday passed the OPEN Government Act to bolster the Freedom of Information Act and sent the bill to George W. Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proclaimed,

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has a vital purpose: to inform American citizens about the conduct of their government. However, the Bush Administration has greatly expanded the veil of secrecy and undermined the Freedom of Information Act. The Administration's actions run counter to the values of our democracy, the public's right to know, and the ability of American citizens to hold their government accountable. The passage of the OPEN Government Act takes a first step toward strengthening FOIA and restoring transparency and accountability to our government.

FOIA has long been broken--even before Bush. It sometimes takes years--even a decade--to get a FOIA request fulfilled. And, of course, much information is often withheld. I've had the State Department respond to requests nine years after I've submitted them--and long after I had any need for the documents. And recently I asked the Department of Interior for records related to a contract covering computer services provided to Vice President Dick Cheney's office by a company run by a fellow who paid more than $1 million in bribes to Republican Representative Duke Cunningham. (Don't ask why the Interior Department was involved.) I was told the material would be withheld under one of FOIA's many elastic exemptions. So will the new legislation make any real difference?

For an answer, I turned to Steven Aftergood, who produces Secrecy News. He says:

The new legislation makes several valuable procedural changes. It will increase pressure on agencies to answer FOIA requests in weeks rather than years. It will make it easier for requesters to track FOIA requests and to win fee waivers. It will strengthen the position of those requesters who litigate denials of their requests.
On the other hand, it does not alter agencies' ability to withhold information, which is of course the heart of the process. Whatever was withheld from requesters previously can still be withheld. So even if the law is faithfully implemented, it could just mean speedier denials.

Well, at least I won't have to wait so long to be turned down.

Forget the 2008 Horse Race, What about Policy?

| Wed Dec. 19, 2007 2:00 PM EST

Okay, for a moment let's forget about attack ads, Iowa, the polls, that floating cross in Mike Huckabee's latest commercial, Hillary's wrinkles, and the question of whether Jesus and Satan are half-brothers--and let's talk presidential race policy!

The smart wonks at the New America Foundation have taken a details-drenched look at the proposals of all the Democratic and Republican presidential wannabes related to the promotion of savings and asset building. This broad category includes retirement security, affordable home ownership, children's savings accounts, the subprime mortgage crisis, bankruptcy, and more. A sample:

Joe Biden plans to incentivize savings by expanding the Saver's Credit, providing eligible families a 50% refundable tax credit for deposits up to $2,000 in certain tax-preferred savings accounts, such as 401(k) plans or Individual Retirement Accounts. A family earning less than 50,000 that deposits $4,000 into savings products eligible for the credit would receive a $2,000 matched refund from this plan.
Chris Dodd proposes to assist individuals saving for a down payment on a home with the creation of Tax-Deferred Individual Homeownership Savings Accounts. The federal government would match up to $500 each year in the accounts of low-income and working families under this plan.
John Edwards proposes the creation of "work bonds" to match household savings. Households earning up to $75,000 would receive a state-provided bond valued at $500 per year. Additionally, he proposes the "Get Ahead" tax credit to match up to $500 in savings for retirement, college education, home purchase or investment in a small business or during a financial or medical emergency.....
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