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 what Steven Van Zandt--a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, the actor who played Silvio Dante in The Sopranos, and the host of the syndicated radio show, Little Steven's Underground Garage--told me on Monday after a press conference in which he teamed up with the National Association for Music Education to promote music in primary education. At the event, Van Zandt announced his Rock and Roll Forever Foundation is creating a music appreciation curriculum for middle and high schools that will cover the history of rock and roll.
Van Zandt is no fan of the Bush administration. He has long identified with progressive causes. His 1984 album, Voice of America was loaded with rough anti-Reagan sentiment. In 1985, he pulled together dozen of top recording artists--Bob Dylan, U2, Run DMC, Springsteen--for the antiapartheid anthem, "Sun City." And in 2004, Van Zandt (with Springsteen and the rest of the band) was part of the Vote for Change tour that hit swing states to encourage people to, well, vote for change--that is, to vote against George W. Bush.
But now Van Zandt is pushing an issue that he says "transcends politics." At the press event, he was joined by John Mahlmann, the executive director of the National Association for Music Education, who noted that student access to music education has dropped about 20 percent in recent years--thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act. Mahlmann also said that students' "contact time" with music and all the arts has fallen 40 percent. The No Child Left Behind law, Mahlmann claimed, has caused schools to obsess over testing for math and reading and that "pushes out other areas of the curriculum."
What a day for Rudy Giuliani. After Mitt Romney was recently endorsed by Paul Weyrich, a founding father of the religious right (and the Heritage Foundation) and John McCain got the thumbs up from Senator Sam Brownback, a social conservative champion, Giuliani nabbed one of the biggest fish in the Christian right ocean: Pat Robertson. And unlike Brownback or Weyrich, Robertson has a television network.
By accepting Robertson's big wet kiss, Giuliani is excusing (or tolerating) Robertson's long record of religious bigotry. As I wrote back in 2000 when Robertson endorsed George W. Bush, Robertson once
said Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists represent "the spirit of the Antichrist." He also maintained that "liberal Jews" were mounting "an ongoing attempt to undermine the public strength of Christianity." He has repeatedly called Hinduism "devil worship."
Media Matters also has kept track of Robertson's rhetoric of bigotry.
But there's something else about Robertson: He is nutty. I'm not merely referring to his belief that God sent a hurricane toward Disney World because the theme park had held a Gay Day. His conspiratorial view of global politics is--how to put it?--insane. He once claimed that President George H.W. Bush was doing the bidding of Satan. Literally. Here's how I described it years ago:
In 1992, Robertson published a bizarre book called "The New World Order." In this barely coherent tract, Robertson claimed there was a global (if elusive) conspiracy involving the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, other policy elites, secret societies and New Agers.
The goal of this nefarious coalition was to impose a new world order that would wipe out national sovereignty, foment a "complete redistribution of wealth," and bring about the "elimination of Christianity." The key to penetrating the plot, Robertson argued, was to see that the Gulf War [of 1991] that had been waged and won by President Bush was, in fact, "a setup."
During his confirmation hearings, AG nominee Michael Mukasey came across as Alberto Gonzales-lite. When he comes up for a vote next week, will the Dems unite to block his nomination or will the party blow an opportunity?
When the Senate Judiciary Committee votes on attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey on Tuesday, it will be a telling moment for the Democrats. The question is whether they will stand up to George W. Bush or defer to him on the critical questions of executive power and the use of torture. In other words, will they wimp out or not?
The Mukasey vote offers Democrats a low-cost opportunity to satisfy their base by demonstrating the toughness yearned for by the party's core activists and the so-called netroots. The judiciary committee contains ten Democrats and nine Republicans. If the Democrats hang together, they can scuttle Mukasey's nomination and, more important, reject the administration's embrace of unchecked executive power and its word games regarding torture. According to national polls, most Americans have a dim view of the Democratically controlled Congress. At the same time, many die-hard Democrats are disappointed that their leaders in Washington have failed to end—or even scale back—the war in Iraq. Giving Mukasey the heave-ho will not undo the dissatisfaction, but it would be a welcomed display of spine.
The best answer in last night's Democratic presidential debate came not from the leading contenders but from Senator Joe Biden.
In his usual manner, moderator Tim Russert tried to put the candidates into a corner with one of his yes-or-no questions that do not allow for nuance or complexity:
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, would you pledge to the American people that Iran would not build a nuclear bomb on your watch?
Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards each wiggled his or her way out of the question, essentially pledging to do what they could to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Then Russert turned to Biden, and Biden threw the question back in Russert's face.
SEN. BIDEN: I would pledge to keep us safe. If you told me, Tim -- and this is not -- this is complicated stuff. We talk about this in isolation. The fact of the matter is the Iranians may get 2.6 kilograms of highly enriched uranium; the Pakistanis have hundreds, thousands of kilograms of highly enriched uranium.
If by attacking Iran to stop them from getting 2.6 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, the government in Pakistan falls, who has missiles already deployed, with nuclear weapons on them, that can already reach Israel, already reach India, then that's a bad bargain.
Presidents make wise decisions informed not by a vacuum in which they operate, by the situation they find themselves in the world. I will do all in my power to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but I will never take my eye off the ball.
What is the greatest threat to the United States of America: 2.6 kilograms of highly enriched uranium in Tehran or an out of control Pakistan? It's not close.
Biden was taking the mature approach to foreign policy, daring to challenge the false dichotomy: let Iran go nuclear or start a war. A nuclear-armed Iran would indeed be a problem, but a U.S. military strike against Iran could cause greater problems. National security is not always an either/or proposition. Yet Russert, with his gotcha query, was trying to force the complicated Iran issue into such a box. This sort of framing does pervert the national debate, for it precludes serious discussion of the matter at hand and careful consideration of consequences. It also suggests that Americans can have it all—that is, a nuclear-free Iran without creating other difficulties.
As I noted minutes ago, this morning Barack Obama declared his opposition to Michael Mukasey's nomination to be attorney general. Then John Edwards quickly did the same. Though Clinton, through a spokesperson, had recently said she was troubled by Mukasey's statements on torture and executive power, she had stopped short of saying she would vote against him. The question I posed in the previous posting was this: could Hillary Clinton be far behind? The answer turns out to be, no. At mid-day, Clinton announced she will vote against George Bush's A.G. pick. It's another sign that Clinton will not give an inch—or an hour—to her opponents.