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.
Frank Luntz, the media-friendly Republican consultant and word wiz, told a group of college students this week that Rush Limbaugh and right-wing talk radio are "problematic" for the GOP and partly responsible for the stark polarization within the nation's political discourse. He only dared to speak so candidly about Limbaugh and other conservative hosts off the record. A secretly recorded video, though, captured Luntz's remark.
On April 22, Luntz was holding a talk at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, and providing his essential take on political communication: "It's not what you say that matters. It's what people hear." At this event sponsored by College Republicans, Luntz (class of '84) cracked a joke about Nancy Pelosi and face-lifts and acknowledged his party needs to interact more effectively with a wider swath of Americans: "We can't talk to 51 percent of America. It just doesn't work." And, he emphasized, words matter. (In 2009, Luntz urged GOPers to decry President Barack Obama's health care reform proposal as a "government takeover" in order to defeat it.) Voters, Luntz told the students, respond more positively when a politician refers to "hardworking taxpayers" than to "the middle class." He warned that if his party did not resolve its internal divides, it could lose the House of Representatives next year.
At one point, Luntz was asked about political polarization. He replied that he had something important to say on this matter but was apprehensive about speaking openly; doing so, he explained, could land him in trouble. Members of the audience groaned; some called out for Luntz to continue off the record. Luntz asked if anyone was recording the event, and Eric Kaplan, a reporter from the college paper, the Daily Pennsylvanian, indicated that he was. Luntz requested that he turn off his recording device. Kaplan did so and agreed that this part of Luntz's talk would remain off the record. But one of the students present, Aakash Abbi, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics, and economics, started to record Luntz on his iPhone (without letting Luntz know), and Abbi has provided that recording to Mother Jones.
Believing he was speaking privately to the dozens of students present, Luntz proceeded to gripe about conservative talk radio and its impact on political polarization:
And they get great ratings, and they drive the message, and it's really problematic. And this is not on the Democratic side. It's only on the Republican side…[inaudible]. [Democrats have] got every other source of news on their side. And so that is a lot of what's driving it. If you take—Marco Rubio's getting his ass kicked. Who's my Rubio fan here? We talked about it. He's getting destroyed! By Mark Levin, by Rush Limbaugh, and a few others. He's trying to find a legitimate, long-term effective solution to immigration that isn't the traditional Republican approach, and talk radio is killing him. That's what's causing this thing underneath. And too many politicians in Washington are playing coy.
Here's the video:
As he continued, Luntz, according to Abbi and two other attendees (who wish to remain anonymous), asserted that it had been irresponsible (and bad for the GOP) for right-wing talkers to pontificate about women's bodies and birth control—an obvious reference to Limbaugh's attacks last year on Sandra Fluke, a law student invited to testify before Congress on health insurance coverage of contraception. (Abbi didn't catch this part of Luntz's reply on his recording.)
Luntz was blaming polarization and the GOP's problems partly on conservative media, but he didn't want his criticism of Limbaugh, Levin, and the others to reach beyond this classroom. He was clear on this basic point: Right-wing media is not serving the national debate and not helping the GOP widen the party's appeal beyond its declining base. (Luntz declined to comment on his remarks at the event.)
Luntz hasn't been shy about pointing out the Republican Party's problems. In January, he wrote a Washington Post op-ed contending that Republicans have dug themselves deep into an image hole. ("Just saying 'no' to the president has its limits.") Regarding immigration, he observed, "Hispanic voters don't think Republicans like, welcome or respect them. So how can they vote Republican? Immigration reform that brings people out of the shadows is the last, best opportunity for the party to reset its broken relationship with Hispanics."
Luntz did not include Limbaugh and right-wing media in this op-ed critique. And in years past, Luntz has showed respect—even deference—toward Limbaugh. In 2004, he appeared on Fox News and acknowledged that he had conducted a poll pitting John Kerry against Hillary Clinton because Limbaugh had suggested he do so: "In fact, he had talked to me about it a couple times on the air, and I wasn't paying attention. And he even suggested that if I didn't do the poll that there might be consequences…Nobody wants to have to respond to 20 million people that they're listening to on the air." That certainly didn't prevent Limbaugh from fiercely attacking Luntz two years ago after the consultant, speaking at a meeting of the Republican Governors Association, said he was "frightened to death" of the the Occupy Wall Street movement and advised GOPers that they should not talk about "capitalism" but "economic freedom." On the radio, Limbaugh assailed Luntz for trying to "dumb down" the conservative message.
Abbi, the student who recorded Luntz, says he switched on his iPhone video recorder because he was surprised that Luntz asked to go off the record: "His request rang with a sense of disingenuity." Abbi, who says he came to the lecture because he had previously been impressed by Luntz, explains:
This question came up after almost 40 minutes of Luntz's inane and obviously pandering presentation. He had already offended multiple audience members with his cavalier flippancy. At one point, he cut off a student who was saying that his family is one of immigrants and loudly asked, "From Chechnya?" Raucous laughter followed from the College Republicans in attendance, but uneasy looks were exchanged by most others. To me, a man whose career is built on being viewed as the "Master of Words" should be willing to always stand by what he says. If he can say it to a hundred-plus Penn students, the rest of America deserves to hear it.
At Penn, Luntz was egged on to disclose his view that Limbaugh and conservative talk radio are harming the GOP's prospects and the national interest. Yet these are probably the sort of words he would counsel his Republican allies and clients not to use.
One of the suspects' hats may be this Bridgestone Golf hat:
Here's a second side-by-side of the back of the Bridgestone cap and a photo that Reddit user streetsim says he or she took at the marathon (text is also visible on the back of Suspect 1's hat in the video the FBI released):
Right-side image by Reddit user streetsim
See the rest of the photos the FBI released of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects here.
We have capped this explainer. Major developments will be covered on our main political blog.
UPDATE 36: Monday, April 22, 1:59 p.m. EDT: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against people and property resulting in death.
UPDATE 35: Monday, April 22, 1:26 p.m. EDT: Multiple sources are reporting that Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arraigned at his hospital bed, and that the complaint against him was sealed.
UPDATE 34: Saturday, April 20, 1:01 p.m. EDT: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is in a heavily guarded hospital room atBeth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. As press attention turns to deciphering the bombers' motives and the coming trial, Josh Gerstein of Politico has written a piece explaining some legal issues surrounding the case, including the pre-trial interrogation rules facing federal prosecutors and whether Tsarnaev may face the death penalty; Slate's Emily Bazelon explains the history and law behind the "public safety exemption" to the Miranda rules under which Tsarnaev is being questioned.
UPDATE 33: Friday, April 19, 11:12 p.m. EDT:BarstoolSports.com has posted dramatic amateur video of a pitched fire fight, said to be a recording of police closing in on Tsarnaev's boat hiding place on Friday evening.
And a photo has surfaced that appears to show law enforcement officials administering medical care to the suspect shortly after his arrest.
UPDATE 32: Friday, April 19, 10:34 p.m. EDT: Tsarnaev was not given a Miranda warning because of the "public-safety exemption in cases of national security and potential charges involving acts of terrorism," United States Attorney Carmen Ortiz said. But the Obama administration is emphatic about giving Tsarnaev a civilian trial, according to NBC correspondent Pete Williams.
UPDATE 31: Friday, April 19, 10:14 p.m. EDT: Following a press conference held by Mass. Governor Deval Patrick and law enforcement, President Obama delivered a statement addressing the capture of Tsarnaev, the tragedy in Boston, and also the explosion at the West, Texas fertilizer plant on Wednesday. "All in all, this has been a tough week, but we have seen the character of our country," Obama said.
Here's the video and a link to the full statement.
UPDATE 30: Friday, April 19, 10:00 p.m. EDT: According to the Boston Police Department, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is in serious condition. He was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital.
UPDATE 29: Friday, April 19, 9:42 p.m. EDT: The FBI wanted poster for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been updated with "Captured":
UPDATE 28: Friday, April 19, 8:45 p.m. EDT: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been taken into custody. He was found hiding in a boat resting on a trailer in a Watertown backyard.
UPDATE 27: Friday, April 19, 7:15 p.m. EDT: Moments after law enforcement officials lifted the city's lockdown, an exchange of gunfire was heard in Watertown. The Boston Globe and local television are now reporting that police have cornered a suspect.
UPDATE 26: Friday, April 19, 2:09 p.m. EDT: Here is the FBI wanted poster for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, suspect in the Boston Marathon attack:
More MoJo coverage of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings
UPDATE 25: Friday, April 19, 1:08 p.m. EDT: At noon on Friday, Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC with five other Muslim community leaders. While they emphasized that the suspects' motive are not yet known, CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad said in a prepared statement that, "as God tells us in the Quran, if you murder one person, it is as if you murdered all of humanity." He stressed that, "we're very angry," and another participant stated that, "unfortunately every faith in it has heretical elements...but nobody can separate us from being Americans."
When asked by Mother Jones about the Al Qaeda prophecy video posted by a YouTube user by the name of deceased suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a CAIR spokesman responded: "I mean, it's Al Qaeda-inspired stuff, man. It's a lot of crazy on the internet."
The group also thanked "the media for not jumping to any conclusions." (This is debatable.)
UPDATE 24: Friday, April 19, 12:45 p.m. EDT: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick just held a press conference in which he urged Bostonians to stay in their homes, and warned that the crime scene may go through the weekend.
UPDATE 23: Friday, April 19, 12:15 p.m. EDT: BuzzFeed is reporting that this is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's Twitter account. Here are some highlights:
I don't argue with fools who say islam is terrorism it's not worth a thing, let an idiot remain an idiot
UPDATE 21: Friday, April 19, 12:10 p.m. EDT: CBS reports that the suspects' uncle said that the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was "a loser." Watch:
UPDATE 20: Friday, April 19, 12:00 p.m. EDT: BuzzFeed reports that the Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, has released a statement on the bombings, blaming the suspects' American upbringing.
Tragic events have taken place in Boston. A terrorist attack killed people. We have already expressed our condolences to the people of the city and to the American people. Today, the media reports, one Tsarnaev was killed as [police] tried to arrest him. It would be appropriate if he was detained and investigated, and the circumstances and the extent of his guilt determined. Apparently, the security services needed to calm down the society by any means necessary.
Any attempt to draw a connection between Chechnya and Tsarnaevs — if they are guilty — is futile. They were raised in the United States, and their attitudes and beliefs were formed there. It is necessary to seek the roots of this evil in America. The whole world must struggle against terrorism — that we know better than anyone else. We hope for the recovery of all the victims, and we mourn with the Americans.
Also, the president of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center released a statement about the patient who died here this morning:
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center received an unknown male patient with significant injuries at 1:20 this morning.
After he arrived, he suffered a trauma arrest and expired at 1:35 a.m.
We have no information on the identity of the patient and cannot speculate on whether he has any connection to any criminal activity. Nor are we prepared to speak to the exact nature of his injuries.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is open for business. But we will be restricting access to some entrances to ensure the safety of our patients, staff and visitors.
UPDATE 19: Friday, April 19, 11:50 a.m. EDT: The Boston Police Department is reporting that the vehicle associated with the armed carjacking by the two suspects in Cambridge has been located.
UPDATE 15: Friday, April 19, 11:13 a.m. EDT: CBS Boston interviewed Ruslan Tsarni, said to be the uncle of suspects in the bombings:
UPDATE 14: Friday, April 19, 11:05 a.m. EDT: A spokesman for the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth stated that a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing is "a registered student on campus." The university has announced that the campus will be closed today and evacuated.
UPDATE 13: Friday, April 19, 10:37 a.m. EDT: A user by the name of Tamerlan Tsarnaev has posted a video to his YouTube playlist extolling an extremist religious prophecy associated with Al Qaeda. It is not clear yet whether the user is the same Tsarnaev as the deceased bombing suspect.
UPDATE 12: Friday, April 19, 6:37 a.m. EDT:NBC and the Associated Press report that the remaining suspect is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a 19-year-old resident of Cambridge. The deceased suspect, who was killed in a firefight with police this morning, is his 20 26-year old brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev. According to NBC, "both men had international ties, had been in the United States about a year and had military experience." Meanwhile, much of the Boston area has been locked down—with schools closed and authorities asking businesses not to open—and thousands of police have been called in for a manhunt involving a door-to-door search in Watertown.
UPDATE 11: Friday, April 19, 6:37 a.m. EDT: Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis told reporters Friday morning that the remaining suspect was someone the police "believe this to be a terrorist," and "a person who's come here to kill people."
UPDATE 10: Friday, April 19, 6:17 a.m. EDT: Around 5:20 a.m., doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston held a press conference announced that a patient who had been brought in at 1:20 a.m. under police guard with "multiple injuries, a combination of blast, potentially gunshot wounds." Doctors said they were "unable to count" the number of gunshot wounds the patient had. They spent 15 minutes unsuccessfully trying to revive the patient, but he was pronounced dead at 1:35 a.m. The surgeon who treated the patient was asked whether he believed him to be the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, he responded that "You give the best care to every patient that comes to you, regardless of who it may or may not be."
UPDATE 8: Friday, April 19, 4:32 a.m. EDT: Boston police confirmed in a press conference Friday morning that the explosions and gunfire Friday night in Cambridge, Boston, and Watertown, Massachusetts were connected to the Boston Marathon suspects whose photos were released Thursday afternoon. The suspect pictured in the black hat is reported dead, while the suspect with the white hat is reportedly still at large. Police have established a 20-block perimeter around where they believe the suspect is.
The Middlesex County District Attorney's office released the following statement:
Police are investigating a fatal shooting of MIT campus police officer by two men who then committed an armed carjacking in Cambridge, Middlesex Acting District Attorney MichaelPelgro, Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas, and MIT Police Chief John DiFavaannounced this evening.
At approximately 10:20 p.m. April 18, police received reports of shots fired on the MIT campus. At 10:30 p.m., an MIT campus police officer was found shot in his vehicle in the area of Vassar and Main streets. According to authorities, the officer was found evidencing multiple gunshot wounds.
He was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital and pronounced deceased.
Authorities launched an immediate investigation into the circumstances of the shooting. The investigation determined that two males were involved in this shooting.
A short time later, police received reports of an armed carjacking by two males in the area of Third Street in Cambridge. The victim was carjacked at gunpoint by two males and was kept in the car with the suspects for approximately a half hour. The victim was released at a gas station on Memorial Drive in Cambridge. He was not injured.
Police immediately began a search for the vehicle and were in pursuit of the vehicle into Watertown.
At that time, explosive devices were reportedly thrown from car by the suspects. The suspects and police also exchanged gunfire in the area of Dexter and Laurel streets. During this pursuit, an MBTA Police officer was seriously injured and transported to the hospital.
During the pursuit, one suspect was critically injured and transported to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased. An extensive manhunt is ongoing in the Watertown area for the second suspect, who is believed to be armed and dangerous.
UPDATE 7, Friday, April 19, 2:25 a.m. EDT: The FBI has just released two more photos of the suspects showing an "up close" view of their faces.
UPDATE 6, Friday, April 19, 1:40 a.m. EDT: A police officer was shot and killed at MIT this evening. Another officer was wounded, a high-speed chase took place, and the local police scanner reports automatic weapons fire and grenades. One suspect has been taken into custody, the other is at large. It is not known whether this event is related to the Boston marathon bombings. We have more details on this incident in a separate post.
UPDATE 5, Friday, April 19, 12:40 a.m. EDT: A photo that first got broad attention on Reddit, and whose authenticity was debated by journalists on Twitter for hours, appears to be legitimate. It shows a new, high-resolution shot of suspect #2 (white hat, far left). The New York Times reports: "Shortly after finishing the Boston Marathon this week David Green, 49, was walking to meet friends when two bombs exploded in front of him as he faced east on the corner of Fairfield and Boylston Streets. He snapped a photograph with his iPhone before rushing to help those wounded. It was time-stamped at 2:50:15 p.m."
What appears to be suspect #2 can be seen at far left David Green
The debate over the photo's veracity ended when it was established he posted it on Facebook on Monday, long before the FBI released its cache of photos and videos. See a very large file of the photo here.
UPDATE 4, Thursday, April 18, 10:30 p.m. EDT: Bloomberg has a major scoop: Jeff Bauman, the young runner who lost both his legs in the explosion and whose iconic photo has come to symbolize the tragedy, woke up in the hospital and helped ID the suspects.
"Minutes before the bombs blew up in Boston, Jeff Bauman looked into the eyes of the man who tried to kill him." bloom.bg/12r6GZB
UPDATE 3, Thursday, April 18, 10:20 p.m. EDT: CNN reports that "other footage, still unreleased, shows that the two suspects stayed at the scene to watch the carnage unfold, a federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation…'When the bombs blow up, when most people are running away and victims were lying on the ground, the two suspects walk away pretty casually,' said the official, who has seen the unreleased video. 'They acted differently than everyone else,' he added."
UPDATE 2, Thursday, April 18, 10:15 p.m. EDT: Journalists, Redditors, and citizens across the country are sharing and in some cases claiming to add to the photos the FBI has released:
This picture is incredibly awful. Martin Richard, 8-year-old victim, circled in blue. Suspect in red. fm4.fm/ZB4Cdj
UPDATE, Thursday, April 18, 5:45 p.m. EDT: One of the suspects' hats may be this Bridgestone Golf hat:
ORIGINAL POST: The FBI has released images of two "persons of interest." "No one should approach them…Do not take action on your own," they said during the press briefing. Here is the FBI's YouTube clip of the two individuals; each had a backpack:
John Dean, a principal in the Watergate scandal, in 1975
This is interesting. John Dean, Richard Nixon's White House counsel and a star Watergate witness, has weighed in on the McConnell tape controversy. His take: This ain't Watergate, and the making of the tape probably wasn't illegal.
After Mother Jones and I disclosed a secretly recorded tape capturing Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and campaign aides discussing using actor/activist Ashley Judd's past struggles with depression and her religious views as political ammo (should she challenge McConnell), McConnell and aides claimed the minority leader was the victim of a Watergate-style operation and called on the FBI to investigate. McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, also played the Hitler card and compared the taping to "Gestapo" tactics. At the end of last week, local Kentucky media reported that two local Democratic operatives linked to a super-PAC called Progress Kentucky, Curtis Morrison and Shawn Reilly, were involved in the taping, having recorded a conversation they heard in a hallway after an open house at McConnell's campaign headquarters in Louisville. Subsequent reports fingered Morrison more than Reilly. And Morrison has set up a legal defense fund without publicly acknowledging any role in the taping. (I did not comment on the media reports naming Morrison and Reilly because I had promised my source confidentiality.)
On February 2, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the US Senate, opened up his 2014 reelection campaign headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, and in front of several dozen supporters vowed to "point out" the weaknesses of any opponent fielded by the Democrats. "They want to fight? We're ready," he declared. McConnell was serious: Later that day, he was huddling with aides in a private meeting to discuss how to attack his possible Democratic foes, including actor/activist Ashley Judd, who was then contemplating challenging the minority leader. During this strategy session—a recording of which was obtained by Mother Jones—McConnell and his aides considered assaulting Judd for her past struggles with depression and for her religious views.
Last month, Judd announced she wouldn't challenge McConnell, whose reelection campaign could become one of the most watched races of the 2014 cycle (if a serious Democratic opponent emerges). But at the February 2 meeting, McConnell and his team were fixated on Judd. McConnell told his aides that at the early stage of the campaign they had to clobber any potential challenger:
I assume most of you have played the, the game Whac-A-Mole?” (Laughter.) This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out.