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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Hagel's Half-Courageous Stand on the Iraq War

| Mon Jan. 7, 2013 8:45 AM PST
Chuck Hagel

It's official. President Barack Obama has picked former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to replace Leon Panetta as secretary of defense. And the opposition is already under way. Some gay activists are upset about Hagel's 1998 comment that James Hormel, whom President Bill Clinton had nominated to be ambassador to Luxembourg, was "openly aggressively gay." Hagel has apologized. Hormel hasn't accepted. But at least one gay rights leader has proclaimed his support for Hagel. Meanwhile, pro-Israel hawks have been griping that Hagel has not been sufficiently hardline in supporting Tel Aviv. But Hagel does have one major point in his favor: He opposed the Iraq war. Or sort of.

In October 2002, when Congress was fiercely debating a measure that would allow President George W. Bush to invade Iraq, Hagel noted several reasons why this was a bad idea and presciently predicted all that could go wrong. Yet he still voted for the measure, mostly out of party loyalty (which GOPers now accuse him of no longer possessing). When Hagel was contemplating a presidential run in 2008, I examined his 2002 stance in a TomPaine.com column. I've pasted it below.

Of all the senators eyeing the White House in 2008, this Nebraskan [Hagel] was the only one to express deep reservations about the resolution—while still voting for it. "America—including the Congress—and the world, must speak with one voice about Iraqi disarmament, as it must continue to do so in the war on terrorism," Hagel said in explaining his vote. But he was prescient: "If disarmament in Iraq requires the use of force, we need to consider carefully the implications and consequences of our actions. The future of Iraq after Saddam Hussein is also an open question. Some of my colleagues and some American analysts now speak authoritatively of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in Iraq, and how Iraq can be a test case for democracy in the Arab world. How many of us really know and understand much about Iraq, the country, the history, the people, the role in the Arab world? I approach the issue of post-Saddam Iraq and the future of democracy and stability in the Middle East with more caution, realism and a bit more humility." He added, "Imposing democracy through force in Iraq is a roll of the dice. A democratic effort cannot be maintained without building durable Iraqi political institutions and developing a regional and international commitment to Iraq's reconstruction. No small task."

Hagel was disappointed in the discourse within the Senate: "We should spend more time debating the cost and extent of this commitment, the risks we may face in military engagement with Iraq, the implications of the precedent of United States military action for regime change and the likely character and challenges of a post-Saddam Iraq. We have heard precious little from the President, his team, as well as from this Congress, with a few notable exceptions, about these most difficult and critical questions." And he cautioned humility: "I share the hope of a better world without Saddam Hussein, but we do not really know if our intervention in Iraq will lead to democracy in either Iraq or elsewhere in the Arab world." Bottom line: Hagel feared the resolution would lead to a war that would go badly but didn't have the guts to say no to the leader of his party.

Hagel took a thoughtful approach to the question of the invasion. His worries were dead-on. Yet he had the wiggle room to vote for the measure because there remained a possibility—albeit slight—that Bush would not use this authority and the conflict with Saddam Hussein would be resolved without US military intervention. In considering the invasion and its implications, Hagel had the right take; he just couldn't bring himself to vote accordingly.

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VIDEO: GOP "Out for Blood" After Fiscal Cliff Deal

| Thu Jan. 3, 2013 2:39 PM PST

Congress may have averted the fiscal cliff, but when it comes to ugly fiscal battles, America hasn't seen anything yet, according to Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief David Corn. "The Republicans now are going to be out for blood" Corn says. "Having lost this round as they are see it, they are going to want to have a big fight over the debt ceiling and to demand it's not raised."

Watch Corn's full discussion on the fiscal cliff deal here:

Dick Armey Reveals the Identity of His Mysterious Gunman at FreedomWorks

| Wed Dec. 26, 2012 2:52 PM PST

On Wednesday, the Washington Post published a riveting account of the feud within FreedomWorks, disclosing that arch-libertarian Richard Stephenson, a reclusive millionaire, was the secret source of $12 million the tea party group used to help Republican candidates in the fall election. But what grabbed the most attention was the story's recounting of a contentious September 4 meeting in which former GOP Rep. Dick Armey, then the chair of FreedomWorks, brought a gun-wielding "assistant" to the offices of FreedomWorks. Referring to Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, and Adam Brandon, its senior vice president, the newspaper reported:

Richard K. Armey, the group's chairman and a former House majority leader, walked into the group's Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey's enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks' top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.

This sort of drama does not happen often in Washington, and the Post did not identify the guy with the gun. But Armey tells Mother Jones that this episode has been hyped up by his FreedomWorks foes, and he says the not-so-mysterious gun-touting assistant was a former Capitol Hill police officer named Beau Singleton, who used to be part of Armey's congressional security detail and who has volunteered his security services to Armey and FreedomWorks for years. "He was well-known to the people at FreedomWorks," Armey says. "He has provided me personal security on many occasions when I was in Washington." Singleton also oversaw security for FreedomWorks in September 2009 when it organized a large rally in Washington. Singleton, Armey says, is authorized to carry a gun, but he does so in a back holster that cannot be seen by an onlooker. "I was unaware he had a gun [at the meeting]," Armey maintains. "He kept it under his coat in the back....But the news looks like Armey came in there like John Dillinger, all guns a-blazing. That was false."

Armey says that his wife, Susan, and his assistant, Jean Campbell, were concerned about a FreedomWorks official losing his temper at this meeting and suggested that Singleton join Armey and the two of them on this trip to the group's office. But he insists there was nothing odd with him showing up at FreedomWorks with Singleton by his side. 

Singleton, 56, confirms Armey's account. He says that he has known Kibbe and Brandon for years and that he had often "been around" at FreedomWorks. He adds that during the meeting between Armey and Kibbe, he "just observed. I was just kind of there…I can't see why they would act like I was menacing." In the Post's account, the unnamed gunman escorted Kibbe and Brandon off the premises, but Singleton says he did no such thing. "Whatever problem they had with FreedomWorks, I had no issues with them…I was not used to get them out of the office." 

This latest tale of the war at FreedomWorks is an indication of how bad the blood has become. This man-with-a-gun story, which would seem to benefit Kibbe's side, comes after Mother Jones revealed that board members C. Boyden Gray and James Burnley IV recently initiated a legal investigation of alleged wrongdoing at FreedomWorks and that Kibbe, in response, drafted a memo accusing Armey, Gray, and Burnley of mounting a "hostile takeover" of the group in order to make it part of the Republican establishment. There's no telling if FreedomWorks, an important outfit for the tea party, can survive this civil war. But there probably are more leaks to come.

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