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.
Roger Stone, the onetime Nixon aide and self-professed dirty trickster, reemerged this past year as a prominent political player, first as an adviser to Donald Trump's presidential campaign and then, after departing Team Trump, as the billionaire's most passionate advocate in the media. (After the second GOP debate, Stone proclaimed that Trump had a "shining moment" in that 11-person face-off when he slammed the Iraq War, and he dismissed Trump antagonist Carly Fiorina as "strident.") Now Stone is getting deep into the muck with the release of a book apparently designed to smear the Clintons—by depicting Bill as a serial rapist, Hillary as an enabler, and both members of the power couple as a diabolical duo bent on destroying anyone who stands in their way. The book, The Clintons' War on Women, will be released in mid-October. Promotional material for it claims, that "this stunning exposé reveals for the first time how Bill and Hillary Clinton systematically abused women and others—sexually, physically, and psychologically—in their scramble for power and wealth." Moreover, Stone tells me that this personal destruction campaign will extend beyond the book: He has taped interviews of the supposed victims of the Clintons and will release a video sometime before the 2016 primaries begin.
In a July column, Stone provided a preview of the book, claiming, "The Clintons' activities have included Bill's physical rape and sexual assaults on women and Hillary's degradation and psychological rape of women that Bill has assaulted. 'Sluts,' 'whores,' 'bitches,' Hillary has called them, blaming and shaming them for the unwanted physical attentions and violence of her husband."
In between all the theatrics and back-and-forth of the second GOP presidential debate—Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina facing off about his derogatory comment regarding her looks, Ben Carson declining to high-five Trump, Rand Paul calling Trump a junior high school bully—something interesting happened that few seemed to notice: Jeb Bush called for launching a cyber attack against China.
In the middle of the lengthy debate, CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked Paul, the senator from Kentucky, if he agreed with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's demand that President Barack Obama cancel the state dinner for Chinese President Xi Jinping because of China’s currency manipulation and its alleged cyber assaults against the United States. Paul replied, "I don’t think we need to be rash, I don’t think we need to be reckless, and I think need to leave lines of communication open." Walker stuck to his stance: "When it comes to China, why would we be giving an official state visit to a country that’s been involved in a massive cyber attack against the United States?"
Tapper then turned to Bush, the former governor of Florida, and asked, "Your father was the chief diplomatic envoy to China back when Nixon opened relations to China. Is Scott Walker’s approach the right one, canceling the state dinner?" Here's what Bush said:
No, I don’t think so, but we need to be strong against China. We should use offensive tactics as it relates to cyber security, send a deterrent signal to China. There should be super sanctions in what President Obama has proposed. There’s many other tools that we have without canceling a dinner. That’s not going to change anything, but we can be much stronger as it relates to that. [Emphasis added.]
Offensive tactics—what does that mean? I asked a cybersecurity expert, who wishes not to be named, and this person noted that this terminology would generally imply cyber attacks aimed at knocking out Chinese networks and information systems. And Ralph Echemendia, a cybersecurity expert who goes by the handle the Ethical Hacker, said in an email that "to use the word offensive implies to attack the Chinese government."
There is a fine line between the use of technology for intelligence gathering to make a strategic move and actually making a move. Without 'legitimate' proof of attacks by the Chinese, offensive actions could be considered by many as an offensive action on our part. State-sponsored cyber warfare has and will continue. However due to the nature of the digital domain, having proper proof of an attack's source can be tricky. Misinformation is very simple to [spread] and even a teenager with some skills can create a geopolitical situation. Political leaders barely understand how to use their email, much less do they understand the issues surrounding the use of digital weaponry.
US spy agencies have mounted offensive cyber operations—secretly. Public knowledge of what this has entailed is extremely limited. But Bush appeared to be openly calling for a cyber blast on China to deter Beijing. (The unnamed cybersecurity expert quoted above notes, "There's no reason that we need to respond to cyber with cyber. We could always respond in another way of our choosing.") This was a bold—high-energy?—recommendation. Yet it drew no comment at the debate and not much afterward. And a Bush campaign spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
At the GOP debates, Trump is usually the contender talking tough about China. But with this remark, Bush out-hawked Trump. Yet he did so in a sideways manner not likely to win him points from GOP voters. The Chinese, though, probably took heed.
Only a few weeks ago, pundits and political observers roundly proclaimed that Donald Trump, the reality-show tycoon who's mounted a takeover of the GOP, would flame out, fade, implode, or whatever. Jeb Bush's campaign aides were telling journalists that they had no concerns about Trump threatening a third Bush regime. "Trump is, frankly, other people's problem," said Michael Murphy, the chief strategist for Bush's super-PAC. It's becoming clearer, though, that Trump, still dominating the polls and the headlines as the Republican front-runner, could well pose an existential threat to the Grand Old Party (or at least its establishment, including the Bush campaign). But the fundamental problem for the Rs is not Trump; it's Republican voters.
Trump is a brash and arrogant celebrity who is well skilled in pushing buttons, belittling foes, uttering outrageous remarks, causing a ruckus, and drawing attention to one thing: himself. He's a smart marketer and a brilliant self-promoter. His name recognition is over 100 percent. He cooked up a wonderful ready-for-swag tagline: "Make America Great Again." He's incredible. He's yooge. But none of this would matter if there was no demand for his bombastic, anger-fueled, anti-immigrant populism—that is, if Republican voters did not crave a leader who equates undocumented immigrants with rapists and who claims that everyone else in political life is a nincompoop selling out the US of A to the Chinese, the Mexicans, and just about every other government.
Donald Trump, the celebrity tycoon and front-runner in the Republican 2016 race, doesn't hold back when he criticizes the Bush-Cheney crowd for the Iraq War. Over the years, he has called the Iraq invasion a "big mistake" and a "mess," and he has insisted he never would have launched that war. Though the war remains unpopular, Trump's critique does put him at odds with the Republican establishment and GOP voters who supported the invasion. So as he has soared to the top of the polls, Trump has deftly devised a way of discussing the Iraq War that includes Obama-bashing. The problem (well, it would be a problem for a conventional politician): Trump is contradicted by his own words.
The politerati are getting a slight break from Trumpalooza these days, thanks to the Biden Bump. The veep has been actively discussing a possible presidential run with Democratic donors and strategists as he moves toward a final decision, and political handicappers have upped the odds that Biden, still coping with the recent death of his 46-year-old son Beau, will enter the fray. This has led to a torrent of speculation about what Biden will do and what a last-minute leap might mean for the 2016 race. Could it hurt the once-inevitable-but-now-email-burdened Hillary Clinton by providing Nervous-Nellie Democrats with an alternative? Could it help Clinton by offering her a more establishment-oriented sparring partner to vanquish—which would yield a positive narrative for her campaign?
The other day, Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent seeking the Democratic nomination who has drawn thousands to rallies and boomed in recent polls, was asked how a Biden bid would affect the contest. He characteristically pooh-poohed the question. "Politics is not a soap opera," he said. "What impact it will have on the race, I honestly don’t know. I mean, I wish I could tell you, but I don’t. Will it help or hurt me? Will it help or hurt Hillary Clinton? I just don’t know."
Yet there are several reasons why a Biden run would be good for Sanders.