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.
I haven't been surprised by Sen. Rand Paul's presidential campaign launch, with the GOP senator from Kentucky winning more attention for his testy interactions with reporters than for his libertarian theology. These past few days, Paul had a tough time when journalists posed him the most predictable of questions: Can you explain your position on abortions? Why did you flip from opposing all US foreign aid to Israel and other nations to supporting such assistance? Do white Republican voters support criminal justice reform? He talked over one interviewer—and then accused her of talking over him—and he walked out of another interview.
This all reminded me of the time I tried to engage Paul about an important matter: what his father Ron Paul knew about a newsletter published under his name that included racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic commentary. It was 2012, and Ron Paul was campaigning for president in the GOP primary in New Hampshire. Rand Paul, already a senator, was helping his old man and spinning for him after the debates. But Rand Paul had no spin for my questions about this newsletter. Nor did he have any answers. When I asked about the publication, he turned his back to me and refused to answer. It was a curious response. I've had politicians walk away without replying to a query. But I've never seen one pivot away and pretend I was invisible. It seemed a bit immature: I can't seeeee you.
In his bio on his presidential campaign website, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) boasts of what he did as Texas solicitor general to defend the Second Amendment, the Pledge of Allegiance, and US sovereignty—all conservative causes. But Cruz does not detail another important chapter in his legal career: his work as a well-paid private attorney who helped corporations found guilty of wrongdoing.
After serving over five years as the state of Texas' top lawyer, Cruz in 2008 joined the Houston office of the high-powered international law firm Morgan Lewis to lead its Supreme Court and national appellate practice. He stepped down as a partner in the firm after being elected a US senator in 2012. During his stint at Morgan Lewis, Cruz, who casts himself as a politician who stands on principle, handled several cases that cut against his political stances. He twice worked on cases in New Mexico to secure $50-million-plus jury awards (though, as a politician, he has called for tort reform that would prevent these sorts of awards). He assisted a lawsuit filed by a man who was wrongfully convicted of murder and nearly executed (though, as a politician, he has insisted the criminal-justice system functions just fine when it comes to capital punishment). And in one case, he filed a brief supporting President Barack Obama's stimulus (though, as a politician, Cruz has slammed this Obama initiative).
US Secretary of State John Kerry and world representatives discuss the nuclear agreements.
Shortly after the participants in the Iranian nuclear talks announced that a double-overtime framework had been crafted, I was on television with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who is something of a celebrity rabbi, a failed congressional candidate, and an arch-neoconservative hawk who has been howling about a potential deal with Iran for months. Not surprisingly, he was not pleased by the news of the day. He declared that under these parameters, Iran would give up nothing and would "maintain their entire nuclear apparatus." Elsewhere, a more serious critic, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who last month had organized the letter to Iran's leaders signed by 47 GOP senators opposed to a deal, groused that the framework was "only a list of dangerous US concessions that will put Iran on the path to nuclear weapons."
These criticisms were rhetorical bombs, not statements of fact. Under the framework, Iran would give up two-thirds of its centrifuges used to enrich uranium and would reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (which is the raw material used to develop bomb-quality highly-enriched uranium) from 10,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms. These two developments alone—and the framework has many other provisions—would diminish Tehran's ability to produce a nuclear weapon. Its nuclear apparatus would be smaller, and under these guidelines, Iran's pathway to nuclear weapons, while certainly not impossible, would be much more difficult. Yet because politics dominates the debate over this deal—as it does so often with important policy matters—foes of the framework could hurl fact-free charges with impunity.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly continues to insist that he never misrepresented or embellished his wartime reporting experiences and other previous episodes—even after CNN, the Washington Post, the Guardian, Media Matters, and Mother Jones reported significant discrepancies between O'Reilly's accounts and what actually occurred. Last Tuesday, O'Reilly appeared on David Letterman's show, where he maintained he had always been "accurate" when discussing his journalistic exploits and had never "fibbed" on air. ("Not that I know of," he said.) Yet O'Reilly's characterizations of his reporting during the Falklands war, El Salvador's civil war, the troubles in Northern Ireland, the Los Angeles riots of 1992, and the 1977 re-investigation of the John F. Kennedy assassination have been repeatedly challenged, in several cases by former colleagues. Now a principal character in one of O'Reilly's more dramatic tales—in which the Fox commentator plays a heroic role—says this particular story is not accurate.
Presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) talks a good game as an uncompromising conservative. But before he vowed to destroy Obamacare only to admit he may use it, before he forsook rock'n'roll—back when he was a private appellate lawyer charging $695 an hour, Cruz forcefully argued positions that contradict what he now espouses. Some examples from the Ted Cruz Wayback Machine:
Federal stimulus money
THEN: In 2009, he wrote a brief arguing that giving federal stimulus money to retired Texas teachers "will directly further the greater purpose of economic recovery for America."
NOW: Obama's economic program is "yet another rehash of the same big-government stimulus programs that have consistently failed to generate jobs."
BIG JURY AWARDS
THEN: As a lawyer, Cruz defended a $54 million jury award to a severely disabled New Mexico man who had been raped in a group home, asserting that "a large punitive damages award is justified by the need to deter conduct that is hard to detect and often goes unpunished."
NOW: Wants to spread Texas-style tort reform—which caps punitive damages at $750,000—to the rest of the nation.
The death penalty
THEN: Cruz worked on the Supreme Court case of a Louisiana man who'd been wrongfully sentenced to death, stating that prosecutorial misconduct undermined "public confidence in the criminal-justice system."
NOW: "I trust the criminal-justice system to operate, to protect the rights of the accused, and to administer justice to violent criminals."