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.
It's official. George W. Bush's selective and self-serving book is a best-seller. He sold 775,000 copies in the first week and the publisher has rushed to print an additional 350,000. The amount of debunking the book deserves could, well, fill a book. But there's one trenchant portion of the book that reeks with hypocrisy. In discussing the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Bush notes, "That was a massive blow to our credibility—my credibility—that would shake the confidence of the American people." He then adds: "No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn't find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do."
A sickening feeling every time he thought about it? Really? Let's rewind the video back to a moment that crystallized the Bush-Cheney era. It was March 24, 2004. Washington's political and media elite had gathered at the Washington Hilton for the annual Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner, which is something of a cousin to the yearly White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. As thousands of DC's swells enjoyed their surf-and-turf meal, Bush was the entertainment. The tradition is that at such affairs the president is the big speaker, and he has to be amusing, poking fun at himself and his political foes.
Bush was no fan of such gatherings, and he and his aides had decided he ought to narrate a humorous slide show, instead of doing a stand-up routine. Large video screens flashed pictures of him and his aides, which he augmented with funny quips. One showed him on the phone with a finger in his ear. He explained this shot by saying he spends "a lot of time on the phone listening to our European allies." There were humorous bits about his mother and Dick Cheney.
Then Bush displayed a photo of himself looking for something out a window in the Oval Office. His narration: "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere." The audience laughed. But the joke wasn't done. After a few more slides, there was a shot of Bush looking under furniture in the Oval Office. "Nope," he said. "No weapons over there." More laughter. Then another picture of Bush searching in his office: "Maybe under here." Laughter again.
Bush was actually joking about the missing weapons of mass destruction. He was making fun of the reason he had cited for sending Americans to war and to death, turning it into a running gag. His smile was wide and his eyes seemed bright, as the audience laughed. At the time I wrote,
Few [in the crowd] seemed to mind. His WMD gags did not prompt a how-can-you silence from the gathering. At the after-parties, I heard no complaints.I wondered what the spouse, child or parent of a soldier killed in Iraq would have felt if they had been watching C-SPAN and saw the commander-in-chief mocking the supposed justification for the war that claimed their loved ones. Bush told the nation that lives had to be sacrificed because Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction that could be used (by terrorists) against the United States. That was not true. (And as [WMD search team leader David] Kay pointed out, the evidence so far shows these weapons were not there in the first place, not that they were hidden, destroyed or spirited away.) But rather than acknowledge he misinformed the public, Bush jokes about the absence of such weapons.
In yet another act reminiscent of Soviet-style revisionism, Bush in his book does not mention this dinner and his performance there. If he indeed felt ill whenever he pondered the missing WMDs—as he insists in his memoirs—how could he turn this into a crass punchline? Asking that question provides the answer. He is fibbing in his book. Moreover, this small episode is proof of a larger truth: Bush's chronicle is not a serious accounting of his years as the decider. As for the hundreds of thousands of readers who shelled out $35.00 for the book, expecting the former president to level with them, the joke is on them.
The GOP jockeying for the chairmanship of the powerful House financial services committee has ignited a nasty fight within House Republican circles. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), as the senior Republican on the panel, is in line for the spot, and Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) is challenging him. This insiders' tussle has drawn Sarah Palin into the fray. Yet in her desire to add Hill powerbroker to her resume, Palin has demonstrated that she is a Wall Street bailout hypocrite.
It was a tremendous flip-flop. Palin was for the bank bailout before she was against it.
Palin entered this brawl after Bachus, following the midterm elections, blamed her for the GOP's failure to take over the Senate. Bachus was making a familiar point: because Palin backed tea party candidates in GOP primaries (such as Christine O'Donnell in Delaware) over more conventional and presumably electable Republicans, the GOP screwed up opportunities to win Senate seats ripe for the picking. "Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate," Bachus groused.
Palin fired back, saying that because Bachus supported "the Bachus bigger government agenda," it was "no wonder he's not thrilled with people like me." She cited Bachus' votes for the Wall Street bailout and the cash-for-clunkers program as proof he was no "commonsense conservative." Palin's attack was widely interpreted as her placing a finger—or fist—on the scale for Royce (who voted against the TARP bailout). It also was a tremendous flip-flop. Palin was for the bank bailout before she was against it.
I've previously explained the DC Ticker I compile most days, which is now being featured weekly on ABC News' website show, Political Punch, hosted by Jake Tapper. Here are the picks featured on the latest PP:
* Heath Shuler, buy—This House Democrat is challenging Nancy Pelosi to be the House Democratic leader but says he doesn't expect to win. He probably does expect his TV bookings to increase.
* Charlie Rangel, sell—What's the old saying about a lawyer who represents himself? Oh yeah, he has a fool for a client.
* Kristi Noem, buy—She's one of a hundred incoming House Republican freshmen, but she's quickly standing out as a potential House leader. It doesn't hurt that Politico named her one of the most "crushworthy" Hill newcomers.
* Bill Thomas, buy—This former House Republican used to be chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; now he works for a major lobbying and law firm. Thomas, in a way, represents all the Republican lawmakers-and-staffers-turned lobbyists-and-consultants who will make a mint peddling influence in the new Congress.
You can receive the almost-daily DC Ticker report by following my Twitter feed. (#DCticker is the Twitter hashtag.) Please feel free to argue with my selections—though all decisions of the judges are final. And please feel free to make suggestions for buy or sell orders in the comments below or on Twitter (by replying to @DavidCornDC). Don't forget: DC Ticker is merely an advisory service. It and its author cannot be held liable for any investments made in politicians, policy wonks, or government officials on the basis of the information presented. Invest in politics at your own risk.
In his new book, George W. Bush repeatedly challenges the charge that he misled the country into the Iraq war. He writes, "I didn't like hearing people claim I had lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction." But while defending his integrity, he presents assertions that are outright false: for instance, that Iraq had a WMD infrastructure and was pursuing such weapons at the time of the invasion (it did not and was not), and that Saddam Hussein had refused to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors (he was not fully cooperating with inspectors, but the inspectors had reported Iraq's cooperation was increasing). His account is often selective—such as when he recounts a 2003 meeting with Tony Blair and fails to mention that at this session he (Bush) raised the possibility of kick-starting the Iraq war with a phony provocation. But Bush's selectivity is glaringly apparent when he recounts one of the dark moments of his presidency: the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson.
Bush describes this episode for one purpose: to discuss the "most emotional personnel decision" of his presidency—whether or not to pardon White House aide Scooter Libby, who had been convicted of lying to FBI agents and a grand jury during the investigation of the Plame leak. He notes that this affair began when former ambassador Joe Wilson, Plame's husband, wrote a post-invasion op-ed challenging Bush's pre-invasion claim that Iraq had sought to buy uranium (presumably for use in a nuclear weapons program) from Niger. Bush doesn't fully cover the back story: Nearly a year prior to Bush publicly making the uranium-from-Niger charge, the CIA—after Vice President Dick Cheney had requested the agency provide him more information on this matter—asked Wilson to trek to Niger to check out the allegation. Wilson did so and reported back to the agency that this sort of uranium deal would have been nearly impossible to pull off.
Pop-rock quartet OK Go writes pretty catchy songs, but it's their wildly creative YouTube endeavors that have made them famous. If you're not already one of the 60 million YouTube viewers who've seen their "treadmill video"—the song is actually called "Here It Goes Again"—then go watch it before you read (below) how they made it work. Speaking of making things work, the band's subsequent video blockbuster "This Too Shall Pass" involved a full-size Rube Goldberg contraption that filled an entire rented warehouse. (Why bother explaining? Go watch it below.) Their recent video, "White Knuckles" guest stars an entire pack of trained canines and their brand new one, "Last Leaf," involves thousands of pieces of toast. OK Go's videos, and its unique brand of fame, beg all sorts of fun questions—questions that singer/guitarist Damian Kulash was kind enough to answer for us. (We also hit up his always-stylish band mate, singer/bassist Tim Nordwind, to talk about the music that makes his video-addled mind tick.)
Mother Jones: Tell us about the taping of your treadmill video.
Damian Kulash: We made it with my sister, Trish Sie, who had recently retired from professional ballroom dancing, and we spent eight days at her dance studio in Orlando working on it. The first day or two, we tried out arrangements for the machines, trying to maximize the variety of moves that would be possible, and minimize the visual distraction of the machines themselves. After that, we played on the machines for four or five days, which is to say we hurled ourselves at them and saw what happened. Every so often we'd come up with a great move. Once we had a sufficient bag of tricks, we sequenced together a routine and began practicing. If I remember correctly, there were 17 or 18 takes, but we only completed the routine two or three times. Somewhat surprisingly, there were no injuries that required a hospital visit—the worst we got were scrapes and pretty serious rug-burn. Or I suppose you'd call it tread-burn.
The biggest challenge, choreographically, was figuring out how to keep something happening, how to keep something interesting in frame. Unlike normal dance moves, everything one does on treadmills ends by spitting you off-screen, so it took some work.