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've previously explained the DC Ticker I compile most days, which is now being featured on ABC News' website show, Political Punch, hosted by Jake Tapper. Here are the picks featured on this week's PP:
* Tim Kaine, sell. His DNC is pumping millions into Democratic campaigns, but it still looks as if the Dems are heading toward a historic shellacking.
* Michael Steele, sell. His party seems to be on the verge of seizing control of the House and picking up a significant number of Senate seats, but perhaps no thanks to the RNC, which has been a fundraising flop.
* Newt Gingrich, buy. His chances of becoming the next president are next to nil, but he's raised a lot of money recently, which will put him where he wants to be: in the discussion of 2012 wannabes.
* Patty Murray, sell. From Senator Mom in Sneakers to running for her life.
* Carl Forti, buy. Dubbed "Karl Rove's Karl Rove," the young political strategist who's guiding several of the outside group pouring secret funds into campaigns to help Republicans will be able to claim a big share of the credit should the GOP score big on Election Day.
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.
The headline above could have been used for any sum-up of the Afghanistan war over the past years. This has become the United States' longest war, and there have yet to be any decisive turns. On Saturday, The Washington Post ran a story headlined, "U.S. military, civilian officials claim progress in Afghan war." The opening:
KABUL - With a year-end report card coming due, top U.S. military and civilian officials in Afghanistan have begun to assert that they see concrete progress in the war against the Taliban, a sharp departure from earlier assessments that the insurgency had the momentum.
Despite growing numbers of Taliban attacks and American casualties, U.S. officials are building their case for why they are on the right track, ahead of the December war review ordered by President Obama. They describe an aggressive campaign that has killed or captured hundreds of Taliban leaders and more than 3,000 fighters around the country in recent months, and has pressured insurgents into exploring talks with the Afghan government. At the same time, they say, the Afghan army is bigger and better trained than it has ever been.
Sounds like a major progress, right? But halfway through the article, there's this:
Yet even as U.S. officials here echo [Defense Secretary Bob] Gates's [optimistic] assessment, they have offered relatively little evidence to back up their claims of progress, and many still hesitate to say that successes against the Taliban in certain pockets add up to the war's pendulum swinging their way. Indeed, one week last month broke the nine-year war's record for violence, as the Taliban sought to ambush parliamentary elections: NATO forces logged more than 1,600 attacks nationwide, 500 more than in the previous worst week.
In other words, never mind. So we have talk of progress, but no concrete signs of progress. Perhaps this should have been the central point of the article, not the unproved claims of advances.
Meanwhile, there's hard evidence of what's not going well. The recent parliamentary elections were chock-full of fraud, and Afghan and Western officials estimate that nearly one-quarter of the votes will have to be trashed. Anti-corruption efforts are lagging. And US soldiers accused of murdering Afghans for sport have said they were merely following orders from a commander who fancied collecting body parts as trophies.
The real question at hand is how much improvement can there be between now and next July, when Obama's promised downsizing in Afghanistan is supposed to start. Crunch time is fast approaching.
With a little over two weeks to go to the critical elections, why would the Obama White House want reporters (and voters) to fixate on what it got wrong in its first two years?
That's the question prompted by the appearance this week of a made-for-cable-chatter New York Times Magazinestory (posted on the newspaper's website on Wednesday, ahead of the Sunday hard-copy delivery) by Peter Baker titled "Education of a President." For this article, the White House granted Baker, one of the newspaper's White House correspondents, an interview with Obama and on-the-record access to the president's top aides. Baker also coaxed other Obama advisers to talk on background. The takeaway from the piece—accompanied by the standard president-walking-alone photograph—is a presidential quasi-mea culpa.
For days, President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee have been slamming Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie for pouring millions of dollars from secret sources into House and Senate campaigns via two groups they co-founded, all to benefit Republican candidates. In response, Rove (falsely) accused the president of creating an enemies list. But he really should say, thank you. On Wednesday morning, Jonathan Collegio, communications director of the two Rove/Gillespie groups, sent out an email to reporters, noting that the Obama blasts have been very, very good for the Rove operation:
American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS have raised more than $13.3 million since Barack Obama and the Democrats launched their broadside against us last Tuesday. We have blown through our initial $50 million fundraising goal, with $56 million raised across both groups as of today. We have increased our overall fundraising goal to $65 million.
This additional funding has enabled us to initiate the new $10 million House Surge strategy, as detailed in today’s Wall Street Journal, and dedicate an additional $5 million to our Senate efforts.
In other words, please, Mr. President, hit us again. Please.
Do the Republicans have a chance to fundamentally remake Washington by picking up 100 House seats in the coming elections? Dick Morris—the Fox-friendly, right-wing political consultant who once upon a time advised the Clintons—says they do. At least, that's what he's telling potential donors to his super PAC, called Super PAC for America.
Super PACs are a new type of political action committee, ushered in by recent court and Federal Election Commission rulings, that can raise and spend an unlimited amount of money to influence a federal election and can expressly campaign for or against individual candidates. In the past week, President Barack Obama has slammed Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, two former George W. Bush aides who have created a pair of outfits to raise and spend money to help GOP congressional candidates, and the Chamber of Commerce for funneling tens of millions of dollars in secret campaign cash into the midterm elections. And Morris is trying to get in on the action—even if he's a bit late in the game. On October 4, he and his colleagues sent notice to the Federal Election Commission that they were forming Super PAC for America, and it "intends to raise funds in unlimited amounts" for independent expenditures in federal elections. (That means the PAC will not donate directly to candidates, but instead fund its own efforts—mainly ads—to oppose or support candidates.) Within days, Morris was sending out fundraising emails to conservatives.