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.
On Tuesday night, Fox's Grandmaster Conspiracy Mash-Up Artist known as Glenn Beck took a swipe at me. It wasn't for the article I had posted earlier that day noting that Beck's bizarre conspiracy theorizing—claiming that the Egyptian uprising had been manufactured by Islamic extremists and "uber-leftists" in cahoots to create chaos that will lead to a worldwide caliphate and a communist new world order—was placing him on a collision course with Fox News and non-nutty conservatives. Instead, Beck was ticked off by something I had said last week on MSNBC's The Last Word. His attack, though largely inconsequential, illustrates Beck's methodology: Ignore facts and assail straw targets. Perhaps more seriously—if that can be said about Beck—this part of Beck's soliloquy showed that when it comes to promoting democracy abroad, he's a flip-flopper, willing to take whatever stance serves his conspiracy du jour.
Beck: Here's David Corn. You want to talk about a fringe-y. He's from Mother Jones. Yes, they're still in business. Calling me crazy for saying the Muslim Brotherhood is dangerous.
Video of me on The Last Word: Then you have Glenn Beck, who's literally off the charts. What does he say? He quite literally says on the show: This is not about these people, this is not about freedom, this is not about democracy. This is about a conspiracy to have the Muslim Brotherhood take over, not just Egypt but all of Europe and threaten the United States, while working with leftist groups. He is cheapening [the protesters'] action and their sacrifice. It's beyond shame. It's beyond reason.
Beck: Really David. That's why you work for Mother Jones and I work here. Night One we showed the similarities between Egypt 2011 and Iran 1979. That, too, was all about hundreds of thousands of people risking their lives in favor of democracy and freedom. But what happened? How's that democracy working out in Iran? How's democracy working anywhere in the Middle East, outside of Israel? Show me the democratic model in the Islamic world.
A classified 2008 cable sent by the US embassy in Tripoli to the State Department (and released by WikiLeaks) reveals how the embassy came to uncover what it dubbed "Colonel al-Qaddafi's Summer Reading List."
In October 2008, an embassy officer met at the foreign affairs ministry with a senior official named Ahmed Fituri, and Fituri pointed out a stack of English-language books on his desk. He explained that he had been ordered by Qaddafi to read "significant" English-language book on American politics, policy, history, and current affairs, and then produce four- to seven-page summaries in Arabic for the Libyan leader. Fituri, who had received a PhD from the University of Michigan, said that he had been handling this task for several years—translating and summarizing six to eight books a year—though Qaddafi's demand for these reports had diminished in the previous year.
Fituri told the US embassy officer that he was currently summarizing Fareed Zakaria's The Post-American World. And next up was Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat 3.0. He noted he had recently translated for Qaddafi an article Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had written for Foreign Affairs. And in the past year, he had summarized for Qaddafi Zakaria's The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad, Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope, and George Soros' The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror.
Fituri noted that Qaddafi truly enjoyed Zakaria's The Future of Freedom—that is, the summary of it. But more so than Obama's book?
Fituri also said that Qadaffi had asked him six months earlier to undertake a similar program for his son, Muatassim Qaddafi, who was the national security adviser. So far, Fituri had merely sent the son copies of the summaries he had prepared for the Libyan leader. But Fituri told the US embassy officer that the head of the External Security Organization, Musa Kusa, had complained to him that Muatassim was "not an avid reader" and had to be prodded to peruse even summaries. Fituri added that many senior government officials did not consider Muatassim to be as intellectually curious as his father or his old brother, who was then pursuing a PhD at the London School of Economics.
So was this useful intelligence for the United States? The cable notes that the downturn in Qaddafi's reading coincided with a period in which he had reportedly suffered a series of minor strokes. Perhaps here was confirmation of Qaddafi's diminished health. Moreover, Fituri's description of Muatassim reinforced the embassy's view of him: "Fituri's characterization of Muatassim's less than enthusiastic embrace of the reading program is no surprise, given what we've heard from other contacts, who describe him as a traditional strongman who has focused on consolidating his power-base and pursuing his business interests and social life."
There was no word on what the Ukrainian nurse liked to read.
In his new book, deftly titled Known and Unknown, former Defense Secreatry Donald Rumsfeld insists that he and the Bush-Cheney crew did not purposefully misrepresent the WMD case for the Iraq war: "The President did not lie. The Vice President did not lie. Tenet did not lie. Rice did not lie. I did not lie. The Congress did not lie. The far less dramatic truth is that we were wrong." He does acknowledge that he made a "few misstatements," referring specifically only to one: when he declared early in the war, "We know where they [the WMDs] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."
In the book, Rumsfeld claims that he should have referred to "suspect sites." But, he says, his "few misstatements" were "not common and certainly not characteristic." The intelligence at time regarding Iraq's WMDS, he writes now, was strong. Yet he cites a note he wrote to himself in August 2002 that the intel "could be wrong"—as if to demonstrate his prescience and open-mindedness. And he insists in the book that Saddam Hussein's purported (but nonexistent) WMD stockpile was "only one of the many reasons for the war."
On Wednesday, as pro-Mubarak forces were assaulting protesters in Egypt, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked if President Obama and his aides were considering curtailing or cutting off US aid to Egypt. Gibbs reiterated what he had said days earlier: "We will evaluate the actions of the government of Egypt in making and reviewing decisions about aid. That continues." Hours later, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the Senate subcommittee that overseas US foreign assistance, went further, saying that "the pipeline will be turned off" if Mubarak attempts to hang on to power.
But who controls that pipeline? And can it be shut off?
Moments before the new Republican House was to be sworn in, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the head of the House Republican Policy Committee and the chamber's fifth-ranking GOPer, was standing in the ornate Speaker's Lobby of the Capitol, near a roaring fire. In the celebratory hustle and bustle—new members rushing to pick up lapel pins and license plates, their kids noisily exploring the building—a reporter approached Price with a question: How could he reconcile the GOP's pledge to tame the deficit with its decision to dodge budget calculations about the costs of tax cuts and repealing health care reform? Without missing a beat, Price replied, "It doesn't cost the government money to decrease taxes. When you decrease taxes, as President Kennedy proved, as Reagan proved, you increase revenue to the federal government."
David Stockman, Reagan's first budget director in the 1980s and the godfather of the Gipper's supply-side tax cuts, was watching the proceedings from his home in Colorado and shaking his head. Republicans like Price were, in Stockman's view, misreading history—even perverting the Reagan message. As he saw it, they were guiding the nation toward financial ruin by pushing for tax cuts without having the guts to seriously slash spending—and dishonestly justifying their "flimflam" by citing his work.