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.
George W. Bush or Dick Cheney—who's more frightening to liberals? Some progressive political strategists seem to believe the answer is Cheney.
This past weekend, Democracy for America, a grassroots progressive founded by Howard Dean that recruits, trains, promotes, and funds progressive candidates, sent out a an email signed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The piece focused on the current fight over whether to extend the Bush administration tax cuts for folks who make more than $250,000 a year. Leahy's email read,
To this day, America's top income-earners—households making more than $250,000 a year—aren't paying their fair share in taxes. Letting these tax cuts for the wealthy continue for another decade would saddle middle class Americans, our kids, and our grandkids with an additional $680 billion of debt, largely payable to the Chinese government.
The Bush-Cheney tax cuts for the wealthy are wrong. Thankfully they're set to expire this December, unless Republicans in Congress get their way and renew them indefinitely.
With debate set to begin on the Senate floor as early as next week, we don't have a lot of time to get this right.
Leahy asked recipients of the email to sign a petition urging Congress to allow the tax cuts for the rich to expire. And in his note, he repeatedly referred to these breaks as the "Bush-Cheney tax cuts."
Yet the email's subject line put it a bit differently. When a recipient spotted the email in his or her inbox, the note was titled, "Dick Cheney's Tax Cut." The guy at the top was missing. The point of a subject line for a mass email is to get the recipient to click and open the message. DFA's consultants must figure that Cheney is more of a motivator for their target audience than Bush. That prompts a question: should Democrats this campaign season run against "Cheney Republicans"?
It wasn't until the end of President Barack Obama's first full press conference in three months that a problem became clear.
In the last question of the hour-plus session in the East Room of the White House on Friday morning, Fox News correspondent Wendell Goler asked the president about the Islamic center being constructed near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, requesting that Obama "weigh in" on the "wisdom" of establishing a "mosque" near the site of the 9/11 attack. (Goler balanced out the question with a reference to the would-be Koran-burning pastor.) Obama delivered a heartfelt, forceful, and extensive reply. He noted that a bedrock principle of the nation is that all men and women "can practice religion freely." If you can build a church, a synagogue, a Hindu temple on a site, he said, then you should be able to build a mosque. "We're not at war with Islam," he proclaimed. Referring to US soldiers, he said, with his voice rising, "I've got Muslims fighting in the uniform of the armed services of the United States. They're putting their lives on the line for us...They are Americans!" His point: Should they be denied the freedom to practice their religion?
There was no equivocation. Weeks ago, when Obama first addressed this subject, he did seem to send a mixed message: that the developers of the Cordoba House project had the right to build it, not saying whether they should or shouldn't. But while he didn't explicitly endorse this project at the press conference, Obama took an unambiguous stand against the opponents of the Cordoba House. One National Review blogger called Obama's response "the best answer I've heard from a mosque defender" (but he still remained unpersuaded). As Obama defended a position that, according to the polls, is unpopular with most Americans, he was at his best and most passionate.
But here's the rub. Obama wasn't nearly as passionate when discussing the No. 1 issue: the economy.
Months ago, the political commentariat's position was that the Democrats' hold on the Senate was inviolable; only the House was in play. But in recent weeks, the story line has changed: maybe...the Senate, too. It does seem a heavier lift for the GOPers, but with the economy still in the tank and many polls suggesting the Dems are heading for a cliff, the Senate Democrats have become more vulnerable. NBC News' "First Read" newsletter today put out a handy guide to the ten Senate races where there's a good shot of a pick-up. Note that there's not one Democratic possible gain on this list:
First Read’s Top 10 Senate Takeovers: Chew on this: Right now, Republicans have a better chance of flipping West Virginia’s Senate seat than Democrats have in picking up the one in Ohio. In fact, this is our first Top 10 Senate takeover list this cycle where we don’t have a single Dem pick-up opportunity. According to this list, Republicans—right now—would gain a minimum of five seats. Yet to take control of the chamber, they’d need to win all 10 on the list (or win a substitute outside the Top 10). The number in parentheses is our ranking from last month.
1. North Dakota (1): Get ready to ho-down with Republican John Hoeven (R); yes, we're running out of Hoeven puns. Ranking: Solid GOP.
2. Delaware (2): Does Mike Castle (R) survive his primary against Christine O’Donnell (R)? The GOP’s likelihood of winning this seat depends on it. Ranking (with Castle as nominee): Probable GOP.
3. Arkansas (3): Bill Clinton campaigned this week for incumbent Blanche Lincoln (D), but it’s unlikely to change the dynamics of her race against John Boozman (R). Ranking: Probable GOP.
4. Indiana (4): Speaking of being able to change the dynamics, Brad Ellsworth (D) hasn’t caught up to Dan Coats (R). Ranking: Probable GOP.
5. Pennsylvania (5): After being dormant for the last couple of months, Joe Sestak’s (D) campaign has become more active, with Biden and Obama set to stump for him later this month. Right now, though, this is Pat Toomey’s (R) race to lose. Ranking: Lean GOP.
6. Illinois (7): The Alexi Giannoulias (D)-vs.-Mark Kirk (R) contest remains what we consider to be the truest 50%-50% race out there. Ranking: Toss Up.
7. Colorado (unranked): The Ken Buck (R)-vs.-Michael Bennet (D) race is close to being a pure 50%-50% race, too. Which force will be greater -- the overall political environment, or the GOP’s woes in the state? Ranking: Toss Up.
8. Nevada (8): Now we enter the contests where Democrats might have an advantage by a fingernail. But the Harry Reid (D)-vs.Sharron Angle (R) race is going to close. Fasten your seatbelts. Ranking: Toss Up.
9. Wisconsin (unranked): As was the case in ‘98, Russ Feingold (D) is fighting for his political life. What makes this time more difficult for him is that this political environment is much different than ’98 was. Ranking: Toss Up.
10. Washington (10): If Republicans indeed catch a wave on Election Night, we’ll be pulling an all-nighter watching the returns from the Patty Murray (D)-vs.-Dino Rossi (R) race. Ranking: Toss Up.
In his new (self-serving, of course) memoir, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair praises George W. Bush as a man of "genuine integrity and as much political courage as any leader I have ever met." Yet Blair leaves out of the 700-page tome any mention of a meeting he had with Bush in which the US president proposed a plan to trigger the Iraq war through outright deceit.
The early media coverage of Blair's book, A Journey: My Political Life, has zeroed in on his complex and dramatic relationship with Gordon Brown, his onetime political soulmate. (Blair writes about him as one would an ex-lover.) Yet Blair devotes a serious chunk to defending his decision to partner up with Bush for the Iraq war. "I can't regret the decision to go to war," he writes. "…I can say that never did I guess the nightmare that unfolded." He adds, "I have often reflected as to whether I was wrong. I ask you to reflect as to whether I may have been right."
As he walks the quiet Main Street of Farmville, Virginia, Rep. Tom Perriello has his work cut out for him. Wearing khakis, brown boots, and an open-collar shirt in the 100-degree heat, the freshman Democrat pops into stores and offices—he's not always recognized—and asks how business is going and what he can do to help. He tells his constituents that America needs to "make things," and "the elites" in Washington don't get this. At Key Office Supply, owner Jim Ailsworth thanks Perriello for his health care reform vote, noting that he plans to use the law's small-business tax credit for his staff. At Davenport & Company, an independent stock brokerage, manager Brad Watson says he's worried that the stimulus (which Perriello also supported) won't yield long-lasting public works. Perriello points out that he argued "for a stimulus that is focused on 10 years—not 18 months." After Perriello leaves, Watson points to campaign literature on his desk for state Sen. Robert Hurt, who vanquished several tea party candidates to become Perriello's Republican challenger. "Hurt's a nice, moderate Republican," Watson says; he intends to vote for him.
Some 175 miles away in Washington, Republican strategists would be heartened to hear Watson talk. Defeating Perriello is one of the GOP's top priorities as the party fights to gain the 39 seats it needs to seize control of the House and create an anti-Obama fire wall. These few sleepy blocks in central Virginia constitute one of the front lines in this fight. (Before the campaign even began, Perriello was already the target of $1 million in attack ads.) Given that political handicappers estimate the GOP is likely to bag at least 30 House seats, the Dems' fate could depend on whether Perriello manages to hold on.