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.
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.
In an interview taped last week for Newsmax.com, a conservative website, the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate said that she had been right in 2009 to accuse President Barack Obama of trying to set up "death panels" with his health care overhaul. But the legislation, according to PolitiFact.com, did no such thing. In fact, when Palin first made this charge, PolitiFact called it a "pants on fire" lie.
Palin, though, is utterly unrepentant. She boasted to Newsmax:
I was about laughed out of town for bringing to light what I called death panels because there's going to be faceless bureaucrats who will based on cost analysis and some subjective ideas on somebody's level of productivity in life—somebody is going to call the shots as to whether your loved one will be able to receive healthcare or not: to me, death panels. I call it like I saw it, and people didn't like it.
The problem: what she saw was not there.
In the Newsmax interview, Palin echoes, almost word-for-word, her original accusation. In August 2009, she posted a Facebook note that decried the health care reform proposal:
And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.
We agree with Palin that such a system would be evil. But it's definitely not what President Barack Obama or any other Democrat has proposed.
We have read all 1,000-plus pages of the Democratic bill and examined versions in various committees. There is no panel in any version of the health care bills in Congress that judges a person's "level of productivity in society" to determine whether they are "worthy" of health care.
Palin's claim sounds a little like another statement making the rounds, which says that health care reform would mandate counseling for seniors on how to end their lives sooner. We rated this claim Pants on Fire! The truth is that the health bill allows Medicare, for the first time, to pay for doctors' appointments for patients to discuss living wills and other end-of-life issues with their physicians. These types of appointments are completely optional, and AARP supports the measure.
Palin also may have also jumped to conclusions about the Obama administration's efforts to promote comparative effectiveness research. Such research has nothing to do with evaluating patients for "worthiness." Rather, comparative effectiveness research finds out which treatments work better than others.
In other words, no "death panels" and nothing like "death panels." Factcheck.org also pronounced Palin wrong on this.
In the past year, Palin has offered no proof to back up her "death panels" charge. Yet now she's not only doubling down on "death panels"; she's bragging about her gutsiness in calling out Obama. It's as if she never was refuted—or refudiated.
As for the possibility of a 2012 presidential run, Palin told Newsmax,
Anyone is foolish to prematurely close any door that perhaps will be be open for them. I also know that really it isn't my call. It is the people of America—whether they would be ready for someone a bit unconventioal, out of the box...or if they want someone a little bit more conventional, maybe more electable.
Was Palin really suggesting she's not that electable? In any event, she did not say if she expected "death panels" to be an issue in the 2012 campaign.
Last week, I 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:
* Dick Cheney, buy. After a summer heart operation that was quite serious, the ex-veep is back in the saddle, once again making speeches defending his administration and criticizing Obama. We still have Dick Cheney to kick around.
* George Allen, buy. From "macaca" to back-at-ya. He's considering a 2012 run for his old Senate seat in Virginia. With purple Virginia looking more reddish these days, the fellow might have a good shot against the man who defeated him in 2006, Democratic Sen. Jim Webb.
* Sharron Angle, buy. Polls show her ahead or close in the race against Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid. Given how lousy a candidate she's been, it shouldn't be this close.
* Rep. Walt Minnick, buy. In the (supposed) Year of the Tea Party, can a first-term House Democrat win reelection in the conservative wilds of Idaho? Dems are increasingly confident Minnick can hold his at-risk seat.
* Rich Iott, sell. Nazi reenactment? Say no more. (But it's never a good thing when a candidate is compelled to clarify that he does not subscribe to the tenets of Nazism.)
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.