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David Corn's Reddit AMA: The Full Questions and Answers

Our DC bureau chief, who broke the Mitt Romney donor-video story, met the 'net Friday afternoon. Got a question for him?

| Fri Sep. 21, 2012 9:22 AM EDT

Earlier this week, MoJo Washington bureau chief David Corn published secret video of a Mitt Romney fundraiser in Florida in May. In it, the Republican presidential nominee talked candidly about the 47 percent of Americans who he said won't vote for him because they are "dependent on government" and "believe that they are victims." (The full video and transcript from the fundraiser are available here; video highlights are here.)

Corn has popped over to Reddit today to answer readers' questions from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern time today. Got a question? Head on over there and ask it! Want some answers? Check 'em out below:

10:45 a.m. EDT: David's IAmA Reddit page has gone live, and there are some fantastic questions. As well as some funny ones:

  • ashmaht asks: "Do you like corn?"

... and cy99maddux nails the follow-up: "What about Korn?"

  • MentallyDeficient asks: "How many garbanzo beans can you hold in your hands at once?"
  • Nomad47 gets right to it: "Do you or anyone you might know have copies of ten years or less of Mitt Romney's tax returns?"

...he added: "How long and how hard did you laugh when the Romney campaign said the video was "debunked" and "selectively edited"? Be honest, are you still laughing right now?"

More questions... and answers... coming up!

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12:15 p.m. EDT: David Corn is in the house now, and answering questions:

1) Mentally Deficient asked:
"How many garbanzo beans can you hold in your hands at once?"
Answer: 237.

2) FakeCurtisLeMay asked
You probably can't answer this, but I'd really like to know how you got the tape. Did someone pay $50,000 a plate for the opportunity to tape this just in case Romney said something dumb? What's the legality of taping something like this? I know in certain states both parties have to consent to a taping of a conversation. Does that apply to a large event?
Answer: I cannot say much about the source of the tape and how s/he came to be in the room. But as far as I can ascertain, it wasn't an opposition hit job. The source realized that s/he would be in the room with a presidential candidate and thought that Romney might just say something interesting enough to deserve recording. Seems the source was right about that...As for the legality of what happened, I will leave that to experts on Florida law.

3)  hersheybar422 asked
What is a typical day like for you?
Answer: Not like the past few.....I get up early, check email and Twitter to make sure there's no major news, get the kids to school, then head to the office, where I oversee a great DC bureau of 8 reporters and editors, as we do all we can to find scoops and post stories that explain and advance important stories. In between all that, I do various appearances on MSNBC. And last year, I also squeezed in reporting and writing for my book, SHOWDOWN, which, coincidentally, came out this week in paperback. (Feel free to check it out.) Oh, yes, there's making dinner, doing dishes, walking the dog, and, playing in a neighborhood band. Sleep? Hmmm, I've heard of sleep. 

4) The_Iceman2288 asked:
Do you forsee any scenario in which Romney can win this election?
Answer: I remain convinced this is a close election. I wouldn't bet. And there's still a chance that the debates or external circumstances--say, a financial crisis or foreign policy emergency--could change the contours of the race.

5) thingsyoutellyourcat asked:
My first experience reading Mother Jones was in a bookstore. I began reading an article about a Dr. that used shock-type behavior modification on children. I was so amazed at the way the article was presented, I bought the magazine. I've been hooked ever since. Thank you!
Answer: That was a great article--a real good representation of the type of investigative reporting we aim to produce at Mother Jones. Here's a link to it: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2007/08/school-shock

6) MichaelBluth asked:
How can we promote more non-profit media sources such as Mother Jones?
Answer: You're doing that now by participating here. Word of mouth is a great way to do that for individuals. But also if you send us cash--by which I mean tax-deductible contributions in the form of checks--we can use those funds to beef up our promotional efforts to boost the magazine and the work we generate.
Oh, I should give the address for that, right. It's
Mother Jones 222 Sutter St. Suite 600 San Francisco, CA 94108
We may take electronic donations. I will check. Good question!
Here's the link to subscribe and donate:
https://secure.motherjones.com/fnp/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&list_source=7H10TOPNV&extra_don=1

7) Nomad47 asked:
Do you or anyone you might know have copies of ten years or less of Mitt Romney's tax returns?
Answer: I could tell you, but then I'd have to....Just kidding. I assume his accountant does. Did John McCain hang on to the 23 years of returns Romney gave him in 2008? I don't know. I do know--or assume--that the tax return issue will become an inconvenient matter for Romney again, and soon. He has pledged to release his 2011 return in October. Which is reaaaallll soon. When he does, it will once again raise the knotty issue of...what about the ten years prior to 2010? I was just talking about this on the Diane Rehm Show (guest-hosted by Susan Page!), and we all sort of agreed this could be a problem and wondered why he didn't release the return earlier to avoid this potential dustup so late in the final stretch.
Update: Word just came in that Romney is releasing his 2011 return this Friday afternoon. Of course, Friday afternoon. And will also release a summation of the tax rates he's paid the previous 20 years, but not the returns. Hmmm.

8) EvilPRGuy asked:
Mother Jones is one of the few English language publications that still dedicates the time, money, resources and column inches to real on the ground, investigative, researched journalism. Is this type of writing definitely doomed and headed towards extinction because of monetary and technological factors? Is it a function of the audience for this type of journalism disappearing? Other then buying the publications that run this kind of work, is there any other way to support and encourage the return of "shoe leather" investigative reporting?
Answer: You're right. This is a concern. And we at Mother Jones--and other outlets--work hard to preserve this sort of kick-ass, independent, probing journalism. Really, the best way to support this is to read the work that is done, subscribe and donate. And, again, spread the word any way you can. Once more, here's how to donate or subscribe to MoJo: https://secure.motherjones.com/fnp/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&list_source=7H10TOPNV&extra_don=1

9) 1000pointsoflight added:
Yes. Was going to post along this line. What can be done to restore muckraking journalism in the traditions of Jack Anderson et al? We need it.
Answer: My pal Mark Feldstein wrote a great book that came out last year about Jack Anderson and Richard Nixon. Look it up and buy it. Fabulous read.

10) dtm9k asked:
How did you authenticate the video when it was first presented to you?
Why was so much of the video blurred out in your initial release of it? I understand the need to protect your source, but does offering a heavily blurred video pose credibility issues in how it will be percieved
Answer: Good Qs....If you watch the full video, you can see Romney say things that indicate when and where it happened. And we looked quite closely to determine if we could see any evidence of manipulation or cutting. We saw none. That said, I figured there was a slight chance (<5%) that some Dr. Evil Master of the Editing Bay might have been able to concoct all this. But I spent time communicating with the source and becoming familiar with him/her to increase my level of confidence. Also, it seemed to me, if this was a diabolical plot, then the video would have already been disseminated in a more conventional manner of leaking.
We blurred initially because the source requested that. But we believed that enough was shown to indicate this was the real deal. Plus, I had confirmed when and where this happened and knew I could vouch for the authenticity. Sure, there was the chance that some would have taken issue with the blurring. But what can you do about that?

11) cy99maddux asked:
How long and how hard did you laugh when the Romney campaign said the video was "debunked" and "selectively edited"? Be honest, are you still laughing right now?
Answer: Well, they had to say something.....But it was odd that they made that claim after essentially confirming it was real when Romney declared his remarks "off the cuff." (Which seems to me to be one way of saying, "what I really mean.") Here's a further explanation I wrote of how Romney's debunking claim was debunked: http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/09/mitt-romney-says-video-debunked

12) kodemage asked:
Follow up question: What, if any, edits were done to the video. Obviously there's some blurring and it was cut into at least 2 pieces but aside from that was anything chopped out?
Answer: The video, as I've explained, came to me in two files. The source explained that s/he noticed, 35 minutes in, that the device was not recording. S/he figured that the device had timed out or been brushed in a manner that caused it to turn off. The source says that s/he quickly turned the device back on and estimates that one to two minutes, maybe less was not recorded. We have put up the entire files we were sent. Not a single thing has been edited or doctored. Still, rightwingers are cooking up conspiracy theories and claiming we've altered the tapes. Believe me, as much as anyone, I'd like to know what wasn't captured on the video. Perhaps Romney can tell us.

13) gothmog1114 asked:
Do you feel that Mitt's mormonism has a place in the discussion?
Answer: Interesting question. I'm of two minds. I do think, in a way, that voters should know the bedrock beliefs of a candidate who is seeking control of our nuclear arsenal and the destiny of our nation. But should we ask Romney if he literally believes the tale of the Book of Mormon? I don't know. But I'd be curious about that.

14) factoryofsadness asked:
I agree with Mother Jones that one of the biggest problems facing our nation is economic inequality. How can the government realistically address economic inequality other than raising the minimum wage (which will result in a corresponding increase in prices) or begging the business sector to start paying workers fairly?
Answer: Minimum wage is a good place to start I think the tax code offers you opportunities. The Earned Income Tax Credit has helped in this regard. Investing in infrastructure and education can lead to boosts in employment that can address this matter.

15) dudesndudes asked:
To add to this, I saw something on the news yesterday about what Americans feel is the biggest economic problem the country faces. Something like 2% (fucking TWO PERCENT!) said that income inequality is the most important issue.
To me, income inequality is the biggest problem we face now, maybe I'm ignoring other things because this is important to me, though.
Anyway, to add to the question above me, is there any way we can get more Americans to realize how big a problem income inequality is, or can we get them to care about it? I don't know. It disturbs me that Americans right now seem to be okay with the fact that incomes of the rich continue to rise astronomically, while working class wages are actually going down. End rant.
freemarket27 added:
Allow republican states to exit the union. That way the remaining states have a sold democrat majority and can raise taxes as high as they would like.
shondie added:
From what data I've seen, there would be a tax surplus if the Democratic states didn't have to support the Republican states, as most of the former generate contribute more in federal taxes than they take out.
I would be interested to see the numbers on the two new countries if freemarket27's proposal came to be.
Sources: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/11/states-federal-taxes-spending-charts-maps http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/08/americas-fiscal-union
Answer: Yes, it seems the red states complain more and the blue states receive less. Go figure. Mississippi, you're on your own!

16) alphadoodledoo asked:
Saw a pic of you taken by another journo at the airport following the DNC where you were noodling on an acoustic guitar. Think it was a Hummingbird if I recall. Can you really play or were you just trying to impress the ladies? If you can, how would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 (n00b) to 10 (Jeff Beck)?
Answer: Not my guitar, but I think you're right. (Is there any straight guy who learned how to play guitar who wasn't trying to impress the ladies?) Hard for me to assess my own skills. But I'd say there is much greater range than 1-10 for n00b to Beck. (I'm tempted to say 11, at least)

17) DirtyProjector asked:
Why don't more journalists call out politicians on their bullshit? Most politicians flat out lie to the public, and no one holds them accountable. Is it a fear that they will be black listed?
Answer: Good question. This is something I've pondered and written about many a time. See
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/factcheck-politifact-lying-politicians
and
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2008/09/after-w-will-press-get-spine
I think there's a lot of factors. Beat reporters often don't like to be too antagonistic toward their subjects, for this will affect their ability to get information from them. MSMers often feel it is not their place to render such judgements and believe it is their job to convey what the pols are saying and let the public reach its own conclusions. I disagree (what a surprise!) and believe the press needs to be aggressive in policing the pols and in calling out untruths. I'm heartened to see more of that in the MSM, via factchecking (see the first piece above), but this recent trend in the media has had its rocky moments.

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