David Corn, Policy, DC Parties, and Me

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Steve Clemons and Ben Affleck 2.jpg
(Steve Clemons and Ben Affleck — and a glimpse of David Corn mostly eclipsed by Susan Eisenhower’s hair)
Unlike “Roger” in Michael Moore‘s Roger and Me, I really like David Corn — and I have no problem seeing him unlike the elusive and never reachable Roger. In fact, I am running into David Corn everywhere, constantly. . .to the point where I feel like one of us is stalking the other.
David Corn is a big time blogger, pundit, and hard-hitting wonk at some of DC’s coolest parties. He is the DC Bureau Chief for Mother Jones and used to hold the same position with The Nation. He’s a regular on all the MSNBC news shows — particularly Countdown. I attend the same, often glitzy gatherings he does and then get in deep conversations about Gaza, or the need to engage Hamas, or why Scowcroft, Nixon and Hagel would be the foreign policy progressives of our time (David would probably cough when I mentioned Nixon).
David Corn was on a panel with me recently when we both spoke about the media, bipartisanship and foreign policy for Search for Common Ground. He was at the Maureen Dowd party I enjoyed so much and which swept much of the Maureen Dowd-hating universe my way (some of them regular TWN readers). Corn was at the Huffington Post Inaugural bash and at the Google/YouTube Party.
I event sat next to David not too long ago at a Jackson Brown concert at the Warner Theater — complete coincidence.
More recently, we both went to a Center for Democracy in the Americas reception for the opening of the new movie Che with Benecio del Toro — and waited for him, until Benecio stormed out, pissed off that he thought he had been sandbagged with a Washington Times reporter. del Toro did not know that David Corn and I would have been worth having some margaritas with to get the real Che story told right. (By the way, the film is being distributed by Film on Demand…it’s four hours long and worth it….so enjoy in your own home).
david corn white house twn 2.jpgAnd then a day or so after, I ran into David on the street as I left an interview with Al Arabiya (I was the first American to interview in their DC studio after the network scored its White House interview with Barack Obama Monday evening this week). And then I walked David over to the White House, where he was going to go show his face more often.
And then I saw this note in “The Sleuth” column of The Washington Post identifiying David Corn and myself as the “wonkiest of wonks” in Washington. This actually made me happy.
And then the columnist, Mary Ann Akers, disclosed that we were talking to Ben Affleck for a really long time about a lot of stuff — the economy, Affleck’s new documentary on Nick Kristof, the Middle East, and the like. There were about 50 people standing around us, and Susan Eisenhower was in on the discussion too.
I’m not going to comment on exactly what Affleck said — but I want to say that he impressed me with his passion and the level of detailed understanding that he had about the dilemmas we face in the Middle East. He has his views — and he’s not shy about broadcasting them, but he also listens to alternative takes. I think Ben Affleck can be an important voice on the need to approach many of the country’s foreign policy problems without the kind of biases we have had before.
And though I’m surprised that I’m saying this, I hope that Affleck finds a way to continue to engage DC on this foreign policy stuff. He likes Obama, knows Rahm Emanuel well. He has channels and needs to be careful of mixing industries and hurting his brand — but I can attest to the fact that his head was clearly packed with the right detail, logic, and context to make very reasoned, balanced arguments on the Middle East — way better than the standard fare I hear from seasoned Middle East peace business practitioners.
The picture above was taken at the Google/YouTube-Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Inaugural Party by one of the many dozens huddled around trying to listen to the 20 minute conversation — and the clip below ran in the Post. I won’t comment on the content of what Ben was reported to have said as we said a lot — and this clip makes it sound like a lot of attitude packed into a bumper sticker line — and what Affleck spoke about that night was reasoned, complex and made a lot of sense. I hope that Rahm Emanuel did listen a bit if they were in fact discussing these kinds of foreign policy issues.
From The Sleuth at the Washington Post:

Grande Finale of Inauguralpalooza: God, Gays and Gaza
The fifth and final night of inaugural partying was like a cork popping off a champagne bottle. The inner party animal in thousands of revelers came out.
But this being Washington, there was just as much energy put into celebrating as there was debating what Barack Obama will do now that he’s president – namely about the Middle East and the economy.
At the Google party, the hot ticket of the final night, Ben Affleck, who became usual suspect No. 1 on the inauguration party scene, was engaged in rigorous conversation with a few of Washington’s wonkiest wonks (including liberal journalist David Corn and Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation).
Affleck was railing about the Israeli invasion of Gaza. And, thanks to his special access, he said he has already registered his concerns with the highest echelons of the Obama administration. He said he gave White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel an earful about Israel at a private dinner the night before.
It pays to have an agent who is the brother of the new White House chief of staff. Affleck’s agent is Ari Emanuel, the model for obnoxious Hollywood super agent Ari Gold in the hit HBO show “Entourage.”
Later, Affleck was spotted having an intense chat with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) about the economy.

Real policy talk at DC parties. It can happen.
– Steve Clemons

Comments

32 comments on “David Corn, Policy, DC Parties, and Me

  1. Neil says:

    Can we find a cell in the Hague for Olmert Bush Cheney and Rumsfeld?

    Reply

  2. Kathleen G says:

    Dan that is absurd. I walked into two balls in D.C. with moderately nice outfits on. Sorry did not have the dough to get in those doors ( Green Ball..Peace Ball) putting youngest daughter through college. I just walked in mingled, talked, danced and listened to conversations.
    Interesting to hear those (some who think they are muckety mucks) discuss issues, the election etc.
    One thing I learned living in Aspen Colorado 30 years ago…there are rich folk who are assholes and rich folks who are compassionate, and committed to justice. All ready knew that there were poor folks who are assholes and poor folks who are compassionate and committed to justice.
    I find it interesting and important to know about those with media and money power who choose to be involved and put their own asses, reputations and careers on the line.
    Affleck is obviously one of the folks with media power and money willing to do so. Especially in regard to what is taking place in the I/P conflict Great to hear

    Reply

  3. Kate says:

    Tom Wolfe wrote this, right?

    Reply

  4. Don Bacon says:

    Dan,
    Sooorry. My “you” didn’t mean you (or I would have so specified). I know it looks that way because I earlier quoted you, but in this case you is not you. Now you know why I never get invited anywhere. I could even upgrade my wardrobe and still not look as good as you-know-who (not you).

    Reply

  5. Steve Clemons says:

    Dan — I would love to see the less morose side of you at a DC party. . .would be very interesting.
    Don — you are too hard on yourself. there are some parties here even for the disagreeable. ;-)
    best, steve

    Reply

  6. Dan Kervick says:

    I am actually an extremely affable and shockingly gregarious party guest Don. For some reason, my online persona is morose, serious, angry and grave, with only some nasty, icy sarcasm thrown in for comic relief. But in real life social situations I am much more buoyant and jocular, usually laughing and smiling, and can apparently make other people laugh too. I talk politics, but mostly socialize with people who broadly agree with me about things anyway. I’ll get into debates, but usually stay away from the things that might lead to really heated disagreements. All-in-all, a boon companion – just like Ben Affleck! (Except I *married* my Puerto Rican girlfriend 22 years ago.)
    My primary aversion to the kind of high-end socializing Steve does would be that I would have to upgrade my wardrobe. I harbor a strong resentment over the social requirement to buy nice clothes. I would do it, so as not to embarrass myself, but the whole time I would be thinking about the fact that I could have bought ten, twenty or thirty books for the price of the unnecessary outfit I was wearing.
    I usually have no more than two drinks, so would probably manage to keep my tongue from behaving irresponsibly and causing trouble.

    Reply

  7. Kathleen G says:

    Steve all have you read John Deans latest on torture and the Office of Legal Counsel. Zing
    Legal Jeopardy For American Torturers Here and Abroad? A Q & A Session With An Expert on the Issue, Philippe Sands
    By JOHN W. DEAN
    Friday, Jan. 23, 2009
    “One would think that people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, Gonzales, Yoo, Haynes and others, who claim to have done nothing wrong, would call for investigations to clear themselves if they really believed that to be the case. Only they, however, seem to believe in their innocence – the entire gutless and cowardly group of them, who have shamed themselves and the nation by committing crimes against humanity in the name of the United States.”
    http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dean/20090123.html
    MUSIC FOR OUR EARS

    Reply

  8. Don Bacon says:

    We’re “lapping up the information that Steve provides?” He might disagree.
    The point is that SC can disagree without becoming disagreeable. He’s tolerant. I won’t say anything about you, but it isn’t hard to imagine how many Washington parties I would be invited to after I attended one or perhaps two. Like, none.

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  9. Steve Clemons says:

    gdp — already did. best, steve

    Reply

  10. gdp says:

    Oh, and would you tell Katie to tell Angelina to tell Britney that
    Steve thinks she’s really cool. tee-hee

    Reply

  11. Kathleen G says:

    Dan and Paul. Agree. The game that takes place, Glad to hear some of the muckety mucks are hearing other critical perspectives having to do with the I/P conflict.
    Forgot to mention to Steve that Amy Goodman hit a home run at the Peace Ball at the Postal Union (just across the street from Union Station) the night of the inauguration. She really hammered Israel’s actions in the Gaza. Was watching the crowd closely and watched a few people get really pissed off and walk out of the room. Amy does not back down.
    It is one this issue that many progressives take a hard turn to the right (wrong). Hell most of the progressive blogospheres barely touch this issue or let some lower level bloggersn (Siun) take the heat. (the Major bloggers at Firedoglake barely touch this issue) Although the gates have opened a bit.
    Recently Jane Hamsher said “the time is not right” What hogwash. We have been hearing that line out of the MSM for the last 40 years. The truth is that many of the so called progressive bloggers are chicken shit and avoid this topic. (especially up until recently)
    Steve thanks for writing about this issue

    Reply

  12. Kathleen G says:

    Damn good news about Affleck’s view of Israel’s latest over the top response in the Gaza. Wondered where Affleck was during the concert Sunday on the Mall a few days before the inauguration. There were so many pop starts on the stage I kept asking the young folks around me “who the hell is that, and what have they done on issues”. Often the response would be “nothing” Calling all of those pop stars celebrity lubricant for the masses.
    Affleck is a grand example of being engaged on issues. He was amazing on the road for Kerry, articulate and up on many issues. Thank you Ben Affleck for bringing some balance to what our Reps hear having to do with the I/P conflict. Folks need to contact their Reps every week about this issue
    David Corn rocks. He was more than willing to have out in the open discussions on one of his first blogs 4 or so years ago. His open site would get hard with radical trolls who did not want the Israeli Palestinian conflict respectfully discussed. His site was heavily attacked. Glad as hell to see Steve Clemons and David Corn in the MSM with clear and steady opinions on many different issues “wonk” away
    Steve and all did you hear Former President Jimmy Carter on the Diane Rehm show on Wednesday?
    They were discussing the Gaza and Carter’s knew book.
    http://wamu.org/programs/dr/09/01/28.php#24364

    Reply

  13. questions says:

    Listen to Blago’s description of his relationship with the Illinois state legislature. Suddenly, getting along, partying, being all together seems like a good strategy for good working relations.
    You talk with people you trust, you trust people who seem to be like you, you discover likenesses in informal gatherings. It’s worth it. And I kind of think Steve can keep enough critical distance to be able to judge.

    Reply

  14. Paul Norheim says:

    Well said, Dan. What some may perceive as human weakness
    (vanity, climbing the social ladder, the culture of flattery etc) is
    part of the package. If Steve should behave according to the
    demands of certain people: take an explicit moral stand on
    every occasion, always telling people face to face what he meant
    about them etc. – then he would be permanently excluded from
    a huge amount of sources on the right and the left, and the
    blog may have become more politically correct, but certainly
    much poorer as a source of info, and thus as a space for
    interesting debates and perspectives about crucial issues,
    between the host and the commenters.
    This is even more important at a time when main stream media
    are so streamlined, and often ignore the most important info,
    perspectives and background stories. And after all, there aren`t
    that many bloggers with such access to the powerful political
    circles as Steve has.
    That said, by publishing this piece right after the Dowd party
    article, it looks like Steve is deliberately provoking strong
    reactions. Perhaps he really enjoys being bombarded by the
    morally outraged? Or perhaps he wishes to attract new readers
    and commenters to his blog. In any case, I think he will
    succeed.

    Reply

  15. Dan Kervick says:

    Steve’s social activity and general outlook are a big part of who he is. One reason he is able to pass on such a significant amount of insider information on political comings and goings and backstage power plays, some of it clearly confidential and on background, is because he works hard at staying well-connected with other powerful and well-connected people.
    Even where the people he meets and socializes with might not be conduits of important information in themselves, I think we have to consider the fact that only someone with Steve’s general disposition – an energetic, entrepreneurial drive to move in the most politically and socially influential circles – is likely to be able to do the kind of work he does. How many of Steve’s important presentation’s at New America, for example, might have been been put together over drinks in a depressurized social situation? Steve is a tireless and skilled facilitator of the movement of information, ideas, and transactions among the powerful, here on his blog, at NAF and in other venues. That means being out there and mixing and networking wherever there are influential and well-connected people.
    Consider that when Steve passes on some information about, for example, backstage disputes among the Condoleeza Rice forces and the John Bolton forces in the Bush administration, that information might have come from a well-lubricated and disarmed Republican mouth at a social affair. It might even come from some less politically attentive socialite who moves, nevertheless, in the right gossip circles.
    I’ve learned to accept that although Steve’s scene is not my scene, his peregrinations among the powerful are all part of the complex and energetic personality of Steve Clemons, who adds a great deal of value to our political discourse.
    I often have the same visceral reactions to scenes of the partying glitterati that others here do. But we’re all free to turn away and go elsewhere. If instead we’re here reading this blog, lapping up the information that Steve provides, then in a sense we are at those parties too. So who are we to complain?

    Reply

  16. Pacos_gal says:

    I’d say that a lot of things can be accomplished by attending a “well stocked” party. I know that I might be in the minority on this blog when it comes to that opinion, but still, it doesn’t hurt to have people saying what they think, and having ears that can make a difference be listening.
    I’d definitely say cudos to Maureen Dowd for her piece on Wall Street’s Socialist Jet-Setters.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/28/opinion/28dowd.html?_r=1
    Interesting of David Corn to point out that the NY Times is at odds with the White House on what progress has been made in regards to a decision on which avenue to follow in Afghanistan.
    http://www.motherjones.com/mojoblog/archives/2009/01/12038_obama_afghanistan_new_york_times_counterinsurgency_policy_review.html
    Honestly, David Corn, has a way of putting information out there and I love his wit.
    Hearing that you two were labeled amongst the wonkiest of wonks gave me a good laugh. Enjoy.

    Reply

  17. JamesL says:

    Clinton, from POA’s Haretz article: “We support Israel’s right to self-defense,” she said. “The rocket barrages which are getting closer and closer to populated areas cannot go unanswered.”
    Hmmm. The rockets are getting closer (crescendo of dramatic music). Not hitting anything to speak of. Time to destroy another city.
    Just goes to show how a few people with crude rockets can dictate the course of the (temporaraily) most powerful nation on earth.
    Who is manipulating whom? Or is this a mutual manipulation society?

    Reply

  18. Chiaroscuro says:

    Mr. Clemons, it seems of late that you have upped the percentage of posts prattling about your attendance at “glitzy” Beltway parties. There’s been a similar increase in celebrity name-dropping. Benecio del Toro, Maureen “Please find me a man worthy of me” Dowd, HuffPo’s “inaugural bash,” Google/YouTube’s party, Ben Affleck, for pity’s sake, and Susan Eisenhower’s HAIR! It’s truly pathetic.
    Do you have any idea of how frivolous you sound to citizens living outside your magical Washington snow-globe? Do you have a clue that far from lending your opinions gravitas, the gushing descriptions of who you’ve chatted with and where only serve to diminish your credibility?
    But Steve, you apparently don’t give a rat’s ass about all that. You mention the criticism aimed at MoDo and her party, but you seem to like anyone who’ll feed you hors d’oeuvres and pump up your position in the DC hierarchy. And so you’re back here today with more silly gossip.
    It’s easy then to ignore that Dowd is a useless waste of Times editorial space. It’s no problem ignoring the fact that you sound like a tone-deaf sycophant enthralled with Nero’s violin performance while the country collapses around our ears.
    Aren’t you even a little embarrassed?

    Reply

  19. acorvid says:

    Not a Dowd “hater,” I do recognize that she is a vicious, self-serving prima donna who, to the extent anyone has taken her seriously, has poisoned American political discourse for far too long. However charming she may be in person, she is a despicable human being who profits greatly from tawdry, ignorant and deeply dishonest character assassination. Do you really NOT see this?

    Reply

  20. benjamin says:

    Oops: sorry NFM: I just wanted to ask a similar question. Did not mean to pinch your words; was tring a quote. First time here.

    Reply

  21. benjamin says:

    Not to be crass or anything like that: how do these people manage to party when thousands of people are losing their jobs. Is Party-Foundation-Official Washington immunised from the travails of ordinary people. Whose paying for all this? The backdrop is pretty spectacular. Add to that a dash of Eisenhower.

    Reply

  22. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Meanwhile, the war criminal and butcherer, Olmert, tells the crawling subservient Obama Administration how its going to be…..
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1059406.html
    Olmert to Mitchell: No deal on Gaza crossings until Shalit issue resolved
    By Barak Ravid and Agencies
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell Wednesday afternoon that the border crossings into the Gaza Strip will not reopen permanently unless the issue of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit is resolved.
    Following their meeting, senior officials in Olmert’s bureau said that Mitchell had announced upon arriving that he had come mainly to gather information regarding regional issues. “Mitchell did not exert any pressure nor did he convey a negative message during the meeting,” the officials said.
    continues….
    But never mind the truth….
    http://www.ifamericansonlyknew.org/
    1 Israeli is being held prisoner by Palestinians, while 10,756 Palestinians are currently imprisoned by Israel.

    Reply

  23. nfm says:

    Not to be crass or anything like that: how do these people manage to party when thousands of people are losing their jobs. Is Party-Foundation-Official Washington immunised from the travails of ordinary people. Whose paying for all this? The backdrop is pretty spectacular. Add to that a dash of Eisenhower.

    Reply

  24. nfm says:

    Alan: Chacun son’t gout.

    Reply

  25. alan says:

    Tony C: Steve lives in a special Washington world in which you mix and match in order to get your work done. I did not much care for it, but in my case contacts helped if one wanted US help. But your point about Gaza is well taken. Look at the recent terrible pictures from Gaza; keep at the back of your mind the terrible pictures of the aftermatch of a suicide bombing in Israel; look at the arrogance of illegal Israel settlers on Palestinian land, and watch sympathetic Washington insiders, margharitas in hand, in earnest discussion about Israel and Gaza. Priceless.

    Reply

  26. Tony C. says:

    Steve –
    I really do appreciate your work, even though I am occasionally
    critical of it. So please take this as constructive criticism:
    Do you have any idea how this might sound to a sensitive
    observer, let alone a Palestinian (or relative of) whose life was just
    altered in the worst possible way in Gaza?
    “I attend the same, often glitzy gatherings he does and then get in
    deep conversations about Gaza…”
    Regards,
    Tony C.

    Reply

  27. TonyForesta says:

    We can only hope that the leadership team in the Obama administration is open to alternative or outside voices and taking them, and their message seriously. The DC insiders tend to coagulate in stolid groups with a woeful lack of creativity, innovation, inventiveness, and appreciation of what the little people, the rest of America might thinking or feeling. The Washington insiders operate in vaccums, in echo chambers, where the same tire policies and idea’s are regurgitated endlessly with little or no alteration, – hense the many concrete problems we face, because the world is everchanging and evolving, and we need new idea’s and new voices to break through to rigid think and Gregorian chants of the political scene. You Mr Clemons seem capable for walking seemlessly between the lines and yet remaining solidly in the right circles, inthethickofit, to get points and positions heard, that may otherwise be simply dismissed. We applaud your service, and I personally envy your schedule and illustrious array of contacts. I know of no other individual who traverses more corners of the planet, and more diverse elements of the ideological landscape. Bravo!
    That said, is Obama recognizing the fact that there is a groundswell of support for direct talks with Hamas as newwayforward to resolving the horrorshow in Palestine.
    And if you could perform a personal favor, – please use your vast array of illustrious contacts to encourage the Obama administration to diversify his economic team and inculcate alternative voices outside the Wall Street insiders and fundamentalist economics cabals, and truly give voice to the voiceless in redressing the pain and suffering of the other 99% of Americans who are not superrich.

    Reply

  28. cherish says:

    Hey, you know actors can sometimes have second-half-of-life careers in politics …
    Srsly, Steve, thanks for the human perspective on the DC scene.

    Reply

  29. ... says:

    satire is when you listen to ‘the experts’ and find yourself in the ditch time and time again…

    Reply

  30. varanasi says:

    uhh, ben affleck?? the white house chief of staff should be listening to ben afflecks take on the ME?
    is this satire, steve?

    Reply

  31. Dan Kervick says:

    Well, maybe Afleck is only angry at Rahm Emanuel because Rahm’s brother Ari has helped put the genuinely talented Afleck in an inordinate number of rather crappy movies.
    But, seriously, if Afleck has the access to get on Rahm’s case, then more power to him.
    I heard the other day that Emanuel calls Carville, Begala and Stephanopoulos every day. Oh well, I just hope Obama finds a way out of the 90′s pretty soon.

    Reply

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