Jerome Corsi, Swift Boater and author of the newly released Obama Nation, appeared on Larry King Live last night to defend his smear-plagued, yet best-selling, tome, and...what can we say? It did not go well for Corsi. Not that it will deter him one bit! But Corsi's debate with Media Matters For America's Paul Waldman brought a firm dose of pushback -- including from Larry King himself.
[WATCH CORSI v. WALDMAN. Full transcript available here.]
Republican strategist Andrea Tantaros had harsh, and unsubstantiated, words for Media Matters, calling the organization "a left wing smear machine," but even she preceded those remarks by saying, of the book, "I would strongly encourage Republicans not to use it. I think going after someone's religion is the lowest form of politics."
King raised an important point about the backing of the book itself. Throughout the debate, Corsi made continual claims that he is not a servant of the McCain campaign or the Republican Party. Rather, he is a devotee of Constitution Party also-ran Chuck Baldwin.
This factoid, offered up to immunize the GOP from this double-dealing hardcover slime, is nothing but a dodge. The facts are these: the book's publisher is dyed-in-the-wool Republican operative and Dick Cheney Girl Friday Mary Matalin, who wants us to believe this book "was not designed to be, and does not set out to be, a political book," instead being, "a piece of scholarship, and a good one at that."
Cue the chyron, then, that reads: "Jerome Corsi: Useful? Idiot? Some say both."
Waldman pointed out that the same publishing imprint published a book "that alleged that Hillary Clinton put crack pipes on the White House Christmas tree." Waldman also noted that the promotional mechanism behind the book was designed to rebound to the GOP's benefit: "...it fit[s] right into the conservative promotion machine. So that means he gets to go on Fox News as many times as he wants. It gets bought in bulk by conservative donors. It gets sent out and promoted on conservative mailing lists. This is something they've done very well before. And the merit of the book in question is never even a question."
Tantaros defended the book by saying, "The last 30 minutes, [Waldman] wasn't even able to refute anything that Jerome said. I really wish they would have gotten to the meat of the points that Jerome was making."
At the risk of earning Media Matters wrath, I'll allow that Tantaros has a point. Watching the debate, I would have appreciated it if Waldman had attempted something of a point-by-point refutation of the material in Corsi's book. Waldman did mention that Media Matters has undertaken such a response on their website, a process that seems to be ongoing. But the television appearance was largely devoid of such substantive, sourced, debunking.
At the same time, Waldman did "get to the meat" of another important matter, namely, the author's credibility. Waldman noted that Corsi's protestations toward scholarship basically amounted to arguing, "I have a lot of footnotes." But many of those footnotes cited dubious sources:
WALDMAN: There's something else that's important, too. He talks about how many footnotes he has and how many sources he has. Well, if you actually look at them, there are dozens and dozens of citations to right-wing Web sites and blogs. One of the people that he cites as a quote/unquote source is a man named Andy Martin, who is an anti- Semitic right-wing blogger who once called a judge a dirty Jew and filed so many frivolous lawsuits that he's now no longer allowed to file lawsuits.
So my question to Mr. Corsi is, since you cite Andy Martin multiple times as a source, are there any other anti-Semitic right- wing bloggers that you also use as sources or is he the only one?
Corsi attempted to evade the question, but King wouldn't let him:
KING: Well, respond to the question about Mr. Martin.
CORSI: Well, I quote -- I can remember one quip I quote from him -- and it's just a quip, which is -- where he basically is saying if Obama will lie about his background and his family, he'll lie about anything. And this was in reference to the way Obama presents his father in the autobiography, which I write about extensively.
So, amid the many uses of this source, Corsi can only recall a single "quip?" Didn't the man recently finish writing this book?
Waldman continued this line of prosecution, pointing out the credibility gaps that mar the book. He also launched into an extended, somewhat Socratic demonstration of Corsi's tactics:
WALDMAN: You put up on right-wing Web sites a whole series of bigoted and hateful posts in 2002 and 2003 that you later had to admit to when you got found out -- all kinds of really vile and malicious stuff.
CORSI: OK. If you...
WALDMAN: Now, you say that you've stopped that. You say that you've stopped that and you don't put up those kinds of vile, bigoted, malicious, hateful posts on right-wing Web sites. But all we have is your word. I mean, do -- can we really trust you? People who do that kind of thing, well, you know, they're not really very trustworthy.
CORSI: We have...
WALDMAN: So can we trust you? Are you still doing that?
CORSI: You have more than my word. You've got the record of everything I've written since then.
WALDMAN: Can you prove that you're not doing it anonymously? Can you prove it?
CORSI: I don't post anything anonymously.
WALDMAN: But all...
CORSI: And (INAUDIBLE)...
WALDMAN: But you just said -- well, all we have is your word.
WALDMAN: You see what I'm doing here?...I'm doing exactly the same thing to you, Mr. Corsi, that you're doing to Barack Obama.
Now, I can appreciate what Waldman is trying to do here, but it's an awful long walk in the park for a neutral, yet engaged viewer. It's a principled argument levied against a man with no principles. That's part of the problem.
Throughout the debate, Corsi's fallback position was to accuse Waldman of "name calling" and "ad hominem attacks." If it were up to me, I'd say that if I knew going in that I was going to get accused of these things in any event, I'd probably shrug and say, "Well, I may as well give the man his money's worth, and go and beat him on the low road." It's like I always say: "When in the Breakaway Republic of Swiftboatistan, do as the gutter-dwelling coprophile residents therein do."
And, apropos of nothing in particular, I have to ask: can we trust Corsi, an author who's been accused IN SOME CIRCLES of buggering barnyard animals? Are the accusations true? Because SOME SAY: Jerome Corsi buggers barnyard animals. For FAIRNESS, and BALANCE, I'll offer that the barnyard animals are rumored to enjoy their time with Corsi, and THIS GUY I MET AT A BUS STATION told me that they may be writing their own book about it entitled, Jerome Corsi: Brave American Lover Of Young Sheep. That book will have eleventy billion footnotes, and even an alphabetized index.
See what I'm doing here? The exact same thing that Mr. Corsi is doing to America.