THE BIG IDEA:
— Ben Carson has clearly been caught off guard by the scrutiny that comes with leading the polls in a presidential campaign. On yesterday’s Sunday shows, the retired neurosurgeon asserted repeatedly that no one has ever been vetted like he’s being right now. That is not backed up by the facts, but it is also clearly something that he believes very sincerely.
His complaints underscore a common problem for first-time candidates. When someone like Carson or Donald Trump tries to gets into politics by starting at the top of the ladder, they invariably don’t appreciate what it takes: from building an organization to forging coalitions, raising money and, yes, being vetted. Nothing compares to the white hot spotlight of running for president, but those who have run for governor or Senate have at least gotten a taste of it – and they can dismiss some of the negative stories that came out during those earlier races as old news.
Carson argues that the burden should not be on him to substantiate the stories he has told over the years. For now, he’s getting a fundraising boost as conservative activists rally to his defense. In the long run, the drip-drip-drip of tall tales will damage his brand. The reason that embellishments and exaggerations are so bad for Carson, in particular, is that his campaign has largely been animated by his undeniably inspiring autobiography.
On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Carson claimed that the media does not challenge other politicians’ accounts of events that happened 20 years or 30 years prior. “I have not seen that with anyone else,” he said. “Or if you can show me where that’s happened with someone else, I will take that statement back.”
— Challenge accepted. In case he hasn’t been getting clips packages this year, here is a reminder of some of the scrutiny that Carson’s rivals have already faced:
In May, Mother Jones unearthed a 1972 essay that Bernie Sanders wrote for an alternative newspaper in Vermont that included allusions to rape fantasies. The senator’s campaign called it “a dumb attempt at dark satire.” Then, over the summer, several stories noted that the mother of Sanders’ one biological child is not his ex-wife.
On the Republican side: When Jeb Bush was the presumed Republican frontrunner earlier this year, there were deep dives into everything from his drug and alcohol use while at the Andover prep school to the many ways that he benefited from his father’s political connections as a young man in Miami. Reporters went to Mexico to explore Columba Bush’s stormy childhood.
After Trump rose to the top of the polls, his business record was heavily scrutinized, including four big bankruptcies. After he suggested in July that John McCain was not a true war hero because he got captured, The Post looked at Trump’s high-flying lifestyle during the years that the Arizona senator lived in the Hanoi Hilton.
Carson’s complaints also sounded silly because they were uttered as many reporters were poring over Marco Rubio’s credit card receipts from a decade ago, which the Florida senator’s campaign released Saturday night. Rubio, who was considered a possible VP pick in 2012, has already faced a degree of scrutiny that Carson has not. In 2011, my colleague Manuel Roig-Franzia uncovered that the freshman senator had embellished facts about his family emigrating from Cuba. The senator’s parents came to the United States and were admitted for permanent residence more than two-and-a-half years before Fidel Castro’s forces took power.
There have also been stories this cycle about—
- Bobby Jindal’s involvement in a 1994 exorcism and his conversion to Christianity
- Why Scott Walker dropped out of college before graduating
- Carly Fiorina’s rocky tenure as CEO of HP before she got fired by her board
- Ted Cruz’s guilty plea in 1987 for possession of alcohol as a minor, published by BuzzFeed after a public information request for his application to become Texas’ Solicitor General
- Chris Christie’s high school years were explored during the Bridgegate scandal. David Wildstein, who graduated from the school a year ahead of the New Jersey governor and was a statistician for the baseball team, helped carry out the plan to shut down lanes on the George Washington Bridge.
— Carson, not yet a politician, also probably missed the ups-and-downs of the 2012 election. To his point that the media has not looked into the early years of other candidates, here’s a Post story about the time in high school that Mitt Romney cut the hair of a classmate he didn’t like while his friends pinned down the crying and screaming young man. (He might also read up on Seamus, the dog who Romney strapped to the roof of his car during a 1983 family vacation and who became an oft-invoked character in a campaign nearly three decades later.)
In that election, Herman Cain dropped out of the race after allegations of sexual harassment from his tenure as head of the National Restaurant Association emerged. The Daily Beast looked at Karen Santorum’s relationship with an abortion provider before she married Rick. For much of her 20s, she lived with the man, who was 40 years older than her and had delivered her in 1960. The Post also used archives from his early years in the House to look at the discrepancies between Newt Gingrich’s public praise for Ronald Reagan and his private criticisms.
— And then there’s Hillary Rodham Clinton. Regardless of your views, the former Secretary of State, First Lady and senator from New York has faced lots of scrutiny from the national media. It’s not just her e-mail server.
- After she said in Iowa last week that all of her grandparents immigrated to the United States, multiple outlets published stories over the weekend noting that, in fact, only one of the four came here from overseas.
- She was widely ridiculed during her last campaign for a 1995 claim that she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest. One problem, identified by the media: She was born in 1947; Hillary summited the mountain in 1953.
There have also been stories over the years about:
- Her honors thesis on Saul D. Alinsky at Wellesley
- Her 1971 summer internship at a left-wing law firm in Oakland, Calif., that defended communists and Black Panthers
- Her inaccurate 2008 claims that she came “under sniper fire” in Bosnia during a 1996 visit to U.S. troops enforcing the Dayton Peace Agreement and ran across the tarmac “with our heads down”
- Her misleading claim in 2008 that she was “instrumental” in the Northern Ireland peace process
- Her letters to a high school friend from 1965 to 1969
— Carson also claims that reporters were not as hard on Obama as they are being on him, something not backed up by a review of the record: Beyond the birth certificate, a phony issue that Trump and others used for years, there was a lot of vetting during both the 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Remember Jeremiah Wright? Obama had been an active parishioner at Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992, but he quit the church after the pastor’s incendiary sermons came to light during the Democratic primaries.
The Post’s David Maraniss, checking out Obama’s “Dreams from My Father” memoir for a biography he wrote, got the president to admit in 2012 that the description of a girlfriend in the book was actually a composite character, with multiple women compressed into one. Maraniss also revealed that Obama and his high school friends in Hawaii routinely smoked marijuana and called themselves the “Choom Gang.”
— There are other good examples of Democrats getting looked at in-depth too. The Boston Globe, using genealogical research, exposed when John Kerry was running for president that he is not actually Irish.
— None of this kind of vetting is new, either. In October 1987, several publications – including The Post – reported on Carson-esque discrepancies in Pat Robertson’s books, speeches and resumes. Most memorably, the televangelist had lied about his wedding anniversary in order to cover up that his first son was conceived out of wedlock. Despite the stories, it’s worth noting that Robertson outperformed George H.W. Bush in the next year’s Iowa caucuses…
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— In Burma’s first democratic election in 25 years, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party declared victory over their military-backed rivals. Annie Gowen reports from Rangoon that the military will still control 25 percent of the seats in parliament and key ministries: “A constitutional provision bars Suu Kyi, called ‘Mother Suu,’ from becoming president. Suu Kyi had said earlier in the week that if her party wins the majority of seats in parliament, she will govern the country despite the constitutional barrier. ‘I’m going to be above the president,’ she said. When asked how, she responded, ‘Oh, I have already made plans.’ … In Burma’s last democratic election in 1990, Suu Kyi and the NLD won an overwhelming majority, but the country’s military dictators ignored the results. They had in 1989 placed her under house arrest, where she remained off and on for nearly two decades.” Overnight, she urged supporters not to provoke the military.
— Heritage Action posted its 50-page review of the Republican candidates, which we previewed here last week, at 6 a.m.
— Bibi comes to Washington today for a big meeting with President Obama — the first such tete-a-tete in over a year. Relations have been strained between the two men, especially as Obama pushed to enact the Iran nuclear deal. They’ll discuss a security agreement between the two countries involving more U.S. military aid to Israel. The meeting comes as the Obama administration bluntly acknowledges that there’s not going to be a breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the remainder of his presidency. Bibi will also make a fence-mending speech tomorrow at the Center for American Progress, which is drawing major flak from progressives.
GET SMART FAST:
- “Senior U.S. military leaders have proposed sending more forces into Europe on a rotating basis to build up the American presence and are stepping up training exercises to counter potential Russian interference with troop transfers in the event of a crisis with Moscow,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The new steps would allow for the presence of multiple U.S. brigades in Europe at any given time, increasing that number above current limits.”
- Several University of Missouri football players are refusing to play again until the school’s president resigns for what they deem is his poor handling of racial incidents at the school. (Rick Maese and Kent Barb)
- Pope Francis called the recent leak of embarrassing Vatican documents a “deplorable” crime, but he promised to continue tacking corruption inside the church. (Fox News)
- A storm forming in the Pacific Ocean could lead to tornadoes throughout the plain states, with Arkansas and Missouri being the most likely targets. (ABC News)
- Crude oil leaked from a derailed freight train in Wisconsin, one day after another train crashed and leaked ethanol. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
- The U.S. Transportation Department awarded $28 million for ongoing research into constructing a high-speed train that could travel from Washington to Baltimore in 15 minutes. (Josh Hicks)
- A sinkhole swallowed up 15 cars in a Mississippi IHOP parking lot Saturday night. (BuzzFeed)
- The RNC has called a special meeting for Wednesday morning to discuss changes to the qualification guidelines for future debates. (National Review)
POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:
- The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund will endorse Hillary for president, the first time in more than three decades the group has publicly endorsed a candidate before the start of primary season. (Juliet Eilperin)
- Bernie Sanders’ Nevada campaign director quit, an unpleasant organizational shakeup in a state where the senator is struggling to appeal to Latinos. (NYT)
- Obama and John Kerry decided by late 2013 that they would reject the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, Eilperin and Steven Mufson scoop.
- A senior official from Obama’s 2012 campaign told BuzzFeed that they believed Sanders was “considering a primary challenge” to the president.
- Carson endorsed statehood for Puerto Rico at a campaign event on the island yesterday. (Reuters)
- Martin O’Malley stepped up his criticism of Clinton and Sanders for their records on immigration in Nevada last night, saying their approach is too old-fashioned. (Philip Rucker)
- Marco Rubio released previously withheld financial documents from his time in the Florida House on Saturday night, which showed extensive personal changes on a GOP-issued credit card. (Tom Hamburger, Sean Sullivan, Manuel Roig-Franzia)
MASSIVE DHS SCREW UP –> “A decade into a project to digitize immigration forms, just one is online,” by Jerry Markon: “Heaving under mountains of paperwork, the government has spent more than $1 billion trying to replace its antiquated approach to managing immigration with a system of digitized records, online applications and a full suite of nearly 100 electronic forms. A decade in, all that officials have to show for the effort is a single form that’s now available for online applications and a single type of fee that immigrants pay electronically. The 94 other forms can be filed only with paper. This project, run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was originally supposed to cost a half-billion dollars and be finished in 2013. Instead, it’s now projected to reach up to $3.1 billion and be done nearly four years from now, putting in jeopardy efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration policies, handle immigrants already seeking citizenship and detect national security threats.”
— “Va. judges to advise immigrants that guilty pleas could mean deportations,” by Tom Jackman: “When immigrants enter the criminal justice system, they are often unaware that a guilty plea to a misdemeanor can be a ticket to deportation, even for those who have legal permanent resident status. The confusion has resulted in many families broken up over a drunken-driving or petty drug conviction, immigration experts say, accompanied by the added costs to society of families suddenly deprived of their chief wage-earner. But now the Virginia Supreme Court has issued a directive to trial judges, advising them to warn non-citizen defendants to consider the possible impact a conviction could have on their immigration status. The amended rule came about after a three-year campaign by an Alexandria civil rights attorney who, failing to get any response from judges in Prince William County, found a sympathetic ear in a new Virginia chief justice.”
— “Kelly Ayotte is Party of One in Her New Hampshire Reelection Bid,” by Kelsey Snell: “She is one of five Republican senators up for reelection next year in states that have historically tipped blue in presidential elections. Ayotte’s race is critical for Republicans fighting to hold on to their already slim Senate majority. But even if she does make it back to Washington, the Republican could find herself an odd woman out in a chamber where conservatives frequently speak the loudest … Polls show the senator running neck-and-neck with sitting New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a recruiting coup for Democrats who recently declared she would challenge Ayotte. And recently, a group of conservative state legislators began a search for a Republican willing to mount a primary challenge to Ayotte.”
— “It’s no B.S.: Scott Brown is now backyard-barbecue emcee in N.H,” by Katie Zezima: “A former U.S. and state senator, retired Army National Guard colonel, a television pundit and a former magazine centerfold, Brown, 56, has taken on a new role in the world of New Hampshire politics: party host. Brown and his wife, television reporter Gail Huff, are hosting a series of ‘no-B.S.’ backyard barbecues, inviting all of the Republican presidential candidates to participate. So far, eight have shown up, and at least one more is expected. The no-frills, do-it-yourself affairs are Brown’s attempt to stay relevant in a raucous presidential primary season — and in a state where Brown is trying to find his place in the political landscape after moving here (in 2013) from Massachusetts to run for Senate (he lost).”
The kicker of the story is a vintage Brown moment. Lindsey Graham is visiting. “Brown stood toward the back of the seating area, ready to give the microphone to an attendee after announcing that it would be the last question. ‘We’re gonna get liquored up after this. It’s a real barn-burner. Get it?’ Brown asked. ‘Don’t quit your day job, Scott,’ Graham said. ‘I don’t have a day job,’ Brown replied.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ
Curated by Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck)
— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Hillary endorsed removing marijuana from the list of the country’s most dangerous drugs, which would allow for more research into the drug’s effects. That dominated the social media conversation about her over the weekend:
–Pictures of the day:
Donald’s Trump appearance on “Saturday Night Live” gave the show its best ratings in almost four years, drawing a 6.6 rating/16 share, a 57 percent increase over the telecast’s fall average. It’s the highest-rated episode since January 2012 when Charles Barkley hosted, per Variety.
“Trying to give @realDonaldTrump a taste of life as a queer immigrant,” the performer Sia, at left, tweeted. “Not sure it’s working..?”
Here’s Trump in that Sia wig:
Speaking of wigs, Ivanka Trump tried on the show’s wig for her dad backstage:
After the show, guess who was cleaning up?
–Tweets of the day:
Ben Carson thanked the “biased media” for a spike in campaign donations:
Trump and Chris Christie exchanged tweets about Christie’s exclusion from the main debate stage this week:
Rand Paul took issue with this sign in South Carolina:
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker praised Tom Brady as he romped the Redskins:
–Instagrams of the day:
Waiters had a little fun with Jeb Bush, who recently said he “eats nails for breakfast”:
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) was backstage at the Dead and Company concert (that’s The Post’s Bob Costa on his left):
We’re in hunting season, but Republican Sen. Steve Daines welcomed snow back home in Montana:
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) took this photo on the campus of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. “A passing student, undoubtedly from out-of-state, pronounced the fog ‘creepy,’ repositioned his earbuds, and hurried off to class. I think it’s kind of cool,” King wrote:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— Baltimore Sun, “Serial figure headed to court after request for hearing granted,” by Justin Fention: “Adnan Syed, the convicted murderer whose case gained international attention after questions were raised on the widely downloaded ‘Serial’ podcast, will get another day in court. A Baltimore circuit judge on Friday granted Syed’s request for a hearing, at which Syed’s lawyers ares expected to present an alibi witness and raise questions about cellphone evidence in the case. Retired Judge Martin Welch said the hearing would ‘be in the interests of justice.’ A date has not been scheduled. The Maryland attorney general’s office, which has been opposing Syed’s request, declined to comment. Syed was convicted in 2000 of killing his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, a Woodlawn High School classmate. He is serving a life sentence.”
— New York Times, “Democratic group called iVote pushes voter registration,” by Michael D. Shear: “As Republicans across the country mount an aggressive effort to tighten voting laws, a group of former aides to President Obama and President Bill Clinton is pledging to counter by spending up to $10 million on a push to make voter registration automatic whenever someone gets a driver’s license. The change would supercharge the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, known as the “motor voter” law, which requires states to offer people the option of registering to vote when they apply for driver’s licenses or other identification cards. The new laws would make registration automatic during those transactions unless a driver objected. The group, called iVote — which is led by Jeremy Bird, who ran Mr. Obama’s voter turnout effort in 2012 — is betting that such laws could bring out millions of new voters … Many of those new voters would be young, poor or minorities — groups that tend to support Democratic candidates, Mr. Bird said.”
— Wall Street Journal, “Colleges flex lobbying muscle,” by Brody Mullins, Douglas Belkin and Andrea Fuller: “Colleges and universities have become one of the most effective lobbying forces in Washington, employing more lobbyists last year than any other industries except drug manufacturing and technology. There are colleges in every congressional district, and 1 in 40 U.S. workers draw a paycheck from a college or university. Over the last two decades, the higher-education industry has beaten back dozens of government proposals to measure its successes and failures. It has killed efforts to tighten rules for accrediting schools, defeated a proposed requirement to divulge more information about graduation rates and eliminated funding for state agencies that could have closed bad schools. The proposals had support from both sides of the political aisle. The political pressure on higher education is rooted in a simple but vexing question: Is the government getting a good return on the money it is pouring into the U.S. college system?”
— Los Angeles Times, “Air Force struggles to add drone pilots and address fatigue and stress,” by W.J. Hennigan: “Experienced pilots and crews complain of too much work, too much strain and too little chance for promotion operating the Predator and Reaper drones that provide surveillance and that fire missiles in Iraq, Syria and other war zones. Partly as a result, too few young officers want to join their ranks. The Air Force has struggled with a drone pilot shortage since at least 2007, records show. In fiscal year 2014, the most recent data available, the Air Force trained 180 new pilots while 240 veterans left the field. ‘It’s extremely stressful and extremely difficult,’ said Peter ‘Pepe’ LeHew, who retired in 2012 and joined private industry. He called the work, which sometimes involved flying surveillance in one country in the morning and bombing another in the afternoon, ‘mentally fatiguing.'”
— USA Today, “Secrecy, corruption and conflicts of interest pervade state government,” by Nicholas Kusnetz: “Such loopholes are a common part of statehouse culture nationwide, according to the 2015 State Integrity Investigation, a data-driven assessment of state government by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. The comprehensive probe found that in state after state, open records laws are laced with exemptions, and part-time legislators and agency officials engage in glaring conflicts of interests and cozy relationships with lobbyists while feckless, understaffed watchdogs struggle to enforce laws as porous as honeycombs.”
— Bloomberg, “Cameron’s EU demand letter just deepens his domestic dilemma,” by Robert Hutton: “As David Cameron puts the finishing touches to a letter setting out the U.K.’s demands of the European Union, he may discover that EU negotiating partners find them more acceptable than his domestic critics. The prime minister will go public this week with a long-awaited list of measures aimed at redefining the terms of Britain’s EU membership before an in-or-out referendum he’s pledged to hold by the end of 2017. Whereas European governments are keen to learn at last just what Britain wants, to his U.K. audience the details matter much less than how he presents them. Cameron’s dilemma is that he risks upsetting people back home whatever the letter’s content. If the wishlist is one he’s certain of achieving, those who want to get Britain out of the EU will describe it as unambitious. If it contains things he doesn’t get, those shortfalls will be cited as evidence that he has failed.”
— The Onion, “Desperate GOP Spotted In South Dakota Trying To Build Keystone Pipeline Themselves.” This is from last November, but it’s still funny in light of the Obama administration’s announcement.
HOT ON THE LEFT
‘Life on planet at stake,’ France warns as climate ministers meet. From AFP: “France’s top diplomat, who will preside over a year-end Paris summit tasked with inking a climate rescue pact, warned Sunday of looming planetary ‘catastrophe’ if negotiations fail. ‘It is life on our planet itself which is at stake,’ Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told journalists as ministers and climate envoys from 70 countries met for pre-summit talks to iron out tough political questions.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
Bachmann: Jesus is ‘coming soon.’ From The Hill: “Former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) calls in an interview for converting as many people as possible to Christianity because Jesus is ‘coming soon.’ The 2012 Republican presidential candidate made the comments in a radio interview last week with Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, after both Bachmann and Perkins went on a tour of Israel.”
–What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Ahead of tomorrow’s debate in Milwaukee, Jeb Bush is in Waukesha, Wis., for an education event with Scott Walker while Marco Rubio is in Pewaukee. Hillary Clinton campaigns in Concord and Windham, N.H. Bernie Sanders attends an event in Las Vegas. Donald Trump holds a rally in Springfield, Ill. John Kasich greets supporters in Chicago.
–On the Hill: The Senate meets at 3 p.m. to resume work on H.R.2029, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2016. The House is in recess.
–At the White House: President Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House and delivers remarks at an Organizing for Action event in D.C. Vice President Biden delivers remarks at the White House Roundtable with Fire Chiefs on Climate and speaks at a roundtable discussion at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “On her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and president than the Republican candidate on his best day.” — Bernie Sanders tries to play nice after stepping up his attacks on the Democratic frontrunner
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— “The week gets off to a wet start, but once we get past Tuesday, there’s plenty to look forward to,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “Veterans Day may be the gem of the week, with sunshine and mid-60s. A few brief showers are possible Thursday as a cold front sweeps through, but that sets up a sunny, crisp stretch Friday through the weekend.”
— The undefeated Patriots crushed the Redskins, 27-10. Washington’s record falls to 3-5.
— Four people were killed and 14 others were injured, eight of them critically, in a car crash Sunday afternoon in Prince George’s County. A pickup truck and a 15-seat van were involved in the 5 p.m. crash, which happened in the Chillum/West Hyattsville area. The cause was not known immediately.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Here’s Trump’s monologue from Saturday Night Live:
As you might expect, Drunk Uncle is a Donald Trump fan:
— Saturday Night Live (@nbcsnl) November 8, 2015
Here’s a flashback to Trump’s first SNL appearance in 2004:
And more Larry David as Bernie Sanders (watch the entire sketch here):