Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

A Lehman Brothers Equity Research analyst report dated October 15th, 2004 makes the following comments about Sinclair Broadcast Group, Sinclair's decision to run "Stolen Honor", and the resultant boycott effort.

Under the headline "Mgmt Chooses Politics over Shareholders" the report notes the following ...

"In our opinion, Sinclair's decision to pre-empt programming to air 'Stolen Honor' is potentially damaging -- both financially and politically. In a best case scenario, we believe that this decision could result in lost ad revenues. In a worst case scenario, we believe the decision may lead to higher political risk. As mgmt has increased the co's political risk, we are reducing our 12-month price target to $9 (from $10)"

Attempts to contact the Lehman Brothers analyst, William M. Meyers, on Friday afternoon by phone and email were unsuccessful.

Reed Hundt responds to Michael Powel<$NoAd$>l ...

Dear Josh:

As a former FCC chair, I read with interest -- and disappointment -- the following:

"Don't look to us to block the airing of a program," Michael Powell told reporters. "I don't know of any precedent in which the commission could do that."

Eighteen senators, all Democrats, wrote to Powell this week and asked him to investigate Sinclair Broadcast Group's plan to run the program, "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal," two weeks before the Nov. 2 election."

But no one has asked the FCC to bar Sinclair from showing the program. There are only two issues for the FCC and only two requests to Chairman Powell. The issues are: if Sinclair shows this anti-Kerry propaganda (which can be downloaded from Internet, lest anyone question the characterization), then (1) should it also give a free hour to pro-Kerry content selected by any authentic progressive organization, and (2) will Sinclair face at least the prospect after the fact of a review of its fulfillment of its public interest duties. And the two requests are: (1) will the Chairman of the FCC remind Sinclair and other broadcasters by word and deed that they have public interest obligations, and (2) will the Chairman of the FCC investigate now, before the propaganda airs, whether Sinclair has a duty to give an hour to pro-Kerry content selected by any progressive organization? Chairman Powell instead pretends that he has been asked to bar the showing of the propaganda -- which no one has asked him to do. His remarks are so far off the point, and he is so intelligent, that one must conclude that he knows what he is doing and intends the result -- tacit and plain encouragement of the use of the Sinclair airwaves to pursue a smear campaign. No broadcast group in the history of America has ever committed an hour to smearing a presidential candidate, and no FCC chairman before this one would have reacted with equanimity to this radical step down in broadcasting ethics. By the way, this FCC Chairman had no trouble issuing volumes of commentary about the obligation of broadcasters not to air indecent material during hours when children are in the audience. As important as that obligation is to many people, no less important to our democracy is the ability to conduct an election without the bombardment from the airwaves of station-sponsored propaganda. In any event, the current FCC Chairman is no stranger to the White House. They know who he is and what he says. So the White House can and should remind the Chairman of his duties and express publicly its expectation that broadcasters will honor our democracy by playing fair. This is what should happen. If it is not a prediction of what will happen, that's a sign of how far out of the mainstream the current Administration is. Reed Hundt, FCC Chair 1993-97

Here's an issue that deserves a lot of attention, but has received precious little.

National security and military readiness experts generally concede that it will be extremely difficult for the United States to indefinitely maintain 130-odd thousand troops in Iraq and still maintain even threshold levels of capacity to deter and/or respond to threats in other areas.

By some measures the system is already stretched to near the breaking point.

At the same time the president's oft-stated policy is that we will stay in Iraq as long as it takes to complete the mission of democratizing and pacifying the country.

With that reality and that policy, somethings got to give.

It doesn't mean a draft is a necessity. But it does move it into the realm of serious policy possibilities the country has to face. This is particularly so when our military relies on regular recruitment of reservists who until now generally assumed that deployments in warzones were a serious possiblity as opposed to a near certainty, as they have been for the last few years. This is also the case since the administration has said very little about how it will confront this challenge.

In any case, it's a very legitimate issue. And anyone who thinks seriously about military policy issues has to see that it is one of fairly few policy options to address a looming crisis facing the US military.

Now, the youth voter participation group Rock The Vote has been pushing this issue recently, calling for an election-year debate on the topic in ways you can see if you do a quick google search with their name in it.

And what has the response been from the president?

This week RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie sent the group a 'cease and desist' letter threatening legal action against the group and raising the possibility of seeking the revocation of the group's status as a tax-exempt 501c3 organization if the group did not cease discussing the draft issue.

Claims that a draft is possible, Gillespie argued, are so ridiculous on their face that the the group could only be acting from 'malicious intent and a reckless disregard for the truth.' (Those, of course, are catchphrases laying the groundwork for legal action.)

Gillespie's rationale for arguing that there is no basis for discussing the possibility of a draft is the say-so of the president. Gillespie quotes him saying, "We don't need the draft. Look, the all-volunteer force is working ..."

That, to Gillespie, is -- quite literally -- the end of the debate.

This move, if you think about it, is extraordinary. In a political campaign there are very few forms of political speech -- judged by content -- that should ever be subject to legal proceedings. But to threaten legal action to squelch discussion of a subject that is obviously a very newsworthy and relevant issue -- and one the country could face in the next four years -- is simply astonishing.

And yet, no editorial condemnations. Hardly a mention of it. These are now, apparently, the rules of the road -- expected and calling for no particular commenton.

That's even more astonishing.

Beside the Bush campaign angle to Jim Tobin's resignation today, there's the connection to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

At the time the election-tampering incident happened, Tobin was Northeast political director for the Committee. What now seems clear from the offers of proof of the two men who've pled guilty in the case is that the scheme was not a local affair but arranged through the NRSC or at a minimum through its regional political director, Tobin. This is, again, what the first man to plead guilty in the case, Allen Raymond, told prosecutor Todd Hinnen during his plea negotiations.

Which raises the question, is Tobin the only person at the NRSC who was aware of the scheme? And was this the only such scheme Tobin was involved in during his tenure at the NRSC, given that he had responsibility for several other hotly contested senate races that year?

During the 2002 election cycle, the Executive Director of the NRSC was Mitch Bainwol; the Political Director was Chris LaCivita. Bainwol is now Chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). LaCivita now works for push-poll king Tom Synhorst's DCI Group and is also a senior advisor to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Asking them might be a good place to start.

Bush-Cheney New England campaign chair Jim Tobin resigns over election tampering scandal.

A few suggested questions for national political reporters needing to do catch-up on this story.

Tobin was named by the two men who've pled guilty in the case as part of their plea agreements. The Bush campaign has known for months of Tobin's involvement in this case. The only reason he resigned today is that this information was finally pried free from court documents. Why did they keep him in such a senior post if they knew of his role in such serious wrongdoing?

At the time the incident happened Tobin was the Northeast political director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. This was under Sen. Bill Frist's tenure as chairman. Did anyone else at the NRSC know about this at the time?

The rumor has been buzzing all day. And now the AP has the story about Karl Rove's appearance today before the federal grand jury investigating the Plame leak.

Now we're cracking down?

From Reuters: "The United States on Friday ordered a freeze on assets of the militant group led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq."

I know they say, 'slow to anger', but ...

Karl trying it out in the minors before <$NoAd$>taking it to the bigs? I think we may have our first find for Karl Rove Dirty Tricks Watch (KRDTW).

In Josh Green's article in the current Atlantic Monthly, there's this passage ...

A typical instance occurred in the hard-fought 1996 race for a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court between Rove's client, Harold See, then a University of Alabama law professor, and the Democratic incumbent, Kenneth Ingram. According to someone who worked for him, Rove, dissatisfied with the campaign's progress, had flyers printed up—absent any trace of who was behind them—viciously attacking See and his family. "We were trying to craft a message to reach some of the blue-collar, lower-middle-class people," the staffer says. "You'd roll it up, put a rubber band around it, and paperboy it at houses late at night. I was told, 'Do not hand it to anybody, do not tell anybody who you're with, and if you can, borrow a car that doesn't have your tags.' So I borrowed a buddy's car [and drove] down the middle of the street … I had Hefty bags stuffed full of these rolled-up pamphlets, and I'd cruise the designated neighborhoods, throwing these things out with both hands and literally driving with my knees." The ploy left Rove's opponent at a loss. Ingram's staff realized that it would be fruitless to try to persuade the public that the See campaign was attacking its own candidate in order "to create a backlash against the Democrat," as Joe Perkins, who worked for Ingram, put it to me. Presumably the public would believe that Democrats were spreading terrible rumors about See and his family. "They just beat you down to your knees," Ingram said of being on the receiving end of Rove's attacks. See won the race.

Now, look what's turned up in Tennessee. Steve Clemons has the details.

"A crass, below-the-belt political strategy to attack the vice president's daughter."

Is that what John Kerry did in Wednesday night's debate? That's what President Bush's campaign spokesperson calls it.

People can interpret things differently. So perhaps you could say it was inappropriate or cynical or a bunch of other things. But an 'attack' on the vice president's daughter? That's just saying up is down.

And 'below-the-belt'? Like 'cheap and tawdry', why are all the criticisms coded in sexual language?

One way or another, the Republicans do seem to be playing most of the folks in the press like a fiddle on this one.

If you look at the words used by the Bush campaign's communications folks and their foot soldiers among the commentators, the issue is not so much the reference to the vice-president's daughter or her sexuality. (After all, Dick Cheney has repeatedly discussed his daughter's homosexuality on the campaign trail. And when John Edwards mentioned it during the vice-presidential debates, Cheney thanked him for doing so.) It is a fever over the use of the word 'lesbian', which these folks seem to feel is the equivalent to calling her by the name of a sex act itself.

It's a telling example of how the heavy-weights on the cable nets, the gilded and the gelded, can be played into running with genuflections to anti-gay panic as though it were a riposte to homophobia.

"Hannaford supermarkets, the Lee Auto Malls, and the law offices of Joe Bornstein withdrew their advertising indefinitely, according to the Portland Press Herald." That's from an AP story out this morning. Sinclair's stunt has also made TheStreet.com's list of 'The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week.'

Perhaps most important, I'm hearing from sources with inside knowledge at the local station and Sinclair national headquarters level that Sinclair is getting a lot more than it bargained for with this.

All those calls to advertisers are having a real effect.