Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Today a reporter asked me whether I'd noticed, as he had, the sudden drop-off of interest in things political since the election and whether I'd seen this drop off registered in the traffic at TPM. I gave the matter some thought and looked over the traffic logs. And having done so and given him an answer, I thought I'd share what I told him with you. (And I assume, though I have no direct knowledge, that similar sites have had roughly similar experiences.)

The answer turns out to be that, yes, traffic is down substantially, but not nearly as much as I'd expected. And if you set aside the furious final month of the campaign, October, the viewership of the site hasn't fallen at all.

A few examples ...

In the last two weeks, the average number of weekday visits has hovered around 140,000. That is close to indistinguishable from the average in September and markedly higher than August.

In October, weekday daily visit totals never went below 165,000 and often went over 190,000. But it was only in the last week or so of the campaign that the real pre-election updraft began. Visits hit 223,000 on Monday, October 25th, the first day (I believe) they'd ever gone over 200,000. And they never went below 200,000 again until after the election.

So, I've tossed out a lot of numbers here. But the upshot seems to be that traffic to center-left political websites like TPM has been relatively unaffected by either the end of the election cycle or the Kerry defeat.

Another update from the JTA on the FBI's investigation of AIPAC.

Their latest update reveals ...

Sources close to the investigation told JTA that the four [AIPAC staffers] ordered to appear before a grand jury were Howard Kohr, the group’s executive director; Raphael Danziger, the research director; Richard Fishman, the managing director; and Renee Rothstein, the communications director. An FBI spokeswoman confirmed the search, but had no further comment.

Various knowledgable sources tell me that this investigation is heating up and that AIPAC, and specifically Steven Rosen, are the primary targets, rather than Larry Franklin.

Another JTA update on the FBI search at AIPAC headquarters today.

The Bureau also got subpoenas for grand jury appearances by four AIPAC staffers.

I hear the investigation remains quite active and continues to focus almost entirely on Steven Rosen, AIPAC's Director of Foreign Policy Issues.

A wonderful piece of magazine journalism in the current New Yorker, "God Doesn't Need Ole Anthony." Unfortunately, it's not online, only in the print version.

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn) wants a certain chief executive to resign over the failures of his Iraq policy because the "massive scope of this debacle demands nothing less."

Click here to find out who he's talking about.

James Tobin, the man at the center of the 2002 New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal and the regional head of Bush-Cheney '04, has been indicted.

I just spoke to a spokesman for CBS who walked me through their policy.

So here it is.

The network -- as opposed to affiliate stations -- runs no issue advocacy ads in cases where the issue is a matter of public debate. However, they will run political candidate ads.

Their policy of running candidate ads is pretty much moot since it seldom pays for a national candidate to spend money blanketing the whole country with an ad. But the spokesman said they will run them.

Then I asked about anti-smoking ads or the anti-drug ads paid for by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The spokesman told me that the network does sometimes run these ads and does so in cases where the issue is not one of public controversy.

So, for instance, they might run an anti-smoking ad because no one disagrees that smoking is bad for your health, etc.

CBS's rationale for this policy, said the spokesman, is their desire not to let groups with "deep pockets" control the public debate through paid advertising.

I can think of a lot of reasons why this is neither a good nor a coherent policy. But that's their explanation of it.

Another point on the UCC/CBS ad issue.

What is striking about CBS's refusal (text quoted here) to air the ad is that they seem to go out of their way to use the weakest and most troubling rationale.

The CBS memo to the UCC includes three basic points.

1. The alleged policy of not running ads which address issue of public debate or controversy.

2. An alleged rule against ads from religious organizations which can be said in any way to proselytize.

3. And the fact that President Bush has recently called for a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Reason #2 seems like the best argument (though it's pretty weak in itself). But the CBS memo specifically says that this isn't the reason they're rejecting it. Reason one, they say, was an entirely sufficient reason for rejecting the ad.

But having enunciated this bar against ads which discuss or take a position on any "current controversial issue of public importance" they then gratuitously add this line about President Bush's call for a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Here's the text (emphasis added) ...

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations, and the fact that the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] Networks."

I would think that the general rule, if evenly enforced, would be sufficient. I cannot think of any good reason why President Bush's (who's now apparently been renamed 'Executive Branch') stated position should have any bearing at all on whether the ad should run.

Can you?

As of noon on Wednesday, a quick look at Google News suggests that reporting on CBS's and NBC's refusal to run the United Church of Christ inclusion ad is almost entirely limited to the gay press (gaywired.com, 365gay.com, etc.). There's an AP story which has been picked up by the Akron Beacon Journal, but little else.