Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

In the last presidential debate, President Bush said he wasn't taking a flu shot because of the current shortage. I can understand the politics of saying that and also the sincere motive beyond it. He probably would have been attacked if he said he was making an exception for himself.

Still, the president should get a flu shot.

Support him or not, the president is singular. Issues of fairness and equality aside, the country can't afford to have the president debilitated by the flu or the complications that can follow from it -- especially when it is easily prevented.

One might say, though with less merit, that the same may apply to Senator Kerry in these last few weeks of the campaign since such a monumental choice as voters face in two weeks shouldn't be left to the vagaries of the influenza virus.

But Congress? Their staffers? Everybody who works on Capitol Hill?

According to tomorrow's Washington Post, any member of congress or employee of congress can walk into the capitol's attending physician and get a flu shot. In theory, they're not supposed to get one if they don't qualify under the CDC guidelines. But if they walk in and ask for one, they get one. No questions asked.

On top of that, the capital physician has told every member of congress to get a shot, regardless of age or health status. The rationale is that they come into contact with so many constituents and are at particular risk.

That doesn't seem right.

I have a friend who is HIV-positive; and he hasn't been able to get a shot yet. I have a relative who is over 65 and has a serious medical condition; and he hasn't been able to get one yet either.

I wrestled for several hours over whether to post this entry because I know there's a real risk that such comments merely pander to a cheap populism. [ed.note: the timestamp on TPM entries is most often when they're begun, not when they're posted.] I don't have anything against the staffers who work up on capitol hill. I know many of them. But this seems like a double standard that can't be justified.

Reed Hundt responds <$NoAd$>...

Dear Josh,

Now we see that Sinclair is not going to run the smear "documentary" after all. Instead they are going to run something they label as news, but which according to its current description is transparently another criticism of the Kerry campaign. What are we to make of this new tactic?

First, by backing away from their previous plan, Sinclair is effectively admitting either that their advertisers want them to maintain the broadcaster tradition of providing balanced and neutrail coverage of elections ( because without that advertisers risk viewer unhappiness being directed at the advertisers), or that Sinclair in fact may face many regulatory problems in the event that it violates that tradition. That much at least is progress toward some recognition of reality at Sinclair.

Second, Sinclair calling their proposed new show news does not make it news. What in fact one may think of their broadcast can and should be judged after the fact. But since Sinclair's relationship to objectivity, as reflected in its press statements, is rather attenuated, one should suppose that Sinclair's new show may well be judged just as much a smear as the so-called documentary they apparently will no longer run. As a result, advertisers have just as much ground to be wary, and the FCC just as much basis to do its duty, and Sinclair just as much reason to feel the opprobrium of an aroused public, as was the case before this current and suspicious effort to disguise the true intentions of Sinclair.

Third, the chairman of the FCC and his White House friends have nothing to be proud of in this embroglio, but perhaps the American people can be happy that notwithstanding his implicit endorsement of the Sinclair smear, at least in the first round the public has stood up to Sinclair's unfairness with some steadfastness and coordinated purpose. On the other hand, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, two Democratic commissioners at the FCC, have expressed themselves forcefully on the issue of balance and fairness. The next step either for commissioners or the Chairman, if he were to come to a realization of his duties, would be to investigate immediately the applicability of equal time obligations. This must be done in a hurry, so that if the Kerry campaign were granted equal time, that time would come before, rather than after (!) the election. If the Chairman won't act, then the commissioners should and could investigate without him, and make public their own conclusions about equal time. Of course, equal time for the Kerry campaign to reach the public served by the Sinclair use of the public's airwaves is not only a matter of specific regulation but also an ethical and cultural value to which any public official is empowered to speak.

Sincerely Yours, Reed Hundt former FCC chairman (1993-97)

P.S. The news director at Sinclair quitting is not a back page story; or it should not have been. It is telling, even conclusive evidence, of the difference between a fair culture of news reporting and the culture at Sinclair. More material for investigation.

Day One: President Bush accuses Sen. Kerry of using "shameless scare tactics."

Day Two: Vice President Cheney says Sen. Kerry isn't "tough and aggressive" enough to stop terrorists from exploding a nuclear weapon in an American city.

Lying about the draft.

In an interview Monday with the AP, Bush accused Kerry of scare tactics and insisted he would not bring back the military draft, even if there were a crisis with North Korea or Iran.

"I believe we've got the assets and manpower necessary to be able to deal with another theater should one arise," Bush said.

Then there's this from the Times ...

The chief Pentagon spokesman, Lawrence T. Di Rita, said Monday: "It is the policy of this administration to oppose a military draft for any purpose whatsoever. A return to the draft is unthinkable. There will be no draft."


Categorically, there will be no draft?

Then why do we have a Selective Service exactly? Why do we have the contingency plans <$Ad$>discussed in the Times article? The draft is always possible, depending on various possible national security threats and contingencies, particularly those that might persist for some time. That's why we have a Selective Service.

My point, as I've said previously, is not that there will necessarily be a draft or that the Bush administration is planning one or wants one. The point is that the administraiton has pursued a mix of policies that make it a very real possibility -- not because the administration wants a draft, but because they may drive the country into a position where we have no choice.

Take the president's comment to the Associated Press. We have the manpower to deal with another major theater conflict in North Korea or Iran? Really? The US military is under great strain now with current deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. How can we possibly have sufficient manpower to handle an all-out war with North Korea and its aftermath, without pushing the all-volunteer military past its breaking point?

Through a mix of conscious policy and mismanagement, the White House has gotten us to the point where another major conflict would be quite difficult to sustain for a number of reasons. The point of a debate about a potential draft is to weigh the consequences of those policies and that record of mismanagement.

By making categorical statements that are false on their face -- i.e., there will never be a draft -- the White House is trying to avoid or cut short that debate. And that makes sense because when you have the debate on its merits, a draft does seem like a real possibility.

Voters have a right to know that, to understand the consequences of White House policies and what they're not being told about them.

Perhaps the president and his advisors really believe they'll never have to consider a draft, though I doubt it. But then this White House has a history of making bluff, confident assertions of which reality quickly makes a mockery.

Just look at Iraq.

While I was writing the post below, I got some other information on the Sinclair developments of the day. As we noted this morning, Media Matters underwrote legal action taken on behalf of Sinclair shareholders. A letter was sent to Sinclair this morning demanding that they provide equal time in their presentation for those with contrary views.

For the legalese of the matter, see this fact sheet on their website.

If Sinclair didn't make a satisfactory response by the end of business today, the letter said, Glickenhaus & Co, the firm handling the case, would seek an injunction to block the airing of the show.

This evening I spoke to David Bennahum at Media Matters. He told me that at about 3:45 PM this afternoon, Glickenhaus got a call from Vicky Evans, from the Sinclair legal department. She said that their response to the demand letter would be arriving in Glickenhaus's fax machine momentarily.

What cranked out after a few moments was the press release later distributed publicly by Sinclair, which stated that they would not be broadcasting 'Stolen Honor.'

That was their response. And Glickenhaus judged it a sufficient response that they will not be making their request for an injunction tomorrow. Here's their letter back to Sinclair.

As I said in my earlier post, I don't have great confidence that it's not going to be the same smear repackaged with a new name. But we'll see.

As we noted earlier, this afternoon Sinclair sent out a press release in which they said that "contrary to numerous inaccurate political and press accounts, the Sinclair stations will not be airing the documentary 'Stolen Honor' in its entirety."

On that front, you'll be interested to know that some of the biased lefty rags who published this calumny were the TV listings in papers across the country. Here's the Yahoo TV listing, just by way of example.

Now, to move back to the substance of the matter, I headlined the earlier post with the question of whether Sinclair was starting to crack under the pressure. I don't think there's any question they are. But the emphasis is very much on 'starting.'

As nearly as I can figure it, from their press release, what Sinclair now plans is an hourlong special which is based largely on the material from 'Stolen Honor' but also frames this in a larger 'context' of liberal media bias and how bad it is that all the other networks haven't run 'Stolen Honor' and presumably what a rough shake Sinclair's gotten for trying to run 'Stolen Honor.' That's balance.

Read the press release and tell me if you think I've got it wrong. Don't miss CEO David Smith's comments toward the bottom.

That, to put it mildly, doesn't cut it.

Sinclair is trying to wriggle and whine out of the mess they've gotten themselves into by violating their journalistic responsibilities, and public responsibilities as holders of public broadcast licenses, by running an anti-Kerry infomercial as a news show just ten days before the election.

Smith has classified the outrage and actions Sinclair's decision has spawned as so many "misguided attempts by a small but vocal minority."

He doesn't mention, of course, that that 'small but vocal minority' includes the man whom until yesterday Sinclair considered a respectable enough fellow to have as their DC Bureau chief.

Everything we've seen from the Sinclair folks -- and, by this, I mean the executives, not its many employees around the country -- over the last ten days marks them as reckless clowns, with brass knuckles and pretty poor business men to boot.

The logical interpretation of what's happened in the last week is that they believe they'll make up for whatever losses they sustain through regulatory, or rather deregulatory, payback after the election. Their barely disguised motives have been most clearly evidenced by their manner of using their offer of 'equal time' to Kerry as a form of gleefully public extortion.

In theory, what Sinclair now describes could be a fair-minded look at Kerry's time as a Vietnam war protestor. But look who we're dealing with? Based on their track record, their claims don't give me a lot of confidence. Their latest gambit seems like a prettied up attempt at the same smear by another name.

I'd love to be proven wrong. But I'm not too hopeful.

Sinclair cracking under the <$NoAd$>pressure?

Sinclair Broadcast Group (Nasdaq: SBGI - News) announced today that on Friday, October 22, 2004 at 8:00 p.m. (7:00 p.m. central time) certain television stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. will air a special one-hour news program, entitled "A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media." In order to minimize the interruption of normally scheduled programming in those markets where Sinclair owns and/or programs more than one television station, the news special will be broadcast on only one of those stations. A complete list of stations which will be airing the program and the times of such broadcasts is attached.

The news special will focus in part on the use of documentaries and other media to influence voting, which emerged during the 2004 political campaigns, as well as on the content of certain of these documentaries. The program will also examine the role of the media in filtering the information contained in these documentaries, allegations of media bias by media organizations that ignore or filter legitimate news and the attempts by candidates and other organizations to influence media coverage.

Contrary to numerous inaccurate political and press accounts, the Sinclair stations will not be airing the documentary "Stolen Honor" in its entirety. At no time did Sinclair ever publicly announce that it intended to do so. In fact, since the controversy began, Sinclair's website has prominently displayed the following statement: "The program has not been videotaped and the exact format of this unscripted event has not been finalized. Characterizations regarding the content are premature and are based on ill- informed sources."

Hmmm. Inaccurate stories based on statements of Sinclair executives. Truly, where do they get these clowns?

See the rest here?

As of 4 PM Sinclair stock is off 3.54% today. It was even further down but 'rallied' over the last half hour or so.

Release the hounds!

Media Matters for America, David Brock's new media watchdog outfit, just annouced that they've underwritten the costs of a shareholder action to force Sinclair Broadcasting to provide real equal time to balance their forced airing of the hour-long Swift Boat smear.

A demand letter just went out this morning and that's to be followed tomorrow, if no reasonable response is forthcoming, by a request for an injunction preventing the airing of the film.

Click here for all the details ...

And if that weren't enough, that's not the only lawsuit coming down the pike this afternoon.

Also, we're hearing that there are quite a few Sinclair employees at the local level who are actually hoping the boycott works.

President Bush in Florida: "I know there are some here who are worried about the flu season. I want to assure them that our government is doing everything possible to help older Americans and children get their shots despite the major manufacturing defect that caused this problem."

Translation: We're working on getting some more shots. But the important thing to understand is that it's not our fault.