October 29, 2004 11:58 p.m. ET

Who do you believe? (David Shuster)

The appearance of Osama Bin Laden reminds me of something I wrote in a previous blog.  Hundreds of  you sent me some incredibly "colorful" e-mails as you took issue with my use of the word "misleading" as I described the President's campaign comments about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

On Senator Kerry's criticisms about Bin Laden escaping from Tora Bora in December 2001, President Bush has said repeatedly, "Our intelligence reports placed Bin Laden in any of several different countries at the time."

To those of you who think this is not misleading, read on...

U.S. Concludes Bin Laden Escaped at Tora Bora Fight
Failure to Send Troops in Pursuit Termed Major Error

By Barton Gellman and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 17, 2002; Page A01

The Bush administration has concluded that Osama Bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al Qaeda, according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge.

Intelligence officials have assembled what they believe to be decisive evidence, from contemporary and subsequent interrogations and intercepted communications, that Bin Laden began the battle of Tora Bora inside the cave complex along Afghanistan's mountainous eastern border. Though there remains a remote chance that he died there, the intelligence community is persuaded that Bin Laden slipped away in the first 10 days of December.

After-action reviews, conducted privately inside and outside the military chain of command, describe the episode as a significant defeat for the United States. A common view among those interviewed outside the U.S. Central Command is that Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the war's operational commander, misjudged the interests of putative Afghan allies and let pass the best chance to capture or kill al Qaeda's leader. Without professing second thoughts about Tora Bora, Franks has changed his approach fundamentally in subsequent battles, using Americans on the ground as first-line combat units.

In the fight for Tora Bora, corrupt local militias did not live up to promises to seal off the mountain redoubt, and some colluded in the escape of fleeing al Qaeda fighters. Franks did not perceive the setbacks soon enough, some officials said, because he ran the war from Tampa with no commander on the scene above the rank of lieutenant colonel. The first Americans did not arrive until three days into the fighting. "No one had the big picture," one defense official said.

Comments, questions, "colorful" responses... DShuster@msnbc.com

October 29, 2004 8:02 p.m. ET

Below are Chris' thoughts on how the new bin Laden tape can turn the Nov. 2 elections, as aired on MSNBC this afternoon:

The bin Laden tape helps President Bush (Chris Matthews)

A lot of people thought bin Laden was dead. He’s alive now, and we know it for sure.

The tape shows us that Bin Laden's well enough to do this tape. Some people may find problems with his left arm, but he’s alive and we have not caught him. He escaped at Tora Bora, and he’s still a free man.

His tape raises the issue of 9/11 again in very vivid terms. He’s talking about Manhattan, about the people killed, about that terrible day for Americans.

This turn of events is a plus for the president because it raises Bush’s concern, one he’s raised throughout the campaign—which is terrorism, and how we fight it.  It shifts attention away dramatically from the war in Iraq (which hurts the president, based upon all the assessments so far).

Bush’s handling of 9/11 was universally applauded. He's not as successful with the waging and justifying of the war in Iraq.

It’s a dumb show in a sense: If you read it literally, he’s calling for the defeat of President Bush, but he's not doing John Kerry a favor. Anyone with a brain in this planet knows that’s a way for President Bush to get support in this country. It’s impossible for us to know if he’s being ironic, clever, shrewd or stupid.

In the cold war, Kruschev very much liked John  F. Kennedy. He said to Kennedy, “I was rooting for you in the campaign against Nixon, but I did you a favor of never saying so.”

The tape also makes fun of the president for being an "inherited monarch." He’s saying the Middle East is run by sons of kings, and by generals and their sons. He says it’s easy for him to deal with Bush because he’s dealt with those monarchs.

It’s a trashing of a president. He's treating Bush as one of the “idiot sons of a monarchy” who got their job because of heredity.

The tape is also an appeal to the Arab community in the world, using our pro-Israeli alliance and using our support for at-times corrupt dictatorships in the world. We’re talking about a shrewd politician, he knows the sensitive points in the history of the Arab-America relationship and he’s playing on Arab sensitivities very brilliantly.

But remember, bin Laden tried to kill 50,000 people on 9/11. He killed only about a tenth that number—thanks to the bravery of our men and women, our firefighters.  He’s playing some sick game with the American people. That won’t work with the American people, not any of this will.

Click here to watch video of Chris' analysis.

E-mail your thoughts to Hardblogger@MSNBC.com

October 29, 2004 8:00 p.m. ET

Click here to read the first Citizen Journalist reports that have trickled in. Check back on 'Hardblogger' and the rest of the MSNBC blogs, as we'll be posting more!

October 29, 2004 5:40 p.m. ET

Aloha, says Dick Cheney (Joe Trippi)

So Dick Cheney will be winging his way to Hawaii this weekend.  That little addition to the Vice President’s schedule tells you just how close the White House thinks this election is What should be clear to just about everyone by now is that while the state of Ohio is not locked down for Kerry yet, Karl Rove and the Bush campaign are trying to put together an electoral vote strategy that leads to victory even if the President loses Ohio. Hence the Vice-President’s coming late night trip to the Aloha state.

For days I thought the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” scenario on election night could end up being an electoral vote so close that the nation would be waiting for the results to come in from a state so far west that its polls close at 2 a.m. ET.

Now, that fear has been confirmed as a real possibility by the vice president himself.

But I think there is one possibility that needs to be explained to people ahead of time— no matter how remote— and that is a 269 to 269 tie in the electoral college. There are at least 4 or 5 scenarios including at least one scenario in which George Bush loses Ohio, that lead to a tie in terms of electoral votes.   

Too few Americans understand that if this occurs— the next President of the United States will be decided by that august and non-partisan body known as the U.S. House of Representatives.   Not exactly the folks you would want breaking a tie, particularly if you didn't like the decision of the US Supreme Court in 2000.

I don’t know why but the thought of Dick Cheney headed for Hawaii is surreal.  

So what I want to know from you is, why do you think Dick Cheney will be winging his way to Hawaii?

Where would you send Dick Cheney if you could?

E-mail me at jtrippi@msnbc.com

October 29, 2004 5:22 p.m. ET

Guest blog from CNBC's Ron Insana:

It ain't over til it's over (Ron Insana)

It appears the market is now on hold until after next Tuesday.

With the race too close to call, with oil prices bouncing all over, China raising interest rates and GDP growth good but not great,investors are, as Art Cashin would say, Leaving their wallets on their hips.

The biggest concern is a contested election, since in 2004, the S&P 500 declined 4% from Election Day until the race was decided two months later.

A definitive victory for either candidate known by Wednesday morning, would eliminate that overhang of uncertainty, and get the market to make-up its mind about which direction it wants to go in for more germain reasons, like economic growth, the direction of interest rates and profits.

Until Tuesday... Then...

October 28, 2004 8:57 p.m. ET

Our democracy at risk? (David Shuster)

"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." (Thomas Jefferson.)

I've been wondering lately what Thomas Jefferson would think about the millions and millions of people who are about to step into a voting booth... and instead of being "well-informed," they are "mis-informed." 

I'm talking specifically about those voters who are convinced Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime had weapons of mass destruction when U.S. forces invaded.

Despite a recent and well-publicized report from the Bush administration's own chief weapon inspector that Iraq did not have WMD or WMD programs before the Iraqi war, a new poll suggests that 53 percent of "uncommitted voters" believe that Iraq did have such WMD or WMD programs. The University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) and Knowledge Networks, a California-based polling firm, had even more stunning numbers regarding "Bush voters."  72 percent of Bush voters said they believed Iraq had WMD or WMD programs when the U.S. invaded. (47 percent of the Bush voters believe Iraq had actual weapons of mass destruction, and 25 percent believe Iraq had WMD programs.) 

A few weeks ago, Charles Duelfer, the Bush administration's own Iraqi weapon's inspector, wrote a report concluding that Saddam Hussein's regime (1) destroyed its chemical and biological weapons after the first gulf war 13 years ago, (2) ended the nuclear program 13 years ago and never restarted it, and (3) abandoned biological weapons research 8 years ago because of UN sanctions.

To me, some intellectually logical and honest arguments do exist that support the invasion of Iraq.  I respect people who feel that because our government suspected in March of 2003 that Saddam had WMD...  the invasion was justified to find out for sure.  (Whether one agrees or disagrees with the decision to invade versus continue diplomacy/inspections is an entirely different matter.)  My point is that you can argue for the invasion while still acknowledging today that Iraq didn't have WMD.

So, why are so many voters clinging to the now disproven claim that Saddam had WMD? Have those voters been misled? Are these voters simply ignorant?  Whatever the reason, an electorate that is widely "misinformed" is dangerous to us all.  Thomas Jefferson, if you can hear us, please help.

Your thoughts?  DShuster@msnbc.com

October 28, 2004 8:45 p.m. ET

MSNBC Blogs are now RSS-ed (Joe Trippi)

If you don't know what that means, don't worry about it. It's a geek thing.  Otherwise, here's the feed.   

Enjoy.

October 28, 2004 5:28 p.m. ET

How is Hardblogger covering the election? Actually, it involves YOU. Check out Joe's column today...

An experiment in democratized journalism (Joe Trippi)

I’ve written a lot in my "Trippi’s Take" columns about how the Internet empowers the bottom, and how that empowerment energizes citizen involvement that can create real change in an otherwise top-down world.

So here at MSNBC, we are going to try something completely different when it comes to reporting this Tuesday’s election. We are going to report what’s happening from every angle— including yours.   

I am hoping you will be a citizen journalist and file your story or stories with us from now through Tuesday.

Click here to read more.

Find out how you can be a Citizen Journalist.

E-mail JTrippi@MSNBC.com

October 28, 2004 2:51 p.m. ET

On 'Hardball' tonight (Dominic Bellone, Hardball producer and newsletter editor)

Tonight, we zero in on the battleground state of Ohio as well as the labor vote... To that end we talk to Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell (R) about what it will take for either candidate to win. As a Republican, Blackwell will be most interested in a Bush formula for victory, I suppose...

On the labor front, we talk to Teamsters honcho James Hoffa, Jr. about his Union's effort to get out the vote for Kerry...

David Shuster does a tick tock on "explosives" back and forth between Kerry and Bush.

Frank Rich from "The New York Times" and Stephen Hayes from "The Weekly Standard" stop by to give us their take on the horserace and we'll also get an update from battleground Florida...

E-mail DBellone@MSNBC.com.

Also, click here to read your e-mails about the missing explosives and the barbs exchanged by Bush and Kerry over that issue.

October 27, 2004 8:07 p.m. ET

Is it rhetoric or is it a lie? (David Shuster)

President Bush: "The Senator is denigrating the action of our troops and commanders in the field."  (Lilitz, PA October 27.)  The President was referring to Kerry's criticisms of the explosives that disappeared in Iraq and Kerry's criticisms of the Tora Bora hunt for Osama Bin Laden in December 2001.

Regarding the missing explosives, what Kerry said Wednesday, "The IAEA warned the Bush Administration and the UN Security Council before the war that this weapons site was critical and needed urgent protection.  The U.S. commander who reached the sight was never told to stop, inspect, and protect it.  He was never even told what it was."  Kerry went on to say, "The troops did their job, the commander in chief failed to do his."  Is that denigrating the action of our troops?

On Kerry's criticism about Afghan warlords, instead of U.S. forces, leading the search in December 2001 for Osama Bin Laden in Tora Bora.  Bush:  "Our intelligence reports placed Bin Laden in any of several different countries at the time."  (Lilitz, PA Oct. 27.) Actually, the Pentagon was convinced Bin Laden was cornered in Tora Bora in mid-December 2001. 

On Kerry's health care proposal, President Bush said:  "His plan is a big government-run health care plan."  No, it is not.  Every analyst says it is far from a government-run plan.

President Bush:  "He (Kerry) says the war on terror is primarily a law enforcement and intelligence-gather operation."  Kerry has never said that.  President Bush may think that's what Kerry's approach means, but Kerry has never said that.

Now, Senator Kerry:  "You know, the president likes to run around the country telling you how his job's been hard work"  (Kerry, October 27 in Iowa). No, the President is not running around the country saying that.  He said the phrase "hard work" during the first debate when talking about the war on terror.

On Halliburton and President Bush, Kerry said, "He handed Halliburton a $7 billion no-bid contract."  The contract was 7 billion dollars.  But it wasn't "handed" to Halliburton by the president or even the vice-president, according to the non-partisan investigative arm of Congress called the General Accounting Office.

Finally, Kerry routinely asks voters, "Do we want four more years of a President who... tells a struggling middle class that everything is just fine?"  Mr. Bush has never gathered a group of "struggling middle class voters" at a rally and told them "everything's just fine."  He has said some economic numbers are "fine."  He has said the market is "fine."  He has not gathered people together who are "struggling" and told them "everything's just fine." 

Which Kerry and Bush statements are campaign rhetoric, and which statements are beyond the pale?  You tell me...

DShuster@msnbc.com

October 27, 2004 4:53 p.m. ET

The next American president— Bush or Kerry— can harness the power of the Net too  (Joe Trippi)

I got the opportunity to hang out with David Weinberger yesterday. David has authored some incredible books that really made me think differently about how technology and the Internet could change politics for the better.  His “Small Pieces Loosely Joined” and “The Cluetrain Manifesto” are must-reads for anyone trying to understand how we can change things together.  You should check out his blog— JOHO The Blog.

First off, David is a partisan— a strong Kerry supporter— but he doesn’t just think in campaign terms. He thinks in bolds ways about “the common good” and about how the ability to govern could change if a President better understood how the Internet empowers people.

Take health care for example: The president usually sends his health care bill over to the
Congress, and the lobbyists and special interests begin to hack away at the plan. They even begin to spend millions to tell us what is in the plan, and why we should be against it.

If the President (Bush or Kerry) used the Internet to distribute his health care plan to millions of Americans before he actually sent his bill to Congress, and enlisted Americans to sign-up to support the plan, and lobby Congress themselves to pass his plan— the president would be able to create real change and break through the rusted, corroded, system in Washington— and force through real health care reform.  

The one thing more powerful in Washington than a bunch of lobbyists— is us.   David and I kicked around how our next president could help change everything by embracing the Internet as a means to directly relate with the American people and enlist their support for an agenda aimed at the common good.

As we talked, on the television screen behind us, George Bush and John Kerry were leveling their attacks at each other. The election for president is just days away— but you have to wonder, do either of them get the real possibility of involving the American people more directly in solving the problems we face together?   

As usual, please let me know what you think by e-mailing me at JTrippi@MSNBC.com

October 27, 2004 4:53 p.m. ET

On the show tonight (Dominic Bellone, Hardball producer and newsletter editor)

It’s another action packed show on Hardball tonight. We’ll lead with Iraq and some foreign policy-types who’ll attempt to sift through the charges and countercharges flying back and forth...This huge weapons cache in Iraq is the dominant issue out there: Was it there before or after our troops secured Baghdad?  Whose fault wasn’t that it was secured?  Kerry is doing his best to make hay over it while the Bush camp is running a quote Kerry foreign policy advisor Richard Holbrooke made claiming “I don’t know the truth” in Iraq...

We’ll also talk to Bush buddy & Commerce Secretary Don Evans who is campaigning in Ohio. We’ll get into the politics of that battleground state too.

Evan Thomas of Newsweek, Ron Reagan and Briefing subscriber John Fund of the Wall Street Journal slice-and-dice the race and how the RNC is using Thomas’ own words to charge media bias...

We finish up with liberal funny man Al Franken.

E-mail me at DBellone@msnbc.com

October 26, 2004 5:56 p.m. ET

Tracking polls 101: How to read them, what to make of them  (Joe Trippi)

I see a lot of comments and questions around the Net about tracking polls— so I thought I should take a run at explaining how they work.

First off, most tracking polls are started with three nights of data. Then as night four's data is entered, the first night’s data is subtracted. This cycle continues, with the freshest 3 nights of data combined to generate each result reported in your morning newspaper, or your favorite blog or Web site.

Candidate      Oct 10-12    Oct 11-13   Oct 12-14   Oct 13-15

    A                    48%              48%             48%         49%
    B                    48%              48%             48%         47%

The example above looks to be a tight race that on night 4 (Oct 13-15) has opened up to a two point lead for Candidate A.

But let’s look at what had to happen on the single night of October 15th to cause this reported result.   We are dropping Oct 10th’s 48% to 48% result, and adding in its place the night of Oct. 15.   This means that on Oct. 15th, Candidate A had to receive 51% of the vote and candidate B had to receive 45%  to create the two-point swing reported as the three day result of Oct 13–15.   

Oct:                 13th   14th   15th    13-15th

Candidate A        48%  48%  51%       = 49%
Candidate B        48%  48%  45%       = 47%  

The fact is that on night number 4 (Oct. 15) a 6% lead has opened up for candidate A – but this fact is masked by the two nights of tied 48-48 data that are still in the sample.  

This is why tracking polls can actually lag behind what is really happening.  It's also why, if an uptrend occurs in a tracking poll for a candidate, it is likely that the trend will continue as older data is taken out and fresh new trend confirming data is added to the poll.

As tracking polls come out for state after state each day as we near next Tuesday’s election, remember that a slight one point bump up for a candidate could actually portend a 5 or six point shift of much bigger proportions.  

Make Sense?  E-mail me at JTrippi@msnbc.com

• October 26, 2004 |  4:05 p.m. ET

Campaigns jump on the cool kids’ bandwagon (Dana Falvo, Creative Story Unit)

Since when is the excuse that "all the cool kids are doing it" a good reason to do something? That got me nowhere when it came to making my own decisions.

I wonder exactly how and why both campaigns feel they can persuade voters through the superstars within their parties. Just yesterday, Sen. John Kerry hit the road with President Clinton while President Bush joined up with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Yet, neither Clinton nor Giuliani reflect what their respective candidates profess. So, is the purpose of these superstars, along with Sen. Hillary Clinton and Gov. Schwarzenegger, to be poster children for the campaign? Are we supposed to believe that just because we like Giuliani or Clinton we should automatically vote for Bush or Kerry? If that’s the case, these campaigns mislead voters.

Being influenced by who a candidate hangs out with defeats the purpose of choosing a candidate who best represents our personal opinions and core values.

When you think about it, is there even such a thing as "star quality" when it comes to politics? Sure, these superstars associate along the same party lines as the candidates, but ladies and gentlemen, no two politicians are the same.

As we inch closer and closer to Election Day, I hope voters consider more than just what the cool kids are doing when it comes time to cast their vote.

Some stories catching my eye:

E-mail me at DFalvo@msnbc.com

October 25, 2004 | 10:27 p.m. ET

Trick or treat?  (David Shuster)

Two notes from the weekend: 

(1)  On Saturday afternoon,  I stopped by the D.C. election office to check out the interest in "absentee ballots."  Much to my surprise, the line was very long.   (Remember, DC is not a battleground.)   Four years ago, I stopped by the exact same location, (at roughly the same time on the Saturday ten days before the election,) and found just one person at that time voting absentee.  Election officials confirmed on Saturday that they've "never seen" this much interest in a presidential election.

BuyCostumes.com
A Kerry mask is out of stock with a popular web retailer.
(2)  For all of you thinking about a politically-oriented Halloween costume, ladies, consider this to be your warning:  I went to a Halloween party Saturday night and out of a hundred people in costume, I saw five different sets of women dressed up as "The Bush twins."   One set quickly peeled off their Bush-Cheney stickers and claimed to be the "Olsen twins," another set left the party immediately.  Sure it's an easy outfit to throw together... but unless you enjoy that grim "she has my prom dress" feeling...  try something else.

Questions/suggestions/Halloween tips:
DShuster@msnbc.com


October 25, 2004 | 4:51 p.m. ET

Chris Matthews is excited! He's in Philadelphia, where he covered former President Clinton stumping for the Democratic presidential candidate. Chris interviewed Sen. John Kerry today— the interview will air on tonight's edition of "Hardball."

Big love in Philly (Chris Matthews)

This is really one of those magic moments that will probably benefit John Kerry’s candidacy simply because of the worldwide interest in the health of former the President Bill Clinton.  Everybody wants to simply know what he looks like, how he’s doing.  Even his political enemies want to know how is his health after quadruple heart surgery.

The big political impact, of course, is to create some excitement around the campaign that can use some excitement—that’s John Kerry’s.  Clinton’s arrival in Philadelphia comes at time when Kerry seems to be showing some breeze.  His numbers were up this weekend in the ‘Washington Post’ and the ‘Newsweek’ poll seems to be catching up with the president, at least in the popular poll. So coming here, Bill Clinton has the chance to give this campaign some excitement and put it on a roll.

I grew up in Philadelphia.  This is city that often feels over-looked. New York gets most of the attention, also Chicago, Los Angeles. But here, in the fourth largest media market in the country, this city always get by-passed. Here, the former president and the presidential candidate chose to give Philadelphia a lot of star quality.  This city takes that stuff very seriously. 

NBC News
I can’t over-emphasize the power of the pictures-not the words, but the pictures. People haven’t seen Bill Clinton since he went through major life-threatening surgery. The fact he’s coming back here and hitting the campaign trail is just sheer political excitement, whatever side you’re on.  I’m sure the Republicans were watching closely. 
And they are trying to figure out how they can get some negative impact of out this to the more conservative parts of the country: the Bible belt, Southern Ohio, perhaps in Arkansas where Democrats are showing some light.

Certainly Bill Clinton carries some negative baggage but here in this city, it’s not just a city of brotherly love, it’s a city of Clinton love. This city really likes Clinton….
…This is quite a moment.  I don’t think anyone could draw a crowd like this except Bill Clinton.  It’s huge.  This is like Lazarus coming out of the tomb. He moves, saluting the crowd. He looks younger.  He’s skinnier.  He’s lost 50 lbs.  No more Krispy Kremes.  No more hamburgers.  We should all take his advice.

Email Hardblogger@msnbc.com

Click here for the video.

October 25, 2004 | 10:49 p.m. ET

The Nader factor (Joe Trippi)

Here are the links I mentioned on MSNBC Live:

  • The National Progress Fund’s The Nader Factor.com has been the most vocal and prominent online thorn in Ralph Nader’s side.  With more than 20,000 online members this Web start-up (which has raised more than $200,000 online) was formed to unite progressive greens and Democrats together “to defeat George Bush’s right-wing policies.” 
  • Former Majority Leader Dick Armey’s Citizens for a Sound Economy has been the most prominent of the right’s online organizations to mobilize support for Mr. Nader’s campaign.  With press releases titled, “Michigan CSE Turns Out Members for Nader Ballot Push” and “Phone Script: Conservatives for Ralph Nader?” CSE has used the Internet to organize supporters into offline efforts to get Mr. Nader on the ballot in swing states and were indeed successful in Michigan.
  • VotePair.org is a site where swing-state progressives whose first instinct might have been to vote for Nader, Cobb or Badnarik are paired with Democrats (and others whose first choice for President is Kerry) in 'safe' states where either Bush or Kerry has a decisive lead. Paired voters can communicate with each other and decide to vote strategically: swing-state participants for Kerry and safe-state participants for Nader, Cobb or Badnarik. As a result, the paired voters' support for progressive third parties is recorded in the popular vote and their preference for Kerry over Bush finds voice in the Electoral College.

Email me at JTrippi@msnbc.com

October 24, 2004 | 9:08 p.m. ET

Be careful what you wish for (Dominic Bellone, Hardball producer and newsletter editor)

The Washington Post lead Friday with a story on a troubling new poll out of Iraq (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6303257/ ) showing support for the U.S. backed Allawi government under 50% while support for Iraq’s religious parties on the rise.  One in three Iraqis blame the U.S. led coalition for the country’s security problems, slightly higher than the 32% who blame foreign terrorists.  The moderate, secular government headed by Allawi which the Bush administration is backing appears to be in serious jeopardy for the coming January elections.  An anonymous U.S. official is quoted as saying “The picture it paints is that, after all the blood and treasure we’ve spent and despite the [U.S.-led] occupation’s democracy efforts, we’re in a position now that the moderates would not win if an election were held today.”  While President Bush presses his Wilsonian ideology of spreading democracy in Iraq on the campaign trail, attempting to justify an increasingly disastrous war, I’m reminded of the old adage: Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.  What happens if the freely elected government of Iraq asks the U.S. to leave, for example.  Or an Islamic theocracy is elected that doesn’t share our Western values of tolerance, pluralism and equal rights for all? If this political trend in Iraq continues, the Iraqis might just get the democracy THEY want, but not the one WE want....

Email me at DBellone@msnbc.com

October 23, 2004 | 6:58 p.m. ET

By the numbers (David Shuster)

I agree with all of you who have complained about the confusing poll numbers and the inability to determine who is really winning this election.

But, there is one number in all of these polls that both campaigns and the gang here at Hardball are paying very close attention to:  The president's approval rating.  Over the last week, based on eight national polls, the President's approval rating averaged 48.3 percent. At the low end was the CBS/NY Times poll at 44 percent... at the high end was CNN/USA Today/Gallup at 51 percent.

This number is incredibly important because of history.  If you look back over the last 40 years, an incumbent president seeking re-election has never received a portion of the raw vote that was higher than his approval rating.  Furthermore, in every election where the president's approval rating was below 50 percent, undecided voters broke heavily for the challenger. In other words, most analysts predict that the President will not go above his approval percentage... though John Kerry could see an election day bounce of a few points.

There is one major difference though with this election: our nation is at war.  And while a majority of the electorate may disapprove of the president, or believe he could have done better, there may be some voters who are reluctant to make a change.

To that end, there was a poll conducted just recently by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg.  It was a poll that Greenberg said leaves the Kerry campaign with "some challenges."  The democracy poll included a question that was asked only of "persuadable voters."   That meant voters who intend to go to the polls, have still not decided who they are going to vote for, or are leaning towards Bush or Kerry but could still change their mind.  These "persuadables" were given a choice:  (1) "I'm comfortable with changing to a new person, if he has the right priorities."  or (2)  "After all is said and done, President Bush has made america safer and I'm reluctant to change."   54 percent chose the first response of "comfortable with change."  45 percent said "reluctant to change."

To me, the poll suggests that undecided voters are going to break Kerry's way... but not by a margin as large as previous elections involving an incumbent with an approval below 50 percent.  If the president's approval rating goes up slightly before election day... the race is his.  If the president's approval rating doesn't change... Kerry may be able to count on just enough of the undecideds to provide a very slim margin of victory in battle ground states where the race is currently even.

What do you think?

DShuster@MSNBC.com

October 22, 2004 | 6:48 p.m. ET

A real 'Hardball' baby (Dominic Bellone, Hardball producer and newsletter editor)

From the Hardball mailbag— file under "Taking Chris Matthews' advice can change your life for the better." You might recall this line from our February 10th show of this year:

Chris:  And you could have sex tonight and the baby would be  born before this presidential  election.  That's how far off it is, guys. Do you imagine that?... Ron [Reagan, Jr.], I thought about gestation here. I'm talking about having congress with somebody tonight, in the political language there, and nine months from now we're having the  presidential election. So the conception of John Kerry has occurred; the birth  is nine months from now.  I mean, I don't want to play this too long, but that's a long time.  Anybody's ever waited for a baby to be born. It’s a long time between now and November. 

Loyal Briefing subscriber Mike Granoff from New Jersey and his wife thought it a great idea and got busy... literally... This week, they are the proud parents of twin baby boys born on October 20th (future Hardball fans I'm sure)...Mike checked in to thank Chris for the idea. Congrats Mike!!!

Mike Granoff

October 22, 2004 | 4:28 a.m. ET

It's Horserace night! (Dominic Bellone, Hardball producer and newsletter editor)

If it's Friday night it must be the Horserace... your weekly summary of all the highlights, the lowlights, the good, the bad, the ugly, and yes, even the beautiful in the race for the White House.  This is the perfect show in case you've missed any of our coverage this week. It's a fast-paced look at the latest polls, ads, messages, strategies and the political fluctuations in the battleground states... Must-viewing before you hit that important dinner party this weekend...

So what's on tap for tonight?  The trifecta with Norah (Bush campaign), Kelly O'Donnell (Kerry campaign) and Andrea who'll get into Clinton's foray into this election in Philly... We're told he'll be at Love Park, how appropriate. By the way, we've something big planned for Hardball in honor of Clinton's return to the campaign trail... Stay tuned.

Chip Reid gives us the legal breakdown of what's going out there as Florida is already launching an investigation into potential instances of voter fraud...Plus, Ron Allen has the latest from the Nader camp.  Shuster reports on the latest ads and the action on the Internet... and Newsweek's Jon Meacham brings us up to speed on the brouhaha (I wouldn't exactly call it a "kerfuffle" but I'm in the mood to use that word) over that conversation between Pat Robertson and President Bush re casualties in Iraq.

Chris Jansing does a Battleground New Mexico piece and The Hotline's Chuck Todd gives us a rundown of the 5 most contested battleground states... An action packed show folks you don't want to miss, folks...And of course GO CARDS... SINK THE SOX!

Do you have your own story to tell?  Email DBellone@msnbc.com

October 22, 2004 | 10:18 a.m. ET

The Sinclair story on the web (Joe Trippi)

I'm going to be on MSNBC Live from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. ET, talking how the Sinclair story is covered online. Here are the Web sites I'll be talking about:

  • From the left: www.StopSinclair.org started as a simple blog providing news and commentary on Sinclair Broadcasting decision to force their stations to air the anti-Kerry documentary, “ Stolen Honor.”  In just days, the site began adding tools to handle the enormous traffic it was receiving.  Their petition calling on Sinclair Broadcasting pull the documentary from their networks has received well more than 100,000 signatures.  
  • From the right: www.RightMarch.com, the right’s answer to groups like MoveOn, is leading support for Sinclair Broadcasting from the right.  They too have an online petition asking folks to support Sinclair’s action.
  • Of course Hardblogger’s own David Shuster has done an excellent job covering the Sinclair Broadcasting controversy.  Here are some of Shuster’s blogs on Sinclair:
  • Sinclair adjusts, but not really
  • Sinclair update
  • Sinclair's sin

E-mail me at JTrippi@MSNBC.com

Editor's note: Check out video of Deborah Norville's interview with former Sinclair Washington Bureau chief Jon Leiberman , and the response by Sinclair's VP for coporate communications Mark Hyman .

October 21, 2004 | 6:36 p.m. ET

Spare me the analogy (Joe Trippi)

OK, I know I can’t do justice to this subject, but I am dropping all pretenses to political-correctness and starting a new drinking game.   If the Houston Astros win the National League title tonight— then from that point on, every time a political pundit or talking head uses a baseball analogy to describe the race between George Bush and John Kerry, we all have to take another sip of our favorite drink.

If the Astros win tonight, my guess is that within days the whole Bush/Texas/Astro vs. Kerry/Boston/Red Sox thing will be so overdone, that it's almost enough to get me to root for St. Louis to make sure we don’t have to endure day in and day out baseball analogies of the presidential campaign.  

And I just want to make it clear that I see no analogy at all between Howard Dean and the Yankees leading all year long— both seemingly unstoppable— suddenly being overtaken by the back from the dead Kerry campaign and Boston Red Sox.  None at all.

And besides I am a Roger Clemens fan so I’ll be rooting for the Astros— and if they win, I'll be cringing with you as we all suffer through lame baseball analogy after lame baseball analogy of the presidential campaign.

My only solace will be my new drinking game. My problem? My favorite drink is diet Pepsi.

What do you think?  JTrippi@msnbc.com

October 21, 2004 | 3:16 p.m. ET

Funny ridicule versus deadly serious (David Shuster)

The most creative and effective television commercials in this election have come not from the Bush or Kerry campaigns... but rather from the independent groups helping them.  Ironically, the groups are following the candidate's story lines in the final set of negative ads.  And whichever story line is more effective could determine this election.

The Bush campaign has long ridiculed John Kerry as a flip-flopper.  So, the latest television commercial from the powerful Republican "Club for Growth" is a hilarious and entertaining spot written by David Zucker (the Hollywood hit maker responsible for "Airplane.")  On screen, the commercial starts with a wedding ceremony and a narrator who says, "There's nothing wrong with making a decision and then changing your mind.  But if you never commit to what you believe in, who will commit to you?" The video shows a groom by-passing his bride to romantically kiss the maid of honor. Then, the commercial dissolves to John Kerry.  His arms go up and down (edited forward and reverse to make this effect) while issues appear, including "Iraq, Patriot Act," and etc.  Then, you see a bomb squad member who can't decide which wire to cut...  You get the idea.  It is simply hilarious... and the commercial seems very effective. 

The Kerry campaign has aggressively tried to portray President Bush as detached and divorced from grim reality.   So, the latest television commercial from the powerful Democratic "Moveonpac" is deadly serious.  There are no actors...  just President Bush and a woman whose brother was killed in Iraq.  The ad starts with a controversial joke President Bush delivered last march.  At a black-tie dinner, on camera, the President joked about not being able to find the WMDs in Iraq.  Then the president showed a slide photo of himself searching under his Oval Office desk.  The commercial shows this clip and then cuts to a woman talking about her brother who died in Iraq a month after the president's remark. Brooke Campbell says, "I watched President Bush make a joke, looking around for weapons of mass destruction.  My brother died looking for weapons of mass destruction."  The ad is simple but brutal.  And Moveonpac says their internal polling shows it's the most effective ad they've been a part of in this entire campaign.

Negative ads are intended to depress support and turnout for the target of the ad.  Both sides in this election believe that an erosion of just 1 percent for either candidate could give the election to the other.

Here's my question for you: Which tactic has more impact, "funny ridicule" or "deadly seriousness?"

I'm curious to hear what you think...  and I'd love to hear from you again after we show both commercials on the " Hardball Horserace" Friday evening at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET.

DShuster@msnbc.com

October 21, 2004 | 11:09 a.m. ET

Political cartoon sites (Joe Trippi)

I just did a hit on MSNBC Live, talking about political cartoons on the web. Here are links to some of the Web sites I mentioned:

  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee created their own online television station DTRIPtv, which includes animated cartoons like "Republican Survivor" where President Bush, VP Dick Cheney, Tom Delay, John Ashcroft, and Ann Coulter competed in a 5-episode spoof of the popular television show. (Disclaimer: I have worked with these guys in the past, as many of you may know.)
  • The Republican National Committee had fun this year when they spoofed "Monopoly," creating "Kerryopoly" to highlight segments of John Kerry's Senate voting record. They also enlisted Don King to do a voice-over for a flash-animated cartoon entitled "Kerry vs. Kerry."
  • Political waves were made twice this year when JibJab.com spoofed John Kerry and George Bush with their take on the songs "This Land is Your Land" and "Dixie."

What do you think? E-mail me at JTrippi@MSNBC.com.

October 20, 2004 | 6:03 p.m. ET

Live from Democracy Plaza (John Lichman, The Hardblogger Jogger)

I should've known the problem wasn't that Casey "Multi-tasking Goddess" Etzel calling me at two o'clock on a Wednesday. The problem was she told me I should visit Democracy Plaza, because 'Hardball' is going live from there tonight...and of course on election night too!  By default, this means I've returned to the "jogger" aspect of my "Hardblogger" job. 

'Hardball' has taken a home at 30 Rock(efeller) center which as of 11:00 a.m. this morning debuted as Democracy Plaza. This amazing set-up engulfs the sidewalk from 48th Street through 51st street, red white, and blue are prominent.

MSNBC TV
Democracy Plaza
You can't walk ten feet without seeing the massive video screen showcasing historic moments in democracy, from Brokaw at the destruction of the Berlin Wall to speeches given by the Gipper himself.  Ironically enough, Ron Reagan is standing off to my left with Matthews as I write this.

People take their sweet time as they waltz through each exhibit. Granted, the Plaza offically opens on October 21st, but it's mostly up and able tonight. Heck, you can't miss the Plaza if you happen through Midtown. So, if you're in New York City and not impressed with that ticking red sign on 48th Street and Avenue of the Americas, are you cooler than Joe Trippi? Well, in that case my Internet-savvy friend, come over and check out the complete Democracy Plaza.  

For all you Hardball fans, Chris and his team will be airing live from Democracy Plaza Sunday Oct 31st through election night...or should I say election week! 

Oh yeah, and there'll be voting-related stories later.  I swear, kids.

-john.lichman@gmail.com

October 20, 2004 | 3:37 p.m. ET

Nov. 2 countdown (Joe Trippi)

The November election if just days away now— so my column " Trippi’s Take " will focus on how the Internet and technology is changing our politics, even how the next President will be forced to govern differently.  So I hope you check in here to read my column which will change at least twice a week.  And just about every week day you can catch the Trippi’s Take segment on MSNBC TV between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. ET where we’ll bring you the latest on how Americans are using the power of the Internet to connect with each other and make a difference in this election.   I’ll be blogging at Hardblogger about all this and more (I am a political junkie after all) and getting my two cents in on Harball Horserace Friday Show  between now and the election as well.   

By the way, I was on the new set at Democracy Plaza today during Trippi’s Take— its really cool— (and very cold)  so check it out— Hardball will be live from there tonight!


And as always let me know what you think by emailing me at jtrippi@msnbc.com.

October 19, 2004 | 9:32 p.m. ET

Sinclair adjusts... but not really (David Shuster)

Facing a stock price that continues to plummet, and pressured by the withdrawl of more than 75 regular advertisers, the Sinclair Broadcast Group announced today that it will not air the partisan documentary "Stolen Honor" in its entirety.  Pay close attention to the phrase "in its entirety" (more on that below).

In a press release, Sinclair said 40 of its 62 stations would air a one-hour program Friday evening entitled "A POW Story:  Politics, Pressure, and the Media."  The program will raise allegations about John Kerry's anti-war activites in the early 1970's.  The Sinclair press release says, "we are endeavoring, as we do with all of our news coverage, to present both sides of the issue covered in an equal and impartial manner."

Let's cut through the spin: First, this is the same plan that was discussed at a company meeting on Sunday attended by Sinclair correspondent Jon Leiberman.  After the meeting, Leiberman complained publicly that Sinclair was planning an hour of "political propaganda."  (Leiberman was then fired.)  Secondly, two sources at Sinclair confirm that while Stolen Honor will not air in it's entirety, the program will contain "large chunks" of the documentary.  (See previous blogs for a rundown on the factual errors that permeate the entire film.) Thirdly, this "news coverage" on John Kerry's war activities from 35 years ago is the first "special" Sinclair has produced in this presidential campaign.   There have been no "news specials" or "special programming" on Iraq, Al-Qaeda, 9-11, terrorism, taxes, health care, education... or anything else you can think of that the candidates have been asked to take a position on.  Fourth, despite Sinclair's press release that it endeavors to "present both sides of the issue," the only documentary film maker who has been invited to participate is Carlton Sherwood of "Stolen Honor."  (No other documentary film maker has been asked... and there are several who have done films about Kerry's anti war activities that are far more factually honest.)  Furthermore, two sources inside Sinclair say the company is still planning to exclude any response from the Kerry campaign unless Senator Kerry himself appears on the program.   

Finally, despite Sinclair's continued description of Friday's program as "news coverage," the fact remains that "Stolen Honor" was released 6 weeks ago.  Last spring, in response to complaints about Sinclair refusing to broadcast the "Nightline" when Ted Koppel read the name of every soldier killed in Iraq, Sinclair issued this statement:  "We do not believe political statements should be disguised as news content."  So much for continuity.

By the way, I've received hundreds of e-mails about "Farenheit 9/11" and why I have not spoken out about the alleged "facts" in Michael Moore's film.  For the record, this summer on "Hardball," I did a lengthy report that was sharply critical of "Farenheit 9/11."  But that is besides the point.  There is still a difference between showing a partisan film in privately-owned movie theaters and showing a partisan film over the television airwaves.  In case you've forgotten, the television airwaves are owned by the public (though they are given to "licensed" broadcasters).  The distinction here is crucial... I hope you can see it.  And,  I'm encouraged by so many of you who agree that this is not a "left versus right" issue.

As always, I welcome your comments or questions.

DShuster@msnbc.com

October 19, 2004 | 5:56 p.m. ET

Hardball Briefing subscribers, take note: The Briefing is back, and so is beloved editor Dominic Bellone. He's been recovering from surgery, and is getting back in the game a bit. He'll be "issuing some show updates and other mission critical information from home," he says.

Below is part of today's newsletter...

(Dominic Bellone, Hardball producer and newsletter editor)

An important programming note: Beginning tomorrow, Hardball will broadcast from Rockefeller Plaza in New York which has been transformed into Democracy Plaza , "a grand celebration of democracy and citizenship that will be free and open to the public." This is gonna be really cool and will engage the public's enthusiasm in the same manner we did during the debates and the conventions...Chris will broadcast there through election night.
For more info on Democracy Plaza check out the press release.

On to tonight's show... Perhaps you've read about the Reservist Company in Iraq who refused an order to deliver fuel due to their vehicles not being properly equipped with armor and the lack of an armed escort. We'll talk to Kathy Harris, mother of Spc. Aaron Gordon, one of 16 members of 343rd Quartermaster Company about the situation.

We'll also talk to Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong, co-author, "Inside Centcom: The Unvarnished Truth About the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq"...He was Tommy Franks' right hand man during the prosecution of those wars. We'll get the inside scoop on how those wars are being prosecuted...

And of course we haven't forgotten about the all-important presidential horse race... New polls out show the race anywhere from tied to Bush up by a few points. We'll talk to GOP strategist Ed Rogers and Dem strategist Hilary Rosen, who by the way wrote a piece  defending Kerry's remarks about Cheney's daughter and blasting "false" GOP outrage on the issue...

And did you like Chris' interview last night with Jimmy Carter ?  We've got more... Please join us tonight...

Btw, was it smooth or what when Chris good nighted Ron Suskind last night and said "You`re a hell of a writer and you're becoming quite the blooming figure in our times, by the way."  I gotta throw that line into my repertoire...Very GQ.

E-mail me at DBellone@MSNBC.com

October 19, 2004 | 4:06 p.m. ET

‘No’ means no (Dana Falvo, Creative Story Unit)

When I was growing up, my parents always used to tell me “don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to peer pressure,” and “if you don’t want to do something, say ‘no.’” Today, we have two hot news stories where saying ‘no’ has— or has not— inadvertently left people questioning whether ‘no’ was the answer.

Just last week, the Bill O’Reilly story broke and immediately the buzz was all over: Could O' Reilly be dethroned by his own staff member? Now, let’s be straight… whether you’re a fan of his or not, the least one can do is recognize that this man has found his niche.

First note, O’Reilly is ACCUSED of sexual harassment—at this point these are allegations. Also note, I do realize sexual harassment is a VERY serious issue.

But if these allegations are in fact true— the man should be punished and the man needs help. Some of her stories are flat-out disgusting. But, come on? This is in no means a defense of the man— all women are taught to say NO.

I’m sure it is difficult to be in such a situation, but I still ponder, why didn’t this woman do anything before it got to this point?

Lesson to young women in the workplace:  If your boss is being a creepy bo jangles— stop going to dinner with the man. And if you’re worried about your job, go to the HR department. In all fairness, I would be creeped out too, but I would never just let this happen. Why didn’t she just say NO?

Another story making waves is that a reserve group in Iraq is under investigation for saying no to a mission to deliver contaminated gas to a city north of Baghdad. I have to say I’m on the fence with this story. There is no doubt about it: these men and women are brave, brave souls. In one sense I’m thinking “Good for them- they may have saved their own lives.” It does say something, that an entire platoon— all 19— found the mission to be too dangerous.

But at the same time this was their mission— they are there to serve. You have to wonder, did any of the other 1000+ think the mission was too dangerous before they were killed?

These are big stories.  I’m sure many of you have your own thoughts— feel free to e-mail. Honestly, I don’t feel I have either the knowledge or the place to judge members of our armed services.

But lessoned learned: the men and women serving in Iraq face life and death missions every day— saying ‘no’ to this one may have saved their lives.

Here’s to another brave one-
Paratrooper who lost leg in war re-enlists

E-mail Dana at DFalvo@MSNBC.com

October 19, 2004 | 12:52 p.m. ET

Sinclair update (David Shuster)

Yesterday, the Sinclair Broadcast Group fired its Washington, D.C. bureau chief after he criticized plans to run an incendiary and error-filled documentary about John Kerry on 60 Sinclair stations. That reporter, Jon Leiberman, called the Sinclair show "biased political propaganda with clear intentions to sway this election." Tonight, Leiberman, will join 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann.'   (Click here to watch Liebeman's interview with MSNBC's Alison Stewart.)

In addition to the news about the reporter, there are other Sinclair developments:

  • Famed shareholder attorney William S. Leach is accusing the Sinclair executives of insider trading and promises a lawsuit.
  • "Stolen Honor" producer Carlton Sherwood is facing libel charges from former marine Kenneth Campbell who says footage of him with the accompanying narration leaves viewers with the false perception Campbell lied about his military service.
  • Sinclair's stock price tumbled another 8 percent on monday.  The company's stock has dropped 25 percent since Sinclair announced it was planning to run the partisan film.
  • More than 75 Sinclair advertisers around the country have now pulled their television commercials from Sinclair stations.

Tonight on 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' at 8 p.m. ET, we will have the latest on the Sinclair controversy... 

What questions should we ask Leiberman and the Sinclair representative (if Sinclair provides one)???

DShuster@msnbc.com.

October 18, 2004 | 6:16 p.m. ET

Voter turn-out will determine this election (Joe Trippi

)

It seems that polls are in the news everywhere today. MSNBC has a report about four different polls out today , 3 show a growing Bush lead and the 4th shows the race is a dead heat. What’s interesting is I remember seeing this same pattern in the 2000 election between George Bush and Al Gore— and of the 4 polls out today only one was correct in the 2000 election. It was the Zogby poll— the same polling group that is the only poll showing a dead heat today was one of the only polling organizations to call it right 4 years ago.  

But I do think there is something at work that makes polling particularly inaccurate this time around.  There are literally hundreds of thousands of people (perhaps a few million) that have no idea they are going to be in a voting booth in about 14 days from now.

The two largest get-out-the-vote operations in our nation’s history have commenced with the opening of “ early voting ” in three states today. The ground game has begun in earnest— and that means that more people are going to be urged to vote this coming election day then ever before. There will be more rides to the polls, more phone reminders, more door-hangers, and more people on both sides will be literally dragging folks into the polling place. 

People (who, if you polled them today would say they aren’t planning on voting and mean it) will vote after this get-out-the-vote energy rolls through their neighborhood.

You can’t measure that energy in a poll.  And maybe the two competing efforts will simply counter each other out.  But my own view is that if the polls ever mattered in this election, they don’t matter now.  From here on in, it's who gets their people to go to the voting booth. Kind of ironic really, after spending near a half a billion dollars between them on TV commercials, the race between George Bush and John Kerry has come down to shoe leather and the sweat of engaged grassroots activists— where the only poll that counts is who has the most vans, and volunteers working to make a difference.

I am going to be on the air just about every weekday between now and the election for a “Trippi’s Take” segment on MSNBC between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m. ET.   Are you volunteering to help get-out-the-vote?  Getting involved in this election in some other way?   Regardless of who you are, e-mail me at jtrippi@msnbc.com and let me know what you are doing, and why you got involved this time.

Editor's note:  Congratulations to our very own Joe Trippi! The 5th World Conference on e-Democracy just named Joe Trippi as one of the top 10 people who are changing the world of the Internet and Politics.   This is one of the most important Worldwide bodies on this subject.  The honor could not be more deserved.  Great job Joe!

October 18, 2004 | 4:15 p.m. ET

Update on Sinclair's sin (David Shuster)

A week ago, I wrote about the decision by the Sinclair Broadcast Corporation to air a factually inaccurate and journalistically reprehensible film on its 62 television stations . My colleague Joe Trippi has spoken articulately (on  this blog and in his new book ) about the "bottom up power" of the Internet in putting the heat on organizations. 

For those of you wondering where the battle stands with Sinclair, here is an update:

  • Thanks to sites such as www.boycottsbg.com, Sinclair's advertisers continue to face a relentless barrage of calls and criticism.
  • Last week, Sinclair's stock price fell by 6 percent.
  • The film's producer, (Carlton Sherwood with Red, White, and Blue Productions) is now being sued for libel by a highly decorated Vietnam vet named Kenneth J. Campbell. (Campbell says the film's footage of him at a 1971 war protest with the accompanying narration leaves viewers with the false perception Campbell had lied about his military service.)
  • The legislation Sinclair is counting on to improve its long term financial difficulty is in deep trouble.  (Senators of both parties say the Sinclair controversy has single handedly reversed whatever momentum existed to ease big media ownership.)

Despite all of this, Sinclair still intends to broadcast " Stolen Honor," in its entirety, as soon as this week.  Sinclair continues to describe the film as "news," even though it was released (and picked apart) at a press conference six weeks ago.

"Stolen Honor" has several prominent factual errors:  First, former American POWs are quoted on camera as saying, "we stayed two more years because of the demonstrators like Fonda and Kerry... I figure they owe us two years."  I have no doubt that some POW's feel that way.  Others, however do not.  And they are not included in the film.  The film also disregards historical facts— the war stopped when the Nixon administration, in 1973, negotiated an end.  History shows it was the lack of a settlement before then, not any protests, that kept the North Vietnamese fighting.

Secondly, part of John Kerry's original testimony, as depicted in the film, is edited so that it begins in mid-sentence.  This editing makes it seem that John Kerry was making dramatic and specific eye witness allegations when in fact he always attributed those allegations to the testimony of other U.S. soldiers.

Third, the film only features former POWs who say John Kerry's name was invoked by north Vietnamese prison guards.  But we've spoken to dozens of POWs who've spent years in Vietnamese prison camps and they never heard John Kerry's name mentioned once.

Sinclair seems unconcerned with the factual errors in the film, the pressure on Sinclair's advertisers, or the lack of confidence the market now seems to have in Sinclair's management.  But even if Sinclair's executives don't care... investors will.  And whether you support John Kerry or oppose him... now is not a great time to be an investor in a company as reckless as the Sinclair Broadcast Corporation.

Questions/comments?  DShuster@msnbc.com

Click here to read some of your e-mails to David.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,