Mark Finkelstein

Mark Finkelstein's picture
Contributing Editor

Lives in Granbury, Texas. 

Twitter: @markfinkelstein

Pilot, parrots, dogs, tennis.

Latest from Mark Finkelstein

As political rituals go, the phony denial of interest in the VP nomination is among the most annoying. So credit Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee for unequivocally stating their willingness to serve as McCain's running mate.

But please, politicians out there, spare us the feeble non-denial denials such as the one Jim Webb offered up on today's Morning Joe. Isn't Webb supposed to be Mr. No-Nonsense Macho Man? After all, he was on the show to tout his new book, A Time to Fight, and to talk up his rough 'n tumble Scots-Irish roots. But judging by his wimpy response to the Veep question, perhaps the book should be renamed A Time to Fumfer. His reply to Mika Brzezinski's question on his interest in the Veep nomination has to go down as one of the lamest of an already-lame genre.

Even before I heard Chris Matthews mention it, it struck me too . . .

Among the visuals a big-time campaign carefully choreographs is the human backdrop when the candidate speaks—particularly when it's a matter of an important, nationally-televised speech. So it's very hard to imagine that it was coincidence that the crowd visible behind Hillary this evening as she gave her Kentucky primary victory speech . . . was comprised 100% of people of pallor. Kibitzing with co-anchor Keith Olbermann immediately after Clinton's comments, Matthews mentioned it.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: I thought a giveaway line was "who is best positioned to win in November?" That is not exactly a self-crediting commentary. When you position yourself in politics, it's a deliberate effort to try to find a space, not necessarily your own passionate position, or your real position, but to find a place, to triangulate, to try to find a place that appeals to a certain percentage of the voters that will carry you over. And to advertise yourself as the "best-positioned" is not really a statement of authenticity, it's a statement of political positioning. It's a Dick Morris phrase, if anything. It's certainly an odd way to portray it.

I think I know what she's saying, which is "I'm perhaps stronger on defense, perhaps I'm white, perhaps I'm appealing to the working class." I do think it's interesting that her entire crowd was white tonight. That was interesting. Usually they try to mix it up a bit, up near the lectern on purpose, to give it a sense of random selection. It didn't look very random there.

View video here.

Doesn't Mika Brzezinski have any Republicans in her Rolodex? With Joe Scarborough home in Florida awaiting the birth of a baby, Mika has been filling in as anchor, and I sense doing much of the show's booking [mention is often made of her work in that regard]. Today's guest lineup consisted of six Dems/liberals versus a sole Republican, brought in almost at show's end.

Here's the list, in order of appearance, of today's political guests coming from outside the NBC/MSNBC family [Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell also appeared as guests, and Harold Ford, Jr. and Pat Buchanan served as panelists]:

  • Jonathan Capehart--WaPo editorial writer
  • Ted Sorensen--former JFK speechwriter
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin--historian and former LBJ aide
  • Tom Daschle--former Dem senator [check out the spiffy red spectacles]
  • Terry McAuliffe--Clinton campaign chairman
  • Jon Meacham--Newsweek editor and contributing editor of the center-left Washington Monthly
  • Mitt Romney--former GOP presidential candidate

Like choosing Rosie O'Donnell to vouch that someone isn't a 9-11 conspiracy nut?

Of all the people Mika Brzezinski might have selected as a character reference for her father when he was portrayed as a problem for Obama with Jewish voters, Pat Buchanan isn't the first one who springs to mind. Yet that's who Mika [subbing as host for Joe Scarborough, home in Florida awaiting the birth of a baby] called on to defend her dad on today's Morning Joe.

The odd endorsement came at about 6:35 AM EDT today, after Mika highlighted an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal by Global View columnist [and former Jerusalem Post editor] Bret Stephens entitled Obama and the Jews. Stephens's item contained these lines [emphasis added]:

View video here.

Can it be coincidence that on the day it's reported that Keith Olbermann is feuding with Chris Matthews, the Hardball host goes out of his way to shine up the clown prince of Countdown?

As NewsBuster Noel Sheppard has noted, the New York Post, in the course of reporting today that Olbermann has been "lashing out" at his network's talking heads, stated that Olbermann's "feuding with 'Hardball' host Chris Matthews is nothing new."

So on this evening's Hardball, how does Matthews promote tomorrow night's primary coverage that he will be co-anchoring with Olbermann?

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Remember, tomorrow night with Keith Olbermann, we're going to be working together for complete coverage of the Oregon and Kentucky primaries. As I said, for me it's Christmas morning. I don't know how it feels to Keith.

Paul Krugman is over in Berlin, and—surprise!—concludes that Europeans have things better figured out than we benighted Americans do. The gist of his Stranded in Suburbia in today's NY Times is that dense cities like Berlin, which offer good public transportation, are the solution to the high gasoline prices we are seemingly stuck with. Krugman contrasts Berlin and Atlanta:

Greater Atlanta has roughly the same population as Greater Berlin — but Berlin is a city of trains, buses and bikes, while Atlanta is a city of cars, cars and cars.

So why don't more Americans choose to live in big cities? After citing the current lack of good public transportation and the durability of suburban housing, Krugman points his accusing liberal's finger at his fellow Americans [emphasis added]:

The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal has long been an indispensable voice of conservatism. As President Bush said in 2003 in awarding the Medal of Freedom to editorial page editor Robert L. Bartley shortly before his death, he—and by extension his editorial page—has been "a champion of free markets, individual liberty and the values necessary for a free society."

But there is one area in which the editorial page's policy diverges strikingly from conservative orthodoxy, and that is on the matter of immigration. To varying degrees, the paper's editorialists have argued in favor of a more flexible attitude toward immigration. That tendency reaches its apotheosis in the recently-released book by WSJ editorial board member Jason Riley: Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders.

Riley appeared on this weekend's Journal Editorial Report on FNC to discuss his book with host Paul Gigot and make the case that borders should indeed be opened. Riley seemed surprisingly passive in the defense of his controversial proposal, and I personally came away unpersuaded. Here was the exchange.

View video here.

Hasn't the MSM learned anything from the unfortunate episodes of John "stuck in Iraq" Kerry and Stephen "if you don't read you've got the Army" King? Apparently not. Once again, the liberal media, this time in the form of the AFP, has perpetrated the canard that the our military is the last resort of the poor and uneducated. An AFP article of May 16 reported the story of Army sergeant Matthis Chiroux, who has refused deployment to Iraq, claiming he considers it "an illegal war."

Chiroux has said that he was "from a poor, white family from the south, and I did badly in school."

And how did AFP describe such young people? As:

[T]he kind of young American US military recruiters love.

BS, I'd say, based on everything I know about military recruiting. But let's let Bill Carr—the Dep. Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel Policy [pictured here]—respond, as he has in a NewsBusters exclusive.

When Mika Brzezinski gushed over Pat Buchanan's knowledge of WWII history today, was she aware that her hero has criticized Britain for coming to the defense of her father's native Poland when Nazi Germany invaded it?

The big story this morning is President Bush's remarks to the Israeli Knesset invoking the example of Hitler to warn against the appeasement of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the opening segment, from Mika Brzezinski [subbing as host for Joe Scarborough this week] to Willie Geist to Pat Buchanan to Mike Barnicle to David Shuster, nary a word in defense of Bush was heard, with Shuster twice referring to Bush's remarks as "grotesque." The only slight straying from Bush-bashing orthodoxy was Barnicle's observation that when he first heard of the remarks, he took them as aimed at Jimmy Carter, not Barack Obama.

A show purporting to have any semblance of balance would surely have a defender, if not of Bush, then at least of John McCain [who has reacted approvingly to Bush's comments] as a subsequent guest on today's show. Well, here's the guest lineup that Mika announced:

  • Bill Richardson--Obama endorser
  • Joe Biden--who has called Bush's remarks "bull----"
  • Susan Rice--Obama foreign policy advisor
  • Jonathan Alter--liberal pundit and occasional Olbermann sidekick

A Hardball epic . . .

Message to Chris Matthews: when ripping a guest for his lack of historical knowledge, try to avoid making a history mistake of your own in the same segment.

It happened on this afternoon's Hardball. After lambasting a guest for not knowing his Neville Chamberlain history, Matthews surmised that the attack on the USS Cole in October, 2000 happened under . . . President Bush.

View video here.

If only the Obama campaign would talk this tough about the Mahmoud Ahmadinejads of the world . . .

Appearing on today's Morning Joe, Robert Gibbs, the communications director of the Obama campaign, called Bill O'Reilly a "bully," and vowed the campaign would "go directly at him."

View video here.

Hillary Clinton won among white voters in West Virginia by a 67-26% margin. Pretty lopsided. Then again, that's nearly an even split compared to the 90+ percent of black votes Barack Obama's been racking up in state after state.

So who does Diane Sawyer suggest should reject race-based votes? Senator 90+? Nope. James Carville was Sawyer's guest during the GMA's opening half-hour today.

DIANE SAWYER: I want to talk about the fact that 20% of the voters coming out of the West Virginia race said race was in fact a factor in their vote, and of those Senator Clinton won 84%. Here's my question: should Senator Clinton say she is rejecting the votes of anyone who votes based in any way on color of skin?

View video here.

It wasn't just Barack Obama's candidacy that John Edwards endorsed tonight. It was also the worldview that sees the United States as a "bully." Consider these lines from Edwards just-completed speech.

JOHN EDWARDS: There's also a wall that's divided our image in the world. The America as the beacon of hope is behind that wall. And all the world sees now is a bully. They see Iraq, Guantanamo, secret prison, and a government that argues that waterboarding is not torture [lusty booing from the crowd]. This is not OK. That wall has to come down. For the sake of our ideals and our security. We can change this. We can change it. Yes, we can.

Again today, the New York Times demonstrates that the MSM isn't opposed to America's invasion of foreign countries. There's really only one precondition: the national security interests of the United States must not be at stake.

Thus it is that the NYT op-ed page today runs Aid at the Point of a Gun by Robert D. Kaplan, a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a fellow at the Center for a New American Security. The gist is that while it could bring ongoing obligations, the armed invasion of Myanmar for purposes of bringing aid to the cyclone victims is justifiable and feasible. Extended excerpt [emphasis added]:

France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, has spoken of the possibility of an armed humanitarian intervention, and there is an increasing degree of chatter about the possibility of an American-led invasion of the Irrawaddy River Delta.

Dirty pool?

Just a few days ago, Barack Obama scoffed at the suggestion he was playing the age card when he accused John McCain of "losing his bearings." But check out the way the Obama campaign has now chosen to declare that it wouldn't leave the playing field in Michigan and Florida to its Republican opponent:

"We're not going to let John McCain wander around in those states unchallenged anymore."

Wander around? Like the nice ol' feller found ambling down the street in his bathrobe who has to be gently led back home?

Them thar Wellesley gals is so country. Kinda like good ol' "can I git me a huntin' license here" John Kerry, nothing makes Hillary Clinton feel more comfortable than to find herself in the hills and hollers. Thus it was entirely natural, and not at all a cynical campaign ploy, for Hillary to slip into some country vernacular when addressing a Mountain State gathering.

Check out the video, aired on this evening's Hardball, of Hillary speaking in West Virginia today. There was something of a Southern cast to Hillary's accent throughout, but it hit a high note with her "sumpin'."

It's really telling ya a lot about history to point out that it was West Virginia that made it possible for John Kennedy to become president. Now, John Kennedy didn't have the number of delegates he needed, when he went to the convention in 1960, but he had sumpin' equally as important: he had West Virginia behind him. Because, it's a fact, that Democrats don't get elected president unless West Virginia votes for you, and --

I think he meant it as a compliment. But Bill Clinton's praise for his wife might send a shiver down the spine of people who like to live their own lives, thank you very much. His remarks reinforce the image of Hillary as a big-government busybody, an It Takes a Villager, a smarty-pantssuit who wants to lean over your shoulder and kibitz on every decision you make.

Bill made his comments while campaigning recently for Hillary in West Virginia. If he had made the remark once, it might be written off as a slip of the tongue. But as per this article by Tom Searls in the Charleston Gazette, he did so twice. Here it is:

"This woman has spent a lifetime changing people's lives," the former president said.

And then:

"She's a genius at making changes in other people's lives," Clinton said.

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer is a college professor with a long history of political activism and fearless liberalism.—AP, 5-11-08, profile of candidate for Minn. Dem primary nomination [emphasis added].

Fearless liberalism? Fearless? It's fearless for an American college professor to be a big-time liberal? Give me a fearless break!

Yet that's how the AP described the predictably left-wing politics of the man challenging Al Franken for the right to challenge Republican Norm Coleman for his seat in the US Senate. Among Nelson-Pallmeyer's positions:

If there were a Society of Global Warming Alarmists, Bill McKibben might get kicked out for being too much of a worry wart . . .

You've probably seen those phone-message forms with check boxes in ascending order of urgency from "FYI—no need to return call" all the way up to "the future of civilization hangs in the balance." We might see that last category as light-hearted exaggeration, but it's no laughing matter to McKibben. In his jeremiad in today's LA Times literally entitled "Civilization's last chance," McKibben solemnly declares that "the world looks a little terminal right now" and "it isn't morning in America, it's dusk on planet Earth." OK. Just so long as it's nothing serious.

McKibben's lament is based in important part on a paper that James Hansen and several co-authors have submitted to Science magazine which concludes that "if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm."