Mark Finkelstein

Mark Finkelstein's picture
Contributing Editor

Lives in Granbury, Texas. 

Twitter: @markfinkelstein

Pilot, parrots, dogs, tennis.

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Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. -- First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

Hillary Clinton, Queen of Soul? Barack Obama, All-American teenaged girl?  That's precisely the analogy that Joe Scarborough made this morning in trying to explain why many Hillary supporters haven't swung to Obama.  Hillary was a guest on today's Morning Joe, and the interview offered a number of other interesting tidbits:

  • Hillary dodged the question of whether Bill was telling the truth when he claimed she didn't want the VP slot on Obama's ticket.
  • The junior NY senator declined to swing at a Sarah-bashing softball Mika Brzezinski tossed her.
  • Hillary let slip that she still has her own campaign on her mind.

But let's get back to Joe's conventional-wisdom busting musical metaphor, which came after Hillary had offered an innocuous answer to guest panelist John Ridley's question as to why many of her supporters remain uncommitted to Obama.

View video here.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to suggest Mike Barnicle's nearly as deep in the tank for Obama as Chris Matthews, for whom he subbed for on tonight's Hardball.  Mike's actually refreshingly down-the-middle compared to the regular host.

Still, when at the very end of this evening's show Mike asked a question of Jill Zuckman, the Chicago Tribune reporter on the Palin beat, wondering [hoping?] whether the wild enthusiasm for Sarah has run its course, he got an answer that I don't quite think he was expecting.

View video here.

It's come to this . . .

Barack Obama became a candidate for president on the wings of his 2004 Dem convention keynote speech in which he famously said "there is not a Black America and a White America a Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America."  But as Rush Limbaugh has described in the Wall Street Journal today, Obama is now relying on deceptive ads for the express purpose of stoking racial antagonism. Obama's appeal to our worst instincts finds its echo in the MSM.  Time's Swampland blog has an item up today by Karen Tumulty entitled "McCain Plays the Race Card."  How has McCain allegedly done this? By running an ad that, according to Tumulty [emphasis added]:

[I]s hardly subtle: Sinister images of two black men, followed by one of a vulnerable-looking elderly white woman . . . [T]he image of the victim doesn't seem accidental either, given the fact that older white women are a key swing constituency in this election.

The supposedly "sinister" looking black men?  Barack Obama and Franklin Raines, the former CEO of Fannie Mae. And the "vulnerable-looking elderly white woman"?   It's the lady shown in the image here [larger image after the jump]. Now as much as we might find it distasteful to engage in some kind of latter-day racial phrenology, if Time is going to rely on this image to accuse McCain of trying to scare elderly white women, I'm afraid we're going to have to go there.  An informal instant-message survey of friends and family  to whom I sent the image yielded these responses to my open-ended question as to the woman's race:

One or more people hack Sarah Palin's email account and publish her private correspondence on the web.  So MSNBC and Politico naturally want to know if. . . Palin did anything wrong and whether there might be anything embarrassing to her in the purloined e-letters.  Discussion of possible negative implications for Barack Obama? Zilch.

Talk about blaming the victim.  Norah O'Donnell, subbing for Andrea Mitchell during MSNBC's 1PM EDT hour, interviewed Politico's Jim VandeHei.

View video here.

"Shovel your ratings" appears to be Morning Joe's subliminal message to Keith Olbermann today.  With the latest ratings showing Rachel Maddow's new MSNBC show beating Olbermann's Countdown, the MJ panel went out of its way to congratulate Maddow on her success, repeatedly mentioning what a "good person" she is and how nice it is to see such people do well. 

The crew was riffing off the Drudge headline "Move Over, Olbermann, Rachel Maddow Tops MSNBC Ratings."  As seen in the Drudge screencap [after the jump], on Tuesday Maddow beat Olbermann--the perennial MSNBC ratings leader--by a count of 1.8 million to 1.63 million.  She also bested CNN's Larry King, among others. Scarborough & Co. never mentioned Olbermann by name.  But the invidious-comparison-by-omission in their pointed praise of Maddow's good-personhood left little doubt that the wounds opened by Olbermann's open-mic slap at Scarborough, in which, during the Dem convention, he told Joe to "get a shovel" for remarks too GOP-friendly for Keith's liking, have yet to heal.

View the video, and be sure to stay tuned to the end.  Mika tries to move the show along, but Scarborough pointedly persists, basking in the times when "good people do well."  Got, it, Keith?

On this evening's Hardball, Chris Matthews began his teaser for a segment about Sarah Palin's pending press interview and plans to field questions at a town hall by exclaiming "look who's talking" as an image of Palin [see screencap] appeared bearing the same graphic.

"Look who's talking" is of course the title of a 1989 hit movie in which the person doing the talking was . . . an infant.  

View video here.

Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win. We have a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides "equally" accountable when the facts don't warrant that. -- memo from Mark Halperin, then the ABC News Political Director, to his staff, October 8, 2004.

All campaigns fall short, but some fall far shorter than others. And it is a phony evenhandedness, comfortable for journalists but ultimately misleading, that equates these failures without measuring the grossness of their deviation from the standard of decency. In the 2008 race, and especially in the past few weeks, the imbalance has become unnervingly stark. Ideological differences aside, John McCain's campaign has been more dishonest, more unfair, more -- to use a word that resonates with McCain -- dishonorable than Barack Obama's.  -- Ruth Marcus, WaPo, 9-17-08.

Looks like it's becoming a presidential campaign tradition for the MSM.  Just as the race is heating up, a prominent MSMer steps up and warns fellow media members not to be so darn even-handed!  The Republicans are being meaner than the Democrats, and we need to come out swinging against them!

Of course we all know that it's absolutely wrong and mean-spirited to suggest that anyone on the left could conceivably be unpatriotic [though an exception might be made for unrepentant terrorist friends of Barack Obama who accept from Vietnamese communists rings made from downed US planes.]  So while we won't be using the u-word here, two recent MSNBC shows offer a remarkable contrast. Let's compare Chris Matthews' giddy reaction to news of difficulties in the markets with Mika Brzezinski's gloom in begrudgingly discussing the Iraq surge's success.

View the video here.

The first portion of  the video is from the opening of Hardball of September 15th, the day when news was breaking of Lehman and Merrill Lynch's travails, and the DJIA had sunk over 500 points.  Matthews could hardly contain his glee, comparing McCain to Hoover, and declaring that because of the "terrible news" about the economy, "as of today, this is no longer an election about lipstick on pigs, misleading ads or how many houses a candidate owns. This is serious.  The economy is a real issue. With real consequences." Then there was today's discussion on Morning Joe of the surge's success.  Mika's pout—on view in the screencap—epitomizes her reaction.  I commend the entire video clip to your attention, but would focus on these exchanges.

When Andrea Mitchell says "all of us" thought a certain way, whom does she have in mind?

On her  MSBNC show this afternoon, Mitchell stated that "all of us" originally thought John McCain had made a political mistake when he changed positions and came out of in favor of expanded oil drilling. 

Mitchell was chatting with former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers and Republican strategist Doug MacKinnon.  The subject was the just-announced Dem energy plan, that claims to make some limited provision for expanded offshore drilling.  Mitchell made no bones of the fact that the politics now favor the advocates of expanded drilling, and that Dems were caught off guard.

View video here

It might not do John McCain any good politically.  But once in a while, it's refreshing to hear an MSMer called out on political bias.  

It happened this morning when John McCain told Mika Brzezinski "I know you're a supporter of Senator Obama."  Mika resorted to her favorite defense to the bias charge, mentioning that she has a brother who works on the McCain campaign and asking the Arizona senator to "say hello" to him for her.  Just for good measure, McCain called Mika's tactic "a cheap shot."

It was Mika's question about campaign ads that touched things off . . .

View video here.

The woman introducing Joe Biden to a Michigan crowd yesterday called Sarah Palin a "bucket of fluff."   Biden then told the crowd that Barack Obama is too smart and too well-educated to live in a Republican neighborhood.  Now that the Dems have put Obama's smarts and education on the table, will the MSM demand Obama finally release his Columbia transcript? 

Of all the people the Dems might have chosen to raise the issue, Joe Biden?  He who publicly claimed to have finished in the top half of his Syracuse law school class . . . when in fact he was 76th in a class of 85, plagiarizing a paper there along the way?

But, OK, fine.  Biden's put it out there.  We know about Biden's academic record. And John McCain's far-from-stellar academics at the Naval Academy are well documented.  Sarah Palin apparently moved around quite a bit in college. But there's one person about whom there is a very large lacuna when it comes to his academic record: one Barack Obama.  His campaign has refused to release his Columbia University undergraduate transcript, the one upon which he was admitted to Harvard Law.  Now that Biden has put smarts on the table, will the MSM demand that Obama come clean on Columbia?

On a day when markets are in turmoil, you might think that the role of an American president, current or aspiring, would be to assure his fellow citizens—and the world—that our economy is fundamentally strong. 

That's what John McCain did.  In contrast, Barack Obama suggested that the American economy is fundamentally weak.  WaPo's Jonathan Capehart has declared Obama the winner of the exchange, for doing a better job in channeling the country's anxiety.

Click on image for video of McCain and Obama addressing the state of the economy on the stump today, and Capehart's commentary.

Decimate: 1. to destroy a great number or proportion of: the population was decimated by a plague. 2. to select by lot and kill every tenth person of.

Is that the definition of the post-partisan politics Barack Obama claims to be preaching?  You know, the kind where there's no blue-state America or red-state America: just the United States of America?  Maybe Chevy Chase didn't get the email.  Appearing on Morning Joe today, Chase expressed his disappointment that Tina Fey didn't go after Sarah Palin harder in her SNL impersonation.  Chase wanted to see Fey "decimate" the Republican VP candidate.

Chase was appearing to tout a charity auction he and wife Jayni are conducting to fund environmental education in the schools.  See Bonus Coverage for a disturbing factoid Jayni let slip. Chase's call for blood came in response to Willie Geist's very first question.

View video here.

How offensive was Donna Brazile's line about Jesus being a community organizer and Pontius Pilate a governor, uttered to make an invidious comparison between Barack Obama and Sarah Palin?  Enough that even ardent Obama-phile Chris Matthews rapped Dem congressman Steve Cohen's knuckles for repeating it on the House floor.

But, incredibly, on today's Meet the Press Tom Brokaw used Brazile's line to confront Rudy Giuliani over comments in his GOP convention speech about Obama's community organizing. Brokaw went so far as to display a button [screencap after jump] bearing the phrase.  The MTP host might just as well have been wearing it.

My NewsBusters colleague Noel Sheppard, in the course of detailing how the New York Times devoted four items and over 6,000 words today to attacking Sarah Palin, cited Frank Rich's column and its malicious message.  Rich's piece is such a treasure trove for chroniclers of Palin Derangement Syndrome that I'd like to devote a bit more time to deconstructing it. 

For sheer paranoid fantasy, it will be hard to outdo the scenario Rich sketches. In having mentioned Harry Truman in her convention speech, Rich sees nothing less than a "creepy" clue to what Palin has in mind. Truman, you see [roll the menacing music] . . . ascended to the presidency due to the death of the president whom he served as VP.   Rich imagines  a "Palin presidency" that is nothing less than a far-right, McCarthyite coup. 

Annotated excerpts from Rich's The Palin-Whatshisname Ticket [emphasis added]:

"I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail." -- Bob Herbert, NYT, 9-13-08

Bob Herbert's item in today's New York Times, She's Not Ready, is not so much political analysis as a howl of MSM shock and outrage. No-o-o-o-o!, Herbert seems to cry. I can't believe this is happening to us!  Meanwhile, with condescension worthy of his ABC stablemate Charlie Gibson, certified Obama fan David Wright suggests that Palin has been in need of a "chaperone" on the campaign trail.

Annotated excerpts from Herbert's "She's Not Ready':

How is it that so much of the mainstream media has dropped all pretense of seriousness to hop aboard the bandwagon and go along for the giddy ride?

The MSM has hopped aboard the Palin bandwagon? PDS has obviously affected Herbert's faculties.

H/t cgb1. Sarah Palin is sending the MSM around the bend.  On MSNBC this afternoon, Andrea Mitchell provided perhaps the most blatant example yet of an MSMer openly admitting she doesn't want Palin as VP. Mitchell, clearly frustrated by Palin's every-woman-appeal, complained: "Is that what we really want in our leaders? Do we want someone 'just like me?' I mean, I don't want someone like me because I know I'm not because I know I'm not prepared to be vice-president or president.  What makes people think that having someone like their neigbhor be in the White House is a good thing?"

Mitchell's guest was Lisa Murkowski, Republican senator from Alaska.  Mitchell began by trying to lure Murkowski into taking a swing at Palin for her comments about taking on the "good old boys."  Palin defeated Murkowski's father Frank, then the sitting governor of Alaska, in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama issued a pointed warning yesterday to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying that as president he would be prepared to order U.S. troops into that country unilaterally if it failed to act on its own against Islamic extremists. -- "Obama Says He Would Take Fight to Pakistan," Washington Post, 8-2-07 [emphasis added]

Much has been made of Sarah Palin's response to Charlie Gibson's question about the Bush Doctrine.  Now, Chris Cuomo isn't running for VP. But when the GMA anchor got all exercised by Sarah Palin having put all options on the table when it comes to going after terrorists in Pakistan, he was evidently unaware of what you might call the Obama Doctrine on the matter, as described above.  Cuomo went so far as to emote about Palin's position constituting a potential "declaration of war" on Pakistan.  Even James Carville was forced to take a break from his condescending shtick about Palin to help talk Chris back down, pointing out that Obama had said something similar.

View video here.

Make it a trio of mindreaders at NBC/MSNBC.  As noted here, yesterday Howard Fineman and David Shuster went Carnac on us, emphatically declaring that Barack Obama didn't have Sarah Palin in mind with his lipstick line.  On this morning's Today, Andrea Mitchell joined her network stablemates [no pun intended!] in delving into Barack's brain and assuring us he meant no harm.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Barack Obama has been a punching-bag [aww] for a barrage of criticism from the McCain campaign.  Charges that he slurred Sarah Palin when he said this about McCain and his change argument [cut to clip of Obama's lipstick line]. He was clearly talking about McCain, not Palin.

Well, guess that wraps it up.  But wait. Over at Morning Joe, the group wasn't so forgiving, opining that Obama either did know, or should have known, the implications  of what he was saying.  Mika Brzezinski herself took the first shot.