Lives in Granbury, Texas. 

Twitter: @markfinkelstein

Pilot, parrots, dogs, tennis.

Latest from Mark Finkelstein
April 30, 2008, 1:08 PM EDT

Q. Is there any level to which Helen Thomas won't stoop?

A. Apparently not.

That's my conclusion, based on Thomas's exchange during today's press gaggle with White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. Here is the front page of today's Washington Post to which Thomas refers [warning: graphic image]. A slide-show from WaPo's web edition contains another photo of what appears to be the same child, with this legend:

Two-year-old Ali Hussein is pulled from the rubble of his family's home in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq on Tuesday, April 29, 2008. The child, who later died in hospital, was in one of four homes allegedly destroyed by U.S. missiles. More than two dozen people were killed when Shiite militants ambushed a U.S. patrol in Baghdad's embattled Sadr City district, bringing the death toll in area on Tuesday to more than 30, a U.S. military spokesman and Iraqi officials said. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Here's the exchange between Thomas and Perino.

HELEN THOMAS: Do you think it's worth a million Iraqi deaths, to continue to bomb the Iraqis who did nothing to us?
April 30, 2008, 11:34 AM EDT

Was Barack Obama's denunciation of Rev. Wright yesterday just some ginned-up anger, a show for the cameras—and the voters? You might think so, to judge by Andrea Mitchell's surprising revelation on today's Morning Joe . . .

View video here.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: What do you think of the Obama statement yesterday? Was it enough to finally put this behind him?

ANDREA MITCHELL: Perhaps, yes. He had to do it. This thing had been a nagging, you know, problem, an open wound really. This was a very public divorce. I should point out, though, that quite to my surprise when he was out on the stump last night, once again Obama was kind of trivializing it, saying "well, my opponents are making fun of me, and trying to define me, and saying I don't put my hand over my heart, and they talk about my former pastor's crazy statements." So he was trying to blame it on McCain, Hillary, whoever, rather than on what he earlier said in a very specific and dramatic way.

April 30, 2008, 8:13 AM EDT

Remember how the MSM swooned over Barack Obama's Philly speech on race after the Rev. Wright tapes pushed the story to the front pages? I expected the same kind of rapturous reaction to Obama's press conference of yesterday in which he definitively ditched the conspiracy-mongering minister.

But, surprisingly, that was not the case at all on CBS's Early Show this morning. To the contrary, the tone was set by the opening graphic shown here, which skeptically asked: "too little, too late?" And when Bob Schieffer and Juan Williams appeared a bit later, they were similarly cynical. Then again, there was one bit of perhaps unintentional candor on host Harry Smith's part, of which more later.

Here's how the exchange went down.

View video here.

April 29, 2008, 8:26 PM EDT

I'm beginning to see Joe Scarborough's skirmishes with Mika Brzezinski on Morning Joe as mere batting practice for the much more serious battles he undertakes in the evening with Rachel Maddow on Race for the White House.

As Noel Sheppard documented, Maddow and Scarborough tangled on April 17th, with Joe possibly having exited the set in the end. The pair were back at it on this evening's "Race," the Air America host this time accusing Scarborough of "tying Barack Obama to Hitler."

Maddow's theme throughout the show was that the media has devoted too much coverage to the Rev. Wright matter. David Shuster, subbing for host David Gregory, lit the fuse.

View video here.

April 29, 2008, 8:18 AM EDT

Hillary Clinton screenshot from With Barack Obama drowning in Rev. Wright's waves, all Hillary really needs to do is keep her head down and show up on time to be endorsed today by NC Gov. Mike Easley. The last thing Clinton needs is to make a gaffe of her own.

Now let's grant that the one we're about to discuss ranks rather low on the Gaffe-o-meter. If Sniper-gate was a 6.2, this might be a 2.1. But this particular misstep does have the demerit of undercutting a major Clinton campaign theme. Hillary's strategy nowadays consists of appealing to middle- and lower-income voters. Call it the Beer-and-a-shot Shtick. She's a Gal of the People. Not snobby like those Obamas. You know, like Michelle, who complained to a group of women in a struggling area of Ohio about her difficulties in spending $10,000 a year for various lessons for her kids while paying off student loans for her sojourns at Princeton and Harvard.

But that's exactly the kind of mistake Hillary has made. Today's Good Morning America played a clip [date and place unidentified, but presumably from the IN or NC campaign trail] of Hillary saying this to a crowd:

HILLARY CLINTON: Some people say, "oh she is tough." Well, if you'd had my life, you'd be tough too.

View video here.

April 28, 2008, 8:36 PM EDT

One small step for David Axelrod, one giant leap for Barack Obama away from Jeremiah Wright . . .

When chief Obama strategist Axelrod appeared at the end of this evening's Hardball, I expected him to dodge the current Rev. Wright controversy with some bromide about the reverend's right to express his opinions. But—in evidence of just how badly Wright's current comments are hurting Obama—Axelrod surprised me by acknowledging that he wished Wright hadn't piped up and suggesting that the good reverend's out for Numero Uno. Axelrod did manage to work in a blame-the-media angle.

View video here. [Note: Axelrod comments come after Matthews takes shot at Bill Kristol.]

April 28, 2008, 11:49 AM EDT

How bad was Reverend Wright's appearance before the National Press Club this morning? Bad enough that even CNN contributor Roland Martin—who yesterday enthused about Wright's address to the Detroit NAACP, who gave Wright's chat with Bill Moyers an 'A'—flunked it with an 'F.' Bad enough that David Gergen condemned it as "narcissistic almost beyond belief." Bad enough that, introducing a panel discussion of the speech, the palpably distressed CNN Newsroom host Tony Harris let out an audible groan of "ah, boy," and later wondered how much damage had been done.

View video here.

April 28, 2008, 7:51 AM EDT

Were they commenting on the same speech? Rev. Jeremiah Wright goes before the Detroit NAACP, claims that black and white children learn with different parts of their brain, and offers a simpering, unflattering imitation of the way white pastors speak. CNN's Soledad O'Brien gushes that the speech was a "home run" and "really funny." But over at Morning Joe, Wright's words prompted a panel member to rip the reverend as a "mediocrity" and a "buffoon."

View video here.

Soledad O'Brien was in the hall when Wright spoke. She reported on the speech at the top of CNN's 6 AM ET hour.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: The whole thing, frankly, was really funny. I think a lot of people have seen Rev. Wright defined as controversial, defined as angry, defined as anti-American: not in that speech. Not in that speech at all. He was funny, he was witty. This is a guy who's got two masters and his doctorate in divinity. Here is a guy who speaks five languages, they took pains in his introduction to point out all his accomplishments.

She continued.

April 27, 2008, 2:43 PM EDT

For a moment, let's step away from the commentary, per se, and focus on the commentators. Liberals love to chide Fox News for its alleged conservative bias. So why don't we see, when it comes to being fair and balanced, how this morning's Fox News Sunday panel stacked up against that of its main competitor, Meet the Press?

Here are the line-ups—you be the judge.


Host–Tim Russert


  • David Broder–Washington Post columnist
  • John Dickerson–Slate
  • Gwen Ifill–PBS
  • Andrea Mitchell–NBC
  • Richard Wolffe–Newsweek
April 27, 2008, 7:40 AM EDT

This week's Fox News Watch was a mix of the candid, the intriguing and the downright comical. Let's start with the humor. Well-intentioned liberal panel member Jane Hall, wringing her hands over the fact that the Wright matter has injected race into the campaign, got off this bit of unintentional comedy.

JANE HALL: Unfortunately, this is going to be what's going to be associated [with Obama]. I mean, it's like Willie Horton, except that Obama knew Reverend Wright,* and on Fox and other networks he is visually linked, it gives one more excuse to run this incendiary footage. I really regret that race, which Obama tried to transcend, is now going to become a very ugly subject in this race.

So it's unfair to pin this Wright stuff on Obama, except for the fact that, well, it's . . . fair. Moreover, whose fault is it that race has been injected into the race? If Obama were really the kind of person to transcend race, he wouldn't have been hanging around with Rev. Wright for 20 years.

View video here.

April 26, 2008, 6:39 AM EDT

Bob Herbert: voice of reason? On economics and the role of government, no. On the dynamics of the Dem nomination race? Actually, yes. In both his TV appearances and columns, Herbert, a military veteran who grew up largely in a comfortable New Jersey suburb, comes across as more clear-eyed and down-to-earth, less angry and ideological, than his NY Times confreres like Paul Krugman or Frank Rich.

Take Herbert's column of this morning, Heading Toward the Danger Zone. My sense is that, at heart, Herbert backs Obama. But that doesn't deter the columnist from offering an unblinking assessment of the very perilous electoral path on which Obama finds himself. Let's work backwards from Herbert's stunning conclusion [emphasis added]:

One of Senator Obama’s favorite phrases is “the fierce urgency of now.” There is nothing more fiercely urgent for him right now than to reassure voters and superdelegates that an Obama candidacy will not lead to a Democratic debacle in November.
April 25, 2008, 9:39 PM EDT

Who said leftists are opposed to the death penalty? It's just a question of whose neck's in the noose . . .

Many might wax nostalgic for the America immortalized in Norman Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post cover drawings. Not Keith Olbermann. He longs for the good old days when people like Rush Limbaugh . . . could be strung up. Here's the Countdown host tonight, speaking with Air America's Rachel Maddow:

KEITH OLBERMANN: Legally, we've come a very long way since the Haymarket bombing in Chicago in 1886 when we wound up hanging some anarchist writers, who were not even in the state, as murderers by proxy. And legally there is this question of "temporal remoteness" [separation in time between the statement and the act]. You say this now on the radio, it happens in August. It's not like yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater; it is protected speech. But do you think that Limbaugh has any idea that were he to repeat what he said on the air, say the day before the convention, or during it, he might actually be morally or legally responsible for incitement to riot?

View video here.

April 25, 2008, 6:55 PM EDT

You're a member of the MSM and a Barack Obama backer. But I repeat myself. More specifically, you're Chris Matthews. What better way to promote your guy's candidacy than to claim that Republicans would really rather run against Hillary?

That's just what the Hardball host did on this afternoon's show. Here's his exchange with the–in my opinion–very impressive Republican strategist Todd Harris, who worked for McCain in 2000, and with Dem strategist Michael Feldman.

View video here.

April 25, 2008, 6:56 AM EDT

It is NBC Green Week, after all, so who can blame Andrea Mitchell for recycling two dilapidated defenses of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright?

Mitchell's heart didn't seem wholly in it, but like a burned-out public defender going through the motions, Andrea apparently felt constrained to mount some kind of defense of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's controversial remarks. And so she trotted out two hoary chestnuts:

  • that's the way it's done in African-American churches, and
  • media critics say he was "taken out of context."

View video here.

April 24, 2008, 1:30 PM EDT

When you're a Clintonite, you're a Clintonite all the way.
From your first Monicagate defense,
To Hil's last primary day.—with apologies to Leonard Bernstein*

Look next to the definition of "Clinton loyalist" in the dictionary, and you're likely to find a photo of Lanny Davis. The man who would have put Baghdad Bob to shame for his unflinching flackery during Bill's Monica mess is back on the beat for Hillary. Yesterday, Davis wrote a HuffPo column purporting to set forth 10 Undisputed Facts showing Obama's weakness as a general election candidate against John Mccain. As Jake Tapper has observed, some of those "facts" are "both disputed and not facts," including the risible notion that Hillary didn't run any negative ads. Guess the commercial featuring Osama Bin Laden slipped Lanny's mind.

Davis was back at it on today's Morning Joe. After repeating his claim from the HuffPo column that Obama is in a dead heat with McCain in super-blue in Massachusetts while Hillary's up by 15%, Davis took his anti-Obama argument a giant step further. Davis claimed that Barack is on track to lose in a blow-out of epic, McGovernesque, proportions.

View video here.

April 23, 2008, 8:22 PM EDT

In Chris Matthews's mind, a bigot is someone who's "culturally conservative" on race. Matthews equated the two on this evening's Hardball in attempting to explain exit polling from yesterday's PA primary showing that 38% of white Catholic Democrats wouldn't vote for Obama in the general election.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, somebody who doesn't like that group of voters might call them Archie Bunkers. I'll call them Reagan Democrats, John [Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News], they're Reagan Democrats: people who are culturally conservative, maybe a little culturally conservative on the racial front, on the ethnic front. They like to think of themselves as Democrats on the economic issues, but when it comes to the squeeze, on some of these cultural issues--didn't this all come up earlier about three weeks ago in San Francisco, this conversation.
April 23, 2008, 8:48 AM EDT

screenshot of Could it be a continuation of Hillary's winning shot-and-a-beer strategy? Appearing on Morning Joe the day after her PA primary win, Clinton popped the top on an even six-pack of cackles. Perhaps her good humor was inspired not only by her victory, but by Joe Scarborough's unabashed [if possibly facetious] pandering, describing himself and sidekick Willie Geist as Hillary's "only shameless flacks in the media."

For your listening pleasure, I've edited a clip of Hillary's cavalcade of laughs. Watch and listen here.

Hillary made the rounds of all the morning news show, and as is her wont was relentlessly on message:

  • big win
  • sloughs off NY Times editorial criticizing her negativity
  • she leads in actual votes [including Michigan and Florida and while I'm not quite clear about this, possibly excluding caucuses and counting only primaries]
  • OK for superdelegates to discount elected delegate count.
  • please send money to
April 22, 2008, 6:46 PM EDT

Update 7:50 PM: Chris Proclaims Polls Closed 1/2 Hour Early! See foot.

The problem with Chris Matthews playing footsie with the idea of running for US Senator from Pennsylvania: when he says something nowadays, how can you tell whether he means it, or is just trying to position himself for a possible run?

Take this evening's Hardball, during which Matthews castigated Joe Lieberman as having been a "terrible" running-mate for Al Gore in 2000. Kiki McLean, a senior Clinton advisor, was Chris's guest. McLean mentioned that she had been an aide to Lieberman in 2000, and to Gore when he was the Veep candidate [1992?]. That set Matthews off.

April 22, 2008, 8:24 AM EDT

When's the last time you heard the MSM talk about a Republican being hit by the "Democrat attack machine"? Scratch that. Have you ever heard the MSM talk about a Republican being hit by the "Democrat attack machine"? Neither have I. But fretting about impending Republican "swiftboating" of the Dem presidential candidate is an MSM staple, and we saw a good example of it this morning, right down to an image of John Kerry in uniform.

April 22, 2008, 7:16 AM EDT

Granted, there's lots of time to go, but it's not going to be easy to catch Mika Brzezinski, the early clubhouse leader for the Year's Most Inapt Metaphor.

Barackophile Brzezinski made her bid for the prize during the opening segment of today's Morning Joe, accusing the Clinton campaign of having pounced on Obama like . . . lemmings.

Let's set the stage: the topic was a TV commercial Hillary's running in PA that, in touting her readiness to confront any crisis, briefly flashed an image of Osama Bin Laden. A headline [see screencap after break] in Today's NY Post claims the commercial employs "scare tactics" and the "fear factor." Joe Scarborough suggested that as tough tactics go, the ad was in fact small potatoes compared to truly brass-knuckled methods employed in the past. After playing a clip of Obama responding by touting his own leadership credentials, Scarborough complimented the candidate for not complaining.