Lives in Granbury, Texas.

mark.finkelstein@gmail.com 

Twitter: @markfinkelstein

Parrots, dogs, small planes, tennis.

Latest from Mark Finkelstein
August 26, 2008, 10:08 PM EDT
Update | Aug. 27 4:15 PM: Wolfson Fires Back!

Saying he's "not gonna take any lectures on how to be a good Democrat from two people who spent the last two years relentlessly attacking Bill and Hillary Clinton," Wolfson has fired back at Matthews and Olbermann.  Noel Sheppard has the story here.

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Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann put their own feud aside to agree on something tonight.  Hillary honcho Howard Wolfson is a puppet, nay, a Tokyo Rose traitor, for going to work for Fox News. It was the McCain campaign's use in its ads of Hillary's anti-Obama statements that triggered the outburst.
KEITH OLBERMANN: Irony upon irony, instead of the commercials designed to destroy Hillary Clinton, [the Republicans] are using Hillary Clinton in commercials designed to destroy the Democratic nominee.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:  Those are crocodile tears. And you wonder whether an objective person, either rational or post-rational, would be able to appreciate the fact that that's clear politics--nothing wrong with it.  But Republicans have no heart in Hillary Clinton's claim to the White House.  They villainized her for years. Their commercials, their attitudes are--you go to a Republican hangout, it's all anti-Hillary. That's their point of view. To now hold her up as some victim of some sort of foul play, of unfair politics, is a joke. But the funny thing about it is, they're enjoying it.  Fox News, for example, seems to enjoy it.  It's no accident, for example, that they hired Howard Wolfson.  They use him as some sort of, oh, little toy soldier waiting on the shelf.

OLBERMANN: Tokyo Rose was the thought that came to my mind.
View video here.
August 26, 2008, 6:41 PM EDT

To these ears, it sounded like a sophomoric line by, well, a sophomore seeking to impress classmates and perhaps his fuzzy-headed teacher.  But MSNBC has proclaimed Mario Cuomo's call for a nuclear freeze because "peace is better than war and life is better than death" one of the greatest convention-speech lines ever.

In the run-up to this evening's keynote address by former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and Hillary's much-anticipated speech, Hardball did a segment on some of the best Dem convention speeches of the past.  Now, love it or hate it, it's hard to deny that the late Ann Richards' "born with a silver foot in his mouth" about George 41 was a pretty good zinger.  And even Barack Obama's "there is not a liberal America and a conservative America.  There is the United States of America" wasn't bad either. No beef with those being included.  But try out the excerpt from Maria Cuomo's 1984 speech that MSNBC selected as one of the "best of the best."

View video here.

August 26, 2008, 9:00 AM EDT

Tensions are running high at MSNBC, at least surrounding veteran host Joe Scarborough who seems to be increasingly discontented at his network's decision to market itself as the cable net of choice for Bush haters. That hasn't sat well with the likes of the far left Keith Olbermann who has played a large role in getting MSNBC to pursue this strategy

The Democratic convention seems to have only exacerbated those tensions. Last night saw Olbermann caught on an open mic blurting out profane disgust at Scarborough, prompting the latter to verbally call him out while fellow MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews sat back mortified at the intra-family dispute.

Things don't appear to have been smoothed over either as Scarborough was involved in another altercation this morning with liberal correspondent David Shuster on today's "Morning Joe." Scarborough ultimately accused Shuster and his MSNBC colleagues of being Democrats, their independent political registrations notwithstanding. (Exchange happens at 2:15 in video to the right.)

August 26, 2008, 7:28 AM EDT

If the aphorism de mortuis nil nisi bonum instructs us to speak only good of people who have passed away, perhaps there is a corrollary applicable to those dealing with a dread disease. While I am thus somewhat reluctant to do so, I cannot let pass without comment Mike Barnicle's words about Ted Kennedy on today's Morning Joe.

MIKE BARNICLE: Last night when he came out, it was clearly a bittersweet experience. There was a tinge of sadness to it, to be frank about it. He's an enormously courageous man . . . You know, I've encountered very few people of my life, Joe, who are more extraordinarily attuned to others who are in pain. Whether it's physical pain, whether it's something caused by an illness.  Whether it's an accident of fate, whether it's something that has befallen them, some tragedy of any sort.  He is uniquely equipped to reach out to people who are hurt and damaged.

View video here.

August 25, 2008, 11:56 PM EDT

Beginning?  Borderline?

How unbalanced was MSNBC's tag team tonight?  When Keith Olbermann felt himself getting verklempt over Michelle Obama's speech, he threw it, for some fair-n-balanced commentary, to . . . Chris Matthews. At the conclusion of Mrs. Obama's appearance, Olbermann almost seemed ready to call the election off and just hand the presidency to Obama by acclamation.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Ye-a-h-h-h.  Case closed.

Matthews responded with a very guttural "uh-h-h-h."

OLBERMANN: That could not have done better for them. That could not have done better for them. Right to the point of the little girls taking the mikes away and suddenly turning out to be hams. It's wonderful.  It really was terrific. And notice, did you notice throughout that, especially as it built towards its conclusion, the woman in that convention hall--the ones we saw at least--we can't say every one--but there were tears throughout among the women.  And it was not a maudlin speech, it was not a salesmanship speech.  There was just a -- I know, I'm beginning to sound borderline sycophantic on this. So I'll stop.  You start.

View video here.

August 23, 2008, 9:27 AM EDT
You know the old software programmer's excuse: "that's not a bug.  That's a feature!"  John Harwood of CNBC/NYT has produced a political variation on the theme to buff up Joe Biden.  Biden's gaffes, including the racially-insensitive ones, are actually . . . "a strength."

Harwood was chatting with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on a special Morning Joe edition today, and the topic of Biden's famous "clean and articulate" comment about Obama arose.  Biden also made headlines of course with his crack about 7-11s being populated by people with Indian accents.
JOHN HARWOOD: He is not somebody who is infused with political correctness, the verbal equivalent of putting his pinky up when he opens his mouth. So this is what, the way ordinary voters are as well. They're not always worried about sort of calibrating every single word by "ooh, is this racially insensitive?"  That's something that Joe Biden brings as an asset to the ticket.  The gaffes actually show one of his strengths.

View video here.

August 23, 2008, 7:05 AM EDT
That didn't take long.  Exactly five minutes before Obama's official text message went out this morning, Howard Fineman had an article up at Newsweek praising the process by which Obama picked his running mate.  He even turned lemons into lemonade, claiming Hillary really didn't want to be considered and that Obama "did her a favor" by not doing so. R-i-g-h-h-t.

First, the praise:
The minute-by-minute story of how Obama handled the selection is interesting, and revealing of the way the Democratic nominee works. He insisted on the utmost secrecy; he paid the losers the courtesy of essentially telling them "no" to their faces--not an easy thing to do. And he swallowed his considerable pride and all but confessed his lack of knowledge of foreign affairs by selecting as his running mate the Senate's senior Democratic leader on that topic.
But then came the challenge for Fineman: finessing Obama's brush-off of Hillary—in which it was reported that he had never paid her the courtesy of considering her—into a plus. The Newsweek correspondent managed to square the circle [emphasis added]:
August 22, 2008, 8:03 AM EDT
Even by MSM standards, Harry Smith's "interview" of Barack Obama was a disgrace.  How soft were Smith's lobs?  Had this been a slow-pitch league, Harry might still have been booted for insufficient MPH. CBS aired Smith's chat with the Dem candidate, conducted yesterday, on this morning's Early Show.  After a clip of McCain saying he questioned Obama's judgment, not his patriotism, Smith teed it up for his guest.
HARRY SMITH: Many of the attacks that have come from John McCain's campaign have been, quite frankly, condescending.  Were you surprised by that?  Does it anger you?
Tough stuff! Smith didn't explain what is condescending about a candidate questioning his opponent's judgment, and gave no other example of the alleged phenomenon.  Answering the "question," Obama allowed that it's "a little disappointing."

View video here.

The schmooze-in segued into the flap over the number of properties the McCains own . . .
August 21, 2008, 11:08 PM EDT
Barack Obama is planning to announce his VP pick via text message to his supporters.  So in the spirit of the times, let's text message something to Sen. Obama:
Brck: b fraid. b vry fraid. hlry stl h8s u.
That's what we glean from Hillary's startling statement in Florida today.  Chris Matthews aired it at the top of tonight's Hardball:
HILLARY CLINTON: I am doing everything I can to campaign for Senator Obama. I think it's fair to say that I have done more, as Senator Rich said, in a relatively short period of time, on behalf of my opponent, than probably anyone else has.

So not only is she bragging on her own accomplishments.  Hillary's still calling Obama . . . "my opponent." The point was not lost on Matthews. 

View video here.

August 21, 2008, 10:04 AM EDT
Is it "wishful thinking" for Republicans to imagine that Obama will take Hillary as his running mate?  CNN's Ed Henry thinks so.  He made the comment to anchor Heidi Collins in a report on the veepstakes during CNN's 9 AM EDT hour today.

HEIDI COLLINS: Another name keeps bubbling up: Hillary Clinton.  Ed Henry is on the VP watch yet again today. Alright, so what do you think today, Ed?  Because I know yesterday it might have been different.

ED HENRY: Well it's interesting. You mentioned Hillary Clinton.  This name has been surfacing over the last 24 hours. Some Democrats, but frankly I've also heard it from some Republicans. Because they, strategists in both parties, are saying wait a second. We thought Barack Obama was going to roll this out a couple of days ago, maybe a little sooner.  Now it seems to be getting closer to the convention. Is it a surprise?  Is it someone with a lot of name ID?  Someone he doesn't need to spend a lot of time rolling out and introducing to the American people.  Frankly I think some Republicans are spreading this because it's some wishful thinking on their part.  Because they know she's also a lightning rod.  She did get 18 million votes in the primaries. She brings some real strengths to the table, but she also could really rally conservatives if she was on the ticket and could give conservatives sort of a spark to turn out for John McCain.  So there might be some wishful thinking there.  We have gotten no new reporting suggesting she's vaulted to the top of the short list.

View video here.

My two cents say most Republicans want no part of Hillary on the ticket:

August 21, 2008, 7:19 AM EDT
Were the apparatchiks of CNN asleep at the PC wheel? Not only did the network air a balanced segment on medical care for an illegal immigrant. It surprisingly let slip by the reporter's line contrasting the illegal's use of the American legal system now with his disregard for it when he snuck into the country!

Aired at 6:22 a.m. EDT today, the segment focused on the case of Francisco Pantaleon, an illegal Mexican immigrant who fell into a coma in July and who has since been receiving extensive care from a Chicago hospital--all at the hospital's expense. Now that his condition has been stabilized, the hospital wants to discharge him to an extended-care facility, in Mexico, and has offered to pay for an air ambulance to transport him there. But his family is protesting the move, and has enlisted a lawyer who also serves as general counsel to the Mexican consulate in Chicago.

Introducing the segment, anchor John Roberts referred to Pantaleon as an "illegal immigrant," not an "undocumented worker." Picking up the story, reporter Bill Tucker actually called Pantaleon an "illegal alien." I could hardly believe my ears, but replayed the video a few times to confirm it.

View video here.

Then came this shocker.
August 20, 2008, 11:04 PM EDT

H/t FReeper hotshu.

Billed as a roundtable, it played more like a group therapy session for distraught Dems on the verge.  Obama's polls dropping. An inchoate sense this might all be slipping away.  Chris Matthews and his guests for the show-ending "Politics Fix" on this evening's Hardball were united in bemoaning Barack's plight. The host himself was the ultimate downer, analogizing Obama's campaign to that of . . . Michael Dukakis.

Matthews fellow sufferers were Jeff Johnson, host of The Truth on BET, and Salon.com editor Joan Walsh.

View video here.

Excerpts from the sigh-in:

August 20, 2008, 1:11 PM EDT

Remember the good old days?  Back during the Dem primaries? When Barack Obama was such an electrifying orator that women were regularly fainting at his rallies?  Ah, how times have changed.  Instead of knocking them out with his other-worldly aura, Obama's now . . . putting them to sleep.

Check out the woman in the lower-right hand corner of the video to your right, from CNN today during a live broadcast of Obama on the stump in Virginia.  No, I didn't catch her in mid-blink. 

As you'll see in the video, as Obama expounded on the horrors of the Bush economy, the woman falls into, then struggles out of, the arms of Morpheus.  (Watch video full-screen for best viewing.)

August 20, 2008, 7:45 AM EDT

Don't want to take Rush's word for it?  How about Mark Halperin's? The editor of Time's "The Page" thinks the choice by John McCain of a pro-choice running mate would be nothing short of a "disaster." Halperin expressed his view during an appearance today on CNN's American Morning.

KIRAN CHETRY: What about some potential running mates for John McCain?  Because there's been a lot of talk all over talk radio.  A lot of people are saying if he tries to go with somebody who's pro-choice like a Lieberman, that that would be it for the base: a big deflation for the convention.

MARK HALPERIN: Look, so many of the people who go to the convention in St. Paul are going to be pro-life, and very strongly pro-life.  I think it would be a disaster for him to pick someone who was not in agreement with the party platform on abortion. 

View video here.

Added Halperin . . .

August 19, 2008, 9:15 PM EDT
That didn't take long.  Tanned and rested on his first day back from vacation, Chris Matthews suggested on this evening's Hardball that under the guise of the "inexperience" charge, John McCain is handing out "permission slips" to racists to vote against Obama.

Matthews put his poisonous point to Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this.  Isn't he [McCain] handing out permission slips to vote against Barack?  "Inexperience" is my favorite.  Because you could have all kinds of problems with Barack Obama: ethnically, politically, culturally, class—I don't know what the adjective is for class, but "classily."  And you can have every problem in the world with Mrs. Obama. But you could hide it all under, not hide it all, you could present it all under one word: "you know, I've got nothing against him.  He's a bright young man with a quality education, interesting new ideas. But he's not quite ready yet." And that's a fair critique which covers all your reasons for opposing him.

View video here.

August 19, 2008, 5:30 PM EDT

Wolf Blitzer for one apparently doesn't think Tom Ridge's pro-choice position should disqualify him as John McCain's VP pick.  The former Pennsylvania congressman and governor was a guest on this afternoon's Situation Room, and Blitzer began by playing a clip of Rush Limbaugh urging McCain not to pick a pro-choice running mate, saying it would "obliterate all the progress that he experienced" at the Saddleback forum.

Ridge surmised that "Rush and everybody else hopefully can see that there's a clear choice regardless of the vice-presidential candidate. A choice that says that John McCain is needed now as president of the United States in this perilous time."

That's when Wolf made a more muscular case on Ridge's behalf.

WOLF BLITZER: And if he did pick you, he, the president, he'd be calling the shots.  You'd be the vice-president.  You'd be doing whatever the president asks you to do.
Ridge was only too happy to agree.

View video here.

August 19, 2008, 1:59 PM EDT
If Barack Obama is looking for an elder statesman with national security credentials as his running mate, my two cents say he should pick Sam Nunn. The conventional wisdom, though, has Obama leaning toward Joe Biden.  If the senior senator from Delaware is indeed tapped, we can expect that mere milliseconds will elapse before some MSM outlet labels Biden a "moderate" or a "centrist."  

We thought it might be useful to do a little prophylactic exploration of the Biden record.  Given his long tenure in the Senate, he's earned literally hundreds of interest-group ratings over the years. But here is a representative sample, as culled from the invaluable Project Vote Smart. Although his "grades" have of course varied from year to year, overall we find—surprise!—that Biden is a garden-variety  liberal.
  • NARAL - A [2006]
  • Planned Parenthood - A [2006]
  • National Right to Life Committee - 0% [2005-06]
  • National Taxpayers Union - F [2007]
Continues . . .
August 19, 2008, 8:32 AM EDT
If your child's school were invaded by Columbine-style killers, methodically murdering students in cold blood, would you want teachers to shoot to stop them?  Gayle Fallon wouldn't.  For that matter, Fallon doesn't think teachers "have it in them" to even try to save their students' lives. Fallon, the president of a teachers union in Houston, TX, made her views known during an Early Show segment this morning conducted by Harry Smith.

The topic was a decision adopted by a rural north Texas school district to permit teachers to carry guns in the classroom.  Harrold, TX School Superintendent David Thweatt explained that the decision was prompted by the school's close proximity to an interstate and its remoteness—thirty minutes away from law enforcement—factors presumably making it a tempting target.  Thweatt made clear that all guns have to be approved by the school board and teachers have to undergo extensive safety and related training.  None of that mattered to Fallon.
HARRY SMITH: Gayle, when you first heard about this, what was your reaction?

GAYLE FALLON: Initially I thought it was a joke.  However, after a couple of media calls, we realized it wasn't and we were asked whether our district would consider it, and it was absolutely no way would we consider it. One of the things that hit me is, you know, Columbine and the other incidents were generally initiated by students. Now, I've been around teachers a long time.  They don't have it in them to aim at a student and kill him. They'll freeze.  Nor would I want them to.

View video here.

August 18, 2008, 9:38 PM EDT

Not that there was any doubt that McCain walked away the winner from Rick Warren's forum, but when David Shuster cracks that Obama was lucky not too many people were watching . . . Subbing for Chris Matthews on this evening's Hardball, Shuster kibitzed Saddleback with Dem Steve McMahon and Republican Todd Harris. Shuster made his surprising remark at segment end.

DAVID SHUSTER: I think it also revealed that John McCain's going to be a much better debater than a lot of people think.  And maybe also in some sense, Barack Obama is lucky in a way that Saturday night was Michael Phelps' night and not a night when a lot of people were paying attention to politics.

A bit later, Shuster used Phelps to work in an obligatory swipe at President Bush.  After rolling tape of a clearly-excited Phelps mentioning that it was "pretty cool" that the president had taken pictures with him at the pool after the 400 individual medley race,  Shuster pounced: "even cooler for the president, who's probably happy that someone popular wanted to get a picture with him."

View video here.

August 18, 2008, 2:00 PM EDT

As NewsBuster Brad Wilmouth has noted, over the weekend NBC News political director Chuck Todd, previewing the Saddleback forum, suggested it represented an opportunity for Obama to forestall "personal hatred" of him by evangelical Christians.

Todd has now contacted NewsBusters to express regret over his choice of words.  

Todd's initial remark was made to Andrea Mitchell during a pre-game special edition of Hardball on Saturday:  

CHUCK TODD: It's just not, it's just not his comfort zone. So it's a huge opportunity for Obama tonight to at least not be hated by the evange-, look, these folks are not going to ever support him. They know what kind of judges he's going to appoint. It's going to be judges that evangelicals aren't going to be happy with. But they're not going to, if they don't have a personal hatred of him, then that's a good thing for Obama.

Todd today contacted NewsBusters, acknowledging: