Lives in Granbury, Texas.

mark.finkelstein@gmail.com 

Twitter: @markfinkelstein

Parrots, dogs, small planes, tennis.

Latest from Mark Finkelstein
August 1, 2008, 9:12 AM EDT

And I thought David Shuster was in the tank . . .

Thank you, Andrea Mitchell.  No, really, I mean it.  Thank you for providing some of the clearest evidence yet of just how much the press corps following Barack Obama has blinders on for its man.  Mitchell has let it be known that "the people covering the campaign" don't think Obama played the race card with his currency crack. Andrea appeared on Morning Joe today just before 8 AM EDT.

ANDREA MITCHELL: I have to tell you that the people who heard Barack Obama say what he said Wednesday night—and it's very similar to things he's said in Paris and Berlin and a lot of other stops—it's very self-deprecating. He says "I don't look like other people who have been President of the United States," most people who watched that, I don't know very many people who've watched that, and the people in the audience, the reporters, have never interpreted it, have never inferred from that, that he is making some kind of racial statement, but that's the way the McCain camp says that they took it, and Rick Davis by putting it out there, sure --

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Andrea, excuse me for a minute. How can it be self-deprecating when he says, when Barack Obama says, that John McCain's camp is going to say "I look different"? Or when he says they're going to try to scare you because I'm black. How is that--because I've heard "self-deprecating" a couple times--how in the hell is that self-deprecating?

View video here.

August 1, 2008, 7:23 AM EDT

David Shuster surely knows better. Wherever you come down on the issue of who's playing the race card, one thing is glaringly, blindingly, incandescently obvious: when Barack Obama says McCain will point out Obama doesn't look like the other guys on the currency, the Dem candidate is doing much more than making the innocuous point that he is the first black major-party presidential nominee. Yet that is precisely how Shuster chose to misinterpret Obama's remark on today's "Morning Joe." Fortunately, Tiki Barber was there to run to daylight through the gaping hole in Shuster's line of logic.

The show began with a clip of Obama intoning his stock line that Bush and McCain will try to "make you scared of me" by pointing out, among other things, "he dudn't look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills. You know?"

View video here.

July 31, 2008, 7:14 PM EDT

You might say nothing could be more unsurprising than a panel of political pundits admitting the obvious: that Barack Obama is playing the race card when he accuses John McCain of saying the Dem candidate "doesn’t look like the other presidents on the currency."

But what makes the punditry panel's unanimity notable is that no one would accuse them of being McCain backers, and what's more, that they turned up on Hardball.  Surely Chris Matthews, were he not on vacation, would have found one diehard to deny reality.  But with Mike Barnicle guest-hosting, a consensus of truth-telling broke out.

Barnicle began by playing a clip of McCain, interviewed by CNN's John King, saying that it is legitimate to accuse Obama of having played the race card.  The video is worth viewing if only to watch McCain end the interview by shaking a surprised King's hand and walking away. Then the panel commented.  Perry Bacon of the Washington Post said he would decline to answer directly, but his answer left no real doubt as to his view.

View video here.

July 31, 2008, 11:46 AM EDT

Disclaimer: Yes, Joe and Chris.  We know Jim was joking.

Money maven Jim Cramer is a self-described Democrat, one who idolized Lenin back in his Harvard days [Cramer's, not Lenin's] and was on the verge of tears over the downfall of his old college buddy Eliot Spitzer.  But one Dem not high on Cramer's list is Jimmy Carter, so much so that Cramer feigned dismay to be informed that—contrary to his [tongue-in-cheek] belief—the former president is still among the living.

The host of CNBC's "Mad Money," a guest on today's Morning Joe, was buoyant about the economy, saying the surge in oil prices is over and that happier, if not downright happy, days are ahead.  It was when he cautioned people about being sure not to exceed FDIC insurance limits on their bank deposits that Carter came up . . .

View video here.

July 30, 2008, 12:01 PM EDT

Rush Limbaugh likes to joke that he has "half my brain tied behind my back, just to keep it fair." But there's no sign Michelle Obama [file photo] was anything but serious when she said something similar in a current People magazine interview, h/t Michelle Malkin. Mrs. Obama claimed she could be "very competent" on policy putting in only a 70% effort. 

Throw in a few more statements from Mrs. Obama during the interview attesting to her own intellect, and a picture emerges of a woman either very sure--or insecure--about her smarts.

Excerpts [emphasis added]:

July 30, 2008, 9:15 AM EDT

Chuck Todd has some advice for John McCain: embrace Ted Stevens' demise. The NBC News political director made his suggestion in the course of kibitzing McCain campaign strategy with Joe Scarborough on today's Morning Joe.

CHUCK TODD: Joe, why isn't McCain jumping on this Ted Stevens thing?  He hated Ted Stevens.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: He did!

TODD:  He should be dancing on this guy's political grave today.  This is the John McCain Republican party versus the Ted Stevens Republican party. And he ought to be, he ought to be gloating today. And he's not touched it.

View video here.

July 29, 2008, 8:58 PM EDT
Q. How can Scott McClellan tell he's pushed his turncoat trip a tad too far?

A. When even leading media liberals suggest his reputation's in tatters.
Say what you will, but I like Joan Walsh, editor of Salon.com.  Liberal? No doubt.  But also a grownup.  On this evening's Hardball, Walsh had the integrity to acknowledge that by accusing Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly of regurgitating Bush White House talking points, McClellan was looking "worse for wear."

View video here.

Sitting in for Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle [who I must say does a more "fair 'n balanced" job than the regular guy] rolled video from the this past Friday's show in which McClellan leveled his accusation.
July 29, 2008, 5:10 PM EDT
Whoops.  On the very day that the New York Times takes President Bush harshly to task for failing to promote human rights in China, the president meets at the White House . . . . with five Chinese human rights activists.

Railed the Times in this morning's editorial, Past Time for Speaking Out:
Two weeks before he goes to the Beijing Olympic Games, President Bush remains unacceptably silent about China’s crackdown on basic human rights.

[H]is refusal to speak out publicly and clearly about China’s repressive behavior is an abdication of leadership and a blot on his record.
But just hours later, the president was hosting the group of Chinese activists, in a meeting that had been planned in advance.  The White House press secretary put out this statement on the meeting:
July 29, 2008, 7:19 AM EDT

UPDATE:  The original version of this item reported Joe Scarborough's statement, as transcribed below, that there were no Republicans on his MSNBC staff, with  executive producer Chris Licht confirming Joe's assertion. Joe has been in touch to say he and Chris Licht were speaking tongue in cheek and that the remarks about there being no Republicans on the Morning Joe staff were a joke.

Mika Brzezinski is appalled to learn that the Bush Justice Department had a hiring preference for politically simpatico people.  And Mika apparently believes Joe mischaracterizes her as a liberal.

The jumping off point on today's Morning Joe was Mika's reading of a news item on an article in today's New York Times about an internal Justice Department report concluding that "senior aides to former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales broke Civil Service laws by using politics to guide their hiring decisions."  Scarborough saw this as SOP in Washington.

View video here.

July 28, 2008, 9:41 PM EDT

Update: An NB reader contacted Mike Allen, author of the article, to complain about the photo choice. Allen indicated he was unaware of, and not involved in, the photo selection. The accompaning photo was subsequently changed to one of the condemned solider.

Of all the millions of photos of George W. Bush, that displayed here is the one Politico.com chose to accompany its story, Bush Approves Soldier's Execution, of the president's authorization of the execution of a soldier convicted of four murders and eight rapes in North Carolina.

Was this a photo taken of Pres. Bush as he announced his decision? Apparently not. The story indicates that the president did not announce his decision in person, but did so via a statement from White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

Does Politico have evidence that the president made his decision in anger? If so, it didn't report that. To the contrary, Dana Perino's statement says the decision was "difficult" for the president.

July 28, 2008, 5:58 PM EDT

Between now and Election Day, we're sure to see—and chronicle at NB—plenty of MSM sycophancy for Barack Obama.  But between the thrills going up assorted media legs, evidence is emerging that some in the media are beginning to assess the Dem candidate in a clearer light.  Take for example, Gabriel Sherman's piece at the New Republic which as its title—End of the Affair—suggests, has as its thesis that at least for some of its members, the MSM's puppy-love stage might be coming to an end.

Today comes Howard Fineman's admission, hesitant as it might be, and mitigated by his suggestion that Obama came close to hitting an absolute home run with his European trip, that yes, well, after all, the guy is—how can I put this?—arrogant.

Newsweek's senior DC correspondent was a guest on this afternoon's Hardball, with Mike Barnicle sitting in for Chris Matthews. The jumping off point was Obama's cancellation of his plans to visit injured American troops in Germany.

View video here.

July 28, 2008, 2:14 PM EDT
May he live to be 120, but when Bob Shrum eventually goes to his reward, his epitaph could read "Here lies Shrum. He thought he was great.  But his presidential record . . . was 0-8."
July 28, 2008, 9:04 AM EDT
Sure, the elite media might overwhelmingly support Barack Obama.  But so what?  That's apparently Mika Brzezinski's opinion.  Check out the exchange between Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe today at 7:50 AM EDT, triggered by Scarborough's insider take on the MSM's adulation of Obama.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: OK, Willie, come on.  We've got to call these people out.  Because we know people that work in the media, print. I mean seriously, they are, Tucker had it right: they're like ninth-grade girls.
. . . 
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: I actually, really reject this love affair notion.

SCARBOROUGH: Come on.

BRZEZINSKI: What? I do.

SCARBOROUGH: Because you are absolutely drunk on the Kool-Aid.

View video here.
July 25, 2008, 7:27 AM EDT

Are reporters in the business of reporting fact or rumor?  Andrea Mitchell, for one, doesn't scruple to circulate "scuttlebutt" that if true would be deeply damaging to John McCain.  

Barack Obama's cancellation of plans to visit injured military members at bases in Germany has drawn considerable attention and criticism.  On today's Morning Joe, Mitchell passed along an Obama-campaign inspired rumor that McCain used his Pentagon connections to sabotage the Obama visit.

View video here.

July 24, 2008, 6:57 PM EDT
The screencap captures it nicely: Heather Wilson, smiling.  Robert Wexler, mouth agape. On this afternoon's Hardball, the feisty, brilliant [bio: high honors Air Force Academy grad, Rhodes Scholar] GOP representative from New Mexico took on the duo of the combative congressman from Florida and host Chris Matthews, and walked away a winner.  The subject was Obama's Berlin speech, and by extension his presidential qualifications.

You'll find excerpts below, but they don't do begin to do justice to Wilson's brio and the coolness under verbal fire she displayed.  That's why I'd strongly encourage readers to view the video. Wilson kicked off her tour de force in commenting on a clip of Obama in his Berlin speech proclaiming that various walls, including one between American and Europe, "cannot stand" and must be torn down.
July 24, 2008, 8:36 AM EDT

Many McCain fans are no doubt bracing for the waves of European adulation that are about to break over Barack Obama, the MSM avidly reporting the scenes.  With polls showing Obama with a 50+ percentage-point lead across the Old Continent [the French leading the Obamaphile way at 64-4%], the Dem candidate is assured of ecstatic crowds wherever he goes.  Euro-Obamamania begins in Berlin today, with a speech by the candidate at the "Victory Column" in Tiergarten park.

But could all the adoration backfire?  That emerging theme has found expression in two very different ways this morning.  On the one hand, a scholarly exposition by Prof. Thomas Madden, writing at NRO—who draws parallels to the world of ancient Greco-Roman politics—and in more colloquial fashion by Joe Scarborough.

Here's how the Morning Joe host put it today at 6:34 AM EDT, in an exchange with Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist. Republican strategist Mike Murphy got in a good line at the very end.

View video here.

July 23, 2008, 8:32 AM EDT
Me and Mrs. Jones,
we've got a thing going on.
We both know that it's wrong,
but it's much too strong
to let it go now. -- Billy Paul, "Me and Mrs. Jones"
Don't get me wrong.   I'm not suggesting there's anything untoward between Mika Brzezinski and the Dem presidential candidate.  But like the star-crossed couple of the song, the two do share a tragic bond, trapped as they are in an inability to admit they were wrong in opposing the surge.

The depths of Obama's denial emerged during a five-minute segment of his recent interview with Katie Couric.  Couric tried repeatedly to pin Obama down on why he says he still would have opposed the surge, even knowing as he does know that it has succeeded.  As Couric put it: "People may be scratching their heads and saying, 'Why?'"  I'd encourage people to view the exchange, which comes at the five-minute mark of the interview.  CBS video and transcript here.

And there on today's Morning Joe was the other half of the duo in denial, Mika Brzezinski.  With Joe Scarborough playing the role of Couric-like inquisitor, Mika tried to talk about anything but the way Obama was wrong about the surge.

View video here.
July 22, 2008, 7:19 AM EDT

The things people will do for love.  Take David Shuster.  So eager is the Obama inamorato to cover for his man, he's willing to sacrifice all semblance of reason.  Faced with the implacable fact that Obama was wrong in opposing the surge, Shuster has been reduced to claiming that Americans don't care about the surge's success. Shuster made his descent into abject sycophancy on today's Morning Joe.  The jumping off point was a clip from an interview of Obama by ABC's Terry Moran [Brent Baker has the full report on the interview here].

TERRY MORAN: If you had to do it over again, knowing what you know now, would you support the surge?

OBAMA: No, because, keep in mind that-

MORAN: You wouldn't?

OBAMA: Well, no, keep in mind, these kinds of hypotheticals are very difficult. You know, hindsight is 20/20. But I think that, what I am absolutely convinced of is that at that time, we had to change the political debate because the view of the Bush administration at that time was one that I just disagreed with.
After a clip was aired of McCain hammering Obama on his opposition to the surge, Shuster slipped on the flippers and goggles.

View video here.

July 21, 2008, 8:00 PM EDT

Andrea Mitchell might be a doyenne of the liberal media, but she has her reporter's pride and principles, which have been trampled by the way the Obama campaign has managed the media during the candidate's current trip to Afghanistan and Iraq.  Mitchell let loose on this evening's Hardball, speaking of "fake interviews," and decrying that she was unable to report on pertinent aspects of the trip because the media has been excluded and that the video released is unreliable because it's impossible to know what has been edited out.

Before Mitchell made her displeasure known, Roger Simon of Politico, Chris Matthews's other guest during the segment, depicted the images coming out of the war zone as all Obama could have dreamed of.

ROGER SIMON: The optics are all very good on this trip. I mean, the beginning of this trip is so good, Senator Obama might just want to call off the end and just keep running the videotape.

July 18, 2008, 8:51 PM EDT
What if someone gave a war & Nobody came? Life would ring the bells of Ecstasy and Forever be Itself again. -- from"Graffiti," poem by Allen Ginsberg [1972].
Maybe so.  But what of the converse? What if someone sued for peace but the enemy didn't go along?  That was the gist of General David Petraeus's observation today on the Obama withdrawal plan. Petraeus made his comments in the course of an interview with Andrea Mitchell, in Baghdad. A clip of the interview was aired on this evening's Hardball, with Mike Barnicle sitting in for Chris Matthews.
MIKE BARNICLE: Andrea, earlier today, you had an interview with General David Petraeus, and I'd like to play a clip of it when you asked General Petraeus about Obama's 16-month plan, and here was his response to you.

DAVID PETRAEUS: It depends on the conditions; depends on the mission set.  It depends on the enemy.  The enemy does get a vote and is sometimes an independent variable.  Lots of different factors, I think, that would be tied up in that and the dialogue on that, and the amount of risk.  Because it eventually comes down to how much risk various options entail.  That's the kind of discussion I think that is very important as we do look to the future.
View video here.