Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.
Lives in Granbury, Texas.
Pilot, parrots, dogs, tennis.
Latest from Mark Finkelstein
Does Donald Trump think he's going to lose the nomination at the convention? Are his current complaints about RNC "dirty tricks," the system being "rigged," etc. a preview of the explanation he'll be offering when he does indeed lose? Yes, and yes, if you buy what former senior Cruz aide Rick Tyler said on today's Morning Joe.
After the show rolled video of Trump's attacks on the RNC, Joe Scarborough said that the Donald had hit the "sweet spot." Scarborough again made the case for Trump, saying "no, that's the speech of somebody that can win 49 states and would be enraged he lost the 50th." But Tyler pushed back, saying "that's not the speech of a winner. That's the speech of someone who believes he's losing . . . He actually believes now he's going to lose this nomination at the convention on the second ballot."
Question to John Heilemann: what's your proof? On his With All Due Respect show this evening, interviewing Ice Cube of NWA, Heilemann flatly stated that the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Freddie Gray in Baltimore were instances of "police brutality." In the Brown case, the grand jury, which included three African-Americans, declined to bring an indictment against Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot Brown. And President Obama's Justice Department under then AG Eric Holder cleared Wilson of civil rights violations in the shooting.
In Baltimore, the the only result to date has been a mistrial. So what does Heilemann know that the judicial system doesn't about "police brutality" in those cases? Or was this just a case of Heilemann trying to prove to Ice Cube--who by the way displayed more equanimity than Heileman in his comments on this and other issues--that he was down with the struggle?
Shades of Chris Matthews' infamous thrill up his leg when listening to Barack Obama in 2008 . . . Fast forward to 2016, and we have ostensible Republican Nicolle Wallace getting the good kind of "chills" up her arm when listening to . . . Hillary Clinton talk about gun control.
Morning Joe today played a clip of Hillary saying that many of the guns used to commit crimes in New York come from Bernie Sanders' home state of Vermont. For once, Clinton eschewed the grating tone that sends so many of us scrambling for the mute button. And that was enough to have Wallace, gesturing to her arm, say: "that -- that attack on the guns is so, you know, I got chills. This is the third time I have heard it."
The words of the day at Morning Joe today were "rigged, rigged, rigged, rigged." The reference was to the delegate selection process in both parties and the FBI investigation/Justice Department decision-making process regarding Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information on her private server.
While the panel discussed problems in the Republican process, the most glaring example given of a rigged system was the situation in Wyoming, where over the weekend Bernie Sanders scored a double-digit win among actual voters over Hillary Clinton . . . but came away with fewer delegates. As to the email scandal, clips were played from President Obama's Fox News interview with Chris Wallace, in which the president claimed that he did not communicate with the Attorney General or FBI Director. But as an agitated Joe Scarborough pointed out, by going on TV and declaring that Hillary hadn't compromised national security, he communicated loudly with both, rigging the system by letting the world know he had concluded there was no security breach.
What does it say about Bernie Sanders--and the Pope--that when it comes to economics, Sanders sees Pope Francis as more "radical" than he is?
Appearing on today's Morning Joe, Sanders discussed the news that he has been invited to visit the Vatican. Sanders mentioned that [other than on social issues] he is a "big, big fan of the Pope." Said Sanders: "people think Bernie Sanders is radical. Uh-uh. Read what the Pope is writing." Sanders went on to describe the Pope's views on economics: "he's talking about the idolatry of money, the worship of money, the greed that's out there . . . And he's trying to inject a sense of morality into how we do economics."
"At the end of the day" has been voted the most irritating, hackneyed expression in the English language. If once in a while it slips into our speech, no big whoop. But in her interview on With All Due Respect today, when Hillary's political director, Amanda Renteria, used the expression twice in her very first answer, it caught this NewsBuster's attention.
And so I found myself counting. Three, four--could this really go on? Yes! Five, and . . . a final sixth time before the interview finally ground to an end! Not to be too apocalyptic, but it has been said that losing the New York primary could be cataclysmic for Hillary. Is the end of days on the mind of the Clinton campaign?
Virtually every morning, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough vociferously reject the notion that they're in the tank for Donald Trump. And it's true that in word and print they can occasionally be critical of him. But on today's Morning Joe, Mika came up with an odd defense to the assertion that Trump often lies: "He's not just blurting out outright lies--he's kind of making people think in some ways." Um, okay.
Mika's odd formulation came in response to the allegation by guest Evelyn Farkas, a former Obama Defense Department official with expertise on Russia, who has a current Politico piece suggesting that Trump and Putin are "two liars separated at birth." On the show, Farkas claimed that with Trump "there is sort of lie after lie" to the point she considers him "dangerous for democracy." That prompted Mika's response that he ain't lying, he's making us think.
Bernie Sanders: rabid right-winger? A senior Hillary surrogate has accused Bernie Sanders of "McCarthyism," of all things. Has Bernie's big Wisconsin win knocked the Clinton campaign off its moorings?
Five years ago, I wrote that the irascible Barney Frank could pick a fight in a phone booth. Further proof came on Chris Hayes' MSNBC show tonight, as Hillary-fan Frank jumped ugly with fellow liberal but Bernie-backer Robert Reich. The ostensible topic was whether Sanders had the substance to back up his plan to break up the big banks. But the big bottom line is that Barney Frank accused Sanders of "McCarthyite" tactics and "McCarthyism." In the liberal lexicon, them's serious fightin' words. Will Hillary stand by Barney's accusation tomorrow?
Did Huma vet the questions in advance . . . or maybe write them? Talk about your weak, servile interview. This was pitiful. Given the chance to interview Hillary Clinton on today's Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski failed to ask a single tough question. Nothing about the email scandal. Nothing about the transcripts of her big-dollar speeches to Wall Street. Nothing about having lost seven of the last eight races to Bernie Sanders.
Instead, Joe and Mika lobbed a series of super-slow softballs. Examples: it must feel good to be back in New York and sleep in your own bed. Multiple questions as to whether Bernie is qualified to be president. Wondering whether Bernie should get out of the race [this the morning after he crushed her in Wisconsin]. Asking if Bernie is a Democrat. They might just as well have skipped the interview and read from Hillary's latest press releases. Joe and Mika squandered the opportunity to put Clinton to the test. A shame.
Was it good-natured ribbing by John Heilemann, or unvarnished venom? On today's With All Due Respect, Republican Dan Senor made the case--at length--as to why Paul Ryan would make a great candidate to oppose Hillary Clinton. But Senor then proceeded to claim that Ryan would not seek the nomination because the Speaker doesn't think it's "appropriate."
Heilemann responded with a flurry of "lying" accusations: "stop telling your lies on television . . . stop with the lying . . . lyin' Dan Senor."
Welcome to the club, Mika: file this one under A Liberal Discovers Media Bias . . . Back in 2012, George Stephanopoulos was somehow permitted to moderate a Republican primary debate, and proceeded to harangue frontrunner Mitt Romney on the arcane matter of the right of states to prohibit contraceptive sales, thus abetting the Dems' "GOP War on Women" narrative. Republicans were rightly outraged.
Now, in an ironic twist, it's the turn of some liberals to doubt Stephanopoulos' ability to serve as an impartial moderator . . . of a Dem debate. On today's Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski repeatedly expressed skepticism at the notion of Steph moderating a debate between Hillary and Bernie Sanders, given that George served as a senior aide to President Clinton and has been a donor to the Clinton Foundation.
It is a tragedy when any member of the US military is killed in combat. This is of course true regardless of race. But since Al Sharpton and an MSNBC guest have chosen to racialize and politicize the matter, it's incumbent to set the record straight.
On today's Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough pointed out that Hillary has been much more hawkish and interventionist regarding foreign wars than Sanders. New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas then said "and the people who die in those coffins by the way have a racial make-up that is much browner and blacker than the rest of the country." Sharpton gave that notion a big amen, saying "there's no doubt about it." Actually, there's a lot of doubt about it. In fact, the statement is false. As eminent military historian Victor Davis Hanson has documented regarding US military deaths, "in almost all cases, the white death ratio approximated or exceeded the percentages of whites in the general population."
Joe Scarborough came close to calling Donald Trump a fraud when it comes to his late-in-life switch from being strongly pro-choice, including supporting partial-birth abortion, to being pro-life. On today's Morning Joe, Scarborough flatly called Trump's 180-degree flip on the issue, coming when it did, "impossible."
Scarborough's comments came in the context of Trump's statement [later amended] to Chris Matthews during a town hall yesterday that he supported some form of punishment for women having abortions. Said Scarborough: "Unless you have some religious experience on the road to Damascus which I haven't seen in Donald, it's just impossible!" Here's the clip of Tim Russert's 1999 interview in which Trump [53-years old at the time] described himself as "very pro-choice" and explicitly said he would not ban partial-birth abortion.
MSNBC might have to build a deeper tank . . . so Cokie Roberts can dive into it for Hillary. On today's Morning Joe, Roberts of NPR complained about the resources the FBI is devoting to the investigation of Hillary Clinton's misuse of email. Carped Cokie: "Don't they have other problems? There's no crime in the country they should be worrying about?"
Roberts' timing could hardly have been worse. Just moments before, Joe Scarborough pointed out that last week it was revealed that 22 of the emails on Hillary's server "were so sensitive that the State Department said releasing them would cause grave danger to the United States national security." Not worth investigating, Cokie? Really?
Imagine that a senior Hillary aide--not to mention Hillary herself--were indicted over the email scandal. In a million years, could you imagine John Heilemann asking what such person would have to do to prove his or her innocence? Neither could I. But on today's With All Due Respect, Heilemann asked a Florida criminal defense attorney [not Lewandowski's lawyer]: "What is the legal standard? What does Corey Lewandowski have to prove, to prove his innocence?"
Attorney Whitney Boan politely pointed out that under the Constitution, Lewandowski doesn't have to prove or disprove anything, and that to the contrary the burden is on the State of Florida to prove the charge "beyond a reasonable doubt." Heilemann was appropriately contrite, saying "you're right to call me on having gotten that thing backwards, and thank you for doing that." But the presumption of innocence is ninth-grade civics stuff. That Heilemann would have ever asked such a question in the first place suggests some serious bias.
Methinks the Goldberg doth protest too much . . . Twice during his appearance on today's Morning Joe, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg claimed that he wasn't there to "flack" for President Obama on foreign policy . . . but then proceeded to do just that.
The Atlantic recently published a long piece by Goldberg on Obama's foreign policy, based on the author's interviews of the president and some of his top national security aides. In his first flack, Goldberg defended Obama's cool-dude shades-wearing, wave-doing attendance at a Cuban baseball game and his tangoing in Argentina in the immediate wake of the Brussels bombings: "he's philosophically committed that terrorism will not defeat us." In his second flack, he defended Obama's giving up on the Middle East, claiming the president was being "practical" and "understands the tragic limitations of the American presidency." [Thank God Ronald Reagan didn't realize he could never bring down that wall.]
Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski had a jolly old time mocking Ted Cruz on today's Morning Joe. After playing a clip of Cruz refusing to say whether he'd support Trump given The Donald's attack on his wife, Joe imagined Cruz rehearsing his words before a mirror.
Scarborough went on to approvingly cite David Axelrod, who had said that Cruz seems "staged" even when defending the honor of his wife. [Granted, Axelrod's protege Barack Obama is so much smoother with his prevarications.]
No one can in good faith dispute that Planned Parenthood sold baby body parts. It has been carefully documented. And there's that video of a Planned Parenthood official fantasizing about buying a Lamborghini with the proceeds. The capper is that PP President Cecile Richards announced not long ago that PP would no longer take money for body parts. As Michelle Malkin marvelously put it in her headline: "Planned Parenthood will stop taking payment for baby parts their defenders said they never sold."
Note my trick phrasing: no one "in good faith" can dispute that PP sold baby body parts. That excludes MSNBC's Joy Reid. On MSNBC this morning, when Kellyanne Conway, head of a pro-Cruz super PAC, attempted to raise the issue of PP's sale of baby body parts, Reid repeatedly shut her down: "That story was false. That story was false. That story was absolutely false. It was a false story . . . that story was false, so that's not a factor."
Get that gal a Valium. Make it a double . . . "Melodramatic" doesn't begin to describe Mika Brzezinski's histrionic hand-wringing on today's Morning Joe. Mika is in meltdown, on the brink of a political nervous breakdown.
Mika's recurring theme [abetted by the panel] was horror at the spectacle of Ted Cruz's call for special attention to Muslim neighborhoods, and the spat between Cruz and Trump over their respective wives. At one point Mika claimed that Americans are "really scared" by the political situation, and later called for a "crisis candidate" to step in. Uncle Joe Biden to the rescue?
One of James Taranto's recurring categories in his WSJ Best of the Web Today column is "the soft bigotry of low expectations." We have a great candidate for it from today's Morning Joe, as, expressing the sentiment of Americans at large, Joe Scarborough asked: "why can't our president be as tough as France's president?" Ouch.
From Scarborough to Mika Brzezinski to Nicolle Wallace, Rudy Giuliani to Michael Hayden, the condemnation of President Obama's weak, shades-wearing, wave-doing, grinning response to the Brussels outrage was relentless. Most brutal and disturbing of all was the assessement of former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who said of Obama's response: "that wasn't a mistake, that wasn't weakness, that was policy, that going to the ballpark and spending less than a minute commenting on the attack. I believe in his heart of hearts the president's policy is that is not that big a deal. There are other things that are more important and that was what he was messaging."