Mark Finkelstein

Mark Finkelstein's picture
Contributing Editor

Lives in Granbury, Texas. 

Twitter: @markfinkelstein

Pilot, parrots, dogs, tennis.

Latest from Mark Finkelstein

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

View video here.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

[Update, 5:45 pm, by Matthew Balan: In the past year, Cafferty has called for the impeachment of Bush administration officials or criticized Democrats for failing to do so on 3 other occasions: August 21, 2007January 7, 2008; and just over a month ago on June 12, 2008.]

You might call Jack Cafferty the Dennis Kucinich of the media. Actually, the CNN commentator would go the Dem congressman one better.  Not content with mere impeachment, Cafferty has condemned Congress for not pursuing the possible prosecution of President Bush—to whom he sneeringly refers as "King George"—for war crimes.

The CNN commentator put war-crime prosecution on the table during his Cafferty File segment on this afternoon's CNN "Situation Room."

View video here.

H/t texascajun

We can debate the propriety of mentioning the name of banks that might be in financial trouble.  But one thing appears clear to Chris Cuomo [file photo]: it would be wrong to mention the name of a Democrat who could be in hot water.  Wouldn't want to cause a run on the Dem's political capital, after all. Cuomo's discretion was on display during today's Good Morning America.  Anchoring in the absence of Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts, Cuomo was discussing the run on Indymac and the advisability of publicizing the names of other banks that might be in trouble with ABC financial consultant Mellody Hobson.

CHRIS CUOMO: People are so desperate in markets right now that negative information that allows them to short-sell or bet on banks not doing well is very popular.

MELLODY HOBSON: So I'm suspect about where the lists are coming from; the motives of some of the people putting the lists out here.

CUOMO: We saw the impact of panic not just on people but even in Congress, right?  A senator gets up and says "I've heard something about a certain bank."  It's in trouble the next day.

View video [courtesy RedLasso] here.

How insulated is the MSM? In how much of a liberal cocoon does it exist? For an answer, consider the vile cartoon displayed here.  My guess is that the great majority of NewsBusters readers are familiar with it.  But John Harwood—of the New York Times and CNBC—has never seen it.

That became clear on today's Morning Joe. The topic was the TV comedy world's double-standard, in which Republicans are regularly skewered but the laff factory suddenly shuts down when it comes to mocking Barack.  A New York Times article on the matter was the jumping off point, and Joe Scarborough had a field day ridiculing lefty comedians' hypocrisy in piously claiming to "speak truth to power."  The truth, said Scarborough, is that the comedians lay off Obama not because there's nothing funny about him, but because they're "in the tank" for the Dem candidate.

Towards the end of the segment came this stunning exchange:

View video here.

I have my issues with Pat Buchanan.  Anyone who writes a book arguing we should have found a modus vivendi with Hitler isn't necessarily high on my list. Still, when it comes to spot-on analysis of the political scene, Pat is without peer. But when Buchanan—his own opposition to the Iraq war notwithstanding—argued on this evening's Hardball that McCain's support for the surge is a winning issue for him, it drove Chris Matthews into such a frenzy he was reduced to a reality-defying scream that the surge isn't working.

Air America's Mark Green was along for the bumpy ride.  An extended clip was rolled of McCain at a town hall in New Mexico saying that he knows how to win wars, that Obama was wrong to oppose the surge, and that he McCain will build on the Iraq experience to lead us to success in Afghanistan.

Then all hell broke loose.

View video here.

Mika Brzezinski might be an Obama backer, but she really should sit down with Hillary Clinton. The woman who turned $1,000 into $100,000 could clue her in to the workings of the commodities markets.  Be it cattle or crude oil, the concept's the same: these are "futures" markets in which prices are set on traders' expectations of what conditions will be some time down the road.

Mika's need for urgent remedial help on the matter became evident during the first minutes of today's Morning Joe.  Ostensibly fulfilling her news-reading function, Mika veered from the prepared text to inject her own editorializing to the effect that lifting the offshore drilling ban today wouldn't lower gas prices for ten years.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Time for a look at some of today's top stories.  President Bush is calling on congress to lift its ban on offshore oil drilling. On Monday the president ended a long-standing moratorium on the practice, saying new drilling would ease pressure on fuel prices [going off-script to inject her own views] -- in about ten years.  Critics argue the production of gas from the offshore --

View video here.

Not that she is, but if Michelle Obama were in fact a Black Panther, what's the big deal?  So seems to think Michelle Bernard.

Anyone who imagines that Bernard brings conservative balance to the MSNBC panels on which she regularly appears should think again.  Yes, Bernard is head of the Independent Women's Forum, an organization with strong conservative roots.  And true, Bernard served on the 2000 Bush-Cheney Presidential Inaugural Committee.  But as the Daily Howler has documented [see 1/3 down page], her pronouncements on Hardball have often been supportive of Barack Obama.  

More evidence of that was on display tonight when Bernard condemned the New Yorker cover in harsh terms and then, incredibly, seemed to say that there would be nothing wrong if the cover's caricature of Michelle Obama as a Black Panther were grounded in reality!

View video here.

A couple days ago at the gym, listening to a Hugh Hewitt podcast and perhaps not paying as much attention as I should have while pedaling away, I heard Hugh mention that Barack Obama doesn't understand the role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. What was Hugh referring to? As the British would say: the penny just dropped.  A few minutes ago, CNN's Situation Room played a clip of Obama saying this about his plan for Iraq:

BARACK OBAMA: I'm going to call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and give them a new mission, and that is to bring the war in Iraq to a close.  We are going to get out.

There's only one problem.  The Joint Chiefs of Staff does not have operational command of U.S. military forces.  That authority resides in the commanders of the various Unified Combatant Commands.  CENTCOM is the command with responsibility for Iraq [and 26 other countries including Afghanistan and Pakistan].  Earlier this month, the Senate confirmed Pres. Bush's appointment of Gen. David Petraeus as CENTCOM commander.  Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno is the new US commander for Iraq, replacing Gen. Petraeus. Those are the people, along with the Secretary of Defense, to whom the orders Obama spoke of would be issued.

 View video here.

Look for Mika Brzezinski outside the Danish embassy.  True, the Danes had nothing to do with the New Yorker's publication of the Obama cover. But what more time-honored locale to protest an irreverent cartoon of a figure adulated with religious fervor?

Mika has condemned the New Yorker cover as "dangerous."  Why dangerous?  Mika doesn't quite say.  But by darkly musing about unspoken perils that derive from the mocking of Obama, she would apparently place irony about her candidate off limits. Mika sounded the alarm on today's Morning Joe.

View video here.

In 2006, I was invited to attend the annual Television and Radio Correspondents Dinner in Washington, DC.  Before and after the big shindig, all the major news organizations throw parties in the same hotel.  I attended the Fox News event, and Tony Snow was there.  

I had never met Tony and he didn't know me from Adam. I was just a neophyte blogger from this new site, NewsBusters.  Nevertheless, Tony greeted and spoke with me warmly, and I had a very powerful sense of someone who, in a manner rooted in his religious faith, truly cared about others.  As I stood on the fringe of the crowd as many others spoke with him, I witnessed the same outpouring of caring and concern coming from Tony toward all that he met.  There was an palpable aura of loving-kindness that emanated from him.

See Bonus Coverage at foot: Barnicle accuses Jesse Jackson of "corporate blackmail."

Two veteran members of the Senate, two entirely different treatments from Andrea Mitchell.  Reverence for Ted Kennedy; scorn for Strom Thurmond. Guest hosting in Mika Brzezinski's spot on Morning Joe today, Mitchell, emotion in her voice, hailed Kennedy as "valiant" and a "hero."  As for Thurmond, Mitchell mocked that he wasn't alive even when he was in the Senate.

View video here.

The reference to the late South Carolina senator arose in the context of a discussion of the way in which, with the nomination of Barack Obama, the torch of Dem leadership has been passed to a new generation, whereas the same isn't true in John McCain's GOP.

If there's one person in the NBC news stable who combines solid analytical skills with a commitment to fairness, it could be political director Chuck Todd.  Evidence thereof comes from no less a certified conservative source than Tom DeLay. Appearing on this evening's Hardball just after Todd had offered his breakdown of the electoral map, DeLay allowed that he "can't dispute" any of Todd's analysis, prompting Chris Matthews to exclaim "that's a development for us here: objective truth for you!"

So what was that Todd analysis that DeLay didn't dispute?  There was much to it, but for present purposes let's focus on this: Todd can't see how Obama wins without Pennsylvania, and that having former governor Tom Ridge on the McCain ticket would help deliver the Keystone State.  The catch is that Ridge is pro-choice, which in turn poses the question of whether pro-life Republicans would revolt if McCain chose him for the veep slot.

View video here.

You'll find the transcript below. I'd be particularly interested in getting the take of pro-life readers.  I offer my own two cents at the foot.

Got to be good looking
'cause he's so hard to see
Come together right now
Over me—The Beatles, "Come Together" (1969) [YouTube]

Bob Herbert just doesn't get it.  As Noel Sheppard has noted, in his NYT column today Herbert accuses Barack Obama of "lurching right when it suits him, and . . . zigging with the kind of reckless abandon that’s guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash." The NY Times columnist goes on to condemn the candidate for "pandering to evangelicals;"  agreeing with Justices Scalia and Thomas on a "barbaric" interpretation of the 8th Amendment; and playing a "dangerous game" with his "shifts and panders."

No, no, no, Bob!  That's not what's happening at all.  Obama isn't flip-flopping.  He's simply fulfilling his pledge to bring us together. What makes Herbert's obtuseness all the more infuriating is that enlightenment was just a stroll down the corridor away, to the office of Gail Collins.   Herbert's fellow Times columnist explained what is really going on during her appearance today on Morning Joe.

View video here.