Mark Finkelstein

Mark Finkelstein's picture
Contributing Editor

Lives in Granbury, Texas. 

Twitter: @markfinkelstein

Pilot, parrots, dogs, tennis.

Latest from Mark Finkelstein

With its talk of "change" and images of folks from the Dem demographic, was this an MSNBC promo . . . or an Obama ad? Check out this spot, aired today just before the start of Morning Joe.

VOICEOVER [which I believe is that of Joe Scarborough]: A revolution that happens for us every four years is a quiet revolution that begins and ends at the ballot box. It's the American voter that goes in, and makes a very simple choice that can change the country and change the world.

Who says there's no humor in politics? Obama communications director Robert Gibbs went on ABC's This Week today, and in one of the better deadpan bits since Buster Keaton actually said that Barack Obama's decision to quit the Trinity United Church of Christ was "not political."

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: In Philadelphia, just in April, Senator Obama said of Reverend Wright "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community." Now he's cut all ties to Reverend Wright, and left his church. What is it a mistake to wait this long?

ROBERT GIBBS: No, George. I think obviously what Barack Obama made in the past few days is a deeply personal, not a political decision. And as you heard the reasoning, he made that decision for two reasons. One, even guest speakers that were at Trinity, their views were ascribed to him even though he didn't hold those views, and secondly, the members of Trinity couldn't do what members of a church do, and that is, sit in quiet reflection and worship God.

View video here.

If you're going to accuse a president of lying and committing crimes, it might be nice to provide some particulars. But Frank Rich sees no need for such niceties in his New York Times column of today.

The putative topic is the McClellan book, but the real subject is Rich's abject Bush hatred. After referring to Pres. Bush as "the loathed lame duck," Rich writes:

Americans don’t like being lied to by their leaders, especially if there are casualties involved and especially if there’s no accountability. We view it as a crime story, and we won’t be satisfied until there’s a resolution.

So Bush lied and people died, is that it? What was the lie, where was the crime? Is Rich referencing WMD here, the same WMD that President Clinton, every major Dem leader at the time, and countries from France to Russia also said Saddam had? Rich doesn't say. If not WMD, something else? If so, what? And just what is the "resolution" Rich demands? Even Keith Olbermann recently, regretfully, recognized it's probably too late for impeachment.

The amiable Gene Robinson is a regular MSNBC guest, but apparently not a regular MSNBC viewer—at least not of Keith Olbermann's show. Otherwise he would have never claimed, as he did tonight, that no one accused Geraldine Ferraro of being a racist back in March when she said that, for current political purposes, Obama was lucky to be black. For it was none other than Olbermann who accused Ferraro of precisely that.

On this evening's Race for the White House, David Gregory invited Robinson to comment on a Ferraro op-ed in today's Boston Globe in which the former Dem VP candidate wrote that she had been "accused of being racist for a statement I made" back in March.

EUGENE ROBINSON: On the race issue, I wish Geraldine Ferraro would give it a rest. I don't think people were saying she was racist when she made her earlier remarks. What people were saying was she was talking nonsense.

View video here.

Mika Brzezinski realizes that the latest looniness emanating from Barack Obama's church poses political problems for the presidential candidate. But as a person of pallor, the ever-so-PC Morning Joe-er doesn't want to judge a black church—even when the most recent rantings come from the mouth of . . . a white preacher.

Morning Joe opened today with a clip of Father Michael Pfleger guest-preaching this past Sunday at Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ. Pfleger, a fixture on the radical Chicago scene whose endorsement of Obama [h/t Michelle Malkin] until recently appeared on the official Obama campaign website, mocked Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire tears as a sign of her frustrated sense of white entitlement. The screencap shows Pfleger making like Hillary wiping away those tears.

(Watch video above, context included, fast-forward to 3:40 for Brzezinski's humorous comment.)

But while acknowledging the headache Pfleger poses for Obama, Mika was oh-so-loath to comment on the substance or tone of the remarks themselves. Excerpts from her discussion with Tucker Carlson, Mike Barnicle and Willie Geist:

Of all the people to call for a "truce" on excessive partisanship . . .

Interviewing Scott McClellan tonight, Keith Olbermann sanctimoniously suggested that a "truce" on rough political tactics "would be nice." But speaking with John Dean just minutes later, the Countdown host—he who has repeatedly called President Bush a liar and a fascist—reverted to form and regretted that it might be too late to impeach him.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN: [The 1988] election was very much a turning-point election. I think that George Bush, George Bush 41, George Herbert Walker Bush, is a decent individual, and a man who really believes in civility, but he, his advisors around him, knew the only way they could win was to bring down his opponent and go fully negative, and paint Michael Dukakis completely to the left. A guy who had painted himself—who had a record of trying to work to the center in a lot of ways [Ed: ?].

And, um, that legacy continues to this day, and Senator McCain says that he's going to speak out against that and not let that happen. I think that would be good for the country if that is the case. But there are certainly plenty of groups on the Republican side that are going to go forward with that kind of strategy. [Unlike groups on the Dem side. You know, like the kind-and-gentle one that ran the dragging-murder ad against W in 2000.]

KEITH OLBERMANN: Yeah. Truce would be nice.

View video here.

"I'm not fit to be a Senator. I'm not fit to live. Expel me! Expel me! Not him. Every word that boy said is the truth! Every word about Taylor and me and graft and the rotten political corruption of our state. Every word of it is true. I'm not fit for office! I'm not fit for any place of honor or trust. Expel me!"—Claude Rains as the corrupt Sen. Joseph Paine in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"

Chris Matthews has broken out a Jimmy Stewart/Mr. Smith Goes to Washington analogy to assess Scott McClellan's book. Here's how the Hardball host put it on this afternoon's show:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: When you read the book, it reads like Claude Rains in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. You know: "everything the guy says is true." I mean, he's admitting that the other guy–the good guy's–right. I mean, if that's your perspective.

View video here.

Lanny Davis let one of the world's worst-kept secrets out of the bag this morning: Mika Brzezinski's a Barack backer. But the Morning Joe host [in Joe Scarborough's absence] insisted on "taking issue" with the incontestable, and yet again cited her family's political diversity as a would-be shield against Davis's assertion.

Davis, former special counsel to Bill Clinton and die-hard defender of the Clinton clan, made his observation of the incontrovertible on Morning Joe at about 7:50 AM EDT today. It arose in the course of a discussion of Hillary's strategy for winning the nomination.

View video here.

Was George Soros behind the publication of Scott McClellan's book? Meredith Vieira had the perfect opportunity this morning to find out—but chose to punt. The Today co-anchor certainly had the time: her much-touted exclusive interview with the author of What Happened ranged over the show's first two half-hours. But even when McClellan himself put the issue on the table—citing his publisher by name and alluding to its philosophy—Vieira failed to pursue a line of questioning that could have put matters in an explosive new light.

As MRC's Brent Baker has detailed, McClellan's publisher, PublicAffairs:

is part of the Perseus Books Group, which also owns Nation Books, “a project of The Nation Institute” which publishes the magazine of the same name, and Vanguard Press, whose home page now features The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, a new book by Vincent Bugliosi that “presents a tight, meticulously researched legal case that puts George W. Bush on trial in an American courtroom for the murder of nearly 4,000 American soldiers fighting the war in Iraq.”

Baker also notes that PublicAffairs is the publisher of no fewer than six books by Soros himself, and that McClellan's editor, Peter Osnos, who acknowledges having "worked very closely" with the author, is a liberal pundit in his own right.

Finally, Little Green Footballs has documented that there are several Perseus companies that actually include "Soros" as part of their name, as in Perseus-Soros Management, LLC.

Put it all together, and there's every reason to wonder whether Soros isn't behind McClellan's manifesto. But given the golden opportunity to pursue the matter, Meredith chose to move on. Here's the relevant exchange, which came during the second half-hour of this morning's Today.

I haven't seen Chris Matthews this excited since a Barack Obama speech sent a certain sensation skyward.

The Hardball host is in an absolute frenzy over Scott McClellan's allegations. So much so that guests on this evening's show are having a hard time expressing themselves as Matthews expounds at length. Ari Fleischer finally called Chris on it. And while David Gregory didn't express his ire in words, his facial expression left little doubt as to his annoyance at being cut off in mid-sentence.

The screencap shows Gregory's grimace. But be sure to view the video here to get the full effect. A bit later, former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer appeared. He could be seen on many occasions attempting to speak, only to be submerged in a sea of ceaseless Matthews chatter. Talk at one point turned to VP Cheney's involvement in policy-making. Fleischer was again repeatedly frustrated in his attempts to talk, and finally had enough.

You pathetic little people of the blogosphere. You're nothing more than "nitwits at home with [your] computers" who've deluded yourselves into imagining you're "part of the news media." Just ask Mike Barnicle. The former Boston Globe columnist broke the tough truth to us on today's Morning Joe. WaPo editorial writer Jonathan Capehart was "so glad" to agree.

Capehart was in full courtier mode to Mika Brzezinski, anchoring the show during Joe Scarborough's extended absence awaiting the birth of a child home in Florida. When executive producer Chris Licht read a viewer email critical of Mika, Capehart leapt to her defense, and it was then that Barnicle and he sniffed at the pretenders of the pajamahadeen.

View video here.

CNN classifies Campbell Brown as an "anchor," but that apparently doesn't prevent her from riding to Barack Obama's defense on a high-profile issue. On this evening's Election Center, Brown seconded a guest's assertion that the controversy surrounding Barack Obama's erstwhile refusal to wear a flag pin was "nonsensical" and "ridiculous."

The topic was the matter of Obama's patriotism as a campaign issue. CNN contributor and ardent Obama supporter Roland Martin [he who gushed over Rev. Wright's address to the Detroit NAACP] addressed the flag pin flap [note: remarks taken from transcript.]

ROLAND MARTIN: First of all, John McCain doesn't wear a flag pin. Hillary Clinton doesn't wear a flag pin and there are people who wear flag pins who call themselves patriots who led us into a war based on faulty intelligence. At some point, people need to use their brains. We have somebody who is an American. Who is a sitting United States senator. Who is running for president. How do we sit here and define somebody's patriotism? The reality is, he is an American. And so I have a problem with anybody, Cliff [Cliff May, fellow panelist], me, or anyone else, saying, you know what? I need to see how much a patriot you are and you are. There is no litmus test. A column on the other week said make wearing the flag pin the 28th amendment because we sit here and move the ball back and forth. It's a nonsensical issue to say how do you define patriotism. It is ridiculous.

CAMPBELL BROWN: Roland, I—on that issue—on the flag pin, I couldn't agree with you more.

If NewsBusters were ever to use in its promotional material a photo this unflattering of Hillary Clinton, we'd be accused of the worst kind of sexism, of unfairly attacking a candidate based on her looks rather than her views. Check out the image of Hillary that MSNBC used in its promo of tonight's Hardball with Chris Matthews that aired at 5:59 AM EDT today just before Morning Joe came on the air.

Hillary, shot from below to highlight her wattles, lit like something in a horror flick about to emerge from a closet wielding an ax. If there's a less-becoming snap of Hillary in MSM circulation, I haven't seen it.

View video of promo, and Carlson's comments, here.

Ah, Memorial Day in Ithaca, NY, a town that looks upon Berkeley, CA as suspiciously conservative. OK, perhaps not quite, but Ithaca is so liberal than in her 2006 Senate primary [bet you didn't know there even was one], Hillary lost the City of Ithaca to a [very] little-known far-lefty named Jonathan Tasini. So liberal that a certain NewsBuster lost a 1990s mayoral bid to the then incumbent, a proud member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

My circle of friends lost a fine man, a husband and father of several children, to brain cancer not long ago. He fought with courage and optimism, and received fine treatment, but the disease simply proved too strong. I sympathize with the plight facing Ted Kennedy, his family and loved ones. I'd add that in the course of the current coverage, I've learned of Kennedy's admirable history of extending kindnesses to many, putting him in something of a different light for me.

That said, I cannot help but comment on Bob Herbert's NY Times column of this morning, Tears for Teddy. The gist is that this is but the latest of many challenges that Kennedy has faced. And it's certainly true that the senator's life has been touched by more than its fair share of tragedy.

Even so, read this line, the one the Times placed on its op-ed web page to promo the column, and see if the same thing doesn't come to your mind as did to mine:

The press will tell you that this is Senator Kennedy’s toughest fight. I don’t even know if that’s true. Who knows what the toughest fight has been for someone named Kennedy?

Breaking news! A parallel universe does indeed exist, and either John Harwood or I inhabit it. The irrefutable evidence came this evening, as Harwood of CNBC/NYT claimed that Michelle Obama will be—albeit slightly–more of an asset to her husband's campaign than will Cindy McCain to that of her spouse.

Here was Harwood's response on this evening's Race for the White House to a question from host David Gregory about the respective roles the two spouses will play in the coming campaign.

JOHN HARWOOD: Yes, look, I don't know how you match up spouses, and obviously people generally speaking aren't going to vote on that. Cindy McCain looks a little bit more exotic, she's a little richer than Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama has a little bit more of the average, middle-class housewife look about her, she's got young kids. So, I'm not sure there's a big advantage for either side, if I had to give any I'd say slight advantage to Michelle Obama.

View video here.

Barack Obama—kibbutznik?

Of all the ways the presidential candidate sought to connect with Jewish voters at Congregation B'nai Torah in Boca Raton yesterday, perhaps the most heartfelt seemed these lines:

BARACK OBAMA: As I learned more [about the Zionist movement], I found I had a deep affinity with the idea of social justice that was embodied in the Jewish faith. There was a notion–tikkun–that you could repair the breach of the past. There was a notion, embodied in the kibbutz, that we all had a responsibility to each other. That we're all in this together. That hope can persevere even against the longest odds.

View video here [link is to RCP clip; cited remarks from 0:30-2:50.]

In a political season in which Barack Obama has delighted in playing the age card—see "lost his bearings," "wander around," and multiple mentions of McCain's "half-century of service," Democrats are now demonstrating that they're even willing to use an opponent's superannuation on each other.

There I was in my upstate NY home this evening, innocently watching the Yankee game, when this ad by Dem Rob Andrews, targeting primary opponent Dem Frank Lautenberg, the–very–senior senator from New Jersey, appeared . . .

View video here.

Zbigniew Brzezinski says that since we talked to Likud, we should talk to Hamas. And Kevin Spacey, who has trouble keeping his disputed primary states straight, suggests that his "Recount" plays it straight, despite evidence to the contrary. All that and more on today's Morning Joe. In reverse order, let's begin with Zbig's appearance, and consider this statement.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I have joined a bi-partisan group of some prominent Americans including Paul Volcker, Brent Scowcroft, Lee Hamilton, and some others, in saying that talking to Hamas is a necessary course of action. You know, we talked to Likud when Likud was advocating the total incorporation of the West Bank into Israel. And today Likud accepts a two-state solution. Hamas will evolve, but it will not evolve if it is continuously ostracized and threatened.

View video here.

Charlie Crist, Bobby Jindal and Mitt Romney better hope John McCain isn't banking on Tony Blankley for guidance on his Veep pick. Newt's former press secretary is blah—at best—on all three.

Blankley, also the former editorial page editor of the Washington Times and who continues to write a column there, made his remarks on MSNBC's "Race for the White House" this evening as part of a panel reacting to the news that McCain has invited the three governors—past and present—to meet with him over the Memorial Day weekend.


DAVID GREGORY: What would Governor Crist bring to McCain's ticket?

TONY BLANKLEY: I don't think he brings much. I think if McCain can't carry Florida on his own, he's not going to carry it. He needs to carry something else. I doubt, I don't think he brings much to the ticket.

View video here.