Mark Finkelstein

Mark Finkelstein's picture
Contributing Editor

Lives in Granbury, Texas. 

Twitter: @markfinkelstein

Pilot, parrots, dogs, tennis.

Latest from Mark Finkelstein

Dispatch from the Department of Glass Houses . . .

The Good Morning America crew had a bunch of yucks today at the expense of the Sparks, NV streets department employee who spelled "scool" on the asphalt. But within minutes, two ABCers made math mistakes of their own, one of a political sort, the other climate-related.

RON CLAIBORNE: In Sparks, Nevada, someone in the streets department could use a spelling lesson. A sign painted on the street announces a nearby facility is a "s-c-o-o-l" [sound of Claiborne chuckle]. The city plans to fix the sign as soon as possible. That's a first look at the headlines, back to Bill and Kate. Everybody knows school is spelled with a "k."

Great guffaws ensue.

View video here.

Heavens to Murgatroyd! Chris Matthews has reduced Hillary Clinton to a cartoon character. Snagglepuss to be precise. "Exit stage left" was one of the Hanna-Barbera animation's catchphrases, and Matthews used it to wonder whether Hillary was prepared to leave the presidential race, given her flagging political fortunes. Here's how Matthews put it at the top of today's Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Meanwhile, listen carefully. That sound you hear is the slow falling of electoral delegates, of superdelegates, to Barack Obama. Seven more came aboard today. So with Obama way ahead in elected delegates, now trails Hillary Clinton by only four-and-a-half superdelegates. It didn't help Clinton when her long-time supporter and U.S. congressman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois called Obama today "the presumptive nominee" of his party.

As Snagglepuss flashed on the screen, Matthews wondered out loud: "does Hillary have an exit strategy at this point?"

View video here.

Is it the province of a "correspondent" of an ostensibly objective network to proclaim the tactics of a presidential candidate "inappropriate"? Apparently so, when the network is MSNBC and the correspondent David Shuster. The frequent sidekick to Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann got into it with Pat Buchanan on today's Morning Joe.

Shuster spoke out against Hillary's rough-'n-tumble end-game tactics, while a feisty Buchanan defended Clinton's right to go down swinging. Shuster sounded less the reporter and more the DNC member concerned about damage to the party's presumptive presidential candidate. When Mike Barnicle got into the act, he wanted to be sure not to be seen as insulting the Clintons.

View video here.

DAVID SHUSTER: What is the plausible scenario for what she's doing now, and do you agree, the only plausible scenario is that she's just trying to permanently damage Barack Obama?

MIKE BARNICLE: What about this one, David? What about the fact that, listen, not speaking ill of either former President Clinton or Senator Clinton [God forbid!], but this is all they've ever done in their lives. They've never worked at a private job, they've never worked in corporate America [Rose law firm?], they've been public people for 30 years. All they know is running! That's all they know: that's who they are.

Was it Hardball—or the World Series of Poker? Interviewing Hillary's Howard Wolfson today, Chris Matthews accused the Clinton campaign of playing the white race card. Just minutes later, when Wolfson suggested Matthews might be discriminating against Puerto Rican voters, Chris protested "don't play that card on me."

View video here.

Matthews began the showdown by rolling tape of Hillary repeatedly telling USA Today that she had stronger support than Obama among "white" voters.

"Thrill up my leg"? Forget about it. Chris Matthews's famous description of the excitement he gets from Barack is nothing compared to the tumescent terms in which MSNBC senior campaign correspondent Tucker Carlson has depicted the intensity of the MSM's love affair with Obama. Tucker appeared on today's Morning Joe.

TUCKER CARLSON: It's gonna be such a great election; it has been so far.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Especially when you have the media loving one candidate as much as they love Barack Obama.

CARLSON: But it's more than love. I mean, it's the kind of love that anybody who's been a 9th-grade boy understands this species of love. Do you know what I mean?


SCARBOROUGH: No, it's the truth. It's all-consuming.

CARLSON: It's red-in-the-face, I-think-about-you-when-I-go-to-bed, too embarrassed to stand up, it's sealed-with-a-kiss love. I mean, it's real, it's palpable.

It was just another ho-hum piece by another liberal columnist. Hillary Clinton should get out now because staying in hurts Barack Obama against McCain. Yada yada yada.

But in his column of today, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, almost in passing, makes what is, on reflection, a telling disclosure of what is truly the fundamental value, the uniting principle of the Democratic party: abortion. After first fretting that many Hillary supporters will sit on their hands or vote for McCain, Kristof offers this countervailing fact:

It’s true that most of Senator Clinton’s supporters presumably will flinch if they contemplate a McCain Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

Hillary's odds of overtaking Obama among elected delegates are not much better than those of the milk-wagon nag's winning the Preakness. But is it "mathematically impossible" for Clinton to win the nomination? No way. Many superdelegates remain undeclared. And even those who have come out for Obama are not bound. If another shoe of the Rev. Wright variety were to drop, it's far from inconceivable that the supers would move to Hillary.

But perhaps in a sign of how much the MSM wants Hillary out and their guy in, Norah O'Donnell has had the chutzpah to proclaim to Hillary honcho Terry McAuliffe that it is "mathematically impossible" for Clinton to win. At 12:03 PM ET today on MSNBC, O'Donnell began by playing for McAuliffe's benefit a clip from last night of Tim Russert declaring that "we now know who the Democratic nominee is going to be." When McAuliffe denied that the race was over, Norah challenged him.

NORAH O'DONNELL: Yeah, but Terry, Terry, under what scenario, under what possible scenario, could Senator Clinton win this nomination? It is mathematically impossible.

View video here.

At least they're open about it: the New York Times disdains Supreme Court justices who hew to the principles upon which this country was founded. The Times's admission came in the course of an editorial calling on Obama and Clinton to put aside their bickering and focus on beating John McCain. That is vital, in the Times's view, given McCain's pledge to nominate Supreme Court justices in the mold of John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

Writes the Times [emphasis added]:

Mr. McCain predictably criticized liberal judges, vowed strict adherence to the Founders’ views and promised to appoint more judges in the mold of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. That is just what the country does not need.

See Bonus Coverage at foot: Morning Joe Mocks Whopper-Telling Wolfson

What kind of night is one on which Hillary Clinton, in the eyes of many, lost her shot at the nomination? "A great night"—according to Diane Sawyer.

Sawyer made her remark at the opening of today's GMA. She started with some shtick with co-anchor Robin Roberts, displaying a series of cards explaining she was losing her voice, then managed to get out these words:

DIANE SAWYER: It was a great night last night. What a night, huh?

If there was ambiguity as to what made last night "great," it was largely resolved when the duo immediately moved to a discussion of last night's primary election results, culminating in Roberts displaying the front pages of today's New York Post and Daily News, which respectively proclaimed "Toast!" and "Hil Needs a Miracle." George Stephanopoulos came on and confirmed the tabloids' grim prognosis, saying the Dem race "is over."

View video here.

Check out the screencap from Carol Costello's CNN Newsroom segment of this morning on Hillary's gas-tax holiday plan. Costello's message: Clinton's proposal isn't just bad economics. It's not simply Santa Claus politics. No, it could . . . put your life in danger.

CAROL COSTELLO: For cash-strapped consumers, any reduction in gas prices would be like, well, like Santa coming into town early—or so it seemed on the stump.

View video here.

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.—Archilochus (7th-century BC)

Mark Penn might not be appearing before the cameras on Hillary's behalf nowadays, but bet that he is beavering away behind the scenes on his polling. And judging from Hillary's dogged [to mix an animal metaphor] performance on this morning's Today, it's obvious the pollster's turned up one big thing: Dem primary voters hate oil companies.

Meredith Vieira gamely tried to get Clinton onto other subjects during her interview. But no matter the question, the answer was almost invariably the same: I Hate Big Oil. Since the questions were irrelevant, let's dispense with them and simply count the ways in which Hillary expressed her wrath at those evil purveyors of oil.

View video here.

My two cents say George Stephanopoulos gave Hillary a harder time than Tim Russert did Obama during their respective appearances on This Week and Meet the Press today. Russert never pinned Obama down on exactly what he knew of Rev. Wright's most controversial assertions and when he knew it.

Over on ABC, Stephanopoulos twice challenged Hillary to name a single economist who supported her proposal for a gas-tax holiday, and threw in her face the fact that even her big admirer in economist ranks, Paul Krugman of the NY Times, has criticized her over it. In exposing her inability to name a single practitioner of the dismal science who supported her plan [McCain, who's also called for a gas-tax holiday would presumably be similarly hard-pressed], Stephanopoulos left Clinton looking like a panderer. Stephanopoulos raised the issue right out of the box.

View video here.

Imagine that a "documentary" film-maker—whose most notable former credit was a work advancing the notion that extra-terrestrials did indeed visit Area 51—brought forth a new work suggesting that key elements of the Prophet Mohammed's story had been fabricated. What are the odds ABC would devote a segment of Good Morning America to a respectful interview of the filmmaker and discussion of his work?

But that's exactly what ABC did regarding someone who has produced a documentary ["Bloodline"] calling into question key aspects of the story of Jesus Christ. Here's how GMA weekend co-anchor Bill Weir introduced the segment this morning:

Well, here's a question, was Jesus married with children? Was the Resurrection a trick pulled off by his widow? The possibility, the world's greatest cover-up, was the basis of the smash novel and movie The Da Vinci Code. And though those ideas have been largely dismissed by academics as fiction, documentary film-maker Bruce Burgess believes he has now found evidence to advance that theory. Here's a clip from his new film.

View video here.

What legitimate journalistic purpose did this serve?

In a segment narrated by Pete Williams on the apparent suicide of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called DC Madam, this morning's Today played the tape of the 911 phone call made by Pelfrey's 76-year old mother, who had discovered her daughter's body.

Of all the 911 calls I've heard, this was the most anguished and heart-rending.

Though she leavened it with considerable levity, there's no escaping the bottom line: Mika Brzezinski sees Pat Buchanan as a nut. An affable one, to be sure. Even one with interesting things to say. But at heart, a nut. A "crazy uncle" fit for the same crate of cracked pots as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

How did the CBS Evening News explain away the much-smaller size of pro-immigration rallies around the country today? Fear and intimidation on the part of prospective participants. But fear of what? Physical threats or illegal reprisals? No. Of simple enforcement of US law. CBS singled out for praise one marcher who wouldn't be "intimidated."

CBS correspondent Sandra Hughes narrated the segment, which included these morsels.

View video here.

It's turning out to be a red-letter day for Hoosiers. This morning, Joe Scarborough tricked Mika Brzezinski into agreeing that the famous coach of the Indiana basketball team was Bear Bryant, of all people, rather than Bobby Knight. This afternoon on MSNBC, when Howard Wolfson questioned the Hoosier bona fides of a superdelegate who today announced he was switching from Clinton to Obama, Andrea Mitchell turned the Clinton aide's gambit back on Hillary with a vengeance.

Superdelegate Joe Andrew, who in the 90s was elevated to DNC chairman with the backing of Bill Clinton, and who had earlier endorsed Hillary, today announced that he was switching his support to Obama. The timing is critical since it comes just days before the Indiana primary, and Andrew hails from the Hoosier state.

Mitchell, hosting her regular 1 PM ET politics show on MSNBC, mentioned that fact to Wolfson. When Wolfson tried to undercut Andrew's Indiana affiliation, Mitchell riposted in spades, citing the multiple states to which Hillary has claimed connection. Andrew later appeared himself, setting the record straight.

View video here.

Aren't southern gentlemen supposedly chivalrous? Yet Joe Scarborough, son of the Florida Panhandle, today exploited Mika Brzezinski's less-than-encyclopedic knowledge of sports to lure his Morning Joe colleague into agreeing that the famous former coach of the Indiana University basketball team was none other than . . . Bear Bryant.

The jumping-off point was Joe's wearing of a red sweater today, which as a running gag he claimed was in solidarity with the workers of the world on this, May Day. But when Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, a Hillary supporter, came on toward the end of the show, Scarborough pressed the sweater into double duty.

Would it have been any better for Barack Obama to have said people "rely" on bigotry rather than "cling" to it? I don't think so, but apparently he does . . .

This morning's "Today" aired an extended clip from an interview Meredith Vieira recently conducted of Barack and Michelle Obama. The full interview will be shown Saturday on MSNBC. While I didn't detect any blockbuster moments, there were a few notable nuggets.

Dittoheads, you've been dissed. Chris Matthews has dismissed you as "manipulable"— mind-numbed robots, you might say. CNBC's John Harwood seconded the snub. It happened on this evening's Hardball as Matthews mused about the potential impact of Operation Chaos on the upcoming primaries.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: How much of a move do you hear, John Harwood, the so-called Operation Chaos is going to play next Tuesday in Indianapolis [sic], the effort by Rush Limbaugh, the lovable Rush Limbaugh, I must say, to encourage Republicans, registered Republicans, to go vote for Hillary just to cause chaos and perhaps get her the nomination? How big a role will that be?

JOHN HARWOOD: My suspicion, Chris, is that's a lot more talk than action. I think there aren't that many voters who can be manipulated in that way to go make trouble in a primary election. And one of the things that's striking--

MATTHEWS: But when you call yourself a "dittohead," it seems to me you've already defined yourself as someone who is, uh, let's put it this way—manipulable.