Mark Finkelstein

Mark Finkelstein's picture
Contributing Editor


Lives in Oak Island, North Carolina

mark.finkelstein@gmail.com 

Twitter: @markfinkelstein

Pilot, parrots, dogs, tennis.

Latest from Mark Finkelstein

Mike Barnicle's a guy from the Duke Ellington era, so I suppose it makes sense if he doesn't "get around much anymore." How else to explain his nonsensical statement on today's Morning Joe? When Joe Scarborough asked him why the FBI investigation of Hillary's email is taking so long, Barnicle said "I have not spoken to anyone who believes there is an indictable offense that has occurred."

Responded Scarborough sarcastically: "you're talking to a very tightly focused crowd there," adding that people in the intel community say "anybody else would be in prison right now." The befuddled Barnicle reversed himself moments later, saying "there's a couple of people I've spoken to who, you know, think that there should be sort of a Petraeus ruling on it, at a minimum." Petraeus was indicted and convicted of a misdemeanor for his mishandling of email. So which is it, Mike? 



As far-left MSNBC hosts go--an admittedly low bar--I'll admit to having found Chris Hayes a relatively fair and decent proponent of his misguided policies. But he did two things tonight that made me lose respect for him. First, he literally laughed in the face of Rick Tyler and called him "preposterous," when Cruz advocate Tyler called Donald Trump a "northeastern liberal progressive."  This despite Trump's record of donating to . . . northeastern liberal progressives and describing himself, among other things, as "very pro-choice." Would Hayes ever be so rude to a liberal guest? 

Even worse when it comes to hypocritical double-standards, it is hard to top Hayes' skeptical suggestion about Denny Hastert's pattern of sexual abuse of boys: "good Lord Almighty do I wonder whether that just stopped when he left the high school?" Come back and reclaim your integrity, Chris, when you wonder the same about post-White House Bill Clinton. Did his abuse stop when he left "the precincts" of the White House? Orgy Island, anyone?



Joe Scarborough was careful to state for the record that he was "not voting for Hillary Clinton." But everything else he said during a segment on today's Morning Joe was one long love letter to her foreign policy and leadership skills.

Granted, Joe set the bar very low, comparing Hillary's prospective leadership to President Obama's fecklessness. Even so, it was striking to hear Scarborough proclaim "Hillary Clinton does not believe in leading from behind. Hillary Clinton does not believe that you sit back and let the events of the world shape the country. Hillary Clinton does not believe in the type of foreign policy, the don't-do-stupid-stuff foreign policy of Barack Obama." He also claimed that within a week of assuming office, Hillary would build better coaltions around the world and with congress than Obama ever did.



We're all familiar with Godwin's Law: in an argument, the first person to mention the Nazis automatically loses. We're going to have to come up with a companion concept for the Washington Post: call it the Cambodian Corollary. Wapo's editorial of yesterday, "Softening on Trump? Remember this" reflects the paper's apparent worry that people will take a second look at Trump in light of his moderated tone in recent days. We can't have any of that! With Hillary as unpopular as she is, the high negatives of her likely opponent must be preserved! 

So WaPo runs through a list of the offensive or controversial things Trump has said. And yes, he's said a variety of dubious things, including of course his "blood out of her wherever" about Megyn Kelly. But then WaPo invents this utterly bizarre, false analogy [emphasis added]: "Remember that Mr. Trump promised to round up 11 million undocumented immigrants and deport them, in what would be the largest forced population movement since Pol Pot’s genocide of the Cambodian people." 



Gag me with a steak and kidney pie . . . It's the most blatant example of the MSM glossing over an Obama controversy in favor of featuring a feel-good story that this NewsBuster can remember. Today's Good Morning America went gaga over Britain's little Prince George, with no fewer than four teases followed by a lengthy segment devoted to how much President Obama enjoyed the company of the tyke on his current visit to the UK. Lots of cute pictures and even a clip of Obama claiming "nothing was going to stop me from . . . meeting George, who was adorable." Awww.  

But incredibly, at least in the first half-hour, not a word was breathed of Obama's ugly threat to the UK, in which he told Britons they would have to go "to the back of the queue" for a trade deal should they vote to exit the European Union in a referendum set for June. Obama thus stuck his nose into the internal affairs of an ally. In the closing comments in which the crew cooed over how royal little George was, Paula Faris actually claimed to co-host Tom Llamas that the segment "really moved you." Yuck.



Will this stem the MSM's flood of deserved praise for Prince? It turns out that Touré--better known in these parts as a former spoke in MSNBC's since-cancelled Cycle--is also a Prince biographer, his book  published in 2013.

Appearing on With All Due Respect today, Touré cited two sources: Prince's former sound engineer, and a member of his band, for the proposition that Prince was a "conservative" and a "Republican." Touré embraced the notion himself, but, being a liberal, described what it means to be a conservative in pejorative terms: "I am making money, I'm successful, I want this money and this success protected .  . . When you are rich, you want status quo." 



Mike Barnicle prefaced his remarks on Obamacare by saying his understanding was "meager." He was grossly . . . overstating his knowledge. The subject in the Morning Joe segment today was UnitedHealthCare's decision to quit the Obamacare exchanges. Dr. Dave Campbell explained that UnitedHealthcare was going to lose $1 billion on Obamacare this year, and that all other insurers were also losing money.

That's when Barnicle piped up: "my understanding of it, meager as it is: so it's the profit motive that's going to drive these insurance companies out of the exchanges. They have boards of directors. They can't figure out how to retool their approach to it in order to make [money]?" Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant, Mike! Why didn't UnitedHealthcare think of that? If there's a problem with that profit-motive thingy, just have the board of directors figure out a way to turn a profit. Problem solved! 



From bathrooms to abortions, Bloomberg's John Heilemann believes that in his heart, Donald Trump is a social liberal. Heilemann made his assertion on today's With All Due Respect in the context of discussing Trump's comments on a Today town hall this morning in which he was critical of the North Carolina transgender bathroom law, and said he'd have no problem letting Caitlyn Jenner choose any bathroom.

Heilemann: "Trump is probably, I think in his gut, a social liberal. I think his position on abortion, for instance, the ["very pro-choice"] position he held for most of his life, is the real position . . . I think on this issue he's like most Manhattanites or most New Yorkers: he's basically a social liberal."



Morning Joe regulars know that Mika Brzezinski has made a virtual art form out of her facial expressions and body language. On today's show, Mika put on a particularly demonstrative display of horror while asserting what she sees as Ted Cruz's lack of appeal to women voters.

The question on the table had been Donald Trump's surprisingly strong showing among women in yesterday's New York Republican primary. The Donald scored 59% of women voters, almost equaling the 63% of men voters he garnered. Gene Robinson was stumped to explain it. When he posited Ted Cruz as the alternative to Trump, someone to whom voters would be expected to "flock," Mika broke in: "I don't think women are going to flock to Ted Cruz." Mika accompanied her comment with animated expressions, looking to the sky, taking a deep breath then sharing a horrified look with someone offstage to her right. You can catch Mika's contortions 40 seconds into the video clip. See also screencap below.



Barry Goldwater was a conservative hero and pioneer.  But his presidential run was an historic flop. So when Joe Scarborough described Ted Cruz on today's Morning Joe as "Barry Goldwater's ugly stepson," it was a scalding simile. Scarborough in turn scolded the Republican establishment for backing Cruz over John Kasich as the alternative to Donald Trump.

Scarborough's argument focused on electability. Scarborough predicted that in a general election against Hillary, Cruz would lose 40-41 states [actually a bit better than the 44 Goldwater lost]. The screencap shows Scarborough holding up a Boston Red Sox coffee cup while claiming the cup has a better chance of beating Hillary in swing states than Cruz. In contrast, Scarborough says Kasich would "blow her out."



John Heilemann: self-appointed avenging angel and scourge of lies and liars? Earlier this month, Heilemann accused Dan Senor to his face of "lying" about Paul Ryan's presidential ambitions. Heilemann was back at his accusatory beat on today's Morning Joe, this time making the affable Willie Geist, of all people, his target.

To introduce a feel-good segment congratulating Willie on his new gig, Morning Joe rolled a clip of the opening of Geist's hosting debut of NBC Sunday Today yesterday. Willie told viewers they were welcome to hang out on their couches in sweatpants, while he got dressed in his "church clothes." But Heilemann, raining on the parade, jumped ugly: "Do you think it was a good idea to start off a show with a lie like that?" Challenged, Heilemann said that he realized many people go to church "but I don't assume Willie goes to church." For the record, Willie said he had been to church last weekend, but even then Heilemann remained skeptical: "what were you doing there?"



The Coming Cruz Senate Apocalypse? That's Joe Scarborough's baleful prophesy, should the senator from Texas snatch the Republican presidential nomination.  On today's Morning Joe, Scarborough asserted that "Ted Cruz is the worst-case scenario for [GOP] Senate candidates, even worse than Donald Trump."

So bad, in fact, that Joe agreed with Mike Barnicle that Cruz as nominee = Chuck Schumer as Senate Majority Leader.  In making his case against Cruz, Joe said "there's a reason why in 2008 there was not a single Republican representing anybody in all of New England in Congress." Kind of strange tarring Ted for the absence of New England Republicans in 2008, considering that Cruz wasn't elected to the Senate . . . until 2012.



If Bernie Sanders is a subsidiary of the NRA, they really should spin him off. . . On today's MTP Daily, Hillary surrogate Hakeem Jeffries, a NYC congressman and Hillary surrogate, claimed that "Senator Bernie Sanders has effectively functioned as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Rifle association for the entirety of his career."

Really? Let's go to the scorecard. Sanders current NRA rating is a subterranean D-. Since 1992, he has racked up four Fs. His highest score was a C-. Kudos to Chuck Todd for reacting with incredulity: "can you really refer to him as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NRA? Do you really believe that the NRA thinks that Bernie Sanders is just one of their guys?" Jeffries whined that if Hillary is going to be associated with Wall Street, it's fair to pin the NRA on Sanders. Question for Congressman Jeffries: when's the last time Sanders scored $250,000 for a speech to the NRA? 



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.