Mark Finkelstein

Mark Finkelstein's picture
Contributing Editor

Lives in Granbury, Texas. 

Twitter: @markfinkelstein

Pilot, parrots, dogs, tennis.

Latest from Mark Finkelstein

Next time you find yourself in a room with Andrea Mitchell, be careful what thoughts you permit to cross your mind.  The NBC correspondent evidently has the ability to read them.  Defending Caroline Kennedy on today's Morning Joe, Mitchell stated as a fact that Kennedy's press-evading performance in upstate New York was due to her desire not to appear presumptuous.

Continuing her advocacy, Mitchell went on to praise the very remarks Kennedy made yesterday that I found dangerously sleep-inducing. She then dismissed Charles Krauthammer's criticism of Kennedy as "an opinion piece" coming from "the right." For good measure, Andrea accused Andrew Cuomo—a rival for the Senate seat—of leaking to the press unflattering information about Kennedy's failure to have voted in many elections.

Rick Warren had a surprisingly candid response to Ann Curry's question as to whether he would change his views on homosexuality if it were established that people are born gay.  The pastor of the Saddleback Church, explaining why such a finding wouldn't cause him to change his position, observed that he is inclined to want to have sex with every beautiful woman he sees, but that that doesn't make it right.

Curry interviewed Warren for a Dateline segment that will be aired tonight on NBC.  As noteworthy as Warren's candor was Curry's ostentatious display of righteous liberal anger, captured in the screengrab, while asking Warren whether he is homophobic.

View video here.

After her underwhelming—some might say disastrous—foray into my upstate New York neck of the woods, you might have expected Caroline Kennedy to put in a peppier performance when she returned to the friendly confines of New York City.

But Kennedy's statement after her meeting with Al Sharpton today was as soporific as a fistful of Ambiens washed down with a slug of Stolichnaya.  How bad?  Enough that even Chris Matthews was left wondering on this evening's Hardball whether Caroline had displayed the requisite "starch," "gut passion" and political "bug."

View the video—but remember—put down that power drill first.

Poor schlumps out there know how to get along with next to nothing.  But these were multi-millionaires that Bernard Madoff wiped out: show some sympathy!  That was The Donald's daffy drift in speaking to Wolf Blitzer on this afternoon's Situation Room on CNN.

View video here.

DONALD TRUMP: They put 100% of their money with this character, this sleazebag.  100% and they're wiped out. And you know, it's one thing when you grow up and you don't have money or you get to a certain age and you don't: you learn to live. [But] these people have had hundreds of millions of dollars and one phone call on a Thursday night: they're wiped out, have nothing left.

If the definition of a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged, look for Mika Brzezinski to start sounding like Pat Buchanan. The big news on Morning Joe today is that Mika got mugged.  Not mugged by reality.  Mugged mugged.  The MJ co-host was outside her Washington, DC hotel early this morning, waiting for the car to take her to the studio, when a man approached and told her to give him $20 "and you won't get hurt."  Mika gave him everything she had–$6–and the man went away.

Mika didn't want the news to be mentioned, but Joe Scarborough insisted.  Brzezinski was ever the good trouper, repeatedly insisting everything was fine and suggesting the panel move on to other matters. But Scarborough was furious that the hotel, pointedly unnamed but apparently prominent, provided no security for a guest waiting right outside its doors.

What a difference an administration makes. During the Bush years, if a spokesman or the president himself attempted to dodge a tough question, the media would go into their Sam Donaldson impressions and pundits would see a conspiracy of silence.

But now that it's Obama, the dodging that was once denounced is suddenly celebrated.  Thus, appearing on today's Morning Joe, Larry O'Donnell declared "impressive" Pres.-elect Obama's stiff-arming yesterday of a reporter who dared asked Blago-related questions.

The video clip also includes a gratuitous bit of nastiness from Obama adviser David Axelrod aimed at Mika Brzezinski.

It's said that to work, humor must contain a kernel of truth. No wonder David Letterman's effort to wring humor out of the shoe-throwing incident fell so flat. The Late Show host joked that Muntadhar al-Zeidi had been offered a show on . . . Fox News.  Letterman was playing off the report that al-Zeidi is reported to be hot-tempered and possess poor journalistic skills.

How lame was Letterman? After airing the "joke" on Morning Joe today, Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist gave it a double thumbs-down.

View video here.

Rahm Emanuel, a congressman from Chicago and a friend of Obama's, told me that he, Obama, David Wilhelm, who was Blagojevich's campaign co-chair, and another Blagojevich aide were the top strategists of Blagojevich's victory. He and Obama "participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor," Emanuel said. "We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two." A spokesman for Blagojevich confirmed Emanuel's account, although David Wilhelm, who now works for Obama, said that Emanuel had overstated Obama's role. -- from Making It: How Chicago Shaped Obama, by Ryan Lizza, the New Yorker, July 21, 2008.

In one of the more incisive indictments of the MSM I've witnessed, certainly by one of its own, Joe Scarborough tore into the media this morning for its failure to have investigated Barack Obama's political roots.  In particular, the Morning Joe host ripped the MSM for not testing the truth of Ryan Lizza's reporting, above, of Rahm Emanuel's claim that he and Obama were central figures in Blago's 2002 gubernatorial campaign.  Scarborough pointed out that already this summer, when the Lizza article appeared, it was known that Blago was under a deep ethical cloud. Yet the MSM charged off to Wasilla to investigate Sarah Palin's librarian, utterly uninterested in the report of Obama's intimate link with America's most corrupt governor. John Harwood of NYT/CNBC and Mike Barnicle played the perfect foils for Scarborough's impassioned tirade, Barnicle going so far as to claim that no investigation was necessary: his "instinct" told him that Emanuel had overstated Obama's involvement with Blago's campaign.

It's times like this that make me wonder whether I inhabit a universe different from that occupied by the MSM.  This morning, discussing Pres. Bush's reaction to the flying shoe incident, I wrote:

Short of going full Ninja hero and snatching the shoes in mid-air, it's hard to see how Pres. Bush could have been any cooler in his handling of the Hush Puppy Hurler.

But on MSNBC this afternoon, host Tamron Hall claimed that in discussing the matter with the press, the president looked "unnerved" and embarrassed.  Here's a clip of Pres. Bush discussing the incident with ABC's Martha Raddatz just after it happened.  Does this look like an "unnerved" man to you?

MSNBC has banished the last bastion of objectivity from its line-up of evening hosts. The network has announced that David Shuster [file photo] will be replacing David Gregory as host of '1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.' [H/t Mike Allen's Political Playbook.] Gregory, his pending Meet The Press appointment no doubt in mind, had been on his best behavior while hosting 1600. Shuster will be under no such constraints.

The evening Eastern time line-up will now be:

  • 5 PM: Hardball with Chris Matthews
  • 6 PM: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with David Shuster
  • 7 PM: Hardball rerun
  • 8 PM: Countdown with Keith Olbermann
  • 9 PM: The Rachel Maddow Show

Short of going full Ninja hero and snatching the shoes in mid-air, it's hard to see how Pres. Bush could have been any cooler in his handling of the Hush Puppy Hurler. I figure W's feeling pretty good about things this morning.  But that didn't stop ABC and NBC from declaring the incident "embarrassing" for President Bush.  

For good measure, on Today, Doris Kearns Goodwin discounted Bush's blithe reaction, saying he wouldn't have been that cool a couple years ago, strangely intepreting his nonchalance as evidence of how anxious he is to leave office.  And not to leave CBS out of the mix, on the Early Show Richard Roth described the president as being "nonplussed" in reaction to the incident, when he was in fact just the opposite.

An environmentalist's dream might be a businessman's nightmare. But when it came to describing the the environmental team Pres.-elect Obama has assembled, it was sugar plum fairies for GMA this morning.  Rachel Martin, who came to ABC from NPR, narrated the segment.

RACHEL MARTIN:  They are calling it the "Green Dream Team." 

Which invites the obvious question: who's "they," kimosabe?  Running down the team line-up, Martin viewed things from an environmentalist perspective.

To the extent the MSM has been willing to report on the disadvantage under which the Big Three automakers operate compared to their non-union competitors, the focus has been on the huge wage differential.

On this evening's Fox News Watch, conservative columnist Jim Pinkerton highlighted another issue which has gone largely unreported in the liberal media: the onerous union work rules that add literally thousands of positions to the job rolls compared to those of the foreign transplants.

View video here.

Though there's not a ruble's worth of difference between their politics, I normally find Rachel Maddow a kinder, gentler, smarter version of Keith Olbermann.  Not tonight.  Granted, the Countdown host was on hiatus.  But even if Olby had been around, he would have been hard-pressed to outdo Maddow for sheer silliness.

The preposterous proposition Rachel propounded?  Republicans just don't want Americans to make good wages. That's how Maddow in part explained the decision of Senate Republicans to oppose the Big Three bailout.

View video here.

Which would be the safer place to be for a political figure who's received death threats?:

a. A school concert in a public venue.
b. A press conference in the company of the President-elect of the United States of America.

If you answered 'b,' you're thinking like me and presumably most people. If you answered 'a,' you're A.B. Stoddard.  The associate editor of "The Hill" offered up the strange excuse that death threats are preventing Rahm Emanuel from attending press conferences in the course of an MSNBC appearance this afternoon during which she also claimed that "President-elect Obama is taking steps to be as forthcoming and as open and as transparent as he promised he would be."   

View video here.

This whole Blago-Obama business. Really, it's just too ineffably tedious for someone of Mike Barnicle's stature. Can't we just move on? So seemed the Morning Joe panelist's attitude today.

Mika Brzezinski received Barnicle's blasé response to her question about possible interactions between Blago and Rahm Emanuel. [H/t tip reader Ray R.]

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Mike Barnicle, does it matter if there were interactions between Rahm Emanuel and Blagojevich if they were above-board, and they blew him off?

Let's hope we haven't seen the last of economist Peter Morici on CBS.  The University of Maryland business professor, appearing on the Early Show this morning, put the blame for the failure of Big Three bailout squarely on the shoulders of the UAW for its refusal to accept pay cuts putting its members on par with non-union workers at US plants owned by foreign car manufacturers.  The Early Show did manage to balance things with some Dem demagoguery from the mayor of a Michigan city.

Morici singled out UAW president Ron Gettelfinger, calling him "unrealistic" and "selfish." Comic relief was later provided by Virg Bernero, mayor of Lansing, Michigan, who seemed to confuse South Carolina with South Korea.

How about Sean Hannity as editor of the New York Times op-ed page?  Maybe O'Reilly and Cavuto in place of Dowd and Krugman as Times columnists?  It might not be as far-fetched as it sounds.  At least, not if Michael Wolff is right.  The Vanity Fair media maven, appearing on CNBC this afternoon, not only said that Rupert Murdoch wants the Gray Lady, but predicted he would get her.  [H/t Gat.]

View video here [via CNBC].

MICHAEL WOLFF: I think that everybody is looking at [the NYT] and waiting for it to kind of go over a brink, to run out of cash, which they're in the process of doing. Or to find itself in a situation where actually, and this is really the key thing, they go looking for a buyer.

A bit later, Wolff, author of a book on Murdoch, mentioned his name as a likely buyer . . .

A simple typo, or has all the bleeping news out of Chicago liberated ABC to start using some salty language its own?   Check out the screengrab from this morning's Good Morning America.

As correspondent Jim Avila came on to narrate a segment about Blago's wife Patty and the conflicts among her, her powerful Chicago pol father, and her husband, the screen graphic read, as you see, "GOVERNOR'S FAMILY FUED."  Reading the transcripts of Blago and Patty's colorful conversations, I'll say they did! But surely GMA could have found a more G-rated way of reporting that ;-)

If naiveté were a crime, Jesse Jackson Jr. could be looking at a life sentence.  Either that, or Senate candidate 5 wasn't being completely candid in his press conference this afternoon.

Jackson professed shock that Rod Blagojevich—a man who long before this week's arrest had a Katrina-sized cloud over his head—might have been conducting his Senate-seat search in accordance with anything but the most Mother Teresa-worthy standards.

Excerpts from Jackson's statement: