Mark Finkelstein

Mark Finkelstein's picture
Contributing Editor

Lives in Granbury, Texas. 

Twitter: @markfinkelstein

Pilot, parrots, dogs, tennis.

Latest from Mark Finkelstein

H/t reader MB.  Fineman the Magnificent? Here's how Howard Fineman begins his MSNBC column today [emphasis added]:

No, Barack Obama was not making fun of Sarah Palin when he talked about some Republican putting “lipstick on a pig.”

He was trying to be colloquial, and John McCain’s campaign knew as much – even as it was going theatrically ballistic.

To which I have a simple question: how does Howard know?

You could see this one coming.  After Harry Smith called Sarah Palin "Geritol" for McCain, some MSM wag was sure to take things the next step. I'd say it just happened. NBC News DC bureau chief Mark Whitaker was chatting with Andrea Mitchell at 1:27 PM EDT today.

MARK WHITAKER: [People] want to see passion. They want to see that Obama, and the same thing is true of McCain, and we've seen him [show] a lot more passion since he picked Sarah Palin, it's definitely --

ANDREA MITCHELL: Someone described it as Geritol.

WHITAKER: Well, or something else. Put a little pep in his step!

We now know the official Obama talking point on Lipstick-gate. 

In the course of her Morning Joe appearance today, Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglass used the word "ridiculous" no fewer than six times to dismiss the controversy that has arisen since Obama said yesterday that you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig.

Click on the image at the right to view the edited video clip.

Douglass was an ostensibly objective reporter at the National Journal before jumping ship for Obama in the midst of this campaign season.

An Obama campaign spokeswoman opened today's Morning Joe with an aggressive defense of his lipstick line, arguing that Obama was being criticized "for saying something that John McCain has said before, that Barack Obama frequently says about 'you can dress something up.' He was talking about the Republican change argument."  

A bit later, bolstering her argument, the spokeswoman described the conference call the McCain campaign arranged to respond to Obama's line. She pointed out that all the reporters asking questions on the call were women, and that all of them asked McCain representative Jane Swift "are you serious?" in alleging that Obama was alluding to Palin. 

Concluding, the Obama spokeswoman argued that if read in context, "he's not talking about Sarah Palin." Oh, wait.  That wasn't an Obama spokeswoman. It was Andrea Mitchell, sitting in for Mika Brzezinski.  

View video here.

As everyone knows, conservatives are a distinctly disagreeable bunch. Mean-spirited knuckle-draggers, pretty much.  It's therefore a shock to come across one who's actually likeable.  At least if you're Chris Matthews.

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker, a guest on this evening's Hardball, observed that the Obama campaign hasn't quite decided how to go after Sarah Palin.  The first line of attack was on the experience issue, but "now they're saying, OK, let's define her as a right-winger. You know, we'll talk about her views on creationism and some of these other extreme views." That elicited this from the Hardball host.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: She's got a lot of--they are pretty far over. For a person that seems very likeable and mellow, she doesn't look like a political zealot.

Tom Brokaw had his Pauline Kael moment on MSNBC this morning.  Though the story might be apocryphal, the late New Yorker film critic is famously credited with saying she was shocked by Nixon's 1972 victory, since everybody she knew had voted for McGovern.

Here's Brokaw on today's "Morning Joe," discussing the importance of the upcoming debates.

TOM BROKAW: Debates should be judged on two big counts: tonal and substance. You know, are you comfortable with this person?  Look, everybody believes that on debating points, John Kerry probably beat George Bush, the 43rd, the last time around. But people liked Bush.

The liberal campaign to seek to diminish Sarah Palin by sexualizing her continues.  Yesterday, I described how Frank Rich used a number of sexualized terms in reference to Palin's relationship with McCain: "shotgun marriage," "speed-dating" and "embrace."  Chris Matthews employed a similar tactic this evening, claiming that Palin is running "somewhere between a VP and a First Lady."

During the first segment of this evening's Hardball, Matthews tried out his theory, with no particular success, on pollster Stu Rothenberg and NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd.  For the record, Matthews did stop short of telling Palin to iron McCain's shirt:

Check out this [emphasis added] excerpt from an LA Weekly report on Michelle Obama's appearance at a private fundraiser last Wednesday in the ritzy LA neighborhood of Holmby Hills.  Mrs. Obama was addressing a crowd that reporter Patrick Range McDonald described "heavily entertainment-industry." 

Obama then moved on to politics, where she first brought up her husband’s vice-presidential choice. “I think it was a really good pick—Senator Joe Biden,” she said, and later added, “People say they have amazing chemistry, and it’s true.”

Obama continued with talk about Biden when she said, “What you learn about Barack from his choice is that he’s not afraid of smart people.” The crowd softly chuckled.

Thanks to Sarah Palin, the culture war has become a civil war—on the left. Mika Brzezinski bravely opened a new front in the conflict during today's "Morning Joe," repeatedly going after two female MSMers for suggesting Palin is taking the working-mom thing too far. 

And, mirabile dictu, Mika even admitted to sensing MSM unfairness to Republicans.

"This is an argument Joe and I have about fairness and whether or not there are some sort of underlying unfairness when it comes to Republicans. And I just, you know, I feel it here,"  Brzezinski said referring to a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. Full text and commentary after the jump. View video here.

Talk about throwing Palin under the pram . . .

If any pundit should celebrate Sarah Palin, you might think it would be Judith Warner. The author of "Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety" is the Times' resident expert on the challenges women face in balancing career and family.  But think again.  Politics trumps female solidarity.  Warner's column on Palin is perhaps the most vitriolic and condescending I've read.  The Mirrored Ceiling is a few days old, but Warner's fury still rings fresh.

Excerpts [emphasis added]:

  • It turns out there was something more nauseating than the nomination of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate this past week. It was the tone of the acclaim that followed her acceptance speech.
  • Palin sounded, at times, like she was speaking a foreign language as she gave voice to the beautifully crafted words that had been prepared for her . . . But that wasn’t held against her. Thanks to the level of general esteem that greeted her ascent to the podium, it seems we’ve all got to celebrate the fact that America’s Hottest Governor (Princess of the Fur Rendezvous 1983, Miss Wasilla 1984) could speak at all.

When NewsBusters posted the screencap shown here as its Weekend Captionfest on Friday, the result was an outpouring of affectionate reader responses. Typical was this one, from "iveseenitall":

The ladies in my house instantly fell for this kid.  "Oh" and "Oooh" and "Ah". The giggles, the pointing at the t.v. Love all around that night.

The MSM lives in a different house.  Check out this candid observation by New York Times media reporter David Carr in his article in today's NYT [emphasis added]:

In the press galleries at the convention, journalists wrinkled their noses in disgust when Piper, Ms. Palin’s youngest daughter, was filmed kitty-licking her baby brother’s hair into place.

From ABC's This Week today.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: One of our viewers wrote in—you talk about service—and asked, Brenda Godfrey Bryan, Marietta, Georgia: did you ever consider joining the armed services to protect and serve our country? If not, why?

BARACK OBAMA: You know, I actually did.


BARACK OBAMA: You know, I had to sign up for Selective Service when I graduated from high school. And I was growing up in Hawaii, and I had friend whose parents were in the military, there were a lot of Army, military bases there. And I always actually thought of the military as some ennobling and honorable option.  But keep in mind: I graduated in 1979. The Vietnam War had come to an end. We weren't engaged in an active military conflict at that point. So it's not an option that I ever decided to pursue.

Frank Rich expends his 1,500-words today ripping into Sarah Palin.  Into John McCain for picking Sarah Palin. Into any members of the press who might not rip into Sarah Palin.  What's got Rich so riled up?  Cut to Frank's final line: "they just might pull it off." With props to the late Robert Palmer, Frank's got a bad case of not-loving Sarah Palin—but he's badly worried America will find her simply irresistible.

We've had fun with this kind of thing before, so let's ring up the curtain on Rich, Fisked: Act II.

Rich's headline is "Palin and McCain’s Shotgun Marriage." He later describes McCain's process of picking Palin as "speed-dating" and writes of his "embrace" of her. My, my.  Sexualizing a woman politician in order to diminish her?  Isn't that just the kind of thing that would normally be condemned by, say, a liberal columnist of the NY Times?

Vote Obama: he's half white! That's the pitch some Dem ward and union heelers are making to white voters in parts of Philadelphia. According to a story, Biden gets mixed welcome in Northeast [emphasis added]:

Mike McAleer, the veteran Democratic ward leader of the 66th ward in the far Northeast, said Obama and Biden haven't closed the deal yet.

"The Dunkin' Donut crowd tells me that we've got everything going for us but Obama," McAleer said. "They can't give me a direct answer. Do I have them right now in the 66th ward? No. But I got 60 days to get them."

Asked what the problem is with Obama, McAleer paused and said: "It's his color . . . I tell them he's half white and half black. He's got a better perspective for everything in this country."

Joe Dougherty, business manager for Ironworkers Local 401, which hosted Biden's morning event, also said race is an issue for many Democrats.

"I hear it in the neighborhood, and I hear it in the union," Dougherty said. "But I remind them (Obama's) mother was white. He sees all sides, and he could be just what we need to bring this country together."

Were those evil Republicans attempting to carpet-bomb Andrea Mitchell with balloons at the RNC last night?  Chris Matthews mused about the possibility on Hardball this afternoon.  The footage of Andrea gamely batting away the balloons has received a lot of play.  This morning, the Today show had fun with it.  But Matthews seemed to conceive a more sinister scenario:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: If you were watching last night, here was a funny moment.  I have to tell you: I love Andrea. Look at this crazy moment. For some reason: I don't know if it was foul play or what it was, a billion balloons went right into her when she was trying to do a report from the floor. She was getting absolutely buried in that post-speech balloon drop.

I wouldn't be surprised that if questioned on it Chris would claim he was kidding. But check out the video and see what you think.  He sounded pretty sincere to me.

Update | 9-6 6:50 AM EDT: Booker Rising Blogger Stands By His Statement

I informed Shay Riley of Booker Rising of the statement by Ms. Russo of MSNBC, immediately below. Here is his response [emphasis added]:

I relayed what I overheard on the shuttle bus from the convention center in St. Paul back to Minneapolis, which was packed with RNC staffers because their host hotel was the Hyatt. I stand by what I overheard the convention organizer named Phil told the convention delegate sitting next to him. I guess the bar coding on the convention credentials will reveal the source of Code Pink's credentials. 

Update | 9-5 2:56 PM EDT: Responding to my inquiry, Alana Russo of MSNBC has stated it's "completely, totally untrue" that the credentials had originated from MSNBC. In a subsequent message Ms. Russo indicated she did not know whether the credentials used by the protesters had been scanned to determine their origin.

H/t Kimberly M.

Did the Code Pink members who interrupted John McCain's speech last night use MSNBC press badges to get into the hall?  Not according to Code Pink itself, which claims the two women "obtained passes to the convention from disaffected Republicans."

There is another, much more intriguing, explanation out there.  According to Shay at Booker Rising, which describes itself a newsite for black moderates and black conservatives [emphasis added]:

I took the shuttle bus back to Minneapolis, and I overheard a convention organizer named Phil telling a convention delegate that the protesters on Wednesday night got through because of media credentials that were traced back to MSNBC (he told her that each credential has an individual bar code for each convention invitee). They suspect MSNBC this time as well.

Barack Obama famously refused to support the surge in Iraq, claiming it would "make things worse." Events have of course proved him very wrong, as Obama had to admit to Bill O'Reilly. Now that he's acknowledged the efficacy of a surge, will he call for one . . . in his own hometown?

As per this item [via Drudge] from the CBS affiliate in Chicago:

An estimated 123 people were shot and killed over the summer. That's nearly double the number of soldiers killed in Iraq over the same time period.

Hard to believe, but Meredith Vieira is apparently not a regular NewsBusters reader.  The Today co-anchor would otherwise have avoided an embarrassing lapse.  On Today this morning, Vieira claimed that it was only "blogs" that went after Sarah Palin's family matters.  That left her vulnerable to McCain senior adviser Steve Schmidt's zinger, pointing out that one of her own network's anchors had questioned Palin's ability to serve as vice-president while attending to her children' needs.

Schmidt was presumably referring to Brian Williams.  As we noted yesterday in Williams Hides Behind Pantsuits to Take 'Who's Minding Baby?' Shot, the Nightly News anchor, on MSNBC yesterday, asked former Mass. governor Jane Swift:

Move over, Rasmussen, and let Howard take over!

It's been a wild week, so how about a little comic relief?  Turns out Howard Dean does his own personal polling—among his wife's employees.  And, surprise!  They tend to agree with him. The DNC Chairman was chatting with Tom Brokaw on MSNBC this afternoon.

TOM BROKAW: What did you think of Sarah Palin last night?

HOWARD DEAN: I think the first half was terrific. I thought she really laid out who she was.  I was fascinated. The second half, she sounded like Dick Cheney, she really did. The same old attack stuff, the same old canards about Democrats that mostly weren't true.

If only Brokaw had thought to ask Dean to mention the canards that were true! In any case, a bit later Dean described how he keeps his finger on the people's pulse.

It's not shaping up to be a big Brian Williams Fan Club day for me here at NB.  Earlier, I noted how the Nightly News anchor seemed to suggest Sarah Palin was playing the race card.  Here I am again, back on the Brian beat.  Interviewing former GOP governor of Massachusetts Jane Swift at the top of MSNBC's 1 PM EDT hour, Williams hid behind unnamed feminists to make the "who's looking after baby?" charge against Sarah Palin.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Are the women who consider themselves feminists, and are perhaps working women with several children, are they wrong when they express fears or doubts that she should be able to do this, that she should be doing this?

Swift, who gave birth to twins while serving as governor, made quick work of Williams' question. FWIW, I hadn't seen Swift in action before and found her impressive

View video here.