Mark Finkelstein

Mark Finkelstein's picture
Contributing Editor

Lives in Granbury, Texas. 

Twitter: @markfinkelstein

Pilot, parrots, dogs, tennis.

Latest from Mark Finkelstein

What does it say about Sarah Palin that some of my favorite targets, um, subjects raved about her this morning?  Andrea Mitchell and Mika Brzezinski could hardly have been more complimentary, Tom Brokaw and Jay Carney chipping in with positive comments.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Here was a novice on the national scene, with the lowest of expectations. People said sure, she'll be able to perform. But it was an amazing, amazing speech in terms of the way it connected to people.  I talked to people afterwards on the floor, a lot of women. One woman from California who said it didn't matter that she, this woman delegate, is pro-choice. She said "I'm a mom. I've got three kids at home.  And I see myself up there." And she's connecting to her.  She said "I did not think this was a good choice until I heard that speech." Now this is admittedly a select audience of very passionate and very conservative Republican delegates. But I think there is a broader audience for this out there. I think it was an extraordinary debut.

When NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd passed along comments from Dem strategists suggesting the speech might have been "a little too hot" for swing voters, Andrea and Mika actually rode to Palin's defense.

View video here.

Subtract the subdued demeanor and the good tailoring, and how much difference is there between Brian Williams and Keith Olbermann?  Take Williams' post-Palin speech analysis.  Was the Nightly News anchor suggesting Palin's appeal is rooted in racism? He certainly made a clarion call to his fellow MSMers to keep up the good fight against her. Ann Curry interviewed a woman delegate who described Palin as "the American woman  . . . who's had all the experiences that we have."

When it came Williams' turn to comment, he twisted the delegate's words into an invidious comparison between Palin and Barack Obama.  Williams seemed perhaps to be suggesting Palin was appealing to racism.

View video here.

Be grateful for small things.  Ann Curry didn't call Bristol Palin's baby "illegitimate" or a "bastard."  She settled for "out-of-wedlock."  Now in fairness, NBC's Curry was in theory listing things for which people might feel sympathy for Sarah Palin, including her own Down syndrome child.

But in doing so, speaking with Keith Olbermann during MSNBC's RNC coverage this evening, Curry said the following.

ANN CURRY: She has a child who is having a child out of wedlock.

View video here.

Post-Palin Speech Update: How's that poll going now, Bill?

Imagine it's a few days before the Dem convention. In a big—BIG—surprise, Barack Obama names Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy his vice-presidential running mate. You're a partisan Republican.  Do you?:

  • a. demand that Obama drop Kennedy from the ticket; or
  • b. sit back and enjoy the, uh, ride. 

I'm guessing the great majority of red-blooded Republicans would answer 'b.'  Why wouldn't you want a weak link on the opposing ticket?  So what kind of scare has Sarah Palin has put into the MSM that various of its members, like Jack Cafferty, are floating the notion that McCain should consider dropping Palin?  Do they sense she could be a real game-changer?

View video here.

Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann began to poignantly patch things up two nights ago.  But there's clearly still mucho trabajo to be done to heal the rift between Joe Scarborough and the temperamental Countdown host.  Readers will recall that during the Dem convention, Olbermann was caught [accidentally on purpose?] on an open mic suggesting Scarborough "get a shovel" for his failure to toe a sufficiently pro-Obama line.  

On today's Morning Joe, Scarborough took a thinly-veiled shot at Olbermann for the way he tried to keep Republican analyst Mike Murphy off the air, and then tried to pull the plug ["let's wrap him up, alright?"] when Murphy eventually made it into an interview with Chris Matthews.

Pat Buchanan was the sole voice on today's opening-hour panel to opine that Fred Thompson had done a good job with his speech last night.  In contrast, Scarborough suggested Thompson had been flat. Pat expressed his feelings of alienation as the show was going to a break. It was then that Joe and Mika let Buchanan know that—in contrast with other MSNBC venues—dissident voices were welcome on Morning Joe.

Reviewing speeches at the Dem convention, Keith Olbermann was like a mother describing her child's performance in a middle-school musical.  "A grand slam across the street," enthused Olbermann over Hillary's effort, only to outdo himself by calling Obama's speech's "spellbinding" and "extraordinary."

But when it came to reviewing Fred Thompson's speech tonight at the GOP convention, Olbermann suddenly morphed into Frank Rich with a migraine back in his theater critic days.

Sniffed Olbermann: "We have heard two speeches in the last forty minutes or so, Chris, first from President Bush and now from former Senator Fred Thompson. I think it's fair to say, nearly entirely militaristic in nature and touching to some degree on who John McCain is and what he would do, but mostly standing him next to a flag and a gun."

View video here.

If a hypothetical tabloid owned by, say, Richard Mellon Scaife, had a cover story with scurrilous accusations about Joe Biden, do you think Chris Matthews would be waving it about on camera and Keith Olbermann citing it?  Neither do I. But if for some reason they did, would they possibly fail to mention the mag's ownership?

But Matthews saw fit—not once but twice—to display the cover of Us magazine, with its story "Babies, Lies and Scandals" about Sarah Palin. Olbermann alluded to it as well. And who is the owner of Us?  Jann Wenner,  the founder of Rolling Stone . . . and a big-time donor to Barack Obama. How big a donor?  You can view his list of contributions here, with an image after the jump.

Now it's true that Matthews discounted the "lies" allegation.  But why give currency to dubious accusations—by a magazine whose stock-in-trade is celebrity gossip—by displaying them repeatedly on a national news show?  There was no suggestion that Us, unlike the National Enquirer in John Edwards' case, had done any significant independent reporting. This is apparently scandal-mongering, pure and simple. And of course, neither Matthews nor Olbermann mentioned the Wenner connection.

View edited video here.

Is there nothing—nothing?—that the MSM won't try to spin against Sarah Palin?  They've turned the matter of her Down syndrome son into a suggestion she will neglect her child.  Twisted the news of her daughter's pregnancy into a "damaging revelation" that will cause her image to "suffer." Now, in perhaps the most acrobatic stunt yet, Andrea Mitchell has suggested that the intensity of Palin's popularity . . . could be a bad thing.

Mitchell's theme-o'-the-day, as announced at the top of her 1 PM MSNBC hour, was that there was something flawed in the process by which Palin was vetted.  She repeatedly hammered at the issue with her guest, Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota.  Of course, suggesting that the vetting of Palin was inadequate is to imply that she was a poor pick.  Voters will ultimately be the judge of that, but the initial evidence—as gauged by that outpouring of GOP enthusiasm [and dollars]—and by the very virulence of the MSM/Dem counterattack, suggests Sarah will prove to be a big plus for the ticket. It was when Mitchell wondered what would have happened if McCain had "gone with his heart" and picked Joe Lieberman that the matter of the intensity of Palin's popularity arose.

Imagine the outrage in feminist circles if a conservative columnist had mockingly analogized a sitting Dem governor to an animal.  But Richard Cohen has said as much of Sarah Palin.  And I predict you won't hear a peep from the Kim Gandys or Naomi Wolffs of the world—much less from their allies in the MSM.

Cohen begins his WaPo column of today by dismissing Palin as "a sitcom of a vice presidential choice and a disaster movie if she moves up to the presidency."  After noting Newt's defense of her nomination, Cohen continues [emphasis added]:

It's a pity Gingrich was not around when the Roman Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known by his nickname Caligula, reputedly named Incitatus as a consul and a priest. Incitatus was his horse.

No, not Chris Matthews to Keith Olbermann.  That media odd couple have already begun to kiss and make up. Instead, it was Joe Scarborough who authored the line this morning, directing it at Obama spokesman Mark Bubriski.  The cause of Joe's ire was this email statement Bubriski released to the Miami Herald [emphasis added]:

Palin was a supporter of Pat Buchanan, a right-winger or as many Jews call him: a Nazi sympathizer.

The Morning Joe crew was unanimous in roundly condemning the Obama campaign tactic, rallying around Buchanan, one of its own, who was present on the set.  Bubriski was riffing off a similar allegation made by Bob Wexler, a south Florida Dem congressman.  

View video here.  It's perhaps the longest video clip I've posted, but hope you'll agree the content justifies the length. Joe unleashes on Bubriski [calling him a "jackass" for good measure] three minutes in.

It's a love-in, man!

Looks like the grown-ups at NBC/MSNBC have taken the kids aside and told them to kiss and make up.  After the embarrassing "tension convention" [to quote Imus] at the DNC amongst Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough, we've already seen the Countdown host plucked out of the GOP convention, under the convenient excuse that he would be anchoring—back in NYC and safely removed from St. Paul—the coverage of Hurricane Gustav.

When Olbermann and Matthews appeared on split-screen during the 7 PM EDT hour this evening, they were clearly on their best behavior. The dueling duo traded kind words, culminating in Olbermann's credulity-cracking claim to "miss" his erstwhile antagonist.  Chris got things off to a conciliatory start.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Joining us now from the site of the convention, Chris Matthews from St. Paul. Chris, good evening.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Good evening, partner.

View the video, here.  Was that an amiable grin on Chris' lips, or the sardonic smile of someone who's been taken to the woodshed?

Bristol Palin's pregnancy is a "damaging revelation " that has caused Sarah Palin's image to "suffer." Says who? Says ABC News, in an article by Rick Klein and Jennifer Parker.

In Palin Pregnancy Rocks Political World, Klein and Parker report reaction from a variety of Republican and traditional-values sources.  Every one, from Dr. James Dobson to Grover Norquist to Chuck Donovan of the Family Research Council to a pro-life delegate to the GOP convention who said "the fact that her daughter's keeping it and marrying the father is wonderful," had a positive reaction.

But what do they know?  Declare Klein and Parker [emphasis added]:

Palin's image may suffer further if more damaging revelations come out in the coming days and weeks.

Given Hurricane Gustav, the GOP convention—and the MSM's inherent inclination to underreport good news from Iraq—a major story is not getting the attention it deserves.  Here's how President Bush described the development [the photo shows U.S. Marine Maj. Gen John Kelly and Anbar Governor Maamoun Sami Rashid signing the handover papers.  (AP Photo/Wathiq Khuzaie, Pool)]:

Today in Iraq, responsibility for security in Anbar Province was transferred to Iraqi civilian authorities. Iraqi forces will now take the lead in security operations in Anbar, with American troops moving into an overwatch role. Not long ago, Anbar was one of the most dangerous provinces in Iraq. Al Qaeda was in control of almost every major population center, and its leaders intended to turn Anbar province into a safe haven from which to plan and launch further attacks against Iraqis and others in the region, as well as here at home.

Today, Anbar is no longer lost to al Qaeda - it is al Qaeda that lost Anbar. Iraqis - like countless other Muslims across the world - witnessed al Qaeda's brutality first-hand and rejected it. As a result, Anbar has been transformed and reclaimed by the Iraqi people. This achievement is a credit to the courage of our troops, the Iraqi Security Forces, and the brave tribes and other civilians from Anbar who worked alongside them.

On this red-letter day, will the MSM take a walk down memory lane and cite the various members of the media and the body politic who declared the surge a failure and Anbar lost?  Being the obliging souls we are, here's a handy compendium of citations, starting with one from the vice-presidential candidate so acclaimed for his foreign-policy expertise.

The MSNBC promo bills the network as "the place for politics."   Looks like it's the place for rib-ticklin' comedy, too.  Check out Keith Olbermann's side-splitter from the ad:

KEITH OLBERMANN: This is one of those turning-point-in-history American elections.  We as citizens must at some point ignore partisanship.  Not that we may prosper as a nation, not that we may achieve, not that we may lead the world, but that merely, we may function.

VOICEOVER: MSNBC: The place for politics.

View video here.

Mercantilism [emphasis added]: An economic doctrine that flourished in Europe from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Mercantilists held that a nation's wealth consisted primarily in the amount of gold and silver in its treasury. Accordingly, mercantilist governments imposed extensive restrictions on their economies to ensure a surplus of exports over imports. In the eighteenth century, mercantilism was challenged by the doctrine of laissez-faire.

When Barack Obama talks—and talks—about the future, does he really mean "back to the future"?  You have to wonder after reading the column by one of his economic advisors in today's LA Times.  In  Renewing America's 'contract with the middle class, Leo Hindery Jr. explicitly calls for a return to mercantilism, the discredited theory of economics popular during the 17th and 18th centuries.  Hindery [emphasis added]:

It is imperative -- way past time, in fact -- for America to be as mercantilist as are our trading partners.

Are PUMAs racist?  Colbert I. King seems to think so.  In his WaPo column of today, A Suicidal Choice for Clinton Supporters, King delivers a laundry list of reasons why, in his opinion, it makes no sense for Hillary fans to support McCain.  Since he brooks no rational justification for good Dems to desert Obama, by process of elimination, King apparently sees racism as the explanation.

Here's King's punch line [emphasis added]:

So what's drawing Hillary Clinton's die-hard fans to John McCain? Is the attraction only skin-deep?

In an election pitting McCain against the first major-party African-American presidential candidate in history,

It was more like 10 AM than 3 AM. Somewhere, a phone was ringing, to announce the news that John McCain had selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. And the immediate response of Barack Obama's operation was intemperate and inappropriate. Obama found himself apologizing, calling the reaction "hair trigger." He and Biden subsequently made the more gracious kind of comment that should have been offered in the first place. Senators get to "revise and extend" their remarks when they've said something dumb on the floor. That's not always the case for presidents. A "hair trigger" reaction to a real crisis could have disastrous consequences.

Said Obama spokesman Bill Burton snidely when the news broke:

Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency. Governor Palin shares John McCain's commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush's failed economic policies -- that's not the change we need, it's just more of the same

Compare and contrast with the gracious, statesmanlike ad McCain aired on the day of Obama's acceptance speech. Obama eventually realized that his campaign's intemperate reaction was out of line. According to the AP, Obama "blamed the mixed messages about McCain's choice, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, on campaign aides with a "hair trigger."

You might have thought Bill Weir would have learned.  Yesterday, CNN's John Roberts was roundly condemned for suggesting Sarah Palin might neglect her Down Syndrome baby while running for VP.  But Weir, the weekend co-anchor of Good Morning America, posed a very similar question this morning. Coke Roberts, to her credit, called him out on it. Weir's guest during GMA's opening half-hour was McCain political director Mike Duhaime.

BILL WEIR: I must ask.  Adding to the brutality of a national campaign, the Palin family also has an infant with special needs. What leads you, the senator and the governor to believe that one won't affect the other in the next couple of months?

MIKE DUHAIME: In terms of her personal life?  You know, to the extent people want to look at her, she's got an incredible life story: five children, the son going into the military, she's got a  --

Weir brusquely interrupted, virtually shouting.

WEIR: She has an, she has an infant with special needs. Will that affect her campaigning?

Click on image to view video, or wmv here.

Of all the criticisms an apparently panicky Dem party has heaped on Sarah Palin in the hours since her selection was announced, Keith Boykin [bio] has come up with perhaps the unseemliest.  The former aide to President Clinton has accused Palin of being an "affirmative action" pick.

Boykin, a graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard Law, was debating the selection with Republican Joe Watkins at the end of MSNBC's 4 PM EDT hour. After some preliminary jousting, Boykin dropped his bomb.

KEITH BOYKIN Let me just say something about this choice.  The reason why she doesn't help, quite frankly, is because it's an insult.  It's an insult to women. I spoke to several women today at the Democratic National Convention who said it's insulting John McCain would pick somebody—an affirmative-action candidate basically—who is not qualified.

What kind of impact has the Palin pick had on MSM coverage? We've gone from wall-to-wall adoration of last night's speech, to—literally within hours—Andrea Mitchell having to remind viewers of some guy named Barack Obama.  Mitchell was kibitzing the choice of Palin with Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson and Time editor Rick Stengel. Not merely did the liberal [see here and here] Stengel praise Palin, he even compared her favorably with . . . Hillary Clinton. And Mitchell closed the segment by acknowledging that Obama had been "overshadowed."

RICK STENGEL: She has a very, very appealing story, and one of the things that is very winning about it is that it's like the Founders' view of democracy. I mean, she is a citizen legislator. She started as a hockey mom, as someone who was going to PTA meetings. It's a very compelling story.  It's very unlike, by the way, Senator Clinton's story, who was married to a President of the United States. She's married to a commercial fisherman.

ANDREA MITCHELL: And all this breaking news about the Republican ticket.  Barack Obama—remember Barack Obama?—after his successful kick-off and his acceptance speech last night, he's now kicking off his general election campaign. Obama and his running mate Joe Biden, now about to land in Pittsburgh, where they will launch their bus tour, their bus tour of the Midwest. Pennsylvania only the first stop on the Democrats' "Road to Change" of battleground states, I should say. They're going to be in Ohio and Michigan over the weekend. Sunday in Michigan, then Detroit, also Michigan, on Monday.  All of this of course now, overshadowed by John McCain's surprise pick of Alaska's first female governor, Sarah Palin, as his female running mate. Republicans are matching the Democrats' history-making ticket with one of their own.

View video here.