Mark Finkelstein

Mark Finkelstein's picture
Contributing Editor

Lives in Granbury, Texas. 

Twitter: @markfinkelstein

Pilot, parrots, dogs, tennis.

Latest from Mark Finkelstein

Peggy Noonan made a serious point about MSNBC's slanted coverage, and I suppose seriousness compels me to mention it first.  But please do yourself a favor and stay tuned for the description of Peggy's un-PC laugh line that could be the best guilty pleasure of the campaign season. Joe Scarborough opened today's Morning Joe with an ode to the wonderfulness that was Obama last night.  He was entirely in tune with Olbermann's claim that the speech was beyond criticism.  All the adoration apparently annoyed Peggy, and she made a point of providing a counterweight when she appeared later in the show.

PEGGY NOONAN: Well, it was a bit of a "flop-a-lini" to tell you the truth.


NOONAN: There were things about it that didn't work. Six months from now we're all going to remember the event. We're going to remember the Parthenon, the 60,000 people, the confetti shot out of the cannon.  We're going to remember all that.  We will not, I think, remember what he said.  I think there was simply a number of problems with it . . . I'm actually putting a little edge on my criticism just to make up for the fact that on MSNBC last night somebody said, quote, "it wasn't a speech: it was a symphony." I'm sorry; I won't even name who did it. I am here to balance that bit of fatuous -- fatuous suck-upping!

How does Keith Olbermann view pre-Obama America?  Apparently akin to the Soviet Union, and South Africa under apartheid.  Here was his statement from the top of tonight's DNC coverage.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: It is an iconic night in history: we'll all remember this night as long as we live. This is the night that the first Western government, the first Western political power, or party, has nominated an African-American, someone of African heritage, to lead the country. It's something that took a long time to happen, almost like an old Polaroid film developing. But here it is.  It happened officially last night, and tonight it is crowned, this achievement.  And it's going to happen at a football field.

KEITH OLBERMANN: And it happens as suddenly in some respects as the Soviet Union crumbled or apartheid was beaten in South Africa.  These seemingly invincible hurdles that could never be overcome and within a short period in our historical timespan, suddenly they're gone. And almost nobody saw it coming. Certainly no one at all saw it coming more than four years ago.

View video here.


Update | 10: 30 AM:  Scarborough acknowledges Biden's 'F' rating.  At 8:36 AM EDT, Joe said that "a blog" had attacked him, noting Biden's 'F' rating from gun owners. View video here, which also contains Chuck Todd's statement that even Dems acknowledge Biden's speech "wasn't great."


Joe Scarborough and the rest of the Morning Joe crew actually had my sympathy this morning. Amidst all the infighting at MSNBC, including demands for Joe's head in Olbermann-friendly circles, one could sense that the panel was on its best behavior.  During the opening hour, a subdued David Shuster—who had openly fought with Joe just two days ago—was there, but just barely.  A conciliatory Scarborough could not have been more enthusiastic in his praise for yesterday's DNC proceedings, from Bill's speech to the historic fact of the nomination of an African-American.

But if my impulse is to cut the Morning Joe folks some slack today, I have to draw the line at the whopper Joe got off at 6:45 AM, in which he claimed that Biden's presence on the ticket will help reassure gun owners that Obama won't take their weapons.

Click on the image to the right to see what Joe had to say, then compare it with Biden's record on gun ownership.  As you'll see, the contrast couldn't be more stark.

Few Republicans have made it onto MSNBC air during the network's Dem convention coverage, but even that is apparently too much for Keith Olbermann.  As Chris Matthews was interviewing GOP consultant Mike Murphy in the interlude between Bill Clinton and Joe Biden tonight, Olbermann could be heard off-camera angrily demanding "let's wrap him up, alright?"

It was Murphy's surmise that, in the privacy of the polling booth, Bill and Hilary would pull the lever for McCain that seemed to set Olbermann off, prompting him to call for the hook.

MIKE MURPHY: I think Hillary and Bill Clinton are the happiest people in town because they came, they both crushed in good speeches, and they left.  And now they can go do what I would bet money they'll do which is quietly vote for John S. McCain. I believe that. I believe it.  I believe it.

Another chapter in the ongoing Matthews-Olbermann feud?  Yesterday, a catfight broke out between the two when Olbermann suggested Matthews had stolen an idea from two female pundits, and later made a hand gesture mocking Matthews gabbing [YouTube here, h/t Undercover Black Man].  Were the warring duo at it again this evening?

You be the judge.  Click on the image to the right to view the video..

Again co-anchoring the MSNBC desk with Olbermann tonight, Matthews was just about to throw it to Luke Russert out on the convention floor.  The son of the late Meet the Press anchor was interviewing young convention delegates.  In light of the reported desire of both Matthews and Olbermann to grab the Meet the Press anchor chair, the opportunity to interact with Luke might be seen as a valuable plum.

Matthews appeared to be reading a script from his laptop, when he suddenly stopped. Olbermann picked up the thread and threw it to young Russert.  A furious expression crossed Matthews' face and he began to shake his head and mutter, until his image was blotted out by a prominent NBC logo.

Between Maureen Dowd's column of this morning and Norah O'Donnell's questioning of an Obama spokesman this afternoon, it looks like Barack's halo is losing its glow in some MSM sectors. Obama spokesman Bill Burton was O'Donnell's guest just after 3 PM EDT, and she read to him from Dowd's column, which he jokingly professed not to have read.

NORAH O'DONNELL [reading Dowd]: "Ed Rendell compared Obama to the passive-aggressive Adlai Stevenson and told the Washington Post that Obama gives six-minute answers and "is not exactly the easiest guy in the world to identify with."

Boos from the pro-Obama crowd in Denver.

O'DONNELL: There is this sense that he is not the easiest guy to identify with: the Republicans say "celebrity." And already today I'm hearing from Republicans that Invesco Field Thursday night, he is going to be stepping out from some Greek-columned stage that we have pictures of [see screencap], and he, this god-like deity once again. How are you going to combat that criticism that the Republicans say, once again, Barack Obama, uh, is, um, trying to be god-like?

View video here.

The Barnicle clan should be grateful Mike landed the MSNBC gig.  It could have been tough making ends meet had he chosen a career in used-car sales.  I base that on some hilarious footage from today's Morning Joe, as Mike failed to persuade a Hillary fan to back Barack.  And don't miss Mike Murphy's brilliant analysis, at the end, of what was missing in Hillary's speech.

At 7:35 AM EDT, a Hillary supporter, Judy Duvall of Fort Collins, CO, was brought by the set, still sporting her Hillary button.  Under questioning from Joe Scarborough, Judy said that Hillary's speech was great but hadn't convinced her to support Obama.  A bit later, after Republican consultant Mike Murphy had offered his IMHO-brilliant analysis of Hillary's speech [see below], Judy was brought back to the set to permit Barnicle to make his case.

View video here.

Keith Olbermann has forgotten the figure-skating judge's cardinal rule: be sparing in the marks you award early contestants, to leave room for the favorites who perform at the end.  After his gushing appraisals of Michelle Obama's and Hillary's convention speeches, how can Olbermann possibly top it in his praise of Biden's and Obama's to come?

Mixing metaphors here, let's compare the baseball scoring the Morning Joe crew gave Hillary's speech at show-opening today with Olbermann's assessment of last night.  As you'll see, they range from solid single to Keith's grand slam.  As for utility infielder Mark Warner's "keynote": has he considered giving up baseball and taking up knitting?

View video here.

Update | Aug. 27 4:15 PM: Wolfson Fires Back!

Saying he's "not gonna take any lectures on how to be a good Democrat from two people who spent the last two years relentlessly attacking Bill and Hillary Clinton," Wolfson has fired back at Matthews and Olbermann.  Noel Sheppard has the story here.


Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann put their own feud aside to agree on something tonight.  Hillary honcho Howard Wolfson is a puppet, nay, a Tokyo Rose traitor, for going to work for Fox News. It was the McCain campaign's use in its ads of Hillary's anti-Obama statements that triggered the outburst.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Irony upon irony, instead of the commercials designed to destroy Hillary Clinton, [the Republicans] are using Hillary Clinton in commercials designed to destroy the Democratic nominee.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:  Those are crocodile tears. And you wonder whether an objective person, either rational or post-rational, would be able to appreciate the fact that that's clear politics--nothing wrong with it.  But Republicans have no heart in Hillary Clinton's claim to the White House.  They villainized her for years. Their commercials, their attitudes are--you go to a Republican hangout, it's all anti-Hillary. That's their point of view. To now hold her up as some victim of some sort of foul play, of unfair politics, is a joke. But the funny thing about it is, they're enjoying it.  Fox News, for example, seems to enjoy it.  It's no accident, for example, that they hired Howard Wolfson.  They use him as some sort of, oh, little toy soldier waiting on the shelf.

OLBERMANN: Tokyo Rose was the thought that came to my mind.

View video here.

To these ears, it sounded like a sophomoric line by, well, a sophomore seeking to impress classmates and perhaps his fuzzy-headed teacher.  But MSNBC has proclaimed Mario Cuomo's call for a nuclear freeze because "peace is better than war and life is better than death" one of the greatest convention-speech lines ever.

In the run-up to this evening's keynote address by former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and Hillary's much-anticipated speech, Hardball did a segment on some of the best Dem convention speeches of the past.  Now, love it or hate it, it's hard to deny that the late Ann Richards' "born with a silver foot in his mouth" about George 41 was a pretty good zinger.  And even Barack Obama's "there is not a liberal America and a conservative America.  There is the United States of America" wasn't bad either. No beef with those being included.  But try out the excerpt from Maria Cuomo's 1984 speech that MSNBC selected as one of the "best of the best."

View video here.

Tensions are running high at MSNBC, at least surrounding veteran host Joe Scarborough who seems to be increasingly discontented at his network's decision to market itself as the cable net of choice for Bush haters. That hasn't sat well with the likes of the far left Keith Olbermann who has played a large role in getting MSNBC to pursue this strategy

The Democratic convention seems to have only exacerbated those tensions. Last night saw Olbermann caught on an open mic blurting out profane disgust at Scarborough, prompting the latter to verbally call him out while fellow MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews sat back mortified at the intra-family dispute.

Things don't appear to have been smoothed over either as Scarborough was involved in another altercation this morning with liberal correspondent David Shuster on today's "Morning Joe." Scarborough ultimately accused Shuster and his MSNBC colleagues of being Democrats, their independent political registrations notwithstanding. (Exchange happens at 2:15 in video to the right.)

If the aphorism de mortuis nil nisi bonum instructs us to speak only good of people who have passed away, perhaps there is a corrollary applicable to those dealing with a dread disease. While I am thus somewhat reluctant to do so, I cannot let pass without comment Mike Barnicle's words about Ted Kennedy on today's Morning Joe.

MIKE BARNICLE: Last night when he came out, it was clearly a bittersweet experience. There was a tinge of sadness to it, to be frank about it. He's an enormously courageous man . . . You know, I've encountered very few people of my life, Joe, who are more extraordinarily attuned to others who are in pain. Whether it's physical pain, whether it's something caused by an illness.  Whether it's an accident of fate, whether it's something that has befallen them, some tragedy of any sort.  He is uniquely equipped to reach out to people who are hurt and damaged.

View video here.

Beginning?  Borderline?

How unbalanced was MSNBC's tag team tonight?  When Keith Olbermann felt himself getting verklempt over Michelle Obama's speech, he threw it, for some fair-n-balanced commentary, to . . . Chris Matthews. At the conclusion of Mrs. Obama's appearance, Olbermann almost seemed ready to call the election off and just hand the presidency to Obama by acclamation.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Ye-a-h-h-h.  Case closed.

Matthews responded with a very guttural "uh-h-h-h."

OLBERMANN: That could not have done better for them. That could not have done better for them. Right to the point of the little girls taking the mikes away and suddenly turning out to be hams. It's wonderful.  It really was terrific. And notice, did you notice throughout that, especially as it built towards its conclusion, the woman in that convention hall--the ones we saw at least--we can't say every one--but there were tears throughout among the women.  And it was not a maudlin speech, it was not a salesmanship speech.  There was just a -- I know, I'm beginning to sound borderline sycophantic on this. So I'll stop.  You start.

View video here.

You know the old software programmer's excuse: "that's not a bug.  That's a feature!"  John Harwood of CNBC/NYT has produced a political variation on the theme to buff up Joe Biden.  Biden's gaffes, including the racially-insensitive ones, are actually . . . "a strength."

Harwood was chatting with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on a special Morning Joe edition today, and the topic of Biden's famous "clean and articulate" comment about Obama arose.  Biden also made headlines of course with his crack about 7-11s being populated by people with Indian accents.

JOHN HARWOOD: He is not somebody who is infused with political correctness, the verbal equivalent of putting his pinky up when he opens his mouth. So this is what, the way ordinary voters are as well. They're not always worried about sort of calibrating every single word by "ooh, is this racially insensitive?"  That's something that Joe Biden brings as an asset to the ticket.  The gaffes actually show one of his strengths.

View video here.

That didn't take long.  Exactly five minutes before Obama's official text message went out this morning, Howard Fineman had an article up at Newsweek praising the process by which Obama picked his running mate.  He even turned lemons into lemonade, claiming Hillary really didn't want to be considered and that Obama "did her a favor" by not doing so. R-i-g-h-h-t.

First, the praise:

The minute-by-minute story of how Obama handled the selection is interesting, and revealing of the way the Democratic nominee works. He insisted on the utmost secrecy; he paid the losers the courtesy of essentially telling them "no" to their faces--not an easy thing to do. And he swallowed his considerable pride and all but confessed his lack of knowledge of foreign affairs by selecting as his running mate the Senate's senior Democratic leader on that topic.

But then came the challenge for Fineman: finessing Obama's brush-off of Hillary—in which it was reported that he had never paid her the courtesy of considering her—into a plus. The Newsweek correspondent managed to square the circle [emphasis added]:

Even by MSM standards, Harry Smith's "interview" of Barack Obama was a disgrace.  How soft were Smith's lobs?  Had this been a slow-pitch league, Harry might still have been booted for insufficient MPH. CBS aired Smith's chat with the Dem candidate, conducted yesterday, on this morning's Early Show.  After a clip of McCain saying he questioned Obama's judgment, not his patriotism, Smith teed it up for his guest.

HARRY SMITH: Many of the attacks that have come from John McCain's campaign have been, quite frankly, condescending.  Were you surprised by that?  Does it anger you?

Tough stuff! Smith didn't explain what is condescending about a candidate questioning his opponent's judgment, and gave no other example of the alleged phenomenon.  Answering the "question," Obama allowed that it's "a little disappointing."

View video here.

The schmooze-in segued into the flap over the number of properties the McCains own . . .

Barack Obama is planning to announce his VP pick via text message to his supporters.  So in the spirit of the times, let's text message something to Sen. Obama:

Brck: b fraid. b vry fraid. hlry stl h8s u.

That's what we glean from Hillary's startling statement in Florida today.  Chris Matthews aired it at the top of tonight's Hardball:

HILLARY CLINTON: I am doing everything I can to campaign for Senator Obama. I think it's fair to say that I have done more, as Senator Rich said, in a relatively short period of time, on behalf of my opponent, than probably anyone else has.

So not only is she bragging on her own accomplishments.  Hillary's still calling Obama . . . "my opponent." The point was not lost on Matthews. 

View video here.

Is it "wishful thinking" for Republicans to imagine that Obama will take Hillary as his running mate?  CNN's Ed Henry thinks so.  He made the comment to anchor Heidi Collins in a report on the veepstakes during CNN's 9 AM EDT hour today.

HEIDI COLLINS: Another name keeps bubbling up: Hillary Clinton.  Ed Henry is on the VP watch yet again today. Alright, so what do you think today, Ed?  Because I know yesterday it might have been different.

ED HENRY: Well it's interesting. You mentioned Hillary Clinton.  This name has been surfacing over the last 24 hours. Some Democrats, but frankly I've also heard it from some Republicans. Because they, strategists in both parties, are saying wait a second. We thought Barack Obama was going to roll this out a couple of days ago, maybe a little sooner.  Now it seems to be getting closer to the convention. Is it a surprise?  Is it someone with a lot of name ID?  Someone he doesn't need to spend a lot of time rolling out and introducing to the American people.  Frankly I think some Republicans are spreading this because it's some wishful thinking on their part.  Because they know she's also a lightning rod.  She did get 18 million votes in the primaries. She brings some real strengths to the table, but she also could really rally conservatives if she was on the ticket and could give conservatives sort of a spark to turn out for John McCain.  So there might be some wishful thinking there.  We have gotten no new reporting suggesting she's vaulted to the top of the short list.

View video here.

My two cents say most Republicans want no part of Hillary on the ticket:

Were the apparatchiks of CNN asleep at the PC wheel? Not only did the network air a balanced segment on medical care for an illegal immigrant. It surprisingly let slip by the reporter's line contrasting the illegal's use of the American legal system now with his disregard for it when he snuck into the country!

Aired at 6:22 a.m. EDT today, the segment focused on the case of Francisco Pantaleon, an illegal Mexican immigrant who fell into a coma in July and who has since been receiving extensive care from a Chicago hospital--all at the hospital's expense. Now that his condition has been stabilized, the hospital wants to discharge him to an extended-care facility, in Mexico, and has offered to pay for an air ambulance to transport him there. But his family is protesting the move, and has enlisted a lawyer who also serves as general counsel to the Mexican consulate in Chicago.

Introducing the segment, anchor John Roberts referred to Pantaleon as an "illegal immigrant," not an "undocumented worker." Picking up the story, reporter Bill Tucker actually called Pantaleon an "illegal alien." I could hardly believe my ears, but replayed the video a few times to confirm it.

View video here.

Then came this shocker.

H/t FReeper hotshu.

Billed as a roundtable, it played more like a group therapy session for distraught Dems on the verge.  Obama's polls dropping. An inchoate sense this might all be slipping away.  Chris Matthews and his guests for the show-ending "Politics Fix" on this evening's Hardball were united in bemoaning Barack's plight. The host himself was the ultimate downer, analogizing Obama's campaign to that of . . . Michael Dukakis.

Matthews fellow sufferers were Jeff Johnson, host of The Truth on BET, and editor Joan Walsh.

View video here.

Excerpts from the sigh-in: