Mark Finkelstein has a B.S. from Cornell University, an Ed.M. and a J.D., magna cum laude, from SUNY Buffalo, and an LL.M. from Harvard Law. In 2011, Mark moved to Pecan Plantation, Texas from his long-time home in Ithaca, NY where he hosted "Right Angle," an award-winning local political talk show. Mark is an aviation buff and holds an instrument rating.  He spent ten days in Iraq in November, 2006, mainly in Anbar Province. Email: mark.finkelstein@gmail.com
 

Latest from Mark Finkelstein
June 16, 2008, 1:32 PM EDT
It was all just an "error" that's since been "fine-tuned." So says Barnes & Noble [B&N] now about the way its search engine was prominently returning Barack Obama's "Audacity of Hope" in response to search requests for "God: A Biography." We wrote about the matter here last Thursday.

Today, reader Dan H. wrote to tell us about an interesting exchange of emails he had with B&N regarding the situation. According to Dan, after reading our NewsBusters article, he emailed B&N to express his displeasure, and received what to all appearances was a form letter focusing on freedom of expression, rather than the substance of the complaint.

Dan wrote back to B&N:
June 16, 2008, 10:20 AM EDT

Don't feel bad for Geraldine Ferraro. Looks like the Hillary supporter who got into hot water back in March for claiming Obama's race was an advantage has landed on her feet, scoring a gig with the English-language edition of the People's Daily, the official organ of the Chinese Communist Party.

For some reason, Geraldine apparently decided to adopt a pen name, writing as "Ding Gang." Perhaps a Chinese-language expert out there can explain the hidden meaning behind her choice of alias.

What's that? The author of Obama Phenomenon in U.S. appearing in today's People's Daily isn't Ferraro? It really is by a guy named Gang? Well, can you blame me for thinking I saw Gerry's hand at work in Gang's article? Compare and contrast the comments that put Ferraro in the MSM doghouse, provoking Olbermann into a scatching Special Comment, with Gang's take:

June 14, 2008, 9:27 PM EDT
Hillary Clinton's mention of RFK's assassination was the final nail in the coffin of her candidacy. Along similar lines, can you imagine the howls of MSM outrage if John McCain were to suggest that he might "bring a gun" to his campaign against Barack Obama? Yet Obama has made just such a statement. Expect the liberal media to . . . yawn.

Said the Dem candidate at a Philly fundraiser on Friday night, anticipating Republican attacks:
If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.
June 13, 2008, 1:12 PM EDT
Q. What's weaker than playing the "taken out of context" card?

A. Digging yourself deeper with the supposedly exculpatory explanation.

Mike Barnicle managed the Daily Double today with his mishandling of the flap over the way he described Hillary back in January. Barnicle was on Morning Joe, and discussion turned to a New York Times article, Media Charged With Sexism in Clinton Coverage, that mentioned his remarks.

View video here.

June 12, 2008, 6:30 AM EDT
NewsBusters reader Shane S. shared this experience:
I was searching for a book I read in college, "God: A Biography." I searched Barnes & Noble's website using the book's title as my search term. The book I was looking for was the first result given. The second result? "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" by the Messiah Himself, Barack Obama.
June 11, 2008, 5:58 PM EDT
My late father, who worked with the toughest kids in a Brooklyn high school, used to say that when a person's reaction is disproportionate to the stimulus, something else is causing it. So when Obama campaign co-chair Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) dramatically reserved the "hottest ring in hell" for those who would go after Michelle Obama, my antennae went up. Interviewing him, MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell also seemed a bit taken aback by the forcefulness of Durbin's response.

O'Donnell broached the subject by quoting from Maureen Dowd's NY Times column of this morning:
It’s good news for Obama that Hillary’s out of the race. But it’s also bad news. Now Republicans can turn their full attention to demonizing Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama is the new, unwilling contestant in Round Two of the sulfurous national game of “Kill the witch.”
View video here.
June 11, 2008, 12:06 PM EDT

Washington Post: GOP tool? Might sound a tad far-fetched to you. But you're not Howard Dean.

Appearing on today's Morning Joe, DNC Chairman Dean claimed a Washington Post article about Jim Johnson, whom Barack Obama has chosen to head up the vetting of potential VP picks, was "planted" by the McCain campaign. Johnson's appointment has become an embarrassment to Obama because the former CEO of Fannie Mae has been linked to the mortgage crisis. As WaPo reported:

The questions about Johnson began after the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that he received more than $2 million in home loans that might have been below average market rates from Countrywide Financial, a partner of Fannie Mae and a leading purveyor of the kind of subprime mortgages that spawned a national housing crisis.
June 11, 2008, 8:33 AM EDT

Update | 10 AM: McCain Campaign Comments to NB on Mitchell Remarks

McCain campaign deputy chairman Frank Donatelli has commented to NB on Mitchell's remarks. See report at foot.

------

IMing with a friend in England this morning, Morning Joe on in the background, I was vaguely aware that an Obama staffer was on, touting her candidate's economic plan. Signing off my chat, I focused on the tube, only to realize that the Obama staffer was in fact . . . Andrea Mitchell.

Mitchell cast the battle of the candidates' tax plans as McCain's "old-fashioned" supply-side economics versus Obama's "mainstream, centrist" plans that "do help people" while responsibly "paying for everything."

View video here.

June 10, 2008, 9:33 AM EDT

Vote Obama: it's a matter of life or death! That's essentially how Chris Matthews characterized the choice confronting voters this November. Matthews not only put voting for Obama in the category of something to be done to "save your life," he analogized voting for McCain to a decision to remain on the Titanic rather than man the lifeboats.

The Hardball host was a guest on today's Morning Joe.

View video here.

June 9, 2008, 8:04 AM EDT

Imagine a conservative commentator suggesting Hillary would rather spend time up-close-and-personal in the company of bare-chested warriors than with Bill. Cries of sexism and intrusion on privacy could be expected to echo through the media.

But don't expect the MSM to blink over Mika Brzezinski having suggested the same regarding Laura and George W.

With Joe Scarborough off today, Mika again was in the Morning Joe host chair. One of Willie Geist's light-hearted "News You Can't Use" items focused on Laura Bush's surprise trip to Afghanistan, and the display of the traditional Maori haka dance that New Zealand troops there performed for her.

View video here.

June 7, 2008, 2:28 PM EDT

Some endorsement!

Barack Obama's greatest vulnerability as a candidate is, perhaps, his lack of national security credentials—the doubt in voters' minds as to whether he is qualified to be Commander-in-Chief. So if there was one thing Hillary Clinton could have done during her speech today to bolster Barack, it would have been a clear-cut statement that, yes, she believes in his ability to be Commander-in-Chief. But the only person person Hillary spoke of today as qualified to be Commander-in-Chief was . . . herself.

View video here.

Let's recall that during the primaries, Hillary repeatedly hit Obama on the issue of his lack of C-of-C cred, going so far as to draw an invidious comparison between Obama and John McCain on the matter. Consider these statements from March, as reported by the Chicago Tribune [emphasis added]:

June 6, 2008, 10:06 PM EDT
Not to be unkind, but how can one purport to conduct a serious post mortem of Hillary Clinton's failed candidacy without mentioning what would seem an obvious—and very important—factor: her personality that to many American was less-than-appealing, in a contest pitting her against the unusually charming Barack Obama?

Yet David Gregory ignored the personality factor entirely in his "post mortem, Powerpoint edition" on this evening's Race for the White House. Instead, he identified—and invited his panel to comment on—these five factors:
  • The Iraq War Vote
  • Change vs. Experience
  • Dysfunction in the Campaign
  • Overconfidence
  • Bill
View video here.
June 6, 2008, 7:33 AM EDT
"An ambassador is an honest man sent abroad to lie for the good of his country."—attributed to Sir Henry Wotton (1568–1639), British diplomat.

If Sir Henry were around today, he might offer a corollary: a communications director is a man sent to meet with the media to fib for the good of his candidate. In the current campaign, the tactic's most transparent practitioner would seem to be Robert Gibbs, communications director for Barack Obama.

As I noted here, Gibbs recently had the chutzpah [if that's the right word for the man from Auburn, Alabama] to claim that Barack Obama's resignation from his controversial church was "a deeply personal, not a political decision." Rig-h-h-h-t.

Gibbs, the bland face of brazenness, was at it again last night, this time denying the blatantly obvious: that the campaign had tricked the press into flying to Chicago while Obama remained behind in DC to meet with Hillary.

View video here.

June 5, 2008, 11:05 PM EDT
Barack Obama, liberal? Surely you jest. Rachel Maddow found the suggestion so silly, she literally burst out laughing. The Air America host was part of this evening's panel on Race for the White House. David Gregory couldn't complete his reading of Rich Lowry's take on Obama before Maddow let loose.
DAVID GREGORY: Let's go to Smart Take #2. This is Rich Lowry from National Review Online, he's also talking [in a NY Post column] about Obama [emphasis added]:
Obama represents a rejection of triangulating Clintonism. He had no Sister Souljah moment during the primaries. Indeed, he initially embraced his Sister Souljah, in the form of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, introduced to the public in videotaped anti-American rants. Nor did Obama make any creative policy departures, like Clinton's advocacy of welfare reform in 1992. Obama is the fullest flowering of liberal orthodoxy since George McGovern. And yet his candidacy might not be electoral suicide. He has formidable gifts as a politician; he's eloquent, winsome, a quick study. He confronts a Republican Party that, beset by intellectual exhaustion, congressional scandal and an unpopular incumbent president, teeters on the verge of a Watergate-style meltdown. So Democrats contemplate the delicious prospect of having their purity and victory, too.

As Gregory speaks the words "Obama is the fullest flowering of liberal orthodoxy since George McGovern," Maddow can be heard laughing off camera. When Maddow's turn came to comment, she tried to make the case that Obama doesn't make it as a real liberal.

View video here.

June 5, 2008, 7:15 AM EDT
Hillary Clinton is an Ivy League lawyer surrounded by Ivy League lawyers. Anyone who saw her advisor Harold Ickes in action at the DNC Rules Committee over the weekend knows that these are folks who can and will parse every jot and tittle. When they write a mesage, particularly a very momentous one, it should be taken at anything but face value.

So when, as a loyal member of Hillary's email list, I received a message [full text here] from her this morning, I was eager to read between the lines. On the one hand, Clinton did say that at an event on Saturday she would "extend my congratulations to Senator Obama and my support for his candidacy."

She added: "I have said throughout the campaign that I would strongly support Senator Obama if he were the Democratic Party's nominee, and I intend to deliver on that promise."

We'll analyze those two lines, but let's begin by noting what Hillary did not say:
  • I lost.
  • I'm withdrawing from the race and asking my delegates to support Obama.
  • He won.
  • He IS the nominee [or even the presumptive nominee] of the Dem party.

June 4, 2008, 8:38 PM EDT

Chris Matthews looked at Barack and Michelle last night, and saw Jack and Jacqueline. Opening this evening's Hardball, the host was almost overcome by emotion in describing the scene of Obama's victory speech last night in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Here was Chris, discussing the matter with NBC's Andrea Mitchell, Roger Simon of Politico, and Ed Gordon of BET.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let's dwell for one moment at least on the man who won last night. I swear. I had no idea this would ever happen in America. I don't know if it will ever happen again. This is a trend, I don't know, this is an odd occurrence. But it was . . . spectacular.

. . .

Last night's magic moment for a lot of Americans. In fact, me included. I, that picture is right out of Camelot, as far as I'm concerned.

View video here.

June 4, 2008, 5:55 PM EDT

With the traditional media admitting they find it hard to curb their enthusiasm for Barack Obama, John McCain demonstrated again today that he is reaching out to the new media, giving blogging critics from the right and left the opportunity to participate in the blogger conference calls he has been regularly conducting. The Washington Times noted the phenomenon in an article of May 16, McCain widens dialogue on blogs, reporting that three of the seven questions in the May 15 conference call were posed by liberal-leaning bloggers.

Of the half-dozen or so questions McCain took in today's blogger call [in which I participated], one was from a blogger from the left. James Kirchick, a New Republic assistant editor/blogger [and National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association 2007 Journalist of the Year], quizzed McCain on his position on the proposed amendment to the California constitution limiting marriage to one man and one woman [McCain expressed support for the amendment and for the ballot initiative giving citizens the right to vote on it].

The most barbed question actually came from the right. Quin Hillyer of the Washington Examiner began by expressing "all due respect," eliciting a wry "I always like that beginning" from the senator. Hillyer went on to describe what he characterized as "one of the most frequently aired complaints from conservatives," to wit, that "when you disagree with conservatives you seem to use the anger and the language of the left, and to question not just conservative positions but motive or integrity." Hillyer asked for assurances that McCain would "avoid that tendency" if he were elected President. McCain fundamentally disagreed with the premise, stating that he treated all people with respect.

June 4, 2008, 7:24 AM EDT
If Joba Chamberlain's debut as a Yankee starter didn't go that well last night, Joe Scarborough wasted no time this morning in demonstrating that, after a stint on the DL, he still has his stuff. Within minutes of reassuming his host's role, Scarborough unleashed a high hard one in the direction of Chris Matthews's chin.

Scarborough, back from an extended leave spent with his wife who's experiencing a difficult pregnancy, reported that the medical situation seems to have stabilized. Readers will surely join in wishing Joe and his family well.

The opening segment was, naturally, devoted to a discussion of Barack Obama's clinching of the Dem nomination, and to Hillary Clinton's less-than-gracious speech in which she declined to withdraw from the race and pointedly kept her options open. Which in turn led Scarborough to suggest that, at the beginning of Obama's campaign, there were only three true believers.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: It seems to me that the Clintons have very little respect for Barack Obama. This was his night. An historic night. A night that nobody believed—but perhaps Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and Chris Matthews—this was a night that very few people believed would ever happen. It happened. And on that night, she's sticking a sharp stick in his eye, saying listen: you either make me Vice-President, or you put me on the Supreme Court if that's what I want, or you play with me, or else . . . this is going to get really ugly.
Ouch.

View video here.
June 3, 2008, 7:32 AM EDT
There's a great moment in the video clip here in which WaPo editorial writer Jonathan Capehart dithers, then palpably decides to bite the bullet and tell the truth: yeah, the media's in the tank for Obama. His admission against interest came in response to a question from Pat Buchanan on today's Morning Joe.
PAT BUCHANAN: That brings up the question of the substance of what Clinton said when he talked about the media coming down on Hillary and they're working for Obama, and all the rest of it. Obviously there's real bitterness on the part of Clinton. But is there not, as there was, and the reporters admitted it after 1960, hasn't there been sort of a melding between a lot of journalists and this enthusiastic Obama campaign?
The first African-American president, he's young and he's fresh. And all the journalists admitted later: yeah, we were for Jack Kennedy. We loved the guy. We didn't like Nixon. Isn't there some truth, in other words, behind his bitterness?

JONATHAN CAPEHART: Well, you know, Pat, I think, um, that, eh, yeah. I think there is some truth to his bitterness. Um, you know, it's hard to, let's remember: reporters are human. And reporters are covering both these campaigns. And it's hard not to get swept up, I would think, into the enthusiasm and the drama and the excitement behind one of those huge Obama rallies.
June 2, 2008, 8:38 AM EDT

OK With Losing In Iraq? Vote Dem!

Not sure that would be a winning campaign slogan for Barack Obama, but on today's Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski expressed skepticism as to whether Americans really care about winning in Iraq. Mika made her comments in the course of touting Frank Rich's NYT column of yesterday [on which I commented here].

Brzezinski was clearly eager to make her point: after reading an extended excerpt from Rich's column and inviting comment from the panel, she didn't let a bemused John Harwood of CNBC/NYT get more than a few words out before cutting him off to express her own opinion.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Anyone want to comment?

JOHN HARWOOD: Well, I don't think Americans forgot Iraq --

BRZEZINSKI: You know what? I think Americans are tired of being duped, and I think this is coming back, from the McClellan book. I mean, everyone talks about how Americans want to win, want to win. I don't know so much with Iraq.