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.  Mark spent ten days in Iraq in November, 2006, mainly in Anbar Province. Email: mark.finkelstein@gmail.com
 

Latest from Mark Finkelstein
March 25, 2008, 8:59 AM EDT

Salesman on train: How far you going, friend?
Harold Hill: Wherever the people are as green as the money, friend. -- The Music Man, 1962
Among the many gaps in my knowledge is a broad unfamiliarity with Broadway musicals. So when Chris Matthews said that Bill Clinton would make a perfect Harold Hill in The Music Man, I scampered Googleward and discovered that the Hardball host had just called the former President of the United States . . . a con man. Appearing on today's Morning Joe, what set Matthews off was footage of Clinton slickly making the case to an Indiana crowd yesterday that Hillary is the only Dem who can win in November.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let's not get into Cloud Nine here and start thinking the way Bill Clinton wants your mind to think.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: But, but, but, but --
MATTHEWS: That was delusionary that speech, yesterday.
It was a bit later that Chris made his Music Man analogy.
MATTHEWS: Let's remake the Music Man, I think I've got a great guy to play him, Harold Hill. Let's, I'm serious, I'm dead serious. Meredith Willson's been waiting for this guy to come along for years. He'd be perfect as the Music Man.
March 25, 2008, 7:10 AM EDT

Update | 3-26: I wasn't the only one to be impressed by Brooks' column. This morning he was accorded the honor, rare for a Republican pundit, of a solo Today show apperance, and followed it up with a Morning Joe visit.

Sometimes you read something so simultaneously insightful and eloquent that you just have to share it with others. That's how I feel about David Brooks' column in today's New York Times, The Long Defeat.

Brooks begins by convincingly making the case that Hillary's chances of winning the Dem nomination have dwindled to a paltry 5%.

Yet all signs point to her soldiering on to the bitter end. As Brooks puts it: "Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects continue to dim. The door is closing. Night is coming. The end, however, is not near." By protracting the fight, Clinton would seriously harm Barack Obama's general election prospects. Brooks asks: "why does she go on like this?" and gives this, in my opinion brilliant, answer:

March 24, 2008, 8:50 PM EDT

I count Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace among the fairest and most incisive interviewers in the business, and hope his tenure at Fox News is a long one. Anyone who can relentlessly cross-exam Mitt Romney on his changed position on abortion the way Wallace did a while back, then turn around and have Bill Clinton near the point of taking a poke at him, is doing his job and playing no favorites. But should Wallace ever wish a change of venue, never fear: MSNBC apparently can find a place for him.

Wallace made some news when, appearing on this past Friday's Fox & Friends, he criticized the hosts for dwelling longer than Chris thought appropriate on Obama's comment that his grandmother was a "typical white person."

On this evening's Hardball, Chris Matthews devoted a segment to the exchange. Eugene Robinson, the affable WaPo columnist and MSNBC political analyst, suggested that refuge awaited Wallace should he need it.
March 24, 2008, 10:27 AM EDT

While Chris Matthews was waxing so rhapsodic about Barack Obama over on MSNBC this morning that he made Mika Brzezinksi ask if the Hardball host had endorsed him, Matt Lauer was doing his bit on NBC, wondering whether Hillary would be seen as having stolen the nomination if she managed to get it.

The Today co-anchor interviewed Bill Richardson, who's gotten more media mileage out of his Obama endorsement than a Prius coasting down a New Mexico mountain. Lauer's suggestion came toward the end of the segment.
MATT LAUER: Let's talk about political reality. Right now as we stand, with the delegate count, the popular vote count, the state-by-state count. Do you see any scenario under which Senator Clinton could win this nomination where it will not appear to large numbers of Democrats as if the nomination were stolen?

Richardson wouldn't bite on Lauer's controversial suggestion.

March 24, 2008, 9:13 AM EDT

Good thing Chris Matthews was down in DC and Mika Brzezinski in NYC this morning. Had they been in the same studio, it might have taken Springer-show security to pry them apart. Such was the level of bad vibes that cropped up between the MSNBC pair during Matthews' appearance on Morning Joe today.

The first incident to incite Matthews' ire was Mika's suggestion, after an impassioned Matthews plea to forget the Clintons and focus on Obama, that the Hardball host had done what it certainly sounded as if he had: endorsed the junior senator from Illinois. That drew a denial and an if-looks-could-kill glare from Matthews seen here in the screencap.

Later, Matthews got very miffed that Mika was about to end the interview of Hillary spokesman Howard Wolfson without letting Chris pose any questions.

View video here.

March 23, 2008, 2:08 PM EDT
It would be enough to make Rev. Jeremiah Wright's accusation that the government created AIDS for purposes of perpetrating a black genocide sound almost rational. OK, scratch that. Nothing will render reasonable that morsel of moonbattery. But has the Rev. Wright's replacement suggested that NPR is . . . a Republican front operation?

As per this Fox News article, the theme of today's Easter sermon at the Trinity United Church of Christ was “How to Handle a Public Lynching,” the victim in question being the Rev. Wright. The controversial pastor's successor, the Rev. Otis Moss III, lit into the national media, coming up with a string of plays on their names to express his contempt:
March 23, 2008, 12:08 PM EDT

With Eliot Spitzer gone, Chuck Schumer moves to the head of the list of smugly self-righteous New York pols. So it was particularly satisfying to see Sen. Jon Kyl [R-AZ] put Schumer is his place on This Week with George Stephanopoulos today.

A guest with Kyl for purposes of discussing the economy, Schumer clearly came in with a game plan: to analogize President Bush to the man who presided over the beginning of the Great Depression: Herbert Hoover. After Schumer tried it twice, Kyl had had enough and unleashed a riposte as devastating as it was reasoned.

March 23, 2008, 8:25 AM EDT

There's nothing into which Saturday Night Live can't work its liberal politics--even a conventional game-show sketch. NBC aired a re-run of the February 24th SNL last night, and watching it this morning I spotted what you might call a "subliminable" anti-Ann Coulter product placement.

In "What's That Bitch Talking About?" two contestants viewing a succession of women offering bare snippets of dialogue have to guess what they're talking about. The male contestant is consistently clueless. But Tina Fey's character gets it uncannily right every time, down to details that would in reality be impossible to guess. Sample: a woman murmuring "okay" into a phone is indeed getting directions to a margarita party to celebrate her graduation from DeVry, etc.

The male loser is sent packing, but not before he receives a lovely parting gift in the form of the home edition of "What's That Bitch Talking About?" Cut to a quick close-up of the package featuring four women: Whitney Houston, Queen Elizabeth, a beauty queen who's presumably Miss South Carolina of "US Americans" fame, and, most prominently featured . . . Ann Coulter. See screencap.

View video here.

March 22, 2008, 8:24 AM EDT

Next time, maybe Bill Richardson should consider text messaging. Something along these lines, perhaps:
I M not 4 U. Me & BHO: BFF. CUL8R

Of course we can only imagine how Hillary's reply would have read. But Richardson did have the moxie to make one of the world's tougher phone calls: informing Hillary Clinton that despite having been appointed by her husband to two cabinet positions, he was endorsing Barack Obama. Richardson has now let it be known that his conversation with Hillary got "a little bit heated."

Kidding aside, consider what it says about Hillary's personality that so much press attention has focused on the call. Imagine if Richardson had instead decided to endorse Clinton. Not many people would be wondering about the atmospherics of his conversation with Obama. Richardson appeared on this morning's Today, and weekend co-anchor Lester Holt wasted absolutely no time: his very first question to the NM governor was about that dreaded phone call.

March 21, 2008, 9:37 PM EDT

Somebody better break it to the New York Times: they might still be the paper of record in their own minds, but to the rest of the world they're just one more dead-tree joint struggling for attention.

The Old Grey Lady's unjustified conceit was on display during this afternoon's Hardball, when one of its columnists was aghast that Chris Matthews had had the audacity not to have read her oeuvre.

Deborah Solomon, who has a weekly column in the NYT Sunday magazine, had interviewed the Rev. John Hagee, a minister who has endorsed McCain and has made a number of controversial statements. I'd mention in passing that while Hagee's critics have accused him of anti-Semitism, he has in fact received numerous awards from Jewish groups for his steadfast support of Israel.
March 21, 2008, 9:22 AM EDT

It wasn't quite a "thrill up up my leg" moment, but Chris Matthews clearly hasn't gotten over his love affair with the candidacy of Barack Obama. It was a discussion of NM Gov. Bill Richardson's endorsement of Obama on today's Morning Joe that inspired an outpouring of emotion in which among other things Matthews acknowledged Obama "gets to me."
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I think [Richardson's] a gutsy guy, his own man, and I think it's a powerful endorsement. It certainly would have been powerful if it had gone the other way to Senator Clinton. I think it'll be a prized endorsement for Senator Obama, especially coming from a, he also comes from an interesting background. He always says, he says, you know, I've got a, what does he say? I've got an English name, I've got a Mexican mother, and I look like an Indian. I mean, he's, he's always had an interesting --

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: That's fabulous.
March 20, 2008, 9:28 AM EDT
Time editor Rick Stengel made his regular Thursday Morning Joe appearance today, revealing the magazine's cover to be published tomorrow. But while we learned that the Dalai Lama's photo will appear there, the bigger story is the "cover" Time is trying to provide for Barack Obama's Rev. Wright problem.

Here's the gist of Time's defense of Obama, a distillation of Stengel's statements and Time articles by Amy Sullivan and Joe Klein:
  • An important aspect of the problem is that white Americans are incredibly ignorant about black churches in America.
  • In fact, Rev. Wright's church isn't that radical as black churches go.
  • It was understandable for Obama to have joined Wright's church. At the time he was a 27-year old bi-racial man trying to figure out his identity as the son of an atheist father and skeptic mother and needed a church "he could learn from."
  • It's understandable that Obama didn't leave the church: it's like reading a book--you don't necessarily agree with the author.
  • Obama's speech was a "triumph," and Americans will be thinking "small" if they make the Wright thing a big issue in the campaign.

View the video here.

March 19, 2008, 2:03 PM EDT

There's a new entry next to Mika Brzezinski's name in the annals of MSM elitism. The Morning Joe panelist today lamented blue-collar whites who "can't hear" the message Barack Obama propounded. Poor benighted souls. Joe Scarborough called Mika on it.

Brzezinski's comment came in response to Scarborough's exposition of why he didn't think Obama's speech would work with many blue-collar whites.

View video here.

March 19, 2008, 8:54 AM EDT

Like so many of his colleagues, Jeff Greenfield comes to the MSM from a background in Dem politics, having served as a speechwriter for RFK. But more than most, the CBS senior political correspondent demonstrates an ability to put partisanship aside in his analyses.

Witness Greenfields's comments on this morning's Early Show regarding Barack Obama's speech on race on this morning's Early Show. The show's intro referred to the speech as "a defining cultural moment in America" and a "moving moment." Greenfield was considerably more restrained in his praise, suggesting that Obama failed by declining to disassociate himself from a "crackpot."

Co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez spoke with Greenfield and pollster Frank Luntz.

March 18, 2008, 4:56 PM EDT
Playing the moral equivalence card in his speech this morning, Barack Obama said this:
I can no more disown [Rev. Wright] than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
Which sent me scurrying to Google for the quote I was sure I remembered. And sure enough:
There is nothing more painful to me ... than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved. -- the Reverend Jesse Jackson, as quoted in US News, 3/10/96
March 18, 2008, 12:39 PM EDT

The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. -- Barack Obama, Huffington Post, March 14, 2008
The key question before Barack Obama today was the one going to his integrity: was he was telling the truth when he claimed in his HuffPo piece of March 14th that he never heard Wright make, in public or private, the remarks "that are the cause of this controversy"?

I listened carefully. Obama dodged the question.
March 18, 2008, 8:24 AM EDT

Could this photo be a first? It shows a card-carrying member of the MSM shooting a handgun. That's Jan Crawford Greenburg, an ABC News legal correspondent. The clip, pun intended, of Greenburg on the firing range was part of a segment she narrated on today's Good Morning America on a case to be argued before the Supreme Court today. At issue is the District of Columbia's law banning handguns. The case comes before the Supreme Court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. invalidated the law. The decision could be a landmark, potentially the first time the Supreme Court rules squarely on the issue of whether the Second Amendment establishes an individual right to bear arms.

The segment was surprisingly respectful of the right to bear arms. Beyond Greenburg's personal marksmanship demonstration, the segment began with a sympathetic depiction of the plight of Shelly Parker, the DC resident who started the case by suing the city over its gun ban.

View video here.

March 17, 2008, 11:31 AM EDT

The Early Show did its best this morning to help Barack Obama climb out of the hole he's dug for himself with his close association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

In a set-up segment, CBS's Dean Reynolds rhetorically asked: "the question is whether the rhetoric is so remarkable, because in African-American churches pastors often seek to rouse their congregants to self-reliance by speaking harshly about the country's troubled racial past and the need to overcome it."

Nice try, but how does accusing the US government of introducing AIDS and giving black people drugs equate to a call for self-reliance?

Reynolds concluded by stating that the Obama campaign is concerned that its candidate has been "victimized" in the same way the Trinity church claims Rev. Wright has.

Then it was on to a Russ Mitchell interview of the Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, III of Harlem's famed Abyssinian Baptist Church. The thrust of Mitchell's questions and Rev. Butts' responses was that the controversy is being blown out of proportion, that fiery rhetoric is a tradition in black churches with roots in the Bible and even in the words of Jesus. Moreover, it would be wrong to expect congregants to criticize their pastors' words.

View video here .

March 17, 2008, 7:06 AM EDT

One set of facts, two diametrically different NYT op-eds addressing it this morning. The fact: that Barack Obama is backpedaling as fast as he can away from the hateful anti-American rhetoric of Jeremiah Wright. The op-eds: Bill Kristol's, offering a dose of sobering realism about Obama's feet that if not of clay, then are certainly those of a garden-variety politician.

And then there's Roger Cohen's, the Obama fan who, in a bit of breathtaking revisionism, would explain away Barack's moonwalk on the theory the candidate has simply "grown beyond" the problematic preacher. And Cohen's just fine with that.

Compare and contrast . . .

March 16, 2008, 8:07 PM EDT
Far be it from NB to suggest any correlation between liberal political orientation and a propensity for prostitution. But in the wake of the Spitzer scandal, the New York Times has run an article profiling three call girls, and we couldn't help but look for telltale signs of their politics. There were no particular hints regarding one of the ladies. But as for the other two . . . well, let's say it's unlikely they'll be turning up anytime soon as contributing editors at NewsBusters.

Ava Xi’an is the apparently apolitical pro. She claims to have gotten into the business to pay for a heart bypass operation for her father . . . who doesn't have health insurance. Bush made her do it, you might say.

As for the other two, Sally Anderson is "an unapologetic feminist" who was "raised in a fancy New Jersey suburb with what she described as 'very progressive parents.'” Oh, and she's planning to leave the profession "to study social work in graduate school." I'd say that wraps it up.