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
May 1, 2008, 7:16 PM EDT

How did the CBS Evening News explain away the much-smaller size of pro-immigration rallies around the country today? Fear and intimidation on the part of prospective participants. But fear of what? Physical threats or illegal reprisals? No. Of simple enforcement of US law. CBS singled out for praise one marcher who wouldn't be "intimidated."

CBS correspondent Sandra Hughes narrated the segment, which included these morsels.

View video here.

May 1, 2008, 3:14 PM EDT

It's turning out to be a red-letter day for Hoosiers. This morning, Joe Scarborough tricked Mika Brzezinski into agreeing that the famous coach of the Indiana basketball team was Bear Bryant, of all people, rather than Bobby Knight. This afternoon on MSNBC, when Howard Wolfson questioned the Hoosier bona fides of a superdelegate who today announced he was switching from Clinton to Obama, Andrea Mitchell turned the Clinton aide's gambit back on Hillary with a vengeance.

Superdelegate Joe Andrew, who in the 90s was elevated to DNC chairman with the backing of Bill Clinton, and who had earlier endorsed Hillary, today announced that he was switching his support to Obama. The timing is critical since it comes just days before the Indiana primary, and Andrew hails from the Hoosier state.

Mitchell, hosting her regular 1 PM ET politics show on MSNBC, mentioned that fact to Wolfson. When Wolfson tried to undercut Andrew's Indiana affiliation, Mitchell riposted in spades, citing the multiple states to which Hillary has claimed connection. Andrew later appeared himself, setting the record straight.

View video here.

May 1, 2008, 12:26 PM EDT

Aren't southern gentlemen supposedly chivalrous? Yet Joe Scarborough, son of the Florida Panhandle, today exploited Mika Brzezinski's less-than-encyclopedic knowledge of sports to lure his Morning Joe colleague into agreeing that the famous former coach of the Indiana University basketball team was none other than . . . Bear Bryant.

The jumping-off point was Joe's wearing of a red sweater today, which as a running gag he claimed was in solidarity with the workers of the world on this, May Day. But when Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, a Hillary supporter, came on toward the end of the show, Scarborough pressed the sweater into double duty.

May 1, 2008, 8:26 AM EDT

Would it have been any better for Barack Obama to have said people "rely" on bigotry rather than "cling" to it? I don't think so, but apparently he does . . .

This morning's "Today" aired an extended clip from an interview Meredith Vieira recently conducted of Barack and Michelle Obama. The full interview will be shown Saturday on MSNBC. While I didn't detect any blockbuster moments, there were a few notable nuggets.

April 30, 2008, 5:53 PM EDT

Dittoheads, you've been dissed. Chris Matthews has dismissed you as "manipulable"— mind-numbed robots, you might say. CNBC's John Harwood seconded the snub. It happened on this evening's Hardball as Matthews mused about the potential impact of Operation Chaos on the upcoming primaries.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: How much of a move do you hear, John Harwood, the so-called Operation Chaos is going to play next Tuesday in Indianapolis [sic], the effort by Rush Limbaugh, the lovable Rush Limbaugh, I must say, to encourage Republicans, registered Republicans, to go vote for Hillary just to cause chaos and perhaps get her the nomination? How big a role will that be?

JOHN HARWOOD: My suspicion, Chris, is that's a lot more talk than action. I think there aren't that many voters who can be manipulated in that way to go make trouble in a primary election. And one of the things that's striking--

MATTHEWS: But when you call yourself a "dittohead," it seems to me you've already defined yourself as someone who is, uh, let's put it this way—manipulable.
April 30, 2008, 1:08 PM EDT
Q. Is there any level to which Helen Thomas won't stoop?
A. Apparently not.
That's my conclusion, based on Thomas's exchange during today's press gaggle with White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. Here is the front page of today's Washington Post to which Thomas refers [warning: graphic image]. A slide-show from WaPo's web edition contains another photo of what appears to be the same child, with this legend:
Two-year-old Ali Hussein is pulled from the rubble of his family's home in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq on Tuesday, April 29, 2008. The child, who later died in hospital, was in one of four homes allegedly destroyed by U.S. missiles. More than two dozen people were killed when Shiite militants ambushed a U.S. patrol in Baghdad's embattled Sadr City district, bringing the death toll in area on Tuesday to more than 30, a U.S. military spokesman and Iraqi officials said. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
Here's the exchange between Thomas and Perino.
HELEN THOMAS: Do you think it's worth a million Iraqi deaths, to continue to bomb the Iraqis who did nothing to us?
April 30, 2008, 11:34 AM EDT
Was Barack Obama's denunciation of Rev. Wright yesterday just some ginned-up anger, a show for the cameras—and the voters? You might think so, to judge by Andrea Mitchell's surprising revelation on today's Morning Joe . . .

View video here.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: What do you think of the Obama statement yesterday? Was it enough to finally put this behind him?

ANDREA MITCHELL: Perhaps, yes. He had to do it. This thing had been a nagging, you know, problem, an open wound really. This was a very public divorce. I should point out, though, that quite to my surprise when he was out on the stump last night, once again Obama was kind of trivializing it, saying "well, my opponents are making fun of me, and trying to define me, and saying I don't put my hand over my heart, and they talk about my former pastor's crazy statements." So he was trying to blame it on McCain, Hillary, whoever, rather than on what he earlier said in a very specific and dramatic way.
April 30, 2008, 8:13 AM EDT

Remember how the MSM swooned over Barack Obama's Philly speech on race after the Rev. Wright tapes pushed the story to the front pages? I expected the same kind of rapturous reaction to Obama's press conference of yesterday in which he definitively ditched the conspiracy-mongering minister.

But, surprisingly, that was not the case at all on CBS's Early Show this morning. To the contrary, the tone was set by the opening graphic shown here, which skeptically asked: "too little, too late?" And when Bob Schieffer and Juan Williams appeared a bit later, they were similarly cynical. Then again, there was one bit of perhaps unintentional candor on host Harry Smith's part, of which more later.

Here's how the exchange went down.

View video here.

April 29, 2008, 8:26 PM EDT

I'm beginning to see Joe Scarborough's skirmishes with Mika Brzezinski on Morning Joe as mere batting practice for the much more serious battles he undertakes in the evening with Rachel Maddow on Race for the White House.

As Noel Sheppard documented, Maddow and Scarborough tangled on April 17th, with Joe possibly having exited the set in the end. The pair were back at it on this evening's "Race," the Air America host this time accusing Scarborough of "tying Barack Obama to Hitler."

Maddow's theme throughout the show was that the media has devoted too much coverage to the Rev. Wright matter. David Shuster, subbing for host David Gregory, lit the fuse.

View video here.

April 29, 2008, 8:18 AM EDT
Hillary Clinton screenshot from With Barack Obama drowning in Rev. Wright's waves, all Hillary really needs to do is keep her head down and show up on time to be endorsed today by NC Gov. Mike Easley. The last thing Clinton needs is to make a gaffe of her own.

Now let's grant that the one we're about to discuss ranks rather low on the Gaffe-o-meter. If Sniper-gate was a 6.2, this might be a 2.1. But this particular misstep does have the demerit of undercutting a major Clinton campaign theme. Hillary's strategy nowadays consists of appealing to middle- and lower-income voters. Call it the Beer-and-a-shot Shtick. She's a Gal of the People. Not snobby like those Obamas. You know, like Michelle, who complained to a group of women in a struggling area of Ohio about her difficulties in spending $10,000 a year for various lessons for her kids while paying off student loans for her sojourns at Princeton and Harvard.

But that's exactly the kind of mistake Hillary has made. Today's Good Morning America played a clip [date and place unidentified, but presumably from the IN or NC campaign trail] of Hillary saying this to a crowd:
HILLARY CLINTON: Some people say, "oh she is tough." Well, if you'd had my life, you'd be tough too.
View video here.
April 28, 2008, 8:36 PM EDT

One small step for David Axelrod, one giant leap for Barack Obama away from Jeremiah Wright . . .

When chief Obama strategist Axelrod appeared at the end of this evening's Hardball, I expected him to dodge the current Rev. Wright controversy with some bromide about the reverend's right to express his opinions. But—in evidence of just how badly Wright's current comments are hurting Obama—Axelrod surprised me by acknowledging that he wished Wright hadn't piped up and suggesting that the good reverend's out for Numero Uno. Axelrod did manage to work in a blame-the-media angle.

View video here. [Note: Axelrod comments come after Matthews takes shot at Bill Kristol.]

April 28, 2008, 11:49 AM EDT
How bad was Reverend Wright's appearance before the National Press Club this morning? Bad enough that even CNN contributor Roland Martin—who yesterday enthused about Wright's address to the Detroit NAACP, who gave Wright's chat with Bill Moyers an 'A'—flunked it with an 'F.' Bad enough that David Gergen condemned it as "narcissistic almost beyond belief." Bad enough that, introducing a panel discussion of the speech, the palpably distressed CNN Newsroom host Tony Harris let out an audible groan of "ah, boy," and later wondered how much damage had been done.

View video here.
April 28, 2008, 7:51 AM EDT

Were they commenting on the same speech? Rev. Jeremiah Wright goes before the Detroit NAACP, claims that black and white children learn with different parts of their brain, and offers a simpering, unflattering imitation of the way white pastors speak. CNN's Soledad O'Brien gushes that the speech was a "home run" and "really funny." But over at Morning Joe, Wright's words prompted a panel member to rip the reverend as a "mediocrity" and a "buffoon."

View video here.

Soledad O'Brien was in the hall when Wright spoke. She reported on the speech at the top of CNN's 6 AM ET hour.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: The whole thing, frankly, was really funny. I think a lot of people have seen Rev. Wright defined as controversial, defined as angry, defined as anti-American: not in that speech. Not in that speech at all. He was funny, he was witty. This is a guy who's got two masters and his doctorate in divinity. Here is a guy who speaks five languages, they took pains in his introduction to point out all his accomplishments.
She continued.
April 27, 2008, 2:43 PM EDT

For a moment, let's step away from the commentary, per se, and focus on the commentators. Liberals love to chide Fox News for its alleged conservative bias. So why don't we see, when it comes to being fair and balanced, how this morning's Fox News Sunday panel stacked up against that of its main competitor, Meet the Press?

Here are the line-ups—you be the judge.

MEET THE PRESS

Host–Tim Russert

Panel

  • David Broder–Washington Post columnist
  • John Dickerson–Slate
  • Gwen Ifill–PBS
  • Andrea Mitchell–NBC
  • Richard Wolffe–Newsweek
April 27, 2008, 7:40 AM EDT
This week's Fox News Watch was a mix of the candid, the intriguing and the downright comical. Let's start with the humor. Well-intentioned liberal panel member Jane Hall, wringing her hands over the fact that the Wright matter has injected race into the campaign, got off this bit of unintentional comedy.
JANE HALL: Unfortunately, this is going to be what's going to be associated [with Obama]. I mean, it's like Willie Horton, except that Obama knew Reverend Wright,* and on Fox and other networks he is visually linked, it gives one more excuse to run this incendiary footage. I really regret that race, which Obama tried to transcend, is now going to become a very ugly subject in this race.

So it's unfair to pin this Wright stuff on Obama, except for the fact that, well, it's . . . fair. Moreover, whose fault is it that race has been injected into the race? If Obama were really the kind of person to transcend race, he wouldn't have been hanging around with Rev. Wright for 20 years.

View video here.

April 26, 2008, 6:39 AM EDT
Bob Herbert: voice of reason? On economics and the role of government, no. On the dynamics of the Dem nomination race? Actually, yes. In both his TV appearances and columns, Herbert, a military veteran who grew up largely in a comfortable New Jersey suburb, comes across as more clear-eyed and down-to-earth, less angry and ideological, than his NY Times confreres like Paul Krugman or Frank Rich.

Take Herbert's column of this morning, Heading Toward the Danger Zone. My sense is that, at heart, Herbert backs Obama. But that doesn't deter the columnist from offering an unblinking assessment of the very perilous electoral path on which Obama finds himself. Let's work backwards from Herbert's stunning conclusion [emphasis added]:
One of Senator Obama’s favorite phrases is “the fierce urgency of now.” There is nothing more fiercely urgent for him right now than to reassure voters and superdelegates that an Obama candidacy will not lead to a Democratic debacle in November.
April 25, 2008, 9:39 PM EDT

Who said leftists are opposed to the death penalty? It's just a question of whose neck's in the noose . . .

Many might wax nostalgic for the America immortalized in Norman Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post cover drawings. Not Keith Olbermann. He longs for the good old days when people like Rush Limbaugh . . . could be strung up. Here's the Countdown host tonight, speaking with Air America's Rachel Maddow:
KEITH OLBERMANN: Legally, we've come a very long way since the Haymarket bombing in Chicago in 1886 when we wound up hanging some anarchist writers, who were not even in the state, as murderers by proxy. And legally there is this question of "temporal remoteness" [separation in time between the statement and the act]. You say this now on the radio, it happens in August. It's not like yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater; it is protected speech. But do you think that Limbaugh has any idea that were he to repeat what he said on the air, say the day before the convention, or during it, he might actually be morally or legally responsible for incitement to riot?

View video here.

April 25, 2008, 6:55 PM EDT

You're a member of the MSM and a Barack Obama backer. But I repeat myself. More specifically, you're Chris Matthews. What better way to promote your guy's candidacy than to claim that Republicans would really rather run against Hillary?

That's just what the Hardball host did on this afternoon's show. Here's his exchange with the–in my opinion–very impressive Republican strategist Todd Harris, who worked for McCain in 2000, and with Dem strategist Michael Feldman.

View video here.

April 25, 2008, 6:56 AM EDT

It is NBC Green Week, after all, so who can blame Andrea Mitchell for recycling two dilapidated defenses of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright?

Mitchell's heart didn't seem wholly in it, but like a burned-out public defender going through the motions, Andrea apparently felt constrained to mount some kind of defense of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's controversial remarks. And so she trotted out two hoary chestnuts:

  • that's the way it's done in African-American churches, and
  • media critics say he was "taken out of context."

View video here.

April 24, 2008, 1:30 PM EDT

When you're a Clintonite, you're a Clintonite all the way.
From your first Monicagate defense,
To Hil's last primary day.—with apologies to Leonard Bernstein*

Look next to the definition of "Clinton loyalist" in the dictionary, and you're likely to find a photo of Lanny Davis. The man who would have put Baghdad Bob to shame for his unflinching flackery during Bill's Monica mess is back on the beat for Hillary. Yesterday, Davis wrote a HuffPo column purporting to set forth 10 Undisputed Facts showing Obama's weakness as a general election candidate against John Mccain. As Jake Tapper has observed, some of those "facts" are "both disputed and not facts," including the risible notion that Hillary didn't run any negative ads. Guess the commercial featuring Osama Bin Laden slipped Lanny's mind.

Davis was back at it on today's Morning Joe. After repeating his claim from the HuffPo column that Obama is in a dead heat with McCain in super-blue in Massachusetts while Hillary's up by 15%, Davis took his anti-Obama argument a giant step further. Davis claimed that Barack is on track to lose in a blow-out of epic, McGovernesque, proportions.

View video here.