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:

Latest from Mark Finkelstein
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.

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.

June 2, 2008, 7:10 AM EDT

With its talk of "change" and images of folks from the Dem demographic, was this an MSNBC promo . . . or an Obama ad? Check out this spot, aired today just before the start of Morning Joe.
VOICEOVER [which I believe is that of Joe Scarborough]: A revolution that happens for us every four years is a quiet revolution that begins and ends at the ballot box. It's the American voter that goes in, and makes a very simple choice that can change the country and change the world.
June 1, 2008, 6:55 PM EDT

Who says there's no humor in politics? Obama communications director Robert Gibbs went on ABC's This Week today, and in one of the better deadpan bits since Buster Keaton actually said that Barack Obama's decision to quit the Trinity United Church of Christ was "not political."

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: In Philadelphia, just in April, Senator Obama said of Reverend Wright "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community." Now he's cut all ties to Reverend Wright, and left his church. What is it a mistake to wait this long?

ROBERT GIBBS: No, George. I think obviously what Barack Obama made in the past few days is a deeply personal, not a political decision. And as you heard the reasoning, he made that decision for two reasons. One, even guest speakers that were at Trinity, their views were ascribed to him even though he didn't hold those views, and secondly, the members of Trinity couldn't do what members of a church do, and that is, sit in quiet reflection and worship God.

View video here.

June 1, 2008, 7:13 AM EDT

If you're going to accuse a president of lying and committing crimes, it might be nice to provide some particulars. But Frank Rich sees no need for such niceties in his New York Times column of today.

The putative topic is the McClellan book, but the real subject is Rich's abject Bush hatred. After referring to Pres. Bush as "the loathed lame duck," Rich writes:

Americans don’t like being lied to by their leaders, especially if there are casualties involved and especially if there’s no accountability. We view it as a crime story, and we won’t be satisfied until there’s a resolution.

So Bush lied and people died, is that it? What was the lie, where was the crime? Is Rich referencing WMD here, the same WMD that President Clinton, every major Dem leader at the time, and countries from France to Russia also said Saddam had? Rich doesn't say. If not WMD, something else? If so, what? And just what is the "resolution" Rich demands? Even Keith Olbermann recently, regretfully, recognized it's probably too late for impeachment.

May 30, 2008, 10:26 PM EDT
The amiable Gene Robinson is a regular MSNBC guest, but apparently not a regular MSNBC viewer—at least not of Keith Olbermann's show. Otherwise he would have never claimed, as he did tonight, that no one accused Geraldine Ferraro of being a racist back in March when she said that, for current political purposes, Obama was lucky to be black. For it was none other than Olbermann who accused Ferraro of precisely that.

On this evening's Race for the White House, David Gregory invited Robinson to comment on a Ferraro op-ed in today's Boston Globe in which the former Dem VP candidate wrote that she had been "accused of being racist for a statement I made" back in March.
EUGENE ROBINSON: On the race issue, I wish Geraldine Ferraro would give it a rest. I don't think people were saying she was racist when she made her earlier remarks. What people were saying was she was talking nonsense.

View video here.

May 30, 2008, 8:43 AM EDT

Mika Brzezinski realizes that the latest looniness emanating from Barack Obama's church poses political problems for the presidential candidate. But as a person of pallor, the ever-so-PC Morning Joe-er doesn't want to judge a black church—even when the most recent rantings come from the mouth of . . . a white preacher.

Morning Joe opened today with a clip of Father Michael Pfleger guest-preaching this past Sunday at Obama's Trinity United Church of Christ. Pfleger, a fixture on the radical Chicago scene whose endorsement of Obama [h/t Michelle Malkin] until recently appeared on the official Obama campaign website, mocked Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire tears as a sign of her frustrated sense of white entitlement. The screencap shows Pfleger making like Hillary wiping away those tears.

(Watch video above, context included, fast-forward to 3:40 for Brzezinski's humorous comment.)

But while acknowledging the headache Pfleger poses for Obama, Mika was oh-so-loath to comment on the substance or tone of the remarks themselves. Excerpts from her discussion with Tucker Carlson, Mike Barnicle and Willie Geist:

May 29, 2008, 11:25 PM EDT
Of all the people to call for a "truce" on excessive partisanship . . .

Interviewing Scott McClellan tonight, Keith Olbermann sanctimoniously suggested that a "truce" on rough political tactics "would be nice." But speaking with John Dean just minutes later, the Countdown host—he who has repeatedly called President Bush a liar and a fascist—reverted to form and regretted that it might be too late to impeach him.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN: [The 1988] election was very much a turning-point election. I think that George Bush, George Bush 41, George Herbert Walker Bush, is a decent individual, and a man who really believes in civility, but he, his advisors around him, knew the only way they could win was to bring down his opponent and go fully negative, and paint Michael Dukakis completely to the left. A guy who had painted himself—who had a record of trying to work to the center in a lot of ways [Ed: ?].
And, um, that legacy continues to this day, and Senator McCain says that he's going to speak out against that and not let that happen. I think that would be good for the country if that is the case. But there are certainly plenty of groups on the Republican side that are going to go forward with that kind of strategy. [Unlike groups on the Dem side. You know, like the kind-and-gentle one that ran the dragging-murder ad against W in 2000.]
KEITH OLBERMANN: Yeah. Truce would be nice.
View video here.
May 29, 2008, 6:44 PM EDT
"I'm not fit to be a Senator. I'm not fit to live. Expel me! Expel me! Not him. Every word that boy said is the truth! Every word about Taylor and me and graft and the rotten political corruption of our state. Every word of it is true. I'm not fit for office! I'm not fit for any place of honor or trust. Expel me!"—Claude Rains as the corrupt Sen. Joseph Paine in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"
Chris Matthews has broken out a Jimmy Stewart/Mr. Smith Goes to Washington analogy to assess Scott McClellan's book. Here's how the Hardball host put it on this afternoon's show:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: When you read the book, it reads like Claude Rains in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. You know: "everything the guy says is true." I mean, he's admitting that the other guy–the good guy's–right. I mean, if that's your perspective.

View video here.

May 29, 2008, 11:11 AM EDT

Lanny Davis let one of the world's worst-kept secrets out of the bag this morning: Mika Brzezinski's a Barack backer. But the Morning Joe host [in Joe Scarborough's absence] insisted on "taking issue" with the incontestable, and yet again cited her family's political diversity as a would-be shield against Davis's assertion.

Davis, former special counsel to Bill Clinton and die-hard defender of the Clinton clan, made his observation of the incontrovertible on Morning Joe at about 7:50 AM EDT today. It arose in the course of a discussion of Hillary's strategy for winning the nomination.

View video here.

May 29, 2008, 9:03 AM EDT

Was George Soros behind the publication of Scott McClellan's book? Meredith Vieira had the perfect opportunity this morning to find out—but chose to punt. The Today co-anchor certainly had the time: her much-touted exclusive interview with the author of What Happened ranged over the show's first two half-hours. But even when McClellan himself put the issue on the table—citing his publisher by name and alluding to its philosophy—Vieira failed to pursue a line of questioning that could have put matters in an explosive new light.

As MRC's Brent Baker has detailed, McClellan's publisher, PublicAffairs:
is part of the Perseus Books Group, which also owns Nation Books, “a project of The Nation Institute” which publishes the magazine of the same name, and Vanguard Press, whose home page now features The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, a new book by Vincent Bugliosi that “presents a tight, meticulously researched legal case that puts George W. Bush on trial in an American courtroom for the murder of nearly 4,000 American soldiers fighting the war in Iraq.”
Baker also notes that PublicAffairs is the publisher of no fewer than six books by Soros himself, and that McClellan's editor, Peter Osnos, who acknowledges having "worked very closely" with the author, is a liberal pundit in his own right.

Finally, Little Green Footballs has documented that there are several Perseus companies that actually include "Soros" as part of their name, as in Perseus-Soros Management, LLC.

Put it all together, and there's every reason to wonder whether Soros isn't behind McClellan's manifesto. But given the golden opportunity to pursue the matter, Meredith chose to move on. Here's the relevant exchange, which came during the second half-hour of this morning's Today.
May 28, 2008, 6:38 PM EDT
I haven't seen Chris Matthews this excited since a Barack Obama speech sent a certain sensation skyward.

The Hardball host is in an absolute frenzy over Scott McClellan's allegations. So much so that guests on this evening's show are having a hard time expressing themselves as Matthews expounds at length. Ari Fleischer finally called Chris on it. And while David Gregory didn't express his ire in words, his facial expression left little doubt as to his annoyance at being cut off in mid-sentence.

The screencap shows Gregory's grimace. But be sure to view the video here to get the full effect. A bit later, former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer appeared. He could be seen on many occasions attempting to speak, only to be submerged in a sea of ceaseless Matthews chatter. Talk at one point turned to VP Cheney's involvement in policy-making. Fleischer was again repeatedly frustrated in his attempts to talk, and finally had enough.
May 28, 2008, 8:09 AM EDT

You pathetic little people of the blogosphere. You're nothing more than "nitwits at home with [your] computers" who've deluded yourselves into imagining you're "part of the news media." Just ask Mike Barnicle. The former Boston Globe columnist broke the tough truth to us on today's Morning Joe. WaPo editorial writer Jonathan Capehart was "so glad" to agree.

Capehart was in full courtier mode to Mika Brzezinski, anchoring the show during Joe Scarborough's extended absence awaiting the birth of a child home in Florida. When executive producer Chris Licht read a viewer email critical of Mika, Capehart leapt to her defense, and it was then that Barnicle and he sniffed at the pretenders of the pajamahadeen.

View video here.