Tag Archives: Esquire

“N” Is For Newtie, That’s Good Enough For Me

John Richardson in Esquire:

She was married to Newt Gingrich for eighteen years, all through his spectacular rise and fall, and here she is in a pair of blue jeans and a paisley shirt, with warm eyes and a big laugh and the kind of chain-smoking habit where the cigarettes burn right down to the filter — but she’s quitting, she swears, any day now.

We’re having breakfast in a seaside restaurant in a Florida beach town, a place where people line up in sandals and shorts. This is the first time she’s talked about what happened, and she has a case of the nerves but also an air of liberation about her. Since he was a teenager, Newt Gingrich has never been without a wife, and his bond with Marianne Gingrich during the most pivotal part of his career made her the most important advisor to one of the most important figures of the late twentieth century. Of their relationship, she says, “We started talking and we never quit until he asked me for a divorce.”

She sounds proud, defiant, maybe a little wistful. You might be inclined to think of what she says as the lament of an abandoned wife, but that would be a mistake. There is shockingly little bitterness in her, and she often speaks with great kindness of her former husband. She still believes in his politics. She supports the Tea Parties. She still uses the name Marianne Gingrich instead of going back to Ginther, her maiden name.

But there was something strange and needy about him. “He was impressed easily by position, status, money,” she says. “He grew up poor and always wanted to be somebody, to make a difference, to prove himself, you know. He has to be historic to justify his life.”

She says she should have seen the red flags. “He asked me to marry him way too early. And he wasn’t divorced yet. I should have known there was a problem.”

Within weeks or months?

“Within weeks.”

That’s flattering.

She looks skeptical. “It’s not so much a compliment to me. It tells you a little bit about him.”

And he did the same thing to her eighteen years later, with Callista Bisek, the young congressional aide who became his third wife. “I know. I asked him. He’d already asked her to marry him before he asked me for a divorce. Before he even asked.”

He told you that?

“Yeah, he wanted to — ”

But she stops. “Hey, turn off the tape recorder for a second. This is going to go places …”

Back in the 1990s, she told a reporter she could end her husband’s career with a single interview. She held her tongue all through the affair and the divorce and even through the annulment Gingrich requested from the Catholic Church two years later, trying to erase their shared past. Now she sits quietly for a moment, ignoring her eggs, trying to decide how far she wants to go.

[…]
ctually, he grew up on a series of Army bases in Kansas, Georgia, France, and Germany. His father was raised by a grandmother who passed off his real mother (Gingrich’s grandmother) as his sister. His mother married his father when she was sixteen, left him a few days later, and struggled with manic depression most of her life. His stepfather was an infantry officer who viewed his plump, nearsighted, flat-footed son as unfit for the Army. By the time he was fifteen, Gingrich dedicated his life, he says, “to understanding what it takes for a free people to survive.” By the time he was eighteen, he was dating his high school geometry teacher. He married her a year later, when he was nineteen and she was twenty-six.It sounds like a complicated childhood, I say.

“It was fabulous.”

Fabulous?

“Lots of relatives, lots of complexity, lots of sugar pies, when I could talk my aunt and grandmother into making them. They had an old-fashioned cast-iron stove where you cut wood…”

Just as Ronald Reagan created an idealized version of an America that never quite existed, so has Newt. And just as Reagan curated a fantasy version of his own life, so, too, has Newt.

Aren’t you sugarcoating it a little bit?

“What do you mean?”

It sounds like a troubled domestic situation.

“It’s troubled if you decide that’s what it is.”

True, you can choose to look at the bright things. But there are also less bright things.

“There are for everybody.”

Yeah, but I’m asking you.

He doesn’t respond.

Both your fathers, the stepfather and the biological one, were angry men.

His expression is flat, and he answers in his scholarly voice, like a professor telling a legend from distant history. “I think by the time I knew Newt, my biological father, he was no longer particularly angry. I think Bob was very tough. But I look back now and I realize that Bob imprinted me in a thousand ways. He taught me discipline, he taught me endurance, he taught me to take the long view, he taught me the notion of teams, he taught me a depth of patriotism, he taught me to be prepared for things not to work — you sleep as often as you can because you don’t know when you’ll be able to sleep again, you drink water when you can because you don’t know when you’ll be able to drink again, you rest as much as you can because you don’t know when you’re going to rest again. If you come out of an infantry, World War II, Korea background, that is how the infantry functions. Well, it turns out that’s pretty good if you’re going to be a politician.”

Sitting in the Florida sun while she annihilates a long series of Benson & Hedges, Marianne Gingrich paints a very different picture. “He didn’t talk to his mother much. He just didn’t have patience with her. And she was pretty drugged up for a long time.”

But he said his childhood was like Norman Rockwell.

She laughs. “You’re kidding. That’s funny. Well, I liked his dad. He was outspoken. He was a down-home, practical kind of guy. But you know, he was a drinker.”

Marianne loves long stories, straight talk, and rueful laughter at the infinity of human foibles. Her eyes go wide when she hears his line about being four to Callista’s five. “You know where that line came from? Me. That’s my line. That’s what I told him.”

She pauses for a moment, turning it over in her mind. Then she shakes her head in wonder. “I’m sorry, that’s so freaky.”

[…]

But other days, Gingrich was bleak and hopeless. He was like a “dead weight” at times like that, Marianne says. You just couldn’t get him to move. The contrast reminded her of his mother and her manic depression, and she told him he needed help.

But Marianne was having problems of her own. After going to the doctor for a mysterious tingling in her hand, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Early in May, she went out to Ohio for her mother’s birthday. A day and a half went by and Newt didn’t return her calls, which was strange. They always talked every day, often ten times a day, so she was frantic by the time he called to say he needed to talk to her.

“About what?”

He wanted to talk in person, he said.

“I said, ‘No, we need to talk now.’ ”

He went quiet.

“There’s somebody else, isn’t there?”

She kind of guessed it, of course. Women usually do. But did she know the woman was in her apartment, eating off her plates, sleeping in her bed?

She called a minister they both trusted. He came over to the house the next day and worked with them the whole weekend, but Gingrich just kept saying she was a Jaguar and all he wanted was a Chevrolet. ” ‘I can’t handle a Jaguar right now.’ He said that many times. ‘All I want is a Chevrolet.’ ”

He asked her to just tolerate the affair, an offer she refused.

He’d just returned from Erie, Pennsylvania, where he’d given a speech full of high sentiments about compassion and family values.

The next night, they sat talking out on their back patio in Georgia. She said, “How do you give that speech and do what you’re doing?”

“It doesn’t matter what I do,” he answered. “People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.”

When they got to court, Gingrich refused to cooperate with basic discovery. Marianne and her lawyer knew from a Washington Post gossip column that Gingrich had bought Bisek a $450 bottle of wine, for example, but he refused to provide receipts or answer any other questions about their relationship.

Then Gingrich made a baffling move. Because Bisek had refused to be deposed by Marianne’s attorney, Newt had his own attorney depose her, after which the attorney held a press conference and announced that she had confessed to a six-year affair with Gingrich. He had also told the press that he and Marianne had an understanding.

“Right,” Marianne says now.

That was not true?

“Of course not. It’s silly.”

During that period, people would come up to Marianne and tell her to settle, that she was hurting the cause.

John Hudson at The Atlantic with the round-up

Dan Amira at New York Magazine:

Herewith, the ten most unflattering things in the profile.10. He lives his life based on weird metaphors about cookies:

“There’s a large part of me that’s four years old,” he tells you. “I wake up in the morning and I know that somewhere there’s a cookie. I don’t know where it is but I know it’s mine and I have to go find it. That’s how I live my life. My life is amazingly filled with fun.”

9. Nobody buys the movies he releases through the group Citizens United.

According to Bruce Nash of Nash Information Services, a company that tracks movie sales, these films — some directed by a man best known for a TV show called Bikes from Hell — are spectacular failures. “The most popular appears to be Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny, which is most likely selling a couple thousand copies a year through major retailers. Rediscovering God in America sells perhaps two thousand units.”

8. His health-care group doesn’t do what it claims it does:

Then there’s the Center for Health Transformation, another group Gingrich runs. On its Web site, it describes its work in Georgia as a model for all its efforts and says the “cornerstone” of its work is a group called Bridges to Excellence. But CHT “had zero role in creating Bridges to Excellence,” says François de Brantes, the group’s CEO. CHT helped with organization for one year and hasn’t been associated with them since 2008. The CHT Web site also singles out the “Healthy Georgia Diabetes and Obesity Project” as its major diabetes effort, but that was news to the American Diabetes Association. “We were not able to find any information about this,” says the ADA’s communications director, Colleen Fogarty. “The person that was in contact with them is no longer here.” It turns out that the CHT is a for-profit outfit that charges big health insurers like Blue Cross and Blue Shield up to $200,000 a year for access to the mind of Newt Gingrich.

7. He started to act crazy after being fined $300,000 by the House Ethics Committee — “yelling at people,” “slurping his food” during meetings, and just not “functioning.”

6. He steals lines from his ex-wife and passes them off as his own:

“[Current wife] Callista and I kid that I’m four and she’s five and therefore she gets to be in charge, because the difference between four and five is a lot.”….

[Ex-wife Marriane’s] eyes go wide when she hears his line about being four to Callista’s five. “You know where that line came from? Me. That’s my line. That’s what I told him.”

She pauses for a moment, turning it over in her mind. Then she shakes her head in wonder. “I’m sorry, that’s so freaky.”

5. He has no “real principles” except the “pursuit of power,” according to former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards, who’s known Newt for 30 years.

4. He doesn’t care about being a hypocrite: After Marianne questioned how he could give a speech on family values while carrying on an affair with his decades-younger aide (who became his third wife), Newt replied, “It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.”

3. He wanted Marianne to just “tolerate” his affair, “an offer she refused.”

2. Regardless, he then announced that, though he’d been having an affair for six years, “he and Marianne had an understanding,” a claim Marianne denies. “Of course not,” she says. “It’s silly.”

1. He delivered divorce papers to his first wife — his former high-school teacher — while she was in the hospital recovering from uterine cancer. He broke things off with his second wife seven months after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Ben Adler at Newsweek:

Gingrich is certainly a savvy political strategist, but he has some serious political liabilities. This is a man, after all, who was carrying on an affair with a young aide while pursuing an impeachment of the president for the same thing. Today Esquire is up with a fabulous profile of Gingrich in all of his contradictions: his dark musings with nasty culture-war overtones, his confounding embrace of some big-government interventions, his family-values rhetoric, and his unusual marital history.

And it exposes how some of Gingrich’s demands for fantastical goals cannot realistically be achieved by the means he proposes. Case in point: Gingrich says President Obama should effectuate a regime change in Iran through tightened sanctions and funding for dissidents. Most Iran experts think the U.S. actually deligitimizes the domestic opposition by supporting them. And if sanctions could topple dangerous Middle Eastern regimes, then why did Gingrich say they were insufficient to deal with Saddam Hussein?

Nicole Allan at The Atlantic:

John H. Richardson’s profile of Newt Gingrich in Esquire paints a fragmented, confusing picture of a fragmented, confusing guy. Richardson’s central source is Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne, whom he divorced in 1999 to marry a congressional aide 23 years his junior. This is apparently the first interview she’s given about her ex-husband since their divorce, a fact Richardson milks for all its worth.

“Back in the 1990s, she told a reporter she could end her husband’s career with a single interview,” Richardson writes at the beginning of his story, implying that the next seven pages contain ten years’ worth of bottled-up, career-ending revelations.

Gingrich certainly does not emerge from the profile looking good, but then again, he didn’t emerge from his 1990s money laundering scandal and resignation from Congress looking good, either. Richardson’s profile is already generating buzz, but ending careers — probably not.

Justin Elliott at Salon:

Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife told Esquire that the former speaker cares more about getting rich than running for president. So we decided to take a closer look at who is funding Gingrich’s primary political committee, a 527 group called American Solutions for Winning the Future. A significant chunk of its funding comes from oil and gas and coal companies and wealthy real estate evelopers, with the rest raised in $100 and $200 increments from conservatives around the country, according to the group’s IRS filings.

American Solutions doesn’t appear to pay Gingrich a direct salary, but it has spent millions on private jets to ferry him and his staff around the country and generally allow him to promote his books and movies. (There are other groups, like Gingrich’s for-profit Center for Health Transformation, that may be paying Gingrich directly, but such information is private.) So far this election cycle, American Solutions has taken in over $20 million, and poured much of it back into fundraising expenses.

We’ve taken a look at the IRS forms that American Solutions files periodically showing what’s coming in and what’s going out. Here are some of the group’s biggest funders:

  • American Electric Power: Michael Morris, the CEO of this Ohio-based power giant, gave $100,000 last year. Along with generating lots of electricity, the company operates the nation’s largest power transmission network, operating over much of the East Coast and Midwest.
  • Plains Exploration and Production Co.: This Houston-based oil and gas company that operates in the Gulf gave $100,000.
  • Workforce Fairness Institute: A Washington, D.C.-based anti-union pressure group, the institute’s own source of funding is not known. It gave $150,000 to Gingrich’s organization this cycle. Its website says it is “funded by and advocates on behalf of business owners who enjoy good working relationships with their employees, and would like to maintain those good relationships without the unfair interference of government bureaucrats, union organizers and special interests.” Mark McKinnon, the longtime GOP operative and Bush aide, has been a spokesman for the institute.
  • Hubbard Broadcasting: Stanley Hubbard, a billionaire GOP donor from Minnesota, gave Gingrich’s group $100,000. He owns radio and TV stations in several states as well as ReelzChannel, a movie news channels on cable.
  • Devon Energy: A huge Oklahoma-based oil and gas production company, it has given American Solutions $250,000.
  • Arch Coal: Based in St. Louis, Arch boasts it provides 16 percent of America’s coal supply from 11 mining complexes around the country. That makes it the second largest coal producer in the country. It gave Gingrich $100,000.
  • Crow Holdings: A privately held Dallas real estate investment firm, it gave Gingrich’s group a whopping $350,000. Harlan Crow, son of the late real estate investor Trammell Crow, is active in a range of conservative causes including the Club for Growth and the American Enterprise Institute. He is a patron of Clarence Thomas and once gave the justice a Bible owned by Frederick Douglass worth $19,000.

Unsurprisingly, given the contributor list, American Solutions has run national TV ads opposing the cap-and-trade bill. But more than anything, the group is a vehicle for self-promotion for Gingrich, one that he benefits from financially.

Anne Laurie:

Please read the whole article. I’ve been extremely scornful of the idea of Gingrich actually running for President, as opposed to fan-dancing (or stripper-poling) a perennial round of first-class speaking junkets and high-visibility media appearances calculated to preserve the Gingrich™ brand’s valuable shelf-space in the Wingnut Welfare Walmart. But Richardson’s reporting suggests that the person most bedazzled and mislead by the non-stop hustling might just be Newton Leroy Gingrich, and that’s a dangerous thing indeed, because there is much further confirmation here that Gingrich is a bullet point on the Powerpoint timeline of Weirdly Charismatic Rightwing Sociopaths, probably the most significant version between Richard Nixon and Sarah Palin. Richardson includes stories of Gingrich’s unsettling behavior just before he resigned the Speakership that read like an opera bouffe version of Nixon during Watergate, and aggregates details of his personal and professional life that make Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes look like a rough draft

Wonkette:

Interesting! Also interesting: Newt Gingrich divorces his wives when they’re in the hospital with life-threatening diseases. And his organizations and money-making schemes since leaving office are pretty shady. Fun!

Time to give this man our presidency cookie.

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James Joyner Did The Joke Already: David Weigel To Be Replaced By David Petraeus

Betsy Rothstein at Fishbowl DC:

FishbowlDC has obtained e-mails written by WaPo‘s conservative-beat blogger Dave Weigel, that the scribe sent to JournoList, a listserv for liberal journalists. (Read up on JournoList with Yahoo! News’s Michael Calderone‘s 2009 story that he wrote for Politico).

Seems Weigel doesn’t like (and that would be putting it mildly) at least some of the conservatives he covers. Poor Drudge – Weigel wants him to light himself on fire.

Weigel’s Words:

•”This would be a vastly better world to live in if Matt Drudge decided to handle his emotional problems more responsibly, and set himself on fire.”

•”Follow-up to one hell of a day: Apparently, the Washington Examiner thought it would be fun to write up an item about my dancing at the wedding of Megan McArdle and Peter Suderman. Said item included the name and job of my girlfriend, who was not even there — nor in DC at all.”

•”I’d politely encourage everyone to think twice about rewarding the Examiner with any traffic or links for a while. I know the temptation is high to follow up hot hot Byron York scoops, but please resist it.”

•”It’s all very amusing to me. Two hundred screaming Ron Paul fanatics couldn’t get their man into the Fox News New Hampshire GOP debate, but Fox News is pumping around the clock to get Paultard Tea Party people on TV.”

Weigel says he “happy to comment” to FishbowlDC but it seems he’s tied up on the phone. Will bring you his remarks as soon as he provides them.

David Weigel:

Below the fold are quotes from me e-mailing the list that day — quotes that I’m told a gossip Web site will post today. I apologize for much of what I wrote, and apologize to readers.

– “This would be a vastly better world to live in if Matt Drudge decided to handle his emotional problems more responsibly, and set himself on fire.”

I apologize to Matt Drudge for this — I was incredibly frustrated with the amount of hate mail I was getting and lashed out. If he wants to link to this post with some headline accusing me of wishing death on him, I suppose he can do so. But I don’t wish that. I was tired, angry, and hyperbolic, and I’m sorry.

– “Follow-up to one hell of a day: Apparently, the Washington Examiner thought it would be fun to write up an item about my dancing at the wedding of Megan McArdle and Peter Suderman. Said item included the name and job of my girlfriend, who was not even there — nor in DC at all.”

I stand by this — I was offended by the way that item was written. I do apologize for reacting like this against the entire Washington Examiner, as my gripe was with one reporter, and the person who gave them this item was apologizing to me.

– “I’d politely encourage everyone to think twice about rewarding the Examiner with any traffic or links for a while. I know the temptation is high to follow up hot hot Byron York scoops, but please resist it.”

I stand by that reaction but apologize for belittling Byron York.

– “It’s all very amusing to me. Two hundred screaming Ron Paul fanatics couldn’t get their man into the Fox News New Hampshire GOP debate, but Fox News is pumping around the clock to get Paultard Tea Party people on TV.”

I stand by this, although I apologize if people find the word “Paultard” offensive. It was a neologism coined during the 2008 campaign to describe fanatical supporters of Paul — I used it in this case to convey how Fox covered those supporters in 2008.

Jonathan Strong at Daily Caller:

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh famously said he hoped President Obama would “fail” in January, 2009. Almost a year later, when Limbaugh was rushed to the hospital with chest pains, Washington Post reporter David Weigel had a wish of his own. “I hope he fails,” Weigel cracked to fellow liberal reporters on the “Journolist” email list-serv.

“Too soon?” he wondered.

Weigel was hired this spring by the Post to cover the conservative movement. Almost from the beginning there have been complaints that his coverage betrays a personal animus toward conservatives.  E-mails obtained by the Daily Caller suggest those complaints have merit.

“Honestly, it’s been tough to find fresh angles sometimes–how many times can I report that these [tea party] activists are joyfully signing up with the agenda of discredited right-winger X and discredited right-wing group Y?” Weigel lamented in one February email.

In other posts, Weigel describes conservatives as using the media to “violently, angrily divide America.” According to Weigel, their motives include “racism” and protecting “white privilege,” and for some of the top conservatives in D.C., a nihilistic thirst for power.

“There’s also the fact that neither the pundits, nor possibly the Republicans, will be punished for their crazy outbursts of racism. Newt Gingrich is an amoral blowhard who resigned in disgrace, and Pat Buchanan is an anti-Semite who was drummed out of the movement by William F. Buckley. Both are now polluting my inbox and TV with their bellowing and minority-bashing. They’re never going to go away or be deprived of their soapboxes,” Weigel wrote.

Of Matt Drudge, Weigel remarked,  “It’s really a disgrace that an amoral shut-in like Drudge maintains the influence he does on the news cycle while gay-baiting, lying, and flubbing facts to this degree.”

In April, Weigel wrote that the problem with the mainstream media is “this need to give equal/extra time to ‘real American’ views, no matter how fucking moronic, which just so happen to be the views of the conglomerates that run the media and/or buy up ads.”

Daniel Foster at The Corner:

After making a number of disparaging comments about elements of the Right — including Ron Paul supporters, gay marriage opponents, and fellow blogger Matt Drudge — on a private listserv called “Journolist,” Washington Post blogger Dave Weigel has reportedly resigned this morning.

UPDATE: Early word is that Weigel will be heading to the Huffington Post.

UPDATE II: The HuffPo talk now seems premature. Weigel was seen at the blog’s DC offices today, but it was apparently a social call.

Also, Daily Caller has a bunch of new e-mails from Weigel, disparaging everybody from Rush Limbaugh to Newt Gingrich. I hadn’t seen these yet because the DC‘s servers had been down for much of the morning.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

The liberal blogger Dave Weigel, who was hired by The Post to cover the conservative movement, has resigned, after advising Matt Drudge on a semi-public forum for leftish commentators to set himself on fire. Put aside the controversy over whether the Post, which was advised by its star blogger, Ezra Klein (who once advised parties unknown, via his Twitter account, to “fuck tim russert. fuck him with a spiky acid-tipped dick”) that Weigel would do an excellent and balanced job of reporting on conservatives, even understood that it was hiring a liberal, and not a conservative (Ben Smith has more on this aspect of the controversy), the issue in the newsroom today is, How did the Post come to this?

“How could we destroy our standards by hiring a guy stupid enough to write about people that way in a public forum?” one of my friends at the Post asked me when we spoke earlier today. “I’m not suggesting that many people on the paper don’t lean left, but there’s leaning left, and then there’s behaving like an idiot.”

I gave my friend the answer he already knew: The sad truth is that the Washington Post, in its general desperation for page views, now hires people who came up in journalism without much adult supervision, and without the proper amount of toilet-training. This little episode today is proof of this. But it is also proof that some people at the Post (where I worked, briefly, 20 years ago) still know the difference between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior, and that maybe this episode will lead to the reimposition of some level of standards.

Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic responds to Goldberg:

Mr. Goldberg and I are in agreement that Mr. Weigel showed poor judgment in emails he sent to a listserv for liberal Washington DC journalists. The indiscretion is something that most journalists I know would guard against, and I also found objectionable his suggestion that links should be withheld from The Washington Examiner as retaliation for a mean-spirited item written by one of its gossip columnists. Links ought to be afforded on the basis of merit, full stop.

But the main “stupidity” on display here is that Mr. Weigel trusted the members of an avowedly private forum to keep his rants off-the-record, as advertised. In others words, he trusted his colleagues too much, and that isn’t a flaw that should disqualify someone from being a reporter, nor should the fact that they have strong, occasionally intemperate opinions, as do we all.

Do we really want to establish a standard whereby the worthiness of a journalist is measured by whether or not he has controversial opinions? Or how adept he is at concealing those opinions?

Let me put this another way. There is no opinion Jeffrey Goldberg could offer on an e-mail listserv that would change my high opinion of the magazine stories he has produced over many years. His work is the only standard by which I judge him, and so long as he writes at the level to which I am accustom, I’ll read him regardless. Obviously that isn’t the standard that high profile media corporations use when hiring reporters and writers, and Mr. Goldberg and I probably both feel a responsibility to our various employers to maintain some hard to define level of discretion when writing for public or even semi-private consumption.

I’ll defend to death, however, the proposition that the work of a journalist should be the only standard by which he is measured. Mr. Weigel’s work is superb: he breaks news, his foremost loyalty is to the facts, and he reliably treats fairly even folks with whom he very much disagrees. The conservatives he covers are the biggest losers here. As Ben Boychuck wrote on Twitter, “I find you insufferable, but indispensable. Sorry you resigned. I’ll read you wherever you land, you magnificent bastard.” That should be the reaction of someone who finds what Mr. Weigel wrote to be distasteful.

Let’s examine the implications of the standard that The Washington Post is actually employing here, and that most newspaper companies would also employ.

— In the excerpt above, Mr. Goldberg quotes an anonymous Washington Post staffer who, it should be noted, spoke disparagingly of his or her own newspaper in a conversation with a journalist from a competing media company. This source disparaged Dave Weigel, The Post, and the people responsible for hiring him, anonymously. In other words, this source’s very actions imply that he or she knows The Washington Post would look unfavorably on the public airing of this opinion, but decided that lack of discretion isn’t the problem so much as being stupid enough to get caught. Do journalists really want to help establish a standard whereby “stupidity” equals transparency?

— Firing Dave Weigel incentivizes more digging into the personal opinions of journalists, and validates the idea that they should be judged on the basis of those opinions, rather than the content of their work. What’s next? E-mails sent to a few people and leaked? Opinions offered at a bar over beers and surreptitiously recorded? Can I reiterate how glad I am to have moved away from Washington DC? (You should hear what I say about De Beers in private!)

— Mr. Goldberg suggests that this episode might “lead to the re-imposition of some level of standards” at The Washington Post, suggesting that the newspaper’s problem is that it employs people like Ezra Klein and Dave Weigel, who’ve exercised poor judgment in writing intended for a private audience. I submit that seeing these two staffers — who are intellectually honest and talented, whatever their flaws — as the problem at The Post is to miss the Mark Theissen for the trees.

Oops, Freudian slip. What I mean to say is that The Washington Post publishes many talented writers at the tops of their games — Gene Weingarten, I’d give half of what I own if I could clone you — but its most egregious flaw is confusing what actually consists of inexcusably poor judgment. To be more specific, by firing Dave Weigel, and continuing to employ columnists like Marc Thiessen, the Post is saying that it is inexcusably poor judgment to utter honestly held, intemperate opinions if they wind up being made public, but it is perfectly acceptable to write an intellectually dishonest, error-filled book on the subject of your main expertise, and to publish columns of the same quality.

Mr. Goldberg and I agree that Dave Weigel showed poor judgment, but by holding him up as the poster child for declining standards at The Washington Post, as opposed to other more deserving targets, the inescapable message is that the quality of a journalist’s actual work for publication matters less than the public image he is able to project. As far as I know, Mr. Thiessen has never said anything intemperate on a semi-private listserv. Apparently that is what’s required if he’s to resign his column — that’s the consequence of a weird standard whereby firings at a newspaper are utterly unconnected to single word actually published in its pages.

More Goldberg:

A couple of people I know and respect have told me that my criticism of Dave Weigel is misplaced; that he tries harder than I thought to be a fair reporter; that he makes mistakes, but everyone makes mistakes. And they’ve provided me with examples of his good reporting. So maybe I’ve made a mistake myself by blogging too fast and too thoughtlessly on this issue. On the other hand, I was repulsed — really repulsed — by his invitation to Matt Drudge to kill himself. I despise violent keyboard-cowboyism, and not only because I’ve received various invitations over the years to kill myself, or let myself be killed, because I’m a supporter of Israel, or because I support the Kurds in their struggle against Saddam, or because I supported the invasion of Iraq (mainly because I’m a supporter of Israel, actually).In any case, I wanted to say this now, and with any luck I’ll return to this subject later.

Ross Douthat:

Set aside the fact that Weigel — who’s actually a left-tilting libertarian rather than a liberal partisan — really is a good reporter, good enough and fair enough to have a number of conservative bloggers rallying to his defense, or at least speaking well of his reporting. The more important point is that no journalistic standard was violated by firing off intemperate e-mails to what’s supposed to be a private e-mail list. Maybe Weigel should have known better than to trust the people on JournoList, and I can certainly understand why once the e-mails were leaked, his ability to cover the conservative movement would be compromised, and a parting of the ways with The Post might seem necessary. But if hitting “send” on pungent e-mails that you assume will be kept private is a breach of journalistic ethics, then there isn’t an ethical journalist in the English-speaking world.  The real story here isn’t Weigel’s public embarrassment — it’s the shame of FishbowlDC for publishing private correspondence, and the disgrace of JournoList for harboring at least one would-be career wrecker. The only decent response is to disband the email list — and to his credit, its founder is doing exactly that.

Jim Geraghty at NRO:

Somebody on Journo-List didn’t like Dave Weigel and decided to publish his most furious and incendiary remarks that he thought — unwisely — that he was expressing in confidence. (At least I hope these were his most furious and incendiary remarks; what could top these? “I’m going to deafen David Brooks with a vuvuzela”?) So what else is on there that, if revealed, could make life difficult for Ezra Klein or Jeffrey Toobin or Paul Krugman or Ben Smith or Mike Allen? Or is the idea that as long as they stay in line, they’ll never have some remark they regret publicized to the world? Did Journo-List evolve into a massive blackmail scheme that ensures no one inside the club will ever speak ill of another member?

Liz Mair

Bruce Bartlett:

Apparently, Dave Weigel has been forced out over some utterly trivial e-mail rants that were published by some shameless idiot. Speculation is that the Post didn’t want a thinking conservative who cared more about facts than the party line, but would rather have some whack-job Glenn Beck wannabe representing the conservative position on the Post web site. I am canceling have canceled my subscription to the Post.

Ezra Klein:

I began Journolist in February of 2007. It was an idea born from disagreement. Weeks, or maybe months, earlier, I had criticized Time’s Joe Klein over some comments he made about the Iraq War. He e-mailed a long and searching reply, and the subsequent conversation was educational for us both. Taking the conversation out of the public eye made us less defensive, less interested in scoring points. I learned about his position, and why he held it, in ways that I wouldn’t have if our argument had remained in front of an audience.

The experience crystallized an idea I’d been kicking around for some time. I was on all sorts of e-mail lists, but none that quite got at the daily work of my job: Following policy and political trends in both the expert community and the media. But I always knew how much I was missing. There were only so many phone calls I could make in a day. There were only so many times when I knew the right question to ask. By not thinking of the right person to interview, or not asking the right question when I got them on the phone, or not intuiting that an economist would have a terrific take on the election, I was leaving insights on the table.

That was the theory behind Journolist: An insulated space where the lure of a smart, ongoing conversation would encourage journalists, policy experts and assorted other observers to share their insights with one another. The eventual irony of the list was that it came to be viewed as a secretive conspiracy, when in fact it was always a fractious and freewheeling conversation meant to open the closed relationship between a reporter and his source to a wider audience.

At the beginning, I set two rules for the membership. The first was the easy one: No one who worked for the government in any capacity could join. The second was the hard one: The membership would range from nonpartisan to liberal, center to left. I didn’t like that rule, but I thought it necessary: There would be no free conversation in a forum where people had clear incentives to embarrass each other. A bipartisan list would be a more formal debating society. Plus, as Liz Mair notes, there were plenty of conservative list servs, and I knew of military list servs, and health-care policy list servs, and feminist list servs. Most of these projects limited membership to facilitate a particular sort of conversation. It didn’t strike me as a big deal to follow their example.

But over the years, Journolist grew, and as it grew, its relative exclusivity became more infamous, and its conversations became porous. The leaks never bothered me, though. What I didn’t expect was that a member of the list, or someone given access by a member of the list, would trawl through the archives to assemble a dossier of quotes from one particular member and then release them to an interested media outlet to embarrass him. But that’s what happened to David Weigel. Private e-mails were twisted into a public story.

[…]

It was ironic, in a way, that it would be the Daily Caller that published e-mails from Journolist. A few weeks ago, its editor, Tucker Carlson, asked if he could join the list. After asking other members, I said no, that the rules had worked so far to protect people, and the members weren’t comfortable changing them. He tried to change my mind, and I offered, instead, to partner with Carlson to start a bipartisan list serv. That didn’t interest him.

In any case, Journolist is done now. I’ll delete the group soon after this post goes live. That’s not because Journolist was a bad idea, or anyone on it did anything wrong. It was a wonderful, chaotic, educational discussion. I’m proud of having started it, grateful to have participated in it, and I have no doubt that someone else will re-form it, with many of the same members, and keep it going. Hopefully, it will lose some of its mystique in the process, and be understood more for what it is: One of many e-mail lists where people talk about things they’re interested in. But insofar as the current version of Journolist has seen its archives become a weapon, and insofar as people’s careers are now at stake, it has to die.

As for Dave, I’m heartbroken that he resigned from The Post. Dave is an extraordinary reporter, and a dear friend. When this is done, there will be a different name on his paychecks, but he will still be an extraordinary reporter, and a dear friend.

James Joyner:

It’s a shame that Dave, who most agree is a rising star, had to pay such a high price for some indiscreet emails, especially since a fellow journalist violated his confidentiality.   One suspects, and I certainly hope, that he’ll land on his feet soon.  My guess is that Reason or the Washington Independent, both of which are much more openly ideological publications than WaPo, will happily take him back.

You know who would be a good replacement for him at the Right Now blog?  David Petraeus.

UPDATE: Julian Sanchez at Megan McArdle’s place

Philip Klein at The American Spectator

Tyler Cowen

James Wolcott

Foster Kamer at The Village Voice

Weigel himself at Big Government

Greg Sargent responds to Goldberg

Goldberg responds to Sargent

Matt Welch at Reason

Matt Steinglass at DiA at The Economist

UPDATE #2: Greg Marx at Columbia Journalism Review

Andy Barr at Politico

UPDATE #3: David Carr at NYT

Matthew Yglesias

Digby

UPDATE #4: Weigel in Esquire

Charles Johnson at LGF

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Cinco de Tweety And The Blog Posts That It Caused

Captured tweets via Gawker

Roger Ebert:

This is the result of one single Twitter of mine, and those who were eager to misunderstand it. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, and here is what I tweeted:

@ebertchicago Kids who wear American Flag t-shirts on 5 May should have to share a lunchroom table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on 4 July.

Now what do you suppose I meant by that? It was tweeted at the height of the discussion over five white California kids who wore matching t-shirts to school on Cinco de Mayo, and were sent home by their school. This inspired predictable outrage in the usual circles.

Tweeted from lonestarag05: Its the USA not Mexico. They are allowed to be proud of their country. I wonder sometimes why you even stay here.

Many others informed me that Americans have the right to be proud of our flag, and wear it on T-shirts. Of course they do. That isn’t the question. It’s not what my Tweet said. What I suggested, in its 108 letters, is that we could all use a little empathy. I wish I had worded it better.

Let’s begin with a fact few Americans know: Celebrating Cinco de Mayo is an American custom. The first such celebration was held in California in 1863, and they have continued without interruption. In Mexico itself it is not observed, except in the state of Puebla–the site of Mexico’s underdog victory over the French on May 5, 1862.

Cinco de Mayo’s purpose is to celebrate Mexican-American culture in the United States. We are a nation of immigrants, and have many such observances, for example St. Patrick’s Day parades, which began in Boston in 1737 and not in Ireland until 1931. Or Pulaski Day, officially established in Illinois in 1977, and not observed in Poland. The first Chinese New Year’s parade was held in San Francisco in the 1860s, and such parades began only later in China. In Chicago this August we will have the 81st annual Bud Billiken Parade, one of the largest parades in America, celebrating the African-American heritage.

I invite you to perform four easy thought experiments:

1. You and four friends are in Boston and attend the St. Patrick’s Day parade wearing matching Union Jack t-shirts, which of course you have every right to do.

2. You and your pals are in Chicago on Pulaski Day, and wear a t-shirt with a photograph of Joseph Stalin, which is your right.

3. In San Francisco’s Chinatown for the parade, your crowd wears t-shirts saying “My granddad was at the Rape of Nanking and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”

4. In Chicago for the Bud Billiken Parade, you and your crowd, back in shape after three hospitalizations, turn up with matching t-shirts sporting the Confederate flag.

The question is obviously not whether Americans, or anyone else, has the right to wear our flag on their t-shirts. But empathetic people realize much depends on context. If, on Cinco de Mayo, you turn up at your school with a large Mexican-American student population wearing such shirts, are you (1) joining in the spirit of the holiday, or (2) looking for trouble?

I suggest you intend to insult your fellow students. Not because they do not respect THEIR flag, but because you do not respect their heritage. That there are five of you in matching shirts demonstrates you want to be deliberately provocative.

Therefore, you and your buddies should try wearing the hammer and sickle on the Fourth of July. You could try it at a NASCAR race, for example.

Ravi Somaiya at  Gawker:

Five kids were sent home from a California high school on Wednesday for what seems like a fairly open-and-shut case of trying to start trouble. Of course, to the nutbag right, this was not the case at all and the whole thing was anti-American. Last week Ebert sent this message in response to the story:

@ebertchicago Kids who wear American Flag t-shirts on 5 May should have to share a lunchroom table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on 4 July.

According to an Ebert blog post today, it was met with predictable outrage from people with predictable Twitter handles:

@lonestarag05: Its the USA not Mexico. They are allowed to be proud of their country. I wonder sometimes why you even stay here.

Ebert has defended the Tweet very eloquently here. He points out, using humor, reason, logic and fact that the kids had done something analogous to wearing a Union Jack on St. Patrick’s day in Boston, or a Confederate flag to the Bud Biliken parade in Chicago — they were disrespecting the heritage of a community busy celebrating that heritage. Like, for example, “wearing the hammer and sickle on the Fourth of July.” He adds in the blog post that those who defended the kids might try that “at a NASCAR race, for example.”

Of course humor, reason, logic and fact are utterly alien to the Tea Party and their enraged acolytes. And they know no sense of proportion. Ebert, as this excellent Esquire profile outlines, has suffered through repeated bouts of cancer, and operations to remove that cancer, that have left him without a lower jaw. The picture above is the one that Esquire ran with that profile.

Knowing what we know about the Tea Party it shouldn’t have been surprising when Ebert tweeted this last night. But it was sad.

Tea Party Turns on Roger Ebert, Mocks His Cancer (Updated)

Scott Wampler at The Examiner:

Meet Caleb Howe, a self-proclaimed Tea Party member and dude who claims to write for RedState.com.  Because it’s called RedState.com, it’s precisely the sorta website that someone like a Comedy Examiner avoids.  And, it’s precisely because of the sort of Tweets that Howe made above that I’d avoid such a site.  I mean, let’s make sure that we’re all on the same page here:  Roger Ebert thinks that a handful of kids who were clearly just trying to stir up trouble were out of line…and someone (actually, more than just Howe, but let’s use him as our go-to dude on this one) mocks Roger Ebert’s cancer?  Tweets that he wants to provide Ebert with a “mercy killing”?

Are you effing kidding me?

Chris Jones at Esquire:

But for me — as a friend, but also as a human being — Roger’s rebuke didn’t go far enough. I’ve still spent a lot of time thinking how good it would feel to punch Caleb Howe hard in the mouth. I can’t help it, even though I know in my heart that Howe wants all of this, wants to bask in anything that resembles the thin light of attention. His posts on RedState.com might normally earn five or seven comments; Roger’s eloquent blog entries can win more than a thousand. That must be incredibly frustrating for Howe, who clearly has designs on his joining our ranks of right-wing wrestling heels and saw, through the bottom of his vodka glass, his path to glory: He decided, like those California school kids, to make an unnecessary, calculated attempt to provoke. And it worked, the way it works for Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, whenever they say something inflammatory and terrible. He made me angry, and now he knows it. Good for him. I hope he’s happy.

Because if he’s happy, then I know that will make his fall that much harder in the end. Saying the things he said — under the guise of patriotism, or freedom, or whatever illogic he chooses to use — has to eat at a man. I have to believe that; the alternative is too awful to stomach. I have to believe that after Howe sobered up, he must have thought, if only for a moment, What have I done? He must have felt whatever passes for regret in him, the prickles of sweat growing on his forehead. He must have felt as though he had butted out a cigarette on his own soul. And because he can’t apologize for it — can’t dream of seeming weak in the eyes of his fellow scholars and judges — those pinhole burns will stay there forever. Yes, Caleb Howe is more famous than he was last week, but he’s famous for being a person who doesn’t know whether he should introduce himself to strangers at parties, just in case, and he’s famous for his allegiance to the very thing that Roger has already stomped again and again: Caleb Howe, for whatever unfathomable reason, has sided with cancer.

Caleb Howe at Mediaite:

I love Twitter. I use it all the time. When I say use, hear it the way an addict would say it. I use Twitter. I’m pretty good at it too. Not in the sense of having lots of followers, or being really popular, or anyone knowing who I am. Rather in the sense of knowing how to get certain things out of it that I want. Usually that’s traffic to a blog post. I admit that. But the most satisfying thing of all is a retweet. If you’re really good, or really famous, it’s easy to get a lot of retweets. If you aren’t either of those, it’s still easy. Be bad.

I do this sometimes. Late at night, typically. Angrily for the most part. Drunkenly on occasion. Twitter is real life and in real time, after all. Isn’t that what we all love and hate about it?

Knowing all this, I hatched a plan that’s been going swimmingly all week. You see, Roger Ebert is on Twitter too. And he can be exceedingly … unkind. He compared Arizona’s immigration law to the Holocaust. Twice. He routinely mocks “TeePees,” his adorably dismissive shorthand for tea party protesters. And most recently, in an exceedingly ill-advised and poorly-received tweet, he suggested that “Kids who wear American Flag t-shirts on 5 May should have to share a lunchroom table with those who wear a hammer and sickle on 4 July.”

Let us not today go into the ins and outs of the students sent home after refusing to cover their American flags on Cinco de Mayo. Suffice it to say that from my perspective this was an unconscionable outrage, and therefore Ebert’s escalation of the rhetoric to the level of hammer and sickle doubly so. It was an insight into him. Twitter, as we addicts believe, is real life. And in real time. And so … the plan.

It was amazingly easy to do. First, I warned Media Matters what was about to happen. Second, I began attacking Ebert with increasingly awful tweets mocking his cancer. Third, I waited.

When the hits started rolling in, I infuriatingly taunted the naysayers with non-sequiturs and your momma jokes. That’s when they started getting real. Saying awful things. Well you see, it’s ok with me. I had earned it.

And therein lay my plan. I’d wait a few days, gather the most insulting tweets, and publish. The fact that they felt free to “go there” with me proves they implicitly accept my premise. For they were using my logic, you see. Ebert had “earned” it, so I was free to open fire. Now I had earned it, so they were free to open fire. Media Matters was a no-brainer. I’d invited them in advance. But imagine my delight when bomb-throwing gossip site Gawker linked to my twitter feed. I fairly twisted my mustache and rubbed my palms greedily. Everything was proceeding as I had foreseen it; better, even.

This morning, I started in on the final phase: gathering the evidence. I started with Ebert. I spent hours poring over months of his twitter feed. I found he had a distinctive “dirty old man” streak. Screenshot. I saw how fond he was of mocking Creationism, intelligent design, Noah’s Ark, and Christianity in general. Screenshot. I found countless dismissive tweets about the ignorance of TeePees. The countless veiled accusations of racism. The endless tweeting and retweeting of anything critical of Sarah Palin. Screenshot, screenshot, screenshot. I found a totally right-on movie review of the movie Kick-Ass that mirrored my own thoughts perfectly. Screens … wait. What?

It is here. I’ve read Ebert before of course. He’s as good as his reputation. But this was more than a movie review. The objection was on a moral ground that I share. It was my objection to the movie too. Hmm.

Back to the Twitter I go. A little more uneasy, now. Ahhh, another TeePee reference. My righteousness has been restored. A-digging I continue. Screenshot. Screenshot. Appreciative chuckle. Dammit!

I started seeing quotable quotes. Witticisms I appreciated. Depth.

Ebert tends to appreciate the same sorts of lyrical turns of phrase on Twitter that I appreciate. I saw when he was being savaged about his position on whether video games can be art, he let the savagery wash over him. He even got a few quick quips out of it. I kept thinking “I should like this guy.” And then, TeePees, Michael Moore, and Markos. I couldn’t like him, even though I actually started wanting to. But his tweeting is so hot and cold. It’s like there are two of him. The one that everybody appreciates, and then the rabid lefty tweeter. I couldn’t figure it out.

And then I figured it out. That’s exactly how I am. Half of my tweets are normal, off-topic, funny (if I do say so) or conversational. And half must set afire the blood of any left-wing tweeter. I’m just like Ebert, minus the fame, fortune, education, writing talent, and painful disease. It’s like he was … human.

And that’s when it suddenly dawned on me. Twitter isn’t real life. It’s 140 characters. It’s a window, not a door, and certainly not the whole house. We all know this, of course. But we act in a manner that indicates we do not.

People like me, or anonymous Twitterer @shoq, and many others who do what we consider to be battle on Twitter “know” we are right. We know we are right because those we oppose are so very wrong. It’s all quite easy. You’re a TeePee. Yeah well you’re a moonbat! Tit for tat. Jab for jab. Round and round we go. The race to the most cutting insult never ceases. Do a search on twitter, some time, for “sub-human,” and/or “filth.” Try “despicable”. I bet it comes up a lot more than “beautiful.” Try “scum.” I bet it comes up more than “person.” Try “hate.” I think you get the picture.

You know what? It’s a polarized country we live in. Often rabidly so. I play that game. Most of you reading this, you play it too. We play for ratings, for clicks, for retweets. We play to satisfy bloodlust, vengeance, self-righteous fury. We play because we have contempt. And contempt is the one thing you will see on display more often than any other emotion in political tweeting. Because that’s not a person, it’s a TeePee. Not a man, a target.

Roger Ebert cannot be measured by his Twitter feed. Not even by his collective writings. Because he is human, and what’s more a human in pain. As am I. As are we all.

Tbogg:

So now CNN should totally hire Caleb Howe because, like Erick Erickson, he’s grown up a whole lot since last week.

The end.

Dan Riehl:

Caleb’s big mistake was apologizing. Did Ebert apologize to the many tragic victims of the Holocaust whose deaths he all but mocked and abused? No, of course not. Will he suddenly develop compassion for the victims of kidnappings and other crimes in Arizona? The people who feel trapped in their homes because of the Federal government’s refusal to act? Don’t hold your breath. As a political actor, he’s no more interested in their day-to-day lives, than we should be about his.

That’s because he’s a scumbag, a card carrying member of the disgusting Left, now using his position and even his illness as a platform to undermine the very country that gave him everything he has. And they never apologize for any of their ugly, or even anti-American filth.

Did Caleb lose it and go a little too far? Yeah, probably. I doubt I’d have gone on to that degree. However, these are especially tense and troubling political times for America with much at stake. It happens and, given the Internet/technological influences on communication, it happens even more. And I imagine it’s going to get worse, before it gets better. I went off on someone on our side yesterday because of a misunderstanding. Eh, you move on.

Karoli at Crooks And Liars:

He’s still wrong about Twitter. Real people do inhabit the place, just like the real people who inhabit comments on the posts here at Crooks and Liars. Real people, with real lives, real health problems, real concerns and real interests. They’re even real voters. They come to social networks looking for a connection and a conversation. It’s not all of life, but it is a part of daily life in this connected world of ours, and if Howe is really sorry, he’ll get a clue about that.

Howe’s declaration that Twitter isn’t real life reveals more about why he did what he did than anything else. When nothing is real, when it’s all a game, when cancer is a word and not a disfiguring disease, all bets are off. This is how those words made it through his filters, because no one was real to him. Not one person.

Caleb Howe is a fascinating look at how conservatives think. No one is real; it’s all a game. Roll the 20-sided die for your contempt score, move to the next battle. This ability to disconnect from humanity is what should disqualify them from any leadership role whatsoever.

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Let us return for a moment to our original question: How drunk was Howe when he pounded that stuff out on his keyboard and hit the enter button! Probably really drunk, judging by what he tweeted directly from launching on his rant: “Wife just revealed twe (sic) have fifth of vodka in freezer. That means I’m about to say things about Roger Ebert that Media Matters won’t like.” In fact Howe has a long history of sitting in front of his computer drinking vodka and tweeting about it:

How Drunk Was the Tea Bagger Blogger Who Mocked Rogert Ebert's Cancer?

So, we’re going to say he was really drunk. Probably partial black-out? Maybe he had a vague memory of typing the next morning. Next question: How drunk was he when he wrote this essay? To be so deluded that this exercise in self-aggrandizement with a one-sentence apology at the end might make him seem like less of a creepy drunk pounding away on the Internet after a shot or twelve, spilling the worst parts of himself out into the world. (See also: His gleeful celebration of Congressman John Murtha’s death.) Also up for debate, the drunkness level of the Mediaite person that put this on their website. (Awesome get! A guy who makes fun of cancer survivors!) The first political essay for and by drunk assholes. Caleb Howe is like the Tucker Max of politics. (Without the writing talent.)

Update: Caleb Howe complained we did not get his comment on this article, so I interviewed him via Twitter:
How Drunk Was the Tea Bagger Blogger Who Mocked Rogert Ebert's Cancer?
How Drunk Was the Tea Bagger Blogger Who Mocked Rogert Ebert's Cancer?
How Drunk Was the Tea Bagger Blogger Who Mocked Rogert Ebert's Cancer?
How Drunk Was the Tea Bagger Blogger Who Mocked Rogert Ebert's Cancer?
How Drunk Was the Tea Bagger Blogger Who Mocked Rogert Ebert's Cancer?
How Drunk Was the Tea Bagger Blogger Who Mocked Rogert Ebert's Cancer?

EARLIER: Marilyn Manson T-Shirt, This Was Not

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Two Internet Thumbs Up

Chris Jones in Esquire:

Roger Ebert can’t remember the last thing he ate. He can’t remember the last thing he drank, either, or the last thing he said. Of course, those things existed; those lasts happened. They just didn’t happen with enough warning for him to have bothered committing them to memory — it wasn’t as though he sat down, knowingly, to his last supper or last cup of coffee or to whisper a last word into Chaz’s ear. The doctors told him they were going to give him back his ability to eat, drink, and talk. But the doctors were wrong, weren’t they? On some morning or afternoon or evening, sometime in 2006, Ebert took his last bite and sip, and he spoke his last word.

Ebert’s lasts almost certainly took place in a hospital. That much he can guess. His last food was probably nothing special, except that it was: hot soup in a brown plastic bowl; maybe some oatmeal; perhaps a saltine or some canned peaches. His last drink? Water, most likely, but maybe juice, again slurped out of plastic with the tinfoil lid peeled back. The last thing he said? Ebert thinks about it for a few moments, and then his eyes go wide behind his glasses, and he looks out into space in case the answer is floating in the air somewhere. It isn’t. He looks surprised that he can’t remember. He knows the last words Studs Terkel’s wife, Ida, muttered when she was wheeled into the operating room (“Louis, what have you gotten me into now?”), but Ebert doesn’t know what his own last words were. He thinks he probably said goodbye to Chaz before one of his own trips into the operating room, perhaps when he had parts of his salivary glands taken out — but that can’t be right. He was back on TV after that operation. Whenever it was, the moment wasn’t cinematic. His last words weren’t recorded. There was just his voice, and then there wasn’t.

Now his hands do the talking. They are delicate, long-fingered, wrapped in skin as thin and translucent as silk. He wears his wedding ring on the middle finger of his left hand; he’s lost so much weight since he and Chaz were married in 1992 that it won’t stay where it belongs, especially now that his hands are so busy. There is almost always a pen in one and a spiral notebook or a pad of Post-it notes in the other — unless he’s at home, in which case his fingers are feverishly banging the keys of his MacBook Pro.

He’s also developed a kind of rudimentary sign language. If he passes a written note to someone and then opens and closes his fingers like a bird’s beak, that means he would like them to read the note aloud for the other people in the room. If he touches his hand to his blue cardigan over his heart, that means he’s either talking about something of great importance to him or he wants to make it clear that he’s telling the truth. If he needs to get someone’s attention and they’re looking away from him or sitting with him in the dark, he’ll clack on a hard surface with his nails, like he’s tapping out Morse code. Sometimes — when he’s outside wearing gloves, for instance — he’ll be forced to draw letters with his finger on his palm. That’s his last resort.

C-O-M-C-A-S-T, he writes on his palm to Chaz after they’ve stopped on the way back from the movie to go for a walk.

Roger Ebert continues on his own blog at Chicago Sun-Times:

I knew going in that a lot of the article would be about my surgeries and their aftermath. Let’s face it. Esquire wouldn’t have assigned an article if I were still in good health. Their cover line was the hook: Roger Ebert’s Last Words. A good head. Whoever wrote that knew what they were doing. I was a little surprised at the detail the article went into about the nature and extent of my wounds and the realities of my appearance, but what the hell. It was true. I didn’t need polite fictions.

One strange result was that many people got the idea that these were my dying words. The line Chaz liked least referred to the time he has left. A blog reader said he hadn’t realized I was so frail. Here’s how Romenesko’s Media News linked the item:
romanes.jpg
Well, we’re all dying in increments. I don’t mind people knowing what I look like, but I don’t want them thinking I’m dying. To be fair, Chris Jones never said I was. If he took a certain elegiac tone, you know what? I might have, too. And if he structured his elements into a story arc, that’s just good writing. He wasn’t precisely an eyewitness the second evening after Chaz had gone off to bed and I was streaming Radio Caroline and writing late into the night. But that’s what I did. It may be, the more interviews you’ve done, the more you appreciate a good one. I knew exactly what he started with, and I could see where he ended, and he can be proud of the piece.

I mentioned that it was sort of a relief to have that full-page photo of my face. Yes, I winced. What I hated most was that my hair was so neatly combed. Running it that big was good journalism. It made you want to read the article.

John Hudson at The Atlantic:

On Tuesday, a sensitive Esquire profile of ailing film critic Roger Ebert lit up the Twittersphere. The piece documents Ebert’s physical deterioration as he continues to battle cancer. Three years ago, Ebert’s jaw was removed and he lost the ability to speak. That didn’t, however, deter him from becoming a prolific Twitter user. On Tuesday, the micro-blogging service returned the favor.

In an outpouring of tweets, users across the country praised Ebert and the man who profiled him, Esquire’s Chris Jones. Here’s a small sampling:

  • vwyellowpress: A must-read on movie critic Roger Ebert: Looking for the meaning of life? I think it’s in a story I just read….
  • annehelen: If you still haven’t read the Esquire piece on Ebert, do. Now. A narrative fit for one of his beloved films.
  • AmyKNelson: if you read anything today, plese go to Chris Jones’ fabulous profile of Roger Ebert, who is dying:
  • jodyms: The piece on Ebert is outstanding. A tough read; one where each paragraph has its own revelations. Amazing.

Austin L. Ray at Paste Magazine

Nathan Rabin at Onion A.V. Club:

It is no secret that Roger Ebert is a hero to many of the writers here at A.V Club. He’s an inspiration to just about every film critic alive and now Chris Jones has written perhaps the definitive article about Ebert and his struggles with cancer and silence for Esquire. The deeply moving, incredibly insightful profile has been ricocheting through cyber-space as of late. We cannot recommend it highly enough.

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

Hal sez, “Near the end of his long and touching Esquire article about the career and illness of Roger Ebert, Chris Jones writes about Ebert’s discovery that somebody (probably Disney) had disappeared the YouTube videos of his tribute to Gene Siskel on his own freaking show:”

Ebert keeps scrolling down. Below his journal he had embedded video of his first show alone, the balcony seat empty across the aisle. It was a tribute, in three parts. He wants to watch them now, because he wants to remember, but at the bottom of the page there are only three big black squares. In the middle of the squares, white type reads: “Content deleted. This video is no longer available because it has been deleted.” Ebert leans into the screen, trying to figure out what’s happened. He looks across at Chaz. The top half of his face turns red, and his eyes well up again, but this time, it’s not sadness surfacing. He’s shaking. It’s anger. Chaz looks over his shoulder at the screen. “Those fu — ” she says, catching herself.

They think it’s Disney again — that they’ve taken down the videos. Terms-of-use violation.

This time, the anger lasts long enough for Ebert to write it down. He opens a new page in his text-to-speech program, a blank white sheet. He types in capital letters, stabbing at the keys with his delicate, trembling hands: MY TRIBUTE, appears behind the cursor in the top left corner. ON THE FIRST SHOW AFTER HIS DEATH. But Ebert doesn’t press the button that fires up the speakers. He presses a different button, a button that makes the words bigger. He presses the button again and again and again, the words growing bigger and bigger and bigger until they become too big to fit the screen, now they’re just letters, but he keeps hitting the button, bigger and bigger still, now just shapes and angles, just geometry filling the white screen with black like the three squares. Roger Ebert is shaking, his entire body is shaking, and he’s still hitting the button, bang, bang, bang, and he’s shouting now. He’s standing outside on the street corner and he’s arching his back and he’s shouting at the top of his lungs.

Amber Jones at Pop Eater:
In a new interview with Esquire magazine, famed movie critic Roger Ebert discusses what his life is like now, since surgeries stripped him of his lower jaw and the ability to speak and eat. The touching interview recounts Ebert’s days, which are regimented as his wife Chaz takes care of him, but one thing is for sure: Ebert does not want to be pitied. He is striving to keep publishing his legendary movie reviews and keep the film industry on its toes.
Ebert is a cinematic icon whose film reviews and reputation have become legendary. Ebert has held the film industry to a high standard, and it’s difficult to imagine modern movies without considering his opinion. There’s no question, he has the ability to make or break a blockbuster. As part of the once dynamic duo of Siskel and Ebert, he still holds his own today (despite the loss of Gene Siskel, who died 11 years ago from brain cancer.)

While not everyone has to agree with his reviews (four stars for ‘Me and Orson Welles’?), his cinematic critiques keep us talking. Examining each film, Ebert is a recognizable name who’s reputation precedes him.

Even A.O. Scott, a NY Times movie critic and co-host of ‘At The Movies,’ admits Ebert embodies our image of what a movie critic should be. “Anyone who is even slightly interested in movies comes across Roger… What makes him stand out is his ability to turn his technical knowledge of film and make it accessible and clear to the public,” Scott tells PopEater. “He is one of the best daily newspaper critics, and it’s because he can convey his thoughts and judgments about movies effortlessly with knowledge to back it up.”

UPDATE: Rod Dreher

UPDATE #2: Will Leitch at Deadspin

More Dreher

Sonny Bunch at Doublethink

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Filed under Go Meta, Movies

“What Would Brian Boitano Do?”

Pareene at Gawker:

Despite the fact that this is essentially an ad for a Viacom product that also promotes a GE-sponsored celebration of nationalism, this Shepard Fairey poster for Stephen Colbert’s Olympics trip is pretty cool. So go paper Vancouver with it, kids!

Matthew Yglesias:

I love any good high-level sports competition, so I’ll be watching some winter Olympics even though it’s definitely worse than the summer games. Hockey, curling, and short-track speed-skating are, in my view, the best of the winter offerings. The various figure skating and ice dancing events are pretty dull if you ask me. I think the games could be improved by shifting some of the indoor summer activities to the winter, particularly some of the fighting sports that wind up getting lost in the summertime shuffle. Is there some particular reason judo can’t be a winter sport? I don’t think so.

That kind of move would also make the winter games less white. Speaking of which, any time I think of the winter Olympics I think of Reihan Salam’s great article from four years ago “White Snow, Brown Rage”.

Reihan Salam‘s old piece in Slate:

Mind you, I am rooting for the United States. I am pleased to see that a generation of would-be ski bums are putting aside the Propecia, the Jack Daniels, and “the doob” in the hopes of becoming Olympic contenders. And though I spent my childhood winter vacations eating chipped lead paint, I don’t begrudge those of my compatriots who were off drinking hot cocoa with Muffy, Buffy, and Tad. Still, I can’t help but wonder: What if there had been chocolaty role models taking the slopes by storm when I was but a young pup?

Like the Augusta National Golf Club, the Winter Olympics is “exclusive.” Paul Farhi, writing in the Washington Post, has described it as “almost exclusively the preserve of a narrow, generally wealthy, predominantly Caucasian collection of athletes and nations.” Growing up, I forsook the lily-white Winter Olympics for the multi-culti Summer Games. I still vividly recall the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, when my middle sister and I cheered on every wiry, diminutive American athlete of a darker hue. When you squint, a fearsome Latino bantamweight looks not unlike one of the burnt ochre Salams.

Now, let’s compare that image of a powerful brown-skinned pugilist with that of my Winter Olympic role models. In 1988, we of course had the Jamaican bobsled team, immortalized in the classic film Cool Runnings. Given the team’s lackluster performance, Stool Runnings might have been a more apt characterization. Pluck and determination count for something, to be sure. And yes, Jamaica has no snow, leading some softhearted types to give its Winter Olympians a pass. But even as an 8-year-old, I was hoping for something more. Specifically, I was hoping to see this Third World band of brothers humble their colonialist oppressors with furious bobsled action. Instead, I was told that merely finishing the race was a “triumph of the human spirit” for these stumbling boobs. Meanwhile, pasty and perfumed Hanz and Franz were high-fiving each other on the medal stand. Call it tribalism of the basest sort, but I will never apologize. I want some brown sugar, on ice.

Chuck Klosterman at Esquire:

In order to enjoy the Olympics, you can’t think critically about anything. You just have to root for America (or whatever country you’re from) and assume that your feelings are inherently correct. It’s the same kind of antilogic you need to employ whenever you attend a political convention or a church service or movies directed by Steven Spielberg. When Savannah power lifter Cheryl Ann Haworth tries to clean and jerk the equivalent of a white rhino, we (as Americans) will be obligated to pray for her success, despite the fact that we know nothing about her or any of her foes. We’re all supposed to take inspiration from Sada Jacobson, who (I’m told) is the world’s number-one female saber fencer, which is kind of like being the world’s number-one Real World/ Road Rules Challenge participant.1 In a matter of weeks, everyone is going to be ecstatic about the prospect of Michael Phelps winning as many as eight gold medals in swimming, even though I have yet to find a single person who knows who Michael Phelps is.

This is what I can’t stand about the Olympics, and it’s also what I can’t stand about certain sports enthusiasts: the idea that rooting for a team without any justification somehow proves that you are a “true fan.” All it proves is that you’re ridiculous, and that you don’t really consider the factors that drive your emotions, and that you probably care more about geography and the color of a uniform than you do about the sport you’re ostensibly watching. I have a sportswriter friend who constantly attempts to paint me as a soulless hypocrite because I adored the Boston Celtics in 1984 but am wholly ambivalent toward them today. His argument makes no sense to me. I have no idea why my feelings about an organization twenty years ago should have any effect on how I think now. The modern Celtics have different players, a different coach, a different offense, different management, different ownership, and play in a different arena; the only similarities between these two squads are that they both wear green and they both use the same parquet floor.

I’m not rooting for flooring.

Stephen Messenger at Treehugger:

While the Eastern seaboard of the US faces whiteout conditions, the host city for the Winter Olympics, set to open this Friday, is finding itself strangely short on snow. Since organizers realized that none was on the way, they have been scrambling to do all they can to ensure there’s enough of the stuff to support the games. The problem is that temperatures during January were the highest on record and snowfall has been sparse. Conditions are so balmy, in fact, residents have been seen wearing shorts.

Nature is Not Providing Any More Snow
According to a report from The Guardian, after learning they weren’t going to be delivered any snow by nature before the start of the games, organizers have been working tirelessly to procure the stuff other ways. Helicopters have been bringing snow every five minutes, trucks have been driving it in from far away, while snow cannons have been blowing constantly.

On the mountainside, organizers are cooling what little snow there is with dry-ice to try to keep it from melting in the unseasonably warm weather.

For Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old luger from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, this would be his death. In an accident so grisly and horrific that Canadian TV stations suggested viewers turn away, the young athlete died shortly after flying too fast through the 50-50 Curve, losing control on the final 270-degree turn, hurdling projectile-like over an icy wall and slamming into an unpadded — yes, unpadded — steel pole. A rescue crew tried to revive him trackside by pumping his chest and giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but there was no hope. Kumaritashvili was dead, a victim of a sport gone mad and organizers who weren’t paying enough attention.

So sadly, for a subtle country that aches to show its might and efficiency, Canada already has its defining moment of the XXI Winter Games. Regardless of Vancouver’s beauty or how spectacular the competition turns out, how are we going to forget that a luger perished because a bunch of morons built the track too fast? A full house of Canadians, trying to make the best of an awful situation, mustered cheers and energy Friday night during the Opening Ceremony inside B.C. Place. But frankly, they should have postponed the Ceremony for a night out of respect to the fallen athlete, even if NBC protested and had to air Conan O’Brien reruns. Only seconds into the proceedings, the public-address man announced somberly that the ceremony was being dedicated to Kumaritashvili’s memory. No matter how many lights sparkled, how many times they played the stirring “Oh, Canada,” how many athletes tried to smile and how many native singers entertained — Nelly Furtado, Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan and k.d. lang among them — thousands of us sat inside the downtown dome and thought only about the senselessness of it all.

Wayne Gretzky and Steve Nash among those lighting the Olympic cauldron at night’s end? Didn’t faze me. I was numb, thinking about the crash and a young man’s family. And I sat disgusted by what I heard from Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC. At an afternoon news conference, he struggled to hold back tears when speaking of the tragedy. “This is a very sad day. The IOC is in deep mourning,” he said. “(Kumaritashvili) lost his life pursuing his passion. I have no words to say what we feel. It clearly casts a shadow over these Games.”

But when asked why the safety warnings weren’t heeded or addressed, Rogge suddenly grew abrupt. “I’m sorry, this is a time of sorrow. It’s not the time to ask for reasons,” he said. “That time will come.”

That time is now, Jacques. Shame on you for not answering the question with more care. We need to know why the track was so dangerous, why no one listened to the lugers about safety. We need to know why some of these Winter Games events are too life-threatening, why we’re seeing too many accidents like the one that left Shaun White eating the halfpipe while performing his dangerous Double McTwist 1260, or the late-January wreck that dislocated the hip of U.S. skier Daron Rahlves and might knock him out of the Games. I realize we’ve bemoaned the growing irrelevance of the Winter Olympics and have urged IOC officials to light a spark.

The Funeral competition was not what we had in mind.

Milton Kent at Fanhouse:

NBC may have intended to throw a big party for Friday’s opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, but the events of the day, to wit, the death of a competitor, forced the network to call a temporary halt to the fun and frivolity.

The network eschewed the expected opening panoramic shots of Vancouver and its surroundings set to the Olympics theme, “Bugler’s Dream,” to go right into coverage of the story of Nodar Kumaritashvili, a Georgian luger who died Friday during a practice run before the official opening of the Games.

Off the top of the broadcast, Bob Costas and Matt Lauer, on hand to anchor the ceremonies at Vancouver’s B.C. Place, launched a solid eight-minute block of coverage into Kumaritashvili’s death.

The reporting, smartly handed off to the network’s news department, was probing, but sensitive, noting the questions that had been asked about the safety of the course, as well as documenting the crashes that had taken place before Kumaritashvili’s fateful practice run.

Still, the tone of the coverage seemed aimed more at explaining the accident through the prism of the inexperience of the 21-year-old athlete rather than calling attention to what the viewer could obviously see.

Namely, the wall over which Kumaritashvili slid over seemed perilously low, and his crash into an unpadded concrete support beam appeared inexplicable, yet it took to near the end of the report for news anchor Brian Williams to raise those questions.

John Nichols at The Nation:

Not to be too tough on the organizers of the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics, but how come someone else had to sing the Leonard Cohen song?

Of course, there was going to be a performance of “Hallelujah,” the passable Cohen song that has achieved iconic status thanks to cover versions by Jeff Buckley and so many others.

But why have k.d. lang sing it?

Why not Cohen?

After all, if the Olympics opening ceremonies are about anything akin to cultural authenticity — a suggestion that organizers take seriously, even if savvy critics find it amusing — then any not have the writer and original singer (and the man who, upon his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction was aptly described by Lou Reed as having entered “highest and most influential echelon of songwriters”) of the song perform. True, Cohen is 75 and he’s got an ailing back, but something tells me he could have made it to Vancouver for this show.

His performance, perhaps as a duo with lang (a longtime Cohen fan whose performance Friday night was riveting), would have been far more powerful than what we got.

And what of the obligatory version of “O Canada”? Was it really necessary to have a talented young artist, June Award-winning jazz stylist Nikki Yanofsky,” mutate the national anthem into a cringe-worthy power ballad. If the organizers really thought the song needed to be punched up, they should have just gone for it and had Rush perform. (A note here: The full band, not just Geddy Lee.)

Better yet, have Joni Mitchell perform “A Case of You” and then break into “O Canada” where her lyrics reference the song.

Even better, how about War Party morphing their aboriginal hip-hop anthem “This Land Was Ours” into “O Canada”?

Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite:

Oh Canada. After much speculation about who would light the flame, tonight’s very lengthy, very Canadian, Winter Olympics 2010 opening ceremony ended with a, shall we say epic, passing off of the Olympic torch: from Rick Hansen, to Catriona Le May Doan to Steve Nash (yes, he’s Canadian) to Nancy Greene Raine, to the Great One Wayne Gretzky (was there ever another choice?). It was perfect. Then things got a bit tricky. It’s a moment perhaps best enjoyed via Twitter (video below):

@cherwenka: Uh oh. We forgot the cauldron.

@eahanks: OH GOD. SOMETHING HAPPEN OR I WILL HAVE TO LOOK AWAY

@rachelsterne: “Truth be told, they may be experiencing something of a mechanical failure here.”

@rachelsklar
: omg gretzky’s face. omg. please work, whatever is supposed to work. also, i’m sorry for laughing.

@cherwenka: Anyone else thinking about spinal tap right now? #olympics

@MajoratWH: An OC “door malfunction.” How discreetly Canadian.

@raywert: Wayne Gretzky doesn’t look happy.

@eahanks: Someone is getting fired right now, in very angry French, I imagine. #van2010

@raywert: How many Canadians does it take to light an Olympic torch? #toosoon #Olympics #badjokes

@dceiver: Okay, so apparently, Gretzky is going off to do this again with Chief Justice John Roberts, and everything will be fine.

@cherwenka: RT @colleenlindsay: This just in: Olympic torch pillars being recalled by Toyota. #olympics

@MajoratWH: Anyone can do harmonically balanced, 4 pronged indoor ice crystal. 3 legged one, so unconvetional, arch, unique. #torchexcuses

Fear not, the flame was eventually lit. The Winter Olympics 2010 have officially begun.

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Watching Miller’s Crossing With Daniel Schorr In Khaki Pants

Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard and Daily Caller has a new book out.

Matt Labash at The Daily Caller:

Friends and enemies, readers and illiterates,

I’m breaking with the regular format of this column to apologize for being away so long while on assignment in Haiti for my home publication, The Weekly Standard. My trip was nominally for an upcoming story. Though I also went to abduct Scientologists, who are thick on the ground, before they can abduct Haitian orphans and make them watch “Battlefield Earth” on the plane ride back to Los Angeles. (Those poor kids have suffered enough.) If you’d like to adopt a Scientologist, please contact me. You will be required to fill out a questionnaire and undergo a rigorous background check. I only place Scientologists in carefully vetted, loving homes.

Also, I’ve had book chores. My brand-spanking-new book, Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures With Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys is officially released today. I’m not going to beg you to buy it. In fact, I’m begging you not to buy it, because I believe in the power of reverse psychology. But I should mention that if you buy it, you will be invited to visit The Daily Caller offices, where you will be permitted to smell S.E. Cupp’s hair (jojoba-enriched) until you creep her out and she has you removed by security.

These book chores I speak of have been taking much time, namely in the form of written Q&A’s. In other words, a lot of outsiders have been “Asking Matt,” as it were, much like you, faithful reader, have been doing since 2010. Therefore, in the interest of sparing myself further work—out of sheer laziness and fatigue—I will now share excerpts from the various publications that have been asking me questions, beneath which I will include the link where you can read the full Q&A. Taken together, this is all the Ask-Matt-Labash you could possibly need, and quite a bit more than you could possibly want. But that’s okay. I’m trying to overload you as it takes me another two weeks or so to work through the arduous Scientologists adoption process.

Rest assured, however, that I’m banking all your questions, so keep them coming. As an ask-me/advice columnist, you never know what question will inspire an answer at any given time. I read every question, so just because yours doesn’t get answered immediately doesn’t mean it isn’t being saved for future use. Your range of questions is truly impressive. Though strangely enough, I’ve yet to field one about sex. Feel free. I don’t fancy myself a sexpert. But I’ve had sex. More than once. With someone other than myself.

Sonny Bunch at Doublethink:

There’s a new collection of Matt’s writings on bookshelves now called Flyfishing with Darth Vader. You should buy it today to boost his Amazon rankings. I promised Matt that at least one or two of my loyal tens of readers would click through and pick up a copy. Prove me right.

On to the questions! I put them after the jump because they go on a bit. Click through for his thoughts on fishing, the Coen Brothers, and the bedroom habits of a surgeon general. Trust me: You won’t be disappointed.

1. — A running theme in your writing — one that shows up in the title of your new book — is the soothing power of fly fishing. As someone who has never entered battle with my gilled brethren without a bobber bathed in bright orange paint, I have to ask: What is the appeal of fly fishing?

The trout-queen crowd will jabber your ear off about the solitude, and the grace that is required to throw a tight loop, and they will tell you that they chase trout because trout live in all the most beautiful places. Which is all true, as far as it goes.  But for me, I enjoy how much it confounds those who don’t do it. It’s not really the most efficient way to catch fish, although I catch a lot more fish than my bobber brethren, on average. Though it does have all sorts of advantages, which I won’t bore you with here.  But at bottom, it makes those who don’t do it uncomfortable, because it’s harder.  It requires you to be very attuned to what you’re doing. It’s not pop-a-beer and sit-in-a-lawnchair fishing. It takes touch.  And other people’s discomfort brings me solace. I’m kind of misanthropic about my fly fishing, that way. Which is why I prefer to do it alone. I have no need to share it. Is it silly to stand in a river for hours and wave a stick in the air to pierce a fish in the mouth with sharp steel, only to turn it loose? Of course it is. It’s an utterly preposterous sport. Which is precisely why I like it.  Its pointlessness is the entire point. It’s purposelessness provides its own purpose.  And I can pretty much divide the world up by people who get that, and people who don’t.

2. — If you could fight any one actor — living or dead — who would you choose?

Dame Judi Dench. If that old bat sees me, she’d better cross the street.

3. — Your greatest skill as a reporter is your ability to forge a connection with even the most recalcitrant of subjects. Is there anyone you felt unable to break through to? Who was your hardest interview?

Joycelyn Elders, the former Surgeon General. She famously championed teaching masturbation to children. So being a big kid myself, I asked her if she could share a few pointers. She declined.

4. — You have only film to watch for the next year. It will be shown on a loop, but you will not be forced to watch; you can jump in and out whenever you choose. What film do you pick?

Miller’s Crossing

5. — While we’re on the subject of film, please explain to me the appeal of Miller’s Crossing. Look, it’s a nice little picture, but c’mon: It’s like the sixth or seventh best Coen Brothers film.

As opposed to what, Fargo? Their most overrated picture?  A movie about snow and bad accents?  As opposed to Blood Simple, which all film school dorks cite so that they can pretend to only like their “early work” before they sold out and made Raising Arizona (which happens to be their second best film). Barton Fink and Hudsucker Proxy? Two of the most claustrophobic, unwatchable films ever made, which pains me to say, since the late, great Paul Newman was wasted in the latter?  Look, I love the Coens (even if it doesn’t sound like it). I hoist a White Russian to the Dude (The Big Lebowski – their third best film, ever). But by my lights, they have made precisely one masterpiece: Miller’s Crossing, a film that features Gabriel Byrne at his black-Irish best, a film about loyalty and double-crosses, a film about trust and betrayal, about manhood and friendship, a film which features some of the most razor-sharp  Coen Brothers repartee ever:

Exhibit A: Tom Reagan: If you want me to keep my mouth shut, it’s gonna cost you some dough. I figure a thousand bucks is reasonable, so I want two.

Exhibit B:  Tom Reagan: If I’d known we were gonna cast our feelings into words, I’d have memorized the Song of Solomon.

Exhibit C: Johnny Caspar: It’s gettin’ so a businessman can’t expect no return from a fixed fight. Now, if you can’t trust a fix, what can you trust? For a good return, you gotta go bettin’ on chance – and then you’re back with anarchy, right back in the jungle.

Exhibit D: Verna: Leo’s got the right idea. I like him, he’s honest and he’s got a heart.
Tom Reagan: Then it’s true what they say. Opposites attract.

I could go on. But I won’t. Miller’s Crossing is chess, everything else is checkers.

Mark Warren at Esquire:

A subtle piece of Jew-jitsu there, Labash. You outmaneuvered me. Must be Kristol’s influence, which is, as ever, pernicious (and to correct you: Tucker Carlson has assured me that the Episcopalians control the media, especially Politico. ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZ……sorry, wha? Oh. The narcolepsy. It comes when I think about Politico.) Which doesn’t let you off the hook for the piece you owe me, and only makes me want to beat Kristol’s ass all the more. But let’s leave that aside for the moment, to sell some books. Fly Fishing with Darth Vader is exceptionally good — it’s impossible to exaggerate how good it is. By any measure anywhere you are one of the great crazy people writing today. I cannot stress this fact enough.

My next question, which is a 2-parter: Does Kristol realize you work for him? And what are you doing in Washington? Every writer there except you sucks hard.

ML: I’ll take your questions in order:

1. First off, I don’t know which of your pets Bill Kristol ran over, but if you like me, you like Kristol, because he’s one of the few editors in America who’d let me do what I do. That said, no, Kristol actually has no idea I work for him. I introduced myself once around ’95, but I don’t think he caught the name. I just kept showing up to editorial meetings, so he started calling me “David Brooks.” I played through, and have kept doing so. Which is odd, as now he tells me that he loves my column in the New York Times. I don’t know what he’s going to do when they hide my/Brooks’s column behind the pay wall. It’s not fair to him. It’s not fair to anyone.

2. Your screed against Washington writers — are you trying to get me run out of town? I think the main reason I stay in Washington (I technically live in Maryland) is because it’s not New York. Have you been to New York? Hardly any trees. Not much fishable water. Tons of New Yorkers live there. It’s awful. And I think you’re being unfair to Washington. Yeah, we’re your thick-ankled sister. No, we’re not as fashionable. Maybe we don’t have all the cool clubs you guys do like the Man Hole and the Vaseline Emporium. But one thing we do have in spades is khaki pants, and by God, we’re not afraid to wear them. I mean I don’t personally favor khaki pants much. In fact, I’m not a big fan of pants at all, since I think the best way to create instant intimacy with a subject is to come to them naked, at least from the waist down. But khaki pants, man, they go with all our outre accessories, like white oxford shirts and repp ties. So even if most of my stories require me to get on a plane, I’m probably here to stay based on the whole khaki-pants ethos.

1. If this book were to become a film whom would you want to play you? Daniel Schorr. Because he’s 93, which I think is an accurate reflection of my old soul. If we can’t get him, then Nick Jonas, because the book could easily be re-imagined as a teen musical.

2. Where is your favorite place to write? Due to stacks of books and misplaced files, my home office is basically a dump/archaeological dig. I can’t even get into it without a Hazmat suit. So I no longer write there. I basically find some squatters corner in my house – most often the dining room table. But I might write anywhere that I can find quiet. Though it’s hard to find quiet. Especially with the voices. Who said that?

3. Have you ever gotten stereotypical writer’s block? That’s such a terrifying question, that it could jinx me to even answer it. So I won’t.

4. In writing the Detroit chapter you say, ‘It’s the only time I’ve ever felt like I was going to physically expire while writing a piece.’ Elaborate, please. Did you think you were having a heart attack? Also, you once ended up in the emergency room. Elaborate on that one, too. Actually, I had a writing-induced trip to the emergency room another time. I did a New Orleans trilogy during and after Katrina, over the course of a year and a half. The second installment came after spending a week in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Tough assignment, I know. But I was keeping very late nights and really trying to drill down on the wreckage and misfortune of friends of mine who live there, cutting across all strata of the city. I cared a lot about the piece. Maybe a little too much. About once every year or two, when I’m real fatigued, and my resistance is down – which usually happens when I’m coming off the road – I get this lip edema, some type of allergic swelling that’s triggered by stress. About half your lip grows to the size of a pregnant nightcrawler. Pop a few Benadryl and it goes down. This time, however, it didn’t go down. It just kept growing. I looked like one of those Amazon tribesmen with a plate in their lip. It was troubling, though my kids thought it was hilarious. I was on deadline, but I had to go to the emergency room before my throat started closing up. So while there, I had to keep knocking out interview tape on the laptop while laying on a gurney, or I’d never get done in time. (More on stress after the jump…)

Emily Bazelon at Double X

Reading Matt Labash’s skewering of the enviro-guru Low Impact Man, I snorted with laughter and overlooked the glints of climate-change denialism peeking out among the jokes. For about a minute. Then I read the piece again and launched a big e-mail argument with Matt, who is a friend of mine. It is in this spirit that I recommend his new book, Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys.

It’s a collection of Matt’s work, which means it’s a collection of inflated egos, delicately punctured. You can hear the hiss as the air goes out of Dick Cheney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Sharpton, Marion Barry, and Roger Stone. At the same time, you’ll also come away with some sympathy for these men, or at least their foibles. At moments, Matt gives a tutorial in gonzo journalism—hey, what’s he doing on stage with Arnold? At other times, he is all appreciative audience, “mainlining the very soul of New Orleans,” as he writes of a jazz musician he profiled in the city after Katrina. You may not agree with his every underlying theory. But go along for the ride. And then afterward, argue with him.

Will at The League

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Yes, the year is short, and yes, 2010 might bring us other funny books — John Edwards, I’m reasonably sure, will soon be bringing out a very funny book — but Matt Labash’s new  “Fly Fishing with Darth Vader” is, I’ll bet right now, the funniest thing I’ll read all year. Labash is one of the most consistently entertaining magazine writers today. His portrayal of Marion Barry in decline is the best profile of my favorite mayor that I’ve ever read. Labash has an innate sympathy for scoundrels, and he brings them to life like no other journalist today. And no, this is not some sort of log-rolling; I don’t know Labash, I just read him, and I thought I’d pass along the good news that he has a new book. Take a stand for great journalism and buy it.

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