New York Times Magazine Q&A
The New York Times Magazine
Interview by Deborah Solomon
March 19, 2006
Solomon: As the founder of the left-leaning Daily Kos, the largest political blog in the country, did you find it hard to write "Crashing the Gate," an actual book, as opposed to your usual raw and episodic three-sentence musings?
It was brutal. My co-writer, Jerome Armstrong, and I had no idea of what we were getting into. There came a point where we literally sat around for a day trying to figure out how to tell our publisher there would be no book.
Solomon: Which may prove that bloggers are better at demolishing arguments than building them.
Moulitsas: When bloggers make an argument, we can add a link to support our premises. You cannot link with books.
Solomon: The strongest part of your book argues that Democrats are in desperate need of savvier consultants, their own Karl Rove, to help them build a political majority. Why would you want them to be more like Republicans?
Moulitsas: To get their message out, the Republicans created this entire conservative noise machine. They have Fox News and The Washington Times and the 700 Club and just about the entire talk-radio dial. They have this incredible ability to promote whatever the big issue of the day is. There is no partisan liberal media that is working in concert with the Democratic Party in order to sell whatever the party is selling.
Solomon: That's not true. The liberal media has you and Michael Moore. Think of the endless volume of verbiage you guys produce.
Moulitsas: The blog world is tiny compared to talk radio. Rush Limbaugh reaches nearly 20 million people every week. The Daily Kos reaches maybe a million.
Solomon: What about the old liberal media, like The Village Voice?
Solomon: What about The Nation?
Moulitsas: What's its circulation — 200,000 maybe? The American Prospect has maybe 75,000 readers. And The Washington Monthly maybe 50,000 readers. These are not big publications.
Solomon: Whom would you like to see run in 2008?
Moulitsas: I like Mark Warner. I like Russ Feingold. I don't hate Hillary, but I don't like anyone who is declared by fiat to be the front-runner.
Solomon: Unlike any of those contenders, you're a U.S. Army veteran.
Moulitsas: Joining the Army was the best decision I ever made, and leaving the Army was the second-best decision I ever made. I went into the Army weighing 111 pounds, at 5 foot 7, and I had no self-confidence. I came out thinking that I could conquer the world.
Solomon: You sound like an Army recruiter. Can you sell us on basic training?
Moulitsas: In basic training, you get ground down to zero, which for me was really easy because there wasn't much to grind. But then they build you up. You do a 25-mile road march with a 100-pound rucksack in Oklahoma in the dead of summer — I can still remember squeezing blood out of my socks because my feet were so blistered.
Solomon: How do you support yourself these days? Does Daily Kos bring in enough advertising revenue to enable you to eat?
Moulitsas: Last year, I probably earned somewhere between $70,000 and $80,000. I live comfortably. My wife and I just bought a house here in Berkeley.
Solomon: Is it odd to live so far from Washington and spend every nanosecond of your life writing about it?
Moulitsas: No. I avoid Washington like the plague. And I generally avoid politicians. I find them quite dull.
Solomon: Have you met John Kerry?
Moulitsas: Only once. I was in a bathroom stall next to him at the Democratic National Convention. I didn't say hello. It was a private moment for him.
Solomon: Do you read your fellow liberal bloggers, like those who write for Huffington Post?
Moulitsas: To me, Huffington Post gives voice to the voice. They're celebrities who don't need a platform.
Solomon: That's not fair. You can't discredit bloggers like Jane Smiley or Nora Ephron just because they have a reputation outside politics.
Moulitsas: These people don't have trouble being heard if they want to be heard. Sometimes Huffington Post has noncelebrities — I am more interested in them, people who don't have the chance to get their message out.