FishbowlDC Interview With Mojo’s Adam Weinstein

Say hello to Mother Jones‘ National Security Correspondent Adam Weinstein, who has been splitting his time between Washington, San Francisco and Tallahassee. Next month he’ll grace Washington full-time as the mag’s new Community Engagement Editor and will continue on as their National Security Correspondent and Tumblr-starter. He was previously their copy editor. Before that, he worked at the WSJ, the Village Voice, and the Tallahassee Democrat. He’s written for the NYT, New York Magazine, GQ, and Newsweek.

He has many life titles: Navy veteran, two-day Jeopardy champion and ex-political scientist. He also did a recession-fueled stint as a military contractor in Iraq. He holds an MS in Journalism from Columbia and an MA in international affairs from Florida State. Weinstein says he’s looking forward to “getting down with” the other social media folks in Washington.

Born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, he says he tried his hardest to be a beach bum. “There was lots of drinking on the beach and cutting class,” he recalled. In high school he interned at the Sun Sentinel, where he says he caught the Hemingway bug and figured journalism was something he’d always end up doing. He was a copy editor at the Tallahassee Democrat and the WSJ until Rupert Murdoch laid him off. He has funny copy editing memories: “Everybody has that moment where the front page comes out and you have a 72-point headline that reads ‘Headline Goes Here.'” He says he wasn’t a very good copy editor.

Weinstein says one of the problems journalists have is remembering that the world doesn’t revolve around them.  “We all just have a tendency to assume that what we work on everyday and what comprises our world is what comprises everybody’s elses,” he says. “The best journalists are ones that can step out of that bubble and be aware of other people’s worlds.”

If you were a carbonated beverage, which would you be? Diet Mountain Dew. Not very classy, but irresistible, slightly Southern, and sure to make you sick in massive quantities.

How often do you Google yourself? Enough to grow hair on my iPad.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor/boss (or vice versa)? I once told a restaurant manager I’d rather take a high colonic with a rusty chainsaw than work another minute for him. Two years later, I was writing for the Village Voice. The restaurant was out of business.

Who is your favorite working journalist and why? I can’t narrow it down. Dave Weigel is the nicest guy in the business. Mike Hastings is the most entertaining. C.J Chivers is a personal hero. I have an intellectual crush on Virginia Heffernan. But overall, right now I’d kill a man with my bare hands just to keep reading John Jeremiah Sullivan.

Do you have a favorite word? My wife and I giggle every time we say the word “backpack”, for some not-at-all-drug-related reason. When not in mixed company, I like “fuckstick.”

Who would you rather have dinner with – MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Katie Couric or ABC’s Diane Sawyer. Tell us why. Maddow, because I like to talk to PhDs. There ought to be more doctors and masters of non-journalistic shit working in journalism.

The Earth’s human population is dying out and you must save it. You will spend a romantic evening with either Helen Thomas or Joan Rivers. Who will it be? (Neither is not an option and yes, it’s possible. We’re in your imagination right now.) Joan Rivers, because I like her dirty talk.

What swear word do you use most often? “What the shit?!” I’m an ex-copy editor, so a lot of years in there, I spoke mainly in cusses. We’re the engine mechanics of the news biz.

You’ve just been told the big news: You get to have your own Sunday morning talk show. Who will be on your roundtable? (Pick four journalists or pundits types.) Skip Bayless, Woody Paige, Dana Loesch, Jonah Goldberg, and three dull machetes in the center of the table.

On a serious note for a moment, if you could have dinner with a person who has died, who would it be? I was raised in part by a lovely woman, April Rubin Bloom, an erudite, gentle union crusader who was like a third grandmother to me – Molly Ivins meets Atticus Finch. I was working on the wrong coast when she died, and we never got to share in each other’s excitement over my job at MoJo, one of her favorite magazines. Plus, she was the most talented cook ever to organize a NOW picket line for equal pay.

Does David Corn have a bad temper? No! He’s just a badass ex-hippie with great guitar licks and a sophomoric sense of humor.

Weinstein says Washington’s Boybanders “poop brown poop just like the rest of us” …

Who is your favorite Boybander and why? (Ezzy, Hazy, Weigel, Attackerman, Beutler) I owe Spencer Ackerman a lot – he’s a great journo who’s let me guest blog for him – but are we still talking about this like it’s a thing? They’re all bright guys, more talented than me, but they poop brown poop just like the rest of us. Anyway, our DC bureau enfant terrible, Tim Murphy, is going to be bigger than Bieber. Read him, for the love of God.

When you pig out what do you eat? A bag of Doritos and ranch dressing. I’m hands down the fattest unhealthiest MoJoer. Bad lefty.

What is your absolute favorite item of clothing in your closet? We want the fabric, the brand, the store and the price if possible. If it’s a certain kind of underwear we don’t want to know about it. A blue-rimmed white cotton athletic government-issue T-shirt with the Naval Academy seal and “WEINSTEIN ’00” printed on the left breast. I survived plebe year, which makes me harder than you.

Pick one: Mad Men, Scandal or True Blood. Sons of Anarchy. TV sucks, but pretentiousness sucks worse. I like shows that know what they are.

Have you ever had a tarot card reading? I knew you were going to ask that.

Have you ever had a near-death experience? The first rocket attack when I was working on Camp Victory in Baghdad was sort of harrowing. After that, it was just annoying, like mosquitoes in Tallahassee in August.

Ever been arrested? No, but I did once have to chug a bunch of absinthe in an airplane lavatory and ditch the bottle before landing in a certain dry Islamic country.

Tell us a secret not many people know about you. My current net worth is – $174,627. Student loans are a bitch.

What scares you? Flying commercial. No joke.

What’s your most embarrassing career moment? I’ve tossed off a lot of ill-advised tweets. The worst was a kiss-off I sent to Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin over her missing a link to a story I’d written. I didn’t know her from Joe-Bob at the time. She was a legend, gutting out a pretty rough illness, and here I was, bitching (groundlessly, it turned out) about link love. That was petty egoistic BS that I can never apologize enough for.

Have you ever been fired? No, but I’m really studied at pre-emptive resignations.

When and why did you last laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes? I dunno. Probably some gif on Tumblr.

When and why did you last lose your temper? Last week, I saw an Anglo conservative congressman from inner Wisconsin with three chins whining about illegal immigration on a morning show, and I lost my shit.

Who would you want to play you in a movie? Young Jack Nicholson. Or Leo DiCaprio. Same thing, basically.

Do you have a me-wall? If so, who’s on it?

My dog, Teddy, barking at the surf in San Francisco.

Who should just call it a day?

Tom Friedman. Sally Quinn. Armond White. CNN.

Breakfast cereal of choice: There’s no cholesterol in cereal. What’s the point?

From TMZ Founder Harvey Levin: You are about to be served your last meal. What will it be? Wings and soup from North Third, a swank joint in Northern Liberties in Philly.

From our last interviewee Jim Newell: Do you think that your work is good for, or at least not detrimental to, society? Hi Jim! Nice meeting you at Netroots! Yes, I try. That’s why I work where I work.

Finally, please come up for a question for our next FishbowlDC interviewee. This one may live on indefinitely. Make it good. Why haven’t you written your novel yet?