Famous Last Words: Longtime Washington Scribe Marc Ambinder Won’t Grow Long Fingernails

Late last week NJ‘s Marc Ambinder, formerly with The Atlantic, announced his departure. In a cryptic note, he said simply that he was moving on, but provided no major details. Or minor ones for that matter, except for a phone and email where he could be reached.

We tracked him down late Friday by phone to learn more. Thankfully he was in a chatty mood. “I don’t have a job lined up,” the soft-spoken Ambinder told FBDC, explaining that he has an eBook coming out in January and is in the midst of a book proposal for another. He won’t reveal details, even the eBook title, saying he’s not permitted to say just yet.

Ambinder, a longtime Washington journalist, said he’s not leaving journalism. “It isn’t accurate to say I’m checking out,” he said. I don’t plan to grow long fingernails or disappear into the woods.” Well, that’s a relief. But seriously, how does he feel about leaving the intensity of daily journalism? “It’s never a bad thing,” he surmised. “It’s not always easy to step away from doing something you’ve done for 10 years, and something you seem to be somewhat good at.”

He turns philosophical. “Sometimes it’s good to just take a pause and figure out what other opportunities are available,” he said. “I know it sounds like the politician’s big excuse after some sex scandal, which would be interesting and might enhance my reputation. But I just want some time off to focus on some of these larger projects and now is the time to do that.”

What will leaving the daily blogosophere feel like? Though he isn’t necessarily worried about it, he knows mood swings might be in his immediate future. “I think I’m going to experience a bit of withdrawal,” he said. “Part of it will be the enormously reduced volume of emails I am not going to get. I am going to have to figure out how to deal with that reality.” Another reality is how left out he may feel during the upcoming presidential election coverage. “I’m sure on the night of the Iowa caucuses I’ll feel more than a twinge of ‘uh, should I really have done that?’ he said. “In the end it will turn out to have been the right thing to do.”

Ambinder said his employer has been enormously understanding. “They spent a lot of time trying to convince me not to leave,” he said. “They were persuasive at different points. It’s been tooling around in my head for a couple of months. I decided the best thing now is probably a clean break.” But he added, “I can’t rule out the possibility of winding up at the same company.”

For now, a road trip might be in order. Asked if he’s due for a vacation, he replied, “I will go, but I’m not sure where I’m going to go yet. I was initially thinking of driving across country but that’s not something to do in the winter.”