The FishbowlDC Interview With Politico’s Irascible Morning Money Man Ben White

Say hello to Politico‘s Ben White, who writes the “Morning Money” column covering the nexus of finance and public policy. Before Politico, he covered Wall Street for the NYT. Other publications he has worked for include WaPo and the Financial Times. He lives in New York City. As some of you may have noticed, Ben has something of a temper problem. Of course not remotely to the degree of Politico Pro Editor Tim Grieve, who was recently voted FishbowlDC’s “Worst Temper in Washington” in our Summer Superlatives. But Ben has his moments, like a recent rash of irritation he felt during a trip to Washington at the Madison Hotel where he had made a reservation. When he arrived, they wouldn’t honor his reservation. Suffice it to say, Ben wasn’t pleased and felt Twitter shaming might do the trick. One other important thing about him? He appears to have a man crush on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer as you’ll see below. In all sincerity, the finance reporter has a self-deprecating wit we’ve grown to appreciate in recent weeks, so we wanted to find out a little more about what makes him tick, or rather, what ticks him off.

Have a look.

If you were a carbonated beverage which would you be?  Soda Stream version of diet coke. I drink so much of it I have to make my own.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor (or vice versa)? Worst thing I’ve said: “Do you have any idea at all how financial markets actually work?” The answer: “No, I really don’t.”

Who is your favorite working journalist and why? I don’t have one favorite. I love tons of reporters. Right now I’m in special awe of Maggie Haberman for her tenacity and productivity. It’s astounding and frankly I think she must be on steroids.

Do you have a favorite word? I have three. Jacob and Rafi, my two boys, and Jenna, my love.

Who would you rather have dinner with – CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, FNC’s Juan Williams or NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. Tell us why. Blitzer. Because everywhere he goes is the Situation Room and that’s where I want to be. And his silvery beard mesmerizes me and has all the answers.

What is the most interesting conversation you’ve had while on the campaign trail and who was it with? My favorite was Karen from Arkansas with the huge hair and sequined blue dress who was most looking forward to her delegation’s party for Bill Clinton.

The population is dying out and you are required to save civilization as we know it. You have a romantic evening ahead of you (to save the planet) and you have three possible dates. Pick one. 1. Wolf Blitzer, Juan Williams or Candy Crowley. Just joking. Your real three options: 1. Lindsay Lohan 2. A much younger Madeleine Albright or 3. Chelsea Clinton. If I can’t have Blitzer, I’d go with Madeleine Albright because her story is so incredible and she is so breathtakingly smart.

Tell us a funny story from the road. Can be long or short. In 2000, my man job seemed to be carrying legendary Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory’s bags around New Hampshire. I think its my best memory from the trail and probably the most useful thing I’ve done in journalism.

What’s the most revolting thing you’ve eaten in your campaign travels? And the best? I ate most of my dinners in Tampa from a vending machine. But best meal was also there, original Cuban sandwich at Colombia Restaurant in Ybor City with former Sen. Mel Martinez.

What annoys you most about campaign coverage? And what gratifies you about it? … 

I hate the daily gaffe watch and the smallness of much of the coverage. I love stories about the economy and what voters’ real concerns are and whether they are hearing what they need to be from the candidates. Mostly they are not.

Which candidate would you most like to fight with? Break bread with? Go jogging with? I’d like to break bread with Newt, jog with Obama and greco-roman wrestle with Herman Cain.

Based on what you know so far, who wins the presidency? Obama. Or possibly Romney.

Which campaign staff has been the most pleasant to deal with? None of them. They are all so locked down on everything it drives me nuts. Maddening.

Without naming names, tell us some shitty thing that has happened in the course of your coverage. One time one of my awesome stories with lots of references to GDP, the ECB and marginal tax rates failed to lead POLITICO. The nation suffered. Children wept.

What’s the name of your cell phone ring? Existential scream.

It’s 3 a.m. and you get up to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. Do you check your BlackBerry? I’m still awake working at 3 a.m. So yes.

What word do you routinely misspell? (Ben’s Politico colleague) Alexander Burns

What swear word do you use most often? mother f’er

If you weren’t a journalist what would you be? Broke

When you pig out what do you eat? Ben and Jerry’s and my feelings.

If you could influence journalism in one way right now what would it be? Break out of the daily bubble, don’t let campaigns dictate story of the day. Write about issues.

When did you last cry and why? Right now because there are so many of these damn questions.

What TV show is your guilty pleasure? America’s Got Talent because I love Howard Stern so much it hurts me.

What is the best vacation you’ve ever taken? I really liked going to Cape Cod as a kid and listening to Prince and Madonna on my Walkman in the rain.

Pick one: Kim, Khloe or Kourtney? I assume those are Kardashians but I have no idea which is which. I prefer Bruce Jenner.

Have you ever had a near-death experience? On deadline. Every day.

Ever been arrested? Beach week senior year in high school.

Tell us a secret not many people know about you. I’m not wearing pants.

What scares you? Pants.

What and where was your first job in journalism? National Journal‘s Hotline.

What’s your most embarrassing career moment? Meeting Bob Woodward at the Washington Post for the first time and being largely unable to speak. (Note to readers: This reminded us of Cindy Brady‘s famed TV moment.)

Have you ever been fired? Define “fired.”

When and why did you last laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes? Today, when a bunch of us were trying to imagine what colorful language James Carville would come up with in Donovan Slack’s interview to describe the decision to move the Obama speech indoors. We were hoping for something involving wrestling an alligator. It didn’t happen.

When and why did you last lose your temper? Today, because its so damn hard to get around in Charlotte.

Which movie title best describes your journalism career? Dazed and Confused.

Who would you want to play you in a movie? Clint Eastwood’s chair.

Name jobs you’ve had outside of journalism. (Can start as young as teenage years): Paper boy, tennis camp counselor, video store clerk,  jewel thief

From TMZ Founder Harvey Levin: You are about to be served your last meal. What will it be? Tacos

Finally, please come up for a question for our next FishbowlDC interviewee. Make it good. It could live on indefinitely. Although in this case, we doubt it! Is Ben White the greatest CURRENT financial/political hybrid journalist or the greatest OF ALL TIME?

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