BE VERY AFRAID: Matt Labash interviews Betsy Rothstein, TheDC’s newest columnist
We’d like to welcome Betsy Rothstein and her blog, The Mirror, to The Daily Caller. Betsy signed on last week but we’ve known her for a long time, under very different circumstances. Betsy has been writing about us since we launched almost fours years ago. From the beginning, she often seemed to know more about what was happening in The DC’s offices than I did. It drove me crazy, and to this day I don’t know who her sources were. That’s what a great reporter she is, fearless and dogged. You wouldn’t want her on your case, trust me. (She’s also, for the record, a sweet person.)
The ground rules we’ve set for Betsy’s new blog are pretty limited: nothing negative about our immediate families. Other than that she can write pretty much whatever she likes, and no doubt plans to. Which is another way of warning old friends, former coworkers and relatives in other cities: Betsy does what she wants. We can’t help you. Sorry.
For everyone else, enjoy it. You’ll find news here every day.
MATT LABASH: In David Mamet’s “House of Games,” Joe Mantegna’s grifter character told his mark that whenever you leave a job, and you’re on your way home, you should “Take something. A pencil, something to assert yourself. Take a memento. Take something from life.” Why did you leave Fishbowl, and did you take any office supplies on the way out?
BETSY ROTHSTEIN: On the road of life, leaving was the next right thing. It just feels fitting. I need to swim in the sea as opposed to a small glass bowl. I do not steal workplace supplies. Then again, my office was in Manhattan so access to the supply closet was not exactly easy.
I believe we first met when you were working for The Hill, writing a piece on our dear friends from Media Matters. Does the media matter? If not, why not? If so, prove it. Aren’t there too many of us, and we all cancel each other out in this unceasing cacophony of 24/7 noise?
Ironically, Media Matters, the organization, doesn’t matter. They have a lot of bluster, a lot of accusations, a perpetual, mindless hatred of Fox News. But the actual media matters – yes, because it shapes the way people think, but more importantly, it influences what we think about on a daily basis even if we don’t want to admit it.
While you were editing Fishbowl, you turned your scalpel – or meat-cleaver, as some victims would have it – on many a journo. Yet most of us who know you in the flesh think of you as a pussycat, one who’d prefer to toy with the mouse for light amusement, rather than to eat it outright. When you feel it necessary to rough someone up, do you do so cleanly, without regret? Does it ever bother you, even if you feel you’ve brought righteous judgment? Or does bringing the pain bring you pleasure?
Does bringing pain bring me pleasure? Is this a serious question? I hope my mother isn’t reading this. You apparently think I’m Hannibal Lecter. I am not, Matt. And please, stop fictionalizing me. I do not play with or eat mice. That is disgusting. If I “rough someone up,” as you put it, I probably think there’s good reason. So no, no regrets.
One of the many reasons I’m not a Twitter fan is because it turns mere narcissists into exhibitionists as well. Two sins for the price of one. It’s a hall-of-mirrors for the insufferable. For a media reporter, this is a pretty handy tool. Has Twitter made your job easier? How do you feel about watching people hang themselves? Who are the worst offenders?
Interesting you use a mirror analogy – I couldn’t agree more. Twitter has made my job easier, but like crack, I have to take some breaks and clear my palate. I don’t think everyone “hangs themselves” on Twitter – some do it well. Then again, some people live tweet private family moments like mom’s deathbed. I think that’s abominably bad form. When it happens, the “self-hanging” takes many forms – sucking up, the humble brag, revealing ailments, or showing your bulge. I’m sure you’ve heard of Anthony Weiner.
Who are your role models as a human being/journalist? Conversely, what kind of journalism/human behavior do you wish to steer away from?
I’d have to go with Rachel Jeantel (of George Zimmerman trial fame), and going on your fictionalized version of me, Charles Manson, Jodi Arias and Drew Peterson (in no particular order). I wish to steer away from ass kissing. I prefer truth telling even if I don’t get invited to Tammy Haddad’s WHCD garden party.
Hey, back off Tammy. I like her, and contrary to what you’ve been told by your world-weary outside-the-beltway friends, it’s a good party. You want me to see about Skypeing you in next year?
It’s not “outside the beltway friends” who’ve complained about her. But I’ll start dress shopping now for the Skypeing fiesta.
Are you a political person? Locate yourself on the political spectrum using Daily Caller personnel – Jim Treacher being to the right of Attila the Hun/Tucker Carlson, Ginni Thomas being a socialist-loving RINO.
I’m a member of your Apathy Party and I couldn’t give a shit about it. I once worked as a press secretary to a Democratic congressman. But being political doesn’t interest me – being a journalist does. That said, I’ve always wanted to dress up like a Code Pink protestor and scream out something obnoxious in the Senate visitor’s gallery.
Are you a religious person? What God do you worship?
Why do you leave Satan out of your options? Really, I’m not religious, but aspiring spiritual. I’ve been meaning to take a tour of the Scientology HQ in Dupont Circle. Need to see what all the fuss is about.
For someone who spends so much time in public, often disclosing others’ secrets, you’ve cultivated an air of mystery. Even everyone’s favorite phantom, Mike Allen, is more likely to share personal details. Since Tucker often refers to his site as “a safe space for sharing and caring,” share with us now a revealing personal factoid. Make it hurt.
Before my time at FishbowlDC, I once sneaked a day off from work. I hopped on a train and my editor called. As the train choo-chooed to New York, I told him I had “female problems” and was on my way to the doctor. Needless to say, he got off the phone very fast. I have never tried anything like this since. It was ridiculous. I still can’t believe I did it. But it worked. I don’t think I’ll be trying this with Tucker.
Explain what your new column will look like, and who should be afraid?
The idea behind this is that I’m going to take a mirror view of Washington and candidly reflect back what I see – the good, bad, ugly and Slate’s Dave Weigel. It’s going to be a hybrid of media, gossip and politics. Like anything else, it will evolve into whatever it is meant to be. But it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun and full of surprises. I don’t think anyone should be “afraid” but The Washington Post’s “humor columnist” Gene Weingarten might want to think twice about walking in public with two big bottles of Milk of Magnesia. Life lesson: Sometimes the nickel for the plastic bag is worth everything.