The Mirror

The Mirror Questionnaire With Defense One’s D Briefer Gordon Lubold

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger
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Say hello to Defense One’s senior military reporter Gordon Lubold, proprietor of The D Brief, a daily newsletter that aims to deliver the latest news, analysis, tidbits and inside scoops each morning to inboxes in Washington and around the globe.  Some may remember him at the helm of Politico‘s “Morning Defense” and more recently at Foreign Policy‘s “Situation Report.” Defense One Editor Kevin Baron refers to his work as “candy.”

Lubold, like most Washingtonians, has an ultra-smart resume. He was an advisor to the United States Institute of Peace. He’s traveled extensively, embedding with marines in Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks, and during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, to name a few. He’s covered four defense secretaries and frequently travels with other senior military leaders.

Signs that he’s a military reporter: One of the most “exotic” places he says he’s visited is a rifle range in the middle of nowhere. Seriously. And on the most random of notes, his least favorite word is: moist. Blech! Agreed. In one of the most candid Mirror Questionnaires I’ve read in awhile, he admits that he’d like to change the toenail on his big toe. (Calling all Defense One reporters, photographic evidence here is a must and would obviously be anonymous — send to

Big toenails aside, Lubold’s newsletter launch coincides with the publication’s Defense One Summit, which on Thursday convened 400 senior military, national security and political leaders to talk about the U.S. military as it faces threats from ISIS and beyond. There’s also a reception for the editor this afternoon at The Renaissance in downtown Washington to toast The D Brief.


So drink up! And learn more about the man behind these national security scoops and secrets.

Bona Fides

Hometown: Corning, NY.

Age: 50. (I know, right?)

Named for: Grandfather’s brother.

First job ever: UPS truck loader

Current employment: Senior military writer and Editor, The D Brief, for Atlantic Media’s Defense One


If someone wants to get on your good side, what candy or liquor should they ply you with?

The coin of the realm of The D Brief is the cool tips, nuggets and interesting tidbits that I have long called “candy,” so that’s my favorite way to get plied. That and Maker’s.

Most exotic place you’ve ever visited:

A rifle range in the middle of nowhere, Mauritania, where we were served tea all day long on silver trays and I learned the value of being honest with the people I write about.

Why do you think Washington is so polarized? And please consider your answer in terms of boring us.

I’ll use a military metaphor: everyone is on transmit, no one is on receive.

Least favorite word:

Moist, obviously.

Weirdest habit you’ve observed in a newsroom (workplace) setting?

Reporters forgetting to check their facts. And, at one job, loud profanity in the men’s room stall.

Time you spend on Twitter each day (be honest):

Five minutes a day: I don’t spend enough time on the Tweeter.

Queen Latifah or Dr. Oz?

Queen Latifah even though I don’t know who Dr. Oz is, but even if I did…

Katie Couric or Diane Sawyer?

Diane Sawyer (my favorite story about her: I have her credit card receipt from a Little Rock restaurant she visited in 1993 before Clinton was inaugurated but she doesn’t know I have it – someone gave it to me. I always thought I could use it to hatch a plan to get a job at ABC but i chickened out.)

Kerry Washington or Claire Danes?

Claire Danes

Chuck Todd or David Gregory?

Chuck Todd

Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert?

Jon Stewart

What’s next for you? What would you do with your life if absolutely nothing could stop you?

I just started my next thing – I launched Defense One’s The D Brief, the third national security newsletter I’ve begun. Now THIS one is the must-read daily email that I hope anyone in the national security community will read. We’ve got scoops, tidbits, news, analysis – and best: candy. I love doing it. And if nothing stopped me, I would keep making the doughnuts of national security newsletters each morning.

If you would encapsulate your predominant life philosophy in a phrase or a mantra, what would it be?

Be extra honest because everyone thinks journalists lie for a living.

Do you believe in 5-year plans? If so, where do you hope to be in 5 years?

This will sound obnoxious but I am still doing what I love to do. Whatever I’m doing in five years, I hope I can still say that.

Stolen from Inside the Actors studio: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

“You did the best you could” (which will be maddeningly ambiguous).

Pick one: Homeland or Scandal:

Homeland, but I’ve yet to binge watch it.

Pick one: CNN’s New Day, Morning Joe or Fox and Friends

Morning Joe

ABC’s GMA or NBC’s TODAY Show?

Today Show (love the rainbow)

Since this is The Mirror Questionnaire, what would you change about yourself physically if you could?

Big toe toenail.

And your personality?

That I could forget every little injustice that has befallen me.

Preferred beach anywhere in the world:

The one where my kids are playing.

Guilty pleasure TV show:

Madam Secretary, which might be good if it had better writers who didn’t try to tie it up with a little ribbon each week. But definitely a guilty pleasure.

The snack you eat most:

Smoked almonds

On a scale of 1 to 10, how self-obsessed are you? (10 being you can’t tear yourself away from your own daily Google search and 1 meaning you often spend time in the country away from your computer and don’t give a crap about your Klout score.)

There’s a cool answer, but I think the honest answer for me is 5.

Workout regimen:

Crossfit 2-3 a week

A thought that brings you great joy:

My kids doing handstands in a pond.

Any brushes with death? If so, please describe.

Nothing like the people I cover so I don’t want to go there. But I got the biggest adrenaline rush one time in Kandahar in 2001 when I asked some fixers, on a lark, to help me buy an Afghan teapot and we went into a market that was so crowded that it started to feel a little off and our guts said we should leave quickly. The fixers got nervous that we’d be targeted and they rushed me out. It felt like a movie. If it had all gone south, I cringe to think about the story they would have had to tell my family: “he died courageously buying a teapot.”

Just a preference Q: Bo or Sunny?

Bo cuz he was the original one.

From Al Jazeera’s David Shuster: If you had to watch or read a news report in a language you didn’t understand, what language would it be and why?

Arabic because you’d be that much closer to understanding a language that will continue to affect public policy in Washington for years to come.

From Stateless Media’s Peter Savodnik: Why do you matter?

That’s E-Z: I don’t.

From Washington Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay: Which universally acclaimed piece of literature, art, film, or music can you simply not stand?


From SiriusXM’s Julie Mason: What is the lie you always tell about yourself?

That I’m 5’10.”

From Mediaite’s Editor-in-Chief Andrew Kirell: Which book would you bring to a book burning? [Don’t say you’re against book burning. We all are.]

The one that says that journalism is dying.

Please provide a question for the next lucky victim of The Mirror Questionnaire. Make it good. It may live on indefinitely.

Do you read Defense One’s The D Brief?