Free-associating for Your Supper

Steven Brill and Margaret Carlson

Free-associating for Your Supper

Steven Brill and Margaret Carlson

Free-associating for Your Supper
An email conversation about the news of the day.
April 27 1999 2:01 PM

Steven Brill and Margaret Carlson

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Dear Steve,

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So I guess you don't read my column. Yes, a column, an opinion-full zone, although unlike the very elevated Op-Ed writers, I actually have to leave my office and report. I spent every day for weeks on the Hill during the impeachment hearings and the trial. I loved Johnny Apple's pieces during that period, dubbed "In the Chamber." They were typically good Apple output, but we who were there looking down on Rep. Steve Chabot's double comb-over, worthy of Ripley's Believe It or Not, and other anomalies from the Press Gallery, never saw Apple "in the chamber." C-Span means never having to leave your desk.

Of course we get paid for the "Breakfast Table," although if I don't get myself together earlier in the day, we're going to have to call it the Dinner Table. I love Michael Kinsley, but I wouldn't be free-associating like this, except for money. The way I sort through offers is to put the paying ones in one pile and the more numerous, nonpaying ones in another and then mostly respond to the paying, unless it's a really good cause. For instance, tomorrow night I'm going to risk true humiliation by participating in a rock 'n' roll night, where you have play Name That Tune with Colin Powell and Bill Bennett and Steve Roberts, to raise money for Elayne Bennett's organization Best Friends, which tries to keep girls from getting pregnant and dropping out of school by keeping them busy. It's not unduly preachy, and it works.

Which kind of gets us back to bias, and you. (By the way, you don't read my column, but I pay my own money for your illuminating magazine.) The journalists you criticized in your first issue were looking for an entry point to undermine you, and, bingo, they laid their eyes on a Clinton contribution. I don't think you or your family members are required to give up citizenship to avoid the appearance of an appearance of a conflict. The problem is keeping yourself immune from those kinds of shots so that the debate can stay on the merits.

What will be coming out of Littleton is going to make Ken Starr look like Greta Garbo. Once MSNBC plumbs the Girlfriend, they'll be offering her a talk show. What I'm waiting to hear is a better explanation for why the coach was left for hours to bleed to death. Isn't a SWAT team supposed to take risks?

One of the people who responded to our first outing said that we were both better at the "Breakfast Table" than on TV, which is to say that the unexamined, unpolished essay is so much more revealing. Which is why I'm stopping now.

Editor's Note: We here at Slate have just realized with horror that we never got around to telling Steve Brill that he wouldget paid for his participation in the Breakfast Table, just as everyone else who has written for the section has been paid. Our apologies. As it turns out, Brill does not accept payment from publications he might cover in Brill's Content, and can only continue to write for Slate on the condition that we not give him any money. We hereby promise not to.

Steven Brill is the founder and editor in chief of Brill's Content magazine. (To subscribe to Brill's Content, click here.) Margaret Carlson is a columnist for Time magazine.