Back when kausfiles began, in the spring of 1999, we didn't have any of this fancy blogging software or RSS/twitter#whathaveyou that kids have today.** No sir. We had to hew HTML code out of wood, after walking through the snow for ten miles.
The first entry was on June 26. I posted it from my mother's basement. (But I had been dressed for hours . I swear.) It was a conventional piece ,*** with a set-up lede, some worker-paragraphs, a kicker. A few weeks later I ran into Walter Olson, of Overlawyered . He said, "I really admire your site, Mickey. Everyone else is out there desperately trying to put up fresh daily content to attract hits. But you let your posts just sit there. It's dignified--almost stately." I'm paraphrasing, but you get the point. I realized maybe I should desperately try to put up fresh daily content to attract hits. So I added "just-written, linked commentary on that day's news"-- what I didn't know was a "blog." In 2002, I moved it to Slate , in exchange for the equivalent of Nikki Finke's toenail .
In any case, the gala kf 10th Anniversary, now underway, seems a good time to force myself to assess the highs and lows so far:
Stupidest thing I said: No contest . At least I hope no contest.
Media coverage of the 9/11 attack often emphasizes that it will be a "long time before America gets back to normal," etc. The opposite is likely to be closer to the truth -- we'll get back to normal all too quickly , ...I suspect the story will be off the evening news by Thanksgiving. [9/12/2001]
Feature I shouldn't have let die: Yent-a-matic . Heather Mills and Ron Burkle was a good idea! Still could happen. ...
People I should maybe apologize to: Gary Condit. He was behaving awfully squirrelly. And I was only speculating! But that got pretty intense . I was more caught up in the possibility of his guilt than was justified. (After a long investigation, the police arrested someone else , clearing him.) I remember I once questioned--maybe on a conference call--why Chandra Levy would go jogging if she was about to leave town. A few days later, when I was mourning the sudden death of my colleague Scott Shuger, I realized I'd forgotten to listen to my phone messages. There was a days-old one from Scott, calmly explaining that going for a jog is exactly the sort of thing you do when you're about to leave town. Right. I'd been overexcited. Thank you, Scott.
People who should maybe apologize to me : Matt Yglesias! When John Edwards denied the rumor that he'd had an affair with Rielle Hunter, and called it "made up," I argued this was a poor strategy --even an innocent pol shouldn't go out of his way to challenge the integrity of the press organizations that are after him. It might anger them and cause them to redouble their efforts and actually nail him , or at least accuse him further, with attendant PR hassle. Yglesias argued that I was assuming guilt , and anyway:
No doubt by now we've had all the legitimate news organizations in the country looking into it and it seems that . . . nobody can come up with any evidence.
He then went on to giggle about goat-blowing . ... In the event, of course, the press organizations that were after Edwards (e.g., National Enquirer ) redoubled their efforts and nailed him. ... P.S.: I don't think I assumed Edwards' guilt , but I admit it was hard not to because I knew he was guilty. It was the worst-kept secret on the Eastern Seaboard. You'd write about it and then you'd get off-the-record you-can't-use-this calls from credible people confirming it. I suspect that if I were a trained reporter, or just a better reporter, I could have figured out a way to explain to readers (including Yglesias) why I was on Edwards' case without compromising those confidences. I was actually trying to write just that piece when the Enquirer caught Edwards visiting Hunter at the Beverly Hilton.
Best bit of writing: The best- written piece I've published after starting kausfiles was a fake reminiscence of JFK Jr. My friend Ellen Ladowsky and I had the idea. I wrote a draft and sent it to her, but didn't hear anything. Finally I reached her by phone at her mother's house in Canada. She was having some sort of intense discussion and didn't have time to talk. "No, it should be like this," she said, almost annoyed, and hurriedly dictated four or five paragraphs. I had the good sense not to change a word. I suppose if I were Maureen Dowd I would get in trouble for that.****
Best idea: A Fed for payroll tax cuts during recessions:
[E]mpower some independent, non-partisan body to temporarily cut payroll taxes, by one or two percentage points, just as we empower the Federal Reserve Board to cut interest rates.
We could have used that this winter, no? Spending may eventually deliver more punch, but tax cuts that don't even have to go through Congress would undoubtedly be much quicker.***** This must be an old idea. But it's still a good idea. And the great thing about the Web is you don't have to check! You just write "This must be an old idea." ...
Best idea I dropped: Open Source Health Studies . Let everyone with a computer and a bit of paranoia mine a big database to see what correlates with, say, Alzheimer's and what doesn't. I even got an email from someone who seemed to know the subject who said it was possible. It's in a folder. I need to dig it out. ...
Worst case of being spun: Watching from the press area, I thought Gore cleaned Bush's clock in their first 2000 debate. Then I went to the spin room where Stuart Stevens immediately mentioned that Gore hadn't been to Texas with James Lee Witt, as he'd boasted. Didn't that play into the festering press meme that Gore was an insecure embellisher ? It sure did. I wrote a goading piece saying this was a test of whether reporters could trash a Dem as they had said they would. (It was a test they passed .)
Since a butterfly flapping its wings could have tipped the 2000 election the other way, and since Gore would have been a better president than Bush, I've been feeling guilty about that piece. It's true that a) there were other reasons Gore "lost" the debate among many viewers--he grunted and sighed obnoxiously, something I couldn't hear in the press area.***** And b) every Dem political pro I've talked with thinks it was inexcusable-- and telling--that Gore boasted about Witt when he knew and was surely told that any new little boast would kill him. Still ... flap, flap ....
Greatest Hit that seems questionable in retrospect: The "Don't Rush Me" Series before the 2000 election. It was fun to run through all the reasons why I was an undecided voter, but in retrospect I shouldn't have been. I got snookered by Tucker Carlson's "If you're going to fuck me you'll have to kiss me first" anecdote into thinking Bush was going to be a surprisingly charming bipartisan compromiser and not a stubborn misguided cuss. Yes, Gore would have been a disaster in his own way, but he wouldn't have invaded Iraq. [ Would he have passed health care?--ed No Would he have destroyed the GOP and salted the ground the way Bush has?-ed No Are we in such a bad place now?--ed All good points!]
Thing I'm proudest of: Being part of the angry, You-Tubin' mob that helped stop Bush and McCain's misguided and irreversible illegal immigrant legalization bill. Sorry! ...
That said, these are kf 's Greatest Hits, I think:
The Case Against Editors On the Web they can help, but not enough. Don't curate me bro!
Let's Not Save Social Security A means test-for-health care swap looks better every day.
50-50 Forever In which I imagine I've discovered a theory about voting that actually dates from 1929.
Stating the Obvious After 9/11 Norman Podhoretz argued "Israel Isn't the Issue." Of course it is--in large part. And 9/11 changed our stakes in that Mideast conflict. (I wonder if David Greenberg would stand by his criticism today now that Obama has rejected the Podhoretz thesis.)
Gore vs. the Mysterious Forces A Kinsley-approved case against Shrumian populism.
No New Jaguars: The Fence and the Kitchen Sink My attempt at writing a column the way Ann Coulter would--forget the other hand, bombs away. It was an improvement.
I Can't Help Hating Chris Bangle About the crack BS artist who's done more to destroy our urban visual environment than anyone since Philip Johnson. Bangle's finally out of power, but every time I see a BMW--which is a lot around here--I hate him again.
Does Welfare Cause Terrorism Ethnic antagonism + welfare = oppositional culture.
Everyone Was Wrong About McCain Feingold Campaign finance reform isn't what we thought it was.
Bold Decisive Disasters The scales fell from my eyes when I realized the suspect methods Bush used to push "comprehensive immigration reform" were the same suspect methods he had used to push the Iraq War.****** A little late, I realize.