Inside the Mind of the World's Most Powerful Liberal Blogger
An Interview with Markos Moulitsas
By JAKE TAPPER
June 24. 2006
For "Nightline," ABC News' Jake Tapper interviewed Markos Moulitsas, founder of the powerful blog Daily Kos. The following is a transcript.
JAKE TAPPER: What inspired you to sit down on that day, in 2002, and start blogging?
MARKOS MOULITSAS: This was early 2002, it was in the wake of the Afghanistan war, kind of in the run up in the Iraq war. It was a very stifling environment for liberal voices -- they simply did not exist, they were quieted down. If you criticized the president on any issue, domestic or foreign, you were accused of being un-American and unpatriotic.
Watch the full interview on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET.
And having been a veteran, having pledged my life to support the freedoms that the Constitution provides, and that our nation were founded on, I found it very, very insulting that I was told what I could and could not say. So, really, I was a reaction of that stifling political environment. And I think blogging, especially in a progressive blogosphere grew the way it did, because of that, because those voices were completely absent of the media environment at that time.
TAPPER: Why did you enlist? Were you in the Army?
MOULITSAS: I was in the Army for three years, between 1989 and 1992. And I enlisted because I was actually -- at the time I was actually a Republican, and I believed I was very much a military hawk at the time, and I thought, 'This is very quaint in today's world, in today's political environment.' But at the time, I thought that if was going to advocate for military involvement in various places, that I really needed to have served, that I'd be a hypocrite if I was not a veteran and I'd be talking about military action. Not thinking that I was going to be in politics or anything like that. You know, this was my personal life.
TAPPER: Just talking about your day-to-day life?
MOULITSAS: Exactly. I mean, to me it would be hypocrit[ical] to say we should bomb Grenada or invade Grenada, we should bomb Libya, if I had not been a vet.
Now, I went into the Army as a Republican, I came out as a Democrat, and it completely changed my outlook on a lot of things. And when you live side by side with, you know, your fellow soldiers and you realize that they're not a number, that they're actually human beings and they have families, it's a lot harder, I think, to talk about sending them to die for things that aren't really that important.
TAPPER: But you didn't see action during Gulf War I?
MOULITSAS: No, I was stationed in Germany at the time.
TAPPER: And what did you do?
MOULITSAS: I was in the artillery. I was actually a fire direction specialist, which is kind of a headquarters position. You manage the logistical flow of the missile battery.
TAPPER: What does that mean in English?
MOULITSAS: It means that there's three missile launchers. I was in a track vehicle. I was in charge of making sure that the vehicles were fueled -- the launches were fueled, that the troops in the platoon were fed, that there was enough fuel, ammunition, that sort of thing. So making sure all the other details that make a platoon work.
I mean, people don't realize, I think, that in a military action, front-line soldiers are really about 10 percent of the fighting force. Everybody else is really there in a support role, making sure they have the food, the ammunition, the fuel, the sort of things that make an army move. And so in that missile battery, I was in charge of making sure that my platoon, that my missile platoon, had all those things.
TAPPER: Did you know people who were killed in Gulf War I or injured?
MOULITSAS: No. There weren't that many. My entire post deployed. Our equipment was ready to go. I mean, had the war not ended as quickly, I probably would have deployed. You know, I find it ironic in a lot of ways that I'm glad -- maybe not ironic -- I'm glad that George Bush Sr. was in charge when I was in the Army because he knew how to fight a war unlike the current Bush. So had the current Bush been in charge at the time, I probably would've seen action.
TAPPER: How did he know -- how did George Bush Sr. "know how to fight a war"?
MOULITSAS: Well, clearly, I mean, he accomplished the objectives of the military action. He got Iraq out of Kuwait. He contained Iraq and with a minimum loss of life, without loss of prestige with our allies, using an international coalition that included countries such as Syria, which was unheard of, Arab nations in the coalition. Unlike the cowboy diplomacy, go-at-it alone administration today, we had people like Poland now saying, you know, our so-called allies saying we're not going to -- we're not going to go along with the United States if we need to take action in Iran. We've lost allies, we've lost prestige, we've lost 2,600 lives -- Americans -- and counting, countless civilians, and no end in sight. So I think I lucked out that I was serving at the time of George Bush Sr. as opposed to George Bush Jr.
TAPPER: How long did it take before you realized that your blog was actually becoming a force, that a lot of people were reading it?
MOULITSAS: I don't know. It's happened fairly gradually over time. And I still don't think it's as much of a force as people think it is. I know that blogs are trendy. I know that liberal bloggers are kind of the talk of the town right now, and God knows there's been plenty of ink spilled on how relevant we are and how we don't win anything, yet if we're so irrelevant and we don't win anything, I'm not quite sure why they keep talking about us. If we're irrelevant, just shut up and, you know, talk about what is truly relevant.
TAPPER: Well, let's talk about that. Does the Daily Kos endorse candidates or support ...
MOULITSAS: We support every Democrat that runs for office. Now, some of them we focus on a lot more and talk about more. You know, we adopt certain races. It's not an endorsement. It's a blog of people who are committed to the Democratic Party. So this notion of endorsement, I think, is kind of silly, and it's an artifact of traditional media where you have to say, 'I endorse this candidate.' Well, we technically endorse every single Democrat in the general election.
TAPPER: You do take certain interest in specific races.
TAPPER: You guys were behind Howard Dean's run for the presidency ...
TAPPER: And Paul Hackett's run for the House.
MOULITSAS: Well, 'you guys,' I mean, it depends what you mean by 'you guys.' I mean, the ...
TAPPER: Your Web site.
MOULITSAS: It's very divided. I was a Howard Dean person. But the site, I mean, you know, I have contributing editors that help out on the site, and I had one guy who was a Gephardt supporter and another guy who was a big Wes Clark supporter. I think the networks at large [were] very much divided between the Howard Dean faction and the Wesley Clark faction.
So there's no -- there's no -- it's hard to say, you know, this is the blogosphere guy. And I think we're going to see that in 2008. There's not going to be any real consensus for any candidate. Maybe if Al Gore entered the race, we might have a consensus.
TAPPER: Do you, Markos, endorse candidates?
MOULITSAS: What I did last cycle, and I haven't done it this cycle, is I picked 15 races, not top-tier races. What I wanted to do is say, 'OK, the Democratic party has millions of dollars that is going to take to win these battleground front-line districts, and the Republicans are going to dump millions of dollars. If I raise $50,000 for a race, it doesn't really mean that much if a race costs $5 million to run, right?' What we wanted to do was expand the playing field and put pressure on lower-tier Republicans.
We targeted Tom DeLay in Texas. People laughed at us, and DeLay actually won with 51 percent of the vote. I mean, we -- 55 percent of the vote. It was a tight race, and it kind of showed that, well, this guy is actually vulnerable. He's not this big, powerful invulnerable person we thought he was. I don't think people would've known that had we not pumped in some money and some attention to Richard Morris, his opponent's race, in 2004.
So what we're trying to do is pin down these Republicans. Tom DeLay had never opened up a district office in an election since he first got elected in the '80s. He was forced to open district offices in 2004. So that's the sort of thing we're trying to do. If you're at home campaigning, you can't be on the role fundraising for other candidates -- you can't be campaigning for other candidates. And let the party, let the big money people actually put their efforts behind the front-line races. We're going to look at the second tier and the third tier and we're going to try to expand the playing field. And I think we did that very, very effectively. Of course, that means we're going to lose most races.
If I wanted a great won-loss record, I would put my money behind Hillary Clinton, you know, Senate race in, you know, in 2006. I would put my money behind every single incumbent because incumbents get re-elected at a 99-percent rate. You don't win very many races if you're focusing on challengers. What we're trying to do isn't to say, 'Well, look how great Markos has a great won-loss record.' What we're trying to do is expand the playing field, put pressure on Republicans and show that there's a Democratic party in places that haven't seen a Democratic [candidate] in decades.
TAPPER: So of the 15, how many -- how many won?
MOULITSAS: There were 17 in 2004. We won two.
TAPPER: You won two. Who were the two?
MOULITSAS: Stephanie Herseth in South Dakota, Ben Chandler in Kentucky. And actually, we also were very involved in the primaries in Illinois with Beck and Barack Obama. So Barack Obama was actually the patron saint of Daily Kos in 2004. So, three then.
TAPPER: Three. But your point is, your win-loss record is not great, but that's not the point.
MOULITSAS: I mean, I could have a perfect won-loss record had I so-called 'endorsed' every incumbent Democrat running for the Senate, because not a single one lost in the Senate in 2004. And in the House, the only incumbent that lost was one guy in Indiana and a couple in Texas that were redistricted out by Tom Delay. So, the goal, of course, was never to try to win as many of these races, like I said. The goal was to expand the playing field, put pressure on Republicans everywhere, force them to play defense, and wave the Democratic flag in districts that had not seen a competitive Democrat in decades.
TAPPER: And when you guys get involved, what does that entail? Obviously you're following the race, you're following developments, you're linking to news stories about each race. What else are you doing?
MOULITSAS: We're doing some -- we're doing some fundraising as well. The best benefit that blogs can provide a campaign is actually to build buzz. We write about them, we talk about them. The traditional media now starts picking up on races, you know, and generate[s] local stories. It provides earned media for the candidates we're supporting. It generates attention from traditional party organizations, the labor unions. And the issue groups that might not have even known that race existed and not have considered putting money into it now realize, 'OK, this is getting a lot of buzz, we're going to start putting resources into the race.' It motivates a lot of big-dollar donors to put money into these candidates.
So I think one of the biggest mistakes that the party makes and candidates do, when they look at the blogs, is that they think it's a money machine. And in fact, we're really a buzz machine, and if you create enough buzz, then by default -- and not really by default -- one of the side effects of buzz is money.
TAPPER: How much money do you think your readers and the Daily Kos community have raised for candidates?
MOULITSAS: You know, probably, you know, a little over a million dollars, which ...
TAPPER: For 17 races.
MOULITSAS: Last year, yes.
TAPPER: What about for Howard Dean?
MOULITSAS: I don't know because actually at the time, we didn't have a way to track that. So who knows? I mean, he raised $20 million online, so who knows how much of that came directly from our efforts. But that's a drop in the bucket. I mean, we're talking about an election in 2004 that cost $2 billion all sides combined to wage, and we were maybe a million dollars. So when people talk about the influence of the blog, really they're giving us way too much credit because we're not raising that much money. Now, one e-mail from MoveOn can raise millions of dollars, you know, one e-mail from MoveOn, when we could spend an entire election cycle working to fundraise and not raise that much money. So we're not a money machine. That's definitely now what we are.
TAPPER: You're a buzz machine?
MOULITSAS: We're a buzz machine.
TAPPER: In June, there was an event, you didn't organize it, but it's under your name. It's called the Yearly Kos. And you have it in Las Vegas, big important people in the Democratic Party -- you have the Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid, you have a bunch of presidential possibilities such as Governor Richardson up in New Mexico, you have Wesley Clark, you have ex-Gov. Mark Warner, Gov. Tom Vilsack. How is it that you have all these big guys coming to kiss the ring of you and your fellow bloggers?
MOULITSAS: Well, it wasn't -- it wasn't me. I mean, that's ...
TAPPER: Well, it's called the YearlyKos.
MOULITSAS: Well, unfortunately. The organizers wanted that name.
TAPPER: Well, they wanted it for a reason.
MOULITSAS: The fact is that there's hundreds of thousands of incredibly motivated, active political partisans working on the blogs. These people generate buzz, it generates local activism. These aren't the kind of people that pay attention a little to politics, turn it off and then do something else. They live and breathe politics. And anybody that wants to build a movement or a successful campaign needs people like the people who read blogs. So we are a source of activism in a way that, really, I don't think you can find in this kind of a concentrated manner anywhere else.
TAPPER: There were a couple of candidate possibilities for 2008 that weren't there. Hillary Clinton was not there. Is it a mistake when candidates like Hillary Clinton don't show up for the YearlyKos?
MOULITSAS: I think there's very many paths to a nomination, and they don't all necessarily go through the bloggers. I don't think we're all important. I don't think we're king-makers. I don't think that we can make or break a candidate. I think we are a component, we are a piece of a larger piece of a puzzle. And so, no campaign is going to be able to have it all. No campaign is going to have all the money it needs, or all the media it needs, or all the staffers it needs or all the blog attention it needs. They're going to have various pieces, and there's more than one way to get to the nomination. I mean, Howard Dean is a perfect example. He was a blog deity in 2004, yet his Iowa operation was absolutely invisible. And he as a candidate, wasn't exactly the best candidate. He wouldn't say our message, you know, he had problems on that front. So all the blogging activism in the world wasn't good enough for him. Somebody like John Kerry had no blog support, no blog buzz. It didn't matter.
Now, 2004 is different than 2006, which is going to be different than 2008. Things change at the speed of light in this world. And so, maybe blogs are a little bit more important. I don't think they can make or break a candidate. I think they're going to be important to a certain degree. I think they can help somebody who's lesser known, somebody's who's lower down in the food chain politically. I think somebody like a Hillary Clinton doesn't necessarily need bloggers for people to know who she is and what she stands for. I think she's got all the -- she's got a big enough soap box, you know -- a bigger soap box than she'll ever need that we could ever provide in the blog world.
TAPPER: You say you can't make or break candidates and yet you actually caught a campaign commercial for Joe Lieberman's Democratic primary opponent, Ned Lamont. There was a TV ad featuring you. Why were you in that ad if you're -- if you're not that important?
MOULITSAS: Well, I'm not saying I'm completely unimportant, but Joe Lieberman -- this is a great race. We have a great candidate in Ned Lamont. We have a terrible incumbent senator in Joe Lieberman, absolutely a dismal senator. And ...
TAPPER: Well, let's talk about that for a second.
TAPPER: You've been critical of Democratic interest groups, the abortion rights community, the environmentalist unions. You talk about they want -- they want to win on their issue so badly that they ruin the opportunities for Democrats to win seats. And yet, you hate Joe Lieberman.
MOULITSAS: I don't hate Joe Lieberman.
TAPPER: You don't care for Senator Lieberman as a senator.
MOULITSAS: As a senator.
TAPPER: And your animosity for Joe Lieberman, if you look at his voting record, he is squarely in the Democratic camp on vote after vote after vote after vote, from every interest group. It seems to me that you don't like him because of his support for the war in Iraq. No?
MOULITSAS: That's an easy cop out.
TAPPER: Well, then why don't you like him? If he supported -- if had been against the war in Iraq -- would you be so against him?
MOULITSAS: It depends -- it depends. The reason we are, we oppose Joe Lieberman is because he enables the Republican agenda, he enables George Bush. He was, you know, he may vote with Democrats 90 percent of the time, but he only votes with them if it doesn't matter. When it really matters, Joe Lieberman isn't with us.
He was the last Democrat -- to me this is amazing. This is the reason I oppose Joe Lieberman. It isn't the Iraq war. he reason I oppose, I personally oppose Joe Lieberman is because during the Social Security battle last year, he was the last Democrat to fall in line with the Democratic caucus.
We had people like Ben Nelson from Nebraska, Mary Landrieu from Louisiana, conservative Democrats firmly standing with the Democratic caucus in opposition to George Bush's efforts to destroy Social Security, and Joe Lieberman would refuse to join this effort. He was trying to negotiate with the administration. He was the last person. And he only fell in line when it was obvious that George Bush's efforts had failed. So he wasn't helping the caucus. He was actually a source of problems. Of, you know, he was hurting party unity. He was hurting our efforts to defend a very valued and critical government program. That's the reason I lost all faith in Joe Lieberman.
The war is an issue. And, you know, I love people who talk about the war being the single issue when, you know, we're spending $250 million a day -- a day in Iraq -- and that could, that could, one, it could keep our budget deficit from being the insanity that it is today. It could fund a lot of government programs, it could do a lot of good, and so it affects everything. I mean, not including our soldiers who had lost their lives, and the families that have been impacted and the people who were injured. And it's not only a question of saying, 'You voted for the war.' The question of him not realizing, not refusing to accept the reality that things aren't going well. I mean, he furthers George Bush's talking points. When the issue was debated in the Senate a couple of weeks ago, Joe Lieberman led off for the Republicans. This is somebody who enabled the Republican agenda more often than not. That's why we're targeting him.
TAPPER: What's the lesson for Joe Lieberman from this, no matter what happens, whether he wins this primary or whether he wins the general election? What's the lesson you want Joe Lieberman to have learned?
MOULITSAS: Well, no matter how much I would write about the race -- and remember, all I can do is blog about it. All I can do is write about a race ...
TAPPER: And tell people to send money.
MOULITSAS: A couple, you know, a couple of tens of thousands of dollars, Lieberman is going ...
TAPPER: And do a campaign commercial for his primary opponent.
MOULITSAS: Well, nobody knows who Markos Moulitsas ...
TAPPER: Well, if that were true, then he wouldn't have done a campaign commercial with you -- Ned Lamont -- right?
MOULITSAS: It was fun. It was a fun ...
TAPPER: I'm just saying you've done more than just write about it.
MOULITSAS: Right. But I don't think Joe Lieberman would have anything to worry about had he tended to his constituents back home. His job is to represent the people of Connecticut. If the people of Connecticut aren't happy with the job he's doing, they're not going to give him another shot. And there's nothing I could do to tell the people of Connecticut that Joe Lieberman wasn't good enough for them. They're going to make that decision for them. The most I can do is help nationalize the race, drive a lot of attention to it, sure, cut a commercial ... but that's it.
TAPPER: Forget Joe Lieberman, what's the lesson for Democrats in general?
MOULITSAS: Well, that the lesson has to be that they have to represent their constituents. They have to -- and here's the key. I mean, this is what goes wrong in Washington, D.C. I think these senators and congressman and media people go to Washington, D.C., and they get sucked into this vortex and they lose touch with what's happening out in the rest of the country. That's the problem. Lieberman's problem isn't that a couple of bloggers don't like him. His problem is that he has lost touched with the people of Connecticut.
If these elected officials refuse to lose touch with their constituents, if they spend more time outside D.C. than inside, if they spend more time talking to constituents rather than pandering to the D.C. elite press corps, I think they're safe.
There's nothing I can do to get -- for example, Hillary Clinton. She voted for the war. If today I said, 'I want to target Hillary Clinton, I want to support her primary opponent,' I would get laughed out of town because she has delivered to the state of New York. People in New York like her, she's responsive, she spends a lot of time in New York and she's delivered. Joe Lieberman has not delivered -- that's his problem. His problem isn't a bunch of bloggers writing about it.
TAPPER: You say he hasn't represented his constituents. He may well win the general election if in fact he runs -- he loses the Democratic primary but runs as an independent. Anyway, he's still favored to win the general election. So is it not that he doesn't represent Connecticut constituents, it's that he doesn't represent, in your view, his Democrat constituents, the Democratic base of his party?
MOULITSAS: Well, I mean, we'd like him to be honest about his party identity. If he doesn't want to be a Democrat, great, run as an independent going into a Democratic primary. Don't try to be everything -- don't try to have it both ways. He talks a lot about his integrity, yet he doesn't have the integrity to respect the will of the voters in an election, which is exactly what's happening. If he doesn't think he can win a Democratic primary, great. Drop out of the party, run as an independent and let the chips fall where they may. I don't necessarily think that Lieberman can win a three-way race in a general election.
TAPPER: What happens if the way this plays out is that the Republican wins in Connecticut? For whatever reason, the Republican wins. If you enable a Republican victory in Connecticut, haven't you done exactly the opposite of what you're trying to do?
MOULITSAS: Well, this is a fairly -- it's a reliably Democratic state. We're very pragmatic about these things. If Lieberman loses the election and Lamont wins, Lieberman drops out, Lamont would win. I don't think there's any question about that. I don't think anybody thinks otherwise. The problem comes if Joe Lieberman does not respect the will of the electorate. We live in a democracy. We live in a world where nobody has a God-given right to their seat, they have to make the case, and it's a party system. And if he refuses to abide by the democratic will of the people of Connecticut, that's not my fault. That's the fault of Joe Lieberman and his lack of respect for the voters of his state.
TAPPER: But if he runs as an independent and then he and Lamont split the vote and the Republican wins, haven't you done the exact opposite of what you're trying to do?
MOULITSAS: Absolutely not. What we have done is ... that we have played by the rules. Joe Lieberman hasn't. And Joe Lieberman, at that point, has delivered the seat to a Republican.
TAPPER: What races are you involved in now? Obviously Lieberman in Connecticut ...
MOULITSAS: There are two races that we're particularly excited about in 2006. One of them is the Senate race in Montana, and the second is the senate race in Virginia. In Montana, we have a guy named Jon Tester. He won the primary against an incredibly well-funded opponent, well-known, higher name recognition. It wasn't even close. He won by 25 points. In Virginia, our guy, Jim Webb, again ran against an establishment-backed opponent, had a lot more money. Jim Webb, in fact, didn't run a single television campaign ad, did only one direct mail piece, and still won the race.
When we talk about -- when we talk about people power, now I talk a lot about people power politics, where we're getting more and more individuals involved, as opposed to the issue groups as involved with the big money. Regular people getting involved, those races proved that an under-funded, lesser- known candidate with an army of supporters, with the real people powered army, could actually win those kind of races. And I think both of those candidates are extremely great choices to defeat their Republican opponents in November.
TAPPER: So how powerful are you?
MOULITSAS: Not very -- not very. Like I -- my so-called 'power' -- extends to the ability to nationalize, to talk about a race.
TAPPER: You have 500,000 -600,000 independent unique visitors -- readers a day. That's more than a lot of major metropolitan newspapers and ...
MOULITSAS: And it's, you know, the power of that actually is the audience, it's the kind of people. In a large newspaper, some people are reading sports, some people just do the crossword puzzle or read the funnies.
TAPPER: You're making my point. These are involved readers, and you have almost -- maybe not even almost -- you have complete control of what's on the front page. If something is not to your liking, it doesn't have to remain on the Web site, right?
TAPPER: Everything stays on the Web site?
MOULITSAS: Yes, essentially. Unless, I mean, we have the extreme limits, which, you know, racist kind of material.
TAPPER: But generally, my point is, this is -- this is more power than an editor in chief of most newspapers in this country.
MOULITSAS: Perhaps. I don't know how you measure that, to be honest. I like to liken myself more as a mayor of a big city, because you have people and they're doing their own thing and they're communicating with each other. I don't control the flow of communication. I don't have complete veto power over what's being discussed. On rare occasions, I have basically said, 'This topic is off limits.' But it's very rare -- I think it's happened twice.
TAPPER: What are those topics?
MOULITSAS: It's where you have 9/11 conspiracy theorists. I have no patience for people who want to say that the Mosad was behind 9/11 or George Bush was behind 9/11 or anything like that. I mean, I find that stuff utterly ...
TAPPER: So that stuff was taken off the site?
MOULITSAS: That stuff it's, it's actually on the site, but those people, you know, I ban that kind of, that kind of ...
TAPPER: And what else was the other issue?
MOULITSAS: In 2004, there was -- there were a lot of claims that there was fraud in Ohio. And for several months, people, you know, kept talking about how George Bush stole the election in Ohio. And after enough of that, I thought, 'OK, the evidence isn't there. This is being counterproductive at this point. If you have new evidence that would indicate that, then by all means, you know, share.' But the same discredited, so-called facts were regurgitated over and over again, and finally I got tired of that. I thought it was destructive. I also banned that type of diary.
And I think, in a case like that, what the problem wasn't necessarily people saying that the election was stolen. It's they were making claims that it was voter-box stealing, when in fact, I think a really strong case can be made that enough people were disenfranchised in Ohio that perhaps that was the margin of victory for George Bush. And instead of focusing on the, on the real problems in the electoral system, such as ballot-box access, having people put in felon voter rolls when they were not felons, not enough boxes in poor neighborhoods, in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods while out in the suburbs, there can be an in-and-out voting in 15 minutes.
Those are real problems. And people are still fixated on, you know, the boxes -- the black boxes were stolen. That, I thought, took the focus away. And then actually de-legitimize actual conversations on voter rights issues that actually, you know, voter right violations that happened in Ohio.
The rule is really is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. That's all we're saying. And when people make accusations without proper supporting, it's really frowned upon in the Daily Kos community, because we want to be reality-based. We want to be a reality-based community. We don't want to be one that's just throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. I think I'd rather leave that to the Republicans -- that's what they do.
TAPPER: You said to a Swedish newspaper, Swedish magazine, "I wouldn't want to be senator or congressman. I'm able to influence politics much more effectively doing what I do. The only way I could exert more influence would be if I were president." I mean, there's a certain acknowledgement in that quote that you have a certain amount of influence.
MOULITSAS: There is influence. But actually, that quote really doesn't speak too much to how powerful I am. It speaks to how not powerful the average senator or the average congressman really is. I mean, there isn't -- a president is very powerful, especially when you have the George Bush model of presidencies where laws don't matter, you can do a signing statement and ignore the Constitution, ignore the Congress, ignore the Supreme Court. So presidents are powerful, especially under the current regime.
TAPPER: But you're saying you're more powerful than the average ...
MOULITSAS: I'm saying -- I don't know, I wouldn't say that. But, you know, you're in the Senate ...
TAPPER: Isn't that kind of what you said?
MOULITSAS: Perhaps, but really it was not the intent.You are one of 100 votes in the Senate. You're one of 435 in the House. You're one small piece in a much bigger -- in a much, much bigger hole.
TAPPER: My point: You are the most powerful liberal blogger.
MOULITSAS: Well, yes. So, yes, I'm a big fish in a small pond, essentially. And to me, that's more interesting, and I feel I liked it a lot more than being one of 435 or being one of 100.
MOULITSAS: So that's -- it's not that, you know, I'm more powerful than a senator. Obviously, I'm not. But in my little, in my world, and it's a small world. You know, I did this commercial -- you talked about this commercial for Ned Lamont, who's running against Joe Lieberman.
TAPPER: I've never been asked to be in a commercial. It's kind of a prestigious thing.
MOULITSAS: There were 40 supporters at this shoot. It was a day-long shoot. This is Ned Lamont who, according to all the writers, like David Brooks, the only reason Ned Lamont has any supporters is because of the bloggers, right? There were 40 supporters there -- only two even knew what a blog was. I was blown away. I was shocked. Because I thought, 'OK, at least half of these people are going to know what a blog is, right? Because we're so loud.' I mean we're, you know, we're kind of a flavor of the month, and everybody's talking about us and writing about us and doing shows like this one about bloggers. I thought more people would know it. They did not. They didn't know what a blog was. They didn't care what a blogger was.
Ned Lamont has motivated them, excited them, because they heard them on the radio, they saw [him] on television, they saw him in a kind of traditional places where people had done politics in the past -- not the blogs. So it's a small pond. And we have a disproportionate amount of influence in the process, but nowhere near the influence that a lot of people like David Brooks claim we have.
TAPPER: There's a lot of harsh rhetoric on your Web site.
MOULITSAS: Oh, yes.
TAPPER: People are attacked personally. People -- it's not just political disagreements. Sometimes it's this reporter, this member of Congress, this Democrat, this Republican are, you know -- and then pretty salty talk.
MOULITSAS: Yes. These people act like, you know, they say a bad word and their ears will bleed or their eyes will pop out or something. I don't understand where this Victorian purity thing came from. I was in the Army, I learned to talk the way I do in the U.S. Army. And we don't mince words. In politics, I don't see it any different. I see it as a battlefield. We didn't create this political environment, the Republicans did. The Rush Limbaugh[s] and Ann Coulter[s] created the world we live in, and for too long, Democrats tried to keep the high ground. Oh well, we're not going to go down in the muck with them.
And,the bottom line is that they've been winning and we've been losing, and it isn't because a couple of people use a potty word. It's because they were aggressive, they promoted their side very effectively, they riled up the troops, they motivated their supporters, they made sure their base was well-nourished. And,we're not seeing -- we haven't traditionally seen anything like that on the Democratic side.
And suddenly, bloggers come on the scene, and we're aggressive, and we're unapologetic of what we believe in, and every once in a while we use an f-word. That's not a bad thing. That's what war looks like. That's what a battlefield looks like. And if someday we want to have some kind of DMZ zone politically where everybody stands off and backs down, and OK, Ann Coulter can go retire and Rush Limbaugh is going to go retire, but OK, but Markos, you have to take off, too, I'll consider it.
I don't necessarily have any designs in being in politics for the rest of my life. I don't necessarily think that this is the best thing for our country to have an environment so polarized that the political discourse is this aggressive and this nasty. I don't think it's a good thing. But until we see a sort of backing off from the Republicans that have created this environment, I don't see a reason why we should hold off and act any differently.
TAPPER: I guess I understand what you're saying, but it seems like a lot of the vitriol is aimed not at your Republican opponents but at Democrats who are considered insufficiently Democratic, reporters who are considered biased, people who might be considered, at least in some way, allies -- or at least neutral parties -- who are targeted often as opposed to Republicans. And the same could be said about actually your targeting of Joe Lieberman. And would it not be better or more strategic to target the so-called "enemy," the Republicans, as opposed to others who may or may not be on your side or at least 'neutral?'
MOULITSAS: Yes. And I think that's an absurd characterization. The right has been working the media for decades and made sure to push the discourse to the right. If you look at the Sunday morning talk shows, it's hard to see Democrats or true, unabashed liberals sitting on any of those panels. It's always a far-right crazy Republican and maybe a moderate Republican and then a media person, which, I guess, is supposed to be the liberal counterpart, which that's not really what's supposed to be, you know, that's not what we're supposed to see. That's not what we should be seeing on those shows.
So we are pushing back on the other side. And, to me, it's really interesting that the media for so long has let the right bully it into moving -- in skewing its coverage to the right -- is now apoplectic over the fact that we're demanding that they do their job properly. We're not saying lie, we're not saying follow, you know, listen to the Democratic talking points. We're just saying, don't, like, don't fall for these lies, look for the truth. There is a truth out there. This is not a subjective world. Look for truth when we can find it. And don't be afraid to talk about [it] for fear of being labeled liberal.
I mean, we live in such a crazy world where even now conservatives are accusing George Bush of being too liberal. Anything that cast out conservative ideology is quote 'liberal' in their world. That's what they live in, right? We don't operate like that on our side. We're just saying, you know what, be fair, be balanced, be honest, look for truth and don't be afraid of saying that. And if you don't, then we're going to remind you about it. And, you know, that's not a bad thing. And reporters, I think, have a very thin skin ...
TAPPER: A comment a lot of people cite as an example of the harshness of your rhetoric on your Web site is after four contractors were killed in Fallujah, you wrote these are mercenaries making money off the war, screw them. And I wonder if you regret having written that?
MOULITSAS: Yes, I don't regret that at all. I mean, the blogs are a raw, emotional medium, and they are what they are. And they're not measured conversation, they're not edited, they're raw. And at the time, the context, the reason I was so angry is that same day that those four mercenaries were killed, five U.S. Marines were also killed, and they were completely ignored by the media, by the traditional media. And I wear combat boots, my allegiance is with my brothers and sisters in uniform, not with people who are there to profit from the war.
And it wasn't me, that the liberal blogger, casting aspersions to these mercenaries. I mean, the U.S., the Pentagon has basically said over and over again that they're a threat to U.S. forces there. And so, they're a problem, and yet people who are more concerned about their deaths than they were with people in uniform.
TAPPER: I don't know if they were more concerned ...
MOULITSAS: They're absolutely more concerned.
TAPPER: ... it was the graphic, they were burned, they were, they were, you know, it was a very ugly affair when they were killed.
MOULITSAS: And every day our service members are getting burned and graphically killed in Iraq. And they're page B29 now. I mean, they're back of the page newspaper story.
TAPPER: You can support the troops without being against the mercenaries.
MOULITSAS: It was, to me, it was an absolute slap in the face to people who are there. Not because you're there to make money off of people's miseries. And I grew up in that war-torn country, I grew up in El Salvador. It's not pretty. They weren't, you know, our men and women in uniform aren't there because they're making a pretty mint off other people's suffering. They're there because they're doing their duty to their country and following orders. And my loyalty and my first concern will always be their safety, their honor and making sure that they get the respect that they're due ... that they deserve.
TAPPER: Newt Gingrich said, 'I think the Republican Party has few allies more effective than the Daily Kos.' He was basically saying that your Web site and your readers pull Democratic politicians to the left. The sentence that preceded that was, 'Candidates out there run the risk of resembling the people they're trying to appeal to.' What do you think about Gingrich saying that your Web site is an ally for Republicans?
MOULITSAS: The day I take advice from Republicans on what's best for the Democratic Party is the day I become a Republican. So I'm really not that interested in his characterization.
Now a lot of people try to make that argument that, you know, the bloggers are pulling the party to the left, right. At YearlyKos, the first Democrat to agree to speak was Harry Reid, who is an anti-abortion, moderate-to-conservative Democrat. The second was Mike Warner, the governor of Virginia, who's a moderate-to-conservative Democrat. One of the favorite personalities on the blogs is Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana, who is a moderate-to-conservative Democrat.
This has nothing to do with the left. This has nothing to do with the right. It has everything to do with standing up for what principles we all agree on. And whether you're a conservative Democratic or a liberal Democratic, we have shared values and we have to stand up for those, and we have to be proud to talk about them and promote them and not shy away.
And those Democrats who do so, whether they're conservative or Democrat (sic), get a lot of support. And those that don't, whether they're conservative or liberal, don't.
TAPPER: I guess I don't understand -- I don't understand what issues you're talking about. Clearly, Joe Lieberman believes what he believes. You disagree with it, but he believes what he believes. But on other issues, you think that groups like the abortion-rights community on certain candidates should just suck it up and let a pro-life Democrat win a Senate seat because that's the best chance that the Democrats have to capture that seat. And I don't -- when you talk about 'shared values,' I guess I just don't know which values you're talking about. Lieberman votes with the Democrats most of the time. But on some issues, he doesn't -- Social Security and Iraq ...
MOULITSAS: We're talking about some of the two biggest issues.
TAPPER: But, I mean, which are the issues that you're talking about?
MARKOS MOULITSAS: We're talking values. I'm not talking issues. Democrats are too focused on -- Democrats are too focused on talking about issues when they should be talking about values.
TAPPER: What values are you talking about?
MOULITSAS: We're talking about things like opportunity and fairness and investing in our people. I mean, that's the sort of thing that we want to be talking about. And policies and issues that infringe upon those shared values are a problem. People who support Republican efforts to destroy things like Social Security are obviously a problem. I mean, we have Democrats representing some very conservative states that get a lot of support. I'm saying people like Brian Schweitzer because he does not undermine the Democratic Party. He promotes the Democratic Party, he promotes those values that he finds that are important that define him as a Democrat.
And, you know, to me it's -- I always like to point out that one of the least-liked people on Daily Kos is Nancy Pelosi, who is the House minority leader, very, very liberal Democrat, and she's one of the least-liked people.
MOULITSAS: Because a lot of us don't think she has been a very effective leader in the House in opposing and defining Republicans and in defining what Democrats themselves stand for. We want Democrats that are not afraid to be Democrats. That's what we're looking for. And anybody that hides from the label, anybody that ...
TAPPER: Nancy Pelosi is not afraid to be a Democrat. But the idea is that she hasn't been an effective leader of Democrats in the House?
MOULITSAS: That's the sentiment, yes. And there's signs, and I have to say, that there's signs that that's changing. She's been a lot more aggressive lately. The Republicans didn't come to power by meekly trying to split hairs. They came to power by clearly making a distinction -- this is Newt Gingrich -- clearly making a distinction between the governing Democrats at the time and what they, as Republicans, would do.
Of course, all of that has been thrown at the wayside now that they've been in control. But at the time, he made a clear distinction about why Republicans would be different than Democrats, and we have been remiss and unable and unwilling to do so on our side because our Democrats were afraid of distinctions. They try to split hairs.
With the issue in Iraq, you know, we shouldn't be splitting hairs about whether we get out in six months or get out in a year or get out in two years. The discussion should be whether we stay, which is what Bush wants to do, or we get out eventually. The details can be worked out later. There's a clear distinction, and yet, Democrats are afraid to make that clear distinction.
TAPPER: I can't help but notice that in your voice and in your writings, there's a certain begrudging respect for how effective the Republicans have been -- not what they're doing or what they stand for, but their strategy and their efficiency.
MOULITSAS: Well, there's no respect of any sort for Ann Coulter. I mean, there's nothing like her on the left, so she's a whole different beast. But Rush Limbaugh is a different story.
And absolutely, they've been very effective in training their leaders, in developing their message, in delivering that message to their supporters and to the American people through their media machine and in closing their deal on election day. They run a much tighter, more-effective election machine than Democrats do. You can't help but see how effective they've been.
Just the fact that on the issues -- the American people are not with the Republican Party on issues from the war to Social Security to government services programs, Medicare, Medicaid, things like that. The American people are with Democrats, not with Republicans, yet they continue to win. Why? Because they have a very effective movement, and we have to learn from that. Not necessarily replicate it, because of the different world and times are evolving, but realize that we have to build a machine to counter what the right has built.
TAPPER: And you also happen to have -- and your book makes this very clear -- a tremendous amount of disdain for Democrats, Democratic consultants in Washington, D.C.
MOULITSAS: Absolutely. These consultants in Washington, D.C., control the election machinery. You know, Republicans, they're winning. Democrats have an election machine -- it's these consultants in Washington, D.C., and they're not winning. Yet year after year after year, the same people get hired, and they do the same sloppy work. They use the same tactics that may have worked in 1970 or 1980. They're not working in the 2000s. And that ineffectiveness gets rewarded because it's an old-boy club, a little Mafia in D.C. They don't let any outside effective consultants come in and ...
TAPPER: Who should they let in?
MOULITSAS: Oh, we have a -- there are people out in the states that are winning elections. I mean, we have Democrats that, for example, in 2004, that took over state legislatures in Colorado and Montana. And who is running those races? Who's supporting that machinery? Why does D.C. send their consultants to run races in places like Missouri and Oklahoma when the locals obviously know the local environment better? And what kind of language, what kind of tactics and strategies, what kind of framing of the issues that works locally. In fact, D.C. insists on controlling that from far away. It's a cancer on the party.
If they were winning, there would be no problem, right? I mean, that would be great. But they're not winning. Why are they getting hired again? That's the problem. It's finding the people who are winning, getting those individuals to work our races. And when we look out in the states, and we did in our book "Crashing the Gate," we saw that there were individuals that were using very innovative tactics, and that's why it was helping Democrats win in places that were not under the influence of this D.C. cabal of a corrupt and ineffective consultants.
TAPPER: What do you think is going to happen in November?
MOULITSAS: I'm actually very pessimistic about November. I know the numbers indicate that Democrats should make big gains. I think if you look at the numbers in 2004, John Kerry should've won. The numbers, I don't think, mean as much because Republicans are far more effective at motivating their voters, their supporters, to come out and vote. They have, like I said, much better election machinery.
And so, I think the numbers look fantastic. We should make some gains. I don't think we're going to take back either control of the Senate or control of the House. Then again, I've been wrong in the last two cycles, so I'm hoping that I go for zero for three in this Fall's election as well ...
TAPPER: You thought Kerry was going to win?
MOULITSAS: I thought Kerry was going to win. I thought Democrats were going to make gains in the Senate, in the House in 2002 and in 2004. I was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. So, I'm hoping I'm wrong again.
TAPPER: But do you think the American people agree with you on most issues, or is that not even the point?
MOULITSAS: I don't even begin to worry about that. It's not an issue. And in fact, I've been starting to work out what, you know, what my political philosophy is, and it's actually not necessarily in tune with the Democratic Party itself. It's a very libertarian approach to politics where we don't need government for a lot of things where government is involved in today.
TAPPER: So gun control, you don't necessarily ...
MOULITSAS: Oh, I'm very much against gun control and ...
MOULITSAS: Oh, very much so. Yes. Absolutely. But I'm very much libertarian. I mean, personally, I do not like, say, abortion. I'm very much against abortion personally, but from my libertarian leanings indicate that I'm not going to be telling people what they should or should not be doing.
TAPPER: Well, a libertarian point of view on taxes might be that there shouldn't -- there should be as few taxes as possible and few government regulations as possible.
MOULITSAS: Well, I didn't say I was a libertarian. But on government regulations, I think there's probably a lot more government regulation. I think small businesses are over-regulated. There's definitely a lot of places where we can make common ground with libertarians. Obviously, civil liberty issues, Bill of Rights type of issues, the infringement of this government on, you know, spying on people and listening into their phone conversations and the elimination of habeas corpus. A lot of these issues are really disturbing to me from the libertarian standpoint.
I think we should have, what I'd love to see is a balanced budget. I'd love to see a country that knows how to manage its finances. We're not seeing that out of the Republicans. They have control of the entire government's apparatus, and we have record deficits. I want a government that works and lives within its means.
If we want a government program, we should pay for it. And if we're not willing to pay for it, then maybe we don't need that government program.
TAPPER: Why aren't you running for office? Why aren't you running for a state legislature, for Congress?
MOULITSAS: It's -- one of the most disturbing moments I ever had in politics is I was touring the Democratic Party headquarters, and I was walking through the wing of the building that's occupied by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and it's a cubicle farm. And in that cubicle farm, there were a couple of dozen -- maybe not a couple of dozen, maybe a dozen -- Democrats, representatives. These are congressmen, these are supposedly our representatives of democracy, our exulted representatives, this is democracy in action. They were huddled over phones begging for money, and they do so hours a day.
And I can't ask my wife for a loan, you know, for money to help me buy something. I can't call up strangers and beg for money. I think it's demeaning. I think it makes a mockery of what democracy is all about. And that is a reality of running for office. I think that's why we don't have a lot of good people run for office because they have to spend eight hours a day, 10 hours a day on the phone begging people for money, and there's no way I could do anything like that.
On top of that, I'm not necessarily a policy person. I like to say that my job isn't to develop policy. There's tons -- there's hundreds, thousands of out-of-work policy wonks in the Democratic Party. My job is to help them get jobs. And I trust them to do their jobs. I don't want to sit there and pore over, you know, the kind of numbers to determine what kind of legislation would be best for the solvency of the Medicaid program. I mean, that does not interest me. And I wouldn't be a good representative if I didn't immerse myself in those type of details.
TAPPER: You make a good living?
MOULITSAS: I make an excellent living. Absolutely.
TAPPER: How much about do you make?
MOULITSAS: Good enough. I mean ...
TAPPER: I read somewhere that you said you make between, this is maybe a year or two ago, that you made between $80,000 and $100,000 doing the Web site.
MOULITSAS: To be perfectly honest, I'm not just saying this to dodge the question -- I have no idea because the money that comes in, I spend on the site. So at the end of the year ...
TAPPER: You have a nice house here.
MOULITSAS: I bought a house in Berkeley, so obviously I'm doing good enough for that. But there's no way until the end of the year, until the accountant tallies up what expense, I have no idea. Because if I decide tomorrow I want to spend, you know, $20,000 on a new comment system for the Daily Kos, which I just did, I spent $20,000 on a comment system.
TAPPER: For another comment system?
MOULITSAS: Yes. I don't need to spend that money, but I do it because I think it's what's right for the growth of the site and because I have the resources to make the site as great as a site as possible.
TAPPER: In the forward to your book, you elude to this: first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win, Mahatma Gandhi. But you're in the position right now of then they attack you.
TAPPER: And you've been getting ...
MOULITSAS: I was wondering what took them so long.
TAPPER: And you're getting a lot of heat from the New York Times' blogger Chris Suellentrop, the "New Republic." There must have been an odd moment when you picked up the New York Times newspaper and turned to the op-ed pages and David Brooks had a whole column devoted to you
MOULITSAS: If I picked up a newspaper, I guess I might have been surprised. But I haven't picked up a newspaper in years.
TAPPER: OK. But if you clicked on the link and a New York Times columnist has a column attacking you ...
MOULITSAS: There's two reactions right now as they attack me. And I'm being attacked because I think I'm symbol of the Netroots, not necessarily because I am the all-powerful person. They either say I have no influence and they attack me for that reason, which is odd, because if you no influence, why attack? Or they claim I have all this incredible power, which is simply not true.
And so what we're seeing really, I mean, the blogosphere really is so new, this people power movement is so new that nobody knows how to make sense of it. So there's a lot of oversimplification, there's a lot of generalization and there's an effort to attach leaders to it in a traditional sense, because movements traditionally had leaders attached to them.
Now what we're seeing, because of technology, that anybody can be a leader. Our, you know, YearlyKos conference was organized by a school teacher from Tennessee who had no experience whatsoever doing anything but teaching children. Yet she pulled off an incredibly professionally looking conference in Vegas for over 1,000 people. So anybody can be a leader. Technology allows that.
TAPPER: As I understand, the controversy, the accusations leveled against you by David Brooks of the New York Times and others at the New Republic and other places, is basically the following: that your partner in writing the book, Jerome Armstrong, and somebody who you used to be in business with, that there are allegations that you throw your support behind who he gets hired by.
So for instance, one day you're in favor of a Senate candidate in Ohio, Paul Hackett, then less than 48 hours [later] you throw your support to Congressman Sherwood Brown. Jerome Armstrong is working for Sherwood Brown, Jerome Armstrong is working for Gov. Mark Warner in Virginia. You surprisingly, to some people, are intrigued by his presidential candidacy even though he hasn't been [a] rather effect[ive] anti-war voice. In fact, I'm not really quite sure where he stands on the war. And basically, the accusation is that your support is up for sale.
MOULITSAS: What's the sale price?
UNKNOWN PARTICIPANT: Well, that Jerome is making money, and he's your partner.
MOULITSAS: How -- but, so Jerome makes money, so that buys me? That's a, kind of an odd -- people are stretching, people are looking for whatever hook they can to try to discredit me and the bloggers. And it's also utterly ridiculous -- this Senate race in Ohio, Jerome was working on that race from the beginning when I was supporting Paul Hackett.
And it wasn't until I saw Paul Hackett's finance numbers, finance, fundraising numbers and I realized that he wasn't raising the kind of money we needed him to raise. Why? He didn't like spending eight hours a day on a telephone. I can't begrudge him that, but that's part -- that comes with the territory of running for a race that's going to cost $20, $30 million to run. He wasn't doing the kind of work that needed to be done. I thought, 'Well, you know what? Let's have him run for that House seat again.' He ran a great House race, almost won. That would be the ideal situation, let him seize it as a politician.
And in 2010, there's going to be another shot at a Senate seat in Ohio. It had nothing to do with Jerome Armstrong . If Jerome Armstrong bought support, I would've been with Sherwood Brown from day one on that race, and I wasn't with Sherwood Brown from day one on that race. Mark Warner -- I, you know, I said I like a bunch of them. It's 2006, the election isn't until 2008, I'm not supporting anybody right now. I'm giving everybody an equal chance to make their case. Now what's happening is that people who don't support Mark Warner because they support somebody else are trying to blunt my saying Mark Warner has been an effective governor of Virginia. Because he has been an effective governor of Virginia, I'm not going to lie about it. But everybody is going to get their chance.
And I've said over and over again, and I said it at YearlyKos, that they have all of next year to make their case. And it'd be stupid, I think, to really get behind any one candidate this early in the game. Let them make their case, let them prove to Democrats why they should be the nominee, and then we can decide in early 2008.
TAPPER: Did Jerome get money as a consultant on any of these campaigns?
MOULITSAS: It has nothing to do to me.
TAPPER: He -- not one dollar of that goes to you?
MOULITSAS: No, absolutely not.
TAPPER: Not one cent is going to you?
MOULITSAS: No. And in fact, what I think they've been trying to say is, you know, if you've got such evidence, let's see it, because it doesn't exist. And -- it's, you know, you learn, you know, you talk about me being influencing, right? That's when I figured out that I'd reached a certain level in the political ecosystem where people are starting to make up stuff about me. It had no basis in reality, no basis in truth, it was just pure, unadulterated fantasy.
And, you know, what can you do? I mean this is politics, it's ugly business, it's a -- it's a contact sport. You have to have the thick skin, and you have to be able to shrug off a lot of those attacks because they really are complete and utter rubbish.
TAPPER: Does it ever hurt?
MOULITSAS: No. You know, it's interesting because as Daily Kos has grown, every kind of plateau that I've reached -- and I've reached 30,000 visitors a day and, you know, it's small for today. But, you know, every one of them kind of shocks me into -- it sort of, kind of knocks me back a little bit, and I don't know how to perceive because I, you know, every time I rise to a new level it's more incoming criticism, people care more about what you say, you have to be a little more careful of what words you use. And so there's always a kind of adjustment period.
And I've reached, you know, with this, you know, the Brooks column and things like that, there was an adjustment period. And suddenly I realized that, you know, if I turn off the computer and I have my new house I'm working on and I play piano so I work on my music and I have my silent, beautiful 2- and-a-half-year-old son and a great, incredible wife, none of that matters.
Really, it no longer affects me and -- because all they can do -- they can't make me lose my job because I am my own boss. They can't make me lose my family, they can't hurt my son, they can't do any of those things. So the things that really matter to me, they cannot touch. All they can do is scream and yell and nip at my heels. Now, it's a, you know, the last thing that bothers me today is what people say about me. I've spent the last four years throwing stones. If I can't take a few incoming, I'm in the wrong business, and it would be hypocritical of me.
So I have a problem with people making stuff up about me because I try to be very good about being truthful in my attacks. But, you know, of course I throw rocks, people are going to throw stones back, and that's part of the business. And I'm OK with that.
TAPPER: Howard Dean's former Internet director said -- and I know you talk about this in the book and you say that other people in the Dean campaign contradict it. But she said that you and Jerome were hired basically because the Dean campaign wanted your support online.
MOULITSAS: Yes, you know, Joe Trippi, who ran the campaign, basically said, you know, if this was the case, Jerome Armstrong, you know, who was my business partner at the time, was the biggest champion for Howard Dean on Netroot on the site mydd.com, and he quit. So he lost his biggest champion online by hiring our firm. And I put a big disclaimer on the site saying I work for Howard Dean, so essentially telling people, OK, you know, we can discount everything nice he says about Howard Dean because he's working for him.
If their intent was to buy our support, that was about the biggest piss-poor way to do so, and they knew that. And in fact, one of the things that Joe Trippi said is I didn't want to hire you guys because I knew that it would actually hurt us in the long run. So it was stupid. And of course it was contradicted by everybody else. And the person who made that accusation tried to get a job with our firm, and we didn't give her the job, so it was also a bad blood and bad feelings and this sordid little tale. It's really not that interesting other than to say that she made those accusations and that absolutely nobody backed them up. And there's plenty of people with enough grudges that could've, you know, hopped along and said that was true but, you know, it simply wasn't true. And not only was it not true, but it was very counterproductive. If that was the intent, it actually did the opposite.
TAPPER: Chevy Chase once said that when he was on Saturday Night Live, he heard that his imitations of President Ford hurt President Ford's feelings. And he thought at the time, well he's the president, he's got to be able to take it. And then years later, after Chevy Chase had some bad experiences under his belt, he knew what President Ford was talking about. So I guess, just on the human level, did the things that people say and write about you -- no matter how many stones you've thrown -- does it ever hurt your feelings?
MOULITSAS: No. During the transitional period, that adjustment period, it did, during that adjustment period. But once I realized that it was just words and words could not hurt me where matters to me most: my family, my job, my music, it couldn't hurt me with that. Then it really became simply just words to me. I mean, they lost all power
TAPPER: Does that embolden [you] to be mean or to other people?
MOULITSAS: No -- no, not at all. I mean, it doesn't change -- yes, I try, I try very hard not to change my approach to the what, to the doing what I do. I've always said I was successful because of my tone and my approach and my, you know, the issues I champion. And changing now because I'm under bigger scrutiny might make my life a little easier, might open me up to less attack, but that also would also mess with the, you know, the reason I've been successful.
So, I don't -- I'm at peace with my world now, you know? I, like I said, transitioned into that. But I'm at peace where I am. I accept the fact that being who I am is going to. You know, I'm a magnet for criticism, some of it fair, you know, a lot of it is fair, you know, I'm not perfect. A lot of it isn't fair. A lot of it is complete utter smear attacks and fabrications.
TAPPER: What's fair, what's been a fair criticism?
MOULITSAS: Fair criticism -- I'm going to be like George Bush who can't think of a single bad thing. You know, I know it when I see it.
TAPPER: You've made mistakes.
MOULITSAS: Oh, I've absolutely made mistakes. I mean, there's been times where I've been too harsh because a politician has said something and, you know, my reaction -- because like I said, blogging is very raw, very emotional, not edited. And it's immediate -- there's no cooling down period, right? I write, submit and I'm done. Where I attacked a politician for something that later on I think, 'Well, OK, it wasn't the good thing for them to do but I sort of overacted.' When you've got a big blog, small infraction and make a big deal out of it, sometimes I've kind of thought, 'OK, yes, maybe I should've taken a few minutes to calm down or be a little more rational about it.' So there's just been things like that, where something I've written was a little too harsh or maybe a little bit unfair.
TAPPER: Do you regret -- you sent an e-mail to some people that the New Republic got a hold of. It was about this, you know, the 'Kosola,' suppose, you know, quote unquote scandal about whether you support people because of Jerome's working for them. And,you sent an e-mail to a bunch of liberal bloggers asking them not to, not to write about it because you wanted to deprive oxygen to the story. Do you regret writing them? I mean, that would seem antithetical to everything you stand for -- talking, writing, free expression, and then here you are asking people to not talk about something.
MOULITSAS: Well, the issue is that the facts, you know, that e-mail laid out what the facts of the situation were, there's nothing there. And the fact is that some of the people that were involved in that, in this whole issue ,can't talk right now for various reasons.
TAPPER: Jerome can't talk about ...
MOULITSAS: Yes, Jerome can't talk about it because he's in -- he's in the middle of certain litigation. He can't talk about it, he's not allowed to talk about it. So he can't defend himself. So all we said -- all I said in that e-mail is if, when the time comes, he will. He'll talk about it. And then, you know, everybody can be properly defended. Right now we're not at the point what, you know, the facts really can be openly discussed. And it's not an issue, here's the fact, here's the ...
TAPPER: Did you wish you haven't sent that e-mail then?
MOULITSAS: No. I mean, this is, you know, we talk to each other. I mean bloggers, we spent, you know, dozens of e-mails a day back and forth discussing issues. What do you think about this issue, it is a big deal, no it's not a big deal.
TAPPER: Somebody leaked the e-mail.
MOULITSAS: Yes -- yes, absolutely. And, but that's fine anyway, you know, one of the things that happens when you reach the top of whatever your profession might be is that people pull out the knives. All right, you know, if you become an 800-pound gorilla of anything, people will look to try to bring you down and try to backstab you.
And,look at academia, right? I mean, everybody talks about how vicious academia is because the stakes are so small. I think blogging and the stakes might be a little bigger than academia, but still, I mean a lot of knives, the stakes aren't that big so -- so the battles can be vicious. It's human nature. It's what happens any time you have any kind of social structure, and the blogs are in a lot of ways a social structure. Some people didn't like what I said here or there, they -- I hurt their feelings or I didn't give them the proper respect -- but who knows? I have no idea how I possibly could've, might offend somebody, but it happens.
And so, somebody had a problem with it and assisted my detractors at the New Republic. And, I mean, nothing I could do about it, I wouldn't change otherwise -- the list has been reconstructed. I mean, it's been shrunk and now it's a ... I've learned now, and this is something, that there are people who I can trust. And if I need to send something that's a little more sensitive, send it to those people.
But this notion of, don't write about it, you know -- it's not, you know, here's the Web, you know, if you write about it I will, I will, I will cut your head off and kill you. It's a, you know, give us a couple months, let this kind of shake out and let the facts emerge, and when the facts emerge, you know, feel free. If you want to write about it, there's nothing I can do about it. I mean, we're bloggers, nobody controls us.
TAPPER: I wouldn't say there's nothing you can do about it because, I mean ...
MOULITSAS: There's nothing I can do about it, absolutely nothing.
TAPPER: One of the other charges leveled against you by some liberal bloggers is that you're vindictive, and that if somebody writes something that you really don't like or approve of, especially if it's about you, they might be frozen out from the ad network for the liberal -- for the blog ...
MOULITSAS: I don't run the network so I don't have anything ...
TAPPER: But you've seen these charges?
MOULITSAS: Oh, I've seen the charges. I think people are paranoid, some people are paranoid. I've never frozen -- tried to freeze somebody out. I may say, 'OK, I don't like that blogger, that guy is full of it.' Doesn't mean I'm going to tell other people freeze that person out. Everybody makes their own mind. It's a big blogosphere, there's thousands of bloggers out there. There's no way I can even begin to control this machine that exists, and I wouldn't want to.
I mean, people say nasty things about me all the time. If I try to dampen down the, that criticism, I'd have a lot of heartburn. I mean, my life would be not blogging, would be trying to do damage control, what would you want to call that? I don't have dogs that go around breaking people's kneecaps. I don't have -- I don't have my enforcers.
But one of the things, you know, one of the reasons that criticism really seems weird to me is that I don't generally link to a lot of other bloggers. It's not like I -- I'm not this different, I link to poll numbers, I link to actual analysis by political writers. I mean, this is not the sort of thing where OK, I will withhold my link to you and now you're -- you're doomed to eternal irrelevance. I mean, I don't know how I possibly could retaliate if I wanted to so-called retaliate. I mean, it seems really absurd to me.
TAPPER: But is there a risk? A lot of people commented on you at Yearly Kos, kind of being, you know, like Sinatra at the Sands. You're at a convention that is named after you. You didn't name it, but it's named after you ...
MOULITSAS: I'm trying to change that.
TAPPER: You have Democratic senators, governors wanting to meet you, wanting to meet everybody, but they definitely wanted to meet you, number one. And, here's Governor Warner throwing a $50,000 party for you and your supporters, here's -- you're getting respect. Is there a risk of you becoming too big for your britches? I'm not saying it's happened, but is this something that you've been trying to keep tabs on and try to make sure that it doesn't happen to you?
MOULITSAS: Absolutely. I mean, one of my rules is I generally don't talk to elected officials. It's kind of a firewall. I'll talk to staff if they have something of interest. I try to avoid talking to politicians altogether. I mean, to be honest, I don't really find them that interesting. If I want juicy information I, you know, I talk to staff of the politicians ...
TAPPER: You were walking around with Governor Warner.
MOULITSAS: Because they asked me to introduce him. And Wes Clark asked me to introduce him at his party, and ...
TAPPER: Hey, look, they're coming to you ...
MOULITSAS: No, I know, I know.
TAPPER: I'm not saying you're going to them.
MOULITSAS: But here's the, here's the difference though -- no, absolutely. So I think it's, one, I don't feel comfortable in that kind of limelight. I know it sounds kind of silly that, being that I, you know ...
TAPPER: You're sitting for an interview for "Nightline" ...
MOULITSAS: Right, exactly. But it's something that I have to be, you know, I got to really get kind of get prodded into doing. The other .... what I think is important, and this year at Yearly -- I don't have a say in the organizing. One of the things that I would like to see next year is requiring any potential speakers to actually be forced to ask, you know, spend a couple hours mingling with the crowd, is spending time with these people, because these are the people that are actually going to really, at the end of the day, make or break these candidates. They're the ones that -- they're all blogging, you know, so they're all writing about what they see. And these are people who have a lot of credibility in various circles, in various blog worlds and in their little ecosystem, right?
And there are personalities on Daily Kos that aren't me. There's a lot of them. And influencing them a lot of times has more credibility than influencing me because people may say, 'Oh, he's bought off or he's this or that. But oh, this is my favorite diarist on Daily Kos and he likes ...'
TAPPER: How many diarists are there?
MOULITSAS: Just about, you know, 15, 20,000.
TAPPER: 15 to 20,000 diarists?
MOULITSAS: Yes, a lot -- a lot. And so, and there's celebrities in that world and it's a little, it's its own little city. Like I said, I'm like a mayor of a city, and there's a lot of little cliques and little subcultures, a pair of subcultures on the site. It's desired, it's a sociologist's dream. I'm sure they're spending it right now. And I don't -- I can't even begin to understand it myself.
And, to me, what's important is that these elected officials talk to these people, it's that they communicate to those people. I don't care if they come up to me and want to talk to me. I want them to talk to my community. So I'm more interested in them, you know, writing diaries on Daily Kos where they're talking directly to the community as opposed to trying to set up a 15-minute meeting with me so they can try to pitch me in whatever BS agenda that they're working on.
I mean, when I talk about people power, that's really what I feel passionate about is getting them engaged and getting them motivated. And they're going to be a lot more motivated, engaged if they engage in a direct conversation with an elected official, and if I tell them this is the guy you need to be looking at.
People accuse me of being a king-maker and gatekeeper and they say, 'Well, you know, your support for Jon Tester in Montana was critical, and your support for Jim Webb in Virginia was critical.'
The reason I supported Jon Tester in Montana and Jim Webb in Virginia is because the locals, the local activists, the local bloggers, the local activists groups were really, really inspired by those two candidates. They came to me and they said, 'You know what? This the guy to watch. Pay attention -- he's incredible, he's the next rising star in our state.'
TAPPER: And these were Daily Kos diarists already?
MOULITSAS: A lot of them were, a lot of them were diarists. I feed off what the community feeds off. If they get excited about somebody, I'll get excited about that person. So that's why I got excited about Jon Tester because people were excited about him. I got excited about Jim Webb because people got excited about him. And so, I'm not the lead, I'm not the person who decides in this primary, this is the person we're going to go after.
Connecticut -- perfect example, I didn't decide that Lieberman had to go, therefore we needed to find a primary opponent. People in Connecticut took that upon themselves. They were upset. There was a lot of discontent in the Democratic party in Connecticut. They have no idea what a blog is because they are supposed to be represented by Lieberman. They haven't been. These people look for an opponent, they found Ned Lamont, they worked hard for him. And that energy inspires me to then write, follow that race very closely.
So I'm a follower. I mean, that's the irony. In a way I'm a leader, but the way I lead is by following those who are inspired by -- who I consider are true leaders.