I know the AMA format is unfamiliar to a lot of people so here is today's event laid out as a Q&A. It's long, so I put it all after the jump...
Hello, Rachel! Thanks so much for doing this AMA. I had a ton of questions I wanted to ask, so I had to narrow them to three.What is your favorite rye whiskey?What is the biggest fish you have ever caught? How big was it?In the past you seem to have had a rapport of sorts with the Pauls. You've had Rand Paul on your show a few times. You leaned into his filibuster ramblings pretty hard, though. Is the relationship with his family still good/respectful? Do you think you'll have him on your show again any time soon?
(1) I'm starting with the booze question because the very idea relaxes me. I love most rye, but if I had to pick a desert-island one, I would probably pick Michter's. There's a great one called "Pikesville," too, but it's really hard to find. I wouldn't kick Sazerac 6 or Rittenhouse out of bed for eating crackers, though. (2) Biggest fish I ever caught was a striper that was two inches shorter than the one my mom caught ten minutes earlier. (3) I really wish either of the Pauls would still talk with me the way they used to. I am not a Paulite myself, but I have both respect for and interest in the way they each approach aspects of Republican politics. They both gave up on me after my difficult interview with Paul-the-younger on the issue of the Civil Rights Act. But I hope they'll reconsider someday. Thanks for asking!
If you had to choose one story you've covered that you wish more people were aware of, what would it be?
It seems crazy that an ongoing war is an undercovered story, but I wish there was more debate about why and how and if we should still have 60,000 Americans in Afghanistan. It's not done, there are still real decisions to be made, and it's still life and death.
I would like to say thank you for taking the time to do an AMA. One of my concerns today is that I feel the American public is fed up with both the Congress and the media. That the bickering only divides us more as a nation at a time when we need to be looking for ways to come together.
Your piece on Rand Paul's 13 hour speech condensed into 60 seconds of Hitler reference was an example of the problem. The lack of understanding Godwin's law and the use of argumentum ad logicam in the matter was disingenuous at best.
- Do you think the media will ever stop the partisan bickering?
- Do you think Congress will get anything meaningful done?
- What would you recommend to help solve some of these issues?
I respect who you are and what you do so please don't take any offense to my critiques. Reddit please don't just down vote if you disagree, voice your opinions in the comments.
Thanks for this thoughtful and constructive approach. I hear you about the reductive frustration of pulling out the Hitler references from Rand Paul's marathon, but I don't regret that decision. I love to see a real talking filibuster. I love that it was on an issue of principle. There is almost nothing closer to my heart in politics than to see Congress asserting its rightful oversight role in national security and war instead of deferring to executive power. And! But! And/But! It's too bad that Senator Paul -- while doing all those things that I think are great and having real guts -- doesn't always have a clear grasp of the issue he's talking about. And he makes Hitler references. Which is a little bit like peeing in the pool. He undercuts the potential power of this otherwise important thing that he did -- with bad argument, sometimes bad facts, and occasional bad faith. I don't think it was disingenuous to make that case, but thanks for putting your view that it was in such a thoughtful way.
If you could go back in time and cover any news story in history as it unfolded, which would you pick?
Maybe the presidential election of 1800? A tie! Decided in Congress! Aaron Burr! All that weird campaigning they had never done before! I find electoral politics mostly enervating, but that one sounds like it would have been a blast.
Thanks for the AMA! A little over a year ago for "11/11/11" you did a report on Corduroy Appreciation Day, commenting on one of the pieces: The Honey Badger. You said you actually bought it, and I was wondering if he still lives with you at 30 Rock, or was he gifted to someone deserving?
Regifted. But I regret it.
Is there anyone at another cable news channel that you really admire as a broadcaster?
I really like the way Shep Smith (at Fox News Channel) balances anchorman gravitas... with a willingness to put the artifice aside and acknowledge what it really going on. Some of us can pull off seeming like human beings on TV, some of us can pull off V.O.G. authority, but Shep is really very good at both. Better than anyone else, I think. Also, I've met him and he's a nice person!
Hey Rachael, I'm a longtime fan of the show. I have to ask, though, a few weeks ago you ran a segment emphasizing that Obama has reduced spending, and you backed it up by showing this chart and disussing the importance of that specific chart for an entire segment. I'm curious as to why you included state and local spending in that chart, considering that Obama has no influence over state and local budgets. My intuition would lead me to believe that a good deal of that spending reduction was due to both the Tea Party takeover of local governments, and the recession. Is there a reason why you didn't just show federal spending?
Hi! Great question. You're right that spending at different levels of government depends on the actions of those different levels of government. But I used the combined chart for two reasons! One, because the critics who allege growth in government usually aren't specific about what they mean (and mostly the segment was about politics, so answering the political charge seemed relevant). But the discussion was also about economics -- and public sector spending broadly seemed like the right way to talk about private-sector-vs-public-sector performance in the recovery. Thanks for asking!
Our family hung the Rolling Stone photo of you, shooting a Henry Big Boy rifle, on the front of our refrigerator. (We love you and we love repeater rifles.) Do you think the gun legislation and conversion currently brewing in the US would be more efficient if more liberals, who occasionally like to get their cowgirl on, came out of the closet? I really don’t see why the topic ends up being so right wing vs left wing. I feel like there should be much more overlap between the camps.
Two things: (1) I agree! I think this issue is way more polarized in politics than it is in real life. Gun appreciation, even gun enthusiasm (which I confess to in a small way!) is absolutely not inconsistent with a belief in rational gun-safety reform. It's weird that we think of the political battle as gun-lovers versus gun-haters -- do you know a single gun-lover (who doesn't work in the political side of the gun movement) who thinks it makes sense for someone adjudicated mentally ill to be barred from buying a gun from a guy at a store, but allowed to buy a guy under a tent or at a convention center? Also, (2) would you please do me the favor of drawing a tiny little moustache on that picture on your fridge?
You spoke during one of your shows a while back about learning lyrics to a Dead Kennedys song. You mentioned because of your age at the time your parents weren't too happy about it because of certain words contained in the lyrics. Do you recall which song? Also, do/did you listen to any other punk bands? Thanks for doing the AMA and keep up the good work on your show! Take care, Rachel.
My parents were very very horrified by the appearance of Dead Kennedys records in the house. I don't remember a particular song that made them crazy -- I think the band name itself did all the work there. I was obsessive about Husker Du. I also liked Meat Puppets and Black Flag, but really I would have done anything for Bob Mould. I actually got grounded when my mom found an SST records sampler LP in my room -- I think it had particularly porny cover art and she was very rattled by it. As a teenager, I thought at the time that it was probably the apex of my coolness. As an adult, looking back, I realize that is true.
In your documentary "Hubris" why didn't you address the motives for Dick Cheney and George Bush lying us into the War in Iraq? Isn't motive an integral aspect of journalism, as well as concepts such as "follow the money", etc?
Hi -- thanks for asking this! And thanks, everyone, for there being so many good questions about Hubris. The question of motive is the elephant in the living room of this story. It's also almost impossible to report out, until the people who had those motives decide to repent (and explain). Or until people who have evidence of the honest expression of those motives at the time, feel able to bring that evidence forward. President Bush and Vice President Cheney have been asked about their motives many times, but so far they're sticking with the (various) stories they came up with at the time. I think the truth is still out there -- it's going to take time (and conscience) to shake it loose. Meantime, all we've got is supposition and circumstantial evidence.
I trained and served with Eddie Ray Routh, the U.S.M.C. veteran accused of killing Chris Kyle and another. We deployed to Iraq together. Can you please cover the story, because it connects, war, P.T.S.D.. gun control, veterans, and the way veterans fall though the cracks after coming home wounded? I thought you could follow it with a deeper understanding and report on it. Will you consider reporting on it?
Hi -- thank you for asking this, and thanks for volunteering those details about your closeness to the story. We have not yet covered those killings, mostly because I've been following the story as a crime and a tragedy, but not one that I felt like we could add much to, beyond what's already out there. Your question has me reconsidering that. I'm not sure if we will do something on it, but I will think it over again and start talking with producers and sources about whether we might be able to do something that moved the story forward. Thanks for serving -- I'm glad you're home.
Thanks for doing this AMA. Two quick questions:
- When you brush your teeth, do you put your toothpaste on before or after you put water on the brush?
- When you get dressed in the morning, do you put pants or socks on first?
(1) paste then water (2) socks then pants (that's so embarrassing).
I’m a teenager with an interest in politics, but I feel like, because I can’t vote, I can’t do anything to express my opinions. In your opinion, how can people my age participate in the political process?
The world is your oyster! If you believe in a candidate or an issue that's being voted on where you live, you can work on the campaign. If you care about a policy issue, find out what kinds of groups and people are working on trying to improve that policy, and see if there might be a good fit for you there. My first political activism was putting up flyers all over my town to annoy racist skinheads -- that was wicked fun, and years before the fun of voting.
What's your favorite smell?
Clean river, spring day.
Do you think you're biased?
Not more than the average bear. I try to be open about where I'm coming from and what I believe, while also being trustworthy about the facts of what's going on in the world.
Hi Rachel, In writing Drift, what reaction did you expect readers to have?
I was really pleasantly surprised at the reaction. Mostly, I was psyched that people wanted to read it! One of the problems I wrote about in the book is the lack of political debate about national security issues -- a lot of really important policymaking in that field happens almost on auto-pilot, with no real political fighting. One of the CW explanations for that is that the American public doesn't really care about national security issues. I disagree! I think we care! But I was worried that I might be wrong, and no one would want to read my book about the politics of our military power. That was the first pleasant surprise. The second surprise was about partisanship and stereotyping. I was prepared for people to dismiss the argument without understanding it, on the basis of the fact that i'm a commie pinko liberal insert-misspelled-allcaps-stereotype-here. There was a little of that, but really not much -- and some of the most thoughtful and constructive critiques of the argument were from conservatives who don't much like anything else about my views, but who took Drift seriously and wanted to engage with it on substance. Those two things are the reason I decided to do a tour again for the paperback. I didn't have to, but the conversations were so interesting and useful, I want to go back for more. Thanks!
What was it like meeting a Howard Stern That was a great interview; I bought your book afterward.
Thanks! I love Howard Stern. I was intimidated to meet him just in a fangirl kind of way. But also because I knew he would ask me questions about sex that would make me blush like a cardinal. Once I realized that I could just tell him "no, i'm not answering that!" -- then it was just pure fun. That was one of the best interviews I have ever been part of.
Hello Rachel! Love your show!We all know about the internal issues of the GOP, but what do you see as the major conflicts within the DNC and liberals?
The big one, I think, with Dems in control at the WH and the Senate, is that liberals are always calibrating how much they want to push Dems from the left, and how much they want to support Dems against the Reps. The weaker and more confused the Reps are, the more free I think liberals feel to push the Dems on policy. Broadly speaking, I think the conservative movement thinks about its own future on longer horizons than the liberals do.
would you rather fight 100 duck sized horses or 1 horse sized duck?
One horse sized duck. The idea of waves of dozens of matching adversaries seems claustrophobic. Also, smaller things are harder to aim at and I'm not that coordinated.
What is the most realistic way possible we can get both parties to work together to solve real problems?
Interesting that there are so many questions along these lines. I am actually pretty hopeful on this front. There are a bunch of issues where the partisan lines are just fuzzy -- I think, for example, that had Jon Huntsman gone further in the Republican presidential primary process, his stance on Afghanistan would not have hurt him. If some of the special-interest perverting influences in the gun debate can be got-around, I think you'd find some unanimity on respectful reforms like, I dunno, saying that being on the terrorist watch list ought to be an impediment to you buying lots of AR-15s. I think getting the backlog in VA claims fixed is a good-government issue that there is no reason to expect any partisanship on, at all. The issues are out there. Odd-numbered years are good years to make progress on them. It can happen.
Would you ever run for public office? (I would vote for you 10-fold)
Nope! Not ever. But if you think that I would be good at it because you agree with me on policy... maybe you should run!