Hey, everyone. I'm Slate's political correspondent, based in Washington, D.C. I appear on MSNBC, too, and I used to work at The Washington Post and at Reason magazine. My hobbies include writing a lot, getting involved in scandals, and showing up late for things. Ask me questions!

Comments: 183 • Responses: 53  • Date: 

asheinin39 karma

What about your gaffes?

daveweigel15 karma

They are less impactful than the media would lead you to believe, according to research from political scientists.

JeremyLittau17 karma

One reason I like your work is you have access to people in power without writing like an elite insider. Do you ever catch yourself falling into insider mode when you're writing or speaking on TV or does being David Brooks require a conscious choice? How do you avoid the trap?

daveweigel22 karma

That's nice of you to say! My friend Spencer Ackerman has a question/aphorism that he borrowed (with permission) from some mentor. "What is your journalism FOR?" I think my journalism is for readers who are smart and know that most people are lying to them, or being patronizing for them. And I know I'm a better color reporter/history geek than investigative reporter.

If you live and work in DC for long enough, the "insider" trope becomes pretty amusing. If you quote a low-level source by name, he's not interesting. If you quote "a White House aide" or a "Democratic strategist" or something, wow, it sounds like you're really deep into this! You notice that the really fantastic reporters on the Hill like David Rogers and Jake Sherman (no offense to anyone not named) don't do that. You're not doing readers any favors if you give anonymity to "insiders" -- you're getting played.

liquidcalories15 karma

Campaign journalism - or "horserace" journalism - is routinely degraded by the smart-snark sect of DC journalists. You actually do a lot of it, though, and you do it well. How would you distinguish the way you approach a campaign beat from how, say, a campaign beat reporter at the New York Times would? And is it entirely about the latitude you're granted by Slate to inject your own views on some of the subjects?

daveweigel19 karma

You're talking about "who's up who's down" analysis? I think you just need to see it up close, to see if it's real, get inside the head of the campaigners, and then rely on data. By "get inside the head," I mean you need to quickly recognize when and why you're being spooned bullshit. That happens very often, but it happens for a reason. Any good after-action report on a campaign will reveal what they did to snow the media; you go back, read that, and swear "never again." This is why I'm such a "gaffe" skeptic. It reads like I'm defending the candidates from their mistakes, but it's usually because we know most "gaffes" don't penetrate at all. I think it's more fun to figure out what a pol mean to say, and where his/her thinking developed, then to expose a Gaffe that might not even hurt them. Case in point: I knew the Joe Wilson "you life" "gaffe" was great for him, and he meant it, but it was initially covered like some huge career misstep.

partialbigots13 karma

I worked in Waukesha County on the ill-fated recall elections. Every time you make that joke, I die a little less inside, and have now started laughing. Thank you for being part of my coping process of living and working in hell on Earth.

daveweigel12 karma

Glad to hear it. I just couldn't believe that the same county did that to Democrats TWICE.

quickasafox77710 karma

Hello david!

How do you feel about quote approval in the washington press corps? Does slate practice it?

Do you forsee any solutions to the current political gridlock in the House of Reps before Obamas term ends/2020 census?

Does David Plotz' contempt for pandas interfere with his duties as an editor e.g. pushibg you to include comparisons between washington political corruption and pandas racket making money off innocent zoogoers?

Thanks for the ama!

daveweigel4 karma

Quote approval of the kind you're describing doesn't really come up in my reporting. The last time I did anything like it, I just read back a quote to a source who didn't want to participate unless his whole quote made it in.

Re: gridlock, no. Re; Plotz, yes.

copernicus20009 karma

Will it ever come down to the crucial Yolo County?

daveweigel15 karma

No. Yolo County, California, is safe Democratic turf that voted 2-1 for Obama over Romney. It's not populous enough for higher Republican turnout to really cut into the statewide Dem margin.

ifolkinrock8 karma

Where on the schadenfreude laughter scale did you fall when you heard about Groundswell?

daveweigel10 karma

a Seben out of Zehn.

Echoey8 karma

You know who else did an AMA...

daveweigel44 karma

This is a standard misuse of the "you know who else" formulation. Look: You've got to lead with something Hitler actually did. "You know who else spoke German?" Hitler did. "You know who else gave long speeches that were criticized by many?" Hitler did. And so on. Joke don't work if it's just a reference to Hitler in the abstract.

Wait, did Hitler actually do an AMA? If so I apologize.

REdditscks8 karma


daveweigel12 karma

For afternoon drinking, Wonderland. Between 8 and 11, I'd say The Gibson, The Passenger, Kangaroo Boxing Club. After 11, Black Cat.

There's definitely a congealing of opinion, but you didn't pick the right examples. Twitter is a much more dangerous cauldron of group-think than happy hours or dinners. On Twitter, the reward comes from agreeing or loudly disagreeing with the joke, or the "smart take." In person you hash things out.

gotroot8018 karma

So when do we get a follow-up on your prog rock piece from last year?

daveweigel9 karma

I'm working on a book about it, taking a couple weeks at the end of this month to do research and interviews in the UK. Right now I'm hacking away at it in early mornings and on weekends -- try that sometime, interviewing the drummer from Nektar than running to stick your recorder into a scrum with Rand Paul.


One media or political figure from right and left who many consider to be a a horrible person, but in your interactions you've found to be approachable and courteous?

daveweigel23 karma

Steve King and Rick Scott are both very warm personally -- people who worked for Scott in his 2010 loved the guy. You wanted someone from the left? I profiled Alan Grayson a couple weeks ago, because the online right definitely hates him, and he's definitely raw when he talks about what he sees as political stupidity, but he's an approachable guy who has become very good at bringing Republicans onto his team for various causes, usually libertarian causes.

Hey, here's a good opportunity to make a point. if you wonder why Lindsey Graham or John McCain end up quoted so frequently, it's because they are genuinely funny guys who will spar with reporters and stick around to answer your questions. The main bias of the political press is toward drama -- quotes, fights, etc, made possible with access.

MatthewCrawley8 karma

what is it like knowing that each year you will never write the best Slate piece because the best Slate piece is always the year-end Ask the Explainer?

daveweigel24 karma

We live that every day when Emily Yoffe's traffic crushes everyone else's like a remorseless, scaly kaiju.

FigDrewton7 karma

  1. What are your three favorite websites/magazines to read outside of Slate?

  2. Do you think immigration reform survives the summer?

  3. Will we get more involved in Syria?

  4. Coke or Pepsi?

daveweigel7 karma

  1. Pitchfork, the Onion AV Club, NSFWCorp
  2. Lots of wealthy interests wanted health care reform, so that survived the summer. Same story with immigration reform.
  3. You should do an AMA with Josh Rogin! I don't know.
  4. Coke, though PepsiCo probably has the better family of refreshing non-soda beverages.

melonheadct7 karma

I have a few questions....

1) Best and worst part about the job?

2) Is it possible for some gun control legislation to be passed, comparable to Joe Manchin's previous bill?

3) Favorite thing you've ever written?

4) What do you read?

5) Advice for aspiring journalists?

daveweigel10 karma

Hi, melonhead.

1) Best part of political reporting, as a day to day grind, is the moment when you realize you've asked somebody a question he/she has no answer for. That usually informs what you need to ask about. The worst part, which happens more frequently, is knowing that you have worked and others have worked to put you in the right place to ask the right question, and you blow it.

Sorry, that's grim.

2) Also grim, though Democrats will admit it privately, is that the single most important development that could move a gun bill would be a gruesome shooting. There is no momentum for a bill otherwise. Look at the 2014 map -- very few Republicans who'd have to answer to a moderate electorate for a no vote are on the ballot.

3) My 2012 series about progressive rock, which I'd wanted to tackle for a decade and doubted I'd step away from politics to do.

4) Mostly nonfiction, bias towards subjects I'm ignorant about. I just read "The Twilight War," about America's long, dumb conflict with Iran. If I'm mentally stuck and feel like my writing's boring, I read either a comic or something cock-eyed like William Burroughs.

5) Get in front of people, talk to them, write a lot. It's not complicated!

esotericish3 karma

re #5: what do you think is the best way for a young, aspiring political journalist to make a name for themselves?

daveweigel6 karma

Cover a campaign and break some news about it. Where are you based? Email me at [email protected] if you want more advice.

daveweigel7 karma

Okay, two hours is possibly just enough time for this. Thanks for the questions! Come over to http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel.html anytime.

esotericish7 karma

What's it like having 116,000 twitter followers? Also, favorite movie so far this year?

I love your writing for Slate, but your move reviews on your personal blog are fantastic.

daveweigel11 karma

Honestly it's nice and strange to think that a population the size of Ann Arbor cares what you think. (If 20% of Ann Arbor residents are pornbots.)

Thanks re: the reviews: My thoughts are really basic, but I watch usually 55-70 new movies per year.

brownmatt7 karma

Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized Brian Beutlers or 1 horse-sized Matt Yglesias?

daveweigel9 karma

This world is hard enough with just one Brian Beutler in it. That's a terrifying question.

bendomenech6 karma

What news sources other than Twitter do you turn to when you start your day?

daveweigel4 karma

Facebook. I start with social media and go from there to Politico, NYT.

Almaz_6 karma

Tegen & Sara 2016 -- are you on board?

daveweigel15 karma

They're Canadian, so they're as ineligible for the presidency as Ted Cruz.

(This is a joke.)

smithcohan6 karma

Do you have any regrets about organizing a pro-war rally and calling opponents of the Iraq war "anti-American" when you were a college student?

Edit: spelling

daveweigel17 karma

You'd be shocked to learn that the Fox News reporter made my quote sound worse than it was. What I told her was that at Northwestern, the anti-war movement was an outgrowth of existing left-wing and Socialist groups that had jumped from cause to cause, and that they were always critical of America. I didn't think opposing the war was anti-American.

Now, that said, I supported it because, at age 21, I believed the choice was between continued sanctions, which were killing people, and a war, which would kill people. It was a false choice, I was stupid, and I regret anything I did that questioned the patriotism of the opponents.

Audioheadrays5 karma

Are you still sore about the e-mail leaks, and your resignation from the Post?

daveweigel19 karma

I'm really not. The reporter who worked that story, Jonathan Strong, has gone on to do fantastic reporting on the House for Roll Call and National Review, and we get along. I'm glad I resigned, and that the Post didn't have to answer for my snotty emails. My job at Slate is 500% better than any job I've ever had. But I don't want to dodge this! From time to time, someone will bellow "JOURNOLIST" to discredit whatever I've said, and no, that's not fun, being reminded that you will be associated with a widely-misunderstood scandal for years and years. I imagine it's how, like, Ben Affleck feels when someone heckles him about "Reindeer Games."

SeaMoe5 karma

Hi Dave, two questions about state politics:

  1. What state has the most functional legislature?

  2. If you were immediately re-assigned to cover a state government of your choosing, what would be your top choice as a political reporter?

daveweigel9 karma

  1. Texas.
  2. Texas.

RandomLiberty5 karma

Are you lookin' forward to the weekend?

Partying Partying (yeah)

daveweigel5 karma

I'm going to a Yes concert, which should answer this question with a big-ass exclamation point.

slothrr5 karma

What major changes to the political process/system itself do you foresee in the next 20 years, if any?

daveweigel13 karma

Now that California has non-partisan redistricting, I hope that's the trend. Yes, I'm familiar with the Slatepitch that "gerrymandering doesn't actually matter, it's about like-minded people clustering naturally," but that's not really true. Everyone who hates politicians and wants them term-limited should instead want super-competitive districts, so that their representatives are always fearing defeat.

adamb19725 karma

I've read that the only fun things to do in Delaware involve visiting screen door factories and waiting in line at toll plazas. Is this true?

daveweigel11 karma

We have great beaches, as people who flee DC in the summer know. I'd argue that we have better ocean beaches than any state in the Mountain time zone.

overbrookhigh4 karma

Did you intentionally make this the only photo freely available of you so that Wikipedia would have to use it?

daveweigel8 karma

What's a non-egotistical way to make another photo usable? That photo sucks.

june_oyster4 karma

Have you ever been personally hurt by a comment on Reason Hit & Run?

No snark intended. I used to read that shit and feel badly at how you were treated.

daveweigel7 karma

Sure. I've occasionally read through hater comments just to see if they had any points, and sometimes they did. But I was much more worried about, say, getting my skull splattered by a dodgeball in 7th grade than about what some online commenter says. I've got a job I love, he's an angry person writing comments about it. Not hard to see who needs who in that relationship.

Mearis4 karma

Hi Dave!

I actually quite enjoy your blog on Slate, and I greatly enjoyed the 'friend of Hamas' story takedown.

A few quick questions:

1- How do you react to politicians (or spokespeople) that refuse to answer the question to asked and instead feed you talking points? There seems to be a bit of an unspoken rule that in the US (compared to the UK) politicians are allowed to dodge tough questions by journalists.

2- How much pressure is there on you to generate traffic at Slate?

3- Are there any particular politicians (that you might not agree with) that you particularly enjoy interviewing?

4- What other journalists do you particularly admire?

5- Will Slate drop it's awful SEO-optimized titles? The Dear Prudence stuff is frankly a bit embarassing.

daveweigel9 karma

1 - Because humans are pretty smart, they can usually tell when an answer is pat or full of talking points. So I'll just write that answer down and let the reader decide how lame it was. Q&As are competitive, and half the time if you get a bad answer it's because you didn't prep enough and ask it the right way.

2 - Not much. People keep doing horrible things, and other people want to read about them.

3 - Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe.

4 - Anyone who reports from a place outside their comfort zone -- Steve Inskeep, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Evan Osnos. In politics, David Rogers, Charlie Savage, Ashley Parker, Robert Costa.

5 - Never. You go to war with the Internet you have, not the Internet you may wish to have.

MatthewCrawley3 karma

is cory booker the worst

daveweigel5 karma

If you're not particularly left-wing, and you like the idea of more people in politics who aren't white guys, he's just great. That's my bias -- that and he gave me an interview when I was at Reason. (See? We love access, us hacks.) The New Jersey Senate race is actually pretty predictable, so my main interest has been in pointing out when lazy "narratives" make it from the many circles of anti-Bookerites into the political press. The idea that Booker had damaged himself for all time by not waiting for Lautenberg to retire looks pretty well discredited now; Booker's alliance with the Norcross machine has been much more useful than whatever he would have gotten from deference to an 89-year old who we all knew wouldn't run.

sdjbass3 karma

In the wake of what you went through--whether justified or not--with JournoList, what are your thoughts on Groundswell? You were definitely a more legitimate journalist than those Breitbarters, but then again, probably not in their minds.

Also, besides being out of work for a month, how much actually changed for you and your day-to-day once you moved to Slate? It is a WaPo entity. I bet you still have the same health insurance!

Finally, do people crank call the hell out of you? You're the only person I know who openly lists their phone number!

daveweigel4 karma

Re: Groundswell, the people on the list were avowedly ideological and kind of outside the GOP power circle. It probably faded as a story b/c something similar could be said of JournoList and people realize retrospectively how that coverage was overblown.

For a while, when I started at Slate, I'd call up the Post billing people and IT people and they'd have me listed as a defunct employee, so we had to live out that little drama again in the most boring possible way. And... that was about it.

Nope. One guy called a few weeks ago, singing a nursery rhyme and breathing heavy. But that's Chris Brown for you.

amadeust2 karma

Snark aside, what's the topic you feel most important to write on that you cannot right now?

daveweigel10 karma

I don't speak or read Arabic so I can't cover, in the right way, the wars of choice and drone campaigns that will come back to bite us hard someday. If they haven't already.

jessican2 karma

What's your favorite movie of 2013?

daveweigel7 karma

Either "No" or "Spring Breakers" or "Upstream Color" or "Pacific Rim." Bad answer I know.

00boyina2 karma

Who leaked the JournoList emails that got you fired from the Washington Post?

daveweigel4 karma

My pet theory is that someone spoofed an email address of someone already on the list, got on, and took what he needed. Don't know who.

sovietskaya2 karma

You seem to be a busy person. What's your goto meal when you have no time?

daveweigel14 karma

I buy whichever one of those energy bars is on sale in a given week at the Target in Columbia Heights. This week it was Zone -- lucky me! If I'm working at Slate's D.C. office, odds are I'll go to Chopt with Yglesias or another Slatester (Yglesias is just the most openly pro-Chopt), bring it back, eat it at my desk like a sad person.

Fr0stback2 karma

Hi Dave, I don't know if you're still doing this... You said that Graham and McCain are quoted so frequently due to access and their wit. Is this why they (McCain especially) are so frequently on the Sunday journalism shows? The take on the left is that there's something of a conspiracy there. I would have thought there would be a lot of competition among politicians to get on those shows, but McCain gets on a disproportionate amount.

daveweigel8 karma

That's one reason, but keep in mind that not all senators jump on these requests. Some bristle at the idea of doing TV instead of legislating; some, like McCain, think you can't do one without the other.

SalsaShark2 karma

what's the most overrated restaurant in DC?

daveweigel3 karma

Cafe Milano.

CaptainApathy4192 karma

On a given day, how many times do you say "YOLO" out loud?

What's your all-time favorite #slatepitch?

daveweigel5 karma

By the nature of Twitter I have really horrible recall for old jokes. The best slatepitch has yet to be written!

I say YOLO 3-4 times a day. I mean it, too.

Fartsly2 karma

Is recent "washington gridlock" really new or unprecedented or is it just the latest innovation in political maneuvering?

Legislators have jumped out of windows to avoid quorum calls, beaten each other with canes, and I think I remember reading something about several states seceding from the union at one point in the 19th century. Is the increased use of the filibuster, and heightened focus on electoral politics (the constant campaign) as big a deal as people make it out to be?

daveweigel11 karma

This really is the first time America's had two 90% ideologically coherent parties since, arguably, the age of Jackson. The partisanship is new, now that we're basically out of moderate Republicans and conservative southern Dixiecrats. And no other country with ideologically coherent parties has a system with this many veto points -- House, Senate cloture, Senate vote, president. So we're basically doomed.


What's it like dealing with elected officals on a regular basis? Who is the best, and who's worst, in your experience?

daveweigel6 karma

I've known Rand Paul a little since Ron Paul was running for president and nobody else wanted to cover that campaign. In my vengeful way, I laugh at the memory of the reporters who chased Fred Thompson around but passed up all those chances to get to know the guys now building a libertarian beachhead in the GOP. Long-winded way of saying: Rand Paul's un-programmed and fun to talk to, David Vitter doesn't talk to anyone.

hanni902 karma

did you speak to christopher hitchens a lot when he was at slate? how are things looking for republicans in the future? are they growing ever more backward and delusional or are they coming back down to earth?

daveweigel14 karma

Not very much, sadly. I joined right around the time he was diagnosed with cancer, and when we did see each other, it was usually in the context of some large event where people wanted their precious time with him -- you know, may never see him again? (If it sounds ghoulish it was.) The last time I talked to him with a little privacy was at a press screening for "Atlas Shrugged Part I," which he attended wearing a dark fedora, speaking hoarsely. (He didn't love the movie. Stop looking surprised!) But he didn't talk much, and a few weeks later he wrote that essay about losing his voice.

After he died, there was a sort of backlash to the tributes to Hitchens. Oh, was there any young male reporter or admirer he didn't have a Moment with? And my answer would be: Look at how much time he spent talking to people who couldn't do anything for him personally or professionally. That is far too rare, and it shouldn't be.

jessican2 karma

Who are some journalists on twitter that you believe are killing it, but are under-followed? Bonus points for women recommendations.

daveweigel9 karma

Killing it as journalists or as tweeters, or both? @danagoldstein @elisefoley @irincarmon @juliaioffe @meredithshiner @emilynussbaum @thehighsign, that's a start

GotAnySkooma2 karma

When does Texas go blue?

Why are 'Slate Pitches' consistently terrible?

Thanks Dave!

daveweigel7 karma

2024, when the Booker-Castro ticket wins, and I disagree -- simple repetitive jokes are the best.

in2liberty1 karma

When are you going to get off your ass and start your own operation?

Also, isn't time you came out in support of Guaranteed Income / Choose Your Boss?

daveweigel4 karma

I am pathetically disorganized and wouldn't trust myself to handle billing and LLC status.

soul_candycorn1 karma

I've read you mention your enjoyment of comics in the past. Have you read Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan, following the adventures of a futuristic Hunter S. Thompson-inspired political reporter? How would your reporting change if you had a bowel-disruptor gun?

daveweigel3 karma

I LOVED Transmet, though maybe we agree it got a little ropey when it turned into a high-octane drama about whether Spider would last long enough to take down the Smiler.

If I had a bowel-disruptor I'd probably use it under the table. It would be an action, not a threat.

avergejoe1 karma

Have you ever had the opportunity to whistle blow on something?

daveweigel6 karma

No, though I live in DC so I've reported crimes pretty frequently.

padrock1 karma

You have lots of fun snarky tweets, but do you ever find it hard to switch tone when you want to seriously address a topic important to you?

daveweigel7 karma

Yes, no one believes I'm being serious. I need to phrase it in a very pompous way.

TurboVerbal1 karma

How do you write articles with such effective brevity? You and Matt tend to write many quicker pieces than your colleagues at Slate, even compared to other blog writers. Is this a philosophical choice on your part or simply the reality of the need for speed in your reporting?

daveweigel7 karma

The more you write the easier it is to write faster -- on a beat, that is. When I'm covering something unfamiliar, I take my sweet time. But if something blows up in a Senate race or a committee I generally know who to talk to and what to write. Also, I don't have kids. Keep in mind, lots of reporters have richer and more fulfilling lives than me!

Mr_Mew1 karma


daveweigel18 karma

Oh, that's easy -- blind for 20 years. You'd get a nice memoir out of that, whereas it would be tough to hit the keys with penis hands.

hey_jbot0 karma


daveweigel3 karma

I think legal gay marriage leads us inevitably down the road toward their acceptance.

[deleted]-2 karma


IAmNotAMeteorologist2 karma

Or maybe this just isn't as clever as you thought.

daveweigel6 karma

I missed it! What did he say?

MatthewCrawley-2 karma

what is it like being a total and absolute hater

daveweigel13 karma

Pretty tiring, unless you're hating on something that needed the haterade. I think my insistence that the Bob Menendez "hooker" scandal was bullshit and would fall apart looks good in retrospect.

window5-7 karma

What do you make of the fact there has not been a non Jewish fed reserve chair since 1987 and the 3 candidates to replace the current chairman are themselves Jewish?

daveweigel9 karma

You know who else made leaps of logic about Jews and money?