20 Questions with Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder of Daily Kos

What big story do you think the mainstream media missed during this campaign that bloggers had right?
I don’t use the term “mainstream media,” since by definition, it would mean that other media outlets are outside the mainstream. We’re not. I say “traditional media.”

And it’s not a question of what stories were right and wrong, and more about properly informing people. During the Democratic primary, the traditional media kept up the fiction for a long time that [New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton] actually had a chance of winning long after the math showed otherwise. Perhaps the prolonged primary was good for ratings, but it made for a woefully misinformed electorate.

Even today we hear crap like “[Illinois Sen. Barack] Obama can’t win Latinos,” or “Jews will abandon Obama,” or “Obama suffered from a ‘Bradley Effect’ in the primaries,” or “Obama is in trouble because he only leads by five points in national polls and sports a solid lead in electoral college projections” or other b.s. narratives like those [that are] easily disproved by cold, hard data.

What did you think when you heard Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) doesn’t use e-mail?

Par for the course. He seems to be stuck in the ’80s, and unfortunately for him, e-mail didn’t exist back then. He might have been a good president back in that last millennium.

Obama’s campaign has not been especially cozy with the liberal blogosphere. Has that hurt the netroots?
It’s been cozy enough. And the netroots isn’t about Obama. We were around before he came on the scene, and our focus and accomplishments go far beyond the presidential level. In fact, one of the reasons for our success is that we focused heavily on down-ticket races while the rest of the media obsesses about the top of the ticket.

Will the netroots forgive Obama for his vote on FISA?
Forgive him? Look, we’ll lobby and pressure him on the issues we care about. Sometimes he’ll be an ally, sometimes he won’t. That’s the nature of politics, and we’re under no illusion that our relationship with Obama will be any different. But with Obama, we’ll have an ally more often than not.

Do you at all regret some of the things you wrote about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) during the Democratic primary that prompted some liberal bloggers to boycott Daily Kos?
It’s a big Internet. Daily Kos will never be all things to everyone. And I’m not about to start pulling punches out of fear some whiny group or another will be offended. If they don’t like Daily Kos, there’s only about 15 million other sites they can use as their home.

With the launch of The Next Right and other prominent conservative blogs, is the right catching up to the left on the Web?
Ha ha ha ha ha.

Is the mainstream media starting to bridge the gap with bloggers by using more new media technology in their campaign coverage?
Daily Kos offers community, which is something the traditional media doesn’t offer. Really, I don’t see us in competition, so I don’t see a gap to be bridged.

What one word would you use to describe Obama? McCain?
Obama: 21st century. McCain: George Bush. Yeah, I used two words and cheated.

What big political lesson did you take away from your work on Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign?
That building a movement could change the world, even when you lose. We got Howard Dean elected DNC chair, and even though the know-nothings in both parties and the Beltway media snickered and said that he would doom the party by pushing “too far to the left,” the last four years have seen a national resurgence in the Democratic Party.

Which members of Congress do you most respect?
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.).

Who is your least favorite Democrat in Congress?
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Will you ever run for elected office?
I have a foreign last name. I exercise. I’ve eaten arugula. I drink orange juice. I’m liberal. I’ve lived in lots of places. I’m educated. I don’t go to church. I’m not Anglo. I’ve lived overseas. I don’t wear a flag pin. I like Europe.
Those things make me an “elitist” and thus disqualify me from public office.

If you got offered a job in an Obama White House would you take it?
The Obama White House is too smart to offer me a job. Republicans may hire horse lawyers to run FEMA and second-rate law school grads to ideologically purge the Justice Department, but Democrats actually believe in government that works, so they hire competent, qualified people. I can’t think of a single government job for which I’d be qualified.

Does your experience as a first-generation immigrant help you relate to Obama?

You could say that. But really, his experience is still quite different from mine, which is quite different from everyone else’s.

In 2006 you wrote that your four years spent in the Army transformed you from a Republican to a Democrat and taught you “the very values that make us progressives.” Would you want your now 4-year-old son, Aristotle, and 16-month-old daughter, Elisandra, to join the Army when they graduate from high school as you did?
I’d love that my children serve their nation, in an ideal world, where the U.S. government didn’t use our military as pawns for grandiose and unrealistic plans to reshape entire regions, or agitate for war to appease think-tank weenies, or electoral gain, or — when war is truly justified — send our troops into combat with inadequate gear and armor.

I thank my lucky stars I served when George Bush Sr. was president. I wouldn’t serve the current regime, and I wouldn’t want my children serving a similar administration when they’re military age. But even if military service is not for them, I’d want my children to engage in some sort of national service.

Did becoming a parent change your politics?
No. It reinforced them.

If you weren’t running Daily Kos, what would you do instead?

Launch new tech companies. I like to be an entrepreneur. Heck, I do that now, even while running Daily Kos! See SB Nation, the network of sports blogs I founded.

What one other website do you most envy?
No website. But I want one of those big-screen touchscreen TVs used on CNN on election nights to zoom in and out on map results.

What has been your most embarrassing mistake since starting Daily Kos in 2002?
I’m supposed to pick just one? I write just shy of a million words per year — plenty of opportunities to screw up. But nothing sticks out. Just run-of-the-mill “oops” requiring corrections, none too memorable to stick with me.

How do you react when people describe bloggers as spending all day sitting in their underwear in their mother’s basement eating Cheetos as MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough did last month?
We didn’t become as successful as we are today because people gave us instant respect. They’ve mocked us from Day One, and they’ll mock us to the end of the world. They say we write from our mother’s basement. We point out they’re wrong. All the time. I’d rather work from a basement than be constantly wrong.