How to Think Like Joshua Micah Marshall
Author of the daily political blog Talking Points Memo, Joshua Micah Marshall is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly and a columnist for The Hill. His articles on politics, culture and foreign affairs have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, including The Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Salon and Slate. He has appeared on CNN, C-SPAN, FOX and MSNBC. Marshall graduated from Princeton in 1991 and holds a doctorate in American history from Brown. He lives in New York City with his wife Millet and their dog Simon.
How would you characterize yourself politically?
I was always thought of myself as part of the moderate center-left. But the Bush years have been intensively polarizing, so that may be partly obscured, perhaps partly changed.
What one issue do you think readers should be most concerned about, and what's your position on that issue?
I don't know that I could pick a single issue more important than all the rest. But two I've been thinking about recently are first, the short-to-medium term fiscal outlook for the United States which appears to be heading toward a crisis; and second, the dire and growing consequences of our reliance not just on foreign oil but oil in general -- economically, geo-strategically, environmentally, everything. Our dependence on foreign oil comes up as a big talking point now and then. But I've started to think it's a much more serious threat to our country and even our civilization than we realize.
What or who first got you interested in writing opinion columns?
No one person or event. I was always interested in politics. And while I was studying to be an historian that interest reawakened. And I started to find academic history to confining and too cut off from the wider world around me. That wider world or audience was what I wanted to write for and about. And that started me on a path that led me here.
Where's your home town?
My current hometown is New York; and I plan for it to stay my home town. But I've had a lot of them. St. Louis, Missouri, Upland, California, Princeton, New Jersey, Providence, Rhode Island, Somerville, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C.
What books have most influenced your thinking?
Mike Lind's "Up From Conservatism" had a big impact on how I thought about politics and being a political writer. Ed Morgan's "American Slavery/American Freedom" is a great book of American history. Actually, I don't read many books about current affairs. I read mainly history.
What Web sites (if any) do you find most useful?
I find Google News an invaluable tool for finding my way around news coverage on the web. The sites I visit regularly throughout the day include the NY Times, the Washington Post, Atrios, Andrew Sullivan, TPMCafe, Drudge, and many others.
If you weren't a columnist, what other occupation(s) would you consider?
If I weren't a writer I'd probably still be an academic. My original life plan was to be an historian.
Please ask yourself a question that wasn't listed above and provide an answer.
Question: Why did I decide to start blogging?
Answer: There were so few blogs when I started writing one that I'd never even heard of the term. I started mainly to get out of under the thumb of party-line editors, to experiment with my writing and because it seemed like fun.
Interviewed by Hal Straus