You are an Annapolis native. What are your abiding memories of growing up there?
I am indeed from Annapolis, born and raised. My memories are mostly of going to either the mall or to Main Street in downtown, to walk around and look at shop windows, because that’s really all there is to do in Annapolis. My family never got into sailing. We did the crabs thing, though. I used to catch crabs! Big crabs, I would catch.
Did you live on the water?
Our first house that I lived in until I was 14 was on the water, or, at least, there was a shared community dock. Here is a true fact: The blue crab photo on the Maryland Manual Online, under state symbols, is a crab that I caught.
So, you’re famous, is what you’re telling me?
I pretty much run Maryland, yes.
Aside from your crab-catching prowess, did you do other typical Maryland-y things?
I went to some Navy games at the stadium, and listened to Good Charlotte and Jimmie's Chicken Shack “before they got big.” I never thought much of anything about D.C. My dad was raised in and around Baltimore, so I always connected more with that. Which is not to say that I really know Baltimore well. I know, uh . . . the Inner Harbor and Fort McHenry and other places where you’d go on field trips.
So is your dad the reason you’re an Orioles/Ravens fan instead of Nats/Redskins?
Yes. My mom was a Redskins fan, but I didn’t get into football until the Ravens came around.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how much joy has the 2012 Orioles brought you?
Well first, I don’t know when this interview will be published, so let me say to the 2012 Orioles either “congratulations for winning it all!” or “nice try.” But this season has brought me 36,000 joy points on your insufficient 1-10 scale. It has been a religious experience. And I’ve watched most every game, even when they were playing badly, so I feel like I have a lot of smack talk to issue now to the fair-weather fans.
They’ve got guts, these O’s.
Back in one minute, my cat is vomiting on the carpet.
Stupid cat. Anyway, they’ve got guts, but they also have a manager who obsessively moves around the lineup and the bullpen in order to make it work. He is the manager of the millennium. Which means Peter Angelos will certainly fire him at the end of the season, for no reason.
So, Jim Newell, as a political expert, who’s going to win, Obama or Romney?
Well, I've been trying to stay away from moment-to-moment predictions of that nature, because so many people end up getting overexcited one way or another and getting them wrong and looking silly. So my best guess for a while was that Romney was more likely to win based on the historical success of incumbents in such poor economies. But I guess I’ll say Obama now, since he is crushing Romney each and every day. Again, things could change, since Romney has plenty of attack ad money to spend. People are locking in to their votes, though.
I am sorry for that mess of a response. OBAMA WILL WIN, MAYBE.
Speaking of which, you’ve been fairly critical of political punditry in the past, but, um, aren’t you a political pundit yourself?
Damn! You’re right. There are a lot of problems with 24/7 political punditry that I try to avoid at least—as I mentioned, the rapid-fire, definitive predictions after each silly gaffe, but also the way pundits seem to assume that their preferred policies are the ones that are politically popular. So I do what I can, in my failed liar profession.
It’s probably like any other profession: Some people do it well, and some people do it poorly.
I just think a lot of things on the campaign trail—a funny gaffe or a tin-eared comment at a stop—are entertaining, and worthy of publishing because they’re entertaining. It doesn't have to mean that they “matter” or will or won't help a candidate's chances. Some things are just funny! No need to analyze beyond that.
What have been your favorite gaffes this election cycle?
I can't even remember. That's the thing: They don't last long, but are funny at the moment. I enjoyed when Mitt Romney kept getting asked about sports, and would always respond with, “Well, I don't really watch it, but I know some owners.” That's funny. Not PIVOTAL ELECTION CHANGERS. But highly enjoyable.
You wrote for Wonkette off and on for the better part of four years. During that time, the site coined/popularized a lot of political slang: Mittens, Walnuts!, Paultards, etc. Any favorites?
I guess I’d have to go with Mittens, because I’ve been using it constantly for four years, and it stopped being funny after the first time (or even before that) yet kept creeping into the vernacular to the point where a lot of people now reflexively use it. My contribution to society.
Your parents must be very proud.
They sure are. Thanks for sending me to that private university again!
Now that you're writing for more august publications like The Guardian and—ahem—Salon, what will you do with your surplus of risqué jokes?
I guess I’ll have to put more on Twitter. Or become an adult, who knows.
It’s widely accepted that O’Malley is running for President in 2016. What do you think his chances are?
Yes, it does seem like he's interested, what with the constant ploying to run for President. I'm not too high on his chances. He seems like he'll be the “try too hard” candidate who finishes fourth or fifth. He's certainly done a good job lining himself up for a Democratic primary, with the state-level DREAM Act thing, gay marriage, raising taxes on the wealthy while preserving education and other programs. And I, at least, appreciate his stand against the death penalty, which is still a position that's risky for Democrats with national aspirations. But . . . he's so cheesy when he speaks. His convention speech, with that call-and-response? Ugh. I see him as the Tim Pawlenty figure of 2016—lines things up well, has a relatively competent record, but doesn't have the juice needed to power past anyone. And if Hillary Clinton is running? No chance.
So, you do not own O'Malley's March's Greatest Hits CD (sold with complementary sleeveless T-shirt)?
Well, of course, I own it, but no one else in the country does. Don't you feel like a Maryland politician running for President would be the butt of so many jokes?
“Oooh, look at Maryland boy over here. Pretty cool state you run there, guy.”
People have no conception of Maryland. And neither do I, really. There is a bay and some exurbs and . . .
Okay, last question. If you had to choose between a World Series championship for the O’s or the election of your preferred Presidential candidate, which would you choose?
That is one hell of a question. Curse you! Hmm, I guess I'll say I'd rather have my preferred Presidential candidate win, so my political readers don't throw rocks at my house and say I want to sell out the country. Besides, the O’s will be good for the next few more years, I think? Okay, never mind, I'll take the O’s World Series championship. Sorry, America!