Howard Kurtz today writes up his chat with the Washingtonian’s National Editor Kim Eisler (Kurtz calls Eisler “Abramoff’s Media Pal”), who’s been one of the few reporters to actually speak with Jack Abramoff in the past few months.

    Kim Eisler says he’s a decent man who has been unfairly demonized.

    For six years, Washingtonian’s national editor has been chatting, dining and exchanging e-mails with the disgraced lobbyist, undeterred by last month’s guilty plea to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials.

    “There’s been this explosion of hatred toward the guy, far in excess of what any other lobbyist has ever been confronted with,” Eisler says. “I think the level of villainy is a little excessive. . . . He has a lot of good qualities that people don’t know about.”

Kurtz seems to think that Eisler’s “friendship” with Abramoff can compromise his reporting occasionally and it’s clear from the piece that Eisler is more sympathetic to Abramoff than many other journalists.

But the whole story brings to light an interesting issue: Although journalists are always cautioned to stay 15 degrees of separation from their subjects, Eisler’s relationship with Abramoff has resulted in some invaluable insight into this other story that other journalists simply haven’t been able to provide.

To mingle or not to mingle? That is the question…