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The FishbowlDC Interview With TWT’s Eli Lake

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LAKE_ELI_004.jpg Say hello to TWT‘s National Security reporter Eli Lake. He’s also a contributing editor to TNR. When I asked him where he grew up, he writes, “I was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the neighborhood of Germantown, where – as far as I know – there are no Germans.” Other Lake claims to fame: He has visited all three charter members of the Axis of Evil – Iraq, Iran and North Korea. He lived in Cairo between 2005 and 2006 where he served as the New York Sun‘s Middle East Bureau Chief. On a lighter note, he loves to Google himself.

If you were a carbonated beverage which would you be? Champagne. Obviously.

How often do you Google yourself? I get a daily alert. No, actually, I google myself constantly. It’s my home screen. I see my Google results when I close my eyes.

What’s the worst thing youÂ’ve ever said to an editor (or vice versa) When I was just starting out, Paul Singer used to say, “O.K. finish up, and in English this time.”

Who is your favorite working journalist? Christopher Hitchens

Do you have a favorite word? Framework-Agreement.

Who would you rather have dinner with – First Lady Michelle Obama or Bestselling Author and former V.P. candidate Sarah Palin? There are a lot of unanswered questions about both women.

What’s the name of your cell phone ring? Alcove 1

When did you last cry and why? I was raised by leftists in Germantown, Philadelphia. So I listened to a double album growing up called, “Free to be You and Me,” which contained songs and skits on women’s lib and various forms of tolerance. One song on the album was titled, “It’s Alright to Cry.” Well, I went to John B. Kelly elementary school, which is a public school, and let me tell you, that song is a lie. It’s not alright cry.

What word do you routinely misspell? Journolist.

What swear word do you use most often? Birth Certificate.

What word or phrase do you overuse? “You know what old man, you will never understand our music.”

What TV show do you have to watch? Anything on Press TV.

Where do you shop most often for your clothes? I like to get the Maxx for the minimum.

How Lake makes cancer funny is a mystifying, but he does. Also: find out the best journalism advice we’ve heard in a long time after the jump…


Who do you prefer for daytime talk, Dr. Phil, Ellen, Oprah, Tyra or the women of The View? Give me the doctor.

Pick one: Leno, Letterman or Conan? Charlie Rose.

If you were trapped on a deserted island, which public official would you want to be trapped with and why? Mike Vickers, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict & Interdependent Capabilities. He was likely trained to get off of a deserted island at some point, plus he would be a great secret history professor in the mean time.

Who is your mentor? Seth Lipsky, founding editor of the New York Sun.

What’s the best advice you ever received in the course of your career? After you write a tough story on someone, call them up the next day and invite them out to lunch.

What and where was your first job in journalism? Inside Washington Publishers, Water Policy Report. This was a source of much amusement in my family due to our last name.

What’s your most embarrassing career moment? I once asked Richard Boucher, former state department spokesman a question about the fictional country from the West Wing, Cumar, as a goof. Anyway, no one else except for CNN’s Elise Labott got it.

Which one interview of your career did you enjoy most? Iranian dissident, Akbar Ganji before he came to the United States in 2006. I had written a lot about him the year before, when he was in prison.

Which one interview of your career did you enjoy least? John Garang, the late leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Rumbek, Sudan. It was very hot and disturbing with these child soldiers keeping guard. I had gotten a ride with the US special envoy to Sudan at the time, Sen. Danforth. The interview itself was not particularly great either. I felt he dissembled quite a bit.

What’s the biggest scoop you’ve ever had? I coined the term, “juice-box mafia.” I brought #realkeeping to twitter. And I break hot news all the time at the Washington Times. I donÂ’t know. Google me. Lord knows I do.

When and why did you last laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes? Nick Gillespie, Michael Moynihan and I were discussing how for the Doobie Brothers, the music is always “the doctor.” It’s true, you should listen to their songs. And Nick just started bringing up various people who have died of dreadful diseases. And he still does this. This week I wrote about Hosni Mubarak having terminal cancer, and Nick just e-mails me to say, “You know for Hosni Mubarak, maybe the music isn’t the doctor.”

When and why did you last lose your temper? Well I was on my way to the Jacuzzi and my girlfriend fell asleep. Oh wait, that’s Mel Gibson.

Which movie title best describes your journalism career? American Ninja

Who would you want to play you in a movie? Method Man

Name some jobs you’ve had outside of journalism. (Can start as young as teenage years): In high school, I was the roadie for a Bar Mitzvah and Wedding band. In college I painted houses and canvassed suburban neighborhoods on behalf of Ralph Nader’s Public Interest Research Group and Clean Water Action. Right after college, I worked briefly as an opposition researcher for the DCCC. It was 1994. The Ds lost. So I became a reporter.

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