Talking with A political junkie who decodes jargon

Name: David Mark
Age: 41
City: Redwood Shores
Position: Political journalist

J.: You were senior editor at Politico for six years and before that editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. How did you first become interested in politics?
David Mark: When I was growing up, there was always active political talk around the dinner table. At Brandeis University, I was a politics major and started following the 1992 presidential campaign. I was fascinated with the process of it … so I started reading the papers and watching C-SPAN for fun. Everyone pretty much thought I was weird, but I wanted to be in politics in some fashion, and after falling into journalism and realizing I was a news junkie, I figured I might as well try to make a living out of it.

J.: The center of politics is in Washington, D.C. What made you decide to move to Silicon Valley?
DM: I was recruited for a website named Topix while I was working at Politico. They were looking to open up a new political website and I took over as editor [at Politix]. I’m originally from Southern California, so it was nice to be close to family, and I was intrigued to work in Silicon Valley. It’s a different sort of power center than Washington, D.C. You have a good idea and you can run with it. In government, it’s hard to get anything done.

David Mark

J.: What has been your favorite election to watch?
DM: The presidential election in 2000 was really fascinating because of the long recount in Florida. It was as close as could be and it went on for a year and a half. Watching the street fighting of that was really interesting to see play out.

J.: If you could interview any politician, who would it be?
DM: (laughs) There are so many. If it were someone from the past, I would choose Woodrow Wilson. So much of what he did in office had a really a really big impact on World War I, the Federal Reserve, income tax and a bunch of other policies. As far as a living politician, I’d say the governor of Ohio, John Kasich. He’s a potential [Republican] presidential candidate in 2016 and he’s really going against the grain in his own party. He has spoken out about immigration and some other issues. I’m intrigued by politicians who are willing to go against their own party base.

J.: How do you think Judaism is intertwined with the work you’re doing?
DM: I always saw journalism and writing as education, which is why I got into it. I do a lot of radio and TV interviews, and I don’t say that out of vanity, but I like educating and learning. Whenever I can be helpful, I see it as a public service. So my work is not necessarily tikkun olam, but instead informing people when you have a worthwhile cause.

J.: What was your Jewish upbringing like?
DM: I grew up in a Conservative synagogue in Pasadena. I went to Hebrew school, and in adulthood I’ve studied more. I’m now a member of Kol Emeth in Palo Alto. 

J.: You’ve written two books, including “Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and the Washington Handshake: Decoding the Jargon, Slang, and Bluster of American Political Speech.” You were also interviewed by Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” in 2006. Anything interesting coming up?
DM: I’m working with the publisher on my next book proposal, and I’m excited to get moving on it. I’m a consulting editor for a new, lively policy/politics discussion site based in Menlo Park. I’m also a regular guest, discussing politics and policy, on KKSF [910 AM] Radio’s “The Gil Gross Show.”

J.: Have you considered running for office yourself?
DM: Yes, I’ve thought of it, but I like being on the sidelines and looking at politics from an analytic point of view. The thing about running for office is that you’re always on, and it doesn’t leave a lot of room for nuance. I’m a pretty social person, but I don’t think I would want to be on all the time. And, as a politician, you have to take a strong stance when journalists are pushing elected officials for answers.

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