Back then, Josh was not yet the clean-up, happily married father of two
we know him to be today. He was best captured by Matthew Klam in a New York Times
Magazine profile that described him as looking "like a wrinkle bomb had hit him." He kept odd hours, slept through deadlines, and
then performed insane, Pepsi One-fueled marathons of reporting and writing that produced brilliant journalism. An image lodged in my mind from those days is walking into Josh's office one Monday around lunchtime and finding him sound asleep on his couch in the same clothes from Friday and surrounded by about 30 empty two-liter bottles of Pepsi One (not exaggerating). Point is, he operated on his own clock.
The 2000 election--or more precisely, the recount--was a very Josh-friendly event in that it presented a scenario that, on one level, involved all sort of complicated, byzantine rules and procedures that needed figuring out, which was always a fascination and a strong point for him, and on another level offered clear and outrageous examples of conservative bamboozlement and liberal-establishment witlessness, which was another thing that got him going. Looking back, I can see that TPM was destined to start here.
One day, after a morning of working the phones, Josh came out of his office looking as though he'd imbibed more than his usual liter-age of Pepsi One. He was on fire about some travesty of media coverage related to the recount (looking back at his first post--to read it verité-style, click here and scroll to bottom--it must have been about Ted Olson). I remember him pausing and asking Nick and me, "Dude, do you guys think it would be weird if I did a thing like Kaus is doing?" This was in reference to Kausfiles, which had begun the year before. Nick and I shrugged and said that it wouldn't be weird at all. Then, when Josh disappeared back into his office to create what would become Talking Points Memo, Nick and I decided that actually, yes, it would be sort of weird, because who but a fool would write for no money?
What was amazing was how prolific Josh was right off the bat, reporting and writing and analyzing--recognizably blogging, although at the time no such reference point existed, so it mostly seemed like the manic pursuit of a really smart, idiosyncratic guy who slept on the office couch. Manic, but always interesting. Josh quickly amassed a small but influential Washington readership and started getting tips and intel from them (including some prominent conservatives), and I remember it dawning on me that he had figured out a new way of doing journalism that nobody else had grasped yet. At the time, it seemed like all this would be in the service of his traditional long-form print career, and so it seemed neat and clever, but not revolutionary in the way that it does today,