Every day, it seems, there are more blogs, more compilations of blogs and more chatter about blogs, as online debate comes in more flavors.
You've got congressmen, presidential candidates and corporate leaders all doing the blog thing, as well as legions of ordinary folks armed mainly with opinions. This, in my view, is a great thing, even though no human being, including me, can keep up with the millions of words being posted each day. (Now you have to keep up not just with Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo but with his TPM Cafe, not to mention the 1,239 people posting at Huffington).
But the debate on the most popular political blogs often seems to reflect the old right-left warfare--just search on "Downing Street Memo" if you doubt me--in ways that too often seem utterly predictable. (This was sort of captured in my chat yesterday. A D.C. reader: "Once again we are left with the media using manufactured documents in a naked effort to drive President Bush from office." A Michigan reader: "I find the mainstream media's response to the memos' explosive content very amusing. It's as if British papers had discovered Watergate, covered the hell out of it, then the American papers sniffing months later that everybody knew about all that already.")
Now comes an exchange over whether the top conservative and liberal blogs are different in more than just ideology. To wit: Are liberals more likely than their counterparts on the right to gather in cyber-communities? If so, is that a real strength that helps galvanize folks? And are blogs on the left becoming a more powerful force, if not quite to the point that conservatives dominate talk radio?
Chris Bowers | http://www.mydd.com/story/2005/6/12/17357/3049 of the (liberal) MyDD kicks off the debate:
"Last September, I wrote an article entitled Top Down Right-Wing Blogosphere Growing Powerful, that argued the anti-community nature of right-wing blogs was allowing them relatively greater message discipline than left wing blogs and a superior ability to influence the content of the national media.
"In January, I wrote a follow-up piece entitled Partisan Democratic Blogs Growing Far More Influential Than 'Independent' Right-Wing Blogs, where I argued that progressive blogs, due to their affiliation with the Democratic Party, were growing influential in ways that the largely media focused right-wing blogosphere was not. In my latest irregular installment that compares the national liberal blogosphere to the national conservative blogosphere, I would like to discuss a new phenomenon I see emerging. The left-wing blogosphere is beginning to decidedly pull away from the right wing blogosphere in terms of traffic. This is largely a result of the open embrace of community blogging on the left and the stagnant, anti-meritorious nature of the right-wing blogosphere that pushes new, emerging voices to the margins . . .
"Of the twenty-four liberal blogs in the top quintile, Dailykos, TPM Cafe, Smirking Chimp, Metafilter, BooMan Tribune, MyDD, and Dembloggers are full-fledged community sites where members cannot only comment, but they can also post diaries / articles / polls. By comparison, there are no community sites among the top twenty-four conservative blogs. None, zip, zero, nada. This is particularly stunning when one considers the importance of the Free Republic community to the conservative netroots.
"While it would appear that there are hordes of Glenn Reynolds wannabe's among conservatives in the netroots, Redstate.org sticks out as the only success story for a community oriented blog within the conservative blogosphere. In fact, of the five most trafficked conservative blogs (over 200,000 page views per week), only one, Little Green Footballs, even allows comments, much less the ability to actually write a diary or a new article."
Patrick Ruffini | http://www.patrickruffini.com/, a former Bush-Cheney campaign aide, sees a different dynamic:
"Conservative blogs may be smaller, but they are more densely interconnected. Conversation on conservative blogs is just as likely to happen between blogs as within them. In fact, I've noticed a unique phenomenon emerging right here: quite often, my number of trackbacks rivals, and sometimes exceeds, the number of comments. In terms of solid, valuable interaction, trackbacks are pure gold: they tell you that someone thought enough of your post not just to respond to it on a seldom-read comments page or diary, but to give it prime real estate in their personal space, all the while sending visitors your way.
"Bowers disparages the proliferation of large numbers of mid-tier conservative blogs, but in what way is this unhealthy? In fact, most of the cooperative, traffic-sharing arrangements in the blogosphere have emerged on the right. These days, it's hard to keep track of all the various carnivals and link-fests, from the Cotillion to Carnival of the Capitalists to Classiness All Around Us to Conservative Grapevine . . .
"We have quite a paradox here: liberal blogging is thoroughly centralized and highly stratified, with Kos at the very top of the pyramid. The conservative blogosphere is more cooperative and egalitarian, with plenty of Kumbaya-singing, beer-swilling, and link-swapping around the campfire. In the conservative blogopshere, it's leave no blog behind."
A poster named Jason responds to Ruffini: "I think traffic is stagnating or dropping in the right blogosphere simply because the job of re-electing Bush has been accomplished. There was a bit of a circus on all sides about Social Security, but that has since dropped off the radar. Other than Terry Schiavo, there have been few issues that are important to the right-wing grassroots right now."
Still no Bolton, as the Los Angeles Times | http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-bolton21jun21,0,5708916.story?coll=la-home-headlines reports:
"Democrats blocked a vote on John R. Bolton as U.N. ambassador Monday, dealing another setback to the White House and opening the possibility that President Bush would take the controversial step of appointing the embattled nominee without Senate confirmation.
"Despite last-minute lobbying by the White House and public pressure from Bush, Republicans failed to muster the 60 votes they needed to break a Democratic filibuster of the nomination. The vote to cut off the debate on Bolton was 54-38 . . . White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan did not rule out the possibility that Bush might temporarily appoint Bolton while Congress is on its weeklong July 4 break."
That would drive the Democrats bonkers.
The Washington Times | http://washingtontimes.com/national/20050621-121515-4570r.htm uses the F-word:
"The Senate yesterday failed to break a Democrat-led filibuster against President Bush's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, leaving John R. Bolton at an impasse and setting up the possibility of a recess appointment."
A USA Today | http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-06-20-usat-poll_x.htm survey finds the country in a "funk":
"Fewer Americans fear a terrorist attack on the USA in the next several weeks than at any time since 9/11, a new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows.
"Overall, 35% say another attack is likely soon, down from 39% in January and a high of 85% in October 2001, a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The public has lost confidence in the Bush administration's ability to protect the nation from terrorist attacks, the poll shows, but 61% are still confident it can." Only 39 percent say they support the Iraq war.
Everyone seems to enjoy this story: Saddam | http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/sns-ap-saddams-guards,1,2540294.story?coll=chi-news-hed&ctrack=1&cset=true loves Doritos.
Ed Klein's book about Hillary hits today, and National Review | http://nationalreview.com/interrogatory/klein200506200754.asp chats up the author:
"National Review Online: In a sentence, what is 'the truth about Hillary'?
"Edward Klein: Hillary is not a victim (not of sexism, not of her husband, and certainly not of this book); she's not a moderate (despite her effort to re-brand herself in the Senate). Even my sources on the left admit she's positioning herself as a victim and moderate in order to win the White House.
"NRO: Matt Drudge has highlighted the 'rape' claim in your book [Bill Clinton supposedly and allegedly assaulting his wife]. Which, to be upfront here, I thought was a terrible story to be highlighting, about a child and her parents. Why on earth would you put such a terrible story in your book? -- that looks to be flimsily sourced at that. But even if it wasn't -- why tell it?"
"Klein: Let's set the record straight here. Actually, I don't make that claim in the book. I included the story about their 1979 trip to Bermuda because Hillary herself brings it up and spins it in her own book as an example of their supposedly romantic marriage. The point of the story is that my source, who was with the Clintons in Bermuda and quoted Bill's boastful remarks to me, was stunned when Bill phoned him a few months later and told him he just learned of Hillary's pregnancy by reading about it in the newspaper! Those who read the book will see this is hardly a 'rape story' -- rather it's yet another example of a bizarre political union where a pregnancy is leaked to the largest newspaper in the state and treated as political gain rather than shared privately as a couple."
Salon's Rebecca Traister | http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2005/06/21/klein/index.html wonders how a former New York Times Magazine editor got to this point:
"What is a guy with Klein's background and reputation doing writing a book like this? 'The Truth About Hillary' boasts a passel of petty, sexist and plain old 'no duh' claims against Hillary: 'She shows no wifely instincts,' 'She isn't maternal,' 'She's a feminist, but she rode to power on her husband's coattails,' 'She has abetted decades of chronic infidelity,' 'Many of her closest friends and aides were lesbians.' It claims to shed light on the way that 'the culture of lesbianism at Wellesley College shaped Hillary's politics' and that 'she set up an elaborate system to monitor her husband's girlfriends.' The book opens with a scene in which former White House intern Monica Lewinsky fondles Bill Clinton's penis at Radio City Music Hall.
" 'Life of Samuel Johnson' it ain't. But the fear of many Democrats is that 'The Truth About Hillary' could prove to be a powerful weapon against Clinton as she moves closer to becoming the Democratic candidate for president in 2008. Even if most of the claims in 'The Truth about Hillary' turn out to be baseless, there's a palpable fear that it could be a lethal cousin to 2004's campaign killer 'Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry.' In New York media circles, the discomfort is doubled by the knowledge that this time, the cudgel is being wielded not by some easily dismissed nut-job from a state they fly over, but by a man they know, they've worked with, and whom they may have even created."
Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol | http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/753wtrdi.asp floats an idea on Dick Durbin:
"Conservatives (and, one trusts, many liberals) have been appalled by Sen. Durbin's comparison last Tuesday, on the Senate floor, between 'what Americans had done to prisoners in their control' at Guantanamo and what was done by Nazis, Soviets, and Pol Pot. Conservatives (and, one trusts, many liberals) have also been appalled by Sen. Durbin's non-apology last Friday: 'I have learned from my statement that historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood.' In other words, Sen. Durbin apparently still believes there could be a proper use and understanding of an 'historical parallel' between American soldiers and Nazis . . .
"Why not put the burden on the Democrats? When Sen. Trent Lott made a far less damaging, but still deplorable, statement two and a half years ago his fellow Republicans insisted he step down as their leader. Shouldn't Democrats insist that Sen. Durbin step down as their whip, the number two man in their leadership? Shouldn't conservatives (and liberals) legitimately ask Democrats to hold their leader to account, especially given the precedent of Lott?"
Andrew Sullivan | http://www.andrewsullivan.com flatly disagrees: "I've now read and re-read Senator Dick Durbin's comments on interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay. They are completely, perfectly respectable. The rank hysteria being perpetrated by some on the right is what is shameful."
The Downing Street debate is still hot and heavy, and NYU's Jay Rosen | http://www.huffingtonpost.com/theblog/archive/jay-rosen/the-downing-street-memo-a_2902.html deconstructs what happened:
"What journalists call news judgment used to be king. If the press ruled against you, you just weren't news. But if you weren't news how would anyone know enough about you (or care) to contest the ruling? That's what having singular influence was all about. The way it works today, the World Wide Web is the sovereign force, and journalists live and work according to its rules.
"Now if there's something newsworthy coming out of the U.K. but neglected in America the political blogs in America and other activists online keep talking about it. Quickly the story's unjust obscurity will reach a political player who can change that by acting in a newsworthy way, lending fresh facts and additional reason to cover the story.
"By such means the appeal of news judgment starts to take shape. This happened within a week when John Conyers began circulating a letter to President Bush--signed by 88 Democrats--that demanded from Bush an explanation. The Knight-Ridder Washington bureau, increasingly a dissident voice on these matters, treated that letter as news in a May 6 report. (The signers were up to 122 by the time Conyers sent his letter.)
"Players in politics, reading the blogs (or in the case of Conyers, writing for them), pick up the chatter and amplify it. Radio talk show hosts, also reading the blogs, and getting the e-mails from activists, amplify the chatter some more. Columnists who weren't a part of the consensus pay attention, seeking vindication for their own judgment. And all these players together mount the appeal. They go into Supreme News Court and say: 'the press denied us, but we have a case.'"
Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum | http://www.washingtonmonthly.com responds to a post (excerpted here yesterday) about the Sunday Times of London using copies of the memo:
"The wingnuts are getting desperate. Captain's Quarters, in a nostalgic attempt to recreate the glories of Rathergate, suggests that the Downing Street Memos aren't real. Why? Because Michael Smith, the reporter who got hold of them, had them retyped to protect his source and then returned the originals. Jonah Goldberg feverishly calls CQ's revelations a 'must read.'
"Now, unlike the Killian memos that were at the center of Rathergate, there are quite a few principals in this case who either wrote or received these memos and therefore have absolute knowledge of whether or not they're genuine. The first memo, for example, was written by Matthew Rycroft and distributed at the time to David Manning, Geoff Hoon, Jack Straw, Peter Goldsmith, Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, Richard Dearlove, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, and Alastair Campbell. So far, not a single one of these people has claimed they're fake."
John Hinderaker | http://powerlineblog.com/ of Power Line, a blog that helped lead the charge on the National Guar memos, is skeptical:
"I very much doubt that the documents are fakes, for two reasons. First, to my knowledge no one in the British government has denied their authenticity. The 'Downing Street memos' are much different from the CBS National Guard documents in this important respect: the CBS documents were ostensibly authored by Jerry Killian, who had been dead for twenty years. The Downing Street documents, on the other hand, were allegedly authored by, and relate to meetings recently conducted by, a group of men who are very much alive and well. I can't conceive of a reason why they would fail to attack the documents' genuineness if there were a basis for doing so . . .
"The Downing Street memos, while interesting, are innocuous. If someone went to the trouble of faking them, I would expect him to fake something better."
Finally, I thought I knew of all the accomplishments in Ted Koppel's long and storied career, but the New York Post | http://www.nypost.com/gossip/pagesix.htm has unearthed a new one:
"Busty actress Sally Kirkland tattles that curiously-coiffed 'Nightline' anchor Ted Koppel was the first man to lay a hand on her ample bosom.
"Kirkland, 60, says Koppel made his move when he was a 17-year-old senior at Manhattan's McBurney HS and she was 14-year-old freshman at Nightingale, when they were riding in the back of a horse-drawn carriage after his prom."
One in a long line of Koppel firsts.