RBloggers, unite! The cadre of electronic scribes in Virginia whose daily memos to one another fill cyberspace with talk of the 2005 political campaigns emerged from their computerized isolation last week to participate in a telephone news conference with Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, the Democratic candidate for governor.
Six bloggers (and yours truly, whose blog can be found at blogs.washingtonpost.com/racetorichmond) participated in the half-hour call.
Kaine staffers had expected a lively exchange from the bunch, whose online observations are usually colorful. One blogger, for example, last month referred to Kaine spokeswoman Delacey Skinner as a "truly soulless P.R. hack" and a "spokesmodel."
Norman Leahy, the creator of the blog One Man's Trash, went on to ask: "How do campaign flacks sleep at night after mouthing such whoppers all day long? Powerful narcotics? Hammer blows to the forehead? The blood of innocents? Maybe all three."
But lo and behold, the blog news conference was, if anything, more civil than most of the question-and-answer sessions with members of what bloggers sneeringly call "the MSM" -- the mainstream media.
The bloggers asked questions like this one, from Will Vehrs, a conservative blogger at Bacon's Rebellion: "We didn't cover anything on economic development. I was wondering if you could maybe just sketch out your plans for that, and especially on small businesses."
That question gave Kaine the opportunity to launch into his oft-repeated comments about working in his father's small, five-man iron-working and welding shop, and then talk for several minutes about his proposal for health insurance credits.
Kaine, for his part, returned the love. At the end of the call, he promised to do it again and said he thought bloggers were "an important part of the dialogue" in American politics.
"Every once in a while, I'll see a wild rumor about me throttling a staff member, which is completely out of left field," Kaine said. "But I think the overall weight of the blogs is a very Jeffersonian expression of belief and good speech."
That expression continued after the conference call as the bloggers returned to their respective corners and blogged about the experience the rest of the day.
Within moments, Vehrs had posted his observations, calling Kaine "relaxed and very comfortable with both his positions and the issues." He went on to say "it was an impressive performance, especially considering that facing bloggers is uncharted territory."
Leahy, on his blog, called it an "interesting exercise" and declared Kaine "comfortable in his own skin."
But blogs are, after all, really about the running commentary that the initial posts provoke. And so most of the day was consumed by responses to an observation on the Washington Post blog that the bloggers had seemed timid.
"Sorry to let you down, Mike," Leahy responded. "Next time, I'll make sure to get good and licker'd up before I hop on the phone with a statewide candidate."
Waldo Jaquith, who runs a blog named after himself, posted a comment in which he said: "I must say, I feel mighty good about the state of the Virginia blogosphere if the biggest criticism of us that can be mustered is that we're just so darned polite."
Lowell Feld, who runs the liberal Raising Kaine blog, wrote, with some measure of sarcasm: "There's nothing worse than disapproval from an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful Washington Post reporter like yourself. With that, I think I'll go slit my wrists right now."