The Speaker Takes Up a New Gig: Blogger

Posted October 21, 2005 at 6:38pm

Apparently, the Internet revolution’s reach is unstoppable.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) — a man who’s bragged that he doesn’t carry a mobile phone or “one of those pagers … blueberries, BlackBerrys, whatever they are” — will soon be entering the blogosphere.

Sometime early this week, visitors to www.speaker.gov will be able to click on “Speaker’s Journal” and read Hastert’s own musings on the political issues of the day and whatever else strikes his fancy.

“The Speaker wants to deliver a personal message to his fellow bloggers once or twice a week, followed by interesting news stories and fact items that may have been overlooked by the press,” said Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean.

The Web log will focus mostly on politics and the Republican agenda but could also include more personal observations. This means that Web surfers may be in store for a few wrestling references or reviews of Hastert’s latest dinner at A.V. Ristorante.

Bonjean said the staff will make sure that Hastert’s posts feature his own words and style rather than those of his aides.

“The Speaker will deliver a message, and we will transcribe it,” Bonjean said. “Bloggers want to know that they are talking to real people [and] to know that they will have a direct connection to him.”

Some rank-and-file lawmakers have blogs on their official sites, and others occasionally post on outside blogs. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), for example, writes for Arianna Huffington’s site, Huffingtonpost.com. But at the House leadership level, blogs are few and far between.

The Majority Leader’s Web site — which has been temporarily purged of most references to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) but also doesn’t mention current Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) either — does include a “Majority Matters” blog on political issues, though there is no hint that the entries are written by DeLay or Blunt.

The paucity of leadership blogs could change soon, though: October has become an unofficial Blog Month for House Republicans. Last Thursday, the Republican Conference organized a Blog Row and invited several conservative bloggers to hook up their laptops inside the Capitol and chat with a steady procession of GOP lawmakers.

Most of the bloggers who participated devoted the bulk of their coverage to posting photos and audio files of the event, as well as linking to each other.

The blog Suitably Flip said the session was “in a word, engrossing,” and the National Association of Manufacturers’ blog said the lawmakers “really were ‘on message.’”

The topics of discussion didn’t always involve wonky subjects. A younger-skewing site, The Political Teen, posted a helpful chronology of events at Bloggers Row. A few entries (as posted):

11:39 AM: Rep. [Louis] Gohmert (R-Texas): “You have no idea how sickening it is to hear people from the other side saying we [Republicans] are disgusting.”

12:06 PM: [Rep.] Katherine Harris [R-Fla.] is inches away from me.

12:13 PM: Harris: “I love bloggers, what they’re thinking what they’re saying.”

12:26 PM: Cong. from Utah: “You guys are supposed to be the future of the world.”