Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Show Us Your Cat Pictures

The latest fad to hit Capitol Hill is blogging. Senators and Representatives are trying to join the fray to attract the attention of their constituents…or just trying to sit at the Cool Kid’s table.

“Suddenly the plane just started dropping,” wrote Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

“We did this amazing zigzag in — sort of spiral down very fast — and my ears felt horrendous,” she said, describing the final approach to the Baghdad airport. “It was like a bad Disneyland ride as we veered left, right up and down to avoid an ‘incoming’ . . . and I have to admit my stomach was in my throat.”

Murray wrote the account later that day and e-mailed it to staffers back home, who promptly posted it on her Senate Web site. Over the course of her nine-day trip to the Middle East, earlier this year, the senator tapped out 6,000 words describing the poverty she encountered, the soldiers she met and how, during a stop in Georgia, President Mikheil Saakashvili reminded her of former president Bill Clinton (“very charismatic and could just talk forever and make all problems seem so simple”).

Murray is one of a small but growing number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill who have tried their hands at blogging. More than a dozen have launched blogs or blog-like pages on their official Web sites in an apparent effort to sidestep the mainstream media and, like thousands — possibly, millions — of other Americans, take their stories directly to the public.

Some of the congressional sites, such as Patty’s Blog From the Middle East, are short-lived, beginning and ending with a trip overseas. Others are permanent. Some are updated daily. Others, once in a while. The sites, invariably, are much tamer than other, well-known blogs. There is no fire-breathing partisanship. No snarky dishing. No soul-searching confessionals. In fact, some appear to be little more than news releases strung together to look like a blog.

Only one lawmaker, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), allows readers to post comments on his site.

To quote the immortal Jimmy Durante, “Everybody wants to get in on the act.” But you really can’t count yourself as a real blogger unless you do at least some of it in your pajamas (or whatever your version of sleepwear is, and no, I don’t need the details), you allow comments on your site, you link to other real blogs, and you post pictures of your pets.