By Donna Smith
Political groups preparing to battle over the first U.S. Supreme Court
nomination in 11 years have a powerful new tool -- Internet blogs --
to spread information quickly and influence decision makers without
relying on traditional media.
Web logs likely numbering in the dozens provide a way for the
thoughtful and the passionate to publish their views. Politicians are
taking notice as they prepare for the first high court nomination
fight since the Internet became common in American households.
President Bush has yet to name a replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor,
who announced her retirement last week. With the vacancy and eventual
nominee comes intense debate over the court's future.
"A key part of our strategy is reaching out to the Internet
community," said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Democratic leader
Harry Reid of Nevada.
Blogs and similar forums have been around since the early days of the
Internet, but only in the last year have they begun to have an impact
on public opinion and lawmakers, congressional staffers and bloggers
A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project said that
7 percent of the 120 million U.S. adults who use the Internet have
created a blog or web-based diary.
Reid and other political leaders now hold conferences with bloggers in
the same way they meet with traditional press.
"I think they are instrumental in getting information out and
deconstructing spin," said Eric Ueland, chief of staff to Senate
Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican.
"They are much defter and swifter than the mainstream media," he said,
adding that blogs are also "very clear in their philosophical and
Carol Darr, director of George Washington University's Institute for
politics, democracy and the Internet, said those who read and write
blogs aren't "the sad, the mad and the lonely." Rather, research shows
they tend to be people able to influence others, she said.
Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice, a group
formed to support Bush nominees, said the blog at
http:/committeeforjustice.org is aimed at journalists, other bloggers
and talk radio hosts. It also gets information to advocacy groups and
"allows them to do what they are good at, and that is activism," he
Tom Goldstein said researchers at his Washington law firm Goldstein
and Howe already are poring over the background and court decisions of
potential nominees. His firm's blogs at http:/www.scotusblog.com and
http:/www.sctnomination.com/blog strive to be non-partisan, but will
offer opinions on how a candidate may decide important cases, he said.
"If we believe this person will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, we will
say that," he said, speaking of the ruling that legalized abortion.
Melanie Mattson said she bought more bandwidth for her liberal court
blog at http:/judgingthefuture.net, saying she was unsure how much
more traffic to expect.
"The medium is still so new and the Internet is growing so fast it is
hard to know," she said. "Once we get a name we will get more hits."
Steve Clemons, who publishes a political blog
http:/www.thewashingtonnote.com, says that once Bush names someone
"you are going to see the blogs go crazy" digging up information and
in many cases "outrunning" mainstream media.
Not all blogs are created equal. Many will become "ideological echo
chambers" that people read to reaffirm their beliefs, Clemons
said. Others will fuel passions on both the right and the left sides
of the political spectrum. A few will rise above the pack and become
sources of information and not just an advocacy forum.
"If there is any momentum to this trend, you are going to see them
play a very influential role in shaping the environment for this
debate," Clemons said. His blog on John Bolton's nomination as
U.N. ambassador became a must read for many congressional aides and
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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