Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Wednesday, May 31

Anticipating Obama

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) will headline Saturday's Ohio Democratic Party 2006 State Dinner. Obama will meet briefly with bloggers at a table he is sponsoring for them. Just to set the record straight (more on that later), Obama has met with bloggers in several other states recently, including Nebraska, Kansas, and Minnesota. Obama gets it about the significance and potential of the political blogosphere.

He also gets it about leadership, and politics. Check out this excerpt from Kansas blogger Josh Rosenau's interview with the Senator:
Q. ... You are an unabashedly progressive, and in your campaign, you did very well in areas that are not that dissimilar from the politics of Kansas. So, what is there that we can learn ... from your example?

A. Well, you know, a couple of things. One, I think you can promote progressive values if you describe those values in pragmatic, common sense terms as opposed to ideological terms.

Q. So, for example…

A. If you're talking about an issue like health care, it's not necessary to rail against drug companies and insurance companies because a lot of people work at insurance companies. It is sensible to talk about the fact that the system right now is not working for people, and that we're wasting a lot of money in the system, and there's no reason that people should be bankrupt if they get sick. Those kinds of common sense attitudes cross party lines, cross divides of class and race. I think that's important.

The second thing that's important is that you don't shy away from the so-called values debate. Being willing to talk about faith and family and the challenges of raising children. Those are things that people feel very intimately. I think sometimes Democrats are a little patronizing about those issues, but those are in fact issues that people feel very deeply. They want meaning in their life, they want a sense of community in their life, they feel overwhelmed with all the different forces coming at them. Not all those problems are amenable to legislation, but if you recognize them and talk about them people feel that at least you're identifying with their experience. Those would be the two main pieces of advice. (emphasis mine)
There's a certain prominent Democratic candidate who would do well to tape that last part on his bathoom mirror and repeat it out loud every morning from now to November.

Now, to setting the record straight. Columbus Dispatch columnist Ann Fisher writes in today's edition about political bloggers. She does not fall completely into the common misperceptions about who we are and what we do, but she makes some statements that fall somewhere between misleading and wrong, and I want to respond.

Fisher recounts how Ohio Democratic Party Communications Director Brian Rothenberg declined to provide free admission to the dinner to a few bloggers who asked, and Obama subsequently offered to host a blogger table. Her focus, however, is her sympathetic portrayal of Rothenberg's "baptism by fire to the blogosphere." You see, Rothenberg has been "forced to navigate an unformed landscape" with few "real names" and where "ethics are just beginning to become an issue," and "he’s been burned." Oh yes, he has "felt the wrath of the blog." Rothenberg "is troubled," warning that in time, bloggers "are going to start self-policing or they are going to be policed."

Nonsense. Bloggers weren't happy about Rothenberg's decision not to grant access to the dinner, but by blogospheric standards their reaction was muted and short-lived. If he paid any real attention to blogs he would know what real blog wrath looks like. The story isn't that bloggers are bullies, but that Obama appreciates the value of granting bloggers access and Rothenberg does not. And Rothenberg's counterpart at the Ohio Republican Party, John McClelland, appears to get it too, since he is quoted as saying that bloggers "are not the traditional media, but we’ve tried to be open with them in terms of having access to our events, taking phone calls, answering any questions." Can we expect to begin receiving that kind of treatment from the ODP any time soon, please?

To the extent that Fisher's column implies that Obama bought a table for bloggers just to rescue Rothenberg or the ODP from the "wrath of the blog," see the first paragraph above about Obama meeting with bloggers during recent appearances in other states. This is something that he does because he wants to, and because he understands the value of the blogosphere, and the Ohio Democratic establishment has something important to learn from his example.


At 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nope, if bloggers are going to receive several $150 ODP dinner gifts from Barack Obama, then the bloggers should refrain from writing stories about him.

Although, it's not a huge sum of money, there is the principle of striving for unbiased coverage that should be upheld.

Russo and Russell can rationalize it ten ways to never and belittle Brian Rothenberg all they want, but they are the ones who have been most public about why they believe they deserve special priviledge.

In my opinion, I'd rather see old folks who have been working as precinct captains for 30 years get some free tickets, not a couple big mouth bloggers.

At 3:51 PM, Anonymous russell said...

well anon. How about i ignore your advice and write abuot what I want to write about and if you dont like it well dont read it. How's that sound ? When have I ever claimed to write anything unbiased ? what do you think BSB is ? MSNBC ? LOL. If you want unbiased coverage I suggest you look elsewhere rather than the blogs.

As for those 30 year precinct captains. Well life aint fair and if they wanted to go maybe they should have made a case for it.

I dont know about you, but i put in over 40 hours a week into this blogging business trying to help Dems get elected - dont know too many precinct captains who do that, do you ?

Maybe Bloggers are more valuable than precinct captains...time will tell.

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Jill said...

Nice post, Jeff. Especially the excerpts of the Q and A. Obama absolutely gets it. There's just no excuse for why more people who are elected to public service or who are responsible for helping get people elected to public service don't. Zero.

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Lisa Renee said...

The way this whole dinner thing was done has made me really discover more than I think I wanted to know.

At 9:32 PM, Blogger Yellow Dog Sammy said...

Lisa Renee -

I'm really in no mood to hear this from you. You made your feelings clear from the outset, in comments at BSB if not elsewhere, that you thought the whole thing was questionable and that in any event you wouldn't go if asked. Under the circumstances, I really don't think you have any business disparaging "the way this whole dinner thing was done," or making your dark insinuations about "more than I think I wanted to know." I happen to have great respect for your blogging, but this here is just a crock %*&$(#. Just let it drop.

At 4:05 PM, Blogger Daniella said...

Well I just read the post at Height's Mom and then scooted over to Jill and hooked upon this link.

I have to say that the gushing going on at Height's Mom's blog might re-inforced the notion that accepting a dinner makes us into cheerleaders. I don't believe that it is the case for everyone but it is pretty hard to bite the hand that feeds you.

Having issued this little pedantic statement, I say have a good time, collect as much info and your mission will be completed.

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