RNC bloggers gone wild!

They promised substance over style -- hard-hitting, inside scoops. So say hello to Bo Derek, Miss America, TV star Angie Harmon, and "Ari Fleischer's guide to red-hot G.O.P. love."

Published September 1, 2004 8:30PM (EDT)

Last week the Wall Street Journal profiled the 15 credentialed bloggers officially selected by organizers of the Republican National Convention to cover this week's events inside Madison Square Garden. Convention spokeswoman Alyssa McClenning would not discuss how the group was chosen, according to the Journal, but she promised that the bloggers would represent "a mix of ideologies."

The bloggers, in brief interviews with the Journal, promised some big things themselves. After a good bit of hemming and hawing about their counterparts' failure to turn out any meaningful coverage at the Democratic get-together in Boston, the cutting-edge RNC crew pledged to zero in on the important issues in New York.

"Readers rightly criticized the number of 'hey, look at me' posts from DNC bloggers," remarked Kevin Aylward, a technology consultant who authors the Wizbang! blog. "I'm aware much of the audience isn't interested in what I had for dinner and what my hotel room is like."

"Being there isn't good enough, nor is posting what you ate for lunch or which movie star or politico you bumped into in the elevator," said Tom Bevan, editor of Real Clear Politics.

"Bloggers need to take the opportunity seriously and focus on covering the convention, not on themselves. Bloggers need to remember that it is opportunity and a responsibility," proposed Matt Margolis, who contributes to Blogs for Bush.

For his part, Scott Sala, an Internet consultant from New York who posts on the site Slant Point, told the Journal that DNC bloggers "broke the golden rule" by chasing the mainstream media and spending half their day at conferences and "all night at parties." For the RNC, Sala vowed, "I'll be a wild political animal rather than a political pet. Political Pets wait to be fed information -- the pre-arranged programs, staged speeches, calculated invites. Wild Animals find food on their own, using their instincts and their senses. Expect the unexpected."

Shortly after noon on Monday, Sala posted this incisive report from New York:

"I finally have internet access, so heres a pick-me-up post. For those ean [sic] Hannity fans out there, I swung over to speak Flirty Flipper. I wanted to see if she could talk to any WABC hosts to get me on a show as a blogger. But, true to form, she didn't know what a blogger was. I tried to explain, but it was like convincing her to support Bush - it just wasn't going to happen. Nevertheless, she is a wonderfully nice woman and I couldn't resist taking my photo with her. Enjoy."

[Sala posts a personal photo with the attractive radio host Flirty Flipper.]

A few hours later, Sala stepped up his reporting and analysis a notch:

"We hit the National Review party at Turtle Bay, donning obligatory free pins saying 'Save a Hamster, Vote Kerry.'

"Surprisingly, Rick Santorum (Senator from PA) showed up, and I managed to speak with him a bit and take a photo. Now, mind you, I was honored to shake his hand, but I have a few liberal friends here in NYC who may sever the last vestiges of our friendship upon hearing this. Some consider Santorum on par with the anti-Christ. Whatever. Santorum is an amazing defender of traditional family values."

By early evening on Monday, Aylward of Wizbang! posted an entry entreating readers to "Have Mercy On The Bloggers."

"We're headed into the prime-time session of night one of the convention," he wrote, "and I've got a couple of observations:

"1) Blogging a convention is hard. It might not seem so, given your proximity to politicians and spin meisters, but the din of activity really impedes a central tenet of blogging - thoughtful writing.

"2) Being co-located with talk radio is a blessing and a curse. See point #1.

"3) Worrying about logistics, tracking down interview subjects, and observing the "big picture" detract from writing time. Again see point #1.

"We have no deadlines, except the self imposed variety, but that's the problem. When you're seated next to 15 other bloggers typing away the urge to produce instantly is hard to resist. Sometimes thoughtful reflection is called for, but at a convention finding the time and space to do so are scarce resources."

At 10:14 p.m., during the heart of Sen. John McCain's speech on the convention floor, Aylward unveiled his final headline entry of the evening:


"The hostesses at the Cablevision Suite - smokin' hot."

Beneath the photo, Aylward's linked caption, "Super Size Them," allowed readers to click their way to a larger hi-res version of the two ladies. Below that he offered additional photos of Miss America 2003, Erika Harold, and "Real World San Francisco" star Rachel Campos Duffy, before adding, "I missed Bo Derek by about 50 feet. In a throng of delegates trying to get into the Garden. More on that later..."

Then there was this post at 9:13 p.m. from Oxford University doctoral candidate David Adesnik, whose OxBlog, he told the Wall Street Journal, is penned by three graduate students "with a passionate interest in foreign affairs, electoral politics, journalism, law and single-malt scotch."

"OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! Miss America Erika Harold is visiting Bloggers Row!

"UPDATE: The extremely lucky Matt Margolis of Blogs for Bush has put up a picture of himself with Miss Harold."

And then this one, just minutes later.


"Washington icon Ari Fleischer gave Bloggers' Row ten minutes of his time this afternoon. Blogs for Bush has the audio. I recommend listening to whole thing, but since I'm such a nice guy I'll describe some of the highlights.

"Fleischer began by talking about the website his brother started up while serving in Baghdad. It taught him the power of internet communication.

"After Fleischer finishes talking, you'll hear some mumbling followed by a whole lot of laughter. That was when OxBlog asked, 'How do you score hot Jewish chicks on J-date? I'm still single and Jewish.'

"Fleischer's answer: Don't touch my daughter."

By noon on Tuesday, in-depth analysis of opening night was pouring onto the Web. New York political consultant Karol Sheinin, whose blog is Spot On, had this report:

"Law&Order Honey

"I love Law&Order but I never realized just how beautiful [actress] Angie Harmon was until last night when she was on stage at the convention. She was seriously glowing. Protein Wisdom has the perfect observation on her gorgeousness."

Indeed, Protein Wisdom contributor Jeff Goldstein weighed in with the definitive word on Harmon's appearance.

"protein wisdom's Republic National Convention coverage, 7

"Observations from the convention floor: Angie Harmon smells of honeysuckle and cloves--her flawless skin the color of sun-baked mahogany, her sultry voice the hum of Mezcal and cigarettes and late night conversations with friends on the deck of a rented beach house. Truly dazzling.

"Oh. And Jason Sehorn, John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani spoke tonight, too."

The aforementioned Matt Margolis, of my-picture-with-Miss-America fame, shared some insight on Tuesday regarding his early arrival at the convention hall.

"I forgot to mention that after I got through the security check, I turned around as saw that Don King was a few spots behind me. It was a humorous scene seeing him being checked by the security guards with the metal detector wand. Anyways... There was a bit of an internet blackout when I got to Bloggers Corner which was finally fixed recently... During this down time I decided to go around and and get some photos and see what was happening. Granted nothing was really happening. I saw a few interesting things.

"After returning to Bloggers Corner to discover that the internet still wasn't working, I went to Kevin from Wizbang to find some food and we ran into model and singer Dana Glover. We got to chat for a minute, we each gave her our cards and I gave her a Blogs for Bush bumper sticker."

[Margolis posts a personal photo of Dana Glover and a link to her come-hither home page.]

"Big things should be happening today. Our interview with Ed Gillespie has been postponed, but potential future interview include Gen. Tommy Franks, Mary Matalin and Peggy Noonan. I will keep you posted."

The RNC blogger blues
On Monday, even the more moderate and often insightful foreign policy hawk Roger Simon found himself wondering about the merits of this bold new frontier of campaign journalism, in a post titled "Is Convention Blogging Worth It?"

"As far as I am concerned the jury is still out. From what I can see, thus far, this is more of a Convention (capital C) in the conventional Vegazoid sense than I expected. Also, as at most conventions, people spend most of their time trying to figure out what's going on, getting lost on elevators and chasing skirts or pants, depending on preference. Also, there's a lot of consumption of unhealthy food and celebrity gawking. It has already been reported in many quarters that the Repub celebrity quotient is decidedly lower than the Democrat. What passes for a celeb around here is Sean Hannity who would have trouble getting a table a restaurant back in LA. [That's a compliment, isn't it?--ed. More or less.] As I type this, he's directly across from me, blabbing away. [Is he ever off the air?--ed. I think he broadcasts in his sleep.]

"Anyway, I'm off to the National Review party where Milton Friedman would probably be the equivalent of Jack Nicholson. Maybe that's an improvement, depending on your point of view. Mine own self, I'm hoping for an open bar. Politics? What's that and who cares?"

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Read more of "Right Hook," Salon's weekly roundup of conservative commentary and analysis here.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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2004 Elections