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Blogger in Chief?

An odd proposal from Hillary Clinton.

11:00 PM, Jan 16, 2008 • By HOWARD MORTMAN
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HERE'S AN ODD LITTLE Hillary Clinton proposal: She wants a government blogging team.

At first blush, the idea could cut either way--nutty or silly. We might even call it ridiculous, if we weren't busy laughing at it.

So let's do what bloggers always do and go contrarian. Yes, let's take Clinton seriously. Let's consider whether her idea of a team of government bloggers has merit.

First, some explanation. Here's what Senator Clinton said just before the New Hampshire primary:

"I want to put everything on the Internet. I want you to see the budget of every agency. I want you to track everything that goes on in your government. You pay for it. You should know about it.

"We should even have a government blogging team where people in agencies are constantly telling all of you, the taxpayers, the citizens of America, everything that's going on so that you have up to the minute information about what your government is doing so that you, too, can be informed and hold the government accountable."

And Clinton repeated the proposal to Tim Russert on Meet the Press on January 13.

"I want to have as much information about the way our government operates on the Internet so the people who pay for it, the taxpayers of America, can see that. I want to be sure that, you know, we actually have like agency blogs."

Just like John F. Kennedy inspired us to go to the moon, Hillary Clinton would inspire us to, well, blog.

That's fine with me. As a blogger, I enthusiastically welcome more bloggers to our noble craft. Eighty million blogs--give or take, oh, ten million blogs, depending on the time of day--just aren't enough. We always could use more. So why not a blog from, say, the U.S. Bureau of Seed Regulation? Or the Department of Redundancy Department? What harm could that do? Not any more harm than that done by a spam blog advertising nothing but sexual prowess and refinancing opportunities.

Meantime, as a former Federal government official in two administrations, I too want a government that's "accountable" and "transparent."

But that's where Hillary loses me.

See, I also want a government that's something else, something more important. I want a government that's smaller.

Clinton says the bloggers would do a number of things, but advocating cuts in their own agencies doesn't seem to be among the mandates.

Pity. Who better to champion the exposure of not just wasteful spending but ill-advised spending than a blogger, the guy or gal with inside insight and first-hand knowledge of program implementation? Government bloggers who suggest budget cuts--now that would be a bold mandate. And it's a bigger and more daunting mission than staffing up with predictable blogocrats.

The fact is, the government already is in the business of blogging. This site lists 16 active government blogs. I'm impressed by this entry by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on his blog:

"French's Mustard is a composite of materials that spread well, including a plant that is processed to provide the brilliant yellow color and a little dab of their mustard oil."

That's so true, on so many levels. Heck, if that ain't transparency, I don't know what is.

If it's government accountability she wants, Sen. Clinton might do well to check out what White House press secretary Dana Perino had to say from Abu Dhabi on her Trip Notes blog:

"Dinner consisted of a lot of food--and it was all cooked in a traditional way, in large metal boxes with very hot coals. The food cooks for a long time--my favorite was the Sea Bream . . . and then for dessert I enjoyed the dates."

Who knew that our leading government officials are, in their hearts, really repressed food bloggers?

Now just so you don't think I pulled out the one silly line from Perino's blog, consider that she also dishes up this observation: "Conversations ranged from educational student exchanges, renewable energy, foreign investment, sustainable development and . . . Seinfeld. Yes, Seinfeld."


Thus, my blogging friends, the first government blog truly about nothing.


If Clinton gets her way, we'll probably have many more.

Howard Mortman is the public affairs practice director for New Media Strategies. He blogs at ExtremeMortman.com.