I was just on a conference call with John McCain, talking about Iraq and his speech at VMI today. During the call, several bloggers and McCain himself hit on the fact that communicating exactly what's going on in the war in Iraq to the American people in such a way that they have confidence in what they're hearing and confidence in the strategy is key to sticking it out long enough to win.
McCain was a little harder on the MSM than I think I've heard him be in the past (maybe Ware's snickering ticked him off):
"I think we've gotta do...I think some of the MSM is not gonna reportalot of the good news. That's just my impression. I hope I'm wrong. So,let's go to other sources-- the blogs, the websites..."
He mentioned bloggers and the Web as important ways of getting out such information, and lauded bloggers for paying closer attention to conditions on the ground in Iraq than most:
"The only thing I know is the bloggers are important... Bloggers I think pay closer attention to this than almost anybody."
So, David All went in for the soundbite, asking the Senator how bloggers, left and right, would play into his communications strategy as president:
"I feel strongly that bloggers now are a vital part of the information technology in America and the world, and it's an unusual and incredible development."
2000: "I don't know if they existed, but if they did, I sure as hell didn't know about them."
"If I were president and this war were still going on, it'd be Important to do two things. Every two weeks, have a regular briefing talking about the good news and the bad news on the ground...Now, maybe only the C-SPAN people would watch that, but at least you're communicating with the American people."
"And, the second: be on with the bloggers every two weeks... Maybe there's too many bloggers and maybe we wouldn't get all the questions in, and maybe my answers would be too long as they are now...But maybe by lottery. Anyone who wants to ask a question, we'll throw your name in a hat and pick thetop 15, so eventually all the bloggers get a chance.
"One editorial comment--I think the bloggers have a lot of maturing to do in some areas, but...It is a phenomenon that historians will look back on as something that had an incredible impact on the Americans communicate with each other and the world."
I'd like my name in that hat, Senator. More from the call in just a second, but I wanted to get that out there.
Update: I think bloggers are a great way to get out some more specific, nuanced news about the war on the ground than just the average TV soundbite. Many political blogs, presumably the ones McCain would be addressing, are written by people who are deeply interested in the situation, deeply informed about it, and communicating with readers who are much the same.
McCain sounds like he's saying it would be him doing these calls, not a surrogate, so that would be somethin' else, that's for sure. The President of the United States on the phone with bloggers. Another thought is that the White House should just start credentialing more bloggers, but I like that the conference call idea gets people from outside the Beltway virtually face-to-face with the Pres.
Now, figuring out whose name goes in the hat? There's a logistics/P.R. nightmare I would not want to wrestle. Good luck, staffers, as you explain the refusal of Queen C*** of F*** Mountain's application for inclusion, despite the fact that she was once on the payroll of a well-respected Democratic VP candidate. Yikes, that could really get into the weeds. Lefties would be in an uproar over slights, perceived and real, and bloggers who didn't make whatever cut would talk junk behind the backs of all those who did. Many would read hugely significant and sometimes unfounded motivations onto the access of each blogger. It'd be like high school all over again!
But seriously, it's something that needs to be tackled, and could be hugely beneficial to the war effort, so brave to John for saying he'd tackle it.