A Lesson for Bloggers: Don’t Go All Ga-Ga

It surely seemed like a great idea at the time:  Former President Bill Clinton inviting a group of progressive bloggers to lunch in Manhattan to talk politics and get their pictures taken with him.  The attendees who blogged about it frankly gushed.  Talk Left said it was “awesome,” and added this:

Criminal defense lawyers take note: He’s far better on our issues than we thought while he was President, from mandatory minimums, to drug courts to restoring the right to vote to former offenders. I’m totally impressed.

clinton-and-bloggers.jpgAmericablog, meanwhile, was ecstatic:

And while the policy discussion was fascinating, for me these kind of get togethers are far more interesting on a personal than substantive level. Meaning, it’s fascinating to see someone like Clinton in person. How his brain works, what he’s like personally, and just as importantly, to meet and get to know his staff so we can all help each other in the future (we are, after all, Democratic bloggers).

My impressions? He looks a little older than I expected, though befitting someone who was president for eight years (and he was first elected 14 years ago). He’s got beautiful blue eyes (this isn’t something I normally notice, but in his case I did, and he does, and I suspect he uses it to good effect). The man is smart as hell. He knows a lot about everything, and he gets it, he gets politics, he gets people, he understands what’s going on and knows how to get things done. His political advice is no-nonsense and straight forward – he’d rather take an issue on than run from it (oh for the days of that in a Democratic politician).

Bu-u-ut… the blog commenters weren’t all as kind, as you can read below.  This is a big lesson for everyone who wants to blog with a purpose, whether it’s political or business.  It’s really not about you at all; it’s about the community you create.  And they don’t like it if it seems like you can be bought off with a cheap lunch. Even the dreaded MSM tries to maintain objectivity.

Although Americablog’s commenters were mostly happy for “John in DC,” and complimentary of Clinton, most of Talk Left’s commenters weren’t happy.  Here are some excerpts of the negative comments.  

So why the f–k wasn’t he a more progressive, less reactionary, less corpoRatty prez?

his triangulation killed the liberal wing of his Party…

just askin…

And:

saying it don’t make it so… and he’s talked a good line for a long time.

i’m going to stick to judging him by his actions.

And:

I doubt I’ll ever stop thinking that Bill Clinton was the greatest,most talented president I will ever see in my lifetime, but the commenter above is right… it is awefully strange to compliment him on the opinions he *actually* holds but did not put on paper.

And:

Bill Clinton fought for Nafta and got it passed. He signed legislation that allowed media to consolidate into a handful of companies. He failed to restore the Fairness Doctrine. He left it up to the Bush Administration decide whether to pursue Osama Bin Laden, rather than launch the attacks once the evidence was in on the Cole Bombing. He has refrained from criticizing Bush even though the Bush Administration has broken all precedent by criticizing him relentlessly. He continues to support dynasticism in American politics by supporting his wife’s presidential ambitions.

Most unforgivably, he labors under the naive impression that his political opponents just differ about what’s best for the country when it has been quite clear from the beginning that they wanted to liquidate it, take possession of its assets and trample on its founding document. And I don’t believe he’s taken much of a stand on the war, but I might be wrong about that.

These are all pretty important issues to me, so I’d be just fascinated to know on what issues he’s supposed to be “better than we thought while he was president,” when, as an ealier commenter pointed out, it would have made more of a difference.

And, cruelly:

Politicians find it notoriously easy to impress intellectuals and writers in face-to-face meetings. It’s the oldest trick in the book. I hope the others in this meeting were more on their guard than the host of this blog.

Personally, if I had been invited to that lunch (ha!), I’m not sure I would have been any less thrilled.  To me, Clinton has grown in stature since 2000, and I would have been fascinated to hear his perspective on just about anything political and foreign policy especially.  But the caution remains.  There are blogs that exist primarily to generate conversation among like-minded people.  You fly in the face of their expectations at your peril. 

5 thoughts on “A Lesson for Bloggers: Don’t Go All Ga-Ga

  1. “There are blogs that exist primarily to generate conversation among like-minded people.”

    What kind of hit do they get from parroting their ridiculous, canned b. s. between each other? (Liberal and conservative blogs).

  2. I don’t know, but it must be a big one.

    But the phenomenon is not limited to partisan blogs. And, therefore, I think it’s a core truth about social media.

    It’s not that a progressive blogger can’t occasionally show an independent streak, or stir the waters with a contrarian view. Within the progressive community, there are differences (for example, “how do you feel about Bill Clinton?”).

    What I thought was unwise about some of these “lunch with Clinton” posts was it made the bloggers look like cheap dates; and probably for the same reason mainstream reporters also write flattering things about elite politicians who favor them with some time: They want to be invited back. To the commenting community, this can seem almost like betrayal.

    (This is a problem I won’t have to worry about, since nobody can figure out which camp I’m in, and few people comment anyway. My blog is in a different category. At the same time, if I got invited to lunch with Clinton, I would probably avoid getting mushy about his eyes.)

  3. I can vouch for how surprisingly old Clinton looks these days. He and Chelsea walked right by me in Manhattan at Christmas time last year, and the thing I noticed most about him was how much he had aged.

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