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Published: Friday, 12/22/2006

Congressman Gillmor brings news, personal views to blogging revolution

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Does U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Old Fort) disagree with the President on talking with Iran and Syria on the War in Iraq?

(He does.)

Does Mr. Gillmor blame President Bush for his party's loss in the November election and compare that to the country's dissatisfaction with President Nixon after Watergate in 1974?

(He does indeed.)

Does the congressman spend time reading Harry Potter novels to his 10-year-old twins?

(He said so himself).

This is what can happen when you blog - from the serious to the silly with a few keystrokes.

According to his staff, Mr. Gillmor, 67, is one of 14 representatives (10 Republicans, four Democrats) who actively updates a blog, an online journal available to anyone surfing the Internet.

The Blade requested, and was granted, an interview with Mr. Gillmor about his blog - on his blog - over a four-day span this week.

The interview, which can be viewed in its entirety at www.gillmorblog.com concluded with a bang yesterday. To view it, click the "comments" link at the bottom of the Dec. 18 entry.

While sharing his suggestions for the President's policy in Iraq, Mr. Gillmor wrote: "The idea of trying to engage Syria and Iran in stabilizing Iraq is worth a try, but I think the odds are against that effort succeeding."

The President has rejected the very idea of a joint effort with Syria or Iran in the war, an idea made popular by the recently published Iraq Study Group Report.

Mr. Gillmor also blamed the Republican Party's poor showing in the November elections on Mr. Bush, writing: "The national election this year was basically a referendum on the President. That resulted in the best election year nationally for Democrats since the Watergate year of 1974."

He also showed a softer side, discussing his affinity for the Magnum XL-200, a popular roller coaster at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, for riding bumper cars with his sons, and for reading the popular Harry Potter series to them.

Of course, with the lack of face-to-face time in an interview conducted on the Web, there is no way to guarantee these responses came from Mr. Gillmor.

But Bradley Mascho, the congressman's communications director, said the words came directly from his boss's fingertips.

"The whole thing is pretty authentic," Mr. Mascho said in a telephone interview. "He generally types up his thoughts and sends them to me, and I post them on the blog.

"Blogging really is a great revolution, and he's really embraced it."

Mr. Gillmor admits it was not his idea to begin a blog; Mr. Mascho and other staff members convinced him to try it.

The blog, which first appeared in August, generally focuses on the happenings of Congress and Mr. Gillmor's office.

In addition to entries posted by the congressman himself, some are posted by legislative staff and the press office, and each blog entry is labeled accordingly.

As is the case with most blogs, readers (whether they be among Mr. Gillmor's 630,000 constituents or not), are encouraged to respond with their own comments.

Mr. Mascho holds the final say on which responses are posted, but he said he has only once refused to post an entry he received.

"I'm not editing content, just language," Mr. Mascho said. "The one I didn't post I e-mailed the guy back and said if you change these few words, I'll happily post your response. We haven't received much negative feedback, but we're not afraid to post a response from someone who disagrees with us."

There was an episode from the hit political television drama West Wing in which the White House deputy chief of staff engages in an online debate with some constituents.

The show's character, Josh Lyman, played by Bradley Whitford, winds up in the middle of an Internet controversy based on something he posted on a Web chat board.

Mr. Mascho said Mr. Gillmor's blog could possibly give rise to similar circumstances, though not likely.

"I don't fear him going back and forth with constituents, because he is a man with great political experience," Mr. Mascho said.

If Mr. Gillmor is afraid of the power of his blog, he hasn't shown it.

"I think people appreciate my openness and honesty on my blog," Mr. Gillmor blogged Tuesday to The Blade.

Even the President?

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com or

419-410-5055.



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