Youd think, by listening to all the public worrying, that Washington, D.C. was expecting an attack by Martians: An invasion of strange creature intent on disturbing the Capitols treasured way of life.
But, no, as reporters and lobbyists contemplate the confirmation hearings of Judge John G. Roberts, President Bushs nominee to the Supreme Court, its "the Internet" that has everyone cowering in fear.
Thats right. The Internet. As we all know, it changes everything. And the worry in Washington is that this change isnt for the better. Of course, its not "the Internet," its the folks—like me—sitting at their keyboard typing who are so bothersome.
But this version of "Whos in charge?" is important. It promises to be another step in Washington—and politicians orientation—to a technology that more and more Americans take for granted.
When Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day OConner announced her resignation—a surprise that no one in Washington expected—the political talk shows were full of reporters worrying about the quantity, tone and style of the e-mail they had received.
The subsequent speculation—particularly online—about OConners replacement and the fate of Chief Justice Rehnquist, who has cancer, only added to concern about "the Internet."
This is the same technology that eased CBS anchor Dan Rather into earlier-than-expected retirement and, for many on the left, fostered rumors that kept John Kerry from being elected president.
Certainly, talk about all these topics filled plenty of time on Web logs during the election. And since late June when the court adjourned for the year, court gossip has been rampant. Advertising, some of it very harshly worded, from the Democrats and Republicans was up on various Web sites almost immediately after OConner said she was quitting.
For some, its no big deal. Mike Krempasky, the co-founder of the conservative site RedState.org, says advocates have to work a bit harder—and faster—to keep up with whats out there. Thats good for blogs like RedState, which carried its share of rumors about the Supreme Court.
"I think the Internets biggest impact, as it is with everything else—is simply to accelerate the process," Krempasky said. "In the past, briefing books were shipped around the country for surrogates, and those messages sufficed for months of conflict. Now the network of supporters and detractors need to be updated every morning. Strategy must therefore become far more fluid than in the past."