Arianna Huffington used to be her own enemy.
That is, she used to be a Republican. Now, she floats progressive ideas on her 2-year-old news and opinion blog, huffingtonpost.com, making herself a pariah among conservatives as she tries to sink policies and politicians she opposes.
And her Greek accent also has become familiar to political junkies, thanks to such high-profile gigs as commenting on recent presidential candidate debates, as well as from Seven Days in America, her radio show on Air America.
Last Friday, she was on a panel at the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies' annual convention in Portland about covering politics. In between calls on her BlackBerry, the 56-year-old Huffington gave an earful to WW afterward about everything from bloggers and journalists to Al Gore and the Iraq war.
WW: You used to be a Republican and now you affiliate yourself with Democrats. How important is party loyalty to you?
Arianna Huffington: I do affiliate myself with Democrats, but I also criticize them. I'm not partisan in that sense, because what I'm about is ideas and what I believe in. I don't have to support a candidate just because they have a D after their name. I do believe this country would have been infinitely better if we had Al Gore as president or John Kerry as president. But I criticized Gore when he was running and I criticized Kerry. I don't believe in blind loyalty. I'm not a party operative.
Who in this field of presidential candidates could make a difference?
I've been very impressed with the way [Illinois Democratic Sen.] Barack Obama has related with audiences. There's a kind of situational quality, an authenticity that is very much needed. It's a long way between now and when the nominating process is complete. But certainly what the country is hungry for is authenticity. With Iraq and politicians constantly calculating and triangulating, you don't know where you are.
You're speaking about Hillary Clinton?
She has been that way, certainly, when it comes to the war.
In 1998, you ran a website calling for Bill Clinton's resignation. Why not revive it for Bush?
Obviously, there's no way that Bush will resign. I was not in favor of impeaching Clinton, but I thought the nation was being diverted from major problems because of impeachment. I thought it better to resign and put Al Gore in place. In that case, it would have been much more likely that Gore would have been re-elected, and he still would have been president. The prospect of 18 more months of Bush is not pleasant. But then you think of getting him impeached, it's not going to happen. We should concentrate our efforts in getting the troops home.
Do you consider yourself a journalist?
Well, I started as a journalist. I've been a journalist in England where I lived, and then in America, a syndicated columnist. And I've written 11 books. So I come from the mainstream media. But I just fell in love with blogging and what's happening online. It's what I love more than anything. It's a different form of communication. It's much more passionate and it's much more transparent.
Is the future of journalism online?
I don't think it's either print or online. I think it's going to be both. I don't think we have to choose. It's like the old barroom argument of Ginger or Mary Ann. You know, why can't we do both?
So we don't have to choose. But is there a difference between bloggers and journalists?
There are certain things that separate them. Journalists can say an anonymous source told them something, and often they're not going to make it clear that it wasn't just an objective and anonymous source, that misinformation was put out as objective information. If we can be more transparent, then at least you've made it clear why this anonymous source is of interest and giving you something. Also, often journalists are assigned stories and they may be into them or they may not be so into them. Bloggers tend to write what they're passionate about.
Do you plan on running for anything ever again?
No, I'm set. That was my last act. I love my day job.
Huffington first made headlines as the wife of Michael Huffington, a conservative ex-congressman from California who was outed in 1998 as bisexual. She divorced him in 1997.??
When Arianna Huffington ran for governor of California in 2003, she ended her campaign seven days before election day. She got 0.6 percent of the vote, fifth in a 135-candidate field.