There's always discussion about what bloggers do and what good they are. Note the discussion going on at Spoleto Today blog about just that. I just want to add that on the national stage, bloggers often bring stuff up early and pound it hard enough over a periods of time to influence conversation, opinion and traditional media coverage.
A case-in-point: The homeland security-national security presidential directive" that President Bush quietly on May 4. I first read about it on blogs. The policy creates a new "National Continuity Coordinator" inside the White House. It also designates the president's top adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism -- Frances Townsend -- as national continuity director and directs Townsend to consult National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Vice President Dick Cheney.
Bloggers and online columnists (particularly one conservative columnist and conservative think-tanks who worry about this policy being in place for any president) expressed fear that directive looked like it allowed the office of the presidency to seize dictatorial powers because the policy does not talk about consulting Congress on emergency powers or when to use them or stop using them. Now the story is in the mainstream media.
Bloggers, though, continue to talk about the new policy. A friend in Florida who has been reading the blogs on this topic believes that Bush/Cheney intend to trump up a national emergency and then seize executive powers before the 2008 presidential election in order to make the election impossible or nullify it after it happens. Sort of like Rudy Giuliani tried to do with the New York mayoral election after 9/11. While that opinion is waaaayyyy more paronoid than mine would ever be, it's interesting. Bloggers often remind us to be skeptical of whatever government is in place.