MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
And perhaps, the devoted followers of Mike Leavitt's blog share a sense of Leavittismo. Leavitt is the U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services. He's also the former governor of Utah. And since August, you can add blogger to his resume.
At secretarysblog.hhs.gov, you'll find Mike Leavitt's thoughts on strategic stockpiles of emergency health supplies, on SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and even on what personalized medicine has in common with a new set of golf clubs.
Secretary Leavitt joins us from his office here in Washington, D.C. And Secretary Leavitt, do you think blogging is making you a better secretary of HHS?
MIKE LEAVITT: Well, Melissa, I hope people have more access to me, in what I'm thinking. Actually, I can point to two or three occasions now where ideas I've picked up reading in a blog has led to, at least, conversations in my office, in one case, a change in direction. So...
BLOCK: Like what?
LEAVITT: Well, there are still policies that are unfolding, and so it would be a premature example. But I can tell you that I do have a chance to hear what people are thinking, and I find it helpful.
BLOCK: In you're posting, it looks like, at least once or twice a week. Are you really writing this yourself?
LEAVITT: I do. I write them myself. And I find that it actually allows me to think out loud a little bit. And it also forms a little bit of a journal. Some of it, obviously, circumspect about my deepest feelings. But it allows me to chronicle some things that are happening, to share it with people. And it also has allowed me to discover a new public policy domain, which I think blogs have the potential to become.
BLOCK: When do you find the time?
LEAVITT: Well, typically, it's on an airplane or late at night in a hotel room. The days are too busy. And often when I'm at home, I have other family demands. But I travel a lot, and it's a good way for me to use that time productively. I had aspirations that I would do it more frequently than I have, but a couple of times a week has turned out to be about the level of my production.
BLOCK: That's about what you can fit in?
LEAVITT: Well, so far. I've learned a lot about blogging through this process. I've learned I tend to make mine too long. I've learned that there's a certain style to blogging that people appreciate. I've seen remarkable candor, I found that intriguing. We have a policy on our blog that we'll avoid anything that's vulgar or that would clearly be out of good taste. But people have been very respectful.
BLOCK: I did find a critical comment from one reader. The writer has a son with hemophilia and they rely on the SCHIP program. And she said to you: Your administration's ignorance about the real world is shocking to me. Stop the political rhetoric and scare tactics. Did you respond to that one?
LEAVITT: Well, people are very candid. Actually, I saw that comment and I haven't responded to that. I have, on a few occasions. It's just hard to both create the postings and respond to all the comments. I think one thing we will likely do in the future is to have some of the more informational comments responded to by someone else. But I want to maintain my postings as a personal writing.
BLOCK: You know - I don't mean to be impolite, but I do think, if I can offer a brief critique, I think you need more spice.
LEAVITT: Well, I suspect that it would increase my ratings, wouldn't it?
BLOCK: I notice you did managed to sneak in a little description of Bill and Melinda Gate's home where you went for dinner, but not much. You didn't give us too much.
LEAVITT: Well, I'm not unaware of the uniqueness in my position as a blogger, and so I suspect I am somewhat circumspect. But I think, at times, my basic instincts overcome me, and I'm able to throw a few bits and pieces in there. I don't know that there's ever been a cabinet secretary that's blogged before, so maybe I can be the pioneer.
BLOCK: I understand that - I believe the secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, also has a blog. I don't think he writes all the postings himself, though.
LEAVITT: Well, we'll have an association of blogging cabinet secretaries with the two of us.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
BLOCK: It's a strong contention right there. Well, Secretary Leavitt, good to talk to you. Thanks very much.
LEAVITT: Thank you.
BLOCK: That's Mike Leavitt, the secretary of Health and Human Services and blogger.
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