The first time I ever heard of Arianna Huffington was in 1994 when her then husband Michael was the Republican challenger for incumbent Democrat Dianne Feinstein’s U.S. Senate seat in California. My workspace in the Orange County Register’s newsroom was right next to the cubicle of the political reporter covering the election. During the race, this reporter would regularly come back from the day’s campaign activities overflowing with stories – not about Michael Huffington, but about his whip smart, politically insatiable wife.
I finally met Arianna Huffington four years later. I was writing a column about politics and the Internet for Reuters and covered a speech she was making at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda. By then Huffington was divorced, on her way to eventually severing ties with the Republican party, and on the stump to promote her latest book, Greetings from the Lincoln Bedroom. She was as knowledgeable, articulate and mesmerizing as advertised.
Today, Huffington is famous – or infamous, depending on who you talk to – as the founder and chief creative power behind The Huffington Post, the influential news blog. Even before her Internet days, Huffington was not shy about promoting herself or her latest venture. That’s crystal clear in a new profile of her, The Oracle, The Many Lives of Arianna Huffington, by Lauren Collins, published in the Oct. 13 issue of The New Yorker.
Ten years ago, Huffington was already talking about the Internet’s potential power in politics. Here’s what I wrote in that Reuters column:
Today’s Internet-using pols still number a tiny minority. But that should grow as they learn how to exploit the medium to mobilize voters around issues they care about, said Arianna Huffington, the noted pundit. “The more they’re for the status quo, the less likely they’ll be to use it,” Huffington said. “The more politicians who are reformers, the more they’ll use the power of the Internet. We haven’t even begun to scratch its potential for communications in politics.”
Check out that last line again. Huffington wouldn’t launch her namesake Website for another seven years. But it’s clear she knew she was onto something.