Monday, July 23, 2007

Youth Inspired Technology SNEAKS-UP on Political Process!

Detroit Free Press

YouTube debate all about real folks

Here's my usual routine for watching the approximately 619 presidential debates that have aired so far on basic cable.

Sit down with every intention of paying close attention. Slip into a semi-coma after listening to 10 minutes of canned responses. Revive briefly when Dennis Kucinich waves his pocket copy of the Constitution. Develop a low-level migraine. Flip to a "King of Queens" rerun.

Yet, I live in hope that tonight's CNN/YouTube presidential debate (7 on CNN) will restore my faith -- or at least my interest level -- in unscripted democracy in action. For two hours, the Democratic candidates will answer video questions sent in by real people. Anderson Cooper, who's also a real person (although his perfect silver hair does seem computer-generated) will moderate.

A quick browse through potential questions posted on YouTube indicates tonight's proceedings could be as rib-tickling as "America's Funniest Home Political Queries."

I'm really, really hoping they'll choose the question sent in by a Kermit the Frog puppet who hails from East Lansing. I'll also be a satisfied citizen if they let the man dressed as an ancient Viking ask about illegal immigration.

CNN has run a promo for the debate that includes footage of someone wearing some sort of wrestling mask. I don't know what the person's question is, but I imagine it's a show of hands on which candidates have rented "Nacho Libre."

The debate stuff only scratches the surface of the strange and unexpected footage generated by the 2008 presidential race. Consider what else this started-too-soon campaign season has spawned on the Web:

• In parody videos, scantily clad young women sing racy love ballads about candidates. The "I Got a Crush ... on Obama" video has racked up more than 2 million views on YouTube, with lyrics like, "You're into border security; let's break this border between you and me." There's also a follow-up, "Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl," which includes a pillow fight. Guess that's one way to rock the vote.

• Not to be outdone, an aspiring actress named Taryn Southern has created a parody called Hott4Hill. In it, she sings about having a major crush on Hillary Clinton and waxes lyrical about Hillary's pantsuits and, um, the way she fills them out.

• Democratic underdog Mike Gravel stars in a video where he stands outdoors and stares silently into the camera for about a minute and a half. He throws a rock into a body of water. Then he walks away. Pretty deep and arty. But he'd make a bigger splash if he threw something tonight at Joe Biden.

• Republican challenger Ron Paul guests in a video touted as the first-ever interview with a presidential candidate from a college dorm room. It's good to know Paul is so accessible, especially if you're a third-grader who wants to bring a candidate to show-and-tell.

Clearly, everything you need to know about the 2008 presidential election, you can pretty much learn from YouTube. So why not jump in and add your two cents? All it takes is a digital video camera, a nutty costume and maybe some lyrics that rhyme with Mike Huckabee.

JULIE HINDS writes about pop culture and has an excuse to watch YouTube at work.Contact her at 313-222-6427 or

Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.

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