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11/29/2007
11:30 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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YouTube Comes Of Age In Republican Debate

Finally, an important and intellectual-property-legal application for the video clips from YouTube. Some 30 short videos submitted by the public were used as the questions in Wednesday evening's CNN debate among the Republican presidential candidates. Sure, this isn't the first debate, YouTube or otherwise, but last night the gloves really came off.

Finally, an important and intellectual-property-legal application for the video clips from YouTube. Some 30 short videos submitted by the public were used as the questions in Wednesday evening's CNN debate among the Republican presidential candidates. Sure, this isn't the first debate, YouTube or otherwise, but last night the gloves really came off.It's not taking a political stand to tell you that it was really exciting to see how energized the debate became. My sense is that the YouTube questions were more raw and real than we would've gotten if the asking had come from a panel of journalists.

Plus, the YouTube submitters were mostly interested -- and were constrained by the time limit -- in simply asking their question, as opposed to listening to the sound of, say, Chris Matthews' voice.

The biggest excitement came from the sparring between Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, who went at each other over illegal immigration. The other main takeaway is that both Fred Thompson and John McCain got a boost, the former by appearing engaged and occasionally witty, the latter by being fiery and sincere. And Mike Huckabee improved his standing as a potential vice-presidential nominee, if one of the others gets the main nod.

The coming-of-age angle I posited at the top of this post is that we may have finally found what YouTube is really good at. No, not serving as a repository for ripped-off videos on stupid Gen Y home movies. Rather, it appears that YouTube makes a really good community site, where the interaction can take place via video.

Consider that the debate itself, posted here and helpfully parceled into response-sized chunks, will be seen by far more people on YouTube than it was Wednesday night on CNN.

Moving forward, YouTube has a serious opportunity to leverage this debate and the previous Democratic one as a means for bringing more Americans into the political process.

YouTube should be able to find a solution to the main failing of the television-based CNN format, which was the insanely short time limits imposed upon the candidates' responses. Moderator Anderson Cooper was theoretically supposed to limit each answer to 30 seconds. In practice, it went something like this:

CNN: Mr. McCain, would you like to answer that question on Iraq?

McCain: Yes. My position on Iraq is. . .

CNN: Time.

McCain: My position is that.. . .

CNN: Mr. McCain, your time's up.

McCain: . . .that this is a serious issue and,. . .

CNN: I'm sorry, you're really out of time. We'll be coming back to discuss this issue again later in the debate.

Me, if I'm nominated I won't run, and if elected I won't serve. But I do suggest you check out the whole debate here.

Here's a quick excerpt, in the form of the night's first "question." It's not really a question, though, but a humorous ditty entitled the "GOP Debate Song," which takes gentle jabs at all the candidates.

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