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You Tube Politics

That, and other news, in today’s Political Panorama.

Following CNN and You Tube’s presidential debate on Monday night, the Democratic field will either come away (a) feeling like guinea pigs, or (b) inspired by the thought and concern with which the American public has participated in this latest innovation in democracy.

My guess is  that the field of contenders will express (b) before the debate is even over but are likely to have more than a feel pangs of (a).

The much-hyped, much hoped for debate in Charleston and moderated by Anderson Cooper allows any YouTube user to upload short questions to their site, and CNN will run them during the forum. While on its face the whole concept is nothing new — debates have taken e-mails from the public for some time now — organizers say that the mere fact that videos are being submitted will make the debate much more vivid and visceral.

The event is important for You Tube because, if successful, it will help give the site a much greater sense of political credibility than Obamagirl and Macaca moments. And CNN  will  be seen as on the cutting edge of something, a spot that the cabler has struggled to achieve. All that is assuming there is a sizable audience, and that is a big if.

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CNN’s David Bohrman told the New York Times that they got submissions from a wide range of age groups and on a wide range of topics. Perhaps a bit surprising is that they go so few questions about Iraq.

Almost 3,000 different questions have been submitted. There are what I would call the important softballs, like this one on volunteering (right);  the very specific, like this one on social security; and the very philosophical, like this one on corruption (man with cigarette, below right). And there are the  attempts at atmosphere, like this one on obesity that zeroes in on a Fatburger.

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Just going through the videos is a bit addictive. One questioner asked why the drinking age can’t be lowered to 18; another asked what they would do to make sure that the White House doesn’t misspell “Amtrak.” (Apparently the questioner has failed in his efforts to get the Bush administration to correct its spelling as “Amtrack.”)

Sure, some of the questions are a bit trivial, but surely no more so that queries about $400 haircuts and responses that invoke Jack Bauer. It will be interesting to see how and if this forum changes the dynamic for future debates, and really is all that innovative. But credit is due the effort. After all, there isn’t a scarcity of debates this election season, so, other than a lot of shaky video badly in need of a tripod, what do they have to lose?

Ayes for Impeachment: The city of West Hollywood votes to impeach President Bush.

“24” Turn:
Cherry Jones will play the first female president on the upcoming season of “24.”

Arnold in Chief:
In the upcoming “Simpsons Movie,” it’s President Schwarzenegger.

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