YouTube a vibrant political tool

Embarrassing political videos shot by citizens or political operatives hit the Net first and increasingly make it to the evening news.

Politics is about making your opponents look bad. Nothing does it so well as an embarrassing video. Think Dukakis in the tank or Kerry windsurfing. Well, YouTube is a godsend to the political operative on the lookout for partisan humiliation. The latest YouTube video making the rounds is this short clip of Sen. Conrad Burns nodding off in committee, the AP reports.

Campaigns "have always used video cameras, but the difference this cycle is that YouTube allows information to get uploaded and out to the public a lot faster than it has in the past," said Phil Singer, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Singer won't say if there's an orchestrated Democratic campaign to use YouTube, but a user named "DSCC2006" has posted several Democratic campaign ads and news clips favorable to party candidates. That alias belongs to the director of online communications for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

There's really no doubt the Dems are actively using YouTube, though. "The Internet has proven there's an audience for funny and weird," Dem consultant Jenny Backus said.

The YouTube videos could be considered "video press releases" that have a better chance of making the evening news than traditional campaign missives, Backus added. "It's a way to break through," she said.

Then there's the YouTube video of Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) calling his opponent's Indian-American campaign worker "Macaca." And then he repeated it. "Hey, Macaca, welcome to America," he said. Geez. That it made it onto the ABC Nightly News, which reported that S.R. Sidarth was born in the US.

Politicians, beware. The video revolution is not being televised but it is online.

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