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Can Sarah Palin survive in the age of YouTube?

By Jimmy Orr / September 28, 2008

Jake Turcotte


Back in 1994, a prominent Democratic attorney was running for Congress in the heart of gun country.  Running as a Democrat in that landslide Republican year was perilous enough, but in Wyoming, it was nearly impossible.

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The last Democrat to occupy the state's sole seat in the House of Representative was 1978 when Teno Roncalio announced he was stepping aside -- allowing a young swashbuckling 37-year old Republican to enter the race and eventually be elected to represent the Cowboy state.  That Republican?  Dick Cheney.

Needless to say, this was - and is - Republican country.

Back to 1994

When asked a question by a television reporter on the second amendment, the Democratic candidate had to be careful.  He was without question pro-second amendment.  A gun-owner himself, he had no qualms with gun ownership.

New to the game of politics and not entirely happy with his initial answer to a question, the candidate waved to the camera and asked to start again.  The reporter did not oblige and the awkward moment was saved on tape.

The TV station decided to air the entire incident unedited and the candidate had to grin and bear it.  Two times.  At 5:30 and 10pm.

Those were innocent days.


Enter YouTube.  Like Google, YouTube has become a verb.  Miss a great play in the football game?  YouTube it.  Want to see the video of that new song by perhaps the greatest band in rock 'n roll?  YouTube it.  Want to see one of the most inspiring moments in television history?  YouTube it.

Now in the era of YouTube, not only can you be inspired or enjoy a great laugh, you can be skewered as well.  A gaffe is not only available to everyone but can be embedded in news stories, blogs, individual websites -- wherever.  Campaigns and their tentacled organizations gleefully email the video to their supporters and to the media in hopes of getting more airplay.

YouTube is the third most visited site on the Internet behind only Yahoo! and Google.  Its rise to prominence has been meteoric.  It wasn't even around in the days of the last presidential election as it was launched in February 2005.

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One only has to look at comments following a campaign news story to highlight the civility - or complete lack of civility - between those on opposing sides.  Post a video, like Sarah Palin's unfortunate conversation with CBS News anchor Katie Couric and the reactions are unseemly.  Some would argue hurtful, mean-spirited and cruel.

Would these people spewing the harsher comments - on both sides of the aisle - say the same thing if they were being interviewed by CNN?  Undoubtedly some would - boasting of their transparency and bravado.

But it could be argued that most would not - as the cloak of anonymity lets one reveal a side of themselves that perhaps they wouldn't want their neighbors or their children to see.

If ya' can't stand the heat...

Regardless, many will defend the explosive comments saying we should expect more of our leaders.  If they can't speak clearly on the issues, then they shouldn't be there.

Out of her league

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