• by , July 22, 2007

In casual conversation, I try to avoid politics.

When it comes to work, however, all bets are off. For the past week, it’s been all politics, all the time in the CNN newsrooms.

This Monday, CNN and YouTube will be pairing up to make history, challenging the democratic presidential candidates with something no presidential candidate has ever faced: raw, unfiltered (sort of) questions from real people.

For the past several weeks, CNN and YouTube have invited all of America to submit their questions to the presidential candidates. Aside from a few basic requirements (questions should be less than 30 seconds, and are subject to YouTube’s terms of use) anyone can pose a question, no matter the topic, to any or all of the presidential candidates.

Forever being a cynic, I was unsure how well this would play out. A few quick tours around YouTube, and you can see the environment isn’t exactly a political one. But my pre-conceived notions aside, there emerged quite the lot of substantive, and sometimes downright intriguing questions.



Questions range from healthcare, to foreign policy, domestic policy, the economy, even to strikingly personal questions, like asking what specific medications the candidates are taking, and how much it costs them. (Thank you, Michael Moore.)

Then there’s Ruth Bryant White, of Henderson, Nevada. Ruth is running for president in 2008. She also has quite a diverse list of questions for the candidates. One specific inquiry focuses on the “so-called front runners’ superior attitudes,” and how they use it to silence other candidates. I can only assume she’s just a little bitter about not having the same caliber resources of a national campaign.

But then again, when you have YouTube, you have the attention of the world.

Sure, not all of the questions are serious and hard-hitting. A shirtless John Dardenne, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, asks Senator Clinton, “Given the precedent set by previous Clinton administrations, um, I was wondering, can I be your intern?”

Looking through roughly 1,700 questions from users all across the country, I’ve learned two things:

First, Excedrin really is the headache medicine. (Did I mention there were 1,700 questions I watched?)

More importantly, with a strong showing of such a diverse user-base, I think it’s safe to say that new media is beginning to carve a niche in more places than just the entertainment world.

The ability for Americans in any location to pose a question directly to a candidate for the most powerful political position in the free world, with nothing more than a web cam, Internet connection, and an inquiring mind, is downright amazing.

Where else can we harness the power of the web?

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