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Political Video Blogger Judges Democrats' Debate


James, good to talk with you once again.

JAMES KOTECKI: Great to be here, Steve.

INSKEEP: I'm sorry we didn't get a chance to arrange in advance whether you were going to speak your answers in falsetto or sing. Which would you prefer to do?

KOTECKI: I'd probably prefer to rap them, actually.


KOTECKI: I don't think we got quite a rapping question last night. We got close with question about No Child Left Behind, though.

INSKEEP: What was that question?

KOTECKI: That was the question where a guy was kind of rocking out and showing posters about how No Child Left Behind was a bad law. And he asked the candidates, would they scrap the whole program or just revise it? It was kind of hard to hear in the auditorium but I think it was a very effective question.

INSKEEP: Well, I have to say, the questions seemed to come in a very original form, but listening to Mara's report just now, the answers - I don't want to say it was uninformative, it was interesting to hear them, but the answers sounded like about the same answers they might have given in some other debate.

KOTECKI: I think that on occasion it is true that the politicians last night missed an opportunity to maybe give a more unique or more nuanced or at least more casual answers than they have in the past. However, I mean, this debate gave us questions that were definitely more interesting than any questions I've ever seen in a debate before, more emotionally compelling. And it's also created a great dialogue where people have been commenting and discussing videos long before the debate, and they'll be discussing them long afterwards. It's no longer just a one off Q&A session. The debate is instead kind of a catalyst for a broader conversation. I think that's what's the most exciting about this whole thing.

INSKEEP: You know, I understand there was some criticism on the Web because even though people were invited to ask anything on YouTube, CNN, the television network and the ultimate analysis, was the filter. They choose the questions that would actually be played to the candidates.

KOTECKI: That's right. And, you know, I think that it's basically - we're talking about baby steps here because, ultimately, I and a lot of other video bloggers and bloggers on the Internet would like to see a situation where the community, the YouTube community itself, votes up the questions that it wants answered. But I think when you're dealing with a network like CNN, you know, they can't necessarily go right to the ultimate Internet egalitarianism right away. But this is certainly a step in the right direction, and I was really happy to be, you know, just a small part of it in the audience last night.

INSKEEP: You wish there have been kind of a democracy around the questions, that people had voted on which questions they wanted to ask?

KOTECKI: There was a great moment last night where a reverend asked a question to John Edwards about gay marriage and then John Edwards responded. And then the reverend was actually sitting there live in the audience as well. And so they asked him, did he answer your question? Did he give you the answer he wanted? The reverend said, well, no, he didn't actually answer the question that I had. And that was a great moment, I think, because when citizens can ask not only questions via video but also the follow-up questions, I think we own this process, we own this democracy. And that's what was so exciting to be there last night to see that.

INSKEEP: Was there a question you would have liked to see included last night that was not?

KOTECKI: Well, I think - well, there was my own question about Hurricane Katrina. There was another question about Katrina that got asked instead. But overall, I was very satisfied with the breadth of topics of the questions. Obviously there are kind of issues that politicians are concerned about and are worried about, and everyone else in America is as well. So they couldn't have necessarily do every single issue but I was very happy with the level of the - the breadth of the questions. And also the seriousness of many of the questions as well was very heartening.

INSKEEP: And just very briefly, do you feel you know these candidates any better than you did?

KOTECKI: Not necessarily. I feel like Kucinich and Gravel actually responded directly to people. But actually I was - one surprise was that Clinton actually called people by name that had made videos. And the only other candidates who did that were Kucinich and Gravel.

INSKEEP: James, thanks very much.

KOTECKI: My pleasure.

INSKEEP: James Kotecki is a recent graduate of Georgetown University and a video blogger on YouTube. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.