From C-SPAN to Drudge, Pelosi Speech Video Makes Waves

By the time Monday's Congressional vote on what's being dubbed "the $700 billion bailout package" was complete, both Democrats and Republicans had their talking points. Yet the detail that some claimed broke the spirit of bipartisanship wasn't on paper. It was a video.

Even before the vote was finished, a video was already making the rounds across the web showing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a speech given just minutes before voting began, providing what some have claimed is heavily partisan commentary on the pending vote, with lines such as "$700 billion—a staggering number but only a part of the cost of the failed Bush economic policies to our country."

The video was referenced in the Republican House leadership's talking points, after the vote failed, as a reason for some Republicans to vote against the bailout package—salvaging their political careers back home in next month's elections as ongoing constituent calls to their representatives expressed disfavor at a 200-to-1 ratio against the plan.

By then, though, the video had already been watched by tens of thousands on the web, so it became a bit of a political junkie's cultural touchstone and immediately allowed the blogosphere to post, link and opine on the YouTube-posted video. Regardless of whether this lone speech at the outset of voting was the reason for the vote's failure, one fact is clear: Streaming video on the web is becoming a serious political weapon. This particular video was from C-SPAN and therefore wasn't one the major broadcasters had easy access to. So in its first rounds on the web, during voting, it was only available in the form of streaming media at YouTube and the DrudgeReport-partner site Breitbart.tv.

Drudge, in typical fashion, carried a searing headline and then—as the site has been prone to do recently—pushed viewers directly to the video clip.

That websites such as Drudgereport.com—a news-generating site or news-mongering site, depending on your political persuasion—are getting into using video heavily as news, complete with its own Twitter-lite commentary on the news via a 5-10 word headline, isn't new: CNN.com and other major news sites have for months been interspersing video headlines and text headlines rather than just segmenting video from print as they had done in years past. But Drudge has a special place in the annals of this political cycle: Its use of video and an attention-getting headline have been enough to bring several topics to the forefront.

Take, for instance, another video link Drudge had up yesterday: an MSNBC interview that Chris Matthews conducted on a college campus with members of the group Concerned Youth of America. The members were dressed in prison garb and voiced concern about the $700 billion bailout package, but Drudge was interested only in the fact that one of the interviewees—Caroline, as Matthews called her at the end of the segment—was Matthews' daughter. The headline "MSNBC's Matthews Interviews Daughter But Fails to Disclose Family Relation" was classic Drudge—and garnered a sizeable number of views from those curious about why Chris Matthews wouldn't mention the interviewee was his daughter.

Other examples in this new landscape of "anything you say will appear on YouTube" that Drudge has driven have happened in the most unlikely places, yet found their way to the web as quickly as they're broadcast live. Within twenty miles of my home, an area on the border of three eastern states, Senator Obama's "lipstick on a pig" comments in Lebanon, Virginia, were carried live on CNN, added to YouTube within two hours, and then thrust into the conservative firestorm by Drudge's provocative headline on the topic. To show the power of properly placed "news" videos, the original has been watched well over a million times, while Senator Obama's response has been viewed only about 50,000 times. John McCain's fared no better with Drudge, for what it's worth, as his 2007 "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran" ditty has been viewed over 1.1 million times.

Yet it's not only the ability to view these videos, as the increase in availability in streaming video clips from across the campaign trail and the Hill have provided two additional tools to let the body politic push issues or gaffes to the forefront. The first, the ease of sharing, is both well known and heavily used. The other, comments on video sites such as YouTube and Breitbart, is rapidly increasing in persuasive power, as if those who come to watch these videos might be lacking in opinion about the topic at hand.

"Democrats hold a majority in the house," said one poster, about 20 minutes after the vote was finalized. "How could the Republicans prevent this from passing? The reality is that the Democrats did not pass this."

Not to be outdone, another responder noted that Republicans choosing to cast a vote against something that was "for the good of the country" shouldn't vote "against the bill because Pelosi said something that hurt their feelings. This is the Nation’s business, not a self-esteem meeting."

Meanwhile, back at the bailout ranch, the use of video and the web in general is taking a toll even on Congress' ability to serve up its e-government model.

"We haven't seen this much demand since the 9-11 commission report" said Jeff Ventura, spokesman for the House Chief Administrative Officer. "We're being overwhelmed with web traffic about the bill."

Ventura said the Web site was overwhelmed yesterday, with many interested viewers unable to visit the official site, or only being able to access the site at a greatly reduced speed.

"You have to keep trying and eventually you get in," Ventura said, adding that Congressional system administrators won't be taking a holiday while Congress is adjourned on Tuesday.

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