Greg Veis, YouTube Hunter: Election Day Edition

Some people call it Election Day; I call it Christmas. Network news anchors nattering on with hardly anything substantive to report for hours, until they spin into the Realm of the Truly Weird around 1 a.m.; endless refreshes on Talking Points Memo, Drudge, and Mystery Pollster; breathless phone calls to anyone who shares my excitement about the likely outcome of Arizona's Eighth District -- yeah, I'll say it: better than sex.

Why? Because Election Day, like coitus, is all about the build-up, and Midterms '06 have been marked with a red circle on many a political junkie's calendar since November 2, 2004. We -- the few, the moderately proud, the socially awkward -- have been pouring over poll data for months, and before there were polls, or even challengers, we were acting as if each event in the news cycle brimmed with the significance of the cosmos.

And have no doubt: YouTube has been instrumental in feeding this obsession. Advertisements and gaffes, speeches and slurs... they have found an immediate and permanent home on the website -- and the political process has been permanently changed for it. (Whether that's a good thing or not is an open question I might address in the future, but, for now, this is a place to start.) So, now, let's recap the midterm that was by scanning through the video clips that had the most impact on this, our first YouTube election.

Strangest Channeling of a Movie Character for Electoral Gain
Easy: David Strathairn, as Edward R. Murrow, in support of House challenger Kristen Gillibrand.

I don't find the ad to be effective -- a little too put-on for my taste -- but this other ad for Gillibrand's campaign (although not by her campaign) is a classic, mocking her opponent's appearance at a recent Union College frat party. (Awesome photographic evidence of that, too. Check out the guy ripping a jay-bird in the top right):

Most Emotionally Fraught Issue
Embryonic stem cell research. Of course, this issue brought us Michael J. Fox's advertisements, which were the most visually arresting of the cycle. No amount of FX wizardry could match the gut-punch of watching him writhe uncontrollably while expressing his support for certain Democratic candidates. One last time, here he is supporting Ben Cardin in Maryland (and note how he explicitly references George W. Bush, something he wasn't able to do for Claire McCaskill in the redder state of Missouri):

This, however, is a very effective counterpunch from the campaign of Cardin's opponent, Michael Steele, who might just pull off an upset victory today. Keep an eye out...

The last ad I'll show that hits on stem cell research is different in that it employs actors spelling out hypothetical situations -- but it's no less powerful.

Most Incendiary Advertisement
Yep, the race-baiting ad the RNC ran against Harold Ford in Tennessee, which reminded some people of the GOP's infamous "Southern Strategy:"

In fairness, though, Ford cut an ad of his own that was so blatant in its religiousness (it's in a church, for chrissakes!) that, had a Republican aired it, all of Cambridge, Mass., would've put down their lattes as one and posted nasty, hateful things on their blogs:

Most Thematically Disjointed Campaign Promise
That would have to go to Cruz Bustamante, running for Insurance Commissioner of California. Let's get this straight, Cruz: because you ran in a marathon and lost weight, you're going to lower insurance rates. Riiiight...

Pol Whose Reputation Was Most Irrevocably Damaged By YouTube
George Allen, senator and former governor of Virginia, and, until recently, a leading contender for the 2008 Republican nomination for president. Until recently, you say? Yeah, largely due to YouTube, Mr. Macacawitz is a joke. Here's how our favorite $1.6 billion website took down a political heavyweight: in May, Ryan Lizza with The New Republic wrote a piece examining Allen's predilection for most things Dixie, despite a childhood spent on the tony edge of the west coast. Then, this happened...

... and then people came out of the woodwork saying that he used to drop the N-word into casual conversation, and then he said in a televised debate that asking if his mother was Jewish was tantamount to "making aspersions," and now, it looks as if he might lose to Jim Webb today. And even if he does manage to hang on, his future has dimmed significantly. The lesson to future campaigns? As this article persuasively argues: don't let YouTube clips reinforce previously held negative beliefs about a candidate. Easier said than done... especially when your pol is as skilled of a gaffe machine as Senator Allen.

Pol Whose Star Has Risen Almost Exclusively Because of YouTube's Influence
YouTube doesn't discriminate based on factual certainty or moral clarity; it's a place where those who speak in the highest volumes reach more eyeballs than they could've ever hoped to before. Which brings us to North Carolina Republican House challenger Vernon Robinson. He's been mentioned in this column before, and whew doggie, is he a nut. But before YouTube, he would've been a nut confined to the North Carolina 12th; now, he's raked in a pretty penny from outside his district and has become something of a cult hero because of hyperbolic and factually dubious ads like this:

Yet YouTube has its own internal fact-checking mechanisms as well, and this one, spearheaded most improbably by Sean Hannity, is a joy to watch:

Most Enjoyable Campaign Ad (Intellectual Dishonesty Category)
In this ad attacking House candidate Michael Arcuri, the National Republican Congressional Committee suggests that, well, just watch...

Hot, right? A little strange for the GOP to be showing something so racy given their frequent suggestions that smut like this is hurting our "American values?" Sure, but I like silhouetted naked chicks as much the next guy. Problem is, the phone call in question was a single misdial (by a single number) that cost New York taxpayers -- wait for it -- a buck and a quarter.

Strangest Apologies
No shortage here, this being the year of Mark Foley and the "botched joke" -- but these two, from Reps. Thomas Reynolds and Don Sherwood, were particularly striking. Reynolds was accused of sitting on the Foley emails for too long, hoping that they wouldn't put a safe seat in play. Oh, and Sherwood reportedly strangled his mistress during a back massage. This is his apology. Do these come close to being effective? What say you?

Best Ad
Screw real politicians. I'm voting for Jimmy Jones:

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Win a Trip to Any National Park By Instagramming Your Travels
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If you're planning out your summer vacation, make sure to add a few national parks to your itinerary. Every time you share your travels on Instagram, you can increase your chances of winning a VIP trip for two to the national park of your choice.

The National Park Foundation is hosting its "Pic Your Park" sweepstakes now through September 28. To participate, post your selfies from visits to National Park System (NPS) properties on Instagram using the hashtag #PicYourParkContest and a geotag of the location. Making the trek to multiple parks increases your points, with less-visited parks in the system having the highest value. During certain months, the point values of some sites are doubled. You can find a list of participating properties and a schedule of boost periods here.

Following the contest run, the National Park Foundation will decide a winner based on most points earned. The grand prize is a three-day, two-night trip for the winner and a guest to any NPS property within the contiguous U.S. Round-trip airfare and hotel lodging are included. The reward also comes with a 30-day lease of a car from Subaru, the contest's sponsor.

The contest is already underway, with a leader board on the website keeping track of the competition. If you're looking to catch up, this national parks road trip route isn't a bad place to start.

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15 Dad Facts for Father's Day
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Gather 'round the grill and toast Dad for Father's Day—the national holiday so awesome that Americans have celebrated it for more than a century. Here are 15 Dad facts you can wow him with today.

1. Halsey Taylor invented the drinking fountain in 1912 as a tribute to his father, who succumbed to typhoid fever after drinking from a contaminated public water supply in 1896.

2. George Washington, the celebrated father of our country, had no children of his own. A 2004 study suggested that a type of tuberculosis that Washington contracted in childhood may have rendered him sterile. He did adopt the two children from Martha Custis's first marriage.

3. In Thailand, the king's birthday also serves as National Father's Day. The celebration includes fireworks, speeches, and acts of charity and honor—the most distinct being the donation of blood and the liberation of captive animals.

4. In 1950, after a Washington Post music critic gave Harry Truman's daughter Margaret's concert a negative review, the president came out swinging: "Some day I hope to meet you," he wrote. "When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!"

5. A.A. Milne created Winnie the Pooh for his son, Christopher Robin. Pooh was based on Robin's teddy bear, Edward, a gift Christopher had received for his first birthday, and on their father/son visits to the London Zoo, where the bear named Winnie was Christopher's favorite. Pooh comes from the name of Christopher's pet swan.

6. Kurt Vonnegut was (for a short time) Geraldo Rivera's father-in-law. Rivera's marriage to Edith Vonnegut ended in 1974 because of his womanizing. Her ever-protective father was quoted as saying, "If I see Gerry again, I'll spit in his face." He also included an unflattering character named Jerry Rivers (a chauffeur) in a few of his books.

7. Andre Agassi's father represented Iran in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics as a boxer.

8. Charlemagne, the 8th-century king of the Franks, united much of Western Europe through military campaigns and has been called the "king and father of Europe" [PDF]. Charlemagne was also a devoted dad to about 18 children, and today, most Europeans may be able to claim Charlemagne as their ancestor.

9. The voice of Papa Smurf, Don Messick, also provided the voice of Scooby-Doo, Ranger Smith on Yogi Bear, and Astro and RUDI on The Jetsons.

10. In 2001, Yuri Usachev, cosmonaut and commander of the International Space Station, received a talking picture frame from his 12-year-old daughter while in orbit. The gift was made possible by RadioShack, which filmed the presentation of the gift for a TV commercial.

11. The only father-daughter collaboration to hit the top spot on the Billboard pop music chart was the 1967 hit single "Something Stupid" by Frank & Nancy Sinatra.

12. In the underwater world of the seahorse, it's the male that gets to carry the eggs and birth the babies.

13. If show creator/producer Sherwood Schwartz had gotten his way, Gene Hackman would have portrayed the role of father Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch.

14. The Stevie Wonder song "Isn't She Lovely" is about his newborn daughter, Aisha. If you listen closely, you can hear Aisha crying during the song.

15. Dick Hoyt has pushed and pulled his son Rick, who has cerebral palsy, through hundreds of marathons and triathlons. Rick cannot speak, but using a custom-designed computer he has been able to communicate. They ran their first five-mile race together when Rick was in high school. When they were done, Rick sent his father this message: "Dad, when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!"

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