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The YouTube Presidency

By Jose Antonio Vargas
The White House has gone YouTube.

Today, President-elect Obama will record the weekly Democratic address not just on radio but also on video -- a first. The address, typically four minutes long, will be turned into a YouTube video and posted on Obama's transition site,, once the radio address is made public on Saturday morning.

The address will be taped at the transition office in Chicago today.

"This is just one of many ways that he will communicate directly with the American people and make the White House and the political process more transparent," spokeswoman Jen Psaki told us last night.

In addition to regularly videotaping the radio address, officials at the transition office say the Obama White House will also conduct online Q&As and video interviews. The goal, officials say, is to put a face on government. In the following weeks, for example, senior members of the transition team, various policy experts and choices for the Cabinet, among others, will record videos for

Yesterday, transition co-chairman Valerie Jarrett recorded a two-minute video that summarized the goings-on in the past week. "President-elect Obama adopted the most sweeping and strict ethics rules that have ever been in place in the course of a transition," said a bespectacled Jarrett, looking directly at the camera in a video that's yet to be posted.

President Bush, too, has updated, which offers RSS feeds, podcasts and videos of press briefings. The site's Ask the White House page has featured regular online chats dating back to 2003, and President Bush hosted one in January after a Middle Eastern trip.

But online political observers say President-elect Obama's innovative, online-fueled campaign will likely evolve into a new level of online communication between the public and the White House--the Internet-era version of President Franklin Roosevelt's famous "fireside chats" between 1933 and 1944,

"The Obama team has written the playbook on how to use YouTube for political campaigns. Not only have they achieved impressive mass -- uploading over 1800 videos that have been viewed over 110 million times total -- but they've also used video to cultivate a sense of community amongst supporters," said Steve Grove, head of news and politics at YouTube. "Obama told us in a YouTube interview last year that he plans to have 'fireside chats' on video, and we expect his administration will launch a White House YouTube channel very soon after taking office."

Added Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation, a D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for government transparency: "We're living, after all, in the Internet era. This is an individualized version of the 'fireside chats.' It's not delivered between 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. but whenever anyone wants to see it. I don't know if it necessarily creates transparency -- it's still a controlled, one-way message. But it creates the aura of a much more accessible presidency."

So what's next from the Obama White House?

A behind-the-scenes online video exclusive of the State of the Union Address? A text message reminding us to turn in our taxes? Who knows...

This is one in a series of online columns on our growing "clickocracy," in which we are one nation under Google, with e-mail and video for all. Please send suggestions, comments and tips to

By Washington Post Editor  |  November 14, 2008; 5:09 AM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , The Clickocracy  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Bidens and Cheneys Meet and Greet
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Posted by: ceasespinorg | November 15, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

I am starting to get worried that any president-elect would begin to make FDR-like policy speeches BEFORE he is inaugurated and while we (and he) have a sitting president.

No matter how insecure we may feel in these times and how much he may think he can help - there has to be a proper order. Fear has often been a justification for leaders, wittingly or unwittingly, to start taking authority that is not theirs.

We must also be very wary of the "Give us a King" syndrome (see that the public can fall into.

Posted by: alaneason | November 15, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

already heard about this a couple days ago from

Posted by: idontthinkso | November 14, 2008 10:50 PM | Report abuse

You may find my March 2008 essay, the Coming Digital Presidency, describing how a sitting president could use the internet, of interest:

My essay helped inform a NY Times article on the same topic, as I describe here:

Posted by: mathoda | November 14, 2008 8:05 PM | Report abuse

a link or path to my electronic book in 2008 im voting for the total package is also on utube my book has strength and the power of truth and i challenge you to purchase it for knowledge and comfort it's also historical and was written in honor of barack

Posted by: brtr7 | November 14, 2008 7:23 PM | Report abuse

I comment on this here:

The word "sham" is used.

Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | November 14, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Hey Jess -

"President Bush, too, has updated, which offers RSS feeds, podcasts and videos of press briefings. The site's Ask the White House page has featured regular online chats dating back to 2003, and President Bush hosted one in January after a Middle Eastern trip."

If he's such a dictator, what makes Obama's videos any different? Maybe it's style over substance?

How in the world does posting a video make ANYTHING more transparent??

I can hardly wait for the day when we have government by twitter.

Posted by: ciakd812 | November 14, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I really like Obamas style. Adios Dictator Bush and Good Riddance!


Posted by: clermontpc | November 14, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

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