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Video Unlikely To Go Viral: The Tim Kaine Channel

Psst, pass it on: Check out the video from Tim Kaine. No, Virginia's governor isn't doing stupid human tricks. Rather, he's got his own YouTube channel where you can, for example, find Kaine expounding on the importance of saving energy. It's pretty stultifying, standard fare: Use efficient bulbs, the always-popular "set your thermostat a little higher in the summer," and, of course, use mass transit.

This is about four rungs below public access cable fare. But wait, the Kaine Channel has better programming, if you hunt around a bit. Here's the governor hanging out with kids in the AP Government class at Martinsville High School.

Note the handheld camera and the amateurish sound production. The kids seem eager to get the heck out of the room, but Kaine manages to tell a couple of decent stories and he comes off as genuine, honest and straightforward.

"You can kind of get tunnel vision being on Capitol Square," the governor says of his time in Richmond's government center. So he's at this high school taking questions from students. They obviously haven't been prepped, nor do they seem to know much about Virginia politics or government, so the questions end up being as generic as they come:

How did you get inspired to enter public service? Kaine tells the story of his missionary work in Honduras and explains that he "Never thought I'd run for office." But his law work brought him before the Richmond City Council and after he decided he didn't like how business was being done, he ran and won.

What do you like most about being governor? one student asks. Going out to find and hire great people to run agencies, Kaine replies.

Then the governor turns the tables on the students and asks seniors, "How about you guys? What are you going to do next year?"

He points to a girl who pauses and then replies, "Um, I just got a rejection letter from JMU (James Madison University) like yesterday and that's where I really wanted to go."

Kaine quickly moves on to the next kid, but then regroups and tells about how he couldn't go to any of the colleges he had applied to and been accepted at because he didn't get financial aid and "my family couldn't afford any of them." So he had to go beg his way into the University of Missouri and "It worked out fantastic, so you're going to do fine."

Undaunted by that awkward bit, Kaine asks, "Any of you thought about politics?"

One girl said she's thought about it, but "it's intimidating." Kaine encourages her to check it out, but to consider doing something else first to get real world experiences. "Politics shouldn't be a career; I think politics should be something that you come to once you've had a career," he says.

But if you're looking for such interesting and candid moments, you'll come up mostly empty on the Kaine Channel. Mostly, you'll find mind-numbing prattle such as the governor's pitch to join him in taking a walk on National Employee Health and Fitness Day, which, as we all know, is coming right up on May 21.


Kaine is a step ahead of other local leaders in getting on the YouTube bandwagon. The Adrian Fenty Collection on the site consists mainly of old campaign appearances and a few news clips in which the Washington mayor is pushing for Barack Obama for president. Similarly, the clips of Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley are mostly news interviews and bits from old campaign ads--no evidence that the governor's staff is looking to burnish his image on YouTube.

Which means that the regional leader who is least likely to ever run for elective office again is the one with the most exposure on YouTube. Hmm--maybe the man does harbor dreams of the vice presidency. Still, my bet is that this term as governor is the end of the road in elective politics for Kaine--he's probably got a whole other career bubbling around somewhere in his head. What do you see him doing next?

By Marc Fisher |  May 9, 2008; 7:42 AM ET
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Comments

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Virginia's one-term governorship is a real shame, isn't it? It's amazing the state works as well as it does when its chief executive has so little time to develop support for and launch new programs. Any ideas as to what would have to happen for a more sensible system to be put in place? Has it always been this way?

Posted by: THS | May 9, 2008 9:32 AM

It's nice he has time to do You Tube. I wish he'd used that time to finish a bit more analysis on the Constitutionality of his amendments to the Transportation Bill that got shot down. I had such high hopes for change when Kaine was elected. I thought he'd be a more aggressive version of Warner, who I also liked. But he seems like just another political hack now...

Posted by: WJS | May 9, 2008 9:53 AM

THS- it's been that way since the Constitution of 1850 was adopted.

Posted by: Rushfan1 | May 9, 2008 10:59 AM

I agree with THS, and was actually talking to my coworker about this recently. What can you really accomplish in 4 years? In my opinion the big ideas Kaine came into office with really haven't come to fruition as far as transportation goes: he promised to widen 66 inside the Beltway, Dulles Metrorail is a joke, the amount of potholes is astounding. And just this week VDOT declared that their budget was halved. If I see my governor on YouTube I want to see a clip of him signing something into legislation that makes it easier for me to get to where I need to go.

Posted by: Izzo | May 9, 2008 11:17 AM

Kaine is a BS artist. He campaigned as a Mark Warner dem and since taking office has governed as a liberal tax raising , gun banning dem.

Posted by: Paul | May 9, 2008 11:37 AM

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Posted by: cb2pvyfbfc | May 9, 2008 9:28 PM

Your column kindly introduced your readers to Virginia's latest initiative to improve citizen access to government information - our top priority in the Commonwealth's strategic plan for IT.

Unfortunately, it missed the point on our policy intention.

Web 2.0 applications like YouTube are transforming the way communities interact and hold great potential to improve constituent service. While the author rightly points out some videos may not attract many viewers, the initiative represents a modest step towards a more transparent, effective government.

Today's effort is to migrate existing content to the web at no cost to the taxpayer.

In the coming months, we hope to post more targeted information. For example, how many of your readers have taken time out of their busy schedules to visit a government agency, waited in a long line only to be told they failed to bring the proper information?

We envision videos that explain what information one might need to complete a transaction, or highlight the most commonly experienced pitfalls - with suggestions on how to avoid them.

We will continue to aggressively pursue innovative solutions that improve service, lower costs or advance our policy outcomes. In today's budget-conscious environment, it is our duty if we are to move the Commonwealth forward.

Posted by: Aneesh Chopra | May 14, 2008 6:51 PM

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