Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia, a sunny conservative, had hoped to use his re-election race this year to build the machinery for a White House run in 2008. Last week he became the first political victim of the phenomenal YouTube era. Allen is videotaped at each campaign stop by a "tracker" for his Democratic opponent, James Webb. Such operatives are standard on the stump, and aides warn candidates to ignore them. But Allen, speaking at a rural picnic, took the bait. He singled out the Webb volunteer, who is of Indian descent, telling the crowd to welcome "Macaca." That's either a French--North African ethnic slur, a type of monkey or a contorted reference to a mohawk haircut--the guy has a mullet-like do--depending on who's translating.
"Macaca" (a.k.a. S.R. Sidarth) got the gibe on video. Last week, three days after Allen spoke, Webb's campaign posted it on YouTube.com and ignited a firestorm. Now other campaigns are worried about being "YouTubed" and losing control of their message in cyberspace. But not everyone thinks the scrutiny that comes with such publicity is a bad thing. In fact, YouTube could be seen as a new tool for political accountability. As a G.O.P. official notes, "If you don't say something stupid, you don't have to worry about YouTube."