ON MONDAY, CNN plans to host a debate in which Democratic presidential candidates will answer questions sent to YouTube.com, a popular video site. If it's a gimmick, it's one the public has embraced. So far, people have submitted more than 1,500 video queries, many about problems faced by their families or friends.
Predictably, most of the videos bear little resemblance to network television. The unvarnished look, however, is part of the charm. The point isn't to replicate the look and feel of past debates, it's to use a different medium to create something new and, potentially, more powerful. The best of the submissions give abstract policy issues a human face, as when a father shows pictures of his young Marine son and asks, "Please tell me what specific steps you will take in order to ensure Middle East stability so that my son will not have to go back." Another example is the mother who offers a slide show of her wheelchair-bound, mentally disabled daughter and asks how the candidates would address the shortage of residential treatment facilities and nurses for home healthcare.