With Marisa Guthrie and Michael Malone
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NBC's Todd: Bill Clinton Unready for YouTube
If there's one thing that Senators John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton all have in common, it's that each of the presidential candidates has already endured his or her very own YouTube moment.
Whether it's a clip of McCain's erroneous assertion that Shiite Iran was training the Sunni group Al Qaeda in Iraq, or videos of Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., shouting "God damn America!" or CBS News footage proving that Clinton's 1996 visit to Bosnia wasn't quite the Jerry Bruckheimer action movie she'd taken to recounting, the digitally fueled wildfire of unfortunate video moments has singed all three candidates.
But as NBC News political director Chuck Todd sees it, none have gotten burned by this new-media phenomenon quite like former president Bill Clinton.
"It's fascinating: Nobody's been a bigger victim of the so-called YouTube moments than Bill Clinton," Todd says. "I think Bill Clinton was woefully unprepared for 21st century media."
Although Clinton caught a glimpse of the digital future when he was president and a little-known Internet gadfly named Matt Drudge broke the Monica Lewinsky story, he was never subjected to the kind of unblinking scrutiny of today's media environment.
When Clinton was running for president, Todd says, he and his fellow candidates could misspeak—and even willfully obfuscate—with relative impunity.
"It was like a Jedi mind trick with him," he says. "It would take a few days for the media to catch up [and] by then he had moved on."
But in 2008, Clinton's gaffes—calling Obama's opposition to the Iraq war a "fairy tale," inviting charges of race-baiting by comparing Obama's campaign to Jesse Jackson's, reviving his wife's Bosnia trip for another spin in the news cycle—sparked immediate blowback that seems to have caught him by surprise.
That's not to say the current campaigns aren't media savvy. If anything, Todd says, they're all too savvy for news organizations operating on tighter budgets and with threadbare staffs.
"There may be more news organizations covering this [election], but nobody is going at it with the depth and breadth that major news organizations used to be able to do," says Todd. "The campaigns are more sophisticated. They have more troops to spin than sometimes the media has to cut through it."
They say New York's Times Square isn't as rough and tumble as it used to be, but tell that to an unfortunate camera operator shooting an upcoming segment for Rachael Ray.
The segment was part of the syndicated talk show's "Hey, Can You Cook?!" showdown, which kicks off April 28 and features five culinarily inclined contestants competing in various challenges as they vie for top honors—including a new kitchen and an apprenticeship in Paris.
One challenge, hosted by Survivor veteran Colby Donaldson, saw the five hopefuls compete in a scavenger hunt involving New York's culinary landmarks.
Starting on a traffic island in the middle of Times Square, the contestants scattered as location coordinator Kristen Malone followed with a pricy Panasonic DVX100 camcorder. But as she ran, peering through the viewfinder, Malone plowed full-speed into the just-opened door of a taxicab and went down onto the unforgiving Manhattan pavement.
The camera, valued at around $3,000, was toast. Thankfully, Malone fared slightly better. After hobbling to the sidelines, she was checked out by a staff medic.
Says a Rachael Ray spokesperson, "She had a sprained ankle and bruised pride, but was back on the job the next day."