Thursday, September 18, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO — YouTube is being flooded with mocking videos by imitators of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, attracting millions of viewers and triggering stormy online debates between the aspiring vice president’s fans and critics.

Snippets of a sketch featuring actress Tina Fey mimicking Mrs. Palin and comedian Amy Poehler playing former White House contender Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton have rocketed to fame on the video-sharing Web site just days after airing on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

“I believe diplomacy should be the cornerstone of any foreign policy,” Miss Poehler’s Clinton character asserts in the sketch.

“And I can see Russia from my house!” chimes in Miss Fey’s convincing version of the neophyte governor with a beauty-pageant smile.

The Web - and in particular file-sharing sites such as YouTube - is notoriously fertile ground for political satire; Mrs. Clinton, Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and Democratic contender Sen. Barack Obama are routinely pilloried.

The relative inexperience of Mrs. Palin, 44, on the national political stage and her conservative stance on hot-button social issues - combined with her status as a moose-hunting former beauty queen and self-professed “hockey mom” - has made her a particularly popular Web target.

YouTube member Sara Benincasa has been posting video logs, or vlogs, starring herself as Mrs. Palin, who was tapped just three weeks ago to be Mr. McCain’s running mate.

She compares the demands of heading a local Parent-Teacher Association to those of running sparsely populated Alaska and opines on how being a mother of five children makes her fit to run the United States.

“I don’t think qualifications necessarily mean that you have to have been a senator or led a state with more than five people in it,” says Miss Benincasa’s rendition of Mrs. Palin in a vlog.

“I think qualifications mean that you’re the kind of mom that can go in labor while she’s giving a speech in Texas, and then, instead of going to a hospital after that, traveling eight hours in a plane back to your home state of Alaska.”

In a video titled “Sarah Palin Exposed,” a cross-dressing Palin impersonator opens with excited thanks for being chosen as the Republican candidate for president - then reluctantly changes it to “interim vice president.”

The character smirks conspiratorially and taps a finger above her chest, hinting that she expects the 72-year-old Mr. McCain’s heart to expire before the would-be president’s term in office.

The Palin impersonator intermittently scoops baby dolls from the ground, apologizing for spontaneously giving birth, while she lists accomplishments that include rooting for high school sports teams and helping get a traffic light installed in an Alaska town.

“There isn’t enough lipstick on the planet to cover up Palin’s lack of experience and knowledge,” a YouTube member with the online name Surfinhard4u wrote in a comment posted Tuesday in a forum linked to the transvestite Palin video.

The writer went on to express faith that Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. will “mop the floor with her bee-hive” hairdo.

Along with messages expressing terror that Mrs. Palin and Mr. McCain might win in November are postings condemning the video mockery or expressing lust for the woman who was first runner-up for Miss Alaska 1984.

Meanwhile, former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive and current McCain adviser Carly Fiorina blasted the “Saturday Night Live” sketch in a television interview.

“They were defining Hillary Clinton as very substantive and Sarah Palin as totally superficial,” Miss Fiorina said. “I think that continues the line of argument that is disrespectful in the extreme and, I would say, sexist.”

Miss Fiorina’s comment prompted the Young Turks channel on YouTube to post a video calling Miss Fiorina’s accusation of sexism “absurd” because Mrs. Clinton was portrayed as capable while Mrs. Palin was harpooned.

“It is just unbelievable to me this woman is actually running for vice president,” original “SNL” star Chevy Chase said while lauding Miss Fey’s impersonation of Mrs. Palin in an interview posted on YouTube.

“Comedy is perspective,” Mr. Chase said. “The more the nation understands that McCain has lost his mind, the better it is. Really.”

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