Letterman vs. McCain: What's Driving All That YouTube Traffic?

Right now, the day's No. 1 most-viewed YouTube video is David Letterman's 9-minute John McCain call-out from last night's show.

Backstory, in case you hadn't heard: McCain canceled a scheduled Letterman appearance because (to paraphrase Letterman quoting McCain) he had to rush back to Washington to work out the financial crisis.

In the video, Letterman expresses his admiration for McCain ... and then rips into him over and over and over, continuing even as he brings in guest Keith Olbermann and cuts to McCain, who turns out to be not on a plane to D.C., but in a studio with Letterman's CBS colleague Katie Couric.

This video was on more than half of the blogs in my RSS feed today. Did you watch it on TV last night? Or was there a link in your inbox this morning? What's so compelling about it?



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For me, what is so compelling is that Letterman is someone I deeply respect. When I think back on reaction to 9/11, Letterman's response is one I most clearly recall and related to. I think he has a real common man connection and I think he makes a real effort to be balanced.

Sent by Jenn | 12:41 AM | 9-26-2008

My husband DVRed Letterman, which we haven't really watched for years, when he saw online a rumor that this was going to happen. And so we watched. And it was a skewering, in that Letterman way. But all it really did was renew my antipathy towards Paul Schaffer's "I'll laugh now cause Dave was funny, just in case no one else gets it" rimshot attitude. I suppose it's "worthwhile" versus the nightly Daily Show type joking because David Letterman is more mainstream? Because my parents watch Letterman? I don't know, really, why there was THIS much fuss about it - but fuss there certainly has been.

Sent by daki | 7:52 AM | 9-26-2008

What's so compelling about it? Great question.

Answering for my party of one: nothing.

Minimal comedic value. Zero political-commentary value.

I'll just keep watching the Twins' games and then going to bed.

Sent by Dan in Minnesota | 9:37 AM | 9-26-2008

Watching this, I had to wonder: people have surely cancelled TV appearances for far lesser reasons than the collapse of the financial system. Why was Dave so obviously emotional about it? According to the clip, he didn't know until later on that McCain was with Couric. But maybe he did know that McCain wasn't, in fact, speeding to DC? Was that what got him going?

Sent by Joe M., NPR | 12:06 PM | 9-26-2008

It seemed to me that in the second part where McCain is talking to Katie Couric in the make-up chair, Letterman was calling McCain out for being a hypocrite. McCain canceled one interview because he was "suspending his campaign" and had to rush back to Washington, but then he goes to do another interview about how he is suspending his campaign and has to rush back to Washington. I thought Letterman's skewering was completely warranted, given that McCain blatantly lied about what he was about to do instead of appearing on the Letterman show.

Sent by Erin | 1:21 PM | 9-26-2008

I think the reason Dave was emotional was, just as Erin noted, the fact that he concluded, whether it was the case or not, that he'd been taken for a ride. I think he liked McCain and trusted him, and I think Letterman wound up believing that he'd been fed a line. Honestly, what I saw in that reaction was disillusionment. I think Letterman likes and trusts very few politicians, and I think he liked and trusted McCain, and I think he wound up feeling -- right or wrong -- that he'd been played.

Sent by Linda Holmes | 6:58 PM | 9-26-2008

I just watched the latest Countdown with Keith Olbermann and he talked about McCain's "snubbing" of Letterman. He also pointed out that the last time McCain went on Letterman it was to announce that he would be running for president. I can't help but feel that that fact may have played a role in Letterman's obvious disappointment. On a related point, this crisis has been in the news for days, but McCain waited until the day of the interview to cancel?

Sent by Erin in Chicago | 11:17 PM | 9-26-2008

Yeah, it looks like disillusionment/irritation over having been lied to. And I think rightly so: McCain essentially ditched him for the cuter girl. And besides, why is McCain so necessary to the financial crisis that he has to "cancel" his campaign (which it doesn't appear he's done)?

I found this satisfying because I deeply dislike McCain. Heh.

Sent by F. McGee | 7:05 AM | 9-27-2008

It was compelling because we got to see Dave being generally pissed off at a personal snubbing, and react honestly about it on national TV in a relatively humorous way. It's political value was minimal, but McCain is a person whose politics are highly personal (based on personal attitudes, qualities, relationships rather than policies or ideas).

I think this is part of what got Letterman so upset - he had given mccain the benefit of the doubt (as had much of the country) because of his supposed personal qualities, not his ideas or political skill. And because he respected McCain as a person, the snubbing was not only a personal affront, but also tore down some of those things that Letterman (and some of the country) thought about McCain's personal character.

Sent by Kiril | 12:50 PM | 9-27-2008

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