My CNET News colleague Charles Cooper's kvetching about YouTube not offering a download option for political videos seems to be answered. Such an option now appears right underneath the player on certain videos, including President-elect Barack Obama's weekly addresses.
While users have long been able to grab YouTube clips both with Flash rippers and H.264 stream downloaders, this would be the first time such an option has appeared on the site as an official offering. The new option gives users a full-quality H.264 file--the very same copy that's sent out to YouTube-capable set top boxes and iPhones.
Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Lessig seems to be the first to have noticed the new option, and says it will be spreading out to other government-uploaded videos. I've pinged Google to see if and when the option will be made available for everyone else's videos--and am still waiting to hear back. Update: YouTube's Hunter Walk says "Nothing further to announce at this time. We're just excited to have made this feature available in preparation for a historic week in American politics."
One thing to note here is the timing. This comes just two days after the announcement that Google Video would no longer be accepting user uploaded videos. Google Video let you download an iPod and PSP-friendly H.264 encoded clip that's the exact same size as what YouTube is now offering, leading me to believe that this will soon be available as a standard publishing feature for those who enable it on their clips.