In what can only be described as a White House-organized campaign event with all the fluff one would expect, President Obama engaged in a first-ever town hall event – on the social media site Twitter.
Those who wished to participate could submit questions using the hashtag #AskObama.
The chances of your question being picked, however, could be compared to the proverbial snowball in hell, since the forum was moderated by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, an apparent supporter of the President, according to the Los Angeles Times:
Dorsey, who sent the world’s first tweet while testing out the system in March 2006, appears to be a fan of the president. In December 2008 the Twitter co-founder tweeted, “Obama is the only president in my lifetime who’s used the word ’empathy.’ That’s exciting.”
In style and substance, Obama’s Twitter town hall echoed his recent Facebook town hall: Attended by a youngish company executive — this time, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey instead of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg — Obama fielded mostly bland set-ups that served as launching pads for familiar talking points.
“What changes to the tax system do you think are necessary to help solve the deficit problem and for the system to be fair?,” was a typical question selected by Twitter.
One question from House Speaker John Boehner did manage to get through:
“After embarking on a record spending binge that’s left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs?”
Politico writes that the President bristled slightly from the challenge and complained the question was “skewed.”
“Obviously John is the speaker of the House, he is a Republican and so this is a slightly skewed question,” Obama responded, bristling slightly at what appeared to be an unforeseen challenge. “What he is right about is that we have not seen fast enough job growth relative to the need.”
Apparently, the “gatekeepers” at Twitter did not know the President was not supposed to be asked a real question.
For the White House, part of the genius of Twitter is the perception it creates that the president is accessible to anyone with an account. That egalitarian notion dovetails with the 2012 campaign aspiration to re-engage supporters as de facto organizers and advisers.
Unfortunately, perception is not reality. The reality of the town hall can best be described by user Kahjahkins, who wrote:
AskObama is awesomely stupid. It’s like asking all the dumb kids to write on the chalkboard at once.
While most of the questions asked were silly, or in some cases, downright stupid, one person asked:
Precisely how high do you want energy prices to “necessarily skyrocket?”
when does the summer of recovery start? No, really.
Several sent a message saying simply:
AskObama Is a Meaningless Marketing Stunt
That message – including a link to an article at the Harvard Business Review – summed up the event perhaps better than anything else.
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