July 6th, 2011
03:03 PM ET

Obama hosts first Twitter town hall

[Updated at 3:06 p.m.] Another interesting observation from CNN's Shawna Shepherd: Obama answers at least twice as many questions at twitter @townhall than he usually answers at news conferences in same time frame.

So, does that make this a successful forum to look towards in the future? Surely the pundits will bounce that around later.

[Updated at 3:03 p.m.] Welfare spending question gets a reaction from the audience.The person asking the question basically said that people won't try hard if everything is handed to them.

"Some welfare programs in the past were not well-defined, and did encourage dependency," Obama acknowledged.

However, Obama said the focus in social programs should be to give folks the tools to get in the work force and "let them know that we are there to support you and encourage you as long as you're showing responsibility."

[Updated at 2:59 p.m.] Next up: Military spending. Obama proudly touts troop withdrawal plans.

He notes that while changes have to be made you can't just hack at the defense budget without making sure you're still being safe and being committed to veterans returning home. Another problem? Outdated equipment. But as Commander-in-Chief there's a fine line to walk between trying to cut some money but making sure we have the tools we need to protect ourselves, he says.

[Updated at 2:55 p.m.] CNN's Becky Brittain (@beckybcnn) notes: POTUS takes a break from economy and energy and answers question re: #NASA.

Obama discusses how private sectors will take the lead on the commercial aspect and the government on some groundbreaking innovations.

CNNMoney.com's @AnnCensky enjoys part of the response: "Obama: Let’s ultimately get to Mars – a good pit stop is an asteroid! @townhall #askobama"

[Updated at 2:51 p.m.] Now we're getting to more real-time questions.

One question is about tax cuts and bringing them back to Bush standards. It's a question Obama is likely used to hearing these days and will continue to hear when he has to hit the campaign trail again.

Obama says the tax cut issue isn't one that needs to be radical, but instead a balanced approached. It's one he says he's already put out there. Now he just had to get everyone on board.

CNNMoney.com's @AnnCensky notes : Obama wants to make bush tax cuts permanent for low and moderate income folks – 98% of Americans, he says. @townhall #askobama

[Updated at 2:46 p.m.] Ten percent of questions coming in are about education. Specifically one is asked about failing schools in California and whether privatization of education is an option.

Obama references the initial decision about public high schools after leaving farms back in the day. He says every single time a public investment has been made, it's worked out.

"Considering we're in a knowledge-based society," Obama says that privatization is not the right option.

Instead the focus should be on teacher's wages; he says nobody will want to teach if their pay is equivalent to poverty wages. Same goes for crumbling schools with rats or unsafe conditions. And in a computer age, technology has to be up to par too, he says.

CNN's Shawna Shepherd @ShepherdCNN notes: I think @barackobama's just said "internets" at the twitter @townhall, but quickly corrected himself.

[Updated at 2:42 p.m.] CNNMoney.com's @AnnCensky: Obama talks taxes @townhall. Could the debt ceiling decision include tax hikes? Read great analysis by @CRrileyCNN http://bit.ly/r6UfTz

[Updated at 2:39 p.m.] Washington-based magazine The Root points out an issue that many folks on Twitter seem to be echoing.

TheRoot247: First we have Boehner, now Nicholas Kristof...we thought the purpose of this townhall was for everyday Americans to get the mic. #askobama

[Updated at 2:35 p.m.] Apparently one of the most retweeted questions comes from well-known columnist Nick Kristof.

NickKristof :#AskObama Was it a mistake to fail to get Republicans to commit to raise the debt ceiling, at the same time tax cuts were extended?

Obama notes that never in the history has the United States defaulted on our debt. He strongly states he feels that the debt issue never should be used as a gun to the head of regular citizens in a way that would benefit the extremely wealthy.

A balanced approach to the debt ceiling  is the answer, Obama says. He invokes again the private jet issue as well as other "extra spending" that he says needs to be cut.

Updated at 2:33 p.m.] CNN's Emily Schultze, @schultzecnn, who can see a map of where the questions are coming from notes: Looks like the east coast is asking the most questions?

[Updated at 2:30 p.m.]  Tons of questions about small businesses are flooding the Twitter stream.

Obama says the challenge he's heard from most folks is about financing. A lot of those banks have been overextending and he's working to try to help small businesses get the money they need to get back on their feet.

[Updated at 2:26 p.m.]  Now a question from someone Obama knows well these days - Speaker of the House John Boehner.

"Oh good," Obama said.

@johnboehner: After embarking on a record spending binge that’s left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs? #AskObama

"John obviously needs to work on his typing skills," Obama first says after the tweet apparently had some strange marks on the Twitter feed being shown during the town hall. He then notes Boehner's question was coming from a slightly skewed perspective.

However, Boehner is right, Obama said, that we have not seen fast enough job growth.

How can you not love the Speaker of the House and the President fighting it out over jobs on Twitter.

CNN's Emily Schultze (@schultzecnn) tweeted: I wonder how many questions the Speaker submitted?

[Updated at 2:24 p.m.] Topic: Collective bargaining. Folks want to know how Obama plans to rectify what's going on across the nation. Obama points out that while some tweaking needs to be done that whole idea is why we enjoy weekends, minimum wage and overtime.

[Updated at 2:22 p.m.] Next up? The focus on promoting alternative oil solutions. We're hearing about wind turbines, advanced batteries and other alternatives already in the works or in place. Obama says we've quintupled our market share - and that brings us back to jobs. Those jobs, they'll likely also help the auto industry he said.

[Updated at 2:19 p.m.] CNNMoney.com's @AnnCensky: Obama says he wants to "streamline the visa system" for entrepreneurs who come to U.S. to study, work and create businesses

[Updated at 2:18 p.m.] @ShepherdCNN gives us some insight on the audience in the room: There are about 130 people in the East Room Twitter Townhall – median age 30 maybe? Not counting the press in back of the room! #AskObama

[Updated at 2:15 p.m.] Obama being asked about the debt ceiling problem.

CNN's Becky Brittain's thoughts on his answer? @beckybcnn: Obama trying to quickly explain the debt ceiling but never specifically answered the question @ signing executive order.

[Updated at 2:12 p.m.] Another hot topic issue is education. Obama is touting attempts by his administration to help students pay for college and relieve the burden of the overwhelming price. Obama is talking about his $60,000 debts after his schooling as well as Michelle Obama's.

CNNMoney.com's @AnnCensky comments that at Obama @townhall just said it took he and Michelle 8-10 yrs to pay off roughly $120,000 in student debt after law school

But Obama says still burden is also on colleges to try and find ways to make schooling more affordable. He continues talking about the need for adequate schooling saying he wants to make one more point.

"I know Twitter, I'm supposed to be short," he jokes.

That didn't take long for him to acknowledge and the crowd seems amused.

[Updated at 2:09 p.m.]  Not a surprise here - 27 percent of the questions being asked are about jobs.

Obama talking about infrastructure, jobs, and innovating technology. One example - let's build iPads in the United States. His message is very much "Made in the U.S.A" is the way to go.

[Updated at 2:08 p.m.] Obama says he would have tried to explain better how long it would take to get out of the recession. "Even I didn't recognize the magnitude," he said, adding that neither did economists.

Basically, Obama's saying he thinks as a nation we didn't understand what this was going to mean. The other area he'd focus on more? Housing, especially because it has been so stubborn.

CNNMoney.com's @AnnCensky says she thinks "it was the "right thing to do" to cut taxes for middle class, give stimulus to states, rebuild infrastructure and save auto sector."

[Updated at 2:05 p.m.] The first question? Predictably it's about the recession. What do folks want to know: what mistakes did Obama make?

[Updated at 2:04 p.m.] "I am going to make history as the first president to live tweet," Obama said to start the town hall. He was reminded he only had 140 characters to do it.

The tweet: in order to reduce the deficit,what costs would you cut and what investments would you keep – bo

[Updated at 2:00 p.m.]  The Twitter town hall has begun. The President has entered the room to loud applause and is greeting those in attendance.

[Posted at 1:35 p.m.] President Barack Obama will answer questions beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday during his first Twitter town hall meeting.

And while no doubt the president wants to tackle some of the questions on voters' minds (jobs and the economy, likely), he'll also be tapping into the medium that made him so popular when he was first elected.

The event will actually be an old-meets-new type of town hall. While the questions will come from the "tweeps" via social media, Obama is going to be answering in a pretty old-school format: using a microphone. Some people also joked that Obama had chosen a unique medium for the town hall considering he's known for his lengthy responses - the opposite of how Twitter operates. Perhaps that's exactly why he's not being confined to the standard Twitter length.

The event will feature an audience of about 140 individuals who follow the White House Twitter feed and signed up for a chance to attend. The 140 is not a coincidence - it's the number of characters allowed in a tweet. Followers were urged to use the hashtag #AskObama.

Even before the town hall got under way, Republicans got in their attempt to point out the flaws they believe Obama needs to address. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) posted a live stream feed of GOP questions for Obama on his website and tweeted:  "With 9.1% unemployment & 'shovel ready' jobs a bust, will you admit the 'stimulus' was a mistake? http://bit.ly/oTK17f  #AskObama."

soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. Mr. President

    Funny how no questions regarding marijuana legalization to save our economy don't make it onto CNN, even though it's always a dominating factor when it comes to these town hall things..

    July 6, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. anthony

    The republicans only have the bourgeoisie interest at heart. The rich get tax breaks for the g6's limo's and a whole bunch of other stuff that is not necessary. Yet the GOP are fighting to keep those ??didn't bachmens fanily receive money to help their family farm yet she keeps that out of the media? Seresly america this is the only president that seems human to try and keep fighting for the real hard working men and women of this country. He's compromised for the benefit of the country not for his image. I think to really understand and an express an opinion really do some backyard work before you come off sounding like some backward fool.

    July 6, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wayne

      Backward fool?? The guy is selling us out daily on S.S. Medicare Medicaid you name it. Are you the backward fool?

      July 7, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. XWngLady

    Nice tie Mr. President!

    July 7, 2011 at 7:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Me

    We need to stop all the spending rampage that goes on in Washington like pay raise for Congress ! Also all the trips made by Obama & Wife to other countries ! To much is being spent by this big Govnerment !!!

    July 7, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Sunny

    My concern is for Medicade, Medicare, and SS....after years of paying in and depending on them, I think they will cut, cut, cut till we have nothing unless we have put funds away other ways....SS has not had a raise or cost of living for 3 years...has congress?....you bet they have.....My children understand they will have to do something else after they retire because the money in SS, Medicare/Medicade will not be there....so they are making plans now, but us over 65 did not realize till it was too late to prepair for this disaster.....The People in Washington, both parties do not care about the every day person...they just want to get re-elected so they will be on easy st. the rest of their lives......

    July 7, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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