President was asked 170,000 questions on jobs, the budget, taxes and education in his latest attempt to use social and mobile media that was developed in the Bay Area to connect with Americans.
Obama answered 18 before reviewing the replies to his inaugural tweet. President was sitting on a tall stool, his back to the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, with a screen that showed tweeted questions nearby,
Obama responded aloud before an audience of 140 invited guests who came to the White House for the event. Republican John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, asked a question through a Twitter message of his own: “After embarking on a record … spending binge that left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs?”
Actually, the tweet was with several typos. “First of all, John obviously needs to work on his typing skills,” Obama joked. “Obviously John’s the speaker of the House. He’s a Republican. And so, this is a slightly skewed question,” he commented.
He acknowledged that job growth hasn’t been fast enough, but then turned it around and asked why Boehner and other lawmakers won’t pay for road, sewer and bridge projects that could put people to work right away.
“We haven’t gotten the kind of cooperation that I’d like to see on some of those ideas and initiatives,” he said. “But I’m just going to keep on trying and eventually I’m sure the speaker will see the light.”
When president was asked by one Twitter user what mistakes he had made in office, Obama singled out the moribund housing market. “The continuing decline in the housing market is something that hasn’t bottomed out as quickly as we expected,” he said.
“We’ve had to revamp our housing program several times to try to help people stay in their homes and try to start lifting home values up. ‘RenegadeNerd’ asked whether Obama would raise the debt ceiling on his own, bypassing Congress on the grounds that it would be unconstitutional for the U.S. not to pay its bills.
That’s a strategy some Democrats want Obama to employ. As Obama pressures Congress to raise the debt ceiling, some lawmakers have advanced the argument that the whole idea of a debt ceiling may be unconstitutional.
“I don’t think we should even get to the constitutional issue,” Obama said. “Congress has a responsibility to make sure we pay our bills. We’ve always paid them in the past.” Asked about mistakes he has made in combating the economic downturn, Obama mentioned two: one involving style, the other substance.
“One last point — I know Twitter, I’m supposed to be short,” Obama said while answering a question about education, drawing some laughter. He said he should have been clearer in explaining the severity of the recession and the time needed for the economy to heal.
He also faulted his remedies for the housing crisis, noting that “we’ve had to revamp our housing program several times to try to help people stay in their homes and try to start lifting home values up.” Twitter users send short, 140-character messages through the Internet about different issues.
The White House has tried using Twitter and other new media outlets to reach American voters, sometimes making announcements that way instead of through more traditional journalistic venues. The White House’s @whitehouse account has some 2.25 million followers.