Monday, March 30, 2009

The Virtual Barack Obama

I thought last Tuesday's press conference was good - not exciting but so different from Bush's press flatulences. I still think the press was pretty dull (except points for Chuck Todd) and I suspect the President would have liked some better questions.

I do think Obama shirked the question comparing the federal government and Andrew Coumo over the differences in going after AIG. Generally speaking, the federal government has nothing compared with state regulation of insurance companies. Good answer, though, about wanting to know what he is talking about before he talks. Check out Obama Rallies Nation for more.

But I missed the online stuff that Obama is doing. Here is a sampling:

To put this idea into action--and give the busy White House something tangible to work with--The Nation is teaming up with a broad coalition of new and traditional media, including the Washington Times and the Personal Democracy Forum, to begin gathering questions from you, the public."

"Ask the President" uses CommunityCounts.com, an interactive portal that provided public voting on questions for politicians during the presidential primaries. It was built by David Colarusso, a 30-year-old law student and former high school teacher. (You can participate now at communitycounts.com/obama.)

The coalition is inviting people to write in questions or submit them as videos. Participants can see all the questions on the site and vote on the ones the president should answer. The system allows only one vote per question from each Internet IP address, but there is no limit on how many questions people can support. The portal also enables anyone to embed questions on other websites. So after posting a question about bank nationalization, for example, a participant can then link to that question on another site--a blog or news site--and appeal to others to back it.

And The Nation's The President's Never-Ending Virtual Town Hall:

While the town hall did not break major "news," in the conventional sense, it clearly operated on a wider axis than traditional White House events.

Take healthcare, for example. The administration only talks about employer-based reforms, and so far, the Washington press corps has accepted those boundaries. In the president's first two press conferences, there was not a a single question on popular proposals for single-payer healthcare. Many citizens, however, are still wondering if the United States will adopt "a universal healthcare system, like many European countries," as a Californian named Richard wrote, in what became the most popular health care question on WhiteHouse.gov. (A single-payer query was also one of the most popular questions according to citizen votes at Ask The President, a similar, independent portal backed by The Nation, the Washington Times and Personal Democracy Forum.) In response, Obama argued that the United States can pursue universal healthcare without abandoning employer-based healthcare. "I don't think the best way to fix our healthcare system is to suddenly completely scrap what everybody is accustomed to," he said, "and the vast majority of people already have [employer healthcare]."

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