President Barack Obama paid an unannounced visit to the tech/discussion/meme/everything site Reddit yesterday to do an AMA session with, well, everyone on Reddit. An AMA or Ask Me Anything session is where a person first verifies who they are (by posting a photo) and then answers the various and usually wide-ranging questions asked of them. Obama answered a lot of very interesting questions and, very smartly, avoided the sillier questions. His AMA was so popular that he crashed the website due to heavy Internet traffic. Click below to read a report of Obama‘s AMA session on Reddit, see some of the questions and answers and see what he thought about the whole experience.
Well, this is a first. President Barack Obama, the first prez to do a Google Hangout, is now the first president to do a Reddit “Ask Me Anything,” letting Internet users throw him questions in real time to respond to (Reddit handle: PresidentObama). What’s next? Will Obama add us all to his Gchat? “This is an example of how technology and the internet can empower the sorts of conversations that strengthen our democracy over the long run,” wrote Obama after answering ten questions. The content of his answers was less important than the fact that he was on Reddit writing them. As Rolling Stone reporter Tim Dickinson astutely observed on Twitter, “For Obama, the platform is the message. Reddit AMA says to GENX/Y: ‘I get you.’” The RNC wasn’t the only thing Obama crashed with this stunt. Minutes after announcing the Q&A and linking to the site from the Barack Obama Twitter account, Reddit started crashing, unable to handle the surge of traffic. The Obama AMA page was switched over to “Read Only” mode, meaning no new questions could be submitted. Luckily, thousands of questions were submitted pre-crash. The big question on my mind was whether the Internet public (anonymous and distant) would ask harder questions than the media does, or if they’d be awed by his presence and throw him softballs. Obama answered the serious questions first, skipping those he didn’t want to weigh in on, and saved the fun ones for the end. (Good news, beer lovers, the White House will be releasing the recipe for its home brew.)
SharkGirl: We know how Republicans feel about protecting Internet Freedom. Is Internet Freedom an issue you’d push to add to the Democratic Party’s 2012 platform?
PresidentObama: Internet freedom is something I know you all care passionately about; I do too. We will fight hard to make sure that the internet remains the open forum for everybody – from those who are expressing an idea to those to want to start a business. And although there will be occasional disagreements on the details of various legislative proposals, I won’t stray from that principle – and it will be reflected in the platform.
ormirian: Are you considering increasing funds to the space program?
PresidentObama: Making sure we stay at the forefront of space exploration is a big priority for my administration. The passing of Neil Armstrong this week is a reminder of the inspiration and wonder that our space program has provided in the past; the curiosity probe on mars is a reminder of what remains to be discovered. The key is to make sure that we invest in cutting edge research that can take us to the next level – so even as we continue work with the international space station, we are focused on a potential mission to a asteroid as a prelude to a manned Mars flight.
FifthSurprise: What was the most difficult decision that you had to make during this term?
PresidentObama: The decision to surge our forces in afghanistan. Any time you send our brave men and women into battle, you know that not everyone will come home safely, and that necessarily weighs heavily on you. The decision did help us blunt the taliban’s momentum, and is allowing us to transition to afghan lead – so we will have recovered that surge at the end of this month, and will end the war at the end of 2014. But knowing of the heroes that have fallen is something you never forget.
hmlee: I am recent law school graduate. Despite graduating from a top school, I find myself unemployed with a large student loan debt burden. While I’m sure my immediate prospects will improve in time, it’s difficult to be optimistic about the future knowing that my ability to live a productive life — to have a fulfilling career, to buy a house, to someday raise a family — is hampered by my debt and the bleak economic outlook for young people. I know that I’m not alone in feeling this way. Many of us are demoralized. Your 2008 campaign was successful in large part due to the efforts of younger demographics. We worked for you, we campaigned for you, and we turned out in record numbers to vote for you. What can I say to encourage those in similar situations as I am to show up again in November? What hope can you offer us for your second term?
PresidentObama: I understand how tough it is out there for recent grads. You’re right – your long term prospects are great, but that doesn’t help in the short term. Obviously some of the steps we have taken already help young people at the start of their careers. Because of the health care bill, you can stay on your parent’s plan until you’re twenty six. Because of our student loan bill, we are lowering the debt burdens that young people have to carry. But the key for your future, and all our futures, is an economy that is growing and creating solid middle class jobs – and that’s why the choice in this election is so important. The other party has two ideas for growth – more taxs cuts for the wealthy (paid for by raising tax burdens on the middle class and gutting investments like education) and getting rid of regulations we’ve put in place to control the excesses on wall street and help consumers. These ideas have been tried, they didnt work, and will make the economy worse. I want to keep promoting advanced manufacturing that will bring jobs back to America, promote all-American energy sources (including wind and solar), keep investing in education and make college more affordable, rebuild our infrastructure, invest in science, and reduce our deficit in a balanced way with prudent spending cuts and higher taxes on folks making more than $250,000/year. I don’t promise that this will solve all our immediate economic challenges, but my plans will lay the foundation for long term growth for your generation, and for generations to follow. So don’t be discouraged – we didn’t get into this fix overnight, and we won’t get out overnight, but we are making progress and with your help will make more.
suzmerk: What are you going to do to end the corrupting influence of money in politics during your second term?
PresidentObama: Money has always been a factor in politics, but we are seeing something new in the no-holds barred flow of seven and eight figure checks, most undisclosed, into super-PACs; they fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. We need to start with passing the Disclose Act that is already written and been sponsored in Congress – to at least force disclosure of who is giving to who. We should also pass legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists. Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.
karlfranks: Who’s your favourite Basketball player?
PresidentObama: Jordan – I’m a Bulls guy.
daveforamerica: What is the first thing you’ll do on November 7th, win or lose?
PresidentObama: Win or lose, I’ll be thanking everybody who is working so hard – especially all the volunteers in field offices all across the country, and the amazing young people in our campaign offices.
PartyInYourMouth: How are you going help small businesses in 2013 and 2014? and what if any bills are you going to implement for small businesses, in 2013, and 2014?
PresidentObama: We’ve really focused on this since I came into office – 18 tax cuts for small business, easier funding from the SBA. Going forward, I want to keep taxes low for the 98 percent of small businesses that have $250,000 or less in income, make it easier for small business to access financing, and expand their opportunities to export. And we will be implementing the Jobs Act bill that I signed that will make it easier for startups to access crowd-funding and reduce their tax burden at the start-up stage.
silent1mezzo: What’s the recipe for the White House’s beer?
PresidentObama: It will be out soon! I can tell from first hand experience, it is tasty.
gobearss: How do you balance family life and hobbies with, well, being the POTUS?
PresidentObama: It’s hard – truthfully the main thing other than work is just making sure that I’m spending enough time with michelle and the girls. The big advantage I have is that I live above the store – so I have no commute! So we make sure that when I’m in DC I never miss dinner with them at 6:30 pm – even if I have to go back down to the Oval for work later in the evening. I do work out every morning as well, and try to get a basketball or golf game in on the weekends just to get out of the bubble. Speaking of balance, though, I need to get going so I’m back in DC in time for dinner. But I want to thank everybody at reddit for participating – this is an example of how technology and the internet can empower the sorts of conversations that strengthen our democracy over the long run. AND REMEMBER TO VOTE IN NOVEMBER – if you need to know how to register, go to Gottaregister.com. By the way, if you want to know what I think about this whole reddit experience – NOT BAD!
The “Not Bad” comment was in reference to the Obama Not Bad meme that has been very popular on Reddit for the past year or so … clearly, the President has his finger on the pulse of what is going on with the Internet generation. What I love most about this AMA is that Obama took on both serious and fun questions, showing an ease that I think highlights his ability to connect with people … especially young people. If you would like to read the transcript from Obama‘s entire AMA on Reddit, you can do so HERE. Did any of y’all get to participate in the AMA yesterday? If not, what questions would YOU like to ask the President if given the opportunity.