In what looks like an attempt to win “cool” points with many of the young, tech-savvy voters he has pissed off during his presidency, Barack Obama is hosting a Google+ Hangout this afternoon, where he’ll answer a few not-at-all cherry-picked questions via live video stream. (We hope a lot of questions turn out to be about weed, like they have been at YouTube-based Town Hall events.)
Runnin’ Scared has decided to live blog the “first completely-virtual interview,” which has basically been interpreted by the press corps as a giant “fuck you” from the White House.
So . . . enjoy!
5:33: Noise! And clips from YouTube video questions.
5:35: Obama thanks one of the attendees for wearing a tie.
5:36: Anthony Million of South Carolina says that as a full-time student who works a full-time job, he can “barely make ends meet.” He wants to know if Obama will try to help “responsible people” like him earn a living wage.
5:37: Obama says that the economy is improving but that there’s still a lot of work to do. He wants to extend payroll tax cuts. For students, he wants to make college more affordable — such as boosts to the Pell Grant program and tax credits.
5:39: Jennifer says her husband has an engineering degree and 10 years of experience but is nevertheless jobless. She wants to know why the U.S. keeps letting foreigners come to America to work when there are unemployed Americans.
5:40: Obama: There are engineering jobs! No, really! Jennifer goes back at Obama and asks why the U.S. still allows the H1 visa program when Americans are out of work, just like her husband! He says to send her husband’s résumé.
5:44: “One of the reasons we’ve made an investment in clean energy like batteries for electric cars is because there’s an expectation that that’s going to be an area of increased demand” — Obama on what he plans on doing to protect the auto industry.
5:55: An unemployed occupier — and Obama supporter — asks the president via YouTube how he’s going to help her. He says that “we need to have rules of the road the work for everybody. That’s the foundation of an economy that’s going to last in the long term.”
5:47: Ramon, who’s on the live stream, asks if consolidation of Small Business Administration offices might hurt small biz in the U.S. Obama says that right now: “It’s really hard to navigate for small businesses. They might have to go to four different agencies, five different agencies, to figure out where to get a loan . . . our whole goal here is to set up a one-stop process for small business.”
5:50: Christine Wolf, via live stream, says that she was never politically active before Obama took office. But she’s worried about the kids! She doesn’t want them hearing about foreclosures. “I was raised in a generation in which discussions about financial matters were either taboo or the messages were confusing,” she says. She wants to know: “What you would do to create a new narrative for the children of our nation to help them look beyond the economic crisis that we’re in?”
5:53: Obama says: “What I’m trying to do for kids and everyone else is remain hopeful.” (More hope!) Also, he wants to push for kids’ financial literacy.
5:54: On the topic of foreign policy, a homeless vet in Boston asks Obama via YouTube: “Why are we sending money over there?” referring to countries such as Pakistan.
5:56: “We only spend about 1 percent of our budget on foreign aid,” Obama says. “That potentially saves us from having to do with a military crisis somewhere down the road that’s even more expensive. So besides it being the right thing to do . . . it’s also important for people to understand that it’s part of our overall security policy.”
5:57: Three people in the five-person hangout think that the U.S. spends too much money on foreign aid. Jennifer, who points out yet again that she has a “college-educated husband,” says that it’s hard for Americans to understand why we help poor countries.
5:59: Obama tries to explain the basics of aid-based security. “Hopefully at some point, they will become consumers of our goods.”
6:00: Evan, from Brooklyn (!) wants to know about drones in Iraq. Obama responds to the YouTube question by saying that the New York Times story on drones that ran today is “over-written.” We’re not attacking people “wily-nilly” with drones, apparently.
6:03: Still droning on about . . . drones. Obama says that they’re good against terrorist threats and that Al-Qaeda has been “really weakened.”
6:04: Adam and his classmates from Fremont want to know how Obama is going to help students pay off educational loans — especially when he continues to push for higher education. Obama starts to explain that he doesn’t mean for everyone to go to college — but just that everyone probably needs to get more of an education than a high school degree.
6:07: Obama: You can’t stop at high school! Oh, and school might cost less if it’s all online.
6:08: Adam has another question for Obama: He wants to know how a kid like him, from a middle-class family, could sensibly invest in college, given the lack of available jobs. Obama tells him that college isn’t just a place to “have fun” and that students should pick sensible career paths. (Read: Don’t get loans if you study the liberal arts.)
6:11: Obama thinks that it’s good that young people think about how much debt they will acquire from college. So it’s a positive sign — a sign of forward-thinking — that young folk realize that they’re going to be buried in debt. Ah!
6:13: Benjamin of Jacksonville, Florida, wants to know how the president will prevent Internet piracy, but also protect free speech at the same time. Obama thinks we can protect intellectual property without overbearing laws like PIPA and SOPA.
6:15: Michael Mozart of Connecticut wants to know why the U.S. is trying to extradite a British student for copyright infringement. Obama says that he’s not doing anything, since his office doesn’t prosecute anyone. Whoops!
6:17: Obama says that the Web’s main presidential impersonator, who asked about the role of satire via YouTube, needs more grey hair. But Obama says that he likes comedy and thinks it holds him accountable. “That kind of participation is something that I just want to keep on encouraging.”
6:19: Jennifer wants Obama to “stand up and give us a little jig real quick.” Weird. . . .
6:20: One of the participants in the hangout wants to be Obama’s doctor. Another is trying to shill his tech business. But the biggest question he has for Obama: What do you do if you want a Snickers in the middle of the night? (No, really.)
6:21: Obama tells students that he sucks at tennis. He also tells them that, even as an underdog school, they shouldn’t sweat: “How many schools have the president talking to them?”
6:22: Christine wants to know what Barack and Michelle are doing for their 20th anniversary (eyeroll. . . . ). Looks like they’re not doing anything. The date is a month before the elections. Christine then takes this opportunity to show off her kids. She also mentions that she wrote a book. Sigh.