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Obama takes Reddit questions, crashes Reddit

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com   |   Aug. 29, 2012 at 4:25 PM   |   Comments

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Aug. 29 (UPI) -- President Obama chose the social news site Reddit for his latest direct-to-voters online town hall Wednesday afternoon.

The Reddit forum, or subreddit, went live at four minutes after the hour--and within 15 minutes had more than 2000 comments.

Redditors, per regular forum etiquette, asked Obama to verify his identity, which he did using both a photo and a link to a tweet, signed "-bo," signalling that he composed the message himself.


Hey everybody - this is barack. Just finished a great rally in Charlottesville, and am looking forward to your questions. At the top, I do want to say that our thoughts and prayers are with folks who are dealing with Hurricane Isaac in the Gulf, and to let them know that we are going to be coordinating with state and local officials to make sure that we give families everything they need to recover.

The site struggled to keep up with the sudden deluge of traffic, with the forum alternately crashing and being placed under read-only constraints.



Once things got going, Obama answered questions about internet freedom, an issue unsurprisingly close to the hearts of Redditors.

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.

He also recalled Neil Armstrong in pledging to prioritize space exploration.
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.

The President said his most difficult decision during his term so far was to send more forces into 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.

He reiterated his plans for helping grow small businesses:
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.

Obama promised the recipe for homebrewed White House beer would be out soon, and reminded everyone his favorite basketball team (and all sports teams really) are from his hometown of Chicago.

He railed against dark money and anonymous election donations:

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.

He also emphasized his efforts to make help out recent college graduates struggling with student loans:

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.

And he even got a little personal, talking about how he makes sure to get in quality family time with Michelle, Malia and Sasha.

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.

Finally summing up the event with a reminder to vote:

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!

By the time the AMA ended, less than an hour after it began, the subreddit had nearly 13,000 comments, more than 40,000 upvotes (and 24,000 downvotes).

Finally, the campaign site, BarackObama.com, has been updated to include a Redditors for Obama donation page.

Looks like the president hopes he can cash in on his new-found geek cred for the reelection effort.

Follow @gabbilevy and @UPI on Twitter.
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