The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


The Clickocracy

Questions Pour in for Obama's Online Chat

By Jose Antonio Vargas
Tens of thousands of people have submitted questions they hope to ask President Obama today at his first online town hall meeting.

Shortly after "Open for Questions," was announced early Tuesday evening -- hours after this column gave a C+ as its first monthly grade -- thousands headed to the site to post questions and vote the submitted questions up or down.

Some 41,300 users had submitted 42,000 questions and cast 1.5 million votes by around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. When voting closed at 9:30 a.m., about 93,000 people had submitted a total of 104,000 questions, and cast 3.6 million votes about which of those questions should be asked.

The actual online session will begin at 11:30 a.m. and last at least one hour.

Jared Bernstein, who's written on's blog, has been tasked to "facilitate" the town hall, posing selected questions and even video queries to Obama. Bernstein serves as chief economic advisor to Vice President Biden.

And judging by the online tally, it's clear that the economy is on everyone's mind. Of the 11 specific topics about which users can post questions, the most popular as of 6 a.m. today were "Jobs," "Budget," and "Financial Stability."

But proving the unmistakable draw (and sheer organization) of "Mary Jane" activists, and the free-for-all nature of this enterprise, the top vote-getters aren't strictly about the ongoing economic crisis. Instead, some questioners found ways to link that topic to the issue of legalization of marijuana. Under the topic "Financial Stability," for example, a user named Anthony from Warrington, Pa., asked: "Would you support the bill currently going through the California legislation to legalize and tax marijuana, boosting the economy and reducing drug cartel related violence?" It's highly unlikely that Bernstein would post such a question to Obama.

Bernstein is probably more likely to select top vote-getters from the "Education," "Health Care Reform" and "Green Jobs and Energy" topics. But economic woes also permeate those questions. A user named "Am" from Chicago asked under "Education": ""For students graduating from college and graduate school, many of us have obscene amounts of debt. Do you have any plans to help alleviate some of that debt, given the current state of the job market?"

Obama will answer these online questions from the White House's East Room, the same spot where on Tuesday he held the second prime-time news conference of his presidency. The location signals the importance that Obama and his new media team place on this online town hall.

Yet, for all the talk of how this Web-savvy new president plans to use the Internet to bring more transparency and accessibility to the White House -- a task that's very different from campaigning, as Macon Phillips, the White House new media director has pointed out -- today is not the first time that a sitting president has conducted an interactive chat through An online feature called "Ask the White House" was born during the second half of the Clinton presidency and continued during President Bush's tenure.

Posted at 7:06 AM ET on Mar 26, 2009  | Category:  The Clickocracy
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Apparently these "Teleprompter junkies" think that Obama has some kind of software that not only anticipates the questions he gets through the use of a Vulcan mind-meld, it can also generate answers while throwing on an invisibility cloak.

Posted by: JRM2 | March 26, 2009 8:01 PM

"You guys actually believe Obama is answering this c rap? He can't talk without a teleprompter. His aides are doing the answering. What a bunch of morons!

Posted by: candyzky | March 26, 2009 11:59 AM"

Hey ding-dong, EVERY President reads prepared remarks from a piece of paper or a teleprompter. EVERY press conference begins with a prepared remark.

Did you watch the press conference after the prepared remark?, or how about his teleprompter there.

Of course we could all sit and watch Bush butcher the english language without one, and Sarah Ps only shining moment came with one, her worst, most disastrous performances that may have cost McCain the Presidency came when she had to think on her feet.

If you think a graduate from harvard and the head of the harvard law review is a moron then republicans should LOVE him.

Posted by: JRM2 | March 26, 2009 7:58 PM


Posted by: rhelwig1 | March 26, 2009 11:17 AM"


Posted by: JRM2 | March 26, 2009 7:52 PM

"How come the average citizen asks far more relevant questions than the MSM? It's because we live out here in the real world. And Obama has connected to us.

Posted by: OldManTalking | March 26, 2009 12:56 PM"
It's because we don't have corporate shareholders that are only interested in generating high ratings

Posted by: JRM2 | March 26, 2009 7:47 PM

randy_boyd - I'd respond to you but first there would have to be something worth responding to. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that what President Obama stands for is just too deep for your intellect. Did you not learn not to judge a book by it's cover? If we were to look at your cover, what would we judge. Black or White - there is no difference, it's the person behind the color that matters.

I have to agree with those who say enough of the GOP nonsense. Frankly, I just don’t generally believe anymore what most of them have to say. Let’s move on and get down to business. It doesn’t really matter what our President does, according to the GOP it will be wrong. It doesn’t seem to be worth arguing with the GOP, as they have been polarized and in denial for so long they simply cannot see beyond the end of their own nose, however long it might be. I sometimes wonder if they actually believe what comes out of their mouths. Really.

Rome was not built in a day, and the mess we are in will not be solved in a day either. Instead of working against our President we need to be working with him. I think whatever questions he answers, it is important that he does answer them in a truthful manner, and I haven't seen otherwise yet. The time will come that he will answer all our questions if we will but be patient.

Posted by: julieforBarack | March 26, 2009 6:47 PM

In his televised town hall meeting, President Obama continues to miss the point about "failing schools." The schools are not failing, the economy is failing the parents.

I've taught as either a volunteer or paid staffer at every level from the Head Start program in Richmond up through being a T.A. at SFSU. The best predictor of student performance is the resources - skills and attitudes - with which students arrive at school.

Students who arrive from neighborhoods where a high percentage of the adults - and particularly the men - are either missing or unemployed and recently released from prison, they arrive at school convinced that the American system is stacked gains them.

The cure - and the only thing which will work long term - is replacing incarceration with employment.

Posted by: fogmeister | March 26, 2009 3:05 PM

Reading thru this set of responses to the article gives anyone the idea that virtually everyone who writes a response (on either side) is writing from a half-filled position. No one here has the full story from their side. Just what they have read — not unlike the talking heads so many revere.
So much misinformation can't be very good for the country. Anyone's country.

Posted by: bobzaguy | March 26, 2009 2:56 PM

old man talking:
and that is precisely what is "irking" everyone.
Our President is human and has connected with the common man.
who would have thunk it, eh?

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | March 26, 2009 1:46 PM


POTUS and Robert Gibbs must be amazed each day as the mainstream media persists in asking the same question sixteen different ways, expecting a different result.

The premier investigative reporter of our time, Seymour Hersh, claims that former VP Cheney ran an "executive assassination ring" out of the White House...

...and that the CIA and the military have been involved in domestic "ops" against American citizens...

...and not ONE question from the WH sheep herd.

Perhaps Team Obama's new pecking order is intended to send this message:

The people deserve to hear us answer the tough questions that the mainstream media -- due to conditioning or perhaps due to their own laziness -- refuse to ask.




"Google" it.

Will it claim among its often unknowing victims the good intentions of Team Obama?

No national crisis can be solved so long as covertly engineered injustice and tyranny subvert human and civil rights and the rule of law in America.

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 26, 2009 1:43 PM

Pot question blown off as the internet fluke. BS

Even, Obama, who won the election because of funding raised from the internet. Like too many others, it appears he still thinks internet users aren't "real" people.

I am disappointed about the pot question!
But, I am more disappointed I was waved off as a fluke not representing the feelings of large percentage of Americans.

Posted by: georgethornton1 | March 26, 2009 1:02 PM

Just finished listening to the live online Q&A with the President. I enjoyed it very much. I spent 30-60 minutes yesterday reviewing some of the questions that were posted and voting on about 60 of them. I really felt that the questions selected today were representative of the questions that were submitted. And I have a much better understanding of the President's priorities and principles.

Posted by: pam_leitterman | March 26, 2009 1:01 PM

How come the average citizen asks far more relevant questions than the MSM? It's because we live out here in the real world. And Obama has connected to us.

Posted by: OldManTalking | March 26, 2009 12:56 PM

monk4hall... please... don't take it personally - I'm speaking in generalities - I'm not talking about taking away Pell Grants (based on need) and the GI bill (based on service to our country). The person asking the question is absolutely NOT talking about people like you. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but someone who works their way through college and qualifies for Pell Grants along the way is not going to emerge from college with "obscene amounts of debt." I'm talking about a much broader issue related to young middle-class kids feeling entitled and would never consider going to a 2-year school for fear of embarrassment, not the hard-working people like yourself that earn their way through college. I myself worked my way through Jr. College but observed way too many kids wasting their own or their parents money - I'm sure you observed that too. That's who I'm talking about. Sorry if my rant was too broad... I'm not a Republican, BTW.

Posted by: GodFamilyNation | March 26, 2009 12:52 PM

Godfamilynation (ha --puh-lease) writes "YOU were the one who decided to go to a school you couldn't afford. YOU were the one who decided to forgo an on-campus job so that you could focus on "studying" new ways to get drunk every weekend."

Um, mind read much? You don't know the slightest thing you're talking about. Guess all those GI bill people were just freeloaders wanting to get drunk every weekend.

We're talking about helping our children -- OUR children--go to college you ignoramus. Myself, I worked two, sometimes three jobs to get my degree, but had it not been for Pell grants I would be up to my eyeballs in debt -- from a state school, not some "college I can't afford."

Jesus. Are all you republicans such jerks? What is WRONG with you people?

Posted by: monk4hall | March 26, 2009 12:31 PM

Some Limbaugh ignoramus wrote: "You guys actually believe Obama is answering this c rap? He can't talk without a teleprompter."

Um, are you watching? Obama is giving long, thoughtful answers to a wide range of questions. Do you see a teleprompter? Are you that stupid that you parrot whatever Rush Limbaugh says just because he says it?

Our country is on a precipice and you and your stupid ilk are talking about teleprompters.

And while we're at it, George Bush read a child's book while the planes went in, he launched a war over WMD that didn't exist -- a second Vietnam--he botched the Katrina response, shredded the constitution and wrecked our economy.

And you -- dummies like you --stared into space. Now you're worried about teleprompters. Why? Because that fat drug addled gasbag Rush Limbaugh told you to. Jesus. Get a brain.

Posted by: monk4hall | March 26, 2009 12:26 PM

"For students graduating from college and graduate school, many of us have obscene amounts of debt. Do you have any plans to help alleviate some of that debt, given the current state of the job market?"

This is the mentality of the next generation. "Who is going to pay for my college education?" Seriously?? YOU were the one who decided to go to a school you couldn't afford. YOU were the one who decided to forgo an on-campus job so that you could focus on "studying" new ways to get drunk every weekend. Yet you think a comfortable corporate job that impresses your friends is your right. Why don't YOU get a job at a grocery store, live with your parents or in a boarding house and pay off your OWN debt?

Our president will probably tell this person how much he sympathizes and how we're looking at student loan relief, blah, blah, blah.

With zero personal responsibility, we're finished.

Posted by: GodFamilyNation | March 26, 2009 12:25 PM

I'm terminally disgusted w/GOP ranting for the sake of ranting. It's GOP self-absorption, and a "we'll take care of ours" mentality, that promoted this inevitable economic meltdown.

I'm THRILLED Pres. Obama is doing what he said he'd do, and (OH, yeah!) doing the tough stuff that needs to be done.

Posted by: drjillshackford1 | March 26, 2009 12:21 PM

I hope the drug addled gasbag, Rush Limbaugh, is watching. I don't see a teleprompter in the room. What a . . . rhymes with schmoush.

Posted by: monk4hall | March 26, 2009 12:20 PM

I get so tired of hearing Republican rant. Where were they when Bush spent our money and ran our debt up trillions of dollars? I suppose it was OK then, but not now. Why worry about a teleprompter ? Fact is Obama speaks better without notes than Bush, but no one complained about teleprompters then. Your rant tires me. I no longer listen to Republican arguments or explanations... They've taken this country down the sewer. What really gets me are the Republicans who make less than $250K a year. They've been sold a bill of goods and don't even know it.

Posted by: jykmoy | March 26, 2009 12:16 PM

You guys actually believe Obama is answering this c rap? He can't talk without a teleprompter. His aides are doing the answering. What a bunch of morons!

Posted by: candyzky | March 26, 2009 11:59 AM


Okay genius. You get in front of the nation and make a substantive speech without a prompter or without notes. You probably couldn't get your name out. If the best you can do is b and moan about a teleprompter, you've got absolutely nothing to offer. Guess you've never tried to speak with any substance on anything.

Try an original idea for a change instead of repeating what other Obama haters are saying.

Posted by: upperdeck4 | March 26, 2009 12:10 PM

You guys actually believe Obama is answering this c rap? He can't talk without a teleprompter. His aides are doing the answering. What a bunch of morons!

Posted by: candyzky | March 26, 2009 11:59 AM


Posted by: rhelwig1 | March 26, 2009 11:37 AM

"Why can't green companies for profit like mine get any of the stimulas funds to forge forward in the wind energy sector and such?"

There are ways to be listed as an approved small business vendor.

Really small, small businesses find it hard to be compliant AND to bid projects.

One business person I talked with agreed that creating partnerships with larger companies who need to fill Fed. contracts can work for you.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | March 26, 2009 11:34 AM

I would just like to thank you for reporting the truth about the most popular question(s)asked of the President in his on-line townhall meeting...The question is will he do what needs to be done or ignore the will of the people.


Murray, UT

Posted by: benjmaingray420 | March 26, 2009 11:23 AM


Posted by: rhelwig1 | March 26, 2009 11:17 AM

I look forward to hearing the words that the First Teleprompter tells Obama to speak.

Posted by: wapo9 | March 26, 2009 11:06 AM

marijuana needs to be legalized to help the economy make new jobs for people and bring more money into the economy

Posted by: MitchD1 | March 26, 2009 10:58 AM

There could be no better investment in America than to invest in America becoming energy independent! We need to utilize everything in out power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil including using our own natural resources. Create cheap clean energy, new badly needed green jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.The high cost of fuel this past year seriously damaged our economy and society. The cost of fuel effects every facet of consumer goods from production to shipping costs. It costs the equivalent of 60 cents per gallon to charge and drive an electric car. If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota.We have so much available to us such as wind and solar. Let's spend some of those bail out billions and get busy harnessing this energy. Create cheap clean energy, badly needed new jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. What a win-win situation that would be for our nation at large! There is a really good new book out by Jeff Wilson called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence Now.

Posted by: BeyondGreen | March 26, 2009 10:48 AM

Let's face it!
We the people of the United States overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama for President of the United States.
He deserves our respect, patience and trust that he will do everything in his power to fulfill his campaign promises, despite those who object to most of his ideas on improving the economy, health care, education and tax breaks for middle income folks.
I believe 'they' protest too much without having any ideas of their own as how to solve this mess our nation has been put in, in previous years.
Color is no issue in the selection of our President! It's not how he gets the 'job' done, but 'when he gets the job done'...Let's please cut him some slack and unite behind him and with him for us and the future of our children.
Thank you Mr. President...just for your constant determination to do what's 'right' for our country and not filling greedy pockets of those who wish to destroy it more than they already have.

My prayers are with you and your family as you face this immeasurable task left to your discretion and all your advisors as to how to solve it.
I and my family are behind you one hundred percent...and, yes, there may be a mistake or two made, but I have the utmost confidence that you will overcome it all in the end.

A grateful American Citizen and proud of it!!!

Posted by: Gina7 | March 26, 2009 10:36 AM

I posed a few questions at Obama's site last night - some regarding Single Payer,which he does not seem too interested in due to the power of the health insurance lobby (but all the other questioners save a few were FOR IT), and about pharma - when might we expect to see him reign it in, saving lives in the process - something ELSE he and Congress seem disinclined to do due to the force of its lobby PHRMA.

I wonder if either area will come up and, if so, what he will say (or not say).

Posted by: ebliversidge | March 26, 2009 10:19 AM

AH CHERRY-PICKING time....censoring/hand-picking questions to answer...what fun; what manipulation; what a demonstration of how 'direct democracy' can be manipulated by a community organizer; and how representative government can be thwarted.

...It's all entertainment....SURVIVOR is better fare!

Posted by: poppadata | March 26, 2009 10:19 AM

one sectioned blog at takes 2 to 3 hours to read. just one.

that is how much information is flowing.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | March 26, 2009 10:13 AM

Much is being made of citizens posing the questions to Obama versus the newsmedia. And, they're being selected by staff, not developed by 'news professionals.'
We'll see. The proof is in the question, not the questioner.

Posted by: jmf3210 | March 26, 2009 9:24 AM

To find God's stimulas package look in Nehemiah ch.5 where the loans were brought down to zero. And again one of the rules used to stimulas the economy and set things right were to bring the loans to zero every 49 years. If it is like I have heard the funds being invested back into America would be equal to giving 1 million dollars each tax payer. I suggest paying the debt of our working countrymen down an equal amount of their annual income. Yes, this would pay the banks and legitimate loan companines and would free the good people of all or a portion of their debts. Save homes and much more immediately start us re-investing in America. What about considering this plan? And no I am not running for President in the next election.
Robert Harris, Fairhope, AL.

Posted by: erinwillharris | March 26, 2009 9:02 AM

RE: The Economy
See stats on what American Cities & States can save if Marijuana were decriminalized. This IS economic!
Change we can engage in...

Posted by: marijuanalobby | March 26, 2009 8:54 AM

Why can't green companies for profit like mine get any of the stimulas funds to forge forward in the wind energy sector and such?

Posted by: erinwillharris | March 26, 2009 8:51 AM

Let me guess, Obama will get softball questions from kool-aid drinking sycophants who think his skin color makes him the greatest thing in the universe and claim victory and success.

I always thought he was an empty suit, but to be that afraid of the media which at least in part seems to be figuring out he's nothing like the guy on the campaign trail is almost comical.

It might be humorous, only this joke doesn't come with a punch line.

Posted by: randy_boyd | March 26, 2009 8:10 AM

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