Obama's YouTube question and answer session
President Obama on Monday took questions submitted by the public through YouTube's CitizenTube in a chat broadcast live online from the White House and on YouTube. More than 11,000 questions were submitted and received more than 630,000 votes; Obama addressed the questions that won the greatest number of votes. YouTube's Steve Grove moderated the discussion.
By Michael D. Shear
A string of foreign policy questions prompted mostly expected answers from President Obama, who closed the half-hour Q & A session out with a response to criticism of his energy policy from college students.
On his conduct of the war on terror, Obama emphasized that al-Qaeda is "our target" and vowed to fight them "on all fronts." But he also said that the administration will "battle them with ideas."
On the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, he pledged to try and move the warring parties toward some kind of resolution.
And when asked about the delay in closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Obama blamed it mostly on what he called "rank politics" that were getting in the way.
"Unfortunately, there has been a lot of political resistance," he said. "Frankly, some of it just politically motivated."
The final question came from a group of college students, who asked why he continued to support expensive and dirty nuclear, coal and oil sources rather than wind and solar.
The president defended his support for nuclear, and said that the continued use of coal in India and China make it necessary for the U.S. to help find ways to make "clean coal" a possibility.
"If we are ever going to deal with climate change in a serious way," he said, "We've got to develop clean coal technology."
2:16 p.m. Questions shift to small businesses, education and an open Internet
A couple of softballs now.
Two questions urged President Obama to do something for struggling small businesses, giving him the opportunity to riff a bit on the budget proposals he unveiled today that would provide tax breaks for small businesses and more capital for community banks.
A question followed about keeping the Internet free of fees, giving Obama a chance to declare that such fees for access run "counter to the whole spirit of openness."
And then a few about education. A college student who said he works three jobs asked the president what he's doing to making college tuition cheaper.
That provided an opportunity for the president to talk about legislation now pending in the Senate which would change the way student loans are processed and use that money to increase Pell grants and add funds for community colleges.
2:04 p.m. Health reform dominates the opening
Right off the bat, the questions have gotten a bit tough.
A Silver Spring, Md., man offered up the first question with a video clip of Obama declaring that health care reform "will not wait another year." Two questions followed criticizing Obama for repeatedly breaking his transparency promises by participating in a health-care debate that they said took place behind closed doors.
Obama was defensive, saying, "We have been certified by independent groups as the most transparent White House in history." But he added later that "it's a fair criticism." As for health-care reform, he said he "hoped" Republicans would get behind it.
"We are calling our Republican colleagues to get behind a serious health reform bill," he said. "My hope is they accept that invitation and that they work together with us over the next several weeks to get it done."
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