The ever hip on technology president, Barack Obama, took to the social news forum reddit yesterday to answer users' questions. Suffice to say, the site crashed at one point and broke its record for number of users at one time.
Before getting into some of the questions that were asked and how the president answered, it might be worth noting the manner in which he got the word out to the "redditors," as they've been called. He reached out to them in the way he knew he could contact them the best: Twitter.
Hey, everyone: I'll be taking your questions online today. Ask yours here: OFA.BO/gBof44 -bo
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 29, 2012
Proof that it was him? This "verification picture" of himself at his MacBook posted on Imgur.
Unsure what reddit is? It is one of the most popular sites for viral stories, where content is submitted by regular users. But it's not all roses and puppy dogs. Last year TheBlaze reported that there was a seedier side to reddit that included pornography and blatantly racist discussions. TheBlaze noted Alexa, a web information company, finding that 9 percent of traffic driven to reddit was from porn-related inquiries. Google Trends also indicated an uptick in traffic driven to the site for pornography as well. In February 2012, the site instituted an official ban on child pornography or suggestive images of minors.
More recently, TheBlaze blog pointed to a trending discussion in the politics section of the website regarding why Republicans are "crazy." The topic: "Why is it that I constantly hear about crazy s**t Republicans are doing but I never hear about Democrats doing anything at all?"
The 30-minute chat with Obama began at 4:30 p.m. EST and as of Thursday morning, the main thread titled "I am Barack Obama, President of the United States -- AMA" had more than 22,000 comments. The Los Angeles Times reports the conversation allowed the site to break its record for most users at one time.
Here are some of the questions that were asked and how the president answered:
- What was the most difficult decision that you had to make during this term? Answer: 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.
- Who's your favourite Basketball player? Answer: Jordan - I'm a Bulls guy.
- 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?Answer: 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.
- What is the first thing you'll do on November 7th, win or lose? Answer: 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.
- What's the recipe for the White House's beer? It will be out soon! I can tell from first hand experience, it is tasty.
- Are you considering increasing funds to the space program? 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.
- I am recent law school graduate. Despite graduating from a top school, I find myself unemployed with a large student loan debt burden. [...] 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? Answer: 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.
During the chat, Obama also said the nation should consider mobilizing behind a constitutional amendment process to overturn the Supreme Court ruling that loosened restrictions on money in politics. The 2010 Citizens United ruling paved the way for a flood of campaign cash from corporations, unions and wealthy interests.
The president says that even if the amendment process fell short, "it can shine a spotlight" on super PACs and, in his words, "help apply pressure for change."
Obama says that in the meantime there's a need for more disclosure of the large campaign contributions flowing into super PACs and that such contributions, quote, "fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process."
The president ended his reddit conversation telling users he had to get going to make dinner in D.C. and reminding redditors to register to vote and make it to the polls in November.
"By the way, if you want to know what I think about this whole reddit experience - NOT BAD!" he concluded.
Read more of the reddit conversation here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.