Yesterday afternoon, President Barack Obama took to the so-called front page of the Internet, Reddit.com, in order to answer questions from users in an AMA —"Ask Me Anything." Almost four million page views crashed the servers and Obama ended up answering a mere ten questions out of more than 22 thousand.
And, he ignored a lot of big issues, noted Slate:
Popular questions about medical marijuana, soldiers with posttraumatic stress disorder, and the president’s failure to close Guantanamo, meanwhile, went unanswered. “20 bucks says he doesn’t address this,” one Redditor predicted, correctly, about the marijuana question. “Should have been titled, Ask Me Almost Anything,” another grumbled.
To be generous, let's say five were legitimate questions and answers, including one on Internet freedom:
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?
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.
The sentiments are vague, but positive! That's nice. Questions about what Obama would do to remove the corrupting influence of money in politics (hilariously slanted in its wording, as if Republicans were the only ones cozying up to corporations and raking in their cash) were also answered, and those are real politic issues, so uh, good for the president there. Another query from a broke law student about their job prospects got some yay-ObamaCare in the semi-legitimate response from the president.
Another three or so were the gentlest of softballs, providing, for example, opportunity for the president to wax poetic about how hard it is to send brave American troops to die in Afghanistan.
And four of them were pure marshmellow goo: "How do you balance family life and hobbies with, well, being the POTUS?", "What is the first thing you'll do on November 7th, win or lose?", "who is your favorite basketball player", and most irritating of all "What's the recipe for the White House's beer?"
Already meme worthy, that last one.
Maybe it's not totally Obama's fault —Google/Youtube wussed out back in January by picking people who prefaced economics questions with "thanks for saving the auto industry" and excluding all the questions on marijuana, including the highest voted question by a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
Maybe it's absurd to expect anything from the president. Why would he do anything except accept fluffy questions, or slanted ones, ripe for self-aggrandizing answers? But that makes it all the more tiresome when he find another gimmick way to play man of the people for half an hour. Why even bother?
But we already know how Obama responds when faced with a direct question about marijuana legalization: after the 2009 youtube "townhall," Obama joked like a true politician, and then dismissed the question about legalization helping the economy with a breezy no. Ever since then, in spite of continued Internet-driven efforts to get Obama to actually take drug policy seriously, it's mostly been up to Attorney General Eric Holder, or Office of Drug Control Policy head Gil Kerlikowske to reassure people that the administration cares about science and health concerns, and that America doesn't have to choose between jailing people for drug crimes or forcing them into treatment.
There are other AMAs to check out, I recommend the kindergartener on her first day of school. Much more informative.