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The YouTube Interview with President Obama

This is a raw pool report prepared by Kendra Marr of Politico following Monday’s YouTube interview with President Barack Obama:

Citizens submitted questions during and after Obama’s the State of the Union. People cast more than 640,000 votes for 11,000 questions from around the world, and YouTube selected a few dozen of the highest rated questions in a various topics – jobs, environment, immigration, etc.

Obama answered 12 questions. The interview went on nearly an hour, starting at 1:47 pm and ending at 2:23 pm.

Newsy items:

Obama addressed the conflict in Sudan, which actually wasn’t in his State of the Union. Obama said the US, UN and other countries are working to broker a series of agreements to stabilize the country and allow refugees back into their homes. “We continue to put pressure on the Sudanese government. If they are not cooperative in these efforts, then it going to be appropriate for us to conclude engagement doesn’t work,” he said.

A Texas questioner asked why the health care debate hasn’t been on C-SPAN like candidate Obama promised. He admitted it’s hard to film all the different health care meetings in and out of Congress. And Obama said he is “making sure that in this last leg, this last five yards before we get to the goal line, that everybody understands exactly what’s going on in the health care bill, that there are no surprises, no secrets.”

The rundown:

The interviewer Steve Grove (grey suit, blue tie with red dots), YouTube’s news and political director and former Boston Globe reporter, and Obama (darker grey suit, blue tie) sat on either side of a flat screen TV.

There were two cameras filming, plus a computer off to the side monitoring the live comments coming over YouTube and Twitter (though the interview didn’t incorporate this live feedback). Grove used a silver MacBook pro.

You pooler seemed to be sitting in the war corner of the room … two framed swords, portraits of Native American chiefs and shelves of books on old battles.

Obama last did a YouTube interview as a presidential candidate. “It went ok the first time,” he joked to Grove, before the cameras rolled.

Grove asked about the budget. Obama said, “I announced the budget and no one threw rotten eggs.” He added, “Budget day is like tax day.”

Question 1: A Silver Spring resident asked if the 40 million uninsured will get insurance this year. Obama said, “We are calling on our Republican colleagues to get behind a serious health reform bill.”

Question 2: Health care debate on C-SPAN. (see above)

Question 3: YouTube showed two videos from small businesses that are having trouble growing in this economy. Obama laid out his most recent plan for a hiring tax credit and how health care reform will greatly unburden small business.

Question 4: A Floridian man asked why banks are slow to modify home loans. Obama agreed that banks need to do more and he’ll put more pressure on them.

Question 5: Obama enters the lightening round. Grove asked, good idea or bad idea?

– The privatization of government agencies like the post office? Bad idea.

– Lowering your insurance premiums if you take health and wellness classes? Good idea, as long as insurance companies don’t discriminate against the old and sick.

– Installing solar panels on all federal and state buildings? Good idea.

Question 6: Does the president believe in a free and open Internet? “I’m a big believer in net neutrality,” he said.

Question 7: A college student told Obama he has 14 credits and 3 part time jobs. “College tuition costs are crushing a lot of folks,” Obama said. He then outlined his recent plan to cut down student debt.

Question 8: A math teacher asked Obama what it means to be an educated person. Obama said “creative teaching” is so important to learning how to learn and think. He said he wants Sasha and Malia to know how to poke holes in arguments and work around problems.

Question 9: A citizen asked how Obama can withdraw troops and effectively combat terrorism at the same time. Obama emphasized that al Qaeda is his main target and that the 30,000 troop surge will be training Afghan forces.

Question 10: Sudan. (see above)

Question 11: Why close Guantanamo? Obama noted that the prison has been a huge recruiting tool for terrorists. Yet he’s had some push back from Congress. “Unfortunately there’s been a lot of political resistance and frankly some of it is politically motivated,” he said.

Question 12: Why does the government continue to invest in dirty coal, drilling and nuclear reactors? Obama said he is pushing for clean alternative energies. “Unfortunately no matter how fast we ramp up those energy sources we’re still going to have enormous energy needs that will be unmet by alternative energy,” he said.

Obama ends by saying, “This was terrific” and “I hope we can do this on a more regular basis.” To the viewers, he said he hoped to answer their questions next time. To Grove, he said he liked the “way the technology is structured.”

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