Friday, March 27, 2009

Grading Obama's First Virtual Town Hall Meeting

Yesterday, the White House held it's first virtual town hall meeting. If you didn't catch it, the full video is below. I give him a...


First, what he did well:

  • He gets points for even having a virtual town hall meeting. While powered by relatively new technology, I have to believe that if Bush had wanted to pull this off, he could have.
  • He gets points for taking from an informational site, to an interactive one. It's a good start, but like any technological advance, it's not an end point. I think it's critical that they continue to improve Though, all things considered, this was a good first step.

  • He gets points for explaining complex phenomena is understandable ways. For example, he explained the difference between a leading and following economic indicator, or how the student loan system has some potential flaws in it - and he did so in a way that a layman could understand. My guess is that looking back Obama won't be remembered so much as a great speaker, but as a great educator. Whether it's race, patriotism, the economy or any other topic, he makes his strongest arguments when his main emphasis is on educating you about the topic.

Where he lost points:

  • I have to say, I as extremely disappointed in the handling of the marijuana question. Go ahead and joke about it a bit, if you want. But the fact is, your constituents asked you a question, the very least you could do is give a serious answer. A "No, because I said so answer" runs contrary to the goal of being a reason based government; and seems just plain unnecessary. Either he has an informed opinion on this topic, or he should be up front about it and get one.
  • One of the fundamental problems with these town hall meetings is that so many questions are asked, that the administration can inevitably pick the ones that suit their needs. Or as rrrobbed quipped:
    Obama online "town hall", 29000 questions submitted means "we're going to find questions about the topics we want to talk about." Pointless.
    The Town Hall meeting ends up being more of a speech and less of a impromptu discussion. This is definitely a non-trivial problem to fix and I'm not sure what the solution is. Voting on the questions is definitely a good thing, but it's not quite enough yet.

So, Obama team, what are you planning to do to pull your score up to an A?

Here's the whole virtual meeting:

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