Show Hide image

I am Barack Obama, President of the United States -- AMA

The President enters the source of memes, and comes out unscathed.

Barack Obama, the President of the United States, offered himself up to the self-proclaimed "front page of the internet",, telling them to "ask me anything". His post garnered 22,470 comments, and he answered 10 questions.

On the corrupting influence of money on politics, Obama said:

…Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilising a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn't revisit it)…

On the most difficult decision Obama had to make:

The decision to surge our forces in afghanistan [sic – Obama also reveals a tendency to not cap-up phrases]…

On internet freedom:

Internet freedom is something I know you all care passionately about; I do too…

On space:

Making sure we stay at the forefront of space exploration is a big priority for my administration…

On his favourite basketball player:

Jordan - I'm a Bulls guy.                                                             

When asked for the recipe for the White House's beer, he responded:

It will be out soon! I can tell from first hand experience, it is tasty.

On the first thing he'll do on November 7th (the day after the election), win or lose:

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.

On how he'll help small businesses:

We've really focused on this since I came into office - 18 tax cuts for small business, easier funding from the SBA…

On the economic difficulties faced by young people, Obama wrote his longest 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…

And finally, on how he balances family life and being president:

It's hard - truthfully the main thing other than work is just making sure that I'm spending enough time with michelle and the girls. The big advantage I have is that I live above the store - so I have no commute!… By the way, if you want to know what I think about this whole reddit experience - NOT BAD!

Half an hour spent answering ten questions, 200,000 live viewers, 1.8m subscribers – was it successful?

Mashable's Christ Taylor points out that, for Obama, the event was a definite win:

Ask any politician if they would like to speak directly to 1.8 million people for an hour — or even 200,000 — and they’ll probably start weeping with joy at the thought. For comparison, Obama’s DNC acceptance speech in 2008 — held in the open air at Mile-high stadium in Denver — had a capacity crowd of 84,000.

But for democracy, it was somewhat less successful. The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal explains:

Think about it this way: a politician gets a captive audience (of say, 200,000 people) to pay attention to and identify with him. The audience gets to ask a bunch of questions from which the politician selects only those he wants to answer. Those he does answer, he can answer at any length and with any level of detail. There are no follow-up questions and answers, no real penalties for ducking.

This is a first for political campaigning, and it's representative of the increasing importance of the tech-savvy youth to elections. But will it change the world? Not yet.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.