February 1st, 2010
04:16 PM ET
12 years ago

Obama answers questions from public in YouTube interview

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/01/art.boclap0201.gi.jpg caption="The president took questions Monday from YouTube users that were submitted beginning last week when he gave his first State of the Union address."]
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama appeared live on the computer screens of Americans across the country Monday, answering questions they had posed.

In an interview distributed on YouTube, the popular Internet video site, Obama lobbied for his job creation and clean energy plans while disputing one questioner's premise that he broke a campaign promise to conduct business in the open.

"People know more about the inner workings of this White House, the meetings we have," than they did under previous administrations, Obama said in response to a question from a man named Warren. "We have followed through on a lot of what we said, so Warren's mistaken in how he characterized it."

At the same time, Obama acknowledged that some later negotiations on health care reform occurred out of the public eye. He said that would change as he works with Congress in "the last five yards before we get to the goal-line."

"No secrets, no surprises," Obama said of the final health care proposals.

Steve Grove, the YouTube news and political director, sat with Obama in the White House to moderate the interview. Grove posed questions submitted and then voted on by YouTube viewers as the best offerings - some in video clips and some by e-mail.

According to YouTube, 55,340 people asked 11,695 questions for the interview. Voters then cast 643,507 votes to determine the top questions. The White House received no advance information about the questions to be asked, Grove wrote in a blog.

The questions covered major policy issues including the economy, terrorism, clean energy, health care and education costs.

Asked by a small business owner about what kind of help to expect, Obama outlined the tax relief contained in his 2011 budget proposal released earlier in the day.

A jobs bill contained in the budget would eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses and provide tax credits for hiring new employees, the president said.

He added a plug for health care reform, saying "nobody benefits more from our health care proposals than small businesses," which would get tax credits for providing health insurance for workers and realize lower costs by purchasing coverage through a proposed insurance exchange.

Another caller noted the federal bailout of large banks while people continue to have trouble getting home loans and other credit. Obama said a government loan modification program reached 4 million people so far, but warned that decreased home values mean continued problems for people who owe more than their property is worth.

"What we're trying to do is increase transparency and force all the banks to tell us exactly what are you doing with customers who want to stay in their homes," Obama said.

Asked about rising tuition that makes colleges and universities unaffordable, Obama said steps have been taken to provide more grants and help relieve student loan debt. At the same time, he said, colleges and universities have to cut costs.

Obama said statistics show that a college education greatly increases earning power, and he added that it also makes people more productive citizens.

The ability to think critically, analyze problems and develop arguments helps people make decisions about their lives and participate "in the life of their country," the president said.

When a viewer asked if he was ending the war on terror, Obama specified that the war was against al Qaeda and its extremist allies that seek to harm the United States and its allies.

Calling al Qaeda "probably biggest killer of Muslims of any entity outthere," Obama said the strategy is to "fight them all fronts," including along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. At the same time, he said, the United States should fight the battle of ideas with terrorists, working with the "overwhelming majority of Muslims who reject senseless violence."

In response to a question on Sudan, Obama provided a detailed analysis of efforts by his government and others to bring the successful implementation of a peace treaty that calls for elections this year.

However, he noted the risk of renewed conflict, as well as the long-term development needs of refugees from the Darfur region whose homes and villages were destroyed in the genocide.

If Sudan President Omar al-Bashir's government fails to live up to its responsibilities, Obama said, "then it is going to be appropriate for us to conclude that engagement doesn't work" and seek ways to apply additional

The final question was on energy policy, and Obama outlined a diverse strategy that included increasing nuclear power and developing clean-coal technology while also expanding alternative sources such as solar and wind energy.

While calling alternative energy sources a "key driver" of long-term economic development, Obama also noted that nuclear energy emits no greenhouse gases that cause climate change and is utilized by Japan, France and other countries much more than in the United States.

In addition, Obama said it is "not possible at this point to completely eliminate coal from our menu of energy options."

He acknowledged skepticism about the concept of "clean coal" production, but said investing in technology to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of coal energy would be wise because China, India and other emerging economies have coal-based energy needs that will need to be as clean as possible.

Updated: 4:16 p.m.

soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. Trim spending, please.

    Still comparing himself to Bush? Obama has such a complex. History will show that Obama has done more damage to the economy than any other president. If I hear the words 'green jobs' anymore I'm going to officially give up on the guy.

    But, Obama sure knows marketing. The YouTube idea was brilliant.

    February 1, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  2. Rick McDaniel

    Memo to Obama......you aren't getting across the goal line on health care.

    February 1, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  3. lagunadeb

    Again, President Obama communicates with the general population in an effective manner so that he knows what the "common man/woman" is thinking about. What a great leader of the people. Obama is perhps the most effective president in communication and action that we have ever had.

    February 1, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  4. james Miller

    Meet them head-on. I`m confident if he chooses his confrontations carefully, he`ll always come out on top. When he met with the GOP House leadership caucus he came out ahead. All they could do was spend 10 mins. politicing before they asked their questions. Everything was a potential sound bite. He skillfully, artfully side-stepped several "loaded" questions.

    February 1, 2010 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  5. Average American

    Memo to Rick..... I'm sad that you're happy that millions will die or go bankrupt because of our sorry health care system. Who are you, an insurance company exec? They should be the only people in the USA happy with our current system.

    February 1, 2010 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  6. Pepou

    Communicating directly with the people is very effective. There are a lot of lies out there, just read some on this blog !

    February 1, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  7. barbara

    For once I would like to hear him give a speech about anything but without refering to ANY and ALL adminstrations before his. I lose more and more respect for the man when he continues to blame the past for the problems that he signed on for today.

    February 1, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  8. REG in AZ

    The way they are going at it, with all of the aggressive competitiveness trying to sway public opinion, the exaggerated accusations and claims by the politicians and the overt and covert efforts by the biased third parties, it comes down to "Who can you trust?" You either trust the Republicans and Special Interests or you trust President Obama and the Democrats? After the last nine years there simply is no way to justify trusting the Republicans; it really is more rational to now trust President Obama. Returning to more of the same will never work and just promises to be a continuing catastrophe!

    February 1, 2010 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  9. Bambi go Boom

    I'm in love with you, Mr. President.

    February 1, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  10. Can't Wait Til November

    We voted 'em in. We remembered why we voted 'em out last time. Waiting for November...

    Three more years....

    February 1, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  11. Can't Wait Til November

    Obama will succeed at one thing at least: he will go down in history as he desires. As the president who killed space exploration, CHANGED us into a welfare state (take a load off!) and began the process of America becoming a 2nd rate country (if not 3rd rate). Change you can believe in – if you are a cynical moron.

    February 1, 2010 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  12. Diana

    I can't wait to see him answer questions and make Republican's look ridiculous like he did when he met with them. Bet they won't try that again – meeting with the President. It's better to attack him behind his back.

    February 1, 2010 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    I never heard one thought about Brown from Mass...You in the Gop
    sold your souls to the devil with this guy ! I guess it's ok to be a baby killer as long as you vote to stop healthcare...What a bunch of losers in
    the Grand Old Party !!!

    February 1, 2010 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  14. Four and The Door

    It is interesting that Obama still doesn't admit that he broke a campaign promise to televise the health care negotiations on C-Span. It just plain and simple did not happen and this is not just a technicality. The back room is where special interests and hold-out Senators were being generously rewarded with billions of tax dollars. Who is his ethics attorney, Bill Clinton?

    February 1, 2010 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  15. Phil - IN

    Hey blind sheep republicans, before you jump on the Pres., just ask yourself one question: WWJPD What would Joe the Plumber Do?

    Seriously, for your party's sake, you'd better hope Palin doesn't get the nomination because I have a feeling that campaign killer of a plumber might just be her Veep!

    February 1, 2010 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  16. Nemesis

    I suppose that no matter what this President does, there will be those that will find fault in it. I can't think of anything good a republican has said about him. How can a president be 100% wrong 100% of the time? It is outlandish to me to critisize everything he does and yet offer no solutions to the issue. If he is so wrong, how bout some support to correct it? I have no idea how people can be so negative. What gives? It seems suspicious to me that everything from his head to his toes is venomently rebuked except for the color of his skin. Here's a thought, try to think of something negative to say about G.W. Bush. Anything? Nothing? Wow, biased in my opnion. I can think of a few good thoughts on Bush. I don't think the man was 100% wrong on everything. Yet this president either has your support or none of it. Way to be patriotic.

    February 1, 2010 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  17. RANDY


    February 1, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  18. Total BS

    Same with you Barbara...Please think for yourself,seek the truth,learn the truth and then make your comments..Beck and others offer nothing
    but spin..There is NO TRUTH in the statements they make !!!

    February 1, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  19. Doraine Gordon

    I'm sick of people complaining about not knowing everything that is going on in Washington. If you are so afraid you might miss out on something then run for office and get in the middle of it. I think we all know exactly what is happening. Some people simply want to complain. The media is all over everything 24-7 so all you have to do is turn on the radio or tv. You will hear everything that is going on but all of it won't be the truth. It is up to the individual to distinguish truth from fiction.

    February 1, 2010 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  20. Jim


    Have you ever listened to any President's speech before Obama? They all do it...heck most Republicans still blame Clinton for 9/11, even though it happened on Bush's watch.

    February 1, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  21. Jim

    Can't Wait Til November

    A welfare state? Please, Republican policies over the last 10 years broke this country...and they want to go back to them.

    February 1, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  22. Elle in WA

    @ Nemesis – I completely agree with you.
    Also, I was particularly proud of our President when he scolded the Republicans on Capitol Hill for attempting to shut down every initiative for the sake of re-election and aligning with party lines. It's just wrong to hold up everything this President is trying to do just because they can. Show me one Republican – ANY Republican – that's willing to vote for Democratic legislation for the sake of the people instead of themselves, and that party might get my respect back.

    I think the President should have more of these question and answer sessions with the public. It's a very good way to get some of our concerns addressed directly.

    February 1, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  23. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Great job Mr.President.Hey dunce,heres your chance to ask questions and show the world your gutless face for all to see.Your nothing but a snivelling ,spineless,punk kid,sitting in your mom and dads cellar at 40yrs old and without a real job,more than likely.

    February 1, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  24. Zion

    For once I would like to hear him give a speech about anything but without refering to ANY and ALL adminstrations before his. I lose more and more respect for the man when he continues to blame the past for the problems that he signed on for today.

    I find it funny that when the stock market crashed, EVERY REPUBLICAN blamed Clinton. You guys swore by Bush, and would die by Bush, and now you have to pick up your party because of Bush.

    February 1, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  25. greenfish

    An articulate, thought ful president. What a breath of fresh air!

    February 1, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
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