President Barack Obama took questions via Twitter today during a short Q&A related to ongoing negotiations in Washington, D.C. over the so-called fiscal cliff.
Over about an hour, the president answered seven questions on the topic -- as well as one about which Chicago sports team will be next to win a championship -- demonstrating the ability to stay on (political) message in under 140 characters, and an understanding of Twitter conventions used to best broadcast a tweet.
Although it's virtually certain that Obama was not writing his responses entirely on his own, the White House posted a photo showing that the president was in fact doing the typing.
Using the #My2K hashtag being promoted by the White House over the last few days to spur discussion on Twitter about what $2,000 -- the amount the president insists will be added to many people's tax bills if Republican budget plans are adopted -- means to individual Americans, Twitter user Philip McKenzie kicked things off by asking, "Mr. President, can you assure us that any 'fiscal cliff' negotiations regarding entitlement reform will not hurt the most needy?
Obama replied, ".@pmmckenzie we can reduce deficit in balanced way by ending tax cuts for top 2% + reforms that strengthen safety net & invest in future -bo."
With each response to a question, Obama inserted a period in front of the inquisitor's @-handle, a convention that allows anyone who follows @whitehouse -- the account from which Obama was tweeting -- to see his answer. Without the period, only the person getting the @-reply would automatically see it.
To be sure, there were many more questions asked than Obama answered. And the White House clearly chose questions that worked with its overall messaging on the budget negotiations. Still, despite the partisan nature of the Q&A, it's nice to see the leader of the free world participating in a give-and-take on Twitter. One can only hope it's something that he'll do again in the future, and not always on partisan issues.
For Twitter, meanwhile, today was a very good day. First the pope joined Twitter, and then the president of the United States conducted a Q&A. One can imagine a lot of smiles at headquarters this afternoon.