President Obama Does Take Some Challenging Questions, But Leaves Many Aside

from the too-bad dept

We already noted that President Obama did his Google Hangout today, and surprisingly admitted that patent trolls are a problem. It's worth noting that he did actually get some directly challenging questions, including about gun control, immigration and a lack of transparency (especially on drones). Oh, and also about whether or not we should still have a penny (President Obama: "I don't know!"). That last one was actually the most popular question that people voted on, as compiled by Derek Khanna over at

President Obama more or less avoided the question about drones -- other than to insist that no drones had been used to target people in the US and that the rules were different elsewhere. He also continued to insist that his administration is the most transparent in history, thanks to things like the White House visitor logs being released publicly. That, of course, is just one small part of transparency, and it's clear that the administration is absolutely failing on a number of different transparency issues (and is notably horrible at responding to Freedom of Information Act requests).

What's disappointing, though, is that many of the other top questions in that list didn't get asked (including the question about copyright issues that we'd mentioned, despite being the 8th most popular question by votes). Obviously, there is only a limited amount of time, and I actually think that Obama did a reasonably good job in actually responding to the questions asked with a bit more depth than I expected. It still wasn't that deep, but it wasn't nearly as superficial as I expected. And, at the very least, it gave a chance for him to hear some pointed questions on these issues. Hopefully, he decides to do this more than once a year, so that some of these other questions can actually be asked.

As a side note, I saw some people complain about the final questions which were more "personal" in nature, though I didn't think it was that bad. Yes, perhaps you could argue that it took time away from some of those serious questions, but there is something to be said for at least allowing a bit of personality to come through in these discussions. I thought the most amusing part, though, was that when John Green (of Vlogbrothers and DFTBA Records) asked the President to help name his expected child, the President refused, joking that if they ruled against him it would upset the child for the rest of their life -- but then he did note that they should make sure the child "doesn't forget to be awesome" (which is what DFTBA stands for). Obviously, he was saving up something about DFTBA, but that was still a nice touch.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  • icon
    Nigel (profile), 14 Feb 2013 @ 4:05pm

    Was a bit surprised

    I was sorta surprised at his response and actually use of the term "extortion" in regards to patent trolls.

    A range of things bug me about Obama. Largely revolving door hollywrong sorta stuff and transparency issues. Which he was understandably, evasive about.

    That being said, you have to credit the guy for using the medium and connecting with the people.

    I frankly sorta enjoyed watching it... Next go round banks and big pharma....

    Speaking of banks, but not to derail things... Just caught this blurb of Elizabeth Warren.... its good stuff(hearing 1)

    Ni gel

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2013 @ 4:26pm

    I was almost shocked hearing the 2 people ask about the drones at the end. I honestly didn't expect that. They could've asked them a lot of other hard questions, too, but for now it's a good start, and I'd like to see politicians "get used to" hard questions from the start once they accept doing Google+ Hangouts in the future, instead of getting the questions 100% pre-approved before being "on air".

    Could be great for the future if more people, even of those "pre-screened" for political Hangouts, get the courage to ask hard questions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Watchit (profile), 14 Feb 2013 @ 6:12pm

    I was really disappointed he skipped my question on the revolving door between Lobbyist and Legislators :(

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Watchit (profile), 14 Feb 2013 @ 6:13pm

    Also he skipped this really popular question
    "The world spent $1735 billion on war in 2012, it would take $135 billion to totally eradicate poverty. NASAs budget is around half a penny of an individual persons tax dollar Why do we spend so much in war and so little in education and exploration?"
    drnickphd, Geelong,Australia

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 14 Feb 2013 @ 7:35pm


      it would take $135 billion to totally eradicate poverty.

      Interesting, who came up with that number? Sounds ludicrously low if referring to worldwide poverty.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Sean, 15 Feb 2013 @ 7:13am

        Re: Re:

        I'm curious also where this figure came from. I'm very skeptical. Poverty is a systemic issue and can't be solved as easily as just giving everyone a bunch of money.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2013 @ 7:26am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I have to agree with Sean. Poverty is more complicated than a lack of money. It is correlated to education, affordable housing, job opportunities, healthcare, transportation, contraception, availability/affordability of childcare, etc.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 15 Feb 2013 @ 7:49am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            That's not to say that there's not some amount of money that, if spent correctly, could solve the problem of poverty. I just don't think $150 billion is that amount.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2013 @ 7:15pm

    OK, credit where credit's due: That's better than I was expecting. He didn't just answer a few easy questions and call it a day this time. Progress!

    I sincerely hope that more politicians start to do this sort of thing, and do it more frequently. Right now their perception of the outside world comes almost entirely from lobbyists. Maybe if they talked to the general public more, laws wouldn't be so one-sided. (I can dream, can't I?)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2013 @ 8:31pm

    I went up to Baltimore tonight to listen to Erskine Bowles speak. He was Clinton's CoS and is the Bowles of Simpson-Bowles fame. Also president of the UNC educational system.

    I know copyright and IP burns white-hot with readers here, but after hearing him speak; it's no wonder IP reform is way down the list. Our fiscal crisis is an existential one, making just about everything else a joke. I strongly urge everyone to visit his website and learn in very plain terms the threat our country faces. Here it is:

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    staff, 15 Feb 2013 @ 9:03am

    more dissembling by Masnick

    "We already noted that President Obama did his Google Hangout today, and surprisingly admitted that patent trolls are a problem."

    Mere dissembling by thieves! It is not innovation that patents hinder, but the theft of.

    “Patent troll”

    infringers and their paid puppets’ definition of ‘patent troll’:

    anyone who has the nerve to sue us for stealing their invention

    Call it what you will...patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, shell company, etc. It all means one thing: “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to stop or pay”. This is just dissembling by large invention thieves and their paid puppets to kill any inventor support system. It is purely about legalizing theft. The fact is, many of the large multinationals and their puppets who defame inventors in this way themselves make no products in the US or create any American jobs and it is their continued blatant theft which makes it impossible for the true creators to do so. To them the only patents that are legitimate are their own -if they have any.

    It’s about property rights. They should not only be for the rich and powerful. Show me a country with weak or ineffective property rights and I’ll show you a weak economy with high unemployment. Does that remind you of any present day country?

    Prior to eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the Supreme Court decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. Essentially, large infringers now have your gun and all the bullets. Worse yet, inability to commercialize means those same small entities will not be hiring new employees to roll out their products and services. And now those same parties who killed injunctions for small entities and thus blocked their chance at commercializing now complain that small entity inventors are not commercializing. They created the problem and now they want to blame small entities for it. What dissembling! If you don’t like this state of affairs (your unemployment is running out), tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back into the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all patentees, large and small.

    Those wishing to help fight big business giveaways should contact us as below and join the fight as we are building a network of inventors and other stakeholders to lobby Congress to restore property rights for all patent owners -large and small.

    For the truth about trolls, please see

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.