In full political mack mode, President Barack Obama shows up at Facebook’s Palo Alto, California headquarters with proverbial political flowers, showering petals upon his spurned lovers from 2008 – just in time to win us back for November of 2012.
He kicked it off with that YouTube message you just knew was from him, even if he didn’t show up. Then, there was that gift of a speech where he showed us a bit of candidate Obama, bucking up on Republicans and how he wasn’t going to compromise anymore over stuff like Planned Parenthood.
But, of course that won’t be enough: the President understands he’s really hurt some feelings over the last few years. He’s flirted with those centrist voters, played footsie with banks that he said he didn’t even think were cute and then went out for drinks with the GOP by extending Bush tax cuts.
Taking it a step further, now he’s gone full court press by kicking it with his Web 2.0 sidekick kid wonder Mark Zuckerberg at the Facebook Campus. Mark, for the most part, looks like a bored young billionaire yearning for a place in the conversation since he owns the table – and an opportunity to put The Social Network Movie far behind him. Enter the Leader of the Free World – who casually jokes about the last dinner they had – to yuck it up with Zuckerberg while answering questions from the not-quite-looking-like-America audience.
From a content perspective, this was a fairly unremarkable town hall as town halls go. The president, jacket off and sleeves rolled up, answered questions like a college professor more than the smooth talking seducer he’s been since announcing his new bid. He first spoke about the debt and the budget deficit, explaining why Republican plans and budgets were not nearly as efficient and beneficial to America as they wanted us to think. Here he was testing out his new ‘left-hook’ on the Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) budget plan, calling the House Budget Committee Chair’s proposal “bold” but “not courageous.”
Obama’s frankness about the mortgage crisis was also refreshing considering that he came out and said what we’ve all known for years, namely: “Some people are just better off renting.” Wow, you mean stop buying into MTV Cribs dreams and drop the Real Housewives illusions? The mortgage crisis wasn’t about lazy people not paying their bills; it was about mortgage companies engaging in price speculation while convincing people to buy property they really couldn’t afford.
To openly acknowledge that some people had no business buying into property-owning pipe dreams they couldn’t afford is something many on the left are not willing to admit.
Of course, the real question is what (if anything) is Obama doing about that 40 pound millstone hanging around his name in the form of an 8.7 percent unemployment rate. Interestingly enough, one of the few black women in the Facebook audience (as there were few people of color as is) took him head on. She questioned why the President seemed to move from a focus on job creation in 2008 and 2009 to budget cutting and spending cuts in 2010. Obama didn’t actually have the best answer for her – but, it should set the stage for what kinds of questions he and the eventual Republican nominee will face. It should also be an indication why the President is experiencing a slight dip in his black polling numbers.
For the most part, the American public has dealt with three years of being told what they should care about by political leaders, as opposed to dealing with what they’re actually seeking in terms of substantive policy. Barack Obama came into office in 2009 and immediately starting working on a healthcare bill that while valuable, was not what the American body politic was clamoring for.
Using that anger, Republicans swept into office in 2010 and immediately started talking about the budget and cost cutting when that’s not what the larger public was asking for.
By speaking directly with young people (who are actually employed) it was somewhat liberating to see the President forced to answer questions about the one subject anyone has cared about for the last three years. It’s better than a frustrated public being told job creation has to take a back seat to some other grand policy goal that the parties want.
In this sense, the Facebook town hall forced President Obama to speak to some of those issues we actually care about. Let’s hope enough people ‘liked’ it to keep these topics on the table for the next two years.
This article originally appeared on TheLoop21.com under the headline “Obama’s National Seduction Tour Part 2: The Facebook Years.”