WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama is trying to rebuild the American economy, one job at a time — literally.
The president asked an online town hall questioner Monday to send him her husband’s resume, insisting he wanted to look into why the man remained out of work despite his background as a semiconductor engineer.
“I meant what I said, if you send me your husband’s resume, I’d be interested in finding out exactly what’s happening right there,” Obama told the questioner, Jennifer Wedel of Fort Worth.
He told Wedel that according to what he was hearing from industry, such high-tech fields are in great demand and her husband “should be able to find something right away.”
Wedel told Obama that despite what he said, her husband had been out of work for three years. She wanted to know why foreign workers were getting visas for high-skilled work.
The exchange came as Obama appeared in a live video chat room known as a “Hangout,” part of online search giant Google’s social networking site Google Plus. He was answering questions submitted via the Google Inc.-owned video site YouTube, as well as interacting live with Wedel and four others in the Hangout.
The post-State of the Union session was part of the White House focus on social media. In past such events — with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and earlier YouTube sessions following previous State of the Union addresses — Obama answered questions that had been submitted via online networks. But Monday’s event allowed him to interact with a selection of his questioners, leading to more substantive exchanges as they pushed him on his stances.
Wedel’s insistence that the president’s claims about the demand for high-skilled workers weren’t being born out for her husband led to the president’s offer to take a look at his resume.
“I’ll have to take you up on that,” she told him. And Obama came back to it after covering a range of issues in the 45-minute session, telling Wedel, “Remember to send me that information!”
Obama got a variety of questions on the economy, and defended his policies on small businesses and innovation. An Occupy protester sent in a video saying she was out of work and asking Obama: “I need help. I’m 53. What am I going to do?”
The president’s response, in part: “The most important thing I can do for folks who are out of work right now is grow the economy.”
Obama was also asked to justify his administration’s use of unmanned drone strikes, and contended they were being used judiciously. “I think that there’s a perception somehow that we’re just sending in a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly,” Obama said. “This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists who are trying to go in and harm Americans.”
And he was asked about online piracy. Congress recently delayed action on legislation cracking down on online piracy after opposition from Internet companies including Google.
Obama said he thought it was possible to protect intellectual property that creates jobs in the U.S., while still respecting the integrity of the Internet as an open system.
The exchanges came a day ahead of the Republican primary in Florida, as GOP presidential hopefuls attack Obama daily. But none of the questions put to him were about the presidential race. They were about the State of the Union and people’s lives now.
There were also light moments, as Wedel asked Obama if he would show off his dance moves (the president refused, saying the first lady mocks his dancing) and another questioner asked the president how he and Michelle Obama planned to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary this fall (since it’s shortly before the election, Obama said he wasn’t sure how romantic it would be).
More than 133,000 questions were submitted and voted on by YouTube users. Google officials selected the questions to ask based in part on those results.
Although many of the questions that appeared online were about Obama’s stance on legalizing marijuana — something he has said he opposes when asked in the past — that did not come up Monday. Organizers said the No. 1 voted question was about the potential extradition to the U.S. of Richard O’Dwyer, a British student accused of setting up a website that gave people access to films and TV shows for free in violation of copyright laws.
Obama said he wasn’t personally involved in the case but the administration wanted to ensure that intellectual property is protected “in a way that’s consistent with Internet freedom.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)