Twitter is, traditionally, where politicians can go for quick, spontaneous interactions with constituents, as it's truly a democratic forum -- tweets by the people, for the people, arrive in real time. But those expecting such a spontaneous exchange with President Obama when he announced a seemingly impromptu Twitter Q&A on Thursday night were sorely disappointed to find the questions cherry-picked earlier by White House staff.
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At 4:28 p.m., Obama sent out a rare personal tweet from the White House Twitter account, soliciting questions from followers for what many thought was a sudden interest in public debate over his To-Do List for Congress: "Let's try this: After I speak here in Iowa about clean energy jobs, I'll answer a few questions on #CongressToDoList. Ask w/ #WHChat."
Tweets came rolling in, and after Obama again tweeted to invite questions following his speech, the frequency of tweets exploded, peaking at 4,165 mentions of the #WHChat hashtag at 6:15 p.m., according to Twitter analytics tool Topsy.
He went on to answer seven questions from average Twitter users, none with more than 400 followers, one with only seven, on issues ranging from energy to student loan interest rates to mortgage reform. Obama answered each one personally, as evidenced by a picture of Obama tweeting away on a laptop tweeted by White House photographer Pete Souza. The answers he provided mainly echoed talking points Obama's already expressed on his "to-do" list, the five tasks he's asked Congress to accomplish to improve the economy.