Friday, July 03, 2009

Posted By Bobby Eberle On July 2, 2009 at 6:54 am

You may have missed it, but on Wednesday, Barack Obama held yet another so-called townhall meeting. This one was to discuss his health care plans and use the new tools of "social media" to do it. Although surrounded by a live audience, the main focus of the event was to reach people using the White House web site, Facebook, and Twitter.

The problem is that there should be some kind of standards when it comes to a townhall meeting. By labeling it as such, Americans get the impression that this is a meeting of average Joes (and Janes) -- people from all walks of life and all parts of the political spectrum -- who can throw out questions to the president. Well... not quite...

As we have seen in many Obama events already, the purpose is strictly to get his message out and NOT hear from the American people, even though that is the stage upon which his sales pitch is being delivered. The White House picks the questions ahead of time, and the audience is generally made up of Obama supporters. Does this sound like a townhall meeting to you?

Take yesterday's event as an example. As noted in an Associated Press story on GOPUSA, one of the main people who spoke at the townhall about the ills of the current health care system is a Democratic National Committee volunteer. Whose plan do you think she'll support?

Some of Obama's questioners Wednesday were from friendly sources, including a member of the Service Employees International Union and a member of Health Care for America Now, which organized a Capitol Hill rally last week calling for an overhaul. White House aides selected other questions submitted by people on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Republicans said the event was a political sham designed to help Obama, not to inform the public.

"Americans are already skeptical about the cost and adverse impact of the president's health care plans," Republican National Committee spokesman Trevor Francis said. "Stacking the audience and preselecting questions may make for a good TV, but it's the wrong way to engage in a meaningful discussion about reforming health care."

With a more detailed analysis, The Washington Post reports that "questions for Obama came from a live audience selected by the White House and the college, and from Internet questions chosen by the administration's new-media team. Of the seven questions the president answered, four were selected by his staff from videos submitted to the White House Web site or from those responding to a request for 'tweets.'"

Obama also called on three "random" people from the audience. The Post points out that "all turned out to be members of groups with close ties to his administration.

Obama's habit of staging and scripting is beginning to irk even the White House press corps. From pre-selected questioners at White House press briefings to pre-screening of questions supposedly from the "general public" to "personal" stories from Obama supporters, the list of Obama schemes goes on and on. Just look at what happened at yesterday's White House press briefing:

Obama can call these events "townhall meetings" if he wishes, but just because you call something a duck doesn't mean it will quack. I hope the American people are smart enough to figure this out.

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