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President Barack Obama sits with Twitter co-founder and Executive Chairman Jack Dorsey during a "Twitter Town Hall" in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) President Barack Obama sits with Twitter co-founder and Executive Chairman Jack Dorsey during a "Twitter Town Hall" in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)  

First-ever Twitter town hall provokes huge response

Photo of Katie McHugh
Katie McHugh
Associate Editor

“Twitter is about to explode,” tweeted Amanda Terkel, senior political reporter for the Huffington Post, during President Barack Obama’s Twitter-based town hall meeting.

Twitter users were instructed by Townhall @ the White House to use the hashtag #AskObama to have their questions considered by the president or their reactions noted by other participants in the wide-open digital town hall.

Republicans and critics of the administration, including high-level officials, pundits, and ordinary voters, immediately went on the offensive.

Speaker John Boehner led the charge, posting a livestream of aggregated tweets from fellow Republicans and by asking his supporters to retweet the ones with which they agreed.

“With the unemployment rate at 9.1 percent and the “stimulus” spending binge a failure, one big question will be looming over President Obama’s Twitter Town Hall this afternoon: where are the jobs?” asked the speaker’s blog.

Other participants had scathing questions to ask on the budget, deficit, the war on drugs, and of course, jobs.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the largest union in the United States, asked the four word question: “Where are the jobs?”

Obama accepted some blame for the lackluster employment figures, saying he’s taking too much time to fill the 8 million job deficit. However, the president said Republicans refused to back his job creating policies such as spending on infrastructure.

Obama later quipped he hopes Boehner “will see the light.”

Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan openly challenged the president to a debate regarding the debt.

“Fearmongering won’t solve our debt crisis,” he tweeted. “Americans deserve a real debate. You pick: when and where?”

Other right-wing commentators agreed. “Idea @RepPaulRyan,” tweeted Benjamin Howe, a contributor to RedState.com. “Hold a town hall, use the same tweets Obama did, and answer them with the facts that @BarackObama is ignoring.”

Other questions, regarding the administration’s policy towards state medical marijuana laws, immigration, the GM and Chrysler bailouts, and military presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, went unanswered.

Some critics made Obama the butt of their jokes.

“How come you haven’t made unemployment illegal?” asked David Burge sarcastically. Tweeting under the username @iowahawkblog, Burge repeatedly slammed Obama with scornful questions, joining the senior editor of National Review, Jonah Goldberg, in the growing wave of Twitter users taking advantage of a prime opportunity to reel off witty observations and make pointed observations on a national stage.

“Are you still hoping for change?” added columnist Aaron I. Marcus.

The president’s answers to Twitter questions were spoken and certainly more than 140 characters, but the White House social media team condensed and posted them on the White House’s official Twitter page for all to review.

Michael Mayday contributed to this report.