President Obama just concluded a group interview with a handful of bloggers on Google+. The 40-minute follow-up to the State of the Union covered a broad range of new issues: drones, Mark Zuckerberg, patent trolls, immigrant gay rights, gun control, the distribution of wealth, and even why the president is so “chill.” More than any interview I’ve seen in recent memory, the Google+ hangout gave a deeper insight into his own philosophy and process, even if it was when he deliberately dodged questions. The very quotable interview is likely to vindicate a lot of political interest groups. Below, we’ve collected the best of the interview.
Why Obama Is ‘Chill’
The president got his nickname “No Drama Obama” from his unwaveringly steady attitude. For the first time, he addressed this personality trait after being asked how growing up in multi-ethnic Hawaii shaped him. “Part of it is that the weather’s nice, so that just chills you out.”
Why He Loves The Internet
“I’m an ardent believer that what’s powerful about the Internet is its openness and the capacity for people to get there and just introduce a new idea with low barriers to entry.”
Distribution Of Wealth And The Minimum Wage
Obama addressed his contentious belief in the even distribution of wealth after fielding a question about his proposed minimum wage hike:“It does not have a big impact on employment, but it does have a big impact on a proportion of our workforce that works full time but right now is still in poverty.”
He then said, that minimum wage “may have some modest impact on their profits. But the fact of the matter is if we’re going to have a society in which we have broad-based prosperity, those same businesses also have to worry about, do customers have money in their pockets?”
Heart-Breaking Immigration And Not Being Emperor
In response to a question about why he has deported more immigrants than President Bush, he said, “I’m President of the United States. I’m not emperor of the United States. We have certain obligations to enforce the laws that are in place even if we think that in many cases the results may be tragic.”
Computer Science, Zuckerberg and Video Games
When asked whether Obama would support making computer science a language requirement for the education system, “I think it makes sense, I really do.” “The concept of vocational education got a bad rap,” he continues, noting that high school should be relevant to even those who don’t pursue a higher degree.
Referencing a dinner with Mark Zuckerberg, “he taught himself, primarily because he was interested in games.” Obama says teaching vocational technology skills is important, “not only to prepare young people who may choose not to go to a 4-year college to be job ready, but it also engages kids, because they feel like, ‘I get this, this is not just me slouching in the back of the room while somebody’s lecturing’…I want to make sure that they know how to actually produce stuff using computers and not simply consume stuff.”
“They don’t actually produce anything themselves. They’re just trying to essentially leverage and hijack someone else’s idea to see if they can extort some money out of them.” Obama mentioned the last major overhaul of patents, the America Invents Act, but noted, “Our efforts on patent reform only went about halfway to where we need to go.”
On His Political Philosophy
Obama draws inspiration from “the writings of Lincoln,” Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Bible.
Summarizing what he believes is Lincoln’s core philosophy, “we are this nation that is built on freedom and individual initiative, and free enterprise, but that there are some things we do in common together, whether it’s building railroads and setting up land-lease colleges or making sure [there are] investments in science. And that our nation only works when everyone has that same opportunity.”
On Perpetual Bureaucracy And Ending The Penny
When asked about why the United States doesn’t ditch the penny to save the federal government millions of dollars, the president admitted, “I don’t know.” Continuing, “One of the things that we see chronically in government is, it’s very hard to get rid of things that don’t work so that we can then invest in the things that do.”
Bumbles On Civil Liberties
When it came to a testy exchange on drone strikes against Americans and gay rights for immigrants, Obama completely dodged the questions. “I’m not someone who believes that the president has the authority to do whatever, or whatever she wants, whenever they want, just under the guise of counterterrorism.” When pressed for more about the contentious drone policy, he didn’t offer any specifics.
The same was true in regards to a question about ensuring gay rights for immigrants in the upcoming comprehensive immigration reform bill. Instead of answer whether he would press for rights, he said he would “not be too heavy-handed in a way that might end up breaking up these discussions.”
Noticeable pauses and ambiguity during civil liberties questions reveals a president struggling to cope with one of the biggest issues with his own base.
Some dodging aside, the Google+ hangout was one of the most authentic exchanges I’ve ever seen with the president. Kudos to the president’s digital team and Google for proving that new media can live up to one of the biggest challenges a journalist can face.