President Obama's decision to hold a Twitter Town Hall was an about-face for the commander-in-chief who only months ago in private conversations with aides would scoff at the 140-character social media format for its lack of depth and sophistication, according to sources with knowledge of those conversations.
In particular, Obama would get miffed at the news media for picking up the Twitter comments made by ex-GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. "He complained that 'They hang on her every word and report it without even questioning her directly,'" one informed source said this morning, quoting the President.
Obama, who fashions himself to be an accomplished writer of high-minded ideas and observations, began to warm up to Twitter as he saw the success his own aides and other politicians in Washington were having with the Internet medium.
As of last month, 13% of Americans who go online use Twitter, a 5% increase from last November, according to a Pew Research Center study. Twitter last month reported that about 200 million Tweets now move each day.
It was those details and others -- as well as the ability to do an end-around on the mainstream media and speak directly to Americans -- that prompted Obama to join Twitter Co-founder Jack Dorsey yesterday in the East Room of the White House, where the President took questions from 18 Twitter users in front of a live audience.
Of course, Obama is no neophyte when it comes to social media, having already done YouTube and Facebook town halls.
Obama drew more than 169,000 "Tweeted" questions and comments during his first-ever Twitter town hall from the White House, but as expected only answered a handful of those inquiries during the hour-long session -- and of course the questions he addressed had been screened by aides.
The President took questions on the budget, taxes and education, and even turned around an inquiry by GOP Speaker John Boehner who asked "Where are the Jobs?" In his in-your-face response, Obama accused the House Speaker of not cooperating with White House job-creation efforts.