July 5th, 2011
12:23 PM ET
The Obama White House, which likes to consider itself pioneers in the realm of social media, will make history of sorts once again Wednesday when it hosts what’s being called the first ever White House Twitter town hall.
But those who hope this president, known for his oft- lengthy responses to even the shortest of questions, is confined to Twitter’s 140-character limit will be sorely disappointed. The president is merely answering questions selected from Twitter users, not responding on the social media site itself.
Indeed, with the exception of questions coming from Twitter users (or, tweeps), the East Room town hall event will be like many this president has done before: fielding pre-selected questions conveyed via new media technologies while giving “old-fashioned” answers with a microphone.
“He's just answering the questions. He's not typing and tweeting,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said of the event Friday. Still the event is a major coup for the five-year old company that was barely on the radar only one campaign cycle ago.
White House officials have also said the so-called “Tweetup” is a fresh opportunity for the president to engage with Americans beyond the Beltway. The event will also feature an audience of about 140 individuals (no, not a coincidence that's the number of characters allowed in a tweet) who regularly follow the White House twitter feed and signed up for a chance to attend the event via the White House Web site.
Obama held a similar Facebook town hall at the web giant’s headquarters in Palo Alto, California in the Spring and a YouTube town hall at the White House in February. At both events, the White House was criticized for ignoring the subject that drew by far the most queries: whether he supports legalizing marijuana.
Though the president rarely tweets himself, the administration has increasingly embraced the social media network as a way to bypass traditional media outlets and convey information directly to supporters. Several senior administration officials now tweet regularly, including White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer and Press Secretary Jay Carney.