President Obama is sitting down for a Q-and-A session on YouTube.
2:37 p.m. — Host Steve Grove says 140,000 questions have been submitted though various websites. “Let’s dive in,” the president says.
The first question concerns job help for veterans. Obama says he has sent a directive to every federal agency urging them to consider veterans. He also cites the post-9/11 GI bill to help veterans get continuing education.
2:41 p.m. — A viewer asks about spending cuts. Obama cites the five-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending; he also urges viewers to stick around and see his proposed budget the week of Feb. 14.
2:44 p.m. — A question about schools. Obama talks assistance to teachers, and his program to encourage high performing schools, including his “Race to the Top” program.
2:47 p.m. — Grove announces a “YouTube rapid round,” with personal questions. First: What is the best and worst part of being president? Obama says the best is helping people, and he cites the health care bill; the worst is “the bubble” – he can’t go out for a walk or down to the corner store.
What is he getting Michelle Obama for Valentine’s Day? Obama jokes about how gifts get more expensive every year, but what his wife wants most is his time; so expect a date night on Feb. 14.
2:51 p.m. — Another personal question: So you have a favorite YouTube video. No, says the president — he usually sees the videos shown by his kids; he also sees sports highlights on YouTube.
2:53 p.m. — Back to issues, a serious one: The protests in Egypt. What’s your video. President Obama says he has often told President Hosni Mubarak that he needs to focus on reform, or face the kinds of frustrations he’s seeing on the streets. He also says people everywhere should be free to use social media — Twitter and the like — to express their views, in any country.
2:55 p.m. — Several questions about Afghanistan and Iraq — are the wars still worth it. Obama says in Afghanistan it is important to prevent the country from again becoming a base for terrorists, as it was before 9/11. He says he has always opposed the war in Iraq, and that U.S. troops will be out of there after the first of the year.
Obama mixes up “Iraq” and “Afghanistan” a few times in this discussion, by the way.
2:58 p.m. — A viewer asks Obama about developing alternative energy sources and reducing dependence on foreign poll — and wonders why it hasn’t happened before. Obama says the U.S. is losing some of the clean energy race with countries like China, but is pursuing new plans he has put in place.
3:01 p.m. — At last: Questions about drug policy and legalizing marijuana — the most frequent questioned posed by YouTube users. A former police officer tells Obama the “war on drugs” has failed. Obama says it’s “a legitimate debate,” but he opposes legalization. He does say the drug problem should be viewed more as a medical issue than as a law enforcement issue.
3:04 p.m. — Health care question: Viewer asks why drugs are so much cheaper in Mexico and Canada. Obama says those governments are “bulk purchasers” of drugs, and that the U.S. should do more of this. He notes that drug prices should go down under new Medicare provisions in the health care law.
3:07 p.m. — A man says it’s cheaper to feed his kids Fruit Loops than fruit. Obama cited Mrs. Obama’s healthy food initiative, encouraging food makers to provide more healthy products, thereby driving down the price.
3:10 p.m. — A young man on a video says he was kept in a detention center for two months, unfairly. This gives Obama a chance to talk up “the Dream Act,” which would provide a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants who are in school or in the military.
3:11 p.m. — Last question: A young man asks Obama what his generation needs to do make America great. Obama cites the theme of his State of the Union, “winning the future.” He cites efforts to revive the economy and reduce the federal debt, but also make important investments in education and technology. Citing competition from other countries, Obama says: “To win the future, we’re going to have to out-work folks … we’re going to have to up our game.”
Obama says he enjoyed it, and we’re out at 3:14.