The State of the Union was supposed to be the event the American people talked about this weekend at the dinner table, but when President Obama’s question-and-answer session with House Republicans caught fire on the Internet, the White House went with it.
Aides weren’t prepared for the mid-afternoon talk to generate so much buzz – and weren’t even sure the full session would be televised – but even Obama critics of late praised him for answering every question. Democrats especially liked seeing Obama, in some cases, calling Republicans on the carpet for misleading voters about his policies.
Obama also surprised Republicans by revealing that he’d read their bills.“[O]n Friday something remarkable happened – with much less fanfare,” David Axelrod wrote people signed up for the White House email blast on Friday night.
Axelrod called it an “honest and unscripted discussion,” and passed along video of the freewheeling session.
Axelrod, a senior Obama political advisor, used this as a pivot-point to promote Obama’s planned YouTube Q-and-A session this afternoon.
The White House posted the video and a transcript within hours of the event’s conclusion, saying it was something “rarely seen in American politics.”
The Obama political arm housed at the DNC also trumpeted the video, noting that pundits called it walking into “the lion’s den.”
“You have to see this,” Organizing for America director Mitch Stewart wrote the more than 13 million people on their list. “This is the sort of honest dialogue and political courage that we all need to move our country forward.”
Late Update: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today that Obama will accept the invitation to speak with Senate Republicans. He also said cameras were allowed into the House GOP forum Friday after the White House “asked that it be open.”
“The president enjoyed the give and take on these issues of importance,” Gibbs said.