Obama Discusses Deficit In Twitter Town Hall

President Obama Wednesday held his first "town hall" meeting via Twitter — taking questions sent in the social media site's 140-character format — but allowing himself a few more characters than that for his replies.

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For the past few days, thousands of people have been submitting questions on twitter with the hash tag askObama. Today, the President answered some of those questions in what the White House dubbed its first Twitter town hall.

NPR's Ari Shapiro was in the White House East Room for the tweets.

ARI SHAPIRO: President Obama has done town hall meetings with Facebook and YouTube. Today it was Twitter's turn, and he opened it with a first.

President BARACK OBAMA: I am going to make history here as the first president to live tweet.

SHAPIRO: On a laptop with the presidential seal, he typed out his question to the American people. It popped up on a large screen.

President OBAMA: In order to reduce the deficit, what costs would you cut and what investments would you keep?

SHAPIRO: At the end of the town hall the President responded to some twitter users' answers to that question. In the intervening hour, he talked about jobs, education, the debt ceiling, even space travel. The questions were all 140 characters, max. The answers? No such limit.

President OBAMA: One last point. I know Twitter, I'm supposed to be short, but...

SHAPIRO: Twitter Founder Jack Dorsey moderated the conversation. At one point Dorsey pulled up a tweet from one of President Obama's new golfing buddies, House Speaker John Boehner.

Mr. JACK DORSEY (Founder, Twitter): After embarking on a record - spending binge that left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs?

SHAPIRO: The president called it a slightly skewed question. He accused Republicans of blocking investments in infrastructure and other areas that the White House believes could create jobs.

President OBAMA: We haven't gotten the kind of cooperation that I'd like to see on some of those ideas and initiatives, but I'm just going to keep on trying and eventually I'm sure the speaker will see the light.

SHAPIRO: The president also said Boehner is falling down on the job by threatening not to raise the federal debt ceiling.

President OBAMA: Congress has a responsibility to make sure we pay our bills. We've always paid them in the past. The notion that the U.S. is going to default on its debt is just irresponsible.

SHAPIRO: That's an accusation President Obama can level at the House Speaker in person when Boehner visits the White House for negotiations tomorrow.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, the White House.

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