WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama seized the bully pulpit Thursday and reprised the best of his acclaimed campaign skills in an unprecedented Internet town hall from the White House — a direct sales pitch for Americans to get behind his $3.6 trillion budget and be patient as he tries to right the tottering economy.
After giving an opening statement and declaring, "This isn't about me, it's about you," Obama took up a microphone and strolled the ornate East Room, playing to an audience of 100 invited guests and what the White House said were an estimated 67,000 people watching him in cyberspace.
The event capped a concerted recent public relations foray in support of his young administration's assault on the country's twin crises in the economy and financial system, including two in-person town hall meetings in California and an appearance on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show."
On Tuesday Obama held a nationally televised news conferencecalling on an unusual mix of reporters in an apparent attempt to shake up the focus of questioning.
Obama explained he had called the first-of-its-kind online town hall meeting as an "an important step" toward creating a broader avenue for information about his administration. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said there would be more such events.
Timing, of course, was key. Obama was beamed out through cyberspace a day after the House Budget Committee adopted a spending and revenue plan that broadly matched his massive $3.6 trillion outline even while seeking to reel back on deficit projections.
In a forum that gave him an essentially passive audience, Obama said the budget would put the country on a path to "a recovery that will be measured by whether it lasts, whether it endures; by whether we build our economy on a solid foundation instead of an overheated housing market or maxed-out credit cards or the sleight of hand on Wall Street; whether we build an economy in which prosperity is broadly shared."