The press secretary's popular Twitter interaction has been hailed as innovative and a 21st century version of Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous "fireside chats." President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed concerns over the Great Depression and World War II by broadcasting over the radio from the White House in the 1930s and early 40s. The broadcasts, called the "fireside chat," were hugely popular and became the precursor for the tradition of the weekly address that presidents have carried on to this day.
Usually the way it works is Mr. Gibbs picks a question or two via Twitter, right before the daily press briefing, and answers them on video through YouTube.com and whitehouse.gov. Thursday, Gibbs upped the ante, opening up the session to thirty minutes worth of interaction with the twittering public.
Thursday's topics were wide-ranging, from serious questions asked by would-be policy wonks:
@PressSec #1q what US national security interest is served by US military presence in Afghanistan?
We are in Afghanistan to disrupt and dismantle al-Qaeda and make sure they can't freely plan attacks like 9/11.
@PressSec #1Q Will the Dream Act come back before Congress? & will it pass? If not, why?
On Dream Act, Pres deeply disappointed it didnt pass & will fight to get it done next yr - need bipartisan support to pass
@PressSec Will the President use SOTU to push recommendations of the Deficit Panel? #1Q
Yes - POTUS will use both SOTU & budget 2 talk about priorities & focus on our deficit/debt - team looking thru deficit comm recs 2
To more casual questions, some of which were even personal:
@PressSec Is POTUS still smoking?
POTUS hasnt' had a cigarette in about 9 months @cjstatler
@PressSec where do you typically eat lunch during your work day?
I eat my lunch right here at my desk - usually while reading and getting ready for briefing @monalisa_DC
Twitter, much like the internet is the wild west of communication and Gibbs must be careful about which questions he answers. After engaging one tweet about the START treaty, the user then went on to hit Gibbs with a torrent of replies:
@PressSec How does START make us safer? Prove to us that you are more than a glorified cheerleader.
START reduces deployed nuc weapons - provides inspection regime that lets us verify what Rusians are doing something that expired @JVPotts
@PressSec Bet it was pretty quiet Nov 2nd.
@PressSec Reducing nuc weaps doesnt make US safer if we have to also. US nuc arsenal isnt a threat to American people, its an asset!
@PressSec Assuming START lowers playing field in a level manner between US/Russia, overall it still weakens US.
Gibbs signed off by assuring his twitter followers that he will continue this tradition, and soon:
Didn't get 2 as many as I wanted, working out some kinks; thank you for all the #1q - let's do this again on xmas eve! i will type faster!
Jake Gibson is a producer working at the Fox News Washington bureau who covers politics, law enforcement and intelligence issues.