Obama jabs Republicans at Facebook town hall

The president takes questions from employees and Web participants on topics like the economy, immigration, and health care. He also takes aim at Republicans' deficit reduction plan.

President Obama and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg hold town hall in Palo Alto.
President Obama and Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg hold town hall at the company's headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. Declan McCullagh/CNET

PALO ALTO, Calif.--President Obama's visit here this afternoon to Facebook's campus was billed as an opportunity for him to "connect with Americans across the country" through a virtual "town hall" meeting.

But it also proved to be an opportunity for the president to throw political punches at Republicans in an ongoing tussle over deficit reduction, tax policy, and a looming spat over raising the debt limit.

A deficit reduction plan recently proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican House Budget committee chairman, is "fairly radical," Obama said. Ryan aims to reduce government spending by at least $4 trillion over the next decade.

"I wouldn't call it particularly courageous," Obama said. He added: "If all we're doing is spending cuts, and we're not discriminating about it, if we're using a machete instead of a scalpel...then the deficit could actually get worse because we could slip back into another recession."

The event was described as a "Shared Responsibility and Shared Prosperity" town hall meeting open to Facebook employees that was also broadcast through Livestream. It will be available as video on demand "shortly after the event," a Facebook representative said.

President Obama and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg hold town hall in Palo Alto.
President Obama and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg hold town hall at company headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. Declan McCullagh/CNET

"What Facebook allows us to do is make sure this isn't just a one-way conversation," Obama told a few thousand people who gathered here this afternoon. "Not only am I speaking to you, but you're speaking back. We're in a conversation. We're in a dialogue."

Hosting today's event was Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, who said he was a bit nervous about the town hall. Obama joked, to applause, that it was his appearance that convinced the famously informal founder to dress up: "I'm the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie. Thank you. I'm very proud of that." (Both then removed their jackets.)

Zuckerberg asked questions mainly about the economy, immigration, and health care. Privacy did not come up. Nor did marijuana legalization, which was a topic that received significant public attention at this type of event before. (Zuckerberg ended the event by giving Obama what looked a lot like a Facebook hoodie.)

 

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