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Obama, on YouTube, calls health care his "greatest hope"


Barack Obama

called getting health care legislation passed soon his "greatest hope" as he took questions Monday via YouTube, one of the Internet forums that his political team has decided is essential for getting the administration's message out.

Obama answered recorded questions from the public on the Google Inc. site, the latest White House move to bypass traditional media outlets and reach audiences directly. The session was streamed live on the White House Web site and YouTube.

The first question was about health care legislation stalled in Congress.

"'It is my greatest hope that we can get this done, not just a year from now, but soon," Obama said from the White House library. "We came extremely close."

Obama answered fewer than a dozen questions on subjects including education, foreign affairs and energy policy submitted by YouTube users during and after he delivered his State of the Union address Wednesday. They were winnowed down by online voting.

By Monday morning, 53,340 users had voted for their favorite out of 11,694 questions. YouTube's news and political director, Steve Grove, a former journalist, moderated the session using YouTube video clips.

The Obama administration has turned to online services like YouTube as well as social networks Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. to connect directly with voters. His campaign staff collected e-mail addresses to raise record amounts of money in the 2008 presidential race and used text messaging to get out the vote.

Republicans have been tapping those outlets as well. The party's response to the president's weekly address is posted to YouTube.

Yesterday's appearance reflects the proliferation of mass media "static" between a president and the public, forcing presidents to feel compelled to "experiment with multiple ways of reaching Main Street," said Stephen Hess, of the Brookings Institution.The White House has more than 400,000 followers on Facebook.

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