| Washington Bureau
8:15 PM CDT, March 25, 2009.
He says the president is soliciting the "wisdom of the crowd," a phrase Phillips thinks ought to have a good connotation. "Community input can be extremely valuable," said Phillips, the Alabama native who launched the White House Web site on inauguration day. a couple of months ago. "This isn't us putting our finger in the wind and asking, 'Which way should we go?' It's us getting a snapshot from people about what's on their mind. It's a way of tapping into the collective wisdom."
The town hall meeting will take place before a live audience of local participants, who will also ask questions. In addition, other questions will be posed by video, reminiscent of the groundbreaking YouTube debate that took place during the Democratic primaries.
Jared Bernstein, of Vice President Joe Biden's staff, will moderate for the president, who will either stand by a podium or sit on a stool – the decision hadn't been made as of late Wednesday – to field questions. It's also not clear how far down the list of selected questions the president will get, and aides were careful to point out that "many" of the most popular queries would get an airing.
Just a day after the president skipped over all of the large newspapers when taking questions at a press conference, the virtual town hall does represent a unique Obama twist on the traditional form. But Phillips says they're definitely not trying to screen out tough questions. "The president is at his best when he's answering difficult and challenging questions," said Phillips.
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