Obama tweets for the first time, tweaks Republicans

WASHINGTON Thu Jul 7, 2011 5:29am EDT

1 of 6. President Barack Obama reacts after tweeting at his first ever Twitter Town Hall in the East Room at the White House in Washington, July 6, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama took to Twitter on Wednesday to press his economic agenda, using the popular social media site to tweak Republicans and advocate for a deal to reduce the deficit.

In a "town hall" style meeting that lasted about an hour, the president fielded questions posted by users of the Twitter site and sent his first live tweet from a laptop in the White House East Room -- making what he called presidential history.

Sitting on a tall stool with a screen that showed tweeted questions nearby, Obama responded aloud before an audience of 140 invited guests who came to the White House for the event.

That number was a nod to a key part of "tweeting."

Twitter users send short, 140-character messages through the Internet about issues large and small.

The White House has tried using Twitter and other new media outlets to reach American voters, sometimes making announcements that way instead of through more traditional journalistic venues. The White House's @whitehouse account has some 2.25 million followers.

Obama, who is not known for brevity, touched on topics ranging from the weak housing market to NASA to the debate about the U.S. debt ceiling.

He did not stick to concise answers and did not send further tweets himself.

"One last point -- I know Twitter, I'm supposed to be short," he said while answering a question about education, drawing some laughter.

Another funny moment came when Republican John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, managed to get in a question through a Twitter message of his own.

"After embarking on a record ... spending binge that left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs?" read the moderator, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, from Boehner's tweet.

The tweet had some typos, however.

"First of all, John obviously needs to work on his typing skills," Obama joked.

"Obviously John's the speaker of the House. He's a Republican. And so, this is a slightly skewed question."

Obama went on to say that the United States had not seen fast enough job growth relative to U.S. needs.

HOUSING WOES

Asked by one Twitter user what mistakes he had made in office, Obama singled out the moribund housing market.

"The continuing decline in the housing market is something that hasn't bottomed out as quickly as we expected," he said.

"We've had to revamp our housing program several times to try to help people stay in their homes and try to start lifting home values up."

Obama is locked in a dispute with congressional Republicans about how to reduce the deficit and raise the debt ceiling, and he used many of his answers during the town hall to press his case for ending tax loopholes while reducing spending.

He said the country could face a second recession or worse if Congress did not raise the borrowing limit and suggested Republicans were using the debate like a gun to the head of the American people to support tax breaks corporate jet owners and the wealthiest Americans.

The Twitter town hall came after hackers took control of a FoxNews.com Twitter account on Monday, sending six false tweets saying Obama had been shot dead and prompting an investigation by the Secret Service.

Obama was at home at the White House on Monday, celebrating the July 4 holiday with his family.

The White House has declined comment on the hacking event.

(additional reporting by Laura MacInnis and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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