April 21, 2011 in Nation/World

Obama defends record at Facebook meeting

President calls GOP budget ‘radical’
Peter Nicholas Tribune Washington bureau
Associated Press photo

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Mark Zuckerberg following the town hall meeting on Wednesday at Facebook’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.
(Full-size photo)

PALO ALTO, Calif. – Hoping to rekindle excitement among younger voters, President Barack Obama spoke at a town hall-style meeting hosted by Facebook on Wednesday and asked for help in beating back “radical” Republican budget proposals.

He sat on a stage next to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who served as moderator and funneled largely friendly questions to a president who makes extensive use of social media in reaching out to voters.

Zuckerberg confessed to being nervous, but the two bantered easily. Obama made a light reference to the 26-year-old’s billionaire status. In describing his tax plan, Obama said that he and “frankly, you, Mark,” can afford to pay “a little more in taxes.”

Taking questions submitted through Facebook and from an audience of company employees, Obama advised listeners not to get “frustrated” by protracted debates in Washington. He conceded that some of his 2008 voters might be asking why progress on many issues hasn’t come sooner. But he urged them not to give up on his agenda.

“I know that some of you who might have been involved in the campaign or been energized back in 2008, you’re frustrated that, gosh, it didn’t get done fast enough and it seems like everybody’s bickering all the time,” he said. “Just remember that we’ve been through tougher times before.”

Obama arrived in California on Wednesday for a two-day Western swing that will combine town hall meetings with private appearances at high-dollar Democratic fundraising events.

Obama used sharp rhetoric in laying out the political stakes. Although he wants to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next dozen years, he said he would do so in a compassionate way, preserving the basic health care social safety net for the elderly and the poor. In contrast, he said, congressional Republicans are so intent on preserving tax cuts for the wealthy that they would compel seniors to pay more to buy health insurance.

“The Republican budget that was put forward, I would say, is fairly radical,” he said.

In a reference to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Obama said: “I think that what he and the other Republicans in the House of Representatives also want to do is change our social compact in a pretty fundamental way.”

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