Open for Questions Round 2: Response

When we closed out the first round of Open for Questions with around 20,000 people participating, 10,000 questions submitted, and 1,000,000 votes on which we should answer, we were thrilled. But we were also concerned that the splash of unveiling this new tool meant that would be the high-water mark.

During this second round, we decided to leave the voting open significantly longer, but even with that extra time we were surprised to see the final totals: 103,512 people submitted 76,031 questions and cast 4,713,083 votes. We can now be confident that the success of the first round was not just about a new trick, but just a hint of the willingness of the public to permanently change the way they interact with their government. There’s plenty of room to grow.

For this round we refined the process to make it more user-friendly, and broke out the questions into categories. We think this made for a more interesting experience, and ensured that a broader array of questions could get exposure. But we also wanted to try a new way of responding to the questions, so this time instead of text answers, we asked incoming White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to sit down with us. Since there were so many popular questions in so many categories, we tried to pull out some of them that had been addressed previously by the President-elect or Vice President-elect in order to focus the video portion on questions that haven’t been as specifically addressed during the Transition.

Download higher resolution .mp4 file (53 MB) here.
Also available on Vimeo and Yahoo.

“Previously Addressed Questions”
These popular questions have been answered previously by top officials or in the prior edition of “Open for Questions.”

“Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor (ideally Patrick Fitzgerald) to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping?”—Bob Fertik, New York City

Vice President-elect Biden, 12/21/08: “[T]he questions of whether or not a criminal act has been committed or a very, very, very bad judgment has been engaged in is—is something the Justice Department decides. Barack Obama and I are—President-elect Obama and I are not sitting thinking about the past. We’re focusing on the future… I’m not ruling [prosecution] in and not ruling it out. I just think we should look forward. I think we should be looking forward, not backwards.”

UPDATE: After these answers were posted, President-elect Obama was asked this question for the January 11th edition of ABC’s “This Week,” this was his response:

STEPHANOPOULOS: The most popular question on your own website is related to this. On it comes from Bob Fertik of New York City and he asks, “Will you appoint a special prosecutor ideally Patrick Fitzgerald to independently investigate the greatest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping.”

OBAMA: We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously we’re going to be looking at past practices and I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. And part of my job is to make sure that for example at the CIA, you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering [up].

“What will President Obama do to bring about an independent Palestinian state and bring an end to the violence in the West Bank and Gaza?”—Katherine, Virginia

President-Elect Obama, 1/5/09: “I am not backing away at all from what I said during the campaign that starting at the beginning of the administration we are going to engage effectively and consistently in trying to resolve the conflicts that exist in the Middle East. That is something that I am committed to—I think it is not only right for the people in that region, most importantly it is right for the national security of the American people and the stability that is so important to this country. So on January 20th you will be hearing directly from me and my opinions on this issue. Until then my job is to monitor the situation and to put together the best possible national security team to hit the ground running once we are responsible for national security.”

“I’m concerned about the banks who received tax payers money and have had no accountability. Will this be corrected after President-elect Obama is in office?”—Dorothy, Tucson Az

Open for Questions Response, 12/15/08: “President-elect Barack Obama does not believe an economic crisis is an excuse for wasteful and unnecessary spending. As our economic team works with congressional leadership to put together a plan, we will put in place reforms to ensure that your money in invested well. We will also bring Americans back into government by amending executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public. In addition all appointees who lead the executive branch departments and rulemaking agencies will be required to conduct the significant business of the agency in public so that every citizen can see in person or watch on the Internet these debates.”

“Will you consider legalizing cannabis/marijuana/hemp so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a multi-billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?”—DJ C, Chicago, IL

Open for Questions Response, 12/15/08: “President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.”

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