GO
Loading...

Live Blog: CNBC's Town Hall with President Obama

Monday, 20 Sep 2010 | 2:07 PM ET

This is the live blog from today's CNBC Town Hall Meeting with President Barack Obama. The most recent posts are at the top. To read the full blog from beginning to end, start at the bottom.

1:45 pm EST: Okay, the town hall is over. The audience is gone, John Harwood is gone, the CNBC crew is just about gone, and the president is on his way to Philadelphia, PA for a Democratic fundraiser tonight.

I would have liked more questions asked on some issues, and there might have been more follow up to really get the president to be specific on what he wants to do.

But, what I took from today's town hall is that people are looking for answers—and they are desperate to get them from a US president, who is supposed to have all the solutions, no matter who he is.

Oh well, time for me to spin some more Rick Springfield. I finally found the sound guy.

1:15 pm EST: Okay, I would have to describe the audience as extremely attentive, interested and just plain on edge of their seats, if they had the room. I really think this shows how concerned everyone is. It was a serious group of people for sure.

1:13 pm EST: John Harwood came back for a final bow. He's going to be on CNBC for analysis for the rest of the day.

1:12 pm EST: People still seated, talking, trying to ignore the music I think, I know I am.

1:10 pm EST: Okay, Elvis, I mean Barack has left the room and probably the building in a few minutes. Everyone stays put till he actually does leave...the building. Oh no, the music is back. Kiss???? Gees.

CNBC.com

1:09 pm EST: Forgot, he has to work the other side of the room.

1:08 pm EST: The guy won't leave.

1:06 pm EST: Still shaking, kissing now too. He's like a politician playing a room. Wait, that's what he does.

1:05 pm EST: The fun is over! President walking around the room shaking hands. He seems to know some of them. People not hands.

1:04 pm EST: He must be having fun, he keeps talking.

1:01 pm EST: One last question from John. The president seems happy to run over a bit .. as he said "this is so much fun."

12:58 pm EST: Check that, some Secret Service walkie talkie chatter which means this is about to end.

CNBC.com

12:57 pm EST: It's getting close to a wrap. Again, there's a quiet "sound" in the room. Just the voices of John Harwood, questioners and the president.

12:55 pm EST: President doing a good job of making eye contact the whole time. He looks a questioner straight in the face and seems totally engaged with them.

12:51 pm EST: 9 minutes to go. No one's moving, just looking at the president. Heads nodding at certain points, chuckles at others.

12:50 pm EST: I have to admit, I'm listening as much as anybody. I want answers too.

12:45 pm EST: 15 minutes to go. Not as many questions as I thought there might be. The president does have long answers, but again, I don't notice any feet shuffling or yawning. Everyone's interested, or maybe looking for answers to their own questions.

12:44 pm EST: Audience sitting straight in their chairs, as is the president. He seems very casual and comfortable, if that's saying the obvious.

12:41 pm EST: Wow, this is flying by. Less than 20 minutes to go. Obama asked about the Tea party. People still listening intently. I don't notice any drop off in interest.

CNBC.com

12:38 pm EST: Obama responding about that he's concerned about the budget and doing everything he can to keep it down. Wonder would have happened if Rick was here. Might have been an interesting debate.

12:36 pm EST: CNBC's Rick Santelli, who's been critical of the president, is asking a taped question. Oh boy. It's the government spending that Rick is asking about.

12:34 pm EST: President mentions CNBC again and how people "there" were complaining about his actions on the economy. Some mild chuckles with that, maybe even a little nervous laughter. Hey, he can "knock" CNBC even if we're hosting.

12:32 pm EST: President got a supportive question— comment really and how business is "ganging up"on him. That lead to some nice applause for the president. Nothing overwhelming, but nice.

CNBC.com

12:30 pm EST: Still hearing pins drop as everyone listens. Very attentive audience. Hanging on every word. Especially taxes. Who doesn't hear pins drop on that one.

12:27 pm EST: Whoops, don't interrupt the president John, when he's talking about taxes, as Obama makes his case about what he thinks should be done. Got some applause on that one.

12:24 pm EST: Mood is quiet right now. Everyone listening. You can hear a pin drop and my typing.

CNBC.com

12:22 pm EST: Obama: "The American dream is not dead. I think there's no country in the world that wouldn't trade places with us. The single most important thing we can do is to grow our economy."

12:20 pm EST: Man says he might not even afford to get married. President says whatever it costs, it's worth it. Man asks: Is American dream dead?

12:18 pm EST: John asking about how business feels the president does not like anyone working for a profit.President says that's not true. "Government can't create all the jobs, we need entreprenuers, we need the free market."

12:16 pm EST: "People, even on CNBC, were saying do something (about the economy). The only thing we said is that we're not doing the same things in the past that got us into this trouble in the first place."

12:15 pm EST: "Things are not great. We know that, we have to make things better, that's why I ran for president."

CNBC.com

12:12 pm EST: President responds, talking about changes in the student loan programs, and that it will be easier for kids to go to college. He's talking about credit cards, mortgages and how the financial regulation bill helps consumers with protections.

12:10 pm EST: Woman says she's exhausted defending Obama, she's waiting for something to happen. She has two children in private school and says she thought she was beyond the hot dogs and beans reality. She asks is this what she's supposed to face now.

CNBC.com

12:09 pm EST: President talking about why he ran for president and how he wants to help the American people. He said the things he's done have been the right things to do.

First question now from audience.

12:06 pm EST: President talking about how bad things were when he took office and how there is some good news— "The hole was so deep and I know a lot of people are still hurting out there."

12:03 pm EST: Okay, back to typing. Huge applause, no one tired out. President sitting across from John. John's saying that a lot of businesses and those on Wall Street feel he does not support them. President talking about the economy and what he had been doing.

12:02 pm EST: Here we go, music cued, Harwood in place, president in the wings, music and voice over ends. Applause as show begins. Harwood talking. Introduces the president. I have to stand. No typing now.

12:noon EST: I can hear Secret Service chatter over walkie talkies, president on his way.

11:59 am EST: President getting miked.

CNBC.com

11:58 am EST: President still in make-up. Waiting, waiting.

11: 57 am EST: Waiting, waiting, presidential footsteps?

11:56 am EST: This does seem bigger than Elvis. He's in the building!

11:53 am EST: 7 minutes and counting. John gone, people talking, music playing ( a lot lower level now) Patty Smyth's old group, with "I am the Warrior." She's married to tennis pro John McEnroe. Okay, I've got to find a hobby.

11:47 am EST: John talking about how he first met President Obama and how the president later wouldn't high five John about Duke winning the NCAA basketball championship. John said the president doesn't high five Duke fans because they broke his basketball brackets.

Okay, I think this is one where you had to be there for it to make sense. Maybe John will stay a reporter.

11:44 am EST: Harwood just practiced introducing the president. Huge practice applause. I wonder if they'll be tired out by the time he DOES get here.

Stephen J. Boitano for CNBC.com

11:41 am EST: The president is on his way! Nice round of applause on that one. He's coming from the White House. Tick, tock, tick, tock. More mike checks for Harwood, dead battery. Mm .. Ever—ready any one?

11:34 am EST: Okay, John's gone for now and it's back to the hits. We've got the 60's, 70's and 80's all right here as we spin our way to 12 noon.

People are up and about. They've been sitting for nearly two hours already. The countdown is on. The pres (sorry, gonna save my fingers for when he's here) is about 20 minutes away. He should be on time as this is LIVE TV. And live bloggin!

11:31 am EST: John Harwood just told the now famous story of how President Obama caught a fly with his hand that was buzzing around when John was interviewing him (click on the link for the fly catching video) some time ago at the White House. He told it well, and got a good laugh. A star is born!

11:29 am EST: Okay, look at the image to your left. You see the chairs for John Harwood and the president and the audience behind them. There's a similar crowd of people facing the two chairs on the other side that you can't see. I'm about 30 feet up in the air looking for a parachute.

Stephen J. Boitano for CNBC.com

11:25 am EST: So John says people at CNBC asked him to think about doing this and about approaching the Obama team and it came about because the White House was interested in talking about the economy.

11:24: am EST: John just asked if anyone wanted to ask a question, like how did this come about. So, someone said, how did this come about?? That got a nice laugh and round of applause.

11:20 am EST: Okay, John Harwood came back to talk to the audience. That practice session worked out well, as he nearly got a standing ovation. He's saying the president wants to hear from the people and that's why he's doing this, and John said for everyone to play it straight with the president. He's now acknowledging all the people who helped put this together.

11:16 am EST: It's Just Another Manic Monday!! No, that's not the new name of this event, just the song that's playing on the sound system right now as people talk and wait for this to begin.

Most are just sitting, talking and talking. I think we're all anxious for this to begin, but we've still got about 40 minutes or so to go.

11:12 am EST: Everyone told to get rid of the gum, no cell phones. A final practice for cheering. You wouldn't think that would happen, but hey, this is show biz no matter how you look at it.

Stephen J. Boitano for CNBC.com

Music back on as there's a break in the action. John Mellencamp now. Or was it John Cougar? Wait, John Cougar Melloncamp. Where is that sound guy?

11:10 am EST: Someone from the audience asked a good question to CNBC's Mary Duffy who's been leading the cheering. Are the questions for the president pre-screened? The answer was yes., but there may be some that are not.

11:07 am EST: Okay, John Harwood was here.. and gone. He did a quick look at the set up and took off for make up and to get miked up. He'll be back to talk to the audience before we begin.

Wonder if he'd do a warm up for Leno.

Okay, it's more than 200 people here, official tally is 227. They've just been told they're on live TV for an hour.

NEWSEUM in Washington, DC.
Getty Images
NEWSEUM in Washington, DC.

They are getting a bit of a pep talk--"we want you to look interested." They just practiced applauding. First time not loud enough. They did it again. Now I'm deaf. Wow, even that wasn't enough. They did it again. It was louder— 7 on scale of 10. Okay, it was an 8 for me.

10:55 am EST: Hi and welcome to the live blog for Investing in America: A CNBC Town Hall Event with President Obama.

We haven't officially started yet—it's still about an hour before the 12 noon EST start time—but here's what's going on.

We are at the Newseum in Washington DC, a four story building that's an interactive museum on the history of American journalism.

It's located on Pennsylvania Avenue, about half way between the Capitol building and the White House. You can see what it looks like from the outside with the first image we have here.

CNBC has been at the Newseum before, most recently a town hall with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. It's a high tech place with state of the art broadcast facilities. You may know that ABC's "This Week" broadcasts from here each Sunday.

Execs at CNBC have been working on getting this town hall set up for some time, I was told and to say they are more than a little happy it's come off would be an under statement.

CNBC senior political reporter John Harwood is the host. He'll be leading the session as people ask their questions to the president, and I'm sure John will have a few of his own to ask.

One interesting note, no other reporters are in the room. The White House press corps and other reporters are set up in an off shoot room, watching it all on monitors. The only cameras are from CNBC, but other media outlets are covering it.

I've a got a birds eye seat looking over the whole room from a balcony with the sound guy and his tech board right next to me.

Who's in the audience? About 200 men and women (no kids), described by CNBC as "a cross section of Americans who are interested in the economy. From college students and union workers to small business owners and retirees." The questions are going to focus on the economy, jobs, Wall Street, banking.

Guests started lining up outside the Newseum about 8 am this morning. Security, needless to say has been tight. Like an airport: bags checked at three different points, computers and phones must be on for the Secret Service to look at, no water bottles. We didn't have to take off our shoes— and belts stayed on.

The room is just about full now, as guests are taking their seats. The room has two sections of chairs on risers, with about a hundred people on each side. Just kind of imagine a very small oval shaped football stadium.

Stephen J. Boitano for CNBC

President Obama and John Harwood will be in the center of the room, sitting on a couple of long legged chairs, facing one of the sections.

They're playing some loud music over the sound system for the audience. First, it was Pat Benatar, then Boston. Now it's ... gees, I don't know,. a female singer that's NOT Lady Gaga.

Now it's a radio station. Rick Springfield? No wonder some CNBC exec asked for a change (sorry Springfield fans). Benatar again, then Huey Lewis. The 80's are back. Where'd that sound guy go?