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An American Question Time

People were taken aback by President Obama's question and answer session with House Republicans last Friday. It was a serious discussion of the issues facing the nation, carried live on several cable networks, which seemed to go beyond what we usually see in public politics. You can view the 20 minute address by Obama and the hour of Q & A that followed here:

Obama took questions from members of his own party this week in a public session with Senate Democrats:

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A group has come together demanding that something like the House Republican question and answer session become a regular thing. Demand Question Time, a group describing themselves as "an ad-hoc cross-partisan group of activists, writers, bloggers, journalists, technologists, philanthropists and politicos," has set up a Web site with a petition stating their demand, as well as a list of high profile supporters. The group's steering committee ranges from blogger Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds on the right to Mother Jones' David Corn.

The idea comes from the United Kingdom's Question Time, where government ministers, including the prime minister, answer questions from parliament. Other prominent supporters include the Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan, Daily Kos's Markos Moulitsas, former Bush media advisor Mark McKinnon, and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark.

It's an intriguing proposition. It seems an even bolder proposition than the British version of Question Time, as there still seems to be a bit more political posturing, jokey soundbites and yelling in that setting. The session Obama held with House Republicans, on the other hand, was a largely dignified affair with serious back and forth between Obama and the Republican congressmen.

Whether that air of collegiality could be preserved on a regular basis, or even if this was done again, is a concern I don't think has been adequately addressed in this proposal. Still, as a journalist, I'm interested in anything with the potential to better inform the public.

YouTube: President Obama Takes Questions at GOP House Issues Conference
MSNBC video: Obama takes questions from Senate Democrats
Demand Question Time