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President Obama answers questions during a virtual interview with Google+ and Americans from around the country to discuss his State of the Union Address. February 14, 2013.
President Roosevelt: My fellow Americans, I seek to look beyond the doors of the White House into the hopes and fears of men and women in their homes. *mouse click* Our capacity is limited only by our ability to work together. *mouse click* I am determined to do my share. *mouse click* Now, it is your turn.

Steve: Hello everyone! My name is Steve Grove, and I run the community partnerships team here for Google Plus, in Mountain View, California. I'd like to welcome you to a very special Fireside Hangout with President Obama. You heard the voices of, er the voice, of Franklin Roosevelt there from his famous Fireside Chats of the 1930's and '40s. Well, this is a new tradition we've established with the President, a Fireside Hangout. This is actually the fourth year in a row that we've had the chance to sit down with the president after the State of Union Speech to hear his answers to your questions. Both on YouTube and here on Google Plus. Perhaps fittingly the President is coming to us this year from the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Mr. President, welcome to Google Plus.

President Obama: It's great to talk to you Steve. I have to admit though we do not have a fire going in the Roosevelt Room right now.

Steve: *laughs* You don't? But maybe we can light one up a little bit later. You know, we also are joined by five Americans here, all who watched the State of the Union Speech, and are looking forward to hang out with you. Let's meet everybody!
First we are going to hear from Lee Doren. He is in Arlington, Virginia. Lee is a conservative online blogger and GOP strategist. His popular YouTube channel is called, "How the World Works."

Lee: Hi, Mr. President!

President Obama: How are you Steve?

Steve: Next we have John Green. John is the co-creator with his brother Hank of the popular Vlogbrothers channel on YouTube. John is also a number one New York Times best-selling author. And is coming to us from Indianapolis, Indiana.

John: Hi Mr. President.

President Obama: Hi John.

Steve: We also have Limor Fried. Limor is an entrepreneur and CEO of Adafruit, an electronics manufacturing education company in New York City.

Limor: Hi Mr. President!

President Obama: How are you?

Limor: Good.

Steve: Next to Limor we have Kira Davis, Kira is a conservative online video blogger and a proud stay-at-home mom of two in Orange County, California.

Kira: Hi Mr. President, it's great to hang out with you today.

President Obama: I'm looking forward to it.

Steve: And finally joining us from Los Angeles, is Jacky Guerrero. Jacky's the founder of "My Culture", an online website that is devoted to LGBT and Latino issues.

Jacky: Hi Mr. President.

President Obama: Hi Jacky, How are you ?

Steve: Mr President our team here at Google+ selected these participants to represent a diverse set of perspectives and also because they have connected to their online communities who have helped them think through their questions today.
I assure our viewers that neither the President nor anyone at the White House have seen these questions ahead of time. So let's get started.

Mr President let's start with an issue that you actually ended your State of Union on : Reducing gun violence. And let's start with Kira.


Kira: Hi Mr President, thank you so much. Um, one of your solutions to uh keeping powerful weapons out of the hands of bad people is to propose a ban on so-called "assault rifles". However according to the FBI's own statistics, the majority of death by gun in this country is perpetrated by handguns. Do you think we should ban handguns?

President Obama: Well I actually don't think we should ban handguns, but keep in mind that what we're trying to do is to come up with a package that protects Second Amendment rights but also makes a meaningful difference in reducing violence. We're not going to eliminate it completely. And so the package that we've put forward will have an impact on handguns by instituting a universal background check system to make sure that people can't - uh - who shouldn't have any kind of gun - aren't able to go in and purchase them, whether they're at a gun show or in a store because somebody's not doing the checks that they need.

We're talking about making sure that we crack down on straw purchasers, people who go into a store, buy a bunch of guns, and then turn around immediately and dump them in the hands of people who shouldn't get them. Those things will have an impact on handgun violence.

When it comes to assault weapons and these high, you know, high-capacity magazine clips, the concern is, for example, in Aurora, when a young person can go in to a theater and shoot off a hundred rounds in less than a minute. The potential for large-scale fatalities are increased and these are weapons of war. They're generally not used for hunting, they're not used for the kinds of the things that we would think sportsmen or hunters or people who are just looking to protect their homes are trying to use them for. And so for us to restrict some of those high capacity magazines and some of those weapons that really belong in the war theater, that probably can save some lives. It's not going to solve every problem, but it can be a meaningful part of an overall effort to reduce gun violence in our country.


Lee: Mr President, in response for the question that Kira just had regarding guns, Vice President Biden has said that people have nothing to worry about in terms of the government coming to take away their guns.

President Obama: That's right.

Lee: But if people own guns that are currently legal and the government passes a law to make those guns illegal, isn't it exactly what you'd be doing?

President Obama: Well no, look,  people are gonna be able to buy all kinds of guns and use them legally for protection, for sport, for hunting. What we're saying in there may be a small category of weapons that we think really can drastically increase the incidence of gun violence and we already have some restrictions. I mean, we can't purchase a grenade launcher from a store, although there may be some folks who want to buy those, and the reason is we think that on balance, the Second Amendment does not automatically assume that any weapon that's available you can automatically purchase. And so this is a package that we're seeing some bi-partisan support for. What I said was that I recognize there's a lot of passions on this issue. That people in rural communities, for example, feel differently about these issues than folks in urban communities. And we've got to be respectful of regional difference, but there are some common-sense steps that we can take right now to reduce gun violence. And my hope and expectation is that congress actually puts these to a vote and we'll have a vigorous debate about all these issues.

But you know, I can tell you that having visited Newtown and visited with those parents just a couple of days after this horrific incident, anybody who talked to those parents or the siblings of those who were killed would say, "We've got to crack down and do something to prevent this kind of violence. Even if we're reducing the odds that it's going to happen just a bit, and saving a few lives, it's well worth it." 


Steve: Mr. President, let's transition to the economy next and go to one the top voted YouTube questions that was submitted. This comes from Marquez Brownlee, let's watch.

Marquez: Hi Mr. President, my name is Marquez and I'm a student in New Jersey. While I saw your recent proposal to adjust the minimum wage in the United States, that's good news for students like me, but could be bad news for businesses in the US with their increased expenses. So my question to you was what were your plans to keep high tech businesses and jobs in the United States when other countries don't have the same restrictions?

President Obama: Well first of all I think it is important to recognize that our overall strategy has to be to attract new jobs and manufacturing back into the United States, so I laid out a whole range of proposals: changing our tax quotes so we are incentivizing companies to stay here instead of moving overseas, making sure that we're creating hubs of advanced manufacturing here in the United States (we've got models where we are already seeing that happen) making sure that we are training our workforce for the jobs that exist right now (that can have a huge impact). So there are a wide range of efforts that we've got to move forward on to ensure this is the best place to do business in the world. 

Now when it comes to the minimum wage what we've seen is that most studies indicate that in fact it does not have a big impact on employment but it does have a big impact on a portion of our workforce that works full time but right now is still in poverty. Even if they are working 40 hours a week they are still making less than is required to get above the poverty line and the truth is is that the purchasing power for the minimum wage is still significantly lower than it was back in the '80's and what we would do would be able to set that mark and then index it so that the purchasing power from a minimum wage does not continually decline every time there's inflation. This by the way was an idea that wasn't just proposed by me, it was also proposed by Mr. Romney during the presidential campaign. I don't think people would suggest that somehow he wanted to be tough on business but what we've seen, generally over the last twenty years is that increases in productivity in our economy are helping a lot of folks at the top, less folks in the middle and at the bottom, and wages and incomes have not gone up even as productivity and the profits from productivity have gone sky high. And there are a lot of countries that are competing very well. Some of our toughest competitors, countries like Germany for example, who in fact have seen greater wage and income growth, this is just one portion of our efforts to make sure that workers are also benefiting from the hard work that we're all doing. 


Kira: Mr President, if I may jump in, I am curious about what the minimum wage will do to just regular people, the minimum wage raising will do to regular people like me. I've been in a situation where minimum wage has been raised and I've had to let go two employees from a non-profit because we just couldn't afford the wages anymore. But as a mom I worry about, you know, how that's going to affect the bottom line when I go to a grocery store, you know, when I go to get that Starbucks in the morning after dropping my kids off at school or at the gas pump, you know. How will the minimum wage affect what I buy day to day as companies are having to raise their prices to accommodate the minimum wage and that concerns me, you know...

President Obama: ...Well yes, I know, and I guess I've made two points here Kira. First of all the fact of the matter is corporate profits are at record highs, right, so what's happening right now is not that corporations and most companies would be somehow obliged to go out of business because they're providing a little higher wage to minimum wage workers. It might have some modest impact on their profits but the fact of the matter is if we're going to have the society in which we've got broad-based prosperity those same business also have to worry about whether the customers have money in their pockets. You know, Henry Ford, when people asked him why is it that you're giving these big raises to your assembly workers, he said, "The only way I'm going to be able to sell enough of my product, these cars, is to make sure that the people who are building them can actually afford to buy one", and what's always made America's economy stand out, what's driven its growth, is the fact that we built this big thriving middle class. We don't just have a bunch of folks at the bottom who are scraping by and then a few folks at the top who are doing incredibly well. So what we want to do is just make sure that if you work hard in this society that you've got a living wage. Nobody's going to be getting rich on $9 an hour, there's still going to be a struggle, but it could make the difference between whether they can afford to buy groceries or whether or not they are going to a food bank and my suspicion is that you'll still be able to get your Starbucks as a consequence.


Steve: Mr. President, we're going to go to John Green next, who has a question that was actually also the number one voted question in the economy question on YouTube. John?

John: Hi Mr. President. So almost all economists agree that we should stop minting pennies. In addition to costing more than a penny to mint they're really economically inefficient because they don't work as currency, I mean you can't even use them at public toll booths. Uh, I, uh, this is a pet issue of mine I guess, I know it's a small issue, we're talking about maybe savings for the federal government of $100 million over the course of 10 years, but it's also really obvious Australia, Canada, New Zealand, many other countries have gotten rid of their pennies and, uh, they haven't seen prices rise and it hasn't been an issue at all. It's a really obvious thing, er, it's not a particularly interesting or a partisan thing but it's really obvious. So my question to you is why haven't we done it?

President Obama: You know, erm, I've got to tell you John, I don't know. Uh, it's one of those things where I think people get attached emotionally to the way things have been. Right, now we all remember, at least those of us of a certain age- some of you are a lot younger than me but- we remember our piggy banks and y'know, counting up all our pennies and then taking them in and uh, you know, getting a dollar bill or a couple dollars from them. Uh, and maybe that's the reason why people haven't gotten around to it. I will tell you that you're right. This is not going to be a huge savings for government,, but any time we're spending more money on something that people don't actually use, that's an example of something we should probably change. And one of the things that you see chronically in government is, it's very hard to get rid of things that don't work, so that we can then invest in the things that do. Uh, and the penny ends up being, I think, a good metaphor for some of the larger problems that we've got. I'll give you an example. Um, we have probably sixteen different agencies dealing with businesses. Small business, large business, exports, domestic, lending, uh, marketing, all kinds of stuff that we do. A lot of those services are really good, but they're in a bunch of different agencies. And so the average small business person, a lot of times, has no idea where to go and how to access this help that could help them build their small business or help them sell overseas. What I've said to Congress is, "Give me the authority to reorganize agencies that were designed back in the 1930's for a 21st century economy. And we'll have one agency that deals with all kinds of business issues. It'll streamline our operations, reduce overhead, make us more customer-friendly." And the problem, and the reason that we can't do it, is Congress hasn't given me the authority, in part because of, the way Congress works is that, uh, committee jurisdictions are spread out matching these various agencies. And so, there may be some members of Congress who say, "Well, I don't want to give up this little piece of, uh, leverage that I've got over a particular agency, even though it's not efficient." So we're constantly trying to reduce these inefficiencies, we've made some progress, eliminating paperwork, going back and looking at regulations that don't work, etc. Everything that we can do administratively, uh, we are prepared to do. Uh, but the penny is an example of something that I'd need legislation for, and frankly, given all the big issues that we have to deal with day in, day out, a lot of times it just doesn't, uh, you know, we're not able to get to it.


Steve: We haven't heard from Limor yet. Let's go to Limor in New York City.

Limor: Hi, there. On the topic of legislation, um, I'm an entrepreneur, and I think start-ups are an important engine of the American economy. But when I go around and talk to other entrepreneurs, what I hear is, they're worried that if they become successful, they're going to be targeted by software patent trolls. These are firms that collect software patents just for the purpose of litigation and, y'know, getting money out of small companies that can't afford patent defense (they're expensive). So I know you've made a lot of progress on patent reform, but I'm wondering what are you planning to do to limit the abuses of software patents? For example, would you be supportive of limiting software patents to only five years long?

President Obama: Well, I, I think that's a great question and you're right, uh, a couple of years ago we began the process of patent reform. Uh, we actually passed some legislation that made progress on some of these issues, but it hasn't captured all the problems, and the folks that you're talking about are a classic example, uh, they don't actually produce anything themselves they're just trying to essentially leverage, uh, and hijack somebody else's idea to see if they can, extort some money out of them. And, uh y'know, sometimes these things are challenging because we also want to make sure that the patents are long enough that, y'know, people's intellectual property is protected, we've gotta balance that with making sure that they're not so long that, uh, innovation, uh, is reduced. And, but I do think that our efforts at patent reform only went about halfway to where we need to go, and what we need to do is pull together, uh, y'know  additional stakeholders and see if we can build some additional consensus on some smarter patent laws. This, this is true, by the way, across the board when it comes to high tech issues. The technology is changing so fast. We want to protect the privacy, we want to protect people's civil liberties. We want to make sure the Internet stays open and I'm, uh, I'm an ardent believer that what's powerful about the Internet is its openness and the capacity for people to just get out there and introduce a new idea with low barriers to entry.  We also want to make sure that people's intellectual property is protected. And whether it's how're we're dealing with copyright, how we're dealing with patents, how're we're dealing with piracy issues, what we've tried to do is be an honest broker between the various stakeholders, and to continue to refine it, hopefully keeping up with the technology. Which doesn't mean that there aren't occasionally going to be some, ah, some problems that we still haven't identified, and we have to keep on working on.


Steve: Mr President, another economic issues is of course immigration and that's something that you have spent a lot of time talking about lately, ah, it's also something that Jacky Guerrero has been thinking a lot about out in Los Angeles. Let's go to Jacky.

Jacky: Hi Mr President, um, your administration has deported a record high number of 1.5 million undocumented immigrants. More than your predecessor. And I know your administration took some steps last year to protect unprotected and undocumented immigrants from being deported. However many people say that those efforts weren't enough. What I would like to know is what you are going to do now until immigration reform is passed to insure that more people are not being deported and families aren't being broken apart?

President Obama: Well, look Jacky, this is something that I've struggled with, uh, throughout my presidency. The problem is, is that, um, you know, I'm the President of the United States, I'm not, ah, the emperor of the United States. Uh, my job is to execute laws that are passed and Congress right now, uh, has not changed what I consider to be a broken immigration system and what that means is that we have certain obligations to enforce the laws that are in place, even if we think that in many cases the results may be tragic, uh, and what we have been able to do is to make sure that we're focusing our enforcement resources on criminals as opposed to someone who's here just trying to work and look after their families. What we have tried to do is administratively, uh, reduce the burdens and hardships on families being separated, and what we've done is obviously pass a deferred action which made sure that the dream, ah, you know, ah, that the dreamers, young people who were brought here and think of themselves as Americans are American except for, uh, their papers that they're not deported. Having said all that, we've gotta stretch, ah, our administrative flexibility as much as we can. And that's why we're making sure that we get comprehensive immigration reform done is so important, ah, and frankly my goal is to make sure that we get that done in the next four or five months, and the reason is, is precisely because, uh, every day that we wait, every week that we wait, every month that we wait, there are gonna be some stories that break our hearts and more importantly we're gonna continue to have an economy that is stifled by a really inefficient system where not only, uh, are we deporting folks, but also we have a legal immigration system that is so bottle-necked that it forces, sometimes, people into the illegal system.

It prevents us from recruiting and keeping top flight engineers and, ah, tech people who are ready to work here or invest here, but because the legal immigration system is so broken we're not able to track them, and so oftentimes, we train them then send them back to their countries of origin to start businesses there.

The good news is I think that the opportunity for immigration reform has never been higher. We're seeing some good bipartisan discussions and possible legislation and, my hope is that we can actually get this done in the next few months.


Jacky: That's great 'cause that kind of leads into my next question. Which ... your support for gay rights has continued to grow over the last year and I'd like to know if you're committed to supporting bi-national same-sex couples in the immigration reform bill that you're hoping to pass.

Uh Recently Marco Rubio did an interview with BuzzFeed where he was asked this question and he said if this became a central issue that it would make it much harder to get done. So I'd like to know from you if this is something that you're willing to stand behind to ensure that same-sex bi-national couples are included in that immigration reform bill or if this is something that you're willing to compromise on?

President Obama: Well first of all I think it's important, Jacky, to say that my support on LGBT issues didn't start last year. Right. It started when I came into office making sure that we had hospital visitations, making sure that federal workers were - and partners - were able to receive benefits, and you know on through us ending Don't Ask Don't Tell, and most recently making sure that same sex partners were able to get benefits when they're serving in the military.

So this I care deeply about uh and I have said very clearly that I think people should be treated the same. They should not be treated differently when it comes to any aspect of American life and that includes our immigration laws. So what I'm trying to do right now is to give Democrats and Republicans in the Senate uh, and in the House the opportunity to work through some of these issues to see where their compromises are uh and not be too heavy handed in a way that might end up breaking up these discussions. Because I think it's very important for us to get immigration reform done, but we've been very clear that we think that it makes sense for same-sex couples to be treated the same when it comes to immigration law and every other law. 


Steve: Mr President, let's switch gears for a while. We wanted to have everyone get the chance to ask you a more personal question during the hang out and let's start with Limor and Lee.

Limor: Hi, thanks. Um, Mr President, have your daughters expressed any interest in pursuing a career in science or engineering?

President: You know, they're doing really well in science and math so far, uh, and that's encouraging, uh, that they actually like it, uh, and they have fun doing it. Um, Malia just turned fourteen, Sasha's eleven, uh, I don't think they're yet at the age where they've got a determined, uh, what their career path is gonna be, and what Michelle and I try to encourage is just saying, you know, math and science is part of your overall educational experience. We don't want you intimidated by it. We want you to continue to pursue it so that your options remain open, uh, as you get older. Us, but one of the things that I really strongly believe in, uh, is that we need to have more, uh, girls interested in math, science and engineering. We've got half the population that, uh, is way under-represented in those fields and that means we've got a whole bunch of talent, uh, that down stream is not being encouraged the way they need to and so the White House Office of Women and Girls has been partnering with the Department of Education so that our STEM education agenda, trying to get more math and science and technology education in the schools, also focuses on under- represented groups like, uh, uh, like girls are encouraged in these fields. 

Lee: Mr President, my question is for those of us who disagree with you politically, what's one book you recommend we read to better understand your political philosophy better?

President: Uh, other than my own I assume? (Laughs)

Lee: Other than your own. (laughs)

President: I don't wanna be pitching my own book. Uh, you know, uh, I, I have to tell you that, uh, where I draw inspiration from, uh, uh, is the writings of Lincoln, and I'm assuming you're a Republican? Well, this was, you know, our first Republican president, um, but the, the core philosophy that he espoused was this sense that, you know, we are this nation, uh, that is built on freedom and individual initiative, uh, and free enterprise but there are some things we do in common together. Whether it's building railroads or setting up land lease colleges or making sure that we've got, ah, investments in science, uh, and that our, our nation only works when everybody has that same opportunity. That we're all open to, to being able to, um, participate if we work hard, uh, in the incredible bounty of this nation. Um. You know, that's, that's probably where I start, ah, in terms of political philosophy. My inauguration speech, I think, was reflective of that. I start with the Declaration of Independence and, you know, probably Lincoln's writings, and Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail, uh, and the Bible, those, those are some pretty good places for me to start. Now I could recommend some good novels for you, too, if you want, but, ah, in terms of political philosophy, ah, ah,  that's probably where I start.

Steve: Mr President, I want to shift now to the topic of education, something you spent a lot of your State of the Union speech talking about. Now let's go back to Limor in New York City.

Limor: Thanks, um, on Tuesday you challenged American high schools to better equip graduates for the demands of a high tech economy. When I attended high school, I had to take a foreign language requirement. So my question is can we make it a national effort to also add a computer programming language requirement?

President: I think it makes sense, I really do, and you know part of what I'm trying to do here is to , um, make sure that we're working with, uh, high schools and school districts all across the country to, to make the high school experience relevant for young people, not all of whom are going to get four year college degree or an advanced degree, uh, and you know that, that the concept of vocational education got a bad rap at a certain point because the perception was, well, you know, we're tracking folks into, uh, blue collar jobs and then we're reserving white collar jobs for a certain group. All those categories, I think, have, uh, eroded, so, you know, you look at someone like Mark Zuckerberg, uh, I was sitting next to him at dinner, uh, a couple of years ago, uh, and he basically said, you know, he taught himself programming. Primarily cause he was interested in games. And there're a whole bunch of young people out there, I suspect, who, if, in high school, are given the opportunity to figure out, "Here's how you can design your own games, but it requires you to know math, and it requires you to know science". Or, you know: "Here's what a career in graphic design looks like", and we're going to start setting those, uh, uh, you know, programs in our high schools, not waiting till a community college, and then you can apprentice with somebody who's already a graphic designer in your area. What it does, not only is to prepare young people who may choose not to go to a 4-year college to be job ready, but it also engages kids, 'cause they feel like, I get this, this is not just me sitting there slouching, uh, in the back of the room, while somebody's lecturing. And, and I think given how pervasive computers and the internet is now and how integral it is to our economy, and how fascinated kids are with it, I want to make sure they know actually, how to actually produce stuff using computers and not simply consume stuff.

Steve: Mr President, ah, you know you're speaking to a divided House and Congress of course and pure research poll recently said that only 25% of American trust the federal government to actually do the right thing most of the time, ah, John had a question about sort of, government dysfunction as it relates to climate change, let's go to John.

John: Yeah, hi, thanks.  Um, one of the problems that we have on YouTube is that instead of discussing policy, we end up discussing ideology a lot, so instead of, for instance, talking about which guns should be for sale to private citizens, we end up talking about the abstract idea of gun control, and that seems really problematic to me when it comes to a big civilizational problem like climate change, because we can never get to the policy conversation as long as we're stuck in an ideological conversation.  I really appreciated your robust defense of climate science in your speech and your embrace of executive action, but in the end, I think the real work is probably going to have to be done with Congress, and so my question is both about YouTube discourse among individuals, but also discourse in Congress.  How do we get past that ideological rigidity and that divisiveness to have a policy discussion about what's actually the most efficient way to reduce our carbon emissions?

President: Well, a couple of things that we've tried to do is first of all focus on things that, even if there wasn't climate change, we should want to do anyway, but has the added benefit of reducing carbon in the atmosphere, so, for example, when we worked with the automakers to, through voluntary action, implement a doubling of fuel efficiency standards on cars, that is gonna have a huge impact on carbon in the atmosphere, but it's also good economics, 'cause it means the consumers are saving money at the pump, it means that US automakers are competing with foreign automakers that previously had had the--had a corner on the small car market or the fuel efficient car market, and so, that's gotten us part of the way there.  The next steps, though, are gonna be more challenging, and you know, some of this is ideological, some of it is economic, and it's not all partisan.  I have to tell you that there are some Democrats, for example, who represent states or districts that are heavily reliant on old power plants and are more heavily manufacturing-based, and the truth is is that if you produce power using old power plants, you're gonna be emitting more carbon, but to upgrade those plants means energy's gonna be a little bit more expensive, at least on the front end.  So, at the core, we have to do something that's really difficult for any society to do, and that is to take actions now where the benefits are gonna be comin' down the road or at least, we're going to be avoiding big problems down the road, and it's hard when people are thinkin' day to day about bread and butter issues.  That's true in our own lives, that's true as a society in the whole.  What I'm optimistic about is that we can continue to make progress without slowing economic growth, and the same steps that we took with respect to energy efficiency on cars, we can take on buildings, we can take on appliances, we can make sure that new power plants that are being built are more efficient than the old ones, and we can continue to put research and our support behind clean energy that is gonna continue to help us to transition away from dirtier fuels, and you know, we've made progress, but I've gotta tell you, John, I wish I could say that, you know, the way Washington works, that it's a rational reasoned policy (?~34:26) conversation, where you would, you know, be very comfortable, that's not what motivates folks a lot of times around here, what motivates folks is getting re-elected and for a lot of members of Congress, what they're responding to is a public that is still not entirely convinced that this is an urgent problem, and part of my job, I think, is to use the bully pulpit to help raise peoples' awareness, because if the public cares about it, eventually Congress acts.  If the public doesn't care about it, it's very hard to get big stuff done, because you know, legislators respond to other constituents sooner or later. 

Steve: Kira, do you want to--

Kira: Yeah, I, well just on this inter--on this subject of government and how Washington works, I've been thinking about this a lot, because I do remember clearly in 2008, you ran on a platform of really trying to become one of the most transparent administrations in American history, however, with recent leaked guidelines regarding drone strikes on American citizens and Benghazi and closed-door hearings on the budget and deficit, it just feels a lot less transparent than I think we had all hoped it would be.  How has the reality of the presidency changed that promise, and what can we do moving forward to kind of get back to that promise?

President Obama: Well, actually, on a whole bunch of fronts, we've kept that promise.  This is the most transparent administration in history, and I can document how that is the case.  Everything from--every visitor that comes into the White House is now a part of the public record, that's something that we changed.  Just about every law that we pass, every rule that we implement, we put online for everybody there to see.  There are a handful of issues, mostly around national security, where people have legitimate questions, where there's still concern about whether or not we have all the information we need.  Benghazi, by the way, is not a good example of that.  That was largely driven by campaign stuff, because everything about that, we've had more testimony and more paper provided to Congress than ever before and Congress is sort of running out of things to ask.  But, when it comes to things like how we conduct counter-terrorism, there are legitimate questions there, and we should have that debate, and what I've tried to do coming in to office was to create a legal and a policy framework that respected our traditions and our rule of law, but some of these programs are still classified, which meant that we might have shared them for example, with the Congressional Intelligence Office, but they're not on the front page of the papers or on the web. 

Lee: But Mr. President, in response to that question that Kira just asked regarding drones, a lot of people are very concerned that your administration now believes it's legal to have drone strikes on American citizens and whether or not that's specifically allowed with citizens within the United States, and if that's not true, what will you do to create a legal framework to make American citizens in the United States know that drone strikes cannot be used against American citizens? 

President Obama: Well, first of all, I think there has never been a drone used on an American citizen on American soil, and the, you know--we respect and have a whole bunch of safeguards in terms of how we conduct counter-terrorism operations outside of the United States.  The rules out--outside of the United States are going to be different than the rules inside the United States, in part because our capacity to, for example, capture a terrorist in the United States are very different than in the foothills or mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan, but what I think is absolutely true is that it is not sufficient for citizens to just take my word for it that we're doing the right thing.  I am--

Lee: So what do you believe we should do?

President Obama: I am the head of the executive branch, and what we've done so far is to try to work with Congress on oversight issues, but part of what I'm going to have to work with Congress on is to make sure that whatever it is that we're providing Congress, that we have mechanisms to also make sure that the public understands what's going on, what the constraints are, what the legal parameters are, and that's something that I take very seriously.  I don't--I am not somebody who believes that the President has the authority to do whatever he wants or whatever she wants, whenever they want, just under the guise of counter-terrorism.  There have to be legal checks and balances on them.

Steve: Mr. President, before we let everyone else ask a final personal question of you, we'd remiss not to ask you about an issue that everyone on the internet is buzzing about today, the Republican filibuster of Senator Hagel for your Secretary of Defense nomination, are you worried that this nomination is not going to go through?

President Obama: Well, here's what we know.  That Chuck Hagel, who, by the way, was a member of the Republican caucus, a colleague of all of these folks who--the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell and others consistently praised when he was still in the Senate, who has two purple stars--uh, two purple hearts, was an extraordinary soldier, was the head of the USO, served on the Senate foreign relations committee, and is praised by people like Brent (?~40:20) who was George W--uh, H.W. Bush's National Security Advisor, and Colin Powell and others, is imminently qualified to be Secretary of Defense, and the notion that we would see an unprecedented filibuster, just about unprecedented, we've never had a Secretary of Defense filibustered before, there's nothing in the constitution that says that somebody should get 60 votes, there are only a handful of instances in which there's been any kind of filibuster of anybody for a cabinet position in our history, and what seems to be happening, and this has been growing over time, is the Republican minority in the Senate seem to think that the rule now is that you have to have 60 votes for everything.  Well, that's not the rule.  The rule is that you're supposed to have a majority of the 100 Senators vote on most bills.  The filibuster, historically, has been used selectively for a handful of issues to extend debate, but we don't have a 60 vote rule, and yet, that's become common practice, and this is just the latest example.  We've seen it on judges, we've seen it on you know, Deputy Treasury Secretaries, and part of what's happening is it's becoming more and more difficult for people to join our government, so my expectation and hope is that Chuck Hagel, who richly deserves to get a vote on the floor of the Senate, will be confirmed as our Defense Secretary, it's just unfortunate that this kind of politics intrudes at a time when I'm still presiding over a war in Afghanistan and I need a Secretary of Defense who is coordinating with our allies to make sure that our troops are getting the kind of strategy and mission that they deserve.

Steve: Mr. President, before we let you go, we want to give the rest of our hangout the chance to ask you a personal question.  Let's go with Jacky, John, and Kira.  Jacky?

Jacky: Hi, Mr. President.  My partner and I are always talking about how fortunate she was to have grown up in Hawaii.  She actually went to Kamehameha, and (?~42:38) in Hawaii where a majority of people who live there are multi-ethnic, so I wanted to know what--how that experience has shaped you as a person.

President Obama: You know, I've thought about this a lot, and I do think that growing up in Hawaii makes you a little bit different for some of the reasons you talked about.  Well, now first of all, part of it is just the weather's nice all the time, so that kind of chills you out, and you spend a lot of time outside, and that makes you pretty healthy, but it is as much of a melting pot as just about any place in the United States, and for kids to be exposed to different cultures and different religions and different outlooks really early in life I do think has an impact, it makes you appreciate peoples' differences as opposed to being scared of them or worried about them, and I do think that that attitude is something that I continue to, you know, to live by as President. 

Jacky: Thank you.

John: Uh, Mr. President, my wife, Sarah, who's actually here and I are expecting our second child.  We have--

President Obama: Hey, Sarah!

Sarah: Hello!

President Obama: Do you already have a bump?

Sarah: Yes, I do. 

President Obama: Okay, stand up, let's see it a little bit.

Sarah: Okay.

President Obama: Nice.  Alright.

John: Yeah.  It's pretty good.  Um, we are expecting our second child, we have a boy name picked out but Sarah had a question for you.

Sarah: Yes, hello, Mr. President, we are wondering if you prefer the name Eleanor or Alice?

President Obama: Eleanor or Alex?

Sarah and John: Alice.

President Obama: Alice. 

Sarah: Alice.

John: A-L-I-C-E

President Obama: You know, I'm gonna leave this up to you guys, because if I--

John: OHHHH!

President Obama: Here's the reason.  If I gave a preference and you guys went the other way, forever this child would say the President doesn't like my name, which could traumatize them, but the main thing is tell either Eleanor or Alice not to forget to be awesome.

Sarah: OH!

John: Thank you, sir.

President Obama: There you go.

Steve: Let's go to Kira.

Kira: I think you just caused more problems for them.  Now they're going to be arguing.  You were supposed to settle that.

President Obama: I wasn't going to--I wasn't gonna get involved in this one.  Now if you want--if it's a boy, and you want to name it Barack, that's fine. 

John: Alright.

Kira: Mr. President, my family is here with me.

President Obama: Hey, guys!

Kira: These are my children, Scott, Ruby, say hi, Mr. President.

President Obama: Hey.

Kira: And this is my husband, Mark.

President Obama: Hey, Mark.

Mark: Hey, Mr. President.

President Obama: I like the White Sox t-shirt, man.

Mark: Oh, happy to hear that.

Kira: Mr. President, you're married, so you know it's Valentine's Day. 

President Obama: I do.

Kira: Yes.  I know you know.  Now, my husband, Mark Davis, believes that Valentine's Day is just a made up Hallmark holiday designed to separate him from his hard-earned money, and he never celebrates.  Mr. President, on the behalf of all American women, will you please, right now, issue an executive order via Google Hangout for my husband, Mark Davis, to spoil me this Valentine's Day?

President Obama: Okay, okay, can I just say, Mark, I think here's the general rule.  If Mama's happy, everybody's happy.  So, uh, so do right, man.  You will pay a higher price later than doing the right thing during Valentine's Day. 

Mark: Okay.  I will. 

President Obama: Alright.

Kira: Thank you, sir.  Thank you. 

Mark: Thank you, Mr. President.

Steve: Well, thank you, Mr. President.  We really appreciate you joining us here on Google+, we'd love to see you here for another fireside Hangout soon, thanks a lot.

President Obama: I had a great time, guys, thanks, everybody.

Kira: Thank you, bye!

John: Bye.

Everyone else: Bye!  Goodbye.  Bye. 

Steve: Alright.  Great, thank you, Mr. President.  Really appreciate it. 

Are we done?