WASHINGTON – What is “the blueprint for an economy that’s built to last” anyway? Democrats and Republicans didn’t even wait for the State of the Union address to end Tuesday night before they began sparring over President Obama’s key talking point.
Both the White House and the GOP offered live streams of the speech online, each accompanied by a set of graphics featuring charts, statistics and other facts pertinent to the president’s statements. The Obama administration provided specific background information for viewers to reinforce the president’s remarks, while the GOP countered with relevant data of its own.
The White House’s enhanced Web broadcast featured new slides every minute or two. Some cited statistics from other government agencies to underscore Obama’s remarks; others simply displayed photographs or text to illustrate key phrases. During the speech, the feed often showed live footageof key members of Obama’s cabinet with quotes or pictures of them “in action.”
For the most part, illustrations attempted to simplify Obama’s rhetoric for viewers. For example, during reference to the “Buffett Rule,” the feed displayed a one-sentence definition of the concept – anyone who makes “over $1 million per year pay[s] at least 30 percent in taxes.” This was succeeded by a quick stat on millionaires’ tax rates.
On the other hand, House Republicans, led by House Speaker John Boehner, focused on the inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the address by providing simple “fact checks” in brief, concise blog posts.
In response to Obama saying that “tax reform should follow the Buffett rule,” Republicans provided a chart, illustrating that the Buffett rule doesn’t actually reduce the deficit.
Republicans also took the opportunity via their live feed to attack the president’s position on the Keystone XL pipeline. They said that while Obama claimed in his speech to be pro American jobs and pro energy independence, he “destroyed 20,000 new American manufacturing and construction jobs and shipped energy to countries like China.”
Beyond the live streams, the White House and the House Republican majority also used social media to promote their respective agendas.
The White House held a “tweetup” for a select group who actively follow the White House on Twitter. The event concluded with a panel discussion with Obama’s senior advisers. House Republicans took questions via Twitter that used the hashtag #SOTUGOP and planned to answer them on YouTube and Twitter.
Why all the online activity? Social media outlets are regularly touted as effective communication tools for businesses. They can serve a similar purpose for government agencies and officials if used correctly, said Sonny Ahuja, a social media marketing consultant.
“The reach that it has…that’s potentially huge,” said Ahuja, especially when the White House currently has over 2 million followers on Twitter and the House Republican conference has close to 30,000. “[People] would be getting info in real time, and that makes it very effective.”
Although he does not think there is such a thing as “too much exposure,” Ahuja said that, similar to any social media user, politicians must be cautious not to overwhelm their followers.
“Since the White House has the capability of doing it from different angles, they should,” said Ahuja. But the administration should focus on “what’s in it for the followers? What are they getting out of it?”
Vinca LaFleur, former speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore, said the motivation for using all of this technology is political.
“I think that the White House is doing this is very much in response and in appeal to a significant part of what was Obama’s base,” she said. “[They want to appeal] to younger voters, to the way that younger people are getting their own information now.”