The disagreements between those who were critical of president Obama and those who were Obama loyalists are not that different from what they were in the first year of this administration. The unfortunate thing from where I sit is not so much that there are disagreements about, well, just about everything, but that we are getting worse and not better at navigating our disagreements.
I don't do meta diaries, so please consider this a simple reminder that both the president and his critics agree about the vital role of the internet for a vigorous democratic culture.
Early in his administration, the president went to China, and while he was there, sought to encourage greater openness and democracy. In talking about its value for China, he couldn't help but reflect on what it means for Americans and for the American president.
Speaking at a "town hall" in Shanghai he was responding to a question about the use of Twitter, obviously a reference to the free flow of ideas in China.
Obama came down on the side of the use of the internet to criticize government officials -- himself included. Here is part of what he said, according to the transcript:
...I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear. It forces me to examine what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis to see, am I really doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States.
Here is the fuller context of the president's thoughtful statement about the nature of robust democracy. I think his words are something on which we can all agree, whether we have been critics or defenders -- or both.
And so I've always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I'm a big supporter of non-censorship. This is part of the tradition of the United States that I discussed before, and I recognize that different countries have different traditions. I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet -- or unrestricted Internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged.
Now, I should tell you, I should be honest, as President of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn't flow so freely because then I wouldn't have to listen to people criticizing me all the time. I think people naturally are -- when they're in positions of power sometimes thinks, oh, how could that person say that about me, or that's irresponsible, or -- but the truth is that because in the United States information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear. It forces me to examine what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis to see, am I really doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States.
And I think the Internet has become an even more powerful tool for that kind of citizen participation. In fact, one of the reasons that I won the presidency was because we were able to mobilize young people like yourself to get involved through the Internet. Initially, nobody thought we could win because we didn't have necessarily the most wealthy supporters; we didn't have the most powerful political brokers. But through the Internet, people became excited about our campaign and they started to organize and meet and set up campaign activities and events and rallies. And it really ended up creating the kind of bottom-up movement that allowed us to do very well.