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And the winners are: Top Web questions for Obama's online town hall today

March 26, 2009 |  6:42 am

President Obama in the East Room

(UPDATE: A full transcript of President Obama's online town hall session is now available by clicking here.)

At 8:30 a.m. Pacific, President Obama plans to stride into the East Room for the first "Open for Questions" online town hall in presidential history -- webcast live on www.whitehouse.gov. Vice President Joe Biden's chief economist, Jared Bernstein, will play moderator, reading the most popular questions posed by visitors to the website, who voted on the best queries. Then the president will take follow-up questions from a live audience of 100 teachers, nurses, small-business owners and community leaders.

Online visitors got to pose questions and vote on their favorites. With voting now closed, it's pretty clear that some advocacy groups hijacked the process. NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) clearly mobilized its members to send in questions, dominating the "budget" and "financial stability" categories with questions such as:

Would you support the bill currently going through the California legislation to legalize and tax marijuana, boosting the economy and reducing drug cartel related violence? -- Anthony, Warrington, PA   

I don't know, but does anyone really think that legalizing marijuana is the most pressing financial issue facing the country?

For the most part, though, the most popular questions read like they were written by individuals with concerns that resonate for all Americans. Take a look.

The Founding Fathers believed that there is no difference between a free society and an educated society. Our educational system, however, is woefully inadequate. How do you plan to restore education as a right and core cultural value in America? -- Takeok, Boston, MA

The laws that regulated the financial markets to prevent a Great Depression were eliminated in recent history (Glass-Stiegel, etc.). Will we see those laws reinstated to prevent this financial crisis from happening again? -- Sharnell B, Carson, CA

Do you plan on giving any incentives to people who choose to update their homes with green energy sources, such as solar panels? -- Jess H, Potomac Falls, VA   

Why can we not have a universal health care system like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs, rather than financial resources? -- Richard, SD, CA 

By the time voting closed, 91,000 people had submitted more than 103,000 questions and cast more than 3.5 million votes.

And the administration made clear it sees the Internet Town Hall as a regular feature of the Obama White House.

"It's a way for the president to do what he enjoys doing out on the road but saves on gas," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Getty Images

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