Internet chat with the president

Clinton hosts the first-ever presidential Webcast.

By Anthony York

Published November 8, 1999 8:16PM (EST)

In what is being heralded by promoters as the 21st century version of Franklin Roosevelt's fireside chats, President Clinton will transcend his personal ignorance of the Internet and host an online chat with other Democratic officials Monday evening at George Washington University.

The discussion, which has been given the lofty title "Third Way Politics in the Information Age," will also feature Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreeson.

The event is sponsored by the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist wing of the Democratic Party to which Clinton claims allegiance. The discussion is expected to focus on the group's political agenda, touching on issues from the new economy to Internet privacy.

While the president has described himself as a "technoklutz," his spin doctors are using more genteel words to describe Clinton's relationship to technology. "The president realizes his limitations with such a dynamic and progressive venue such as the Internet -- just like the rest of us struggle to keep up with it at times," a White House spokesperson said.

Luckily for Clinton, he won't even have to do his own typing for Monday's chat. People who log on to the townhall home page at will be able to ask the president questions. But instead of the free-for-all frenzy that marks most chat sessions, the questions will be filtered. DLC president Al From will ask the president questions, and Clinton will answer them on video. A stenographer will be transcribing the dialog for Internet users who do not want to watch the Webcast.

In a touch of irony, viewers will have to download Microsoft's media player in order to watch the Webcast, just three days after a judge agreed with the Justice Department that the company was a monopoly.

Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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