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Reddit Users Accuse Northwestern Law Grad Of Being A White House Plant In Obama AMA

By Amy Cavanaugh in News on Sep 1, 2012 7:00PM

2012_09_01_obamacomputer.jpeg President Obama took to Reddit this week to do an AMA (Ask Me Anything), and unsurprisingly, it took approximately 30 seconds for people to decide that one of the questions must have been planted by the White House. But it wasn't—the question was asked by Hilary Lee, a Chicago resident and 2012 Northwestern Law grad who just wanted an answer to her question.

Question: I am recent law school graduate. Despite graduating from a top school, I find myself unemployed with a large student loan debt burden. While I'm sure my immediate prospects will improve in time, it's difficult to be optimistic about the future knowing that my ability to live a productive life -- to have a fulfilling career, to buy a house, to someday raise a family -- is hampered by my debt and the bleak economic outlook for young people. I know that I'm not alone in feeling this way. Many of us are demoralized. Your 2008 campaign was successful in large part due to the efforts of younger demographics. We worked for you, we campaigned for you, and we turned out in record numbers to vote for you. What can I say to encourage those in similar situations as I am to show up again in November? What hope can you offer us for your second term?

Answer: I understand how tough it is out there for recent grads. You're right - your long term prospects are great, but that doesn't help in the short term. Obviously some of the steps we have taken already help young people at the start of their careers. Because of the health care bill, you can stay on your parent's plan until you're twenty six. Because of our student loan bill, we are lowering the debt burdens that young people have to carry. But the key for your future, and all our futures, is an economy that is growing and creating solid middle class jobs - and that's why the choice in this election is so important. The other party has two ideas for growth - more taxs cuts for the wealthy (paid for by raising tax burdens on the middle class and gutting investments like education) and getting rid of regulations we've put in place to control the excesses on wall street and help consumers. These ideas have been tried, they didnt work, and will make the economy worse. I want to keep promoting advanced manufacturing that will bring jobs back to America, promote all-American energy sources (including wind and solar), keep investing in education and make college more affordable, rebuild our infrastructure, invest in science, and reduce our deficit in a balanced way with prudent spending cuts and higher taxes on folks making more than $250,000/year. I don't promise that this will solve all our immediate economic challenges, but my plans will lay the foundation for long term growth for your generation, and for generations to follow. So don't be discouraged - we didn't get into this fix overnight, and we won't get out overnight, but we are making progress and with your help will make more.

Gawker posted on the situation, which basically consisted of libertarians deciding that because Lee created her Reddit account that day and because her question was so well written, it must have been staged. We talked to Lee today to set the record straight.

"I think some people have a desire to see something nefarious in anything," Lee told Chicagoist. "People jumped on my question because it seemed easy, because I posted it using a newly created account, and because it was relatively lengthy. Despite the fact that there were simple reasons for all of the above occurring—I asked an "easy" question because I knew it would be more likely to be answered, I was participating on a friend's laptop and didn't have my normal login information so I created a new account, and I copied and pasted the question from a word document after spellchecking it—it fits the worldview of some people to assume that it must have all been a conspiracy, or that I had to have worked for the campaign."

Lee worked for the Obama campaign in 2008, but hasn't done anything for them in 2012. She says she's been a regular Reddit user since 2010, though "mostly as a lurker."

"I wasn't on my own laptop at the time, couldn't get my regular account to login, and was worried that if I didn't get my question submitted quickly it wouldn't be answered," she said. "So I created a new account."

Lee said that on Wednesday she had received a rejection from a law firm and felt "particularly demoralized."

"The situation that I and many others my age are in was already on my mind," Lee said. When I got the chance to ask a question of the President, it seemed like a good opportunity to vent my frustrations a little bit."

Lee said Obama's response was "honest and pretty detailed."

"I didn't really expect much more," she said. "He's a politician, and there's only so much he can really say before an election. In asking the question I had hoped that if he picked it to respond to, he'd have to think about the situation that I (and others like me) are in, and perhaps that would get the issues to the forefront of his mind."