At one level, it's a wonderful thing, and I applaud it. I think most of us generally have a very difficult time getting a response from those elected officials who represent our area, so being able to have face time with the big guy is comforting. Over the past few months, I've been engaged in a written exchange with the former head of the Privy Council here in Canada on his blog, and I have to say it is inspiring to have one's opinions entertained and generously received by someone so highly placed. Plus it's nice to be reminded that they're all all just people trying to do a job.
At the same time, one can imagine that there is a huge army of folks to vet and screen the calls. Certainly no world leader needs to have an embarrassing interaction with a problematic caller who suddenly starts screaming at them about taxes or blathering on incoherently about some Zionist conspiracy at Facebook that involves collusion with Martians and the CIA. Cutting off calls does NOT encourage others, no matter how necessary. Even when such calls are sincere inquiries from those with a modicum of mental health and nonpartisan curiosity, a webcast has to adhere to all the other properties of a broadcast. So it has to move along, fit in enough callers to not arouse the feeling that it was biased in who received attention, and so on. Can you actually get into any depth with that sort of Oprah-esque talk-show pacing? Can the economic, social, and political issues of the day receive proper airing and coverage within what necessarily has to be a fairly modest allotment of time?
My sense is "No", which to my thinking at least, makes it risky and a potential source of disappointment. True, every election has town hall meetings that seem to fare okay. But these are more for "What would you do?" questions, and not "Why haven't you done anything yet?" questions. Clearly the nature of town halls changes when you're IN office, as opposed to trying to get into office.