WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama faced some skeptical questions from young people and defended his policies, from job creation to immigration, on Thursday in an effort to rev up Democratic voter enthusiasm for the November 2 midterm elections.
Obama appeared at a live television event in his latest attempt to reach young people and recapture some of the magic from his 2008 presidential victory as polls show the Democrats trailing in the congressional vote.
One man peppered Obama with questions about his economic policies and asked whether he would deserve re-election in 2012. “Why should we still support you going forward with your monetary economic policies, and if the economy doesn’t improve over the next two years why should we put you back in?” he asked.
Obama said he took office when the country was in the throes of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and the $814 billion economic stimulus he pushed through Congress “no doubt” saved or created 3 million jobs.
“While the economy was contracting when I came into office, it’s now growing,” he said. “With respect to the private sector, we’ve seen job growth nine consecutive months.”
The event was shown live on Black Entertainment Television (BET), Country Music Television (CMT) and Music Television (MTV), networks that are primarily aimed at young people. Questions covered the central concerns of the day.
Obama said he hoped for greater cooperation with Republicans next year. “There are a lot of good Republican ideas out there,” he said, adding that he hopes for “a greater spirit of cooperation after this next election” on issues like education and energy policy.
“After the election my hope is people start emphasizing what we have in common,” Obama said.
Questioners challenged him about past promises of bipartisanship that have never been realized, his economic policies amid a stubbornly high 9.6 percent jobless rate, and his policies toward gays in the U.S. military and immigration.
WORK WITH REPUBLICANS
Obama has enjoyed one-party rule throughout his presidency, but his Democrats face the possibility of losing control of the U.S. House of Representatives and losing strength in the Senate, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll.
When a Republican woman asked about the absence of bipartisanship in Washington, Obama said the White House had many meetings with Republicans on his U.S. healthcare overhaul, for example, but the two sides were never able to meet halfway.
Another questioner pressed Obama on why he was not ending the U.S. military’s policy against gays serving openly in uniform, after a California judge this week struck down the policy. The Obama administration is appealing the ruling even as the White House speaks out against the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
“This is not a situation where with a stroke of a pen I can end the policy,” Obama said. He added later, “This policy will end and it will end on my watch.”
While it was billed as a non-political event, Obama declared at the end of the hour-long show, “Don’t forget to vote November 2” when prompted by a moderator.
One of the moderators read two tweets where viewers were asked to state their greatest fears ... “My greatest fear is that we’re turning into a communist country.” The other: “My greatest fear is that Obama will be reelected.”
Obama acknowledged there were differences of opinion among Americans but urged civility. “We’ve got to stop the name calling,” he said.
Obama said he still hoped for progress on overhauling the U.S. immigration system that will provide a pathway for illegal immigrants to “get their paperwork straight” and ultimately gain U.S. citizenship.
Hispanic groups are disappointed he has not spent more time on this issue.
“I actually feel somewhat optimistic that we can get it done in the next legislative session,” Obama said.
Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Alister Bull, Writing by Steve Holland, Editing by Todd Eastham
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