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Gwen Ifill moderated a town hall meeting in advance of President Obama's trip to St. Louis, asking local leaders and residents to assess his first 100 days as president.
And to our own forum. Gwen Ifill has been spending the week in St. Louis. Last night, she moderated a town meeting in advance of President Obama's trip to the area. It was held in the studios of our local PBS affiliate, KETC. Here are extended excerpts.
Is the nation on the right or wrong track after 100 days? I'm here with a curious local audience and a panel of elected officials and local leaders.
Democratic Congressman William Lacy Clay, Jr. He represents the greater St. Louis area.
Patti York, the Republican mayor of neighboring St. Charles, Mo.
Democrat Christopher Krehmeyer, a housing and community activist in St. Louis.
And Republican John Danforth, who represented Missouri in the U.S. Senate for nearly two decades.
Mayor York, I'm going to start with you and ask everybody else to weigh in on this, as well. One hundred days in to the Obama administration, if you were to give the president a grade based on what your needs are and your concerns are, what would it be?
PATTI YORK, mayor, St. Charles, Mo.: I would say probably about a B. We're working on a lot of issues. And I appreciate the fact that he's looking at local communities, looking at the broad picture, but also back into what is good for the community, things like the COPS program.
That was a program that allows communities to hire policemen and is paid for by subsidy, so to speak. And it's paid for, for three years. Then we take up the tab from there. Those are kind of monies that really help a neighborhood, and that's really important to us.
Senator Danforth, what would you say?
FORMER SEN. JOHN DANFORTH, R-Mo.:
Well, measured against his program, I'd say an A-plus. He is a very effective politician. He has, I think, made remarkable progress on his agenda in 100 days.
But I think it's important to recognize that he has really changed course for this country. I mean, when he talked about change, he meant it. This is a very, very dramatic change in favor of the power of the federal government, and particularly the power of the presidency.
By my standards, I think that this is a very serious misdirection for the country. And I really am concerned that there hasn't been more comment on it, because, I mean, going back to our earliest days, the Constitutional Convention, the debates between Jefferson and Hamilton, all of this had to do with, how much power should be in how many hands and how much power should be concentrated?
And we are talking about very big government, very powerful government, and government that is in the process of taking over a lot of decisions that were in the private sector and a lot of decisions that were made at the state and local levels.
Congressman Clay, the gauntlet has been thrown down. You're a strong Obama supporter. What do you think about what Senator Danforth said?
REP. WILLIAM LACY CLAY, JR., D-Mo.:
I would certainly give the president an A-plus. He has changed the trajectory of this country in a matter of 100 days by, first, getting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed, investing $787 billion into an American economy that was on the brink of disaster.
He has given over 11 million children health care. He has banned torture. He has closed Guantanamo. He has certainly given us a date for pulling out of Iraq.
So when you hear Senator Danforth say this is a change of trajectory, but a bad change, what do you say?
REP. WILLIAM LACY CLAY, JR.:
I don't necessarily agree with that. When you think about the previous eight years, there was no consensus in Washington. There was no real emphasis on the people of this country, on their agenda, on what matters to Americans.
It was quite a bit of focus on what was happening in Iraq and how we directed a war on a country that we never should have been at war with. But there was no real emphasis in Washington on giving a tax break to 95 percent of American taxpayers, like this president has done.
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