Tue, 10 Feb 2009 19:10:16 +0000 – By Joshua Rhett MillerReporter, Foxnews.com
President Obama took his stimulus battle to the people of Elkhart, Ind., and the citizens responded -- questioning the trustworthiness of his Cabinet and details on how he planned to keep jobs in the United States.
But during the president's first prime time press conference later Monday, Obama fielded softball questions like his reaction to Alex Rodriguez's steroid confession and a timeframe for troop withdrawal in Afghanistan despite his plans to increase the number of troops there.
Could John Q. Public actually be asking Obama tougher questions than the White House press corps?
Questions posed during Obama's town hall meeting in Indiana ranged from concerns about his Cabinet selections, provisions in the stimulus bill that will address environment issues and what the president plans to do to keep companies in the United States instead of off-shoring their business.
"You come to our county asked us to trust you, but those that you have appointed to your Cabinet are not trustworthy and can't handle their own budget and taxes," a woman who identified herself only as Tara said, garnering boos from the crowd.
"No, that's OK," Obama responded. "This is a perfectly legitimate question ... If you're not going to appoint anybody who's ever made a mistake in your life, then you're not going to have anybody taking your jobs."
In regards to the stimulus bill, local attorney Jason Ward asked Obama what provisions were included to address green issues -- a "great question," according to Obama.
"Under this plan, we would double the production of alternative energy, double it from where it is right now," Obama replied.
Perhaps the most direct question came from a 9-year-old boy named James.
"What are you going to do to help our schools?" James asked.
In response, Obama stressed the need for better training, improved assessment of teacher performance and a reworked No Child Left Behind Act.
Even readers online posed tough questions for the president. When asked Monday night what Foxnews.com readers would like to ask Obama, responses included queries on tax increases related to the stimulus and whether the commander-in-chief considers himself to be a fiscal conservative.
"What does steroids have to do with the economy?" another blogger wrote.
Another commenter said he'd like to ask Obama specifically about what failed in the economy and exactly how the stimulus package plans to address that.
"It's broke, throw money is not a coherent strategy," another blogger wrote.
On Monday evening, 13 reporters who questioned Obama during his prime time briefing touched on topics like Afghanistan and A-Rod.
"It's depressing news on top of what's been a flurry of depressing items, when it comes to Major League Baseball," Obama replied. "It tarnishes an entire era, to some degree."
Obama also fielded a question about what he intends to do to "get more bipartisanship" in Washington.
"Old habits are hard to break," Obama said. "And we're coming off of an election and I think people want to sort of test the limits of what they can get."