President Obama acknowledged earlier this week that one of the questions he got at a town-hall meeting was a softball.
That was not the case Thursday at an event hosted by MTV, CMT and BET, where the president was taken to task by young voters on the economy and gay rights.
“If the economy does not improve over the next two years, why should we vote you back in?” asked one audience member.
Another young voter told Obama she voted for him because of his “alleged” commitment to equality, and then asked why he had not yet ended the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Obama responded by defending his economic record with a now-familiar checklist of the policies he has put in place and the economy he inherited.
On “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” the president said he believes he has “enough votes in the Senate to go ahead and remove this constraint on me,” as the House has done.
“This policy will end, and it will end on my watch,” Obama said.
After a federal judge ruled the policy unconstitutional earlier in the week, the White House has been scrambling to emphasize Obama’s opposition to the policy even as the Justice Department prepares an appeal.
“I can't simply ignore the laws that are out there,” Obama said.
The president was also asked whether he believes homosexuality is genetic or a lifestyle choice.
“I don't profess to be an expert,” Obama said. “This is a layperson's opinion, but I don't think that it's a choice. I think that people are born with a certain make-up. But we're all children of God.”
While former President Clinton in 1994 was famously asked at an MTV town hall whether he wore boxers or briefs, Obama on Thursday faced questions on complex foreign and domestic policies, including violence in Sudan, the solvency of Social Security and immigration.
On immigration, Obama repeated that he has spent more on border security than presidents before him, but he urged passage of the DREAM Act, which would allow the children of illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors to win permanent residency after going to college or serving in the military.
“My strong hope is that we can get bipartisan support for this in the future,” Obama said.
He added: “I actually feel somewhat optimistic that we can get it done in the next legislative session.”