Thursday, April 30, 2009

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President Barack Obama marked his 100th day in office Wednesday with a primetime news conference in which he told the American people he was pleased but not satisfied with the progress of the nation's economy, and twice advised citizens to wash their hands and cover their mouths when they cough to prevent the spread of pandemic flu.

"I think we're off to a good start, but it's just a start," Obama said of his three-month-old administration. "I'm proud of what we've achieved, but I'm not content. I'm pleased with our progress, but I'm not satisfied."

Obama was asked about the future of the U.S. auto industry, the safety of nuclear weapons in Pakistan, the political significance of Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter becoming a Democrat, what kind of shareholder the government will be and whether the Bush administration tortured detainees.

The president paused and sighed before answering that the methods used against detainees were torture and the information gained by such methods could have been collected other ways. He said he was "very comfortable" with his decision to ban interrogation methods he considers torture.

Concessions from auto workers and creditors have allowed Chrysler to likely avoid bankruptcy and merge with Fiat, Obama said. General Motors has "a lot of good product" and can still emerge a strong and competitive company, he said.

At several points during the news conference, he said he did not wish to run private industries and would prefer a "slimmer portfolio" of tasks.

"I don't want to run auto companies," Obama said. "I've got two wars I've got to run already."

He expressed concern about the stability of Pakistan, but said he believed nuclear weapons were safe.

Obama began his 100th day by welcoming Specter to the Democratic party. He said he does not expect Specter "to be a rubber stamp." The president then delivered an optimistic assessment at a town hall meeting outside of St. Louis, Mo., a battleground state he lost by fewer than 4,000 votes.

"On my 100th day in office, I've come back to report to you, the American people, that we have begun to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off," he said.

Later, his administration encouraged schools with cases of swine flu to close temporarily to contain the outbreak.

Another story line of the day had lawmakers, news organizations and interest groups assigning grades to the president's performance thus far.

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