Missouri Voters Refect Obama's Year In Office

Voters in Clayton, Mo., reflect on the Obama administration one year after the president's inauguration. Some Obama supporters are disappointed at the pace of change in health care and his foreign policy, but they say they would still vote the same way.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This week we've been checking in with people across the country, people we met during the presidential Campaign, to hear their thoughts on President Obama's first year in office.

NPR's Linda Wertheimer traveled to Missouri to reconnect with folks she encountered when Mr. Obama won a close primary race there.

LINDA WERTHEIMER: Back in 2008, we went to a primary night party at the home of Ben and Susie Uchitelle in the community of Clayton, a beautiful close-in suburb of St. Louis with nice old homes and huge old trees. And last night we were there again to see what may have changed.

Betty Van Uum is a longtime activist on women's issues. She says her biggest disappointment is that health care legislation didn't move faster.

Ms. BETTY VAN UUM (Activist): We have enormous majorities. We had an enormous mandate to get that done and by now it should've been done.

WERTHEIMER: Raz Newman(ph), who's a scientist, hoped that the debate on health care might reflect the change she thought President Obama would bring to Washington. But instead she saw the same old horse trading.

Ms. RAZ NEWMAN (Scientist): The health care issue was a litmus test at this point for change. And the way it was handled and the almost bribing that went on, I saw that as the same old thing. I saw no change in the way that that was handled at all.

WERTHEIMER: When we talked to Raz Newman on primary night she told us she voted for Hillary Clinton because she had more experience. And Raz Newman remembered that last night.

Ms. NEWMAN: I'm feeling that some of the worry I had about his experience may be coming to fruition and hopefully things will change as he learns more.

WERTHEIMER: Our hostess, Susan Uchitelle, had another campaign promise in mind. She works on charter schools. She thought the president would already have done something about education. But then, we're a very impatient country, Ms. Uchitelle added.

Sandy MacLean(ph) is another neighbor. He's a Republican. And he is surprisingly satisfied with the president so far.

Mr. SANDY MACLEAN: I don't take campaign promises very seriously. I think I agree with Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard when he said that it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I was particularly pleased with the president's stand on the (unintelligible) defense and sending troops over. I was afraid he was going to pull them all out and that would've been a disaster, in my estimation.

WERTHEIMER: Sanford Newman(ph) is a lawyer, married to Raz who spoke earlier. He's also okay with the president's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, even if it was not what Newman wanted or expected because he believes the president made a thoughtful decision.

Mr. SANFORD NEWMAN (Lawyer): I was pleased at the amount of time he took to deliberate over these decisions. And I respect someone who's elected to office, and he has made some very specific promises. And yet, he took the time, and if he's decided that troops should stay longer, I have a lot of confidence in his judgment and that doesn't disappoint me.

WERTHEIMER: But several people clearly hoped and believed the president would have the U.S. withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan right now. And they are very disappointed.

Harriet Baron is an administrator at Washington University in St. Louis.

Ms. HARRIET BARON (Administrator, Washington University): I don't think it's any clearer to us what our goals are, what our limits are. And I think we're losing sight of what we stand for in this fighting in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

WERTHEIMER: Did he do what you thought he would do about those two areas of conflict?

Ms. BARON: He did what I feared he would do.

WERTHEIMER: Foreign policy is the biggest disappointment for Vivian Eveloff, especially the two wars. She runs a program at the University of Missouri that works with women candidates. It seemed so clear, she says, that he would not do what he's doing.

Ms. VIVIAN EVELOFF (Director, Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life, University of Missouri): I think that people who voted for Obama, many of them, which would include me - did it in large part because we really wanted a change in our foreign policy. And I think we have not gotten the change we had hoped for. And I think the economic effects of continuing the war while trying to do all this domestic policy is really very, very difficult. You can't do, really, guns and butter.

WERTHEIMER: All that said, the Obama voters in the room all said that they'd still vote the same way, that they hoped the president will be successful. Several blamed Congress for getting in the way. And they believe that President Obama still represents change, certainly to the outside world, and they're hoping in Washington.

Linda Wertheimer, NPR News, Clayton, Missouri.

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