FREMONT, Ohio - U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) appeared to dodge a question about President Obama's birth origin during a town-hall meeting that featured an outpouring of strong anti-Washington views Monday night.
The issue of the President's native land came up toward the end of a two-hour meeting after one speaker questioned whether Mr. Obama was born in the United States, as the Constitution requires for a President.
That drew an outburst from a person in the audience, Tom Younker, 63, of Gibsonburg, Ohio., who challenged Mr. Latta.
"Is Barack Obama American or is he African?" said Mr. Younker, a painting contractor. "It's pretty important that you let the people know."
Mr. Latta did not answer the question directly, saying only that when he looks out on the country, he sees only Americans.
The answer didn't satisfy Mr. Younker, who said, "Mr. Obama is my American President and I'm proud of him," and left soon after.
Mr. Latta said later to a reporter he had misunderstood Mr. Younker's question to be whether he considered Mr. Obama to be an American or an African-American.
"The courts have already said he was qualified to be President," Mr. Latta said when asked to say whether he thought the President was native-born. "He was dutifully and lawfully elected and we're going to make sure in 2012 that he's a one-term President."
Later, he added, "Hawaii says he was born there. There's no reason in my mind that I would doubt that."
The woman who asked the question had suggested to Mr. Latta that he should treat the Democratic leadership in Washington not as peers, but as enemies.
"You're a nice person, but your mindset has to be they are trying to break the country, make us live under their rules," said Rebecca Orians, 55, of Tiffin. "If you can, get them impeached, put in jail."
Someone from the audience added the suggestion, "shot in the head."
The congressman did not respond to that suggestion.
Mr. Latta said he was gathering ideas for America Speaking Out, an effort by House Republicans to build an agenda for governing the country.
He said, "Folks have got to remember that the way we effectuate change in this country is through an election process and that's why we've had stable government."
More than 100 people attended the two-hour event on the campus of Terra Community College.
Most speakers appeared to be from a conservative perspective.
Rob Voska, 47, of Green Springs in Seneca County, said, "The Democrats have the inflation rate down so far that no one can invest and we can't build up our community with our savings because they've taken control of our money. Until we get a money that's backed by gold and silver, they have all the control."
Stacia Rapp, 19, a student at Ashland University, complained that students aren't being taught accurately about American history and the Constitution.
She said President Obama is increasing his power at the expense of Congress.
"I think Congress needs to stand up and he needs to back down. It's not his place," Ms. Rapp said.
One speaker complained of the emphasis on the national debt, saying the government's first concern now should be on promoting employment.
"I'd like to worry about [the national debt] in six or eight months after we get some jobs going," Carl Joseph, 63, of Tiffin, said.
Mr. Latta invited attendees to log into the America Speaking Out Web site, which allows users to publish their own suggestions for national policy and to vote thumbs up or down on other people's suggestions.
"I don't think Washington has too many great ideas. Washington better start listening to the people back home," said Mr. Latta.
His district includes part or all of 16 counties, including all of Wood County and the southwest corner of Lucas County.
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U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) appeared to dodge a question about President Obama's birth origin during a town-hall meeting that featured an outpouring of strong anti-Washington views Monday night.