COLUMBIA — In front of a crowd of about 50 people, most of whom were students, four men discussed the possibility of President Barack Obama's re-election.
On Tuesday night at the Armory Sports and Recreation Center the four speakers began by announcing their opinions on whether they wanted Obama to have a second term. Three of the speakers were for Obama's re-election, and Mark Flakne, president of Keep Columbia Free, was against it.
The panel discussion "Does Obama Deserve a Second Term?" was one of Columbia’s Black History Month events. The conversation centered around Obama's handling of the war on drugs, the economy, health care reform and civil rights.
"The reason that he's president of the United States is because we the people put him there," said Darrel Foster, a member of First Ward Ambassadors and member of the panel. "The massive voter turnout, that's what got Barack Obama elected."
"We the people don't run this country, the corporations run this country. The corporations run Barack Obama," said Flakne in response.
When "we the people" wanted to end the war on marijuana, Obama ignored the people, and his administration said it wanted to continue the drug war, Flakne said.
"The war on drugs is the modern Jim Crow," he said. "Barack Obama has pursued that in vigor, no doubt about it."
Fellow panel member John Clark reiterated what Flakne said. Clark said law enforcement is behind the people saying the war on drugs is an unmitigated disaster but for some reason law enforcement doesn’t have Obama’s ear.
Flakne said that the country spends about $500 a second on the drug war, mostly on education and law enforcement, and Obama is letting money go to waste.
"Barack Obama has done nothing to end the war on drugs," he said.
The drug war has had the same negative effects as alcohol prohibition, Flakne said.
"Why do we have a drug problem in Missouri?" he said. "It's because it's illegal."
Obama has nothing to do with the people that are setting up this state with meth and nothing to do with drugs, Foster said.
"Our problem isn’t crack cocaine, the problem is meth, and Barack Obama has nothing to do with that," he said.
The panel also discussed current health care reform and the state of the economy.
Panel speaker Steven Skolnick said the reality we were facing was a great depression, just as serious as the situation former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced, but society has not fallen apart, and things have only inflated a little bit.
"I think Obama’s done relatively well for being in tough circumstances," he said.
Skolnick encouraged those present to re-elect Obama.
"I think we need to listen to what he has to say," Skolnick said.
"Some of the things from the health care bill already kicked in the first year, like closing of the donut hole," Clark said.
Health care before Obama was "a cancer on our economic system," Clark said.
Clark also said he is terribly disappointed in Obama and discouraged, but he believes in re-election.
"I am quite hopeful," Clark said.
When someone from the audience asked about Obama and civil rights, Foster responded quickly.
The prejudice, discrimination and racism that used to divide this country is long gone, Foster said.
Obama is here to move this country forward, Foster said.
"Barack Obama is a very talented, a very good politician," he said. "He's not here to provide me with civil rights and come up with some big opportunities for black people."
"We the people, red, yellow, black, white, male and female, selected a different direction for this country, and this country is headed in a different direction," Foster said.