President Obama prepped for tonight’s prime-time news conference by discussing the proposed stimulus bill during a town hall meeting in Elkhart, Ind., earlier today.

I took notes as I watched the event live on CNN so I could share my firsthand observations with readers of The Bread Line.

Obama defended the size of the economic stimulus package. (The Senate version of the plan costs $827 billion; the House version costs $820 billion.)

“It’s not perfect,” Obama said. “But it is the right size, it is the right scope. Broadly speaking, it has the right priorities to create jobs that will jump-start our economy and transform the economy for the 21st century.”

Obama admitted that every item in the stimulus plan might not work as well as hoped. But he insisted the plan help develop better policies for the future, not only provide short-term stimulus.

“My whole attitude is if we’re going to spend billions of dollars to create jobs anyway, then why wouldn’t we want to create jobs in things like clean energy that create a better economic future for us over the long-term,” Obama said. “That’s common sense to me.”

Production of alternative forms of energy will double, creating so-called “green jobs” to go along with the policy shift, he said. This will be particularly beneficial to the country’s failing auto industry, he said.

“If we don’t use this crisis as an opportunity to start retooling, then we will never catch up and be able to compete effectively against Japanese automakers, Korean automakers, and we will find ourselves continuing to slide,” Obama said. “This is one of the best possible investments that we can make.”

The Obama administration is setting up a Web site, www.recovery.gov, to report where all the stimulus money is going, how it is being spent, and how many jobs it creates. If this is done right, it will provide much-desired transparency regarding the massive spending bill.

While skirting the issue of whether there is too much pork spending left in the proposed bill, Obama said it doesn’t contain any earmarks.

“This bill does not have a single earmark in it,” said Obama, likely encouraging many people to scour the bill’s contents anew.

And speaking of people who like to skewer Obama, conservative commentator Sean Hannity’s name came up during the Q&A part of the event. A woman suggested the president “have a beer with Sean Hannity.”

Obama said he was unaware of such an offer, but would consider it. “Generally his opinion of me does not seem to be very high. But I’m always good for a beer.”

I suspect Obama and Hannity won’t be discussing their differences over a couple of cold brews anytime soon, but at least the suggestion provided a little humor to a discussion that otherwise was very serious.

Now we wait a few more hours before hearing what Obama says during his first prime-time news conference as president. The televised event is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. CST.

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