published Sunday, July 28th, 2013

Rolling out the unwelcome mat: Plenty of vitriol will greet Obama in Chattanooga

President Barack Obama speaks about the economy July 24 at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo. Obama's scheduled Tuesday visit to Chattanooga's Amazon fulfillment center has sparked plans for protests by conservative groups.
President Barack Obama speaks about the economy July 24 at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo. Obama's scheduled Tuesday visit to Chattanooga's Amazon fulfillment center has sparked plans for protests by conservative groups.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

WORD WATCH

Polling research found vast differences in the way people refer to President Barack Obama compared to how they referred to then-President George W. Bush.

Barack Obama, June 2013

Good man: 34 percent

Incompetent: 27 percent

A liar: 18 percent

Excellent: 17 percent

Intelligent: 15 percent

Socialist: 15 percent

Smart: 11 percent

George W. Bush, July 2005

Honest: 31 percent

Incompetent: 26 percent

Arrogant: 24 percent

A good man: 18 percent

Determined: 15 percent

Stupid: 12 percent

An idiot: 11 percent

Source: Pew Research Center

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Poll
Are you glad Obama is coming to Chattanooga?

The visit may be historic. He may be the leader of the free world and the first black president. Chattanooga may be a blue dot in one of the most Republican states in the country.

But the deeply conservative are rallying to give President Barack Obama a red welcome when he comes to outline his economic plans Tuesday at the Amazon distribution center here.

"Obama has left the bubble of Washington and come to mingle with the common folks," said Mark West, who runs the Chattanooga Tea Party and is organizing a rally close to the distribution center to protest Obama's visit. "This is his opportunity to come out and hear from everyday American citizens and hear their grievances."

And the grievances are many. Taxes. Spending. Gun control. Health care. The list goes on.

The country's view of the economy is still tainted. In July, a Pew Research Center survey of 1,480 adults showed 44 percent thought economic recovery was a long way off. Twenty-eight percent thought the economy had already recovered.

Obama's approval rating sank from 64 percent in 2009 to 46 percent this month, Pew reported. White voters are especially disapproving of the president, a study showed, with only 33 percent approving of his performance.

Speakers at the protest will charge up the crowd, but West promised that the language and the signs will be family friendly.

The reaction on social media hasn't been so tame. News of the president's visit sparked scores of outraged comments.

"When I was a kid President Reagan came to town and gave a speech outside. Our teacher was able to take our entire class to see him. I remember being riveted to his words. ... But we respected him fully, knew we were in the presence of greatness. ... I would never take my child to see this president. ... I would go out of my way for him not to see him!" wrote Kimberly Turner on Facebook.

"When a man like Obama, who has caused so much divisiveness, destruction of religious liberties, an economy that is still a complete disaster, and a growing list of scandals to a country I love -- then yeah, he sucks. ... He should stay in Washington and start doing some real work instead of coming to Chattanooga and his countless other propaganda stops," wrote Matt McLelland on Facebook.

Some say this type of social media outburst is an embarrassment to the city.

Patricia Combs, who is on the executive committee of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, called the reaction "unbelievable" and "ridiculous." She said supporters plan to get together and make signs, too, to combat the protesters' message.

"I wouldn't have refused to shake hands with a Republican president. They have no respect for the office," she said. "Everyone in this part of the country, their main objection is that he is a black man. They can't see the difference that he is trying to make."

This is Obama's first visit to Chattanooga and one of only a handful he's made to Tennessee, where he carried only five of the state's 95 counties in the 2012 election.

The Obama administration insists Tuesday's visit to Amazon is not a partisan trip, although the president will be promoting his plans for more education and infrastructure investment.

"This is not about politics," White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said. "This is very much about what we're doing to strengthen the economy and promote growth. He's going to continue to talk with members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats. It's very much to make sure we are taking our case to the American people."

Bruce Oppenheimer, professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt University, said protests will be no surprise for the president. They are a part of any modern president's travels.

When then-President George W. Bush came to speak to Chattanooga in 2007 and ate a barbecue sandwich at Porker's downtown, many people weren't happy he came.

Winning over Tennessee or Chattanooga isn't the point of Obama's visit, Oppenheimer said. He wants to use it as a backdrop. Amazon is an American company that is creating jobs in the work-starved South.

"He doesn't have to run for re-election. He's not trying to move Chuck Fleischmann's vote. It's to produce a national story," he said.

"To get full media coverage you don't want it to look just like yesterday's story. You set it up at different venues."

Staff writer Dave Flessner contributed to this report.

Contact staff writer Joan McClane at jmcclane@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6601. Follow her on Twitter at @JoanGarrettCTFP.

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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