Chattanooga: Panel eyes change with Obama

Chattanooga: Panel eyes change with Obama

January 17th, 2009 by Matt Wilson in Local Regional News



* No Southerners on cabinet.


* Obama's new New Deal.

* First "Generation Jones" president.

* First Dog update.

* Obama and football.

* UTC Chancellor Roger Brown on the new president.


* Pastors discuss Obama.

* Tennesseans and Georgians donate to campaign.

* MLK day of service.

* Symbolism of Obama in the White House


* Local race relations.

* Local musicians in D.C.

* Obama: The techie president?

* Market outlook.


* 100 Chattanoogans on Obama's first 100 days.

* Lawmakers comment.

* Chattanooga residents visit Washington.

* Inauguration-watching parties.

* Obama memorabilia.

* Doris Kearns Goodwin's book.

* Tax cuts.


* Obama stimulus package: Local reaction.


President-elect Barack Obama will be sworn into office Tuesday.

President-elect Barack Obama should break down barriers between the United States and the world, as well as between Americans and government services, members of a Times Free Press panel said.

"He needs to build communication," said John Roark, 25. "He needs to have talks with people that the previous administration wouldn't speak with."

During last year's presidential campaign, Mr. Obama pledged to have talks with leaders in Iran and other countries and took some heat for it. But Mr. Roark, who joined with five other Chattanooga-area residents to discuss the priorities of the new administration, said that is exactly what the country needs - more openness with the world.

Erskine Oglesby, 53, agreed.

"There's going to have to be an open line of communication now," he said. "We need to get back to that kind of thing."

Michael Blank, 35, said the method of communicating with nations such as Iraq also is important.

"We need to look at how to speak to the people of a country as opposed to the leaders," he said.

But Terry Olsen, 35, warned that it may not be completely beneficial to too quickly reverse the Bush administration's policies.

"You can't live this way for eight years, and say, 'We messed up,' and change it," he said. "What I would hope is that Obama would not go against every policy that's standing in place but actually analyze it."

Mr. Olsen said Americans too quickly have forgotten how they felt after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

He and Mr. Blank said it also would be hard to step in and tell allies such as Israel to stop the bombing in Gaza, which has been taking place since late December and killed more than 1,100 Palestinians.

"We set the standard," Mr. Blank said. "If you are attacked, you attack back. (Israel) is doing exactly what we've demonstrated to the world is appropriate to do."

Bonnie Cooper, 58, said that's a problem, and she argued that the United States should end its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I cannot go and tell two neighbors not to fight each other, if the one down the street I'm bombing," she said. "The first thing I have to do is clean up my act."

Mr. Blank argued that the United States also needs to clean up its act when it comes to civil liberties. In a change from the Bush administration, Mr. Obama should review President Bush's signing statements, end wiretapping, develop technology for accurate databases such as the federal no-fly list and immediately comply with congressional subpoenas, Mr. Blank said.

"Those are the things that will open us back up into the democracy that we are," he said.

Likewise, Mr. Olsen said the Department of Homeland Security should be reduced in size.

But Mr. Roark said American culture will have to change before those barriers can be brought down.

"There's too much fear that's been shoved down our throats to allow these things to happen," he said.