Amazon could not buy the kind of positive publicity that it garnered during Tuesday’s almost two-hour visit by President Obama to its Chattanooga, Tenn., fulfillment warehouse to promote his proposals to “secure a better bargain” for the middle-class. Obama’s message -- that jobs mean more than simply a paycheck: they are “proof that [one] is contributing to the fabric of [one’s] community,” and that it is essential to improve the nation’s infrastructure to both create jobs and to enable companies to more easily transport their products –- was often contradicted by the setting: Obama was speaking to the employees of a company whose customers shop online rather than in their own communities and which, until recently, fought to keep from paying local sales taxes.
Arriving at the facility shortly before 1 pm EST, Obama sat down with journalist David Blum to be interviewed for Amazon’s new Kindle Singles Interview series, which Blum edits. The Kindle Singles Interview series launched last week and will publish exclusive Q&As with world leaders and other celebrities. The singles are available for sale in the mini e-book section of Amazon’s Kindle store. The Obama Q&A will be released today and will be free.
Following the interview, Dave Clark, Amazon’s v-p of worldwide operations and customer service gave the president a short tour of the packing floor area, before Obama made prepared remarks peppered with improvised comments to approximately 2,000 Amazon employees, local politicians, media, and other invited guests.
While the focus of Obama’s 30-minute speech was on his specific proposals to create living-wage jobs by such means as cutting corporate taxes from 35% to 28%, providing incentives for companies not to ship jobs overseas, closing tax loopholes, and investing in job creation programs, he took several opportunities to issue shout-outs to Amazon, calling the Chattanooga facility “the North Pole in the South,” with a “lot of good-looking elves.”
Linking Amazon to his vision for Americans to be able to “earn their own way into the middle class as long as they are willing to work for it,” and to pass on such opportunities to their children, Obama quipped, “When folks have more money in their pockets, that’s good for Amazon; that means your customers have a little more money. They can order a little more of that protein powder.”
Surprisingly -- or maybe not so surprising after receiving letters this past week from so many indignant booksellers and others in the book industry -- Obama studiously avoided throughout the afternoon mentioning the product most commonly associated with Amazon.com: books. Obama referred several times to his earlier tour of the packing floor, commenting that he’d seen dog food, Kindles, and beard trimmers “laying about” the area.
“I noticed a lot of folks are ordering protein powder,” he joked, “Everyone’s trying to get bulked up.”