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February 25th, 2009
11:23 AM ET

Dear President Obama #37: Speaking in tongues

Reporter's Note: President Obama says Americans should let him know if they have ideas to help the country. Some say letter writing is a lost art, so in the name of art and citizenship, I am sending a letter a day to the White House.

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Nice job on your first big speech to Congress. Must have been tough to stand up there looking at all those senators, your own Cabinet members, Supreme Court Justices, the Joint Chiefs. I think it would be difficult telling them about your vision for America, especially when you consider how many of them once thought they’d be standing in your place. Ha!

Adding to the complexity, is the chore of having a little message for so many different groups: trying to keep the liberals from revolting, trying to lure the Republicans into cooperating, trying to keep the moderates from seeing you as an extremist, and on and on it goes. And, oh by the way, let’s not forget all the rest of America.

There are an awful lot of us out here these days. 300-million or so, last time I counted. And frankly, I’m pretty sure that walloping number has changed politics in ways that Washington has not yet fully comprehended. We are the third largest country on earth in terms of population. Only China and India are bigger. China’s government, of course, is nothing like ours. And India, while it is a democracy, operates against an utterly different historic, cultural, and economic backdrop.

With that in mind, I have wondered at times if it is possible for any president to really speak to and reach all of America anymore. Look at it this way: If only one percent of the population opposed you on some matter (say you wanted to outlaw rowboats; or declare lemonade the national refreshment) that’s three million people. Three million! They get hooked up on the Internet, start trading stories, buttons get made, t-shirts printed, and pretty soon you are facing a movement that is too big to ignore and yet statistically negligible. Like a splinter under your fingernail, it’s not enough to shut you down, but man is it a pain.

You poll numbers, for the moment, seem to be a pretty great suit of armor. Most people trust you, and believe in your words. Keeping those folks corralled, however, will be tough. Most politicians eventually face a choice: Speak your mind, or speak in a way that will get you re-elected.

Like I said, speaking to all Americans is tough these days. For the moment, however, it seems like you’ve got them ready to listen, and that’s a start.

Call when you can. I’m always happy to chat!

Regards,

Tom

For more of the Foreman Letters, click here.

soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. bryan

    I Want to know what Pres. Obama is going to do about families like my wife and I that only made 25 k this past year and is still struggling.
    Also professional athletes are making millions of millions of dollars that dont even need it how come it seems like Obama is just helping the rich and say "screw you" to the "middle class" or poor.Electric bills here are way too high and hows my bill 250 bux if its turned offf???

    February 26, 2009 at 7:11 am |
  2. TILJUANA

    People are just hatin on this man cause hes Black!!!! Who cares what u think about him he is here to do a job not to be judge!only god can judge him!and how long did it take Bush to get our soliders from iraq!!!! hmmmmmmmmm u tell me? This man is not a miricale worker!!!and your not going to just automatically change the whole world over night!!!!!!!! he already has enough to deal with !just leave the man alone and let him do his job!!!!Some people are so quick to critisize,but what are you doin to make a diffrence in this country!!!!

    February 25, 2009 at 10:05 pm |
  3. Lindsay, Mobile AL

    President Obama,
    I am a fan of your orator skills, and your speech writer, just superb. I believe you are a generally well meaning guy, but the brilliance everyone is slapping your back for, well I am a little confused on. Not that I don't think you are capable of it, but I just don't think you have actually displayed what you may very well be capable of...

    A few points to make:
    1) The stimulus bill was being crafted before you were even inaugurated, you took it in for the touch down sure, but don't get cocky.
    2) The expansion of child health insurance, again was just waiting for you to get in to sign it, so have your handlers back off on giving you all the credit okay?
    3) and concerning the Pay Equity legislation, refer above to one and two.
    4) Remember that the republicans currently in congress were elected freely by the citizens of America. So while you might not agree with them they do represent a legitimate part of the American people, so lets get some of the dripping disdain out of your voice okay?
    5) And that past administration you so openly attribute all the worlds ill to, well yes they were elected freely by the American people also. In fact some of the same people who elected them elected you (myself for example), so every time you call them idiots, well your kinda calling us idiots.

    So in closing all I ask is stop icing the cake and lets see you really really do something brilliant and innovative in the white house house okay? Give us some of that determination, grit, and roll up your sleeves work ethic you have been telling us about.

    Thanks
    Lindsay

    P.S. Here's a tip on Pelosi, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

    February 25, 2009 at 9:17 pm |
  4. Lindsay, Mobile AL

    Well Roland I am normally not a fan of you, I often find your rhetoric inane, annoying, and why do you always have to shout? But in this moment you are right, So what if Obama shoots for the stars and misses, at least he will hit the moon right? So yes lets make outrageously big plans, things people say can’t be done, and figure out how to do them, even if we only get half way there its better than nothing at all.
    And hey Roland, when you yell, it just makes me change the channel.
    Thanks Lindsay

    February 25, 2009 at 9:17 pm |
  5. Annie Kate

    Tom

    Great letter. We are a huge population of people and probably our pool of opinions and policies are even larger. Its hard to please everyone all of the time or even some of us just some of the time but in this Obama seems to please a majority of folks so far – just don't know how long it will last. I just hope that despite our size and our multitude of opinions that we are still governable. Some in Europe doubt saying there are too many extremists. One more issue for Obama to lay to rest.

    February 25, 2009 at 9:03 pm |
  6. Lena Williams

    First off, I wanna say I am tired of America, I have been listening to all the negative comments about President Obama and now everyone has their hand out asking for money.
    President Obama is NOT to blame for our current situation, his Predecessor did NOTHING for the economy, as far as education and things of that nature and instead of criticizing him why don't we try to HELP the President?
    Everyone needs to STOP placing blame at his doorstep because he did not get us into this mess, No one had ANYTHING to say when Bush was in Office and when the Republicans were in control, NOTHING got done at all!!
    all of these financial experts and all I mean if you have the answer then why don't you try to help the President out instead of pointing the finger and placing blame?
    and saying "He's not smart as we thought"
    Do we think McCain would've had the answer?
    Bush spent all of our money in Iraq on war!
    there is our BAILOUT there!!!
    STOP placing blame on Obama!
    He just got into Office barely a MONTH ago! this is not his fault!

    February 25, 2009 at 3:20 pm |
  7. Jocelyne

    Mr. President,
    Once more, with your speech before the joint Congress last night, many feel that you sincerely want to succeed and it is clear that you are doing your very best. So, not simply for your personal success but overall that of your fellow citizens and your country.
    Thank God, a large number is behind you on your search for the well-being of all. Your intelligence, confidence and openness are trustworthy. Nevertheless, your effort to work on a bipartisan manner is appreciated. You believe in " America as One" and you are so right. This great country could use this unity, specially at this dire time. You will surely succeed with the people and for the people.
    Congratulations on your search for the utmost solution in order to overcome.
    With unlimited best wishes to you in such arduous pursuit.

    February 25, 2009 at 3:19 pm |
  8. Mike M.

    Johnnie. Love the way you blame the republicans. Please see exhibit A.) The democrats controlled both the house and senate the last two years. What were they doing? Putting their hands in your pockets. B.) Look in the mirror. The people who took the money from the banks knowing they couldnt pay it back and the people who gave it to them, knowing they couldnt pay it back, are the root of the financial housing meltdown. Were the republicans sitting in at the title company forcing those people to take the money. NO. Even Mr. Obama said so last night.

    As you can tell I am republican. However, I think Mr. Obama deserves a chance. He is our president and I will give him my full support.

    Wake up. Stop the republican bashing and start taking accountability yourself. Democrats controlled both houses and people took the money with no means to pay it back. Now all the democrats want to do is point the finger. How typical.

    February 25, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  9. penny

    Anderson,
    "Obama talks with understanding and explains his policies with clarity on a different level. The Republicans Or any of the cheap suits should go back to school because it is clear that they do not have the aptitude or understanding to execute any thing that PRESIDENT OBAMA spoke on. As a matter of fact it appears they are in the Senate and Congress just to collect a paycheck. If Donald Trump is looking to do another show he should bring it to the Congress and Senate called "YOU ARE FIRED". Nevertheless, many of those senators or congressman may not have the aptitude to execute the instructions to get things done in the government because of their age."

    February 25, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  10. Lindsay

    President Obama,
    I am a fan of your orator skills, and your speech writer is just superb. I believe you are a generally well meaning guy, but the brilliance everyone is slapping your back for, well I am a little confused on. Not that I don't think you are capable of it, but I just don't think you have actually displayed what you may very well be capable of...

    A few points to make:
    1) The stimulus bill was being crafted before you were even inaugurated, you took it in for the touch down sure, but don't get cocky.
    2) The expansion of child health insurance was just waiting for you to get in to sign it, so have your handlers back off on giving you all the credit okay?
    3) And concerning the Pay Equity legislation, refer above to one and two.
    4) Remember that the Republicans currently in congress were elected freely by the citizens of America. So while you might not agree with them they do represent a legitimate part of the American people, so lets get some of the dripping disdain out of your voice okay?
    5) And that past administration you so openly attribute all the worlds ill to, well yes they were elected freely by the American people also. In fact some of the same people who elected them elected you (myself for example), so every time you call them idiots, well your kinda calling us idiots.

    So in closing all I ask is stop icing the cake and lets see you really really do something brilliant and innovative in the white house house okay? Give us some of that determination, grit, and roll up your sleeves work ethic you have been telling us about.

    Thanks
    Lindsay

    P.S. Here's a tip on Pelosi, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

    February 25, 2009 at 2:38 pm |
  11. melma moore

    obama should stand up and act like he is the president do every thing he can legaly do in his power .the people voted him in office, he said he won now act like. he should take america under his wings and go. he knows the problem now take the problems of the world and run with them handle as many as possible. do something. the people are gonna constanly find something wrong that needs a fix so therefore do what needs to be done it's time to act one step at a time. no matter what the people voted him in and they will vote him out.so i say to obama stand up and be the boss handle your bussiness obama act like the person you are were elected to be.i know you can do this. you heard the people now stop listening and do something, we all need help. and those republicans thats crying like babys stick a nipple in there mouth and let them know that daddys home everything is gonna be alright because you said it. obama if you're gonna run the world run it. line your ducks up and start shootin .make america , america again. and stop letting other countrys take advantage of us. make us proud to be americans,and if america is really serious about there country they will stand up and really do there part to make this country worth living in. obama kick ass like you know how don't be scared,because you know the republicans are hatters. bussines is bussines and pleasure is pleasure. lets do this america said that they are willing to help now put them to work see if they can really handle this. don't be a bush and get the shoe. do whats necessary for america. we love you andi do to. all i ask is that you stand up and let the world know that you have balls to. oh yes as far as rush limbrough tell him to suck a boat load of duck nuts and continue to take his drugs and kkeep looking like a zuckmonkey,and let you run the world.

    February 25, 2009 at 2:03 pm |
  12. Zach

    You could spend 1 million dollars a day since the time Jesus Christ, supposedly' walked this earth and still not have spent 1 Trillion dollars today. Our country is now 12 Trillion in the hole.

    How, pray tell me Bonnie, does that make things better for our Children and Grand Children? We leave them to a life of debt and shame.

    February 25, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  13. Linda B., Ga

    I thought the President's speech was Right On.....now everybody else in D.C. needs to cooperate with him, both sides of the aisle.....

    Now we have 91 yr old Robert Byrd spouting off, who woke him up? I think it's time for him to retire. Do YOU ALL know that he (being President ProTemp of the Senate) is 3rd in line for President IF something happened to Pres. Obama (heaven forbid and heart be still at the thought). Whoa....and we complained about Johnny Mc's age.

    February 25, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
  14. Bev C.

    Wow – how refreshing to have a President who talks to US, THE PEOPLE! The Republicans acted like the lemmings they are – sat there, not applauding, and not standing during most of the President's speech. That speaks volumes doesn't it! It really doesn't surprise me that they are not changing their ways. They think Jindal will be the next president in four years. They are so absurd in their stiff-neck thinking, it's almost laughable. They keep forgetting that President Obama INHERITED THE REPUBLICAN MESS FROM THE PAST 8 YEARS!!! They will do everything in their power to try to get President Obama to fail. Let them try. Keep talking about how much the government is spending – isn't that what a spending bill is supposed to do?????????

    February 25, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  15. john christopher

    If Americans are going to start electing intelligent, forward-thinking pragmatists whose humanity is showing – republicans will soon become irrelevant. Only Ron Paul is asking the right questions and he is being ignored (not only by the media) but, his own party.

    February 25, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  16. Bonnie Shoffner

    Mr. President,
    I listened to your speech last night and decided that I am not only very fortunate to have you as my president but also my friend. I have been laid off from my job at a bank and my retirement account is down to practically nothing, with 35% of it in bank stock. I was very concerned about it as I am 57 years old and this whole situation has changed my plans. However, after listening to you last night, I realize that it isn't "all about me" but rather, "all about this country as a whole" and if I lose all that I have in my retirement, so be it......I have a strong faith in God and a very strong faith in your committment to do what is right for "all people"......My 20 month old grandson has a shirt that says "Baby got Barack" with your picture on it and I am so glad that he does have you because his future once again holds promise....thank you.

    February 25, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  17. Isabel, Brazil

    President Obama,

    From what I see here in Anderson Cooper’ blog, people are optimistic, confident and proud.

    The American nation has always been competent exactly because of this trust. Confidence in their potential! And that is how it should be!

    I always admired you for that!

    February 25, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  18. Noel

    I also think Prez. O. "GETS IT".

    Even though getting the actually details and mechanics of this stimulus plan has been a painfully slow process, I think that the "Party of NO" really does sum up the G.O.P. strategy here.

    It's really an anti-strategy...
    Hope the president's stimulus fails, and take credit for opposing it.
    Hunker down and do nothing until re-election time.
    Revise history, and assign blame to others for Bush's failed policies.

    It's also interesting to note, as did your BET guest last night, that 100% of the face of the republican party has been ethnic since Obama's innauguration, as opposed to its actual membership which well under 20%. The public can smell political spin a mile away, and Obama is not the one doing it here.

    February 25, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  19. Teresa

    well done, Tom.

    to the posters up yonder bellyaching about the republicans ( which I'm not).... who would you be whining about if there weren't rep's?

    This is the very problem in this country–the basic two party system. It doesn't really work. As long as he is on that side and she is on this side... there is no middle. And we, as in middle america, are lost in the mix.

    As for Mr. Obama's speech.... ::::yawn:::: nothin' new. He is getting boring. People hear what they wanna hear.

    February 25, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  20. Michael C. McHugh

    Republicans attacked FDR and Truman ruthlessly, but that didn’t stop them from trying to get as much of their reform program as possible passed. Lincoln’s enemies were literally shooting at him, and he had little support from the opposition in abolishing slavery. For a truly brutal campaign, go back and study the rage against Lincoln in the 1864 election. Not nice at all.

    JFK was attacked very harshly, and many people still wonder if it didn’t go even further than that.

    Not even George Washington, John Adams or Thomas Jefferson were immune to harsh political attacks from their opponents.

    Or, as Woodrow Wilson observed, if you can’t stand the heat then stay out of the kitchen.

    Just when did this mythical era of bipartisanship exist? Maybe for a few years under Eisenhower in the 1950s.

    February 25, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  21. Jaz

    Last night was the first time in decades that I sat through an entire Presidential address. The words, eloquent, the message clear and concise. In my years of doubting the US government, for the first time I'm inclined to trust the leadership and be less pessimistic of our other leaders (i.e. Congress and the Senate)
    My own story is leading me ever closer to getting my citizenship application in. I was not born in this country but I've been here since before my 2nd birthday. I've been educated in our public school system, I've served in the Army Reserves, worked for the majority of my life and paid into the system via taxes, social security, unemployment, etc.... The one thing I have never had the opportunity to do is VOTE, and now more than ever in my lifetime, do I feel that this goal has become my highest priority.

    Sadly I've never felt so obligated to help my President and my country while also being extrordinarily proud. I don't plan to wait until my citizenship is approved to roll up my sleeves and help.
    I'm currently assisting my community build a new LGBT pride organization, to help my town regain a sense of center. The predecessor group disolved and left a huge gap in the community. We will fill that gap.

    The President spoke to many of my own personal interests on the campaign trail. I feel more confident that this President is determined to follow through. Spoilers such as Gov B. Jindal, just proved to me that there is still those that are more inclined to throw the wrench into the works instead of help. I wont give up hope that we can unite and solve our problems together, it will make the job go faster, however I feel we can still complete the job either way.

    Please continue extending the olive branch but understand there are those of us out here that will still help with or without the bipartisan support.

    Jasmin Lind
    Madison, WI

    February 25, 2009 at 11:25 am |
  22. Isabel

    Yes, despite the applause, smiles, and autographs, the heart of President Obama would be (slightly?) tight and apprehensive!

    Congratulations President, mission accomplished!
    Congratulations Anderson Cooper, mission accomplished!
    Congratulations AC team, mission accomplished!

    February 25, 2009 at 11:18 am |
  23. Pat from Chicago

    To "The NO Party",

    Last night as I looked out at all the Members of Congress, I couldn't help but notice how old and tired the "NO Party" looks these days. It is such a striking difference to the Democratic Party.

    Yet, when the the "No Party" put their youth of the future up to speak after the President's Address, to speak on the "No Party's" behalf, I became even more convinced that the "No Party" really has NO idea of what is going on out there in the trenches of everyday American lives! I think the No Party is stuck in a trench and can't find it's way out!

    It is time for your Republican Party to wake up, get out of snooze mode, roll up your sleeves and work side by side with President Obama. You are wasting the American people's time with your bickering and your nonsense.

    It is a new world out there and President Obama "GETS IT".

    February 25, 2009 at 10:31 am |
  24. Heather

    Jonnie and Sarah – Wow. “We will deny your type of government,” “the world would be a better place without them…” Now you both sound like Hitler. Seriously – we are all Americans here and we should all be on the same team. Such cynicism and hate will do nothing but continue to demoralize America and take people’s eyes off of the issues that really matter. Try to have some focus. In the interim – I’ll pray that you find some peace.

    February 25, 2009 at 10:28 am |
  25. Rachel

    Dear Mr. President

    Sometimes when you speak I say to my self I wish I would be his speech writer because I would love to add some things in your speech. Like when you talk about health care I wish you say "how many of you congress men and women have health care and yet we all are hired by the people and we and our families have health care but we stand here and deny the same people who are sending us check every year, who are paying our mortgages, and who are sending our children to collage we stand here and deny the same things that they allow us to have."

    Over all it was a nice speech but not too much clarity and as Mrs. secretary sayed you can not govern by giving speech. I see you on TV a lot. I love to see my president talk and speak adequately. But when I see you and your cabinates testifying speaking more than Anderson Cooper it getting a little hard. We all need action.

    Thank you Mr. President oh by the way the first lady was so lovely and beautiful. May God bless you and your families and may God bless the men and women who are serving our country and all its children.

    Rachel
    Atlanta GA

    February 25, 2009 at 10:20 am |
  26. Sarah from TN

    I so agree with Johnnie!! Republicans are dislusional, hypocrites, I hope their party will disappear in the future, better yet they can form their own goverment with Jidall – the fool and Palin- just plain stupid, to maybe let's say some far far away galaxy and take all the republicans with them. AHH world would be such a great place without them!! Seriously it would!

    February 25, 2009 at 10:09 am |
  27. Joanne Pacicca, Solvay, NY

    Sure it is a public relations venture! How about the fact that we all need to hear it! This spark of hope that this eloquent and caring President can deliver, and done so with urgency, is a shot in the arm. Let's not expect immediate results, rebuilding...like construction of a plan or construction of a bridge, takes time.

    February 25, 2009 at 9:48 am |
  28. BettyAnn, Nacogdoches,TX

    Good Morning Tom!
    I like that 1% thing. It gives me ideas. Maybe I'll start a new peace movement. Surely that will be popular.
    I am curious. How many letters to the President are you going to write? Is he answering you at all? I hope he does not think they are rhetorical because this is serious and you make very good points.
    Thank you Tom and happy lent. Are you still wearing your mardi beads?
    I am. XO's

    February 25, 2009 at 9:46 am |
  29. Johnnie G., Baltimore, MD

    Dear Republicans:

    The day of reckoning has arrived! Please continue to show how irresponsible, negative and un-American you all are. I know you can't help it and you need medication. A dose of reality should cure your low self-esteem and severe negativism.

    Your party have served the American people with disgrace. And now you think it to be American to judge the American people's choice!

    Continue and your Repubican Party will not govern again as long as time remains. Continue to spread your unwanted criticism of our choice and we will deny your type of government F-O-R-E-V-ER.........

    February 25, 2009 at 9:40 am |
  30. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Mr. President--–you got the American people's attention--and they will listen more when more results happen--and if that doesn't happen-–it was all words falling on deaf ears.

    February 25, 2009 at 9:34 am |

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