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July 11th, 2009
07:23 AM ET

Dear President Obama #173: Rack 'em up

Reporter's Note: The President of the United States has plenty of advisors; educated, experienced souls who have dedicated their lives to public service. However, for some reason, he has made it clear that he would also like advice from the rest of us. I find that confusing, but then he probably finds my response confusing too: a letter a day to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

It took a pretty good while, but it appears you are finally facing what every president faces at some point after he has unpacked his suitcases at the White House. Your poll numbers are falling.

My first advice: Take a deep breath. Relax. You are still pretty much the most popular politician on the planet, and certainly the most popular one here. Your Democratic buddies in Congress are about as well-liked as a wet sock in the face. And the Republicans hardly have time to even plan a bounce back, amid the torrent of debris from all their self-destructing colleagues. And don’t get me wrong. People still like you; in big numbers and in a big way. It’s just that the polls suggest they are getting a little shaky in their faith that you know what you are doing.

So my second advice: Watch “The Hustler.” I’ve mentioned in recent weeks that my family is screening a stack of classic movies this summer, and that I’m going to keep you abreast of our progress each Saturday, and this week I thought this great tale of a conflicted pool shark was particularly appropriate. (BTW, yes, I know that I’m leaning heavily on the Paul Newman flicks, but I can’t help it. I just love his work and usually love his characters.)

Fast Eddie Felson’s struggle to attain excellence, strike it rich, and simultaneously build and deny a meaningful human relationship captivates me every time. The question of what it means to “have character” dominates almost every frame. Some people find it a dark and depressing movie. I never have. I find it encouraging; a reminder that we all must find what we really believe in, amid all the other things that can so easily draw us on…money, fame, power, sex. In the end, Fast Eddie finds, among other things (such as Jackie Gleason is kind of o.k., but George C. Scott is one bad dude..) that he must ultimately ignore both the approval and the condemnation from others.

Not a bad thing to keep in mind as the polls start shifting, because you know it’s still quite early in your presidency. You are going to have ups and downs no matter how much you may hope otherwise. And there is nothing to do, but rack them up to experience, and keep playing the game you came with, as long as you think it is still the right game to play.

Do you like pool, by the way? I love the game. The sharp clack of the balls. The smooth felt of the table. The wonderful geometry of it all. I’m not any good, but if you’d care to place a wager on a game one day, you know, just for fun…give me a call.

Regards,

Tom

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Erskine Boyce

    I was touched and moved by the President's visit to Ghana .I Can understand. As a black person every time I look at that door I think of my great grand father going through that door.Keep the good work up understand,

    Erskine

    July 12, 2009 at 12:50 am |
  2. Erskine Boyce

    I was touched and moved by the President's visit to Ghana .I Can understand As a black person every time I look at that door I think of my great grand father going through that door.Keep the good work up understand,

    Erskine

    July 12, 2009 at 12:50 am |
  3. Chinemerem Njoku

    Presnt day: White security agents are on top of the roof of the slave castle at cape coast, Ghana, protecting Obama.
    Flashback: White security agents are on top of the roof of the slave castle at cape coast, Ghana, protecting slavery.

    What an irony of history.

    July 11, 2009 at 8:44 pm |
  4. George J.

    I was just curious of what Sarah Palin would say during that 3AM phone call. I was thinking that she would say something like "why are you waking up so early, I quit".

    July 11, 2009 at 5:44 pm |
  5. Norma Labno

    Tom, thank you for today's thoughtful letter to The President!

    I watch many of Paul Newman's movies too because he
    was number one with me due to his enormous and
    successful humanitarian efforts which live will on for
    decades, hopefully – for centuries.

    I always watch "The Hustler" for the pool playing – endlessly
    entertaining for someone who has tried and tried and tried but
    rarely won a game. Love the sound, the feel, and hushed moments
    within each game!

    Thank you for an especially enjoyable letter!

    norma from nevada

    July 11, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  6. Lampe

    Maybe Americans are starting to wake-up and smell the coffee?

    July 11, 2009 at 4:08 pm |
  7. rizopause2000

    To all whom it may concern:

    This President is doing a great job so far. It tool GWB 8 years to cause a global economic catastrophy, it sure will not take a year or even two to fix it. The man is being looked as a man with "S" on his chect. Come on America, let's be real.

    "ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY"

    The most of us Americans think and analyse things is a damn shame. We're too spoiled and we take all the opportunities we have in this country for granted instead of taking advantage of them. Many kids are busy having babies at age 16 and then drop out of school, have no education etc, will come blame Abama for that.

    Go to many African countries, where you onlt have one or two univerties in a whole entire country with smart kids with good grades but can't get admision but you have the free world with colleges behind yor back doors yet still we manage to have bunch on Illiterates running around while they can even go to school for somewhat free.

    All the haters just shut your mouth and take accountability and responsibilities of your own lives and stop blaming your causins for your damn failure.

    I have more to say but can't due to limitations.

    July 11, 2009 at 3:54 pm |
  8. Donna Wood, Lil' Tennessee

    Bravo Mr. Foreman!Again and as always, well said! And isn't it interesting and a little bit funny how pool and shark just seem to go together so well?

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    July 11, 2009 at 3:43 pm |
  9. maame-esi

    thanks cnn for your wonderful coverage of ghana , it means a lot to ghananian americans in the us, i was born in cape coast and grew up around the castle, its very emotional, i go home to ghana every christmas, and donate stuff to orphanage in cape coast. This trip by Present Obama is much needed for the growing economy, ghana is a very peaceful , warm, God fearing and loving country. I was there for the recent elections and i applaud my people for the most well organized elections. There is improvement every time i go home. All Ghana needs now is jobs for the young generation.
    Good job present Obama and his team, good job Anderson and CNN team.
    Thank You
    Stay Blessed
    Maame -Esi ( Santa Clarita, Ca )

    July 11, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  10. Shirley Poponne

    It is important that you share with the world while in Ghana, the torment and brutality, the Africans had to endure at the hands of some ill fated, ungodly, babaric,greedy ,uneducated Europeans. My concern is that this one time reminder will do little to remind the general public of what these Africans had to endure. What I suggest, that there should be a yearly or bi-yearly event as you do with the HEROS program to bring to light this matter, so some remorse will be felt, and even some compensation for these past acts, as well as entwining in our heads that this should NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!! Be it human beings for hard labour or for sex. Good Luck, Peace..... Shirley

    July 11, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  11. Ayse_London

    Obama galavants across the world telling people in Turkey, Egypt and Ghana to name a few, to take a stand for themselves, and to be the change they want to see. Obama talks about how he supports and encourages them, and tells the audience that it is their right and responsibility to shape their country and democracy in the way they want it, to which he gets a standard ovation. But then – just then- you get the catch. And the catch is 'if you want it you go get it without my help regardless of the risk'..

    Now with that in mind Mr Obama how do you expect mere mortals – people living in extreme poverty or dictatorships like Sudan, Iran and Zimbabwe to take a stand, if those that stand are slaughtered whilst you watch from your picket fenced garden?

    July 11, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  12. Chike

    Looking forward to the documentary on monday

    July 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  13. Robert Wheeler

    On Michael Jackson;

    Two California jury stars OJ and MJ were freed from crimes against
    humanity. One lived long enough to show his true colors and lives
    without wealth although a star on the gridiron. Evidence after death will show the truth of the other who also could not take his wealth with him and was a star on stage. The historical legacy will for both be "controversy." Family and fans can try to make their stars shine, but the lives they lived will ultimately be judged by a higher court.

    On our government spending;

    The amount of government spending is financial suicide for all living
    Americans today. It is a permanent mistake for a short term problem
    in the lives of Americans who were once considered free and have to bear with it today. Long term, our children will correct these mistakes with their votes so their grandchildren can once again be
    free from financial tyranny. I am the one that would be happy to
    turn the reins back to the previous administration and jump ahead to
    the next administration.

    For our legislators;

    I doubt you would serve us if you had to bear our financial loses which
    you have allowed. You protect yourself with your own votes for raises
    and benefits. That is not financial freedom, that is financial tyranny.

    July 11, 2009 at 12:47 pm |
  14. Anthony B.

    President Obama gave a strong message to all Africans. Everything he said is true and all the Africans leaders need to listen and stop the criticism. I’m from Africa and I know that all those who criticize President Obama and the message he gave to the Africans in Ghana are the same corrupts leaders in Africa. They make the continent miserable and kill millions of Africa without any justice. Finally we have a President in America that gives credit for those that love democracy and peace. Finally we have a President that tell the Africans the truth and not give them millions of dollars and feel sorry for the Africans. My hope is that the youth and young Africans will listen to President Obama and follow is words.

    July 11, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  15. Als

    Polls are meant for strippers. The Pres is in office for four years regardless of some poll numbers. Its unrealistic to expect the Pres numbers to stay high for the entire time he is in office. Sarah Palin numbers are high and she is known to be a quitter. That should tell you something about the poll numbers you continue to watch.

    July 11, 2009 at 12:20 pm |
  16. Bernard Pongui

    In the fact that the president Barack Obama is visiting Ghana which is one of african country, what is his perception about africa ?
    Also, what he can say about certain africain's president who stay in power forever by modifying and shaping the constitution of countries in their advantage (for example Mr Sassou Nguesso who is the president of Congo-Brazzaville).They are runing countries as their own properties and they is a lack of real democracy, no freedom of speech and the population has a miserable life.
    Can the USA allow certain sholarship to student of french african countries?
    What kind of action the USA can take for these cases ?

    July 11, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  17. Angelo

    Just noticed mother in law is on the trip. Can u ask Potus about her emotions in the dungeons. Where the kids too young to understand ?

    July 11, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  18. PGWarner

    Please note that the captured Africans, held against their will in dungeons across Africa, similar to that the one shown at Cape Coast, Ghana.... were NOT slaves but FREE men, women and children. And in fact those free Africans who survived the trecherous journey across the Atlantic became SLAVES to build the economy of the New World – to date...free of charge...

    July 11, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  19. george

    Hi Anderson,
    I have been following the coverage of the Presidents visit to Ghana and I felt very proud as a Ghanaian living in the US. I wanted to add something I haven't heard so far. Did you know W. E.B Du Bois, the black American Activist and pioneer died in Ghana and is buried there?.That is for your information.

    July 11, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  20. Mike in NYC

    Tom wrote:

    "...you [The Great One] are still pretty much the most popular politician on the planet."

    He wasn't feeling much love from ordinary Russians. And no, it wasn't just because he's POTUS.

    July 11, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  21. RLWellman

    That's what happens when your talk doesn't match your actions. You can talk all you want, but it's time to start backing up your words.

    July 11, 2009 at 10:04 am |
  22. Marjorie Lominy

    The odds of him reading this are slim...but I so wish he could.Nicely done, Tom.

    July 11, 2009 at 9:52 am |
  23. Hans

    These polls!
    As much as i love to them, i sometimes wonder how they are done and how the peoepl are selected since i nor anyone i know have never been surveyed!

    July 11, 2009 at 9:40 am |
  24. Martin

    Obama wishes for strong government on the African continent. What about here at home?

    July 11, 2009 at 9:29 am |
  25. Martin

    Why do either of my comments require moderation? Please explain?

    July 11, 2009 at 9:28 am |
  26. Martin

    Why does President Obama wish for strong governments on other continents. One place I especially especially have in mind is the US part of the North American contenent.

    July 11, 2009 at 9:27 am |
  27. Martin

    Why does President Obama wish for strong governments on other continents. One place I especially especially have in mind is the US part of the North American contenent. I am tired of this dufus spending tax payers money on his personal agendas

    July 11, 2009 at 9:25 am |
  28. Hakeem

    I am not even from ghana and i am exited. Ppl in all over the occidental part of the continent are so excited, news in my country Togo ( neigbor of Ghana) reports that massive ppl travel to Ghana hopping to get a glimpse at the Black US president

    July 11, 2009 at 8:44 am |