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January 11th, 2011
12:49 PM ET

Letters to the President: #722 'A call to action . . . or not?'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: Presidents are often noticed for the legislation they get passed. But sometimes what they don’t pass matters, too. That’s what I’m writing about in today’s letter as the snow threatens.

Dear Mr. President,

Well, we’re expecting some relatively big snow here in DC today, and that should give me a chance to test my winter driving skills on the way home tonight. I’ve lived in enough places with real winters to have developed a pretty good repertoire over the years; turning with the skid, light taps on the brakes and accelerator, and the more advanced hell-for-leather “stomp on the accelerator, careen across three lanes, and barely scoot around the five cars that just piled up right in front of me” maneuver.

The secret in all of these actions, as you may know being from Chicago, is a measured response - not too much, not too little; not too soon, not too late. That is on my mind as I listen to the continuing political roar over what happened in Arizona. As is often the case, there are calls in DC for new legislation, talk about new controls on guns and on speech, and new security for elected officials.

You and your pals on both sides of the aisle can sort that out, but I would just caution that steps taken too rapidly in the wake of extraordinary events often prove rash in retrospect. Like a sharp turn with brakes on ice, such instant responses to tragedies, while certainly heartfelt, often skip a necessary period of real reflection and thought.

This is the same reason I have always told young colleagues, don’t send an angry e-mail no matter how unfairly or badly you were treated on the job, until you have at least slept on it overnight and considered the real consequences that may follow, not just the immediate satisfaction you want from having “done something about it.” The goal has to be not an emotional sense of revenge or asserting political power, but rather effective governance than will stand up to debate and reconsideration long after the sadness and shock fade.

For the courts, the job now is well-defined - look at the evidence, proceed with a trial, and administer justice. For the legislative branch, the job is much tougher. There is nothing easier than being reactionary. But you know that we don’t elect people just to do the easy jobs. The hard job right now is to see what happened, to consider it with great thought and as much time as it takes, and then to decide what if any action is appropriate.

Good luck with your part in that. Call if you can.

Regards,
Tom

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Rich Pliskin

    Dear Tom: On yesterday's "Situation Room," you discussed large-magazine pistols, and highlighted the Second Amendment. However, you presented an edited version of the full text of the amendment, and in doing so you badly misrepresented both the amendment and the debate over gun control. Here's what you highlighted:

    " ... [T]he right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    You left out the dependent clause that precedes the independent clause and that gives the right to gun ownership context:

    "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State ..."

    You don't see many militias in America these days, at least none sanctioned by law. Many people believe that absent the context of militias, the argument for individual gun ownership or at least the opposition to strict controls fails.

    Why would you misrepresent the text of the Constitution?

    January 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  2. Sherri- Texas

    Loughner made a reference to Drowning Pool's punk-rock video, "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" which has a man being administered a lethal injection, while maintaining,"Nothing's wrong with me." Other lines are," Can't take much more, push me again this is the end, skin on skin blood on bone, you're by yourself but you're not alone. You wanted in, now you're here, let the bodies hit the floor. Hey..Go!"

    January 12, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  3. Ethel Holmes

    I do not think President Obama should use his speech to point fingers. However, I believe after we find out the prognosis of all of the injured and the fatally wounded have been laid to rest, there needs to be some finger pointing and tongue lashings, to both sides. I was at a meeting with a congressman and the subject of gun control came up. A person asked about gun control, since we have so many gun crimes and murders in KC. His response, "There is no guarantee no matter your job". Either quit or tough it out. Congress should do the same. I agree with the constitution that we all have the right to bear arms, however, when the constitution was written, I do not believe the framers could imagine the kind of gun weaponry that is on our streets today. There is a stupidity (or greed) that too many congresspersons adhere to. Come on, I'm over seventy and I believe the framers of the constitution expected our elected officials to uphold the constitution, but with some sense to adapt it accordingly. According to a good many of them, we should not avail ourselves of indoor plumbing, travel in motorized transports, have anything but woodburning stoves, etc. After all we did not have these amenities when the Constitution was written. Come on people! Start electing people to Congress who are not greedy with hands out to lobbyists, do not lie to their constituancy, and have the United Stataes and it's people as their only priority.

    January 11, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  4. Wayne Kerr

    Message to President Obama And Anderson Cooper

    Sirs,
    I believe it is time for the American public to be re:educated on their constitution. It should be taught that "The right to bear arms" really means you have the right to roll up your sleeves and get down to work. This might help with the public killings and the welfare rolls as well. I wish you all the best of luck in stemming the tide of bipartisanism and the flow of blood in tour great nation.

    Wayne K. (in Canada)

    January 11, 2011 at 5:19 pm |