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April 26th, 2012
09:09 PM ET

Letters to the President #1193: 'Who gets the bill?'

Reporter's Note: I write to the White House each day. Then I go home to my house and wait for a reply. I’m still waiting.

Dear Mr. President,

So now the Republicans are after you for allegedly using Air Force One and taxpayer money to take campaign trips without properly reimbursing the government. I must say I am neither surprised at the allegation, nor would I be surprised to find it true. Don’t worry. I’m not taking a slap at you. It would not surprise me for any president.

I’ve long thought that one of the problems of incumbency, is that office holders of all stripes seem to be constantly seeking re-election; raising money, making speeches, kissing babies, and much more all while supposedly “on the job.” Accordingly, I think the potential for mistakes, miscommunications, and miscalculations is huge. So is the potential for abuse.

Imagine that I’m a governor. And yes, yes, I realize you’d never want to live in any state that would elect me, but still imagine that I held that post. One day I decide to go visit a vegetable market because my state’s farmers could use a little of that gubernatorial magic to spur interest in their tomatoes, potatoes, and ears of corn. Along the way, my campaign folks say, “You know, Governor Tom, when you are talking about the beet crop, you might want to mention how your opponent in this fall’s election hates beets.”

“Good idea,” I say.

“And, since you’re mentioning it, maybe we can get one or two of the TV stations to interview you on the subject.”

“Sure.”

“And just to make sure we help ourselves…uh, I mean the farmers…with as much publicity as possible, why don’t I call some of our friends and make sure they assemble a crowd of some five hundred people. Would you object to those folks being farmers’ wives? You know that’s a demographic we’re a little weak on…”

And Bob’s your uncle, suddenly even my well-intentioned little tiptoe through the lettuce leaves is looking a whole lot like a campaign stop…even though I’m still using the state limo, state security, state staff members, and those “Better Health Through Farming” pamphlets I’m handing out with my smiling face on the back were printed on state machinery using state computers.

Frankly all of this is why I think incumbents, especially presidents, actually should not campaign at all. I know it sounds crazy, but in the early days of our country that’s how it worked. All sorts of proxies could raise money and make stump speeches, but the candidate’s work in office was supposed to speak for him. No accusations of using the state buggy improperly there!

Anyway, good luck with your travels…wherever they go and whoever is paying. Ha!

Regards,
Tom

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