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June 30th, 2012
09:53 AM ET

Letters to the President #1258: 'On the fire line'

Reporter's Note: I write letters to President Obama. I’ve done it ever since he was inaugurated.

Dear Mr. President,

I neglected to mention your visit to the wildfires out in Colorado yesterday, and heaven knows I should have. I’ve been to an awful lot of big fires like that over the years, and they can be awfully tough on communities when they come roaring through. Obviously it is terrible for people who lose their homes, but even for those who do not, such a disaster can affect them for years; their local economy, the value of their homes, the incidence of depression, and on and on.

I’ve always had mixed opinions about presidents visiting the scenes of such disasters. As well intentioned as such trips can be, they put a strain on law enforcement and local officials at a time when they are already under a lot of pressure. I know you’ve expressed the same thoughts from time to time.

Simultaneously, I know that any president who does not go to visit Americans in such challenges circumstances risks public condemnation for not caring. It puts every president in a difficult spot, to be sure.

Still, I think erring on the side of “going” is usually better. Even though you can’t man the fire lines, or cut trees, being President involves an awful lot of symbolism. I think it makes people feel a little less alone when the top elected official in the country takes time to stop by and tell the nation that this suffering matters; that we all ought to be thinking of our fellow citizens and preparing to help when the calamity has passed.

On top of which, I lived in Colorado a long time, and I find myself thinking about all the good people back there an awful lot.

Hope your weekend is nice.

Regards,
Tom