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September 3rd, 2012
04:17 PM ET

Letters to the President #1323: 'Of all the laboring days'

Reporter's Note: I write to President Obama all the time. It's my job.

Dear Mr. President,

I arrived here in Charlotte today for your big Democratic convention, and I can assure you that excited, faithful followers are rapidly filling the town. I was seated beside two of them on the airplane from D.C., and you'd think from their chatter that they were coming to meet you in person.

Still, it is probably more important for you to focus on everyone who is not here, especially on this Labor Day when so many Americans still can't find jobs. I realize that you will do all you can this week to make a case for re-election; to save your job by pointing out all the steps you've taken to get jobs for them. That is as it should be. But if I'm one of the unemployed, that is cold comfort.

Frankly, even a lot of the employed might find themselves a tad less than receptive. I was reading a report the other day about how the vast number of jobs added since you took office pay considerably less than most of the jobs that have been lost.

So you and your team are, no doubt, trying to figure out how to make all of that bad news look good in your big speech. I have a suggestion: just shoot incredibly straight. Show everyone up front that you see quite clearly how bad things are, and that you readily accept blame for your inability to make things better. Explain simply why you have taken the course you have followed thus far, lay out your plans for the next four years, then say in answer to the Repulican challenges: "You have been asked if you are better off than four years ago. I'll answer: No, we are not. This is a long struggle, longer and harder than I imagined. I thought we could make progress much more quickly. I thought we could create a new environment in D.C. where cooperation and the common good trumped diviseness. I was wrong. But the idea was not wrong. And you were not wrong to believe in it. Don't give up now."

I don't know if a message like that will get you re-elected, but I suspect it might go a lot farther than more attacks on Mitt Romney or his Republican pals. After all, you ran on a promise of hope and optimism... your best chance now may well lie in showing that you still believe, too.

Regards,
Tom