February 3rd, 2009
09:16 AM ET

Dear President Obama #15: Excuse me, Mr. President, did you drop your wallet?

Reporter's Note: President Obama says he’d like to hear from Americans with ideas about how to run the country. I’m American, and I have ideas sometimes. Two out of three is not bad.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

A strange question occurred to me the other day: Do you carry a wallet anymore? I can’t imagine why you would. You don’t need a driver’s license, because you don’t drive now. You certainly don’t need identification to get past security anywhere, because, well, heck the security is all for you. You don’t need money. I mean, even if you found yourself somehow magically at a diner with Joe Biden, unnoticed and unaccompanied by anyone else, do you really think he’s going to push the bill your way and say, “Let’s see, I had the patty melt, and you had the Philly, but you got the onion rings…”

Hillary Clinton might. She’s still got that campaign debt. But still…

Remember in the movie, The American President, how Michael Douglas can’t even buy flowers for Annette Bening because he doesn’t have a credit card any more and his whole staff wants to do it for him? That movie was made in 1995. Oklahoma City was bombed that year. OJ Simpson walked away from those murder charges. You were four years out of college, married only a few years, with no children, and had never run for a public office. Wow. Amazing to think of how the world changes, sometimes.

I’ve met plenty of people over the years who got into politics for the same reasons you did. They wanted to make a difference. They wanted to correct things they thought were wrong with our government. And I always ask them, “So, what has been your biggest surprise?” The answer is almost always the same. “I had no idea how hard it would be to get anything done.” (Although notably, the answer was once, “The vending machines.” I still have no idea what that guy meant.)

My only advice today is that you should remember this simple fact: Changing even little things in government can be a very long, complicated process.

Right now, you’re fighting for your latest Cabinet picks, trying to keep this stimulus package from blowing up like a bag of Orville Redenbacher’s, and hoping bipartisan is a word that actually means something in D.C. Now and then, however, dig out your old wallet from whatever drawer in the Lincoln bedroom you left it in. Open it up and remember what it was like when you weren’t sure you could fill it. Think about what it means to not have power, to not be President. Then be patient. If you think change is hard to come by, imagine how the rest of us feel.

Call when you can. I’m usually up late.



Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Kristy

    Anderson, is AC360 intended to be nonbiased? I've tried to watch your show several times, and I know that you give air time to both republican and democratic politicians and political analyists, but you are so obviously conservative I can't get through more than a few minutes.
    Sometimes you have some good political discussions, but the questions you ask, and the statements you make about the economy make it glowingly apparent that you don't have clue #1 about what it 's like to be a middle class american. I understand that your a wealthy american, so it must be hard for you to truly grasp what real america is like, but doesn't CNN at least offer a training class you can take to educate yourself on the real concerns of regular american's? If they do , you really ought to sign up. I mean, AC360 seems like FOX lite.
    Sorry, I tried to get into your show, but it's just a bunch of rich people sitting around a table worrying that average americans might get something they don't deserve from this stimulus package.

    February 4, 2009 at 10:00 am |
  2. wanda hayworth

    Remember, most Americans are a paycheck away from homeless. Never ever forget that. Unless you have someone to take you in. That is no guarantee either, one fight, and you could be out of there too.

    February 3, 2009 at 9:42 pm |
  3. Angela Williams

    Can someone please tell the people why government officials are not paying their taxes? Daschle's tax problems sent a message to me that the politically powerful are treated differently than average people.
    Is there a watch dog or overseer that can check every government officials tax records? If we can collect tax money from the official that is owed we would not be in the condition we are in. Why should they hold any governmental position and not pay thier taxes?

    February 3, 2009 at 9:36 pm |
  4. Terri

    I'm glad we have a President that will admit if a mistake is made, hold Executives accountable and taking steps towards turning this economy around. Jobs are very important to stimulate the economy, healthcare is needed for everyone, but so is putting more money in the pocket of the low and middle class.

    I urge the President to reconsider the amount that will be given to low and middle class. I have heard the amount that is being considered is $12 – $14 a week. With the amounts that have been lost in retirement accounts, jobs lost or might be lost, and the overall financial uncertanity, $50 more a month is not enough to get people regularly spending. I'm sure other people are in the same situation as myself. I will spend more than $50 a month on my property tax increase, on gas prices which will be increasing in the spring (every year it does), and basic need expenses.

    Why not give $100,00 – $200,000 or more tax free money to every legal citizen above 18 who files a tax return. The government could base it on where a person lives because mortgages are more expensive in New York or Chicago than Rural Indiana. By giving a bulk of money to the people it will allow:
    1. People to pay off their mortgage or bills which will give money to banks and free up the low to middle class spending budget;
    2. A person to buy a car which will help the auto industry to pay back their loan to the government;
    3. Someone to start their own business;
    4. People to attend college and obtain a degree or study a different trade;
    5. People to avoid foreclosure. A person can pay off their mortgage or it will buy them time until the real estate market turns around;
    6. Everyone to invest money to off set their losses experienced in their retirement account or investment.
    7. The stress level to be reduced because now people's bills are paid and this will allow the person and their family some breathing room.

    If the government is concerned about people squandering the money, put restrictions such as a percentage of the money has to be used to pay off mortgages, bills, or be invested. If a person can not prove they have paid off bills or invested the money within a time frame, then they are taxed on the money. If citizens would receive a bulk money, I would encourage you to tell companies to keep the prices or rates down otherwise it would defeat the purpose of people spending money.

    For those people who would say this is not living in a free society, I say if the government gives a person or company a bail out, there should be restrictions. When you borrow money, there are requirements and restrictions so why not when it comes to free money.

    I understand no one can guarantee these steps will fix the economy, but I urge the President to choose options that will make a huge impact on our country and the low and middle class. I know if the government gave low and middle class citizens a large bulk of money it would make a hugh impact and they would be more appreciative than some of these banks, executives who are giving themselves big bonuses, companies that are authorizing unnecessary purchases, or will use the money in what I call shameful spending.

    February 3, 2009 at 8:05 pm |
  5. Annie Kate


    I really like your series of letters. You make some good points. This one in particular – all the politicos in Congress and the White House should remember what its like on this side of the government. We pour enough money into our government to where it should be more helpful to us when we need help. If Obama would just fix that, it might go miles towards fixing some of the other things on his list.

    February 3, 2009 at 5:00 pm |
  6. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    Tom, great letter.

    February 3, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  7. Sam Johnson


    I understood what you meant by your comment, but this is a funny blog pondering whether or not the president is still carrying a wallet. I just wasn't sure how your comment pertained to that.


    There was bipartisan support for the war, but the problem is that we were somewhat mislead into going into Iraq. Of course we were all for it when we thought there was a direct threat against our nation. The problem is that Iraq did not pose a threat. The real question is whether or not they mislead us on purpose or not. I do not think we'll get to the bottom of that question in this forrum.

    Of course, none of this pertains to whether or not Obama is still pocketing his wallet. I for one think he does. I feel naked without mine. I just can't see leaving it behind...even if I didn't need it.

    February 3, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  8. Don Rodenbach

    With the FDA being critically under staffed, why isn’t employing more help part of this stimulus package?

    Don Rodenbach

    Blackwood, NJ

    February 3, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  9. Mike, Syracuse NY

    First of all Linda, there are no grounds for 'war crimes' although you libs like to keep spouting that worn out line. Remember, the vote to authorize the war was BIPARTISAN with many prominent Democrats (Clinton, Biden, Kerry, etc,.) voting for it. So if the war is illegal, then they are all guilty as well. Second, entitlement spending dwarfs defense spending by 2-3 to one. If anything is bankrupting the US is out of control entitlements.

    February 3, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  10. Don Rodenbach

    With the FDA being critically under staffed, why isn't employing more help part of this stimulus package?

    Don Rodenbach

    Blackwood, NJ

    February 3, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  11. Linda

    Yes I did mean to write on this subject. See this was not oppose to this President Bush whom sent us into war. He broke the American for this so call war. There was so many war crimes and the media promoted all this corruption. We need to demand all these so call war criminal be prosecuted.
    All these corrupt Republican complaining about helping America but yet they wanted to help all these third world country and their citizens. Yes, I will take a stand for all American who are homeless on welfare etc. It this country does not turn around maybe some of you will end up in the streets, jails, or living on the streets in soup lines as well.
    Next, all these Republican and people working in the tax office need their taxes check, for illegal hiring and not paying their taxes.

    February 3, 2009 at 12:29 pm |
  12. Sam Johnson


    Did you mean to post that comment to THIS blog? Just curious cause it doesn't seem to pertain.

    February 3, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  13. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Tom: You must remember, Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power.

    February 3, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  14. Cindy

    Oh I think that Obama still carries his wallet regardless if he needs the money, or needs to show his ID or not. It's an old habit just having it around even if it's useless and empty. And hey...right about now a lot of people are finding it empty!

    I don't think Obama bargained for what he has to deal with now! I think he may have thought twice about running for office if he could have known two or three years ago what things would be like now! It's going to be extremely hard on him getting things back right and definitely on the change thing. Congress has been crooks and users for ever so trying to ween them from wasting money is going to be extremely hard! He'll need major luck with that!


    February 3, 2009 at 9:49 am |
  15. Linda

    Tom you need to go to bed. First of all Ex-President Bush era is over and all you Republican need to stop whinning and come to grip. People like you are turning our country to a third world and we are sick and tire of your stupid ideas and plotts.

    This spending money will help to recovery from this illegal war that has caused our county downsize was all done with all these Republicans who are attempting to farther destroy Americans. These are the same lawmakers who signed off for these wars. I feel all are to old and need to retire. When you get to old many can not stead focus and their memory is impaired. We got to come with this age of time and leave all these old dead President sleeeping due to Regan was the worst and start destroying our USA government with all his corruptions and these people stealing all over the country.

    February 3, 2009 at 9:38 am |