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.

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.

February 3rd, 2009
09:10 AM ET

Inside Iran

'The Glass House' is a documentary about four brave girls in Iran. CNN's Asieh Namdar reports.

Filed under: Global 360° • Iran
February 3rd, 2009
08:56 AM ET

Obama's ethics vow at risk

Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN

The appointment process which started out so smoothly for President Obama has turned into a problem.

Several picks undermine Obama's campaign promise to change how Washington works.

The troika of Bill Richardson, Tom Daschle and Timothy Geithner raises questions about Obama's commitment to making government reform central to his presidency.

The news from these appointments has been disturbing for many Americans.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Julian E. Zelizer • Raw Politics
February 3rd, 2009
08:20 AM ET

Big Bong Theory

Sally Jenkins
The Washington Post

So Michael Phelps dove headfirst into the bong water. Is anyone really surprised, after all those laps? There has always been something submerged and escapist about the world's greatest swimmer. When presented with a chamber containing a hazy translucent liquid, he did what's become second nature to him. He buried his face in it.

I'm just sorry I wasn't at that University of South Carolina house party to witness Squid Boy's binge firsthand - not that I would ever make such a staggering misstep myself.


February 3rd, 2009
08:00 AM ET

Stimulus strategy

Anderson talks with his panel about what President Barack Obama will have to do in to get his economic stimulus plan passed.

Filed under: Economy • Finance • Wall St.
February 3rd, 2009
07:56 AM ET

Living on food stamps for a month

CNN's Sean Callebs reports on what it's like to live off food stamps for a month.

CNN's Sean Callebs reports on what it's like to live off food stamps for a month.

Sean Callebs
CNN Correspondent

Monday Feb. 2, 2009

10:40 PM ET – I thought the story about living on food stamps would generate a healthy amount of interest, but I was surprised by number of e-mails and calls I received . First things first. For breakfast I had a bowl of cereal, a banana, and tea. An hour later I was starving. I wondered if this was what the future held. Lunch, and a peanut butter sandwich, and iced tea did the trick, hunger pangs gone. Dinner was spaghetti and meat sauce made from lean ground beef. So far, so good. A lot of the folks who contacted me thought it was going to be hard to make it 28 days on food stamps. Others questioned my shopping habits. One person wrote that I was "whining" about not buying enough fruits and vegetables and basically blistered me for not doing a better job. Come on, I am trying! Rutgers University called about a program they have to fight hunger in America. The USDA, which oversees the food stamp program, also contacted me. They commended CNN for focusing on the problem of hunger in America. USDA officials say I am exactly right in saying the sour economy has pushed some people who never thought they would need government assistance into welfare lines. I will definitely talk more with them over the next four weeks. No running on Monday. We did reports from 6am, through 8pm. I will shoot for a long run on Tuesday. On a lighter note, anyone who watched the live shots Monday on American Morning may have noticed the Elvis magnets on the fridge. One of the PR Directors from Elvis Presley Enterprises sent me a message on Facebook. He got a kick out of the magnets, but also said the story was a reality check.


Filed under: Economy • Sean Callebs
February 3rd, 2009
07:50 AM ET

Sound Off: Your comments 2/2/09

Editor's Note: Monday night’s AC360° drew comments and questions from many of you on the proposed stimulus package. The question asked most often was “why can’t the money just be given back to the tax payers and let us stimulate the economy?” Another topic that spurred a lot of interest was the recent birth of octuplets to the California mother who already had six children under the age of seven. Finally, many of you didn’t seem to feel that Michael Phelps' “crime” of being caught smoking pot shouldn’t be such a big deal, with some even reviving the old argument that it should be legalized. Take a look at a few of the comments and let us know what you think:

Tax cuts only affect people who HAVE JOBS. They don't do a thing for those who are out of work. Obama doesn't have the absolute control your questions assume. You need to think some about what you are asking. You all seem so constantly critical it is clear that you've never been in a responsible management position.

I really can't believe that no one has opened for public debate the idea of giving the money to the taxpayers. After all it is taxpayer money, is it not? If they really had any intention of helping people in foreclosure and out of work, this would be the best and fastest way to jump start the economics of the country, and ultimately the world.


Filed under: Behind The Scenes
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