February 23rd, 2009
10:59 AM ET

Dear President Obama #35: Now showing: Obama – the movie!

Reporter's Note: The President wants Americans to give him idea about how he can make our country better. So every day, hands on the keyboard, I do my best to help by writing another letter to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Once again the Oscars have come and gone, and my name was not called. I fear my dream of Best Supporting Something will never be realized. Granted, I have nothing to do with the movie business except buying tickets and popcorn, and occasionally getting noisy teenagers tossed out of the multiplex, but Hollywood dreams have so long been part of the American experience, it’s hard to let mine go.

You, on the other hand, still have some real hope! Seriously. Look, Al Gore scored an Academy Award, and he’s not nearly as glamorous as you. What was his story? “Hi, I’m from Tennessee. Is it hot in here?” You’ve got that beaten hands down.

(FADE IN; DARK D.C. STREET. WHITE HOUSE LOOMING IN BG. SILHOUETTE OF LONE MAN WALKS TOWARD CAMERA: “He was a junior Senator from Illinois. She was the party favorite. He had no chance. Until he made one. See the film that is igniting the nation: ‘Yes We Can: The Barack Obama Story.’” I know, you can feel the vibe. Or maybe I’m getting carried away.

Truth is I’ve always been wary of politicians whom people like too much. Reagan. Clinton. You. It’s not because popularity is bad, it’s just that when voters really like a president they start imagining that everything he does is good. They stop subjecting his plans to the kind of scrutiny we should turn on every leader, and they fiercely attack even a perceived critic as somehow biased, unfair, un-American. It leads to unfettered power and often bad policy. Hey, how do you think George Bush got us into Iraq?

We do the same thing in life. If you like a person, even if you see him or her doing something wrong, you’ll tend to turn a blind eye at first. Maybe for a long time. That’s how strong the cult of personality can be.

I mention it, only because I see a pretty good bit of that going on among some of your fans right now. The speed with which they rush to blog sites to rip into any possible critic, suggests not merely that they believe in you, (and heaven knows, they have every right to do that) but that they are also unwilling to consider that you could ever be wrong.

Truth is, if you stay in office long enough, you’re going to be wrong at some point; because it’s a very tough job and no one gets it perfectly right.

So in the spirit of the movie business, that’s my advice to start the week off: Be careful of how much you believe the hype. You have every chance to be a good president; and as I’ve said before, maybe even a great one. But that doesn’t come from silencing the critics. It comes from welcoming them, and given them answers that convince even people who are not your fans, that you know what you are doing.

Hey, what’s your favorite movie? I’m thinking The Godfather, because pretty much every guy seems to like it. Did I ever tell you I was once a film critic?

Time for me to FADE OUT and get some sleep. In the office early tomorrow, so call if you can. Pretty much clear until at least 10:30.



For more of the Foreman Letters, click here.

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. bernadette

    I a struggling single mother with two children who's trying to survive making $44.000 a year, rent alone took $15.300 of it, don't forget all the other bills who come with it than uncle sam has the nerve to tell me that i make to much money tell me how i am suppose to live with my children, on the street eat in the trash. my light bill is $400.00 in that cold weather my children and I have so much medical bills some days I don't know where my next meal is coming from.anyway tell me what I should do, I gess i continue praying only God can help me. God bless President Obama and his family.thank you.

    February 24, 2009 at 4:05 am |
  2. Bess

    I chuckled at the Al Gore reference. Give the guy some credit. He did take "the initiative in creating the Internet." Yea, yea, I know...that was taken out of context, but the global warming award, now that was creative.

    Keep the letters coming Tom. It's reassuring to see a journalist who gives our president the respect he deserves, but at the same time doesn't worship the ground he walks on.

    February 24, 2009 at 2:22 am |
  3. KIm

    Wow ! Mrs. Obama's evening gown for the Gov.'s ball was a show stopper and she looked fantastic ! Vogue ! Earth Wind and Fire ! Go Mrs. Obama and great selection on a gown ! Razzle,Dazzle Obama and he's cool !

    February 23, 2009 at 11:18 pm |
  4. Dianne McClure

    Why haven't we used an older method to stop the stock market slide? It has been used before. It stops the "sell" of stocks until certain levels and conditions for "buys" have been met. It would have saved, and could save, trillions of investor and taxpayer dollars. The stimulus bill has provided banks and companies with funds that are lost when stocks fall lower. Funding for companies is lost. To stop the drop would improve the economy and give greater confidence in America's future.

    February 23, 2009 at 10:03 pm |
  5. L. Carilo, H.R., CO

    Okay, Tom. A follow-up to my suggestion last week about the book that you should be working on: Front cover: Imagine yourself sitting on steps beside an "old fashioned" post box – the kind that is literaly on a post. You have opened the it, sadly only to find it empty. Back cover: better yet, 100 "return to sender" letters from the White House (Very sad).

    Just a suggestion. Oh, and by the way, make sure the book release date is not in the same month as Jack Grey's...my budget only allows for one book a month.

    L. Carilo

    February 23, 2009 at 7:44 pm |
  6. DT

    Now THIS letter I like, the other one, eh. I'm a brown American but I raise my eyebrows at some things Obama says. He uses a lot of wordplay. ie: "I will create jobs" um no you want you will AID in job creation, but I'm just being picky. From a historical and KARMIC standpoint, I appreciate his win. However Obama is not God and doesn't have the answers to everything. He DOES NOT get the same respect I would give to my father, husband, friend I've know all my life. I don't know him. He's the new guy at the job that everyone hangs out around his cubicle, b/c he's witty and good looking but does he get any work done? I dunno. People will probably take offense to this but trust me, you said it accurately. Forgive those that are still caught up in the moment, it was emotional for a lot of people and we should respect that 🙂

    February 23, 2009 at 4:10 pm |
  7. c,ca

    A sociologist should try to discover what it is about some people that draws others to them or makes them a star. Pres. Obama obviously has whatever "it" is. Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, etc.

    I often wonder about that when I go to a stage play, for example. A person in the play may have a fabulous singing voice, dancing and acting ability, good looks – but they never become famous. Why not? Why is Madonna famous when, let's face it, she's just plain ugly and her voice sounds like Bart Simpson. What is it about her that people find fascinating?

    I'll admit I was impressed with Pres. Obama (and Mrs. Obama) right away and I still am. I hope he will have that effect on the people of other nations as well. It might work out for all of us.

    February 23, 2009 at 3:17 pm |
  8. Presley

    My half full glass of Kool Aid is still tasty, even at room temperature.
    My rose colored glasses with blinders and ear plugs are elegant and glamorous.
    If I really feel like self torturing myself, I watch FOX News for a few minutes. I fully expect a group DVD bonfire gathering of "W" any day now....

    They are more critics and arm chair expert political analysts out here than ever before, someone has to keep the Kool Aid safe you know.

    February 23, 2009 at 10:37 am |
  9. Larry L.

    TO:Michael C. McHugh

    WOW ,one month into his presidency,and you think Obama is the best president in your lifetime, and has done more for the common people of the country in a month than any other president in your lifetime.

    Let me ask you something ,are you a high school graduate and did you serve our country in the military.My guess is your answer is no to both.

    You think the "best "means the most entitlements,and if so,you are right.

    February 23, 2009 at 10:24 am |
  10. Cindy

    Great letter! I totally agree with you. I think that when people like politicians or presidents too much that they don't question them enough and then they go unchecked. That is wrong and very dangerous in my opinion!

    Just because Obama says this stimulus package is great doesn't mean that it is. No one even took the time to actually go through the thing to even be able to form an opinion based on fact. They all just voted yes for it because he said too. Do they really know what is in this thing? My guess is Obama doesn't even know what's all in it!


    February 23, 2009 at 9:55 am |
  11. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    The world is but a stage---and we all play our parts--it just we don't get nominated for Oscars.

    February 23, 2009 at 9:53 am |
  12. Annie Kate


    As usual great letter. I've noticed a few that seem to have imbibed too much of the kool aid so you better watch out – you will either get "carried away" by the men in little white suits while you don a posh all complete strait jacket (they're all the rage) or you will get the same treatment from the true believers. Just stay away from the cement galoshes.

    February 23, 2009 at 9:52 am |
  13. Michael C. McHugh

    I think Obama is the best president in my lifetime, and has done more for the common people of the country in a month than any other president in my lifetime. Since I was born in 1963, that's admittedly not a very high standard, but I could even go further and say that's he's a better president that any we've had since Roosevelt.

    Now, I'm not simply a mindless acolyte for Obama. I worry that he's going to give a lot of money to the big banks, no matter whether we call it nationalization, subsidies or whatever, but not require then to do public service in return. My idea is that if they are getting all this public money then they should be working for the public. Even more, they should be SEEN working for the public, doing things to help all these millions of borrowers in distress. I don't want to throw trillions of dollars at Wall Street, just to have the same people running the show afterward, trying to restore capitalism as it was for the last 30 years.

    Let's be honest with ourselves. Wall Street bankers have few admirers in this world, and my guess is that most people on the planet just want a chance to get out from under their thumb. When you consider that the majority of people in the world have little or nothing, while an aristocracy way up there in the clouds has uncounted billions, this is hardly surprising.

    February 23, 2009 at 9:42 am |