March 20th, 2009
09:29 AM ET

Dear President Obama #60: I fought the law...and the lawyers won

Reporter's Note: The President is asking the public for ideas on how to run the government. Considering the apparent seriousness of some of our problems, I’m not sure how comforting that is, but nonetheless I continue writing a letter a day to the Oval Office.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Is your Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner kidding? Is it possible that he is lightheaded from the onset of spring, of giddy over the astonishingly robust rebound in the stock market? (Cough, cough) I’m sorry to start this way. You know I try to be encouraging, but when I read his reason for green-lighting those AIG bonuses, I was astonished. Afraid of lawsuits if they weren’t paid?

Big time politics and big time business are both about not blinking when the other guy plays tough. If you are in the right, you stand up to your opponent’s threats and dare him to hit you. That’s how you deal with a bully, that’s how you deal with a cheater, and Geithner has been playing the game long enough to know that. You, too.

Again, sorry to be on such a tear, but this fries my potatoes. Not over the issue of the bonuses themselves (you, your pals in Congress, and the voters can hash out the rights and wrongs of that situation,) but more over the principle. By backing down and letting this happen, the message many people might take away is that you are more afraid of the folks with fat wallets than you are of the voters. And that could seriously undermine your whole “It’s time for change, no more politics as usual” message.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The people you are playing against to reclaim the U.S. economy don’t care how popular you are, they don’t care how much people cheer at your speeches, and I’m not entirely convinced they care what happens to the rest of us as long as their lawns still get mowed and the waitresses don’t spill their appletinis. Frankly, I think some of them would be perfectly happy for the “have-nots” to simply shut their traps, and quit pestering the “haves” with all this tedious talk of democracy, fairness, and justice.

This country elected you to stand up to that crowd and tell them that such principles genuinely matter; that America is not all about expedience, the bottom line, and catering to the powerful. I know the “bonus issue” is actually a tiny battle. But tiny battles can send huge messages, change the course of wars, and the fate of the world. Remember the Alamo.

All that said: How’d you like Leno? Seems like a nice guy. Did you send me a postcard?



For more of the Foreman Letters, go here.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Kristie Holliday

    Here, here, Tom... and an Amen! to boot!
    Your Fav, Kristie from Vegas

    March 20, 2009 at 11:28 am |
  2. Annie Kate

    Hi Tom

    Never heard that expression "fries my potatoes" but its a good one and very appropriate. Thanks for the new saying. Never know when it might come in handy.

    While Obama may be trying to do too much too soon, and spending too much money in the process, I think our expectations are out of line too – the economy can't be fixed in a fortnight or even in a month of blue moons; its going to take time. I know we would love to know if its going to work but we just need to be patient and let Obama and his administration do their work. Sometimes its easier said than done but this I know – nothing happens as fast in life as you want it to.

    I was frankly surprised to see Obama on Leno. Maybe its a new concept of the Presidential image but I'd be more comfortable with Obama staying at the White House and working – if he has to talk on Leno he could teleconference. Guess I'm just old-fashioned.

    March 20, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  3. Edward Foley

    Great job CNN bringing the truth to the American people.

    March 20, 2009 at 11:15 am |
  4. Stan

    You people who are trying to take anthing that the Presidents says and make it seems as if hes making fun of someone, get a life. He was actually makeing fun of himself, if you had any sence you would of noticed that. Some of you people, who are most likely Republicans should really stop with your attacks on the President.

    March 20, 2009 at 11:11 am |
  5. Stan

    Now that the President has completed his jokes on late night, maybe he or someone in his adminstration can reac the laws he is proposing, maybe even read the materal provided by those wanting handouts.

    March 20, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  6. Paul S

    OK, the paying of bonuses has been a mistake... but let's get real here. Those bonus payments are an extremely small percentage of the overall bailout package. Most of the issue began during the last administration and Obama and his team have to clean it up. It took eight years to get here, can't fix it in a few months.
    And lighten up on his appearance on Leno. That was not the main purpose of his trip. Where were all these blowhard republicans during their man's tenure?

    March 20, 2009 at 11:00 am |
  7. Margaret

    Thank you for your comments. It's time for the President to be a leader not a speech maker. The american people need action taken. Words have many interpretations but actions are clearly defined.

    Going on Jay Leno seemed as though we have a president who is needing his ego stroked. Does he realize that we pay him to work not fly to California to be on TV. If I were his boss I would be all overthis.

    March 20, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  8. Michael "C" Lorton, VA

    Tom: Two percent of the population (corporate America) controls 60% of the wealth of this nation--who do you think is running the country? All you have to do is forward a "corporate ranson note" to Congress-–creating fear and panic--and not only to you get paid---they will even include a "bonus."

    March 20, 2009 at 10:35 am |
  9. mifa randolph

    Enough of the blame game! We are all responsible for this mess.
    The media is fanning the fires of misplaced anger and this is a very dangerous proposition leading to social unrest on top of economic upheaval.
    We elected the officials that caused this mess, we behaved as if we owned the world and were not accountable for the excesses of our culture and now that the house of cards is crumbling down we start behaving like a bunch of 4 years old trying to shift the blame to someone else because we are too spoiled to take responsibility. Enough!
    We need politicians who behave like grown ups and acknowledge their mistakes. Nobody is perfect. We do not need politicians (republicans and democrats) who have become so media crazed and in need their daily dose of 15 minutes of fame that they will fabricate outrage over non-issues. What a waste!
    We need real leaders and heroes who think more of doing the right thing than getting credit for the spectacular thing.
    We need a media culture that can distinguish between a real story instead of chasing after the sensational and trivial. More journalists, less comentators.

    March 20, 2009 at 10:26 am |
  10. Rae Grout

    Credit cards raising rates, bonuses being paid ~ like Jurassic Park bringing back dinosaurs ~ just because they can ~ should they? Where is the moral compass?

    March 20, 2009 at 10:15 am |
  11. RIch Pretty Girl

    This makes me sad to read the way he is talking about the very wealthy. There will always be a few bad apples in any class in society that makes the others look bad. But I have grown up around some of the wealthiest people, they are in my family, and my community and they selflessly give back enormous amounts of money that they speant many years and fought so hard to achieve. They build hospitals and charities across the United States, they give overseas, and they do it because they care deeply for people and the American dream. I find the majority of the very rich are the most generous and courageous people I have met. They might make a few snobby remarks from time to time, but if they're feeding half a village in africa or building a new wing at the hospital so our children get better healthcare.... who really cares.

    March 20, 2009 at 10:02 am |