Reporter's Note: President Obama asks Americans for advice on running the country. Ask and you shall receive; my letter a day to the White House.
Tom Foreman | Bio
Dear Mr. President,
Down in my dear old home city of New Orleans, there is a cool little shop that dates back more than 115 years. Meyer the Hatter’s place stands just off of Canal where St. Charles Avenue begins, and the website says a man I met a good many years ago is still running the place: Sam Meyer. I went to Sam’s for a story when I worked in local news and frankly I can’t even recall who was in the White House at the time, but standing amid his walls covered with fedoras, porkpies, skimmers, operas, and even baseball caps, Sam told me something astonishing.
He said that anytime the President of the United States is seen wearing a hat, any hat, the sale of hats improves. Accordingly, he said, the American Association of Hatters (or whatever the group is called) sends a box of hats to the White House every month, just hoping to entice the Leader of the Free World into covering his head for a moment.
I don’t really remember all of the details, and my apologies to Sam if I have muddled them and somehow exposed him to the derision of Local 616 of the Greater Louisiana Headwear League (or, again, whatever it is called). But I had no reason to doubt his expertise on this matter, since Sam certainly knew his stuff, as evidenced by his very near success in convincing me to purchase a lovely gray fedora.
In any event, is this Hats to the Head Honcho campaign still going on? If you have a moment, you ought to rummage around in the mail room or the storage closets in the West Wing. Imagine how fun it would be if you found a whole big box stuffed with a few decades worth of great hats! Ha! Toss one on, go for a walk, and the hat folks at least would proclaim you the savior of their economy instantly!
I mention all of this not because I am obsessed with cranial adornment, but more because I want to remind you of the extraordinary influence you, and your office, hold over so many aspects of our society that you might not even think of. I know you meant no ill with your Special Olympics joke on Leno, and people ought to recall that you were generally quite forgiving during the campaign over simple misstatements or misplaced humor by your opponents. (Not entirely so, of course, but I guess that is politics.) We all know the difference between a truly cruel remark, and one that is meant innocently even if it strikes some people as insensitive. I don’t think any reasonable person can look at your life’s record and find any pattern of disregard for the struggles of the disabled, and it doesn’t seem fair for people to scream “gotcha” over this. You probably should not have said it, and the look on you face suggested you knew it immediately.
Still, I think one of the sad truths of life in the Presidential bubble is that while you are free to say what you wish, the consequences of doing so now and for the rest of your life are simply more profound than they once were. What you say and do, all of it, really does matter; for all the good and bad that might bring your way.
Keep you head covered, and call when you can.
For more of the Foreman Letters, go here.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with