May 3rd, 2009
08:00 AM ET

Dear President Obama #104: Frenemy Territory

Reporter's Note: President Obama likes playing basketball and so do I. He has not, however, called me up for a game, so I am passing the time until the invitation comes by writing a letter a day to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I’ve come to believe over the years that there are at least two different views of friendship in this world. I don’t mean acquaintanceship. All those yahoos you met when you were raising money and visiting diners are just that; people you met. I’m talking about true friendship. I’m talking about, “Let’s go out back and I’ll tell you a funny story about Biden,” friendship.

Some people believe a friend stands by you all the time, through thick and thin, and will be on your side in any dispute. They believe friends, because they refuse to let anything come between them, are a force to be reckoned with and have less to fear from the larger community than an individual might.

Other people, however, believe a friend stands by you all the time, through thick and thin, and will be on your side…as long as you are in the right. These people believe the true value of a true friend is not that he or she will always agree with you, but that this person cares about you enough to tell you when you are wrong.

I’m in the second crowd. I want my friends to like me, but I trust them to shoot straight with me. If I am doing something I ought not, or I am being cruel or thoughtless or self-centered, I want someone who cares about me to let me know. Accordingly, I try to behave in a way that my friends, whom I have chosen in large part for their own strength of character and decency, will approve of.

To me, the very essence of their friendship is that it brings out the best in me, instead of validating the worst. When you become powerful (and heaven knows, you’ve got that nailed now) it is tricky to know whom your friends are.

But here is a simple test. If someone in your circle always agrees with you, never challenges you, and always makes you feel like you are the smartest, best, most accomplished President of all time, that person is not a friend. That person is an untrustworthy assassin. He or she is there to slaughter your intelligence, destroy you values, and crucify your judgment; because nothing does that quicker than an ego well-watered with flattery.

The critic who always tells you something is amiss, is not to be trusted either. But embrace the person who tells you that you are wrong now and then. That person is a true friend. And the more powerful you become, contrary to what some might think, the more you need friends like that.

That’s it for today. Going to enjoy my Sunday. Play a little guitar. Walk the dog. Maybe get some ice cream. Life is good in America. Call when you can.



Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    If you haven't realize by now--–there are no friends in business-

    May 4, 2009 at 10:16 am |
  2. Terry, TX

    Mr. Foreman...lovely words about friendship....but this is politics...no friends just party agendas...at taxpayer's expense....no rhyme or reason...pay for play ...and these 2 pork bills, bailouts, and budget says it all....we are broke...anybody thought about paying the trillion deficit we started off with with these trillions dollars of spending...and not print money and not borrow from China...I guess it is just us mothers who worry about debt. Economy first...boy toys later...what an idea!

    May 4, 2009 at 8:30 am |
  3. Tishila, NJ

    Advice for Obama on choosing friends - now that's long overdue and desperately needed!

    May 4, 2009 at 8:14 am |
  4. emma eytcheson

    In case you have noticed ... He's just a "little" busy right now. In case you haven't notice he's balancing world affairs and having family time. I guess you don't have anything else to do but complain about your lack of "friendship" with obama. Here's a NEWS FLASH The world includes more than just you–get over it!

    May 4, 2009 at 12:57 am |
  5. Ms. M.

    Mr. & Mrs. Obama
    and Family,
    I have heard you have been looking for a congregation to worship with and I would like to say that it is a personal choice. Please read about the Church of Christ and what it's all about. That's all I have to say now and hope you do look into it.

    Admirer of you all

    Ms. M.

    May 4, 2009 at 12:48 am |