Reporter's Note: President Barack Obama continues to keep a breakneck schedule of policy meetings, pow wows with foreign leaders, and presumably the odd pickup basketball game. And yet he has not rescinded his call for advice from Americans on how to make the country better. So as long as there is still hope that he will be reading, I will continue writing my letter a day to the White House.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/06/16/iran.elections.protests/art.tehran.tues.afp.gi.jpg caption="Al-Alam footage shows Ahmadinejad supporters rallying Tuesday in central Tehran. "]
Tom Foreman | Bio
Dear Mr. President,
Well, the kettle certainly seems to be boiling in Iran! Those massive protests over the presidential vote are pretty darn captivating to watch, and I would guess worrisome too: Some protesters saying the election was rigged to keep Ahmadinejad in, others saying a legitimate vote is being attacked in an unfair attempt to throw him out, and you…well, not saying much.
I been following the blasts you are taking for not speaking out more strongly on the whole affair. While some of your critics want you to say unequivocally that the election was a fraud, I understand your reticence to do so. Maybe political analysts, pundits, and less powerful leaders can throw their opinions around like bread crumbs, but if they are wrong no one will really care. If you, however, make a wrong pronouncement, I’m sure you’ll never hear the end of it. Kind of like me with my wife the time I tried to “fix” the sink. (And btw, I suspect the Iranians would see you as meddling in their affairs no matter what you said, and that’s never been a popular tune on the old Ayatollah jukebox.)
Still, this (like porcupine romance) is a prickly business. Many presidents before you have wrestled with deciding when to intercede in the affairs of other nations. In World War Two we struggled for quite some time before lending our weight to the war; which, as it turns out, was a good decision, otherwise we might yet be humming “Deutschland über alles” before all of our baseball games.
But other cases have not been as clear in terms of the long term outcome for American interests. Vietnam. Somalia. Iraq. I won’t dive into the old debates about when, where, how, and why we engaged in battles in those lands. I’m just pointing out that in each case a president (sometimes more than one) had to decide if the interests of Americans, or our allies, or humanity itself warranted exerting our power on someone else’s land. Few choices are more daunting in the Oval Office. And each of those presidents had to risk being wrong.
No real advice here, just a reminder: It is easy for critics to hurl stones at any president who moves too quickly or too slowly to take up a cause dear to their hearts. But if you act in haste and make the wrong decision, those same critics will still be there, pounding away. So as I would say to anyone facing a difficult choice, good luck with you assessments, be firm in your decision, and be willing to reconsider whether you were right or wrong.
Got to go. Another political sex scandal has just broken as I write this: GOP Senator John Ensign from Nevada. (Which, between you and me, I could not care less about.) Call if you get a moment. To quote Emerson, Lake and Palmer (or at least one of them!) “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends..”
Find more of the Foreman Letters, here.
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