July 15th, 2009
08:00 AM ET

Dear President Obama #177: One threat, two threat, red threat, blue threat...

Reporter's Note: The President has a lot of security around him. Me, not so much; but I’m fairly fast and I’ve never hesitated to run like a frightened chipmunk from any serious threat. Until that threat comes along, I’ll continue with my letters to the president, including this one about security…or the lack of it.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

If you watched the coverage roiling through the media for the past 24 hours, you’d think the confirmation hearing for Sonia Sotomayor is the only story in town. Never mind that your Dem pals in the House have rolled out their version of health care reform, or that dozens of Air Force cadets appear to have contracted the swine flu, or that there is now a website dedicated to people doing the moonwalk. (It’s ok, but my personal favorite lately is a site the features Garfield comics with Garfield erased. Has a certain “introspective sociopathy” quality, that is just delightful.)

But the story that is lighting me up more than any other at the moment is word that Homeland Security is reconsidering that color-coded warning system they have for telling us how the terrorist tote board is stacking up every time we take a trip. I have to say right up front that I’ve never been a fan.

The warning system always seemed to be like having a really nervous man in a day-glow vest standing in the airport yelling, “Look out! Watch it! What’s in your suitcase? Hey! Hey! Check out that guy, quick!” The signs do not make me more vigilant because they are always there, always saying pretty much the same thing. Kind of like the directions on a bathroom hand dryer. I stopped reading those years ago, too.

To be fair, I guess I have to admit there are variations to the warning signs. For example, and I paraphrase, one says “Be afraid.” Another says, “Be very afraid.” And yet another says, “Go home, lock the doors, and grab the duct tape, we’re all going to die!” Or something like that. As I have mentioned before, there is probably no agency in government that has routinely made me feel less secure than Homeland Security. I know they are doing important work, and they deserve kudos for the fact that we’ve had no attacks here since 9/11. I’m just saying that the red, orange, and yellow signs have never made me feel more confident. They’ve just made me jumpy because they seem to be saying, “Yeah, we’re doing our best, but who knows?”

If the color system gets trashed I confess I will be a little sad. I would have loved to have seen the day that some of those other colors emerged signifying a safer world. I have been told such colors are in the scale, but like the Yeti or “government by the people,” they seem to exist primarily in mythology.

Still, if you want my advice (and I can’t imagine why you would not) I say pitch the color code system. Every time I take off my shoes, display that crumpled plastic bag of my toiletries, and she my jacket to clear airport security; trust me, even without a sign, I get the message.

Have you been trying to call me about the hearings? I kept getting hang ups today and there was no call back number, so I figured, “Hey, could be the president!” Of course, that’s what I’ve always figured about hang ups…but who knows?



Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Slaton

    Please don't come to New Jersey and support Corzine. Big mistake sir.


    July 15, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  2. Donna Wood, Lil' Tennessee

    Garfield without thr Garfield? Gee, I don't know Mr. Foreman! And well, color code or no color code, I don't think I'm ever going to "feel" safe again. But hopefully you will always be there to let me know I'm not alone. Thank you as always Mr. Foreman for a great read.

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    July 15, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  3. Tammy, Houma, LA

    When some stranger is being paid to dig through my unmentionables and makeup in my bag before I can board a plane, all is not well in America regardless of the warning system. God bless these workers for doing the sometimes thankless job they do to help keep our airlines safe. And Tom, at least we don't have armed guards at point in our airports taking the place of those alert codes.

    July 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  4. Allie

    Dear Tom, I love your letters and couldn't agree more! When the color never changes from yellow, I think we all become a little worn-down until we become apathetic: we can't live in a constant state of fear. There will always be a risk, so sadly it will never be a friendly color, so what is their purpose on the scale except to mock us? I think it's time for something new.

    July 15, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  5. Tia

    This is asinine. Washington already knows so you could only be blaming the media for lack of coverage. Find something else to write about, something not utterly pointless and aimed at your own industry.

    July 15, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  6. meenas17

    Living with fear is terrible.The colour, the race, get highlighted. What for? We are all mortals,with a fair skin, black skin , brown skin, and yellow skin. The discrimination against colour is not dying, but growing in leaps and bounds.

    July 15, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  7. Kathy P.

    Dear Tom: Your letters are a hoot! Keep 'em coming! K.P. in Silver Spring

    July 15, 2009 at 10:51 am |
  8. Lugoves

    As I said in my Tweet "Dear MR @andersoncooper Being ex-military myself IMO security threat lvls R more bout the securer than the secured."
    The levels of preparedness [i]should[/i] instruct the appropriate department/agency/individuals to consult the appropriate protocols & apply them. Different resources should be utilized for different levels to manage consumption of said resources. The public feels they have to *Know* but like an Amber or Silver alert. The message to the public might mean very little unless they are specifically effected. Now if someone made an IPhone APP that 'recalculated' wait times on the fly fo airline passengers dependent on factors such as threat levels, THAT might be useful. Love your Show.

    July 15, 2009 at 9:06 am |
  9. Lorraine

    Tom, get a life. Or join the Army and you go out and protect our beautiful Country! And for crying out loud if you don' t have something kind to say then keep silence.

    July 15, 2009 at 8:56 am |