August 2nd, 2009
07:00 AM ET

Dear President Obama #195: Praise for the pessimists

Reporter's Note: President Obama has asked Americans for free advice, which even in these difficult times is still usually worth what you pay for it. That said, my store of suggestions for what other people should do is always open, as long as it involves no effort on my part. So, my continuing series of letters to Penn Ave.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Be careful. I wanted to start with a simple sentence to get your attention. We have a few encouraging economic signs, a couple of blips upward that suggest things may be getting a bit better, and heaven knows we’ve all been waiting for that, but just as I’ve said before, I say again: Be careful.

You press guy Gibbs seemed like he was cracking a little wise over the popularity of the Cash for Clunkers program, saying something like “People are buying a lot of cars. That’s a good thing.” He’s right, but the way he said it suggested that any concern about the way the program is being run or the future of it, it ridiculous to even talk about. The problem with that is if the sales drop right back off a cliff as soon as the free money dries up, you’re going to look shortsighted and foolish.

Better I think to say things like, “We are pleased that more people are looking at cars. We are cautiously optimistic that the incentives we’ve offered will help give the industry a little boost, build consumer confidence for the long haul. We are making progress, but we have a very long way to go.”

That is the kind of thing I hear you say much of the time, and I’m not sure your team serves you as well as they might when they start acting…well, cocky is too strong of a word, but something like that…