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…

I regret that I can not remember precisely where I heard this on the radio this weekend, but it was a spot on assessment that I think all your staff there in the White House should remind themselves of every morning. The analysts (some show on NPR…maybe Marketplace?) were talking about how when the economy turns down very badly, for a long time, it eventually has no place to go but up, and when it starts moving that way people naturally want to celebrate. But here is the key, as one commentator put it: There is a difference between recovering and a recovery.

Just something to ponder on a (hopefully) quiet Sunday. I’m on a road a bit today on a weekend trip, so calling early afternoon is probably the best bet. I am thinking of giving you a special ring tone. Ideas?



Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. frank

    Obama is doing his job as how is must be doing, several shemes to find the way to find the recovery hike that once drop is what obama is doind as well as he knows. There's and require a lot of ppl chiefly the lawmakers and stuff to release and approve whats the best deal for the country. Doent mean Obama's job is not working up. This current recession is the most rough never seen before and time and some investments well thought and decided will make arise the powerful and steady US that always has been.

    August 3, 2009 at 7:35 am |
  2. Ed

    I would like to commend you and all the CNN people on your great journalism, on all important topic of importance. I am a Chicano/Mexican American/Latino/Hispanic, whichever label is tagged on us today. We understand the struggles and hardships that African Americans have had to endure throughout the years as we have also. But it seems to me and I am sure to many Hispanics that the main focus has been on thier history and struggles but what about the discimination and hardships against the Hispanics, Asians, Middle Easterners, American Indians, and all other races in the USA. When are we as Hispanics going to see a special program on Hispanics in America Today, so that the world can see all the brutalities,the inhumane treatment our people before us had to endure, the lack of oppurtunities for education, and civil rights that have been denied for centuries, the broken land grants dissolved by the government in the 1500's. We are as much a part of America as everyone else.

    August 2, 2009 at 11:34 pm |
  3. Sherri

    Seems Winston Churchill also told the troops to "Never give up!"

    Sound advice for all of us.

    Keep the letters coming Tom. Never has anyone so consistently said what I am thinking.

    Hope you enjoyed your weekend trip! Mine was a bit rainy.

    August 2, 2009 at 9:03 pm |
  4. JRI Canada

    The clunkers for cash program might not end up being Pres. Obama's finest hour.

    August 2, 2009 at 8:00 pm |
  5. RLWellman

    Tom, Good letter!

    August 2, 2009 at 6:55 pm |
  6. Joe G. (Illinois)

    Celebrities are only as good as their last act!! Everybody knows that!! And being vulgar, immoral, cocky or arrogant is all about being American and like saying to the world “This is America and we can do it.. Come on over and bring your hopes and dreams!!!”

    August 2, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  7. Lori

    Bad Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce

    August 2, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  8. JRI Canada

    Yes, the economy is trending toward recovery. We won't know how much or how far until much later. I'm happy that Pres. Obama is trying stuff rather than simply talking stuff. Not just treading water, as it were.

    August 2, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  9. Michael C. McHugh

    They should learn from FDR's error in trying to balance the budget again in 1937-38, and the economy went right back off the cliff. It took the massive spending of World War II to end the Depression, simply because the crisis was so deep and profound, and 80% of the population had little or no money to spend.

    August 2, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  10. Roger D Smart, PO1, USN, Retired (Georgia)

    We will not tolerate our government "shoving this medical health care program down our throats". Our President has also crossed the line and is and has tried to steal our rights as Americans and has violated the rights of the Constitution of the United States. As far as Nancy Pelosi is concerned, she is the DEVIL and I wouldn't give you 05 cents for her and would gladly like to see her ousted out of office. She is trying to take the United States down, just like all the rest of the Democrats. This is my opinion only!

    August 2, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
  11. Herman

    As an independent, I truly believe solutions come with time. Republicans saw to it that it'd take a while. I still believe in this government of ours.
    To President Obama I say this "Show this nation that errors can be corrected, that your critics are not only wrong but to quick to judge. Show your detractors that you're not your predecessor but Barack H. Obama.
    Solutions will come. If it's patience that you need...grow some.

    August 2, 2009 at 9:00 am |