Reporter's Note: President Obama asked Americans for advice when he took office. I’ve been writing a letter a day ever since. I have no idea if he reads them or if he thinks my advice is worth a nickel, but that’s no reason to stop trying.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/07/obama.czars/art.van.jones.gi.jpg caption="Van Jones resigned from his "green jobs czar" post amid criticism."]
Tom Foreman | Bio
Dear Mr. President,
Here’s the thing: You just can’t make it easy for your opponents to beat up on you. Sure you have to take some punches. Sure you’ll occasionally be on the ropes. But you have to keep your arms up, your head protected, and you can’t give your opponents free chances to ring your bell. Which brings me to all of these Czars of yours.
The fact that the Republicans and the talk radio army just forced Green Jobs Czar Van Jones into an unexpected and sudden exit probably does not matter much in the big scheme. These things happen in full-contact politics. But your opponents are now triangulating the whole idea of you having so many Czars, and that is potentially real trouble. The more they start digging up past statements, articles, school papers, and grocery lists written by these Czars of yours, the more they are going to come after you with what they find. “If President Obama chose a person like this,” they will ask with St. Louis arches for eyebrows, “what does that tell you about his judgment?”
Now, before you get defensive, I’m not going to weigh in on the question of whether you should have so many Czars, or whether they should be subjected to more formal scrutiny by the legislative branch. You and the rest of the political crowd have to hammer that out. What I will suggest is that the best defense for any president under attack is offense, and patience.
On the offensive front: Your Czars will be a lot harder to hit if they are turning out clear results. Remember, they are supposed to be a line of help and defense for you; not you for them.
On the patience front: You can’t allow your team to respond to every accusation. Take each criticism as it comes, consider it privately, and then deal with it as you see fit on your terms.
This is one of those testing moments for a president, when you have to make it plain that your vision is still clear, your judgment is solid, and your team is the best available. Fail on any one of those points during this current assault on your Czars, and you will not only be helping your opponents rip into your presidency…you’ll be making it easy.
Call when you can.
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