September 8th, 2009
08:31 AM ET

Dear President Obama #232: Falling czars

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
AC360° Correspondent

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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Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. TruthSetsFree

    Our country didn't get as strong as it is by just being supportive of those in power. If an idea is good it will stand the test of scrutiny. Powerful ideas, like Liberty & Justive for all, stand the test of debate all by itself.
    The reason I say this is because I too use to be someone who didn't question and wasn't engaged with the issues. I use to be and was supportive of the President but I realized that I wasn't being engaged as a pro-active citizen. I am a very supportive person – I support people I agree with, whose ideas and ideals I like. So either you agree with President Obama and his policies and ideals or you aren't engaged on the issues. Please be strong enough to Identify yourself and your specific position versus taking a generic "be supportive" stance. The policies that are being pushed are RADICAL and need to viewed in the light and be debated. If you're informed on the issues let's debate them on their merits. If not I urge you to arm yourself with the facts of the issues. Good luck.

    September 9, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  2. Conserve' for USA

    How many other czars have the same radical opinion as Van Jones? Since he is a friend to the President and his wife, do they have the same opinion as his?

    September 9, 2009 at 10:28 am |
  3. TruthSetsFree

    On the contrary, there is a clear criteria to being a CZAR – be in lock-step with the President. Let's not complicate this – It's that simple. The CZARs are President Obama and President Obama is his CZARs. Now what does it really say about the man elected to President of the United States of America – President of WE THE PEOPLE? It says WE picked a masked radical revolutionary with not-so masked radical revolutionary friends that WE THE PEOPLE, and the press, didn't vet properly. No one with such a radical and revolutionary mindset should be holding the reigns of power to our great nation. Now WE THE PEOPLE need to reign in this person and all his CZARs with our voices – they work for us. This is the way our founding fathers designed our form of self-governance. The CHECKS AND BALANCES are still alive and well. Open discourse is too. No ONE individual was ever meant to have unchecked power as Pres. Obama is reaching for. It's up to us to make sure our REPRESENTATIVE FORM OF GOVERNMENT stays that way. They represent and work for us and they ALL need to be reminded of this.

    September 9, 2009 at 10:07 am |
  4. RLWellman

    I noticed you don't have the "intestinal fortitude" to moderate my comments. You continue publishing the left drivel that about makes me sick, but that's what your columns are all about. You don't care to have both sides of an issue debated!

    September 9, 2009 at 12:28 am |
  5. Kerry Arens

    I would just like to say i think you are doing a great job looking after the great people of the U.S.A.I think it was great to take to the kids to let them know how important it is to go to school.Most canadian kids do not have the chance to see our Prime Minister .He would never talk to ordinary grown ups let alone the kids.May god look after you and your family.take care kerry .

    September 9, 2009 at 12:11 am |
  6. Jason

    Hey Donna,
    As a former Democrat may I just say...you want civility now. What went around 4 years ago actually is coming around now. For Democrats the way they treated Bush, let's just say the chickens have come home to roost (just be glad the national media is providing tons of cover for their guy).
    It is amazing how liberals cannot handle the heat when they are the ones under the magnifying glass...this among many other hypocritcal aspects of the democratic leadership and their media is why I'm an independant!

    September 8, 2009 at 11:38 pm |
  7. Carmen

    So who is less offensive Rush Limburgh or Van Jones? Also, who still has a job and is on talk radio?

    September 8, 2009 at 10:12 pm |
  8. RLWellman

    The President talked to the school kids today. Remember when GHBush was president and talked to the school kids? The Democrats tried to bring him up on charges for spending government money to further his cause. None of you can figure why the Republicans are so upset with President Obama.
    You are like those who you surround yourself with. President Obama really does need some new friends. The people of the United States are not going to continue believing he doesn't know what his friends say or do!

    September 8, 2009 at 7:44 pm |
  9. Chris

    Czars are part of the stimulus jobs program. It's one way to get the hard to employ off the dole. There is no criteria to be a Czar, no vetting, no vote, no objectives and no verifiable results. I wonder how much the job pays and what you have to kiss to get a Czar job? I can think of a lot of Czar functions I could do. My favortie would be to get the Czar of the Czars job. I bet that job's worth a cool $250k a year. Then I could help with the deficit because I'd be rich and have to pay all the taxes for the poor folks who will be standing in line for a week to get a doctor to look at their hang nail because their employer dropped their health insurance and told them to join the public plan. This sure is a great democracy. It still is a democracy isn't it?

    September 8, 2009 at 4:52 pm |
  10. lampe

    "What goes around comes back around." Maybe that is how The Republicans are feeling right about now? After all GWB and The Republicans, have been raked over the coals for the last 8 years. Now, i'm not saying I agree with everything they did, but, to now say no one can say anything negative about Obama, seems like A DOUBLE STANDARD TO ME!

    September 8, 2009 at 4:42 pm |
  11. lampe

    The Republicans, did nto force Van Jones to exit. He did so because of the ignorant remarks he made. If you know, that you have stood for things, that might be sonsidered ANTI-AMERICAN, why would you ever except a position in our Government?

    September 8, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  12. Lori

    Good advice Tom.

    September 8, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  13. Donna Wood

    My goodness, can't anyone get behind this President and support him in the manner in which he deserves? You know, those of you putting up such a big ruckus over every little thing the President does are basically cutting off your noses despite your silly faces! Don't forget, what goes around comes right back around and usually bites you on the butt! You need to rally around this President because he is your President and he really is trying. Quit way-laying him with stupidity! Let him do his job! A little support would be nice!

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    September 8, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  14. Boomer in Mo

    Does President Obama have too many czars or has the mainstream press simply called most of the people on the White House staff Czar this or Czar that? Regardless, Van Jones had some pretty polarizing statements in his background and if the White House did not know about them before, they should have. We do need green jobs, and I think part of this furor is the most right wing members of the GOP trying to prevent that because they want to take us back to 1950.

    September 8, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  15. Karla M.

    Dear Mr. President Obama,

    Although I am not a politician or a journalist, but only a young 28 year old female. However, I have great respect for all your hard work and efforts to redeem UNITED STATES if AMERICA from it's current declining economy of trials and tribulations. I've read your memoir Dreams from my Father, which I find very
    inspirational for my own oath if life and course of nature. So my only simple advice for you Mr. President...is to conitnue "Learning your ABC's because Adversity Builds Character" My pyschology teacher Mr. Bluford told my class that senior year if high school. Ever since then, that is my motto on how to live my life =) God Bless You Mr. President and God Bless U.S. ALL!!
    And peace to the middle east!!! =)

    September 8, 2009 at 10:01 am |
  16. Politisite

    “what does that tell you about his judgment?” Is exactly what I have been saying for 2 years. How do you judge someone? By the company one keeps. How do you predict future behavior? By past behavior. It is true that there are several Czars that are on the hit List. The Czar numbers have gotten out of hand and may indeed be a way to circumvent the constitution. George Bush had 10 Czars... too many. Most conservatives were not happy about George Bush spending. I wrote about it. How can you think that if we disagreed with George Bush, we will back of of Pres Obama?

    September 8, 2009 at 9:45 am |
  17. Tishila, NJ

    Gee... My advice to Obama would be to get better friends - people with good character for a change. Obama's sketchy crowd of friends and advisors was apparent during his run for office. It's no surprise his many czars have similar flaws. BTW, anybody know how much money all these czars are costing taxpayers?

    September 8, 2009 at 9:44 am |
  18. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Sorry Tom, Bbut President Obama has already flunked the judgement test. His appointments as czars and to the cabinet have had a string of questionable choices from a self-proclaimed communist (Jones), to people under federal investigation (Richards) to tax dodgers (pick 'em). His policies have shown a tendency to rush things through that are incomplete and don't solve the problems (e.g. the stimulus). Perhaps if Obama had some executive experience, or even a decent Seante background, things would be different. I didn't expect much, but even i'm surprised at how poorly he's doing. 2012 can't scome soon enough. I hope the country can hold out.

    September 8, 2009 at 9:35 am |