September 15th, 2009
10:55 AM ET

Dear President Obama #239: It's my party...

Reporter's Note: President Obama spoke a lot about bipartisanship when he was running for office, and even after he took the oath. But the across-the-aisle tailgate parties seem like they’ll be in short supply this football season. My letters to the president, however, will not…

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I was thinking more about what I wrote yesterday about the Tea Party Express folks and their outrage over the way you are running the country, and a basic question came to mind: Do you think this nation is truly governable anymore?

We can point to individual moments in which we all seemed to be on the same page. Right after 9/11 most everyone was pretty firmly behind President Bush. After your election, the polls showed most people willing to give you a shot at calling the shots…so to speak. But in this country of 300-million people, getting everyone to pull in the same direction for any sustained period seems about as likely as keeping Kanye West in his seat and quiet at an awards show.

Some of that, I think, is because voters are honestly divided on some serious issues.

Some of it is because the political parties both talk a good game of cooperation, but as soon as either one gets 51 percent of Congress, they tell the other 49 percent to go soak their heads. But a lot of it is because intolerance of opposing political views has grown to…well, an almost intolerable level. We’ve always had to put up with a few people yelling their way through debates, but now it seems like the screamers are dominating the political conversation. Some of that is our fault in the media too, since we put these berserkers on the air with shocking regularity.

Why don’t the parties do something about it? I believe the majority in each party is comprised of relatively moderate, reasonable folks. But if it is to a party’s advantage to let a flamethrower keep raging, it seems to me that the temptation is just too great.

So in the name of short-term political advantage, they make a long-term deal to sell their souls, and our political debate devolves a little more each time. The only solution, I think, is for each party to reverse that trend; to start calling down its own members when they go too far. But then, that would require each party putting the good of the country first…and like the Saints in the Superbowl, while it is something worth hoping for, it’s not exactly something I’m counting on.

I’m on the road up in Connecticut, but the cell phone is always on…so, uh, are you calling?



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Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Dulcie - Denver

    Tom is right. Berserkers is a good name for some of the dissenters these days. Intelligent discourse has devolved into ugly mobs screaming and holding offensive signs. Of course they have the right to dissent, to gather and protest. But these gatherings have a very ugly undertone that I don't think we've seen in the recent past. I find it interesting that I rarely see a person of color in those crowds.

    September 16, 2009 at 7:10 am |
  2. Micah Burton

    Bipartisanship... this has to be the word of the month, everyone uses this word so briskly off the tip of their tongue, but only a hand full of people can really explain the true meaning, and what makes it so important. Everyone in every cabinet can have some type of opinion, but at the end of the day, our president is going to have the final say so on what happens. The republicans, or anyone else who has a problem with what President Obama decides for our country should have ran for president a long time ago. President Obama also stated many times that the change that is goint to take place in our country will take some time. I'm confident in him, and the plan that he has for America, and also the world. So sit back, strap up, and be patient because this will be no small task, therefore we all should be in it for the long run together. I know I am, are you?

    September 15, 2009 at 9:02 pm |
  3. Sowande Malone

    We as Americans claim that we are the greatest and most civilized nation in the world and yet we don't even act civil towards one another. We treat anyone with a differing viewpoint as an adversary who must be shouted down and demonized. We use the right to free speech as our shield and sword to say things that we would admonish our own children from saying to other children. We name call and use coded words like "real american" and " working class people" to somehow insinuate that if you don't fit some backward concept of what an american is that you are simply not one. We all need to realize that we are all americans and that while our cultures, values, ideaology, and outlooks on the world may be different that we all share the common bonds of love, respect, and decency. And it's about time we remember to give those things to our fellow americans even if we disagree politically with them or all that talk about us being the greatest an most civilized nation will be just that, talk.

    September 15, 2009 at 5:55 pm |
  4. Chris Lancaster

    Tom I believe you are right on with your letter, the fringes of both parties are devolving into an almost soccer hooligan frenzy that the fringe politicians such as Reps. Boehner, Wilson, Sen Grassely on the right, and Rep Frank, Speaker Pelosi, and Sen Reid feed into with inflammatory rhetoric. The worst is no one in political power on the right has the guts to stand up and dial the tone down because the right wing media, mainly the talk radio voices, are so powerful in swaying the right wing base against anyone who would stand up and say both sides need to work together and compromise. Unfortunately the fringe media appears to be where many of the tea baggers get their facts from, when Rush says he has investigated something his listeners take the info as fact, and misinformation such as death panels and classroom video brainwashing are born. It truely is a danger to the fabric of our great nation when oppossing idealogies and views of citizens cannot be discussed rationally and instead becomes a contest of who can yell the loudest, or call the other side a Nazi first. The fearmongering and needless incitement of the bases has to stop and it should start with our elected "LEADERS"!

    September 15, 2009 at 2:30 pm |
  5. Gerard

    What has become of a once great nation that it has lost its custom of passionate but civil debate? The answer is undoubtedly complex, but I'm sure Foreman is on to something when he assigns some responsibility to the media who, for the sake of fairness (and perhaps ratings) give equal time to wingnuts, thus creating the impression that those who resort to name-calling, insults, and outrageous lies are simply presenting an opposing but legitimate point-of-view.

    September 15, 2009 at 11:42 am |