September 19th, 2009
11:39 AM ET

Dear President Obama #243: "Family Feud"

Reporter's Note: President Obama wants advice. I want to write letters. It’s a match!

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/18/michelle.obama.health.reform/art.michelleobama.gi.jpg caption="First lady Michelle Obama listens to remarks during a health care forum at the White House on Friday."]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I think presidents, politicians, and furniture salesmen should be very careful in the way they use their families. Sure, it’s seems all well and good to have the grandkid cavorting on the Stratolounger during the late news, while grandpa sits alongside, mugging to the camera and saying “I won’t sell you my pride and joy, but I’ll practically give away this dinette set!” But when gramps gets busted for tax evasion, and the ottomans are put up for auction, I’m sure the whole family has second thoughts about having made little Billy into a local TV star.

I mention this because I was watching your wife Michelle out pushing your health care plan, and I heard her talking about your real life fears when one of your daughters seemed as if she might be very sick. As a parent, I sympathize. Her comments were compelling, especially considering she was once a hospital administrator. She is, like you, a wonderful speaker. Couple that with her approval ratings, (which, no offense, are way higher than yours) and I can see how she could be a very effective weapon in trying to revitalize your quest for fire on this issue. And certainly she has every right to speak up.

But I must say this can be dicey territory; not so much politically, but personally. Once public figures thrust their families into the ring, where the fists and fury fly, it can be hard to get them back out again. I’m honestly not trying to give you a difficult time, I’m just saying I hope you have thought this over and considered it carefully as a regular family… not as the First Family. Because if one of your opponents now challenges what the First Lady said, she and you will find it just a little harder to sell the message of, “The family is off limits.”

I have no doubt that your wife is speaking from her heart and with the best intentions. She and you have made what appears to be an admirable effort to keep politics and the press away from your personal space. (I loved it when she growled about those early efforts by a toy company to cash in on your daughters’ fame.)

But soldiers, male and female, don’t take their families to battle; and I always wince a little when I see a Commander in Chief’s family step into the fray. It can produce powerful, moving testimonials and great results…but it does not come without risk.

Call if you can. At the office. Btw, any weekend plans? Ha!



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. nea

    Some will complain until they are blue in the face about Health Care Reform, about what we need to put in or what need to be taken out and they still wont be satisfied. You can complain about tort reform illegal immigrants or whatever but complaing will not gets us anywhere. The truth of the matter something needs to be done. And all i can say the time is NOW!

    September 20, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  2. bennett

    I think the first lady done a very good she told it like is/ We the public
    need to wke up and see that if we don't do something alot of these hospital will have to close down because they can't aford to stay open then what will we do.

    September 20, 2009 at 7:52 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    With Michele stepping into the health care arena to help bring about reform, I hope she and her husband realize that she opens herself up to the same type of attacks by the opponents of health care reform (and of Obama himself) that the President is enduring and that her approval ratings will probably start a downward spiral. If she is fine with the consequences of this, then fine – support it all you can to as many gatherings as you can. I, for one, hope you pull back out of this fight and do your own projects who need you and your positive ratings much more than they dying issue of health care in our time.

    September 20, 2009 at 7:10 pm |
  4. Conserve' for USA

    What makes anyone think these people at tea parties don’t know what’s going on? They are not confused. These people know what’s going on, that’s why they are there. It may not bother some of you to give up your freedom to get something free. Well, you need to know these people do care what feedoms they lose and that’s why they are complaining.

    September 20, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  5. Charles Sugrim

    I don't think that America knows that the First Lady may have been the most educated First Lady in modern times. She is a great asset to the President and to our country, so let her speak. She is eloquent, brilliant, knowledgible and of course, charming. The President and the First Lady are a superb pair at this time in the White House. So who else should be the main cheer leader for you if that person is not your wife?

    We love you Michelle and continue the good work you have started. You will surely see the end result shortly. God Bless.

    September 20, 2009 at 10:20 am |
  6. JD

    I thought Eleanor Roosevelt set a good example and Jacqueline Kennedy was skilled at conversing with DeGaulle in French and preserving the White House .... so lead follow or get out of the way

    September 20, 2009 at 12:10 am |
  7. Norma Labno


    Tom, I think you have a point regarding treading lightly on the
    fine line between privacy for The President's family and Michelle's comments on Health Care.

    Personally; I think she made an eloquent statement, from the heart,
    telling us about an occasion when health care effected her.

    I would be beyond disappointed if the President's family were verbally
    attacked! For me; they are out of the bounds (just as the Bush twins
    were and Chelsie Clinton was and ALL the other children in The White House Were) and that is the way it should be!

    In this heated debate (if I do not distract myself) all I do is worry if and
    when extreme emotions will lead to violence – which – ultimately touches
    the majority of us – in the worse possible way!

    norma from nv

    September 19, 2009 at 6:07 pm |
  8. michelle

    Dear Tom,

    I would not worry about how republicans will respond....I they would do the same to Mother Teresa if she would try to do the same....

    September 19, 2009 at 4:51 pm |
  9. DeLia CA

    To the best of my recollection (where've we heard that before?), First Ladies have had a key role in the politics of America: Dolly Madison, Eleanor Roosevelt, LadyBird Johnson, Barbara and Laura Bush, Pat Nixon,Nancy Reagan, Hillary, Rosalind Carter and now Michelle Obama. Some issues just come across better when presented by women. They appeal to the females of the nation. They temper their husbands' stand on the same issues.

    America's current First Lady is intelligent, articulate and a mom. I get the feeling that she cares about families, wants to set an example, be a good role model for ALL women. The First Family's efforts to avoid the exploitation of their children is an excellent example of their well-grounded handle on what the family of a public figure should be. I'm confident that they will continue this perspective.

    Michelle Obama has the potential to be an effective persona in her husband's administration.

    September 19, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  10. Courtney Oliver

    I dont think every white person who critisizes the president policies are racist but I do look at the signs at the these tea parties and see symbols of hate and racism. We cant deny that some people who are so caught in politics hate this man because of his race and his political party.

    September 19, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  11. Michelle (not Obama)

    I applauad FLOTUS for getting out there on this one. I hope she doesn't get slaughtered for coming out of the "off limits" zone!

    September 19, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  12. Adelaide

    I always enjoy reading these Letters to the President : on target while entertaining!
    Keep them coming!!!

    September 19, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  13. Anonymous, Minnesota

    I personally thought Michelle's speech was a tad sexist for being a liberal democrat...

    September 19, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  14. Conserve' for USA

    Let’s get tort reform and help fix the high cost of insurance. Why do you think people in the world come to the united states to have their operations? Because we are the best in the world. You don’t buy a new car because the tire is flat. You fix the flat.
    Why won’t the government help in lowering the cost of insurance? Because they won’t have control over us by helping us this way. If fraud is costing 900 billion dollars in Medicaid and Medicare. Why won’t they get rid of it?

    September 19, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  15. Conserve' for USA

    The constitution does not give you the right to free insurance. It does give you the right to purchase insurance. How dare anyone think they have the right to force someone else into paying it for them. We are a blessed nation with the best health care available. It could be cheaper and the government could help by making it cheaper with tort reform, but will they?

    September 19, 2009 at 11:57 am |