October 24th, 2009
08:21 AM ET

Dear President Obama #278: The unexpected answer...

Reporter's Note: President Obama has been taking a lot of political punches lately, and dishing some out too. Hopefully he still has time to towel off and read my daily letters to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Some years ago, I was playing tennis against a guy who fancied himself quite a good player. The mere fact that he “fancied” himself anything, should have been his first clue that he was not as hot as he imagined, but I digress. He bragged about hustling tennis games for money in college, and all the grand victories he had racked up. I did not claim to be much of a player; I wore running shoes instead of proper tennis footwear; and I played with my wife’s borrowed racquet.

And I almost always beat him.

It was kind of strange in a way, because he certainly seemed to have some of the chops he needed to win. But time and again, he came to the court full of bluster about his latest round of lessons, and then I’d blister so many balls past him he’d leave scowling, and cursing, and clearly heading off to the sporting goods store to complain about the latest stringing job they’d done on his racquet.

Truth be told, I really think he beat himself. He was just so aware of the competition and so caught up in this image of what he thought he was. So the more I acted casual and relaxed and good humored about it, the more it infuriated him and threw him off-balance.

Recalling it makes me think of a legendary chess match I once read about, in which the great master was beaten by a lesser player, and erupted from the table screaming, “How could I lose to such an idiot?”

I mention all of this by way of advice: Sometimes even very powerful opponents can be pulled off-balance by the unexpected; by responses that are either much less or much more forceful than they anticipate.

Not much of a letter today, I suppose. But hey, it’s Saturday. Call if you feel inclined, we’ll be caught up in a college visit most of the day (University of Maryland) but I always have my cell. And btw, I saw the official portrait of you and the fam…nice!



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Lori

    Your letters are always good.

    October 26, 2009 at 1:34 am |
  2. alisemcbride

    I like the advice given and I also like that President Obama continues to carry himself as the gentleman he was raised to be while members of Congress continue to show themselves to be the petty, overpaid liars and thieves they are. I wonder what the founding fathers would have thought of these career politicians?

    October 25, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  3. C Luther

    The government bails out Banks and and payback is open season on consumers? Why are credit car companies going to war on the people? Rates are doubling? Additional fees for you name it? What is going on? Isn't it bad enough that gas prices are driving the economy right back where it was 10 months ago?
    Is this the thanks credit and bank institutions are returning for the bail outs?

    October 25, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  4. MO

    Yes, Tom have a very good point. My only comment is in the form of a question. How is it that certain people in the media can still refer to Bush and others as President Bush, but can totally disrepect President Obama by printing or saying Obama. Do he not deserve the same respect. A least he was truly elected.

    October 24, 2009 at 11:41 pm |
  5. Kula May Ellison

    Yes as Fredrick Niche write
    "god does not acknowlegde
    Kula May R Ellison

    October 24, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  6. Sandra

    Good point, Tom! I wonder if he reads your letters.

    October 24, 2009 at 11:09 am |
  7. Tom Guadagno (DailyEngHelp on Twitter)

    I think what Tom is saying here is when the ignorance of the enemy is bliss, we don't declare war on them by sinking down to their level.
    As a middle school teacher for over thirty years, I used this philosophy on the battlefield of the classroom. I maintained my composure and professionalism and persistently kept high standards by being a role model of dignity continuously teaching without insult or sarcasm. Eventually, by example and teachable moments, I won the respect of the majority and that's all that was needed for victory.

    October 24, 2009 at 11:06 am |