December 4th, 2009
10:46 AM ET

Dear President Obama #319: The lesson of the Musk Ox

Reporter's Note: President Obama’s team continues to take heat over how those party crashers made it into the White House. And I continue to write letters.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

It is fully possible that in your headlong rush to the White House that you have never spent much time thinking about Musk Oxen. But not being burdened with that whole “Leader of the Free World” responsibility, this is a subject I have considered at some length, and I want to tell you a bit about them.

Musk Oxen live in the north. Farther north than the Green Bay Packers. On the arctic tundra. They look like very shaggy, sturdy, long-haired cattle, with impressively stout, and pointy horns. They weigh up to eight hundred pounds and if one were standing in front of you right now your head would be just barely above the hump of his shoulders. (Not for long, of course. They can be rather ill-tempered, and I suspect you would be on the run faster than you can yell, “Hey, Biden, is this your dog in the Oval Office?”)

What is most impressive about the Musk Ox, however, is its sense of society. When threatened by wolves or dogs, the calves and cows quickly form a knot, and all the bulls back up hard against it, forming a defensive ring, so that any predator from any side meets nothing but lowered heads and sharp horns. Individual bulls charge out to strike their tormentors, and then just as rapidly back up into their fortress of fur and horns.

Individually, a Musk Ox is as vulnerable as any other large herbivore. Sure, he’s all business up front, but attacked from all sides by a pack of canines, no matter how quickly he spins, eventually his exposed flanks will be savaged and he will be lost. But as a community, standing together and working together through good and bad, Musk Oxen are virtually indestructible.

I mention all this, because (and sorry to bring up a sore point) I remain disappointed in your staff’s response to the whole White House party crashers story. The Secret Service has admitted its culpability in what happened, but I was surprised to hear Press Secretary Gibbs so glibly put not merely a lion’s share, but essentially all of the blame on the backs of the agents. To hear him tell it, everyone else on your staff is utterly blameless in allowing two people from the street to get into the White House and walk right up to you, the Vice President, and all your other guests.

Great president are not islands; they are made by great teams. And great teams share at all times equal measures of success and failure, and they readily face their faults so that they can make things better. When the going gets tough, they don’t point to a teammate who slipped and shout, “It’s all his fault!” To the contrary, they ask themselves to what degree they are all to blame. Because a weakness left un-admitted and unrepaired can endanger the whole herd. Even Musk Oxen know that.

Give me a call if you want to chew this over a bit more. And btw, we’re having a holiday party at the office. If you’d like to come by, I’m pretty sure I can get you in. Uh…but be sure to bring an I.D. Security, you know…



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Donal Cogdell Sr.

    I totally agree with Tom on this matter! He speaks the truth very plainly. I cannot believe that the Ms. Rogers was given executive privilege when it was truly her responsibility. The problem is Mr. President the Secret Service should not take responsibilty alone for this incident. Ms. Rogers should come forward and apologize for not doing her job and making sure that her or her staff were manning the gates with the agents and that it will not happen again. This country needs honesty, accountability, and responsibility, not the ability to hide behind laws that do not apply! Mr. President be forthright in this matter please.

    December 4, 2009 at 12:14 pm |
  2. Lori

    Those party crashers got the inside track from someone on the team.

    December 4, 2009 at 10:23 am |
  3. Dr Rand Pink

    Order Tigers new cologne for the Holidays TRANSGRESSIONS

    December 4, 2009 at 8:39 am |