January 4th, 2010
11:18 AM ET

Dear President Obama #350: Coming home to a house on fire...

Reporter's Note: President Obama is returning to DC and all of its turmoil after some relaxing time on the beach. Truth is, presidents never really get away from their jobs what with modern communications and all. Like me. I’m writing my daily letter to the White House at my kitchen counter while the family watches a movie and the dog keeps walking by trolling for snacks.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Welcome back! I’m sure you’re eager to get down to business in this new year, but here is a word to the wise: Don’t forget when signing bills into law to write 2010 instead of 2009. I mean, if I get it wrong I can just cross it out, but then my notes are not going to wind up in a presidential library some day.

When you left for vacation, it looked like you would be returning to the health care battle, but it now it seems as if this terrorism business has pretty much swirled up into a blizzard that can’t be ignored.

This is an interesting case. The actual attempt at terrorism failed, but your administration’s response to it has been…well, let’s just say a tad uneven. And that is what has provoked the outcry. (Granted, Republicans have smelled blood and their feeding frenzy has certainly helped drive interest a bit, so it’s not like a wholly organic public fury...) So here is another bit of straightforward advice that I would give to any president: When something goes wrong on your watch, don’t let anyone on your team go out there and say things worked pretty well. That’s kind of like watching a stray bullet whistle through your living room, and saying “Well, it didn’t hit anyone, so I guess everything is ok.”

I don’t want to be too critical here, and frankly I think some of the debate over this issue has been overblown. But in this day and time when public confidence in government is pretty much in the basement anyway, no public official can expect to get by with a Maxwell Smart-ish “Missed him by THAT much,” when talking about terrorism. Were you guys not watching when President Bush’s team was chased through the streets with pitchforks for suggesting the response to hurricane Katrina was a success?

Sometimes my daughters fall behind on some school assignment, and the reason is completely legitimate: The house caught on fire; we were surrounded by members of an Elks Lodge; the dog ate my homework…and then caught on fire. What I tell them, however, is the same thing I’ll tell you: Fix the problem first. Make it right. Solutions trump excuses any day, no matter how valid those excuses may be.

We will always have weaknesses in our terror defenses. We will make mistakes, and our enemies will certainly find ways through from time to time. Any rational person knows that. And American voters have shown time and again that they will accept mistakes, but only if public officials openly and readily own up to them. You seem to be on the right track (after a somewhat tentative start) but I’m not so convinced the rest of your team is on board yet. Get them there. First order of business for what promises to be a busy new year.

Call if you are so inclined. With the holidays past I have a little more time to chat now.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Beth

    Awww! I wish I would get a day off with a helicopter and a big plane. He parties at the White House like no tommorrow. Yep. POTUS is a pretty hard job.

    January 4, 2010 at 10:51 am |
  2. Maikel

    why don't we ever hear about statistics from the credit bereus in terms like- Are the credit scores going down on average or whatever any other statistics from them?. Only insiders(banks, etc) are getting this kind of information and is allowing them to predict for future expectancies and is not helping the public to build up morale. What a Myth Credit Scores can ruin our financial stability of an individual but only few really now how it works and the true calculation behind it. Only people will repect it again when they understand it because they have lost the faith on it. Now they need to see or they will go on to believe in something else.

    January 4, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  3. Andreas

    Isn't that nice! Happy Holidays everyone.

    January 4, 2010 at 10:03 am |
  4. Linda Boyer Bealeton, VA

    Hop on board the "gripe train". In the next few weeks it will be a difficult choice, which to criticize more, homeland security or congress fighting over the health care debate. I'm just going to bake a big chocolate cake, stay warm and listen to everybody rant.on. A chocolate cake makes everything a little easier to take.
    Barack, hope you have a good New Year.
    Keep us safe please.
    Linda B.

    January 4, 2010 at 9:15 am |