January 9th, 2010
07:38 AM ET

Dear President Obama #355: Quick! Call the experts!

Reporter's Note: President Obama has an impressive staff of advisors; folks who know all kinds of things about the economy, foreign affairs, politics, and maybe even answering the mail… although there is precious little evidence of that last one, I must say, as I pen my latest in a relentless string of letters to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I was watching an interview with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani today and was reminded of a question that has been troubling me lately: Aren’t there other people in this nation we should be hearing from?

No offense to Hizzoner, because this is not really about him. What I’m saying is, time and again, I keep seeing the same handful of people nattering on about what mistakes we have made, how we can fix them, who is to blame, blah, blah, blah. It’s happened so many times, I can usually tell what they’re going to say before they even start talking.

I’ll admit, a lot of this is the fault of me and my media brethren. Way too many times we call on the same “experts” for interviews, whether they are really the right ones or not, primarily because we know they’ll be agreeable and available. Kind of like my dating schemes back in high school: “I don’t really want to go to the movies with Rachel, but Denise would be harder to convince, so…Rachel it is!”

I worry that Presidents face the same problem. Every time I see someone identified as a White House advisor I think, “Wow. How much do you have to know to get that gig?” What I hope is that they are advising you to talk to people who really know the details of all these issues. Otherwise, heck, sign me up.

“Hey Tom, what should I do about the economy?”

“Fix it, Mr. President.”

“What about terrorism?”

“Well, I think being against it would be prudent.”

“Any thoughts on healthcare reform?”

“Have to get back to you later on that. I’m not feeling well.”

The thing is almost nobody can really know that much about everything. Sure, they think they do. Who wouldn’t be flattered and eager to offer an opinion if the president called and asked for one? As a reporter, I became so convinced that I was learning so many things in my first job, I became a bit dismissive of the opinions of others. It was a bush league and stupid mistake common among the young and inexperienced crowd. Fortunately I had a clever and encouraging news director who one day handed me a business card he had prepared. It had all the regular information for our TV station, but just underneath my name, instead of reporter, it said “Expert.” It was a point well taken, and a nice bit of quality humor to boot.

Again, it’s not that these folks don’t have meaningful things to say, but for crying out loud, there are more than 300-million people in this country! That, to put it in scientific terms, is a lot! Give me a ring and let’s get together on this. I’ll push harder on my side to start bringing in other experts, other analysts, other folks who might have something to say about all these serious matters we all face. You do the same on your side, and you know what? I’ll bet we’ll start hearing some new ideas, instead of just the hum of the DC Brain Trust Microwave warming up the old ones.

Did you see the end of the big game, btw? Roll Tide! And if you want to come over for any NFL playoff action this weekend, call early so I can make sure we have enough nachos.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Jennifer

    Lovely. I agree with you 100%.
    They really should be calling on some new people once in awhile. We cannot get a true diverse and relateable answer if all we have are the same men and women coming in to talk the usual chatter about our "current issues" and throw in a few big words or legal-terms to make it all seem official.

    January 9, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
  2. Tim Gibson

    Exactly the point Tom. In my opinion, when it comes to hearing from the White House I more often than not tune it out in my head as the same of stuff rehashed over and over again.

    While Obama and congress continue to point out this was an inheritance, one for which they should be taxed I might add, what we the people have inherited is cookie cutter sameness of I am just here to help. A year has passed and we are still waiting for that help.

    January 9, 2010 at 9:04 am |