February 4th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Dear President Obama #381: Hate to say it's a disappointment, but ...

Reporter's Note: President Obama met with Senate Democrats at their retreat just as he did with Repubs a few days ago. Well, not exactly the same way…and that’s the subject of my daily letter to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Telling someone that he is making a mistake is never a pleasant task, neither for the teller nor the tell-ee. For example, I told my friend Carl back in college that he might want to reconsider his choice of Early French Poetry as a major, and from his reaction you would have thought I had accused him of a felony. Oh well, I guess it gave him something to discuss later in the unemployment line.

That said, I think you made a mistake today when you were talking to your Democratic pals. Remember just a scant few days ago when you lit into the Repubs in a similar setting for being obstructionists. I suggested then that it was a good start, but only if you followed up by doing the same to your own party. Need I remind you who held all the reins of power for the past year? For as much as the Republicans fought against your programs (and they did) the people who held up your legislation were the very Democrats you were talking to. Your party, with substantial majorities, controls the House, the Senate, and the Presidency. If something is not getting done, it is because your fellow Dems are standing in the way.

I know this sounds harsh, but for you to go stroke them and tell them it is all the opposition’s fault seems to me to be a strategic blunder. It’s almost like waving the white flag of “I’m so afraid of making you angry, I’ll let you undermine my Presidency and then help you blame someone else.”

Don’t get all worked up. I’m not giving the Republicans a pass. Certainly many of the accusations you have leveled at them are dead on: They have needlessly played the role of speed bump to many ideas, they appear to have voted no on some things just because they thought it would hurt you, and on and on. But again: Almost all of that was symbolic. They just don’t have the muscle to hurt you. But your own party does, and it has, and it continues to do so. Where is the loud cry on the steps of the Capitol from your party’s leaders to say health care reform must be voted on, and approved right now? You’ve made it clear for months you want that. Why is it not happening?

On top of all that, many of the Republicans who met with you a few days ago, came out saying they appreciated your candor and seemed at least willing to consider reopening dialogue with you. But now that you have turned around only days later throw a big can of gasoline onto the partisan barbeque, I can’t help but imagine much of that very tentative goodwill has already gone up in smoke.

Here is the key: The country remains very angry at the Republicans. The polls show it. But month by month, voter anger with Democrats has moved up just as high. Even if you want to play the populist card (which it seems you do,) you can not lay it on the table and then say, “But oh yeah, let’s blame only one side.”

American voters are ever more depressed and disappointed over the behavior of both parties, and unless you make it clear you feel the same, your play at populism will be a waste of time for everyone.

Hope this wasn’t too sharply worded. You know I always try to be encouraging. I’ll understand if you want to think it over before you call, but it would be nice to hear from you.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Jay

    Great article! I would have to agree with your assesment as I feel the same disappointment in the party I helped to elect. I certainly hope our fearless leader is more than just an eloquent speaker this year...we need action, and we need it now.

    February 4, 2010 at 11:02 am |
  2. Conserve' for USA

    The government is starting to listen to the majority. You can't keep listening only to the left and think you are going to be re-elected. Liberals only make up 20% of the population, that's not enough to get you re-elected.
    It's time to wake up. The dream world the liberals have had for a year, is now crumbling around them. They can't understand why the government isn't listening to them anymore. It's re-election time people. Hopefully, the 80% of the country will remember just what this administration has been doing this first year in office!

    February 4, 2010 at 10:47 am |
  3. Tim Gibson

    As a great woman of faith once said, "kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." Off Beat, I have never chosen a place to dine, perhaps rich is early French poetry, then blamed the bus boy for service below expectation or a meal lacking in real flavor.

    A "success" for any of those in service is often not the lack of challenges, but the victory over them. After all, it takes very high pressure to produce a diamond.

    Perhaps the most notable problem with the meal was in fact an issue with the party at the table. Even more so when behavior is the main disappointment. I'm just saying.

    February 4, 2010 at 9:46 am |
  4. Mary Ann

    Please keep saying it: : the democrats have the substantial majority.
    Why is nothing getting done???

    February 4, 2010 at 9:35 am |
  5. alex lyrics

    As long as we allow money to be thrown at our governments by lobbyist, and special interest groups this is the type of government we get and have gotten with republicans.

    The problem is we now have these older Democrats now who are looking for their retirement money now, so they don't care how it looks to be corrupt.

    With the republicans it was a given just who's side they were on, it just looks real bad on the Democratic side because it is knew to the party on this level.

    February 4, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  6. Rena Iglehart

    Very well written. Very few times do I hear reporters speak frankly , truthly and politely all at the same time!! I agree. It is hard to be neutral and it is a politicians natural instinct to side with their own party, but we must get past childish ways. The petty back and forth is getting ridiculous.

    February 4, 2010 at 9:26 am |
  7. Alyse

    Not sharply worded enough, I'm afraid. As one of those depressed and dissappointed voters I feel hope for change is all but lost. Hope for humanity only seems to reveal itself in the face of catastrophy (Haiti ,9/11). The rest of the time it's " I, me, mine".

    February 4, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  8. Greg

    Hate to say your right......but your right to a point.
    He should have been more forceful with the democrats to work with the republicans.
    but not alienate them to the
    Point where they blackball him

    February 4, 2010 at 8:49 am |
  9. Della Louise

    Tom Foreman Sir.
    I just read your letter to the President.Its a very nice letter and I do hope he gets to read it.Perhaps if President Obama would take the advice of those of us who are out here looking on instead of those who surround him in the White House he may find the answers he is looking for.I am beginning to feel like President Obama is trying to get and keep everyone in a good humor with him but he has to understand that he has to be strong and act it too."you can please some of the people some of the time but never all the people ALL THE TIME".
    I voted for our President because I have faith in him and I really want him to be a strong President.Maybe your letter will help show him the way,I hope so.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:00 am |
  10. da1andonlyreal1

    Well done, agreed a 100%. The president shoul be very careful on how to talk to both reps and dems, tho, we still believe in him, he has to be......

    February 4, 2010 at 7:49 am |
  11. Sal Akpos

    Well, Tom, you are definitely correct in practice, but as a pragmatist, he's not going to do that. You dont lit into your own party that way since you need them to carry out ur agenda. Once they think you're arrogant, and biting the hands that feed you, they'll make ur life more miserable. Tip O'Neil, the democratic speaker under President Carter promised Halilton Jordan – Carter's chief of staff – that he'd make the White House's life miserable, and he did!! He actually worked better with President Reagan, the Republican than he did Carter. Politics can be a blood sport, so a wise leader learns how to navigate the muddy waters deftly.

    February 4, 2010 at 7:37 am |
  12. Nikki

    I hope both parties are reading this.

    February 4, 2010 at 7:25 am |