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.
Tom Foreman | BIO
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.
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