February 13th, 2010
07:55 AM ET

Dear President Obama #390: Politics and royalty

Reporter's Note: I did not see President Obama building a snow man this week. Which is a shame, because everyone should enjoy a good snowstorm. Just like, I assume, he enjoys my daily letters to Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I’ve been reading a good number of articles about how Rep. Patrick Kennedy from Rhode Island is not going to run for re-election. And of course everyone is commenting on how this means for the first time in…well, pretty much forever, there will not be a Kennedy holding an elected seat in the federal government.

You’ve got to admire the dedication of any family that invests so much time and energy into public service, whether you agree with their politics or not. I know that the late Ted Kennedy was a friend and mentor of yours, so I can imagine that this news fills you with a certain wistfulness.

But with respect, I must say I am usually…if not happy…at least content to see political dynasties come to an end. I don’t think it is healthy for an individual family to hold too much sway in a democracy, whether that family’s name is Kennedy, Bush, Clinton, or whatever.

I’ve always figured our country was founded in part on the idea that political power was something to be passed around the shared by the people. We saw wisdom in the idea that different families, with different views would arise in different times to shape the nature of our nation. After all, if we wanted royalty, we could have stuck with the Brits. So when people talk about another Bush running, or Chelsea Clinton getting involved, I am usually puzzled as to why they would even want such a thing to happen.

There are now more than 300-million Americans. What are the odds that any one family is so blessed with the genius of leadership or governmental wisdom that it should trump all others to hold positions of power? Sure, experience counts; and families have a way of sharing what they know. That’s why the guy who runs the auto repair shop that his dad used to own is so good at it.

But when it comes to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, I think it’s just a good idea to tap as deeply as you can into the broad talents of all those people…not just a few. And there is this: Many voters already think the DC crowd is too disconnected from average people; too insulated by an “inside the beltway” mentality that frankly “does not get” the regular concerns of regular folks. Pulling more candidates with long political pedigrees, I suspect, will just make that problem worse.

So again, while I salute the dedication of families who, generation after generation, seek to serve; I suspect we may serve our nation better by striving more diligently to welcome new thoughts, new ideas, and new input into the process.

Hope this wasn’t too heavy for a Saturday, and hope your weekend is going well. We had hoped to take our family down to Mardi Gras, but the storms screwed up everything so royally we had to give it a pass. But maybe I’ll whip up some shrimp po-boys and etoufee. Give me a call if you want to come over for some.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Donna


    I love you, man!

    I have been following your letters to Barack when I discovered you during the last two blizzards. I live in Northern Virginia where we all shake our heads. You rock, my friend.

    I hope you and the family are safe and you have enough oysters and crawfish to go around.


    February 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
  2. Tim Gibson

    A Dynasty is only good for a few seasons before it is cancelled. I am already eager to see what the fall season will have to offer on a shoe string budget and a flag that continues to hang limp at half mast.

    February 13, 2010 at 8:59 am |
  3. Jed Brown

    It feels to me that we have a marriage between a republic and a democracy. A familiar face, or family, can be more comfortable and predictiable even though it relies on method that seems to contradict democacy. Democracy is a great idea, but it requires a participation in our government that seems to peak during elections. I think we are more of a democratically empowered republic.

    February 13, 2010 at 8:28 am |
  4. Linda

    I would love to see Jeb Bush run, not because he is a Bush, rather because he was one of the best governors of Florida. As for Chelsea or Jeb Jr, I don't have any romantic desire to see a family dynasty in government. I also do not celebrate longevity in the House or Senate. I would love to see some term limit of a reasonable amount. Perhaps 12 or 18 years.

    February 13, 2010 at 8:12 am |

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