April 11th, 2010
07:31 AM ET

Dear President Obama #447: Tennis, anyone?

Reporter's Note: President Obama has often made some unusual choices in terms of the critics to which he decides to respond. He’s done it again, so once again…I’m taking to the keyboard for my daily letter to the White House.

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Do not…I repeat, do not engage in tit-for-tat exchanges with Sarah Palin. I was reading about your back and forth volley with the erstwhile Governor of Alaska over nuclear weapons and I thought, like Jay Leno in primetime, that was a mistake.

Look, if you haven’t accepted it yet, you are simply going to get slapped around in the public arena now and then by critics. They are going to attack your policies, your principles, your family, your friends, your choice of neckties…and certainly your choice of Supreme Court Justices…but you must be cautious about locking horns with those naysayers. You are President of the United States, and that title brings with it a certain gravitas that can only be tarnished by getting into spitting contests.

The Yankees would not look better if they decided to take on a high school team that criticized them. Instead, they would make themselves look small and petty, while they would raise the profile of the critics to new heights. “Look, the Yankees take us seriously enough to play ball with us! We’re huge!”

Don’t you think Sarah Palin and many others do that dance every time you mention their names? (And, btw, if you’re just going to go around responding to what folks have to say and elevating them to the front page, perhaps you’d like to mention me and these letters at some point…hint, hint, hint. Or do I have to start saying mean things?) Maybe it’s not your nature to turn a deaf ear to those who slam you, but if that’s the case you should buy some ear muffs.

There are plenty of times in which presidents should respond immediately and forcefully to some critics. But here is the checklist you should run first: Is the critic carrying enough serious weight in the public’s eyes to warrant a direct, presidential response? (Mind you, I’m truly not criticizing Ms. Palin here…I’m just saying she holds no elected office, currently wields no practical power, and even the polls suggest she is not enjoying widespread public support…so again, it looks kind of odd for you to be paying attention to what she says.) Is the comment in question enough to raise public concern and valid doubts about your leadership? And is there anyway for you to win? A set of facts that trumps a false claim is one thing, but a mere swapping of insults is not very presidential. Non-presidents can afford that. Presidents can’t.

Just like, for example, presidents apparently can’t afford to make phone calls to people who write to them every day. Ahem.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Don

    Then again, having Sarah Palin as his opponent in the next election
    might be a good thing for him. I sometimes ponder whether some of that
    bander is calculated.
    I can see and understand the appeal of a Sarah Palin to the GOP.
    But, to qualify her for a pinnacle leadership role would lead me to
    question whether they have anything substantial to win the center
    back. Other than waiting for the democrats to overplay their majority

    April 11, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
  2. SHAME

    Thank you so much for the "hell no" comment from an old broad. Now our students have the right to tell us hell no. Please stop with your dumb sound bites.

    April 11, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
  3. Arias


    Maybe you could explain what Obama was responding to that you think constitutes in his "engaging" with Palin?

    My understanding is that George Stepanopolous asked him during an interview what he thought of Palin's criticism on his nuclear policy. He had no control over what impertinent and trivial questions Georgey would spring on him. And he dismissed what he asked immediately with a "Last I checked, Sarah Palin is not an expert on nuclear policy" in other words, I'm not going to dignify such a lightweight with an answer. Stepy was roundly criticized after the interview for even bringing her up and even felt compelled to defend his question to his critics.

    So what SHOULD he have said? That was perfectly dismissive as far as I could tell.

    April 11, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
  4. Sprinkle

    Well said, a lesson we could all benefit from when it comes to the annoying pests in our lives, which is all Sarah will ever be.

    April 11, 2010 at 11:46 am |
  5. Ronnie Moehrke

    I need to say it more often, I guess...but you're right on the button with yout "letters" – reading my mind when I wasn't looking!! And then putting them in 'letters!"...

    April 11, 2010 at 9:59 am |
  6. Anna Mavromatis

    Wonderfully said! I hope President Obama will listen...

    April 11, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  7. Lowell

    I agree. Ms. Palin should definitely be the last of his worries. Especially since all of the Fox correspondents seem to be speaking negatively of the President.

    April 11, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  8. Joanne Cooper

    U Rock

    April 11, 2010 at 7:52 am |