June 7th, 2010
09:46 AM ET

Letters to the President #504: "Big words? No. Big deeds!"

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/06/02/obama.oil.spill.tone/tzleft.obama.gi.jpg caption="Foreman: As much as I believe idealism is necessary, it can blind people to the base nature of workaday politics, and accordingly leave important business undone." width=300 height=169]

Reporter's Note: President Obama continues to be criticized over his handling of the Gulf oil spill. Perhaps it is time to reexamine how his ideals are colliding with reality, in my daily letter to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Dear Mr. President,

As I write this, I am sitting in my family room with the dog watching the Blackhawk-Flyers playoff game. Well, to be honest, the dog isn’t paying much attention. She completely missed the first penalty and her judgment about the Hawks’ offense tonight is ridiculous. And I thought Shelties were supposed to be smart!

Accordingly, I will likely keep this relatively short. Sure, being an unpaid, unrequested, and quite possibly unnoticed presidential adviser is serious work, but we’re talking about the Stanley Cup here. And btw, the Blackhawks are looking marvelous here in the starting minutes. Wow! Perfect combination of inspiration, passion, and solid fundamentals.

Speaking of which, I’ve had a number of chats lately with DC scene watchers in which the same theme has emerged, to wit: Too often your White House is long on idealism, and short on practical production; meaning that while you often say the right words about things like the oil spill in the Gulf, when it comes to turning the inspiration into action, the equation gets weak.

I understand. I am an idealist myself, and for many years I struggled with getting all excited about an idea, a concept, a eureka moment; and then expecting the rest of the world to simply fall in line with my brilliance and make it a reality. But in case you haven’t noticed, it doesn’t work that way. If it did, I can assure you Tom’s Book Talk, The Tonight Show with Tom Foreman, and The Passing Lane: Obituaries You Can Count On, would all be the hottest shows on TV.

Nowadays, however, as I hear these political critics (or politicrits, as I call them) poking at the same perceived weakness in you, I can’t help but think about the Revolutionary War, and particularly the role of the French. While the Founding Fathers originally hoped the French would come to their aid out of some sense of common destiny and beliefs, in short order they realized that was not the case. Or as the French say, “C’est un grande poisson dans ma tête!”

Sure, the French felt some kinship with the revolutionaries, but mainly the French disliked the English. And it became quite clear that they would support the revolution only to the extent that it punished their foes across the Channel. Indeed, the French seemed fairly intent on making sure the rising American nation, once it had been used to punish England, would remain a weak country, unable to negotiate with France or anyone else on an equal footing.

As much as I believe idealism is necessary, it can blind people to the base nature of workaday politics, and accordingly leave important business undone. But when ideal inspiration drives the conviction of hard work; then you have a combination that can really pay off. Case in point: Period One is over, and the Hawks are up 3-0. Now let’s see if their ideals and their stick handling can hold up for the next two rounds!

I hope all is well, and call if you get a moment. And oh, you should see the dog now; ever since the Hawks scored that last goal, she’s all wearing her Hawks jersey, talking smack about the Flyers. Talk about your fair weather friends… sheesh.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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