Tom Foreman | BIO
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/07/22/obama.wasteful.spending.act/smlvid.obama.gi.jpg caption="Dear Pres. Obama: People do not always listen to what you say, but they watch what you do." width=300 height=169]
Reporter's Note: The president is planning another vacation, and this one could be unusually important. So it’s the subject of today’s letter to the White House.
Dear Mr. President,
You’re taking the family on a vacation to the Gulf of Mexico? Did I hear this right? Well, hooray and pass the crab claws. This is excellent news. I get so tired of politicians using their families for campaign ads and the occasional public service photo op (“Hey, we like reading! Look, we’re doing it!”) and I get just as crazy when we media types spend too many hours chewing over things like, oh, what kind of dog you’re going to get for the kids, what clothing you’re wearing, yadda yadda yadda.
But I really think sometimes simple decisions like this one can be important for a lot of symbolic reasons, and they don’t have to seem like grandstanding. Look, you’ve got to take the kids somewhere or they’ll be smashing up the China room, am I right? They’re too young for Vegas. Disney would be a complete zoo if you went there. (And you think the lines are long now…ha!) And I’m sure they are sick to death of hotsy totsy Chief Executive types vacas. “Nooooooo! Not Paris again!” (or wherever it is you have taken them. I can’t recall. Heck, I can barely recall breakfast.)
But some time on the Gulf? That will sure cure what ails you, and maybe what ails the Gulf too. The single most consistent message I’ve heard from locals every single time I’ve been here over the summer (and hey, I’ve been hanging out here for more hours than Biden spends in the Amtrak station) is that what is most hurting them with tourists is perception, not reality. Yes, some tar balls have washed up. Yes, some oil booms are out. But I honestly have to say that unless someone told you that something was wrong, I would bet that 95 percent of visitors would not have a clue. By and large the beaches are beautiful and clean, the water looks inviting, and the restaurants and hotels offer an unexpected amount of elbow room for what should be the height of the season.
And, I might add, although I have encountered a little imported shrimp now and then, I have not failed to find what I wanted on any menu in any restaurant in any visit down here this summer. Just tonight I had a crab stuffed snapper and some crawfish etouffee that was so good I wanted to rub it on my chest. It was at Mary Mahoney’s Old French House in Biloxi.
Anyway, send me a postcard when you get down here. It is so good that you are coming. Remember: People do not always listen to what you say, but they watch what you do. I know you’ll have a good time. And if you do, maybe some other tourists will too, and then maybe our good friends all along the Gulf will have something to celebrate too. They could use it!
Heading back to DC today. Will try to call over the weekend.
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.
Filed under: Gulf Oil Spill • Letters to the President • Opinion • President Barack Obama • Tom Foreman
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A really important sentiment. Thanks.
Tom I enjoy your "letters" SO much – Usually I feel as if you're reading my mind and expressing it – of course, SOMETIMES you're off kilter – but then you can't be perfect, I tell myself...
Thanks for all of your efforts.