July 25th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Letter to the President #552: 'The more things change'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/07/21/democrats.agenda/story.capitoldome.gi.jpg caption="Where once being an elected official was sort of de facto “a big deal,” now I think it’s just as likely to automatically spur a measure of scorn" width=300 height=169]

Reporter's Note: I’m still so tired from my latest Building Up America trip that I hardly want to think about the news. And considering what the news has been lately, I suspect the president may feel the same way. Ha! Always good to have something else to think about, like my latest letter for example.

Dear Mr. President,

While I was on the road this week, I passed a TV in a hotel lobby with a headline about new record low approval ratings for Congress, and I have to admit I didn’t even pause to see what it was about. Isn’t that kind of sad?

I mean, here was something suggesting that Americans are less impressed with their elected leaders than they are with…oh, I don’t know…telemarketers maybe, or Mel Gibson’s therapist…and I didn’t even blink.

It’s funny how things that were once startling or shocking soon enough become just the way things are. Only a few years ago, for example, I sometimes ran for airplanes with only minutes to spare; ripped through security, raced down concourses waving my ticket like a battle flag; and plopped into my seat just as the jetway pushed and we rolled out onto the tarmac. Today I wouldn’t even dream of trying such a trick. I just assume I’ll have to spend more time standing in lines, taking off my shoes, raising my arms, shuffling my bags, showing IDs, and even then facing a fair amount of uncertainty about making the flight.

And that’s how it is with Congress, too. Where once being an elected official was sort of de facto “a big deal,” now I think it’s just as likely to automatically spur a measure of scorn. Congressmember, for many Americans, has become synonymous with liar, cheat, self-promoter, and swell-head.

That really is a shame because I’ve known some good elected officials over the years.

Still, I think things like this have a way of snowballing. When we lose all faith in our leaders, it becomes what we expect. So if a pollster calls and asks what do you think of Congress, any inclination we have to give them the benefit of the doubt is suppressed by the general supposition about them. And the more the polls tilt to show that, the more they will tilt even further.

So despite the obvious bad news in polls like these (and your own approval ratings I might add) don’t let it weigh on you too much. I can’t recall where I heard it, but I often think of an old quote: If everyone knows something, it’s probably not true. Ha!

I think I’m going to go for a long run and forget about the world for a while. Give me a buzz if you want to go. Or maybe if you’d like to play cards later.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.