August 26th, 2010
10:01 AM ET

Letter to the President #584: 'Patience is a virtue... and difficult'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/money/2010/08/26/news/economy/jobless_claims/recession_job_fair_line.04.jpg caption="One fundamental problem with all the bad economic news we’ve been getting (I mean, other than the fact it is bad) is that on too many weeks the only thing offsetting it is your exhortation to 'hold on.'" width=300 height=169]

Reporter's Note: President Obama is probably a little jumpy after each election, as all the results get ground up and analyzed, mainly because there is so much debate over how voters will respond to all the nation’s economic problems. But, as I note in my daily letter, there is something he can do about that, whether or not he makes the economy better in the short term.

Dear Mr. President,

As so often seems to be the case this year, I am working out of a car. At the moment I am sitting on the roadside in Waveland, Mississippi, waiting for Mayor Tommy Longo so we can talk about progress in his town since Katrina. As you political types go, he's a good guy so I don't mind cooling my heels a bit in the scorching temperatures. They are finally rebuilding City Hall right across the street from me, so I'm passing the time watching the construction and placing bets with my producer, Katie, on which worker will drop from heat stroke first.

I've been thinking about patience lately. Most of my life, I have thought of myself as a patient sort. Sure, I'm ambitious and that brings a certain "yesterday is too late" attitude, but I've always accepted that big accomplishments, and sometimes even little tasks, take time.

For example, have you ever assembled a gas barbecue grill? It's like the Manhattan project in a cardboard box. Years ago my girlfriend (who is now my wife) bought one and I volunteered to help. Biggest mistake of the relationship. (I mean, of course, next to that time I called her by my old girlfriend's name.) About six hours later we had a contraption that looked like it had been whipped up by the Professor on Gilligan's Island, and if I'd lit it seismographs across the continent would have detected the blast. The whole process led to some tense moments, ever since I’ve counseled young couples to forget the romantic dinners; assemble a grill together and if you're not heaving cutlery at each other by the end of the night, marriage will be a breeze.

Anyway, I learned a thing or two about patience in that process, and I'm learning more now. You are undeniably right when you say that making our economy as strong as it was is going to take time. But anyone who has tried to hold off a trip to the restroom until the credits roll at the movies can tell you, it is easier when you have a sense that the end is in sight.

One fundamental problem with all the bad economic news we’ve been getting (I mean, other than the fact it is bad) is that on too many weeks the only thing offsetting it is your exhortation to “hold on.” The more you can give us some idea of what, specifically, we are holding on for, the easier it will be for folks to be reassured by whatever progress we do make. Do you expect homes sales to rise next month? Will unemployment drop? Is the mortgage crisis finally sunsetting? I know it’s risky. I know if you get something wrong you’ll be beaten up over the mistake. But if you can just give people a little more to work with when you say “be patient,” I think you’ll also give yourself a better chance of convincing them to give it a try.

Oh, the mayor is here. Not to give you the shove off for him, but he is after all here in person and you are, while very important, neither answering my letters nor calling me on a regular basis… or, like ever… so, I’ve got to go.

Btw, I don’t think I’ll be here when you come down, so if you do want to get together it will have to be back in DC.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (One Response)
  1. Stan

    Congress has know business in the National Baseball League. If you should be going after anyone you should be going after the owners and the Fans who want their stars back of the field, or court. get real. I think you really have more inportant issues to look into rather than trying to see if a Athletic is taking steroids or not!!!!!!

    August 26, 2010 at 2:09 pm |

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