August 31st, 2010
09:51 AM ET

Letters to the President #589: 'It could be worse? Oh, now I feel much better'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama is jousting with the Republicans (surprise) over a small business bill. I write to him every day with words of advice, or sometimes stories about my life, or just to ask him to call me. I’m not sure if it helps in times like these, but you know…it could be worse.

Dear Mr. President,

We have a running joke in our family. Whenever one of our girls fell and scraped a knee when they were small, or my wife dragged a sleeve through the cranberry sauce, or the dog got her tail caught in the door, I would slap on a look of great thoughtfulness and say, “Well, you know, it could have been worse. It could have happened to me!”

It doesn’t read so well on paper, but trust me it is a scream. It’s funny because, of course, my escape from injury did nothing to ease their difficulty, and acting like it did was…well, like I said, funny.

Which is a funny way of telling you that your team had better be careful about telling voters too often that the recession would have been much worse without the steps you took to slow it down. See, it sounds a little like, “Sure you lost your job, but it could have been worse. You’re brother-in-law could have lost his too.” Your guy, Austan Goolsbee, trotted it out again today, even as he admitted feeling a little queasy about the state of the recovery.

Now, I’ll admit that you seem to be correct when you make this point. I’ve talked with plenty of economist-types who say indeed without all the stimulus spending, our leaky economic boat could be riding even deeper in the water. But that’s cold comfort in an already frigid jobs climate.

I’ll also grant that you have had precious little other positive economic headlines to work with, so I can’t entirely blame you for trying to make lemonade. But even in late summer, a little of that goes a long way. If I were you I think I’d preach less from the Psalms of Endurance, and more from the Gospel of Hope again. I’d talk about natural economic swings, the positioning that has laid the groundwork for recovery, about everything you’ve done and every indicator you can find that honestly suggests we are on our way to the light, even if it is a very long tunnel.

Now, that may not keep your party from losing a lot of seats in Congress this fall, but hey…it could be worse. Call me if you have some time this afternoon, and we can get a glass of lemonade. Ha!


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Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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