October 10th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #629 'Sounding the fire alarm'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama is lambasting the Republicans on the campaign trail as he tries to shore up his Democrats. But playing with fire can be risky.

Dear Mr. President,

There is a saying I toss out whenever I see someone doing something for short term gain that might make for long term losses: Don’t burn the furniture to heat the room. By that, I mean don’t resort to drastic, irreversible actions unless you really have to, and as I’ve watched your speeches lately, I’ve sort of wondered if you’re putting chairs up the chimney.

Faced with the prospects of potentially big losses in November, you are understandably trying to rally the base of your party. That’s smart politics. But for a president who seems so eager to embrace new ideas, you are relying rather heavily on an old message: Vote for us because we’re not the other side.

Sure, that thrills the partisans, but I’m not sure it does anything for the moderates who gave you the edge you needed to take the Oval Office. And if you further alienate them, I’m not sure how much a few saved seats in Congress are going to mean to your overall agenda.

Remember, as much as anything else, you won because you promised a new atmosphere in DC; you pledged to find a way to overcome all the deep divisions and get folks working together again. I know it’s been tough. I know the Republicans have made it nearly impossible on their side, and your Democrats have been less than encouraging about the idea too. I also know that plenty of the true believers in your party would call you crazy to even try reaching out again.

But I’m pretty sure voters in general will still embrace that idea if you’ll just give it another honest whirl. As it is, vilifying the other side just gives your opponents more ammunition, more chances to say, “Look, he’s just like any other politician.” That is a much harder argument to make against you, if your hand is ever outstretched for cooperation.

So while it may make members of your choir feel all warm for you to toss the furniture of bipartisanship onto the fire to fight off the autumn chill, I suspect you should remind them, that this could be a very long, cold winter. And after the furniture is gone, it could still be cold. And you may not have anywhere left to sit.

Hope all is well. Call if you can.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Sherri

    Seems like rather sound advice. However, I think the President has played the Democratic party long so much that many of the moderates who had hope for a new era of cooperation and change in Washington have lost faith. I find myself wondering if we would have been better off with a different choice in Washington.

    Hope Mr. Obama is reading your letters!

    October 11, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  2. Kevin

    I disagree with this article because this is a critical time. America wanted change the president is changing how the govt. operates the rich and the GOP do not like it because they can't profit as usual. They attack the president on the deficeit-not an issue when they were in power. This country needs to change domestically and in the world view. It is amazing that the GOP is comfortable with the idea that America is HATED around the world and people would rather die than be subject to Americanism. The president is trying to change that view so it IS CRITICAL that he pulls out all the stops to continue that support

    Thank you

    October 11, 2010 at 8:55 am |