October 27th, 2010
11:03 AM ET

Letters to the President: #646 'The convenience of shared blame'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama accused the Republicans of undermining the whole political process; they accuse him of undermining the economy. And umbrage at the accusations becomes a convenient excuse for each side to avoid changing its ways.

Dear Mr. President,

Something that always surprises me is the tendency of adults to act like four-year-olds when they are caught doing something wrong, to point at their nearest peer and say, “Oh, but he did worse!” The implication, of course, is that “I should not be held accountable for my misdeed, because there are more egregious offenders around.”

By this rationale, I suppose no one would ever get a speeding ticket because certainly someone else on the same highway was going a mile-per-hour faster at the moment the blue lights came on. (Hmmm…I may try that one next time.)

I mention it because the party faithful on both sides is rolling that trick out so furiously right now, with so little regard for the “truth,” that you’d think they were all members of Congress. If we put a report on the air saying someone from the Party of Flying Squirrels was caught stealing, you can bet your boots that within an hour some defender would pop up saying “Two people from the Ground Squirrel Party were caught!”

You came to town with big hopes for changing a lot of that. I assumed, as did many voters, that your intent was to toss out the bad apples on both sides of the aisle with equal gusto. And yet, once again, here we are in the middle of a bitter campaign and the partisans are turning a blind eye to their own party’s faults. It’s depressing really, and I’m sure it must be for you too.

What would be wrong with demanding that each party is held accountable for its wrongs, whether or not the other party is doing worse? After all, doesn’t a crooked or hypocritical politician hurt us all no matter which banner he flies?

People often scream about false parity in the media, the idea that too often we say “Party A stole $50 million and Party B stole $20 million. Therefore, they are both guilty.” My answer? While I appreciate that the depth of the crime is different on each side, it is still theft, and yes, they are both guilty - no matter how much the partisans on one side want to say the sins of the other side absolve their own.

One reason so many Americans are so furious at government - meaning both parties - is that each one hides its sins behind the sins of the other, and then declares that anyone who points it out is somehow being unfair.

So, anyway, want to get some lunch today? I’m thinking chili…


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    If there is to really be change shouldn't it start during the campaign? If the new candidate promising change behaves during the campaign just like the "seasoned" candidates, then how can anyone truly expect that the behavior will change once elected and that change will indeed come. I've seen no change in how the campaign is going so I don't expect much if anything will change after the election – a few things for window dressing perhaps, but not the sweeping reforms and work that really needs to be done.

    October 27, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  2. Karen Conine

    What we need is new change in Washington. Not the change so many fell for. We need to get back to the days when politicians really cared about the people of this country. We have no more need for fools running "Our Country". Please blow them all up and out of Washington-with your votes. That is the only way we can take "Our Country" back.

    October 27, 2010 at 7:30 pm |