November 9th, 2010
12:20 PM ET

Letters to the President: #659 “The power of a congressman who reads'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama continues to travel. Note to self: Swing by White House to water lawn while he’s away.

Dear Mr. President,

So Mayor Michael Bloomberg up in New York tossed this cherry bomb into the bonfire while you’ve been away; he said some of the new members of Congress “can’t read.” If that’s true, the good news is they won’t be insulted when they see it in the newspaper. The bad news is nothing else in the paper will trouble them either, if you get my point.

Related: Bloomberg: Some new Congress people 'can't read'

Of course Hizzoner was speaking figuratively. At least I hope so. He was making the point that too many people are running for and winning public office on a platform of what might best be called willful ignorance. “I don’t know how government works. I don’t understand economics. I have no appreciation for the intricacies of policy or the give and take of negotiation. I believe in the principles espoused by the Founding Fathers although I’ve never read their biographies, let alone their published letters. So that’s about it. Vote for me!”

He has a point. While I often whine here about the narrow-minded, short-sightedness of career politicians who focus too much on the task of getting re-elected, the solution is not necessarily a willy-nilly shift to people who know nothing about the craft of governing. To the contrary, the argument can be made that now, more than ever before, the soldiers needed to institute change must be people who are deeply schooled in how Washington actually does work, and yet who have managed to keep the corrupting influence of being an “insider” at arm’s length.

Such people are not easily tripped up by procedural matters which can stifle the most enthusiastic efforts. They trade blows with gusto when the traditional pols try to slap them down. And whether voters want the government to be more left, right, or center, my suspicion is that it’s going to take more than bluster and “outsiderness” to get the job done. Well-placed, well-intentioned insiders who can and do read endlessly about how the government “is,” usually come with the most leverage and skill for turning it into what it should be.

I hope your travels are going well. They certainly seem to be doing so. Remember, phone calls home are nice, but so are postcards. Hint, hint, hint.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    The standards for being a Congressional member of either the House or Senate should be rather high; claiming ignorance of certain areas should be a red flag to the voters. You wouldn't hire someone ignorant of finance to be your long-term financial advisor. So, we shouldn't vote in people who have absolutely no understanding of the issues or how to get things done for the country. Leading the country is our most important job.

    November 9, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
  2. Jackson

    every one knows congressmen and women alike dont read half of the stuff put in front of them,why is that one my ask well for one its too long and they really don't care what the people back home were there from want there only there to get rich and help there fellow rich fat cat buddys out and tom talks about the founding fathers of this country they all would be roleing in there graves if they knew have the stuff this congress pulled

    November 9, 2010 at 3:06 pm |