December 14th, 2010
11:15 AM ET

Letters to the President: #694 'A step forward for bipartisanship'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama’s tax compromise plan is grinding forward. So is my campaign to write a letter every day to the White House…much to his disappointment, no doubt.

Dear Mr. President,

Congratulations on the progress with your Bush tax cut bill. It’s not across the finish line yet, but it certainly appears headed that way. Mind you, I’m not congratulating you on the content of the legislation because that’s not my place. But I am saying good on you for working out an agreement that seems to have garnered significant bipartisan support.

That is not an easy trick in D.C., and it reminds me of a story.

I was working on a new TV show once, and days before we were supposed to go on the air our rehearsals were a train wreck. We were to fine television production what the North Koreans are to international goodwill. Nothing was working. Every time we tried to start a block something went amiss. The wrong camera came up, the teleprompter failed, the music didn’t play, the lights went down, the tapes wouldn’t roll, the chairs broke, herds of sheep ran through the room. Not really, but you get the picture. After a couple of hours in the studio the entire crew walked out like we’d suffered a forced march across the Gobi.

We staggered into the conference room, presumably to discuss the preferred wording for letters of resignation, when I had an inspiration. Yes, I get them now and then. I said, “Look, everyone take a break. Get coffee. Go for a walk. Call your mother. In twenty minutes let’s go back down to the studio, turn on one camera, read one introduction, run one story, and then fade to black. No music. Nothing fancy. Just straight ahead, simple TV.”

And that’s what happened. We made it through a block. Then we added the music. Then we added the second anchor person. Then we added the fancy graphics. Then the jib camera. And within an hour we were successfully doing all the things that had had us looking for high bridges earlier in the day.

Sometimes the secret to accomplishing big things, is working on the process, not the result. Whether your tax deal is perfect or not, the important part for your team is that you have established a beachhead for cooperation; for proving that the two major parties can work together and you can lead them. Maybe it was unique to this circumstance. I don’t know. But just like we had to prove to ourselves that we knew how to put on a TV show, I think a lot of your DC types - Dems and Repubs alike - needed to prove to themselves that you can get things done. And heaven knows voters have wanted some proof of that for quite a while.

So call if you can. I’m around this week. Btw, did you watch Monday Night Football? Those sideline shots of Brett Favre made him look about 107 years old. Tough on the body being an athlete. Hey, you know what would be cool? What if they made teams snap the ball from where it was downed? In other words, if a punter could place it right at the sideline, or a guy was tackled there, that would be the spot of the snap. That would be wild. If you want to work that into your next legislation, feel free. I’ll even give you all the credit!


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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