December 27th, 2010
11:59 AM ET

Letters to the President: #707 'Undercover for compromise'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: I went for a long run today. It was snowing a little bit. And now I’m writing a letter to the president. This is what vacations are all about, eh?

Dear Mr. President,

I've been enjoying the days off, and it has been a pleasure having the whole family at home. I know that our elder daughter has been away at Georgia Tech for only a semester and she loves it there, but it feels as if she’s been gone for an eternity. So having her back to visit, as my running partner, for filling in the empty chair at family dinners, and more. . . well, it’s just the best.

Speaking of work, you certainly ended the year on a much higher note than you experienced in the previous twelve months. I was on a radio show the other day and the host asked me something like, "What do you make of these recent victories for the president?"

I said something like, "I think it may mean that the Republican victory in the midterm election is the best thing that has happened to Barack Obama since he won the White House, because it gave him political cover for compromise."

What I mean is that while your party controlled everything it was hard for you to make the case for a more moderate approach to problems, because members of your own party could argue – rightly - that the opposition had no real teeth to force it. I know it sounds strange, but that's a tough position. When people expect the moon and they think you have the power to give it, telling them that having the moon might not be the best idea is a hard sell. (Although, to be fair, where would anyone put such a thing?)

On the other hand, when you have a plausible reason for denying the request, then you can work toward a reasonable compromise without appearing to be less than fully committed to the cause. It’s kind of like…oh, you remember in junior high when you agreed to a fight behind school because your pals pushed you into it? But you really didn’t want to fight and it was such a relief when you found out that the principal was going to be outside after school for the annual Key Club Pie Fight or whatever. Then you had a reasonable reason to say, “Oh, I would have fought him, but, you know, we both would have been in big trouble.”

Now that I think of it, I guess it’s not really like that so much, but you get the point. Anyway, with the Republicans now poised to officially take control in the House, I hope the new spirit of cooperation of the past few weeks finds a more permanent home in D.C. Seems like it too has been away for so long.

Give a buzz if you have some time.


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Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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