February 4th, 2011
11:45 AM ET

Letters to the President: #746 'Long term decisions'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: Egypt continues to dominate the news. I continue to write to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

One of my daughters sent a text my way the other day that said, “I don’t understand what is happening in Egypt. Please explain.”

I wrote one paragraph - sort of a Sparks Notes version - and felt pretty good about it. I mentioned the basics of the political climate there, the unemployment rate, the demographics of the population, and the (at least for us) amazing strangeness of having one person in the presidency for 30 years.

But ever since, I’ve been thinking that maybe I buried the lede by putting that last item…well, last. On one hand, I can see how having one person in charge for a long time could create predictability. The presidency would be a McDonald’s drive-thru; like it or not, you know what you’re getting. I can also see how if any politician were given that many years in office, he or she could pursue some long term goals that are hard to pull off in one or two terms. Imagine where your health care reforms would wind up if you could stay in charge until 2041.

On the other hand, if we allowed terms of more than 30 years, Jimmy Carter could still be holding the Oval Office. Imagine. How different would our nation be if he had remained in power all these years? Mind you, I am not passing judgment on whether the result would be good or bad (although I’m sure many people will,) I’m just saying it would likely be way different. We would have never known the ideas of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, either of the George Bushes, or you.

I understand why people might grow tired of such a situation.

Here is something I’ve learned from writing these letters; it is something I’ve always known, but never demonstrated to myself so clearly: I don’t have that many good ideas. We all think we do. We all imagine that if we were put in charge of a country, it would be all great houses, smart children, fabulous cars, and free milkshake machines in the parks. And maybe it would work that way for someone who is a lot smarter than I; but I suspect such folks are few and far between. And even putting Egypt aside, you’ve got to wonder what any leader, who has held the same job for so long, still has to contribute.

Give me a buzz if you get a break in the rioting. Would love to hear from you.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    30 years of one leader sounds boring if nothing else! As complex and stressful as the job of President seems to be I'm not sure one person could endure that long in the office; and it smacks too much of having a king or queen or a dictator for it to happen here. Americans would never like it – at least in 4 year terms if the politician doesn't do as you would like you can vote them out of office pretty quickly; surviving 4 years of "bad" government is easier than surviving 30 years of it.

    February 4, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  2. William Durk

    @andersoncooper. Forgive me for being so straght followed.
    You might have missed my tweet last night. I told you less then seven days you would be ok. I could not fit three to seven. Anderson and you can leave if you want. You can read about it if you want. Going to happen and the time frame if you wish. Hang in there two days left. The woman reporter really looks a little scared. What a memory this will be. Stay safe and head down.

    February 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  3. Scott

    Tom, Sparks Notes help me understand quickly and concisely. No long lectures required. Cairo is waking up after a very long dull and ineffective Presidency. Sometimes telling like it is works best.

    February 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  4. Brian

    Americans should know as well as any people that freedom isn't free at all. If our nation turns it's back on people seeking freedom in Egypt, how will we rationalize this to our children. How will we explain political bedfellows, cloak and dagger strategic arrangements, acrimony, apathy, or neglect to the next generation of wide eyed believers in or great democracy. What has happened to the bold leadership of America? Have we become cowards, unwilling to defend the philosophy that we were built on? Too many times we've allowed the wrong thing to be done under the aegis of national security concerns or complicated alliances. There is a choice to be made here and we should be firmly on the side of Right and not coddling an aging dictator.
    P.S. Remove him yourselves right wing "warhawks"? Oh that's right, they don't have enough oil to make it worth your while!

    February 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm |