April 6th, 2011
08:15 PM ET

Letters to the President: #807 'Who is playing politics?'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: The tug of war continues over the budget impasse, with a possible shutdown of the government on the horizon.

Dear Mr. President,

So you really created some positive buzz for your side with that whole hint that folks should act more like grownups over the budget debates. Or rather, I should say you have created some positive buzz for yourself; not sure how much that glow is spreading around your party, and that’s another subject for another letter.

But you also said something that just about makes my head twirl right off of my shoulders every time I hear a DC pol say it: You suggested your opponents are just playing politics.

Whenever a DC type says that, what he or she really means is “My party is diligently tending to the important matters of state with nothing but the best interests of American citizens at heart, while the opposition is doing nothing but striking fancy poses around the dying carcass of a serious matter in hopes of getting some nice campaign posters out of the opportunity!” In three words: That is nonsense.

First of all, accusing a politician of playing politics is like accusing an otter of swimming; it’s what they are made for, it is what they excel at, it is what they do. Including you.

Second, both sides are neck deep in playing politics on this issue. You know full well that if you and your fellow Dems did not want to risk political brinksmanship over this, you could have pushed through and approved this budget last year right before the midterm elections. But you also know that in DC neither side of the aisle ever wants to engage in serious work when an election is looming. So your team “played politics” last summer just as surely as you are accusing the Republicans of doing it now.

Sure, it sounds great to confront the opposition by flipping this accusation onto the table, but to anyone who really hangs around this town long, it clatters like a counterfeit quarter when it lands.

To paraphrase an old movie: “I’m playing politics? You’re playing politics! We’re all playing politics!” That’s what DC is about. The question really isn’t whether people are playing; but rather, who is playing to win?

Sorry to go off on such a tear, and good luck with your negotiations. Call me if you can.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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