May 14th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #845 'States rights'

Reporter's Note: Likely Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney is trying to explain why the health care reform he supported in Massachusetts is different from the reform championed by President Obama.

Dear Mr. President,

Having jut completed my latest tour of the country on yet another Building Up America trip, I can safely say I still have a lot of faith in the people of this country. I think they are ready to do what it takes to make the country recover. I think they have an instinctive wisdom about many problems, and ways to the solve them. I think they understand that democracy only works if they stay engaged. To put it simply, they take their responsibility seriously and expect their leaders to do the same.

And I think they respect people who respect them.

I mention that last item because a potential challenger of yours for the Oval Office, Mitt Romney, essentially said this week that he thinks you don’t trust or have faith in the states. The implication is clear and he’s not the first to raise it, especially among the Repubs: They think that you fundamentally favor a DC-down approach to government; “We’ll come up with the rules in Washington, and you folks follow them. When we want your ideas, we’ll let you know.” And as for state governments? Well, plenty of DC types have long implied that they tolerate the states only because they need someone to take care of basic housekeeping, budgets, spending, road projects; but they have no business making important decisions.

Related: Romney's Health Care 101

That is unfortunate. In my experience I have found plenty of smart, educated, far-seeing leaders in state governments who can hold their own against any DC political player. Furthermore, because they are closer to the real life places where policies hit home, where the rubber hits the road, I often think they have a better understanding of the challenges involved and the successes that are possible. Local people can be an enormous asset to national leaders, just as good lieutenants can be the saving grace for a general.

But only if you let them. No one likes being treated as insignificant, and whether Mitt Romney is right or wrong in his assessment of you, I can say with reasonable certainty that a lot of normal Americans away from DC - Democrats, Republicans, and independents - feel as if Washington treats their states like children, ordering them around, imposing doctrines, and ignoring any complaint unless of course an election is on the line.

It’s worth bearing in mind. After all, government of the people, and by the people is not just a phrase; it’s supposed to be the way we do things.

Call if you can.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    For years Governors have been spending taxpayor funds like drunken sailors with money going to family, friends, crooks, you name it and no one has held them accountable. But on the other hand they cry foul and accuse the Federal Government of interferring in their affairs but are always asking for funding. How can people be so glib not to see how the game is being played at their expense.

    May 16, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  2. Ned Kelly

    Washington and Hamilton believed national rights triumphed states' rights, but only if it affected the nation as a whole and if properly executed. The second part is the real problem.

    May 15, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  3. Chi

    One question, Dr. Sometimes I think it is also impossible to have a government which is truly "of the people, by the people, for the people" because government is in some cases viewed as a tool to control rather than a tool to serve.

    May 14, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  4. Chi

    Yep!"of the people, by the people, for the people" is the most beautiful dream and the hardest to come true.

    May 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm |