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July 10th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #902 'Chord changes'

Reporter's Note: Sometimes I change strings on my guitars, and sometimes I change the whole instrument. And yet, oddly, at all times I write to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

I have been thinking about buying a new guitar. A Gretsch. Which is interesting, because only a few years ago I distinctly did not like them. They seemed too heavy. The design struck me as clunky in some parts. But now, mysteriously, I have grown inexpressibly fond of all the things that I disliked. Now they seem like lovely, beautifully formed, and imminently playable works of art.

Go figure.

One thing I've learned by growing older is that I was not nearly as fully formed in my ideas and opinions as I thought I was when I was younger. My views have refined, shifted, sometimes changed altogether. Some concepts that I considered sacrosanct now don't strike me as such; likewise, some notions that I thought were foolish, I now consider with fresh eyes.

Some people, I am sure, will see this as a shakiness of character and consequently a bad thing, but I think it is undeniably good. I mean, if we all knew everything by the age of 21, what precisely would be the purpose of our intellectual lives afterward? Confirming what we already know? I can't imagine that would be much fun.

I mention this because in the brutal, smash mouth world of DC politics, elected officials..."such as yourself, if you please" (that's from the Sean Penn version of All The King's Men...great movie) are often trapped by past positions. Statements made about some issue years ago are clung to like life rafts to ward off any accusations of flip-flopping.

Obviously, simply shifting views to pander to the electorate is wrong - especially when it involves doing or saying something that you truly think is wrong. But I think political leaders in both parties need to be more open and honest about how their views change over time. Because sometimes those changes reflect not inconsistency, as much as maturity. And we could use more of that in DC. Just like I could use a new guitar.

Regards,
Tom

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (One Response)
  1. Mary Aull

    I'm a bit obsessed with the debt ceiling issue. I may be for the moment just an educated homemaker, but I follow the issues closely and know how serious this is. I actually had a dream last night about a possible solution. Conservatives need a "way" to say they didn't raise taxes. So here's my solution: Actually lower the taxes a very small amount for small business owners which Republicans say are the big job creators and still go ahead and raise taxes (get rid of loopholes, tax breaks, etc.) for corporate big wigs and oil companies. The tax increase should outweigh the small decrease for small businesses, but this way the Republicans can technically say they are lowering some taxes and spin it in such a way that they feel victorious. Democrats will be happy with the revenue increase. Both parties lose a bit, but they both can spit it to claim some victory.

    July 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm |