November 14th, 2011
07:47 PM ET

Letters to the President #1029: 'The coward's way'

Reporter's Note: President Obama, once upon a time, asked for advice from the public. He has not rescinded the request, so I’ve been writing a letter every single day to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

Do you hear that? No, of course you don’t, because that is the sound of a phone not ringing. That is the thunderous clang of the so called “super committee” not reaching a deal on the budget, not solving those thorny issues about taxes and entitlements, and not heading off another colossal Congressional train wreck.

Neither you, nor I, nor anyone else who has breathed the rarified air of this ridiculous place called D.C. should be surprised. This was, from the very start, as predictable as smashed plates at a Greek wedding. You know why?

People like to say it is because the political system is broken, and that no iteration of it…big, small, left, right, or middle…is capable of writing a deal that other parties can be induced to sign. But I am beginning to think it is more than that.

First, I think that both parties would rather run the whole country off the rails than give up their fight for the engineers’ caps. Oh sure, each party is full of fine Americans, who care deeply about their country; of that, I have no doubt. But the political parties as a whole are complex, living, breathing organisms which drive their own members relentlessly to win and hold power at all costs. That makes compromise a dirty word. That makes every piece of legislation a battleground; and never a setting for peace talks.

Second, if you define the media as…well, everything on TV, radio, the Internet, and in print…then we are part of the problem. Far too many of my brethren spend endless hours moaning about the failures of our government and how hopeless it is for anyone to try to change anything; but then, the moment there is talk a deal, we start poking the principals toward each other, reminding them of every perceived insult, and chanting “fight, fight fight.” Too often, we don’t inform, we alarm, because we think there are more viewers, more readers, and more money in sensationalism.

And third, I hate to say it: Far too many of us in this country have become cowards. Voters talk about shared sacrifice to make things better, but then immediately demand exemptions for this group, that group, every group. Politicians know what needs to be done, but then tilt in favor of what will get them re-elected, even if it means pandering to a base that has only its narrow interests at heart. And we’re lazy. We, as a people, spend less time trying to understand these serious issues than we do tracking the Kardashians’ affairs. We are acting like a pop culture nation and we’re being rewarded with a pop culture government.

So while we might yet get some kind of deal out of super committee, I’ll not be holding my breath. Neither the committee, the Congress, the White House, nor I fear, the rest of us, have the backbone to get the job done. So we’ll once again shove aside the hard work, and let the future pay the terrible price.


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Filed under: Letters to the President • Opinion • President Barack Obama • T1 • Tom Foreman
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