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February 16th, 2012
10:16 PM ET

Letters to the President #1123: 'Half full; half empty'

Reporter's Note: President Obama gets a letter from me each day. I assume that half of the public approves.

Dear Mr. President,

So our latest poll has you with half of the public approving of the job you’re doing. I don’t know if I should say “congratulations,” or “I’m sorry about that.”

Certainly in the sense that it is a better number than you’ve seen in quite some time, you have some reason to be pleased with yourself. Heaven knows you’ve been pounded with awful headlines for a long time about your previously abysmal ratings. But then again, that half the people like the job you're doing is hardly a rousing endorsement, is it?

I would dare say in most workplaces, anyone who had only half of his bosses approving of the job he was doing would be brushing up the resume and collecting cardboard boxes. On the other hand, the presidency is not at all like a normal job. You are scrutinized by the whole nation; you routinely grapple with issues that make people fighting mad no matter who is addressing them; and to be honest, most of us can judge you only based on what we read in the news. The vast number of Americans have to base their opinions on nothing but vague, distant impressions. I would suspect that only a few voters can recite what you’ve done– or not– with reliability. And yet, everyone seems to have an opinion.

Ah well. For now, I suppose all you can do it cut some cake, do a little celebrating and get back to work. After all, you and I both know how quickly these numbers can change, and 50 percent approval will look awfully good if you stray down below it again.

I’ll be working in New York tomorrow. If you’re up that way give me a call and maybe we can grab lunch. We seem to have such a hard time connecting here in D.C.

Regards,

Tom

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