May 21st, 2012
08:47 PM ET

Letters to the President #1218: 'Speaking truth to power'

Reporter's Note: I write to President Obama every day.

Dear Mr. President,

I think there is nothing that terrifies you political types so much as someone just blurting out the truth. Seriously, in this town that prizes “staying on message,” and “talking points,” it is hilarious to watch how upset everyone gets when someone unexpectedly lays out the facts.

Such is the case with Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who created a gasoline fire on the D.C. barbeque this weekend just because he told the truth. To recap: He took issue with your attacks on Mitt Romney over his actions while he was at Bain Capital, and he suggested Republicans are just as wrong to go after your distant past.

“This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides…enough is enough,” the mayor said. He followed it up with some other comments along the lines of saying our elections ought to be about who can lead, who has the best ideas, etc…not about cheap character assassination.

So what precisely is wrong with that?

As best I can make out, he didn’t say anything untrue; most voters would agree with him; and he did not even pick sides. He just departed from the written script and I think it scared the heck out of your guys. What puzzles me is why you find his words so disturbing. After all, you’ve argued many times that we need a new age of politics that focuses less on attacks and more on solutions; less on the past and more on the future. Frankly, just a few years ago I can easily imagine you saying what Mayor Booker said.

Obviously you can run your campaign anyway you wish, and your guys must have made a pretty stern call to Mayor Booker, judging from the way he was backing and filling later on.

But I can’t help but wonder if you should have thanked him instead; for reminding you of your own belief in such things. Sure, it is hard to campaign in a positive way by building up your record and ideas, instead of tearing down the other guy’s, but is the office really worth having if you must become what you deplore to win? That’s a question not just for you, but one that every candidate ought to ask him or herself. If they did, I think we might get cleaner elections, better leaders, and a lot more of that hope you once talked about so much.


soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Jon Rockoford

    I'd be interested to read the letter Tom sent to Mitt Romney asking him to refrain from attacking the President.

    May 27, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  2. esther clark

    Isn't Gov Romney running though on his expertise as a businessman? Isn't that why he's asking us to vote for him, because he was a successful businessman who ran Bain Capitol for years? So how can his performance there be off limits. That would be like Obama saying we couldn't criticize his record as a community organizer, senator or president.

    There is a difference between criticizing someone's career and making up stuff like saying they are not a citizen and born in Kenya. One is a groundless attack. Guess which one?

    May 26, 2012 at 7:04 pm |