June 8th, 2012
08:41 PM ET

Letters to the President #1236: 'Shhh: The pols have ears'

Reporter's Note: I write to President Obama every day. It is possible that he reads my letters, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Dear Mr. President,

One of the better characteristics of the 2008 Presidential Election was the way that you and John McCain gave each other passes on simple slips of the tongue. If one of you said, “I wish I were French,” when you obviously meant, “I wish I had some French fries,” you both seemed willing to say, “Hey, we’re tired, the race is long…these things happen. Let’s not get all excited.” By and large your collectively restraint kept the chattering hoards from making too much of such slips much of the time.

As you may have noticed, however, in this round the rules are different. I have the feeling neither you nor Gov. Romney will get away with anything, no matter how unintended. For example, you are currently being thrashed around the head and shoulders for saying this very day, “The private sector is doing fine.”

In deference to your foes, I will concede that maybe, perhaps, there is a slim chance that you meant just that; that you are convinced the economy is roaring along beautifully and no one in all those companies big and small, coast to coast, has a care in the world.

But I strongly suspect that is not the case. In part because you said so, and in part because frankly I don’t think any presidential contender in these times would mean such a thing even if he or she said it. Even before you offered your explanation, I assumed that what you meant was something like “we are making some progress rebuilding jobs, and we can expect to make more.”

However, you can’t entirely fault the Republicans for jumping on you. After all, your Dems went tooth and nail after Mitt Romney when he said he was not worried about the poor. He clearly meant (as he explained) that we have social safety nets to help the poorest among us, while many middle class families fall between the cracks.

Truth be told, you and Gov. Romney have enough legitimate differences of opinion and differing ideas about governance, I don’t think we need these inflated debates over one poorly chosen sentence here or there. Still, the air is so laden with bitterness these days, I suppose a straight discussion of the real issues, is too much for which to hope…and angry opponents will snatch at every dangling phrase they can grab, fairly or not.


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