November 11th, 2012
09:28 AM ET

Letters to the President #1392: 'Advice for cliff dwellers'

Reporter's Note: President Obama and members of Congress are trying to escape economic cliff dwellings. I think today’s letter might help. Or at least it won’t hurt.

Dear Mr. President,

The news has been filled lately with all sorts of headlines about this fiscal cliff we’re headed toward like Thelma and Louise with the credits about to roll. I’ve been doing a lot of research into what precisely is involved, and I feel as if I am slowly getting my brain around it.

The funny thing is, the more I understand the details, the more I find myself thinking about the basic principles of anyone who finds himself on a cliff. Having spent a fair amount of time rambling around the mountains of the west, I have some idea what I am talking about. So here are my rules of cliff dwelling, just in case they might be helpful.

1) Don’t fall off. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people find ways to tumble down rock faces every year when only seconds earlier they were safely perched on some cliff.

2) No rash movements. One of the surest ways to screw up on a cliff is to make some capricious leap toward…oh, say, another cliff in the mistaken view that it will be safer.

3) No playing chicken with looking over the edge. You know what I’m talking about. Get a couple of thick headed guys daring each other to stare into the abyss and pretty soon one of them will go granite diving.

4) No sense in blaming your hiking buddies. Look, you’re all out there now. However you wound up perched on the side of El Capitan is beside the point. Your survival now depends on helping each other.

5) Don’t make it worse. Carefully consider each proposed solution thoroughly. What may seem like a safe way down, on second thought, may be revealed as just a whole new set of problems. Even with the clock ticking…or perhaps I should say especially with the clock ticking…complete analysis of any maneuver is paramount.

6) Agree on a plan before moving.

I don’t know if this will help, but I do know I’ve made it off every cliff I’ve ever been stranded upon by using some variation of these principles. And with a little luck, you and your DC pals will help the nation off of the current one as well.

Call if you can. I’m around.