December 29th, 2012
09:14 AM ET

Letters to the President #1440: 'Blame it on politics'

Reporter's Note: President Obama is probably busy taking care of some last bits of business before the year runs out. So am I.

Dear Mr. President,

You made a comment last night as you talked about the fiscal cliff. You said something along the lines of, “People wonder why everything in this town gets put off until the last minute.” Again, those were not your exact words, but that was the general idea. You then went on to say, as presidents often do, that the only thing preventing action is people letting politics get in the way.

Not to be impatient or snarky about it, but you do realize that that is what this town is all about, don’t you?

The only reason you are in office is politics. The only reason your party holds the power it does in this town is politics. The only way that anything ever gets done here is through politics. Yes, it is terribly messy, slow, and at times (like, oh say, for the past several years) dysfunctional. But that’s the way it works.

Sometimes I think this is what your critics mean when they say you are a better candidate than office holder, that you know how to run a good race, but you’re not so skilled at running government. I suspect they are homing in on this disdain you have for politics itself.

Citizens can be dismissive of politics. Indeed, it’s one of our favorite sports. But I don’t think politicians can. If the politics of the nation are not working, no president can afford to stand sneering on the sidelines pretending that situation is not about him, because it almost always is. You can blame the opposition, sure, and the polls may even tell you that voters agree. But in the end, if you don’t get a deal, that failure will come on your watch, and historians will almost certainly say eventually that a fundamental reason was your inability to master the politics of the situation.

You are not now, nor will you likely ever again be a candidate for elected office. You are in the business of politics. This is your craft. There is no one more political in the nation than the President of the United States, and your ability to embrace and excel at politics, especially in your second term, will determine whether you are remembered as a great campaigner…or a great leader.

Best of luck.


soundoff (One Response)
  1. Kathleen C Boyle

    Tom, Many people seem to forget that our president is a community organizer. So his craft is gathering people together to influence leadership to implement the group’s agenda. He hasn’t grasped the difference between leadership and organizing. They require very different skills. Leadership requires in-depth knowledge about many complicated issues such as economics, engineering, religion, biology, psychology, technology, banking, manufacturing, unions, local and state governments, etc. and how all these systems are affected by laws and regulations. Once a leader has mastered these issues, he or she then has to decide the most effective way to affect their interaction in a way that will benefit the American people. Then he must develop and present a plan that is understandable and makes sense to a majority of Senators and Representatives. Our founding fathers understood this process as did our greatest presidents such as Lincoln and FDR. We don’t have to agree with everything these presidents did or proposed to appreciate their brilliance to lead Congress by proposing visionary legislation and getting it passed. And POLITICS had everything to do with it.

    January 1, 2013 at 4:56 pm |

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.