January 8th, 2013
07:23 PM ET

Letters to the President #1450: 'The discipline of champions'

Reporter's Note: The president is preparing for battles over his latest cabinet choices and the debt ceiling. I am, on the other hand, peacefully writing my daily letter to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

As I predicted, Alabama whipped Notre Dame badly last night to seize the national championship. Hand over the trophy, drop the confetti, let the seniors dash off to the NFL, it’s done.

Like many Americans, I had anticipated the game for weeks only to realize it was pretty much over in a matter of minutes. From the first drive it was clear that the Tide was going to wash over the Irish like a rogue wave. I was rooting for Alabama, but by the start of the second quarter my wife and I were both squirming. It was just that painful to watch Notre Dame suffer such a drubbing. If it weren’t for Brent Musburger’s wildly amusing musings about A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend I might have turned the game off.

Now certainly there were sports analysts who thought the contest would turn out differently. They predicted that Notre Dame’s heart, passion, and desperation would somehow come together in a magic alchemy that would overwhelm Alabama’s discipline, talent, and virtually seamless teamwork. Their prognostications were wrong, just as such predictions almost always are when built on hope and fanciful thinking rather than a bedrock of facts.

This is worth keeping in mind as your second term moves forward. Buoyed by your re-election success and some of the seemingly hapless mistakes of the Republicans, you may well imagine yourself to be poised for greater victory. Many of the Democrats who support you clearly think that is the case. Talk to them, read their comments online, listen to them on NPR call in shows, and you’ll hear endless optimism about all the great things you can accomplish now that the Republicans have been routed.

While I would not presume to dictate your plans or policies, I would urge you to be careful about such “rah rah” calls to attack. Remember what happened to Notre Dame’s football players as you proceed. They were and are a good team. They enjoyed an excellent season, and rolled over one opponent after another. It was not beyond comprehension that they might find a way to beat Alabama. But they did not. In the end, Alabama proved a superior power in every way. All the fire and passion of Notre Dame’s players and fans were not nearly enough to make their championship dreams come true.

So if you aim for big goals in your second term, you may be well advised to shut the doors against the cheers and enthusiasm. Once the Inaugural is over, your strength will not come from the screaming fans, but rather from hard, unblinking, pure politics; from your team’s ability to play the game. Feeling good about your cause will not get the job done. Thinking you are right won’t do it either. Indeed, the danger of Democratic enthusiasm right now is that it could easily make you think victory is easily in your grasp…when history shows it may yet be very hard won.


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