Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The People's President

ABC News Blog - Jake Tapper


A President who has his ears to the ground, hearing the stories also from people on the street, not just those in the penthouses and corner offices, is a president who sees truly, and can act with clarity. That is the defining quality of President Barack Obama.


The letter to President Obama came from a woman in Arizona whose husband lost his job. He was able to find work, but the new gig came with one-third the pay; the family is struggling to make their mortgage payments.

The letter from the Arizona woman illustrated a policy conundrum, recalled senior adviser David Axelrod. President Obama read it, and absorbed the lesson.

"She said they had made all their mortgage payments, but were running out of money," Axelrod said. "And they were told they could not renegotiate unless they were delinquent in their payments."

Before President Obama's housing speech last week, he'd made copies of his letter and "sent it to his financial team and said, 'This is the kind of person our housing plan should help," Axelrod recalled.

"They help him focus on the real problems people are facing," says Axelrod. "He really a absorbs these letters, and often shares then with us."

In his first week in office, President Obama requested that he see 10 letters a day "representative of people's concerns, from people writing into the president," recalls Gibbs, "to help get him outside of the bubble, to get more than just the information you get as an elected official."

Says Axelrod, "he did it because his greatest concern is getting isolated in the White House, away from the experiences of the American people...The letters impact him greatly."

As the President addresses the immense issues the nation and world face -- today the President will announce he's appointing an inspector general to head the transparency and accountability board to supervise the stimulus spending, and will host an fiscal responsibly summit; Tuesday he will address the economy before a joint sessions of Congress; Thursday he will present his budget -- the President's aides say these letters help the president stay in touch with real people and ignore the chatter here inside the DC bubble.

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