A Texas schoolteacher who wrote a letter highly critical of President Obama’s health care law was surprised when the president himself wrote back defending his policies but admitting that health care “wasn’t the smart political thing!”
Just like every commander in chief before him, Obama has his share of critics. And in the Internet age, those critics have been given a bigger voice than ever before.
But what do you when the president writes back? The New York Post reports that fifth-grade schoolteacher Thomas J. Ritter was shocked to receive a handwritten response from Obama that reads in part:
“I believe that health care reform will be the right thing for the country . . . It certainly wasn’t the smart ‘political’ thing! And I hope that in the months to come, you will keep an open mind and evaluate it based not on the political attacks but on what it does or doesn’t do to improve people’s lives. Sincerely, Barack Obama.”
It’s not the first personal letter someone has received from President Obama that made headlines. In 2012, Obama famously wrote to a 10-year-old girl to answer questions about same-sex marriage . And in 2009, the New York Times wrote about how Obama has instructed White House staff to select 10 personal letters a day for him to read in order to help him stay outside of the “bubble” that inoculates so many public figures.
Still, the letter is a strangely personal exchange between the president and Ritter, 49. After all, Ritter’s letter is emotional and contains some questionable assertions.
“This bill has caused such a divisive, dirisive [sic], and toxic environment … The reality is that any citizen that disagrees with your administration is targeted and ridiculed. I hesitated to write for fear of some kind of retribution. I watched you make fun of tea baggers and your press secretary make fun of Ms. Palin which was especially beneath the dignity of the White House.”
The abrasive tone of Ritter’s letter makes it all the more unusual that Obama would respond. And in responding, Obama even borrows Ritter’s phrasing of “tea baggers” to describe members of the tea party.
In his reply, Obama acknowledges the “toxic political environment” that Ritter writes about in his letter, then continues, “I do have to challenge you, though, on the notion that any citizen that disagrees with me has been ‘targeted and ridiculed’ or that I have ‘made fun’ of tea baggers . . . [I] defend strongly the right of everyone to speak their mind — including those who call me ‘socialist’ or worse.”
So, did a personal, handwritten note make an impression on Ritter, helping him get past his political differences with the leader of the free world?
Ritter is trying to make the best of the situation but only in the most literal sense. He’s put the letter up for auction, asking for minimum bid of $24,000.
“I am selling the letter because I am just so disappointed, and this ObamaCare bill is wrong,” Ritter told the Post. “The president told me what he thought I wanted to hear. The letter is just words on a paper. It doesn’t mean anything to me because Obama doesn’t mean any of it.”