Dear Mr. President:
I know you’ve been to Arizona several times already. But this time is a little different.
For one thing, I’m afraid that your visit here on Tuesday will be hardly noticed by the national media. You’re scheduled to be on the “Tonight Show” Tuesday night and the exchange of quips will dominate what the nation will see of you on cable news Wednesday morning.
I’m wondering whether you will be thinking past us and ahead to being in on Jay Leno’s sofa in a much cooler Burbank as you walk down the steps of Air Force One and on a hot Phoenix airport tarmac in a quick beeline toward the shade.
So I hope you have a minute to think a bit more about Arizona, a place that’s so dear to me and so many who live here, a place that’s home to much more than the opportunity to verbally spar with our governor.
I know you’re going to be here to talk about housing affordability and corporate tax reform, and that’s important. It may seem time to talk about such things. Here in the East Valley we received some great economic news this week. As the Tribune reported, State Farm Insurance and others are behind a huge office high-rise development along Tempe Town Lake, and, on the other side of Hayden Butte, a parking lot at Mill Avenue and University Drive is going to be the new home of USA Basketball, as well as a hotel and conference center.
But people are still losing their jobs. I know it may not look like it from the sight of striking bus drivers here in the East Valley, but they are. And the new developments I mentioned above aren’t set to open for a couple of years.
For example, another newspaper here just let go a few dozen employees this past week, including some people in their 50s. People like that need to know how to keep their homes. They’re not thinking about buying new ones. And they’ll be looking for work.
It’s great to see Wall Street indexes breaking records. But why do I feel that much of that has to do with how corporations and banks are locking up their cash, making their financial portfolios look fantastic? Meanwhile, out here in places like Arizona, not enough loans are being made and small businesses — the ones that are not traded on the stock exchange floor but where most people work — are still reluctant to hire.
Confidence in government is at a historic low. Confidence is not only defined in terms of raw results, but of whether people feel they’re being listened to.
Congress and our state Legislature listen very little to the nation or the state, respectively, as a whole. At nearly every important turn, they are listening only to a series of views expressed by the loudest people.
Add them all up and they comprise nowhere near a majority. But there they are, writing the agenda.
I write you neither as a starry-eyed fan nor as a teeth-grinding foe. For example, I’m willing to give Obamacare a chance. But I strongly disagree with what I see as wrongful government intrusion into the privacy of innocent Americans and disagree with compiling records of reporters’ telephone calls without probable cause that have occurred during your time in office.
I’m not here to snipe. There are plenty of people who will engage in that. Many views I’ve read are from people who simply want you or Congress to fail; a few years ago, others had wanted your predecessors to fail, as if that’s a good thing for America because justifying themselves is their ultimate personal goal.
Well, I’ve never wanted a president to fail. Republican or Democrat, whether I agreed with them or not, ever since I was old enough to have an interest in politics and government. I’ve wanted every president to succeed, because, like him or not, the stakes are too high for self-justification.
So, on Tuesday, I imagine that as you take a seat in your limousine here in Phoenix an aide is going to hand you an index card with bon mots to trade with Jay Leno. I imagine John Boehner is going to be in at least one punch line; same for Joe Biden. I’m sure it’ll be real funny.
You’ve demonstrated a genuine concern for the unemployed and disaffected. Please make sure we hear that in Phoenix on Tuesday, and while you’re at it, make sure Jay Leno hears it, too.
• Read Tribune contributing columnist Mark J. Scarp’s opinions here each weekend. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.