It looks like an internet hoax, but it’s not. It’s worse than that. It is a triumph of cynicism and pessimism wedded to false claims, crafted to impugn a good man. Lou Pritchett’s letter is scary because he appears to believe it, and others may, too.
Lou Pritchett on a yacht, holding his book, which has nothing to do with politics. Notice the lack of libraries in the photo. Image from LouPritchett.com
It usually comes with this line: “Subject: Letter from Procter & Gamble Exec to Obama.” It may be entitled “An Open Letter to President Obama.” It’s a letter filled with rant and inaccurate claims against Obama. But it demonstrates something troubling. It’s a letter from a guy who should know better, from a guy who can read newspapers and check facts for himself, but a guy who has been suckered in by every false and calumnous claim made against our President.
In short, it’s a letter from a supreme cynic, who has every reason to know better but appears to refuse to think.
Below the fold, I post the letter completely as it came to me, and I respond, with an Open Letter to Former Soap Salesman Lou Pritchett.
Here’s how the letter came to me, and below that, a careful and more pensive response.
“Subject: Letter from Procter & Gamble Exec to Obama
Please read, even if you are an Obama fan. It is legitimate, written by respected, Lou Pritchett, formerly of Proctor and Gamble. Lou Pritchett is one of corporate America’s true living legends- an acclaimed author, dynamic teacher and one of the world’s highest rated speakers. Successful corporate executives everywhere recognize him as the foremost leader in change management. Lou changed the way America does business by creating an audacious concept that came to be known as “partnering.” Pritchett rose from soap salesman to Vice-President, Sales and Customer Development for Procter and Gamble and over the course of 36 years, made corporate history.
AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA
Dear President Obama:
You are the thirteenth President under whom I have lived and unlike any of the others, you truly scare me.
You scare me because after months of exposure, I know nothing about you.
You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive Ivy League education and your upscale lifestyle and housing with no visible signs of support.
You scare me because you did not spend the formative years of youth growing up in America and culturally you are not an American.
You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll.
You scare me because you have never had military experience, thus don’t understand it at its core.
You scare me because you lack humility and ‘class’, always blaming others.
You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned yourself with radical extremists who hate America and you refuse to publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail.
You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the ‘blame America ‘ crowd and deliver this message abroad.
You scare me because you want to change America to a European style country where the government sector dominates instead of the private sector.
You scare me because you want to replace our health care system with a government controlled one.
You scare me because you prefer ‘wind mills’ to responsibly capitalizing on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves.
You scare me because you want to kill the American capitalist goose that lays the golden egg which provides the highest standard of living in the world.
You scare me because you have begun to use ‘extortion’ tactics against certain banks and corporations.
You scare me because your own political party shrinks from challenging you on your wild and irresponsible spending proposals.
You scare me because you will not openly listen to or even consider opposing points of view from intelligent people.
You scare me because you falsely believe that you are both omnipotent and omniscient.
You scare me because the media gives you a free pass on everything you do.
You scare me because you demonize and want to silence the Limbaughs, Hannitys, O’Relllys and Becks who offer opposing, conservative points of view.
You scare me because you prefer controlling over governing.
Finally, you scare me because if you serve a second term I will probably not feel safe in writing a similar letter in 8 years.
The letter came with this explanation attached:
TRUE – CHECK:
This letter was sent to the NY Times but they never acknowledged it.
Big surprise! Since it hit the internet, however, it has had over 500,000 hits. Keep it going. All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing. It’s happening right now.
I disagree. I think people can actively promote evil, even when they do not intend to. For example, this letter contains a number of nasty, erroneous claims (I have to work hard not to call them “lies,” but I’ll wager Pritchett just doesn’t know better; I can’t pass judgment on his motives).
No rational person should read anything into the failure of the New York Times to publish the letter. They get thousands of letters on many topics, and they try to pick the best. Plus, that paper as most responsible, major papers do, put letters through a basic fact check. This letter wouldn’t survive that. Had the paper published Pritchett’s letter, he would have been subject to widespread ridicule.
And, this should not be news, The New York Times does not respond to each of the thousands of letters-to-the-editor it gets every day.
I doubt Pritchett will ever get this letter, though I’d like to be proved wrong. Garbage should be picked up an carted off so vermin can’t breed in it, however, and so I offer my response below
Open letter to Former Soap Salesman Lou Pritchett
Dear Mr. Pritchett,
Knowing that you’re a voting citizen of the United States, and that you have access to vast stores of accurate information, I look at your letter to President Obama, and I fear for my country. Someone noted the old saw that the only thing necessary for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing. On that basis, I cannot let your cynical claims go uncorrected where they err, and unrebutted.
I’ve only lived through 11 presidencies, so you have at least 6 years on me. But you’re comfortably retired, sitting on a fat pile of assets from your comfortable job at Procter and Gamble. I will be lucky to be able to retire before I hit 85, after years of public service. I have reason to be cynical [while you don’t]. Your irrational lashing out puzzles me all the more, and troubles me all the more.
You say you don’t know Barack Obama. That is no one’s fault but your own.
Barack Obama’s been a character on the national stage since he offered a stunningly beautiful keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. There were dozens of profiles written about him in magazines and newspapers, and profiles offered on national television. His race for the U.S. Senate in Illinois, a major state, got heavy coverage when the Republicans offered a carpet-bagging man from Maryland as candidate for the seat, when the duly-selected Republican candidate dropped out when scandal caught up with him.
Obama won the right to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate, in the seat occupied before him by people like Alan Dixon, Adlai Stevenson III, Everett Dirksen, and Stephen A. Douglas. That seat is always watched closely by national media.
Obama’s popularity was based on many things, including two terms in the Illinois State Senate where he pushed through an ethics reform bill, which most people though impossible, and on his best-selling book, Dreams from My Father, a book contracted for by the publishers after Obama had been elected president of the prestigious journal, Harvard Law Review. Published first in 1995, it was re-published in 2004. You’ve had 14 years to get to your local library and read the book.
The book wasn’t a secret. Wikipedia summarizes some of the reaction to the book:
In discussing Dreams from My Father, Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison has called Obama “a writer in my high esteem” and the book “quite extraordinary.” She praised “his ability to reflect on this extraordinary mesh of experiences that he has had, some familiar and some not, and to really meditate on that the way he does, and to set up scenes in narrative structure, dialogue, conversation–all of these things that you don’t often see, obviously, in the routine political memoir biography. […] It’s unique. It’s his. There are no other ones like that.”
The book “may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician,” wrote Time columnist Joe Klein. In 2008, The Guardian‘s Rob Woodard wrote that Dreams from My Father “is easily the most honest, daring, and ambitious volume put out by a major US politician in the last 50 years.” Michiko Kakutani, the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for The New York Times, described it as “the most evocative, lyrical and candid autobiography written by a future president.”
The audio book edition earned Obama the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.
Your library might have the audio book, too. Have you looked?
After he joined the U.S. Senate, he wrote another book based on his campaign and what he saw in Washington, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. It topped the New York Times best-seller list in the fall of 2006.
So, you say you don’t know a guy who strode quickly into the limelight in 2004, wrote two best-selling books spilling his guts on his hopes and dreams as an American for a better and stronger America. Seriously, man, whose fault is it that you didn’t bother to check him out?
You didn’t know anything about George W. Bush, either, even after he’d spent four years as president. Did you vote for him?
There is no excuse to claim you don’t know about the man we elect president. Your lack of curiosity, failure to pick up a newspaper or go to the library, is not Barack Obama’s fault. You need to read more.
If you’d read the books, or the profiles, you’d know that Obama attended Columbia and Harvard on scholarship. Most students at those schools, today, attend on scholarship. Several Ivy League schools tell prospective applicants up front that, if they are accepted, they will have the money to go. Even in the 1990s they prided themselves on helping bright but poor students.
How can you fail to know that?
Barack Obama left the U.S. for a few years early in his life. He was born in the U.S.A. — in our 50th state! — and he attended school in the U.S. for eight years — longer than Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson and George Washington combined. He was raised by his two Kansas-born grandparents — as American as L. Frank Baum’s Dorothy, who was raised in similar circumstances (other than her trip to Oz).
Obama grew up playing basketball, the sport invented in a YMCA in New Jersey. He attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, that all-American megalopolis in California, hoping to play basketball. But, like William J. Bennett who said he went to Williams College to play football but discovered he had a brain, Obama woke up to scholarship at Occidental — in a big way. He transferred to Columbia and graduated, worked building a powerful anti-poverty program from scratch in Chicago, and went off to law school at Harvard where he was a smashing success as a scholar and good guy.
These are all grand, American institutions. Your claiming that basketball, college, Hawaii, California, New York City, Chicago, and Occidental, Columbia and Harvard are outside American culture is a slander to our entire nation and most of the people who live here.
Neither you nor I are more American than any of this culture, or any of these institutions, or Barack Obama. Your claim insults us all — it is thoughtless, unwarranted and unsupportable.
Why did you not bother to learn this before you wrote your letter?
You accuse Obama of never having had to make a payroll. I don’t know your early career, but your experience in a large corporation like Procter and Gamble is no better. You never had to meet a payroll there, either — there was always plenty of money in the bank, a good line of credit from the world’s biggest banks, a good expense account for you, and someone else to do the accounting and cut the checks.
Obama, on the other hand, built from the ground up a non-profit poverty fighting organization for the Catholic Church in Chicago, building it to several employees and a half-million dollar budget in just a few years.
Why do you not know this?
You complain that Obama doesn’t understand the military, but National Guard veteran George W. Bush ignored the advice and wise counsel of the military and led us into a blunder in Iraq. Military experience is no substitute for genuine curiosity, scholarship and wisdom.
You claim, without any cause I can find, that Obama lacks “humility and class.” And yet he put his campaign on hold for days to fly to Hawaii for a few moments with his dying grandmother, to say “thank you” for her work raising him. It could have cost him the election. Those white, conservatives who voted for him for president of the Harvard Law Review (with many others) note what a good leader he was, not cocky but sure, a class act.
Obama blames others? What I see is a man who steps up to responsibility, on the economy, on the budget, on our wars, on social issues, though they are all situations he inherited. He engineered a new budget through Congress — a task George Bush couldn’t get done — in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. He went to the Capitol to offer to work with Republicans — an offer they promptly repudiated — and he has soldiered on trying to get America’s course straight without their help since.
Obama has never aligned himself with radicals who want to see America fail. Specifically, he has never aligned himself with Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly or Glenn Back. Nor has he aligned himself with anyone half as radical on the left. He’s very much a moderate, and his cabinet choices reflect that. Ray LaHood is no radical of any stripe.
Where did you ever get that odd idea? Didn’t you read his books? Don’t you read the newspapers?
Cheerleader for the “blame America crowd?” No, that’s not Obama. He did not say America deserved to be attacked on September 11, 2001, as Christian preachers Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson did. When he met with Vladimir Putin, unlike George Bush who claimed to have looked into Putin’s eyes and claimed to have seen “trustworthy” man, Obama told Putin the facts and extracted tough agreements to our nation’s advantage.
How could you miss those events?
Obama has never said he wants to change America into a European-style country — though, when we look at greatly reduced heart disease rates in every nation of Europe, or when we look at mass transit in France, Germany and England, we might see places we could do better.
Where did you get such a far-fetched idea?
Obama has never said he wants a government-run health care system. He has said we have a moral duty to find ways to cover the nearly-50 million Americans who lack insurance and access to timely and inexpensive health care. He has said we pay too much (we spend $7,000 per capita for health care, way more than double any other nation — and we pay that for the 50 million people who don’t get health care, too). He has said we need to rein in health care cost inflation, which is double the rate of other goods and services, and which was a major factor in crippling American auto companies competing against foreign producers whose governments offer health coverage for all citizens including auto workers.
Have you read Obama’s statements? Have you read the House bill, H.R. 3200, which is not Obama’s proposal, but which also doesn’t nationalize health care? How can you draw that conclusion, when there is no proposal to do so?
Obama wisely urges that we ramp up alternatives to fossil fuels. But he has also urged that we explore “clean coal,” a proposal that sends environmentalists screaming away. You’re imagining Obama’s opposition to fossil fuels. Windmills? He’s said we should produce them in the U.S., and not buy them from foreign producers — keep the jobs at home. Do you favor sending those jobs off-shore?
Where did you get such an idea? Did you check it out for yourself?
Obama has said not one word in opposition to capitalism. When faced with a choice between nationalizing industries to rescue them, and any other choice, he has in every case avoided nationalization. The government is a stockholder in some rescued companies, but not the sole owner. Obama has chosen free market solutions to tough problems where other free-enterprise nations did not.
Why don’t you consider what Obama has done, rather than wild claims from . . . where?
Since when is it “extortion” to give banks enough money to stay in business? Good heavens, man! The alternative was collapse of our banking system. Most people complain that the banks were “given” too much!
Plus, most of the banking actions were done by George Bush’s appointee to the Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke, and by the Bush administration prior to January 21, 2009.
Where did you get the idea Obama was behind the actions of the Bush administration, since much of this stuff occurred well before January 21, 2009?
Since when is funding the Pentagon “wild and irresponsible?” You’ve never heard of the “Blue Dog Democrats,” who threaten to derail our much-needed health care reforms because of the cost?
Surely you live where a newspaper is available, no?
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and others, noted that Obama seems to have paid careful attention to her book on Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet, Team of Rivals. She summarized lessons for Obama from the book in the Harvard Business Journal earlier this year. I mention that because you cite that Harvard case study of your project, which tells me that you probably grant credence to that journal — though that makes your disrespect of Obama’s term heading the Harvard Law Review more mysterious and silly. Obama said he wants opposing views in the White House, in the basic discussions in his cabinet room and all other rooms of power.
In any case, Obama has populated his cabinet with people who have opposing views — Hillary Clinton, his chief and sometimes bitter rival for the Democratic nomination, Republican Ray LaHood at the critical Department of Transportation. He kept on Robert Gates at the critical post of Secretary of Defense — George W. Bush’s appointee. No one thinks Gates is a pushover Obama supporter.
Obama made a point of going to the Capitol to confer with congressmen — Republicans first.
When Obama nominated a candidate for the Supreme Court, he consulted with my old boss, Orrin Hatch, first.
Obama’s team, like Rahm Emanuel, makes it a practice not to ignore Republicans, as the Bush administration ignored Democrats and — truth be told — Republican Members of Congress.
“I’ve heard more from Rahm in six months than I heard from Andy Card in six years, and Card’s daughter worked for me,” said former Representative Tom Davis, Republican of Virginia, referring to a chief of staff under President George W. Bush.
Where did you get the idea that Obama doesn’t like discussion or debate, or that he doesn’t listen to dissent? That view is wholly unsupportable in history and current action. Have you read the newspapers this week? Proponents of health care reform claims he’s listened too much to the opposition. One might have assumed that if one assumed George Bush’s White House was the model — but Obama promised to change things. This is one area where he’s delivered better than anyone had any right to hope.
Obama thinks he is omnipotent and omniscient? Then you must have stood and cheered when he noted — wisely — that the U.S. would have no comment in the first days after the disputed Iranian election, noting that any comment would be taken by the rulers as evidence of U.S. interference. The U.S. cannot dictate what happens he noted then, and often as well in regard to Iraq and Afghanistan.
On the one hand you claim Obama thinks himself omnipotent and omniscient, but when he goes to Europe to confer with our allies, saying we are neither omnipotent or omniscient and we need and will honor their views and information, you accuse him of “blaming America.” I think you have not thought through these issues, nor where America’s best interests lie — certainly not as well as has President Obama.
Lou, your bizarre claim about Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly and Beck almost doesn’t deserve comment. These are guys who revel in America’s failure, whose ratings and income go up if America fails. Rush Limbaugh admits that he wants Obama to fail, damn the cost to you, me and all other Americans.
And then you have the gall to claim that Obama demonizes them?
In a just universe, their transmitters would be taken out by lightning. Obama has merely pointed out a few of their errors, but by no stretch, all of their errors. Obama hasn’t even mentioned more than a dozen of their hundreds of slanders, errors, and misreportings of events.
Do you have a newspaper? Where could any fair-minded person think these broadcast bullies deserve protection from the guy they try to bully most?
Obama favors control over governing? In the most important big policy changer so far, health care reform, rather than dictate to Congress, Obama asked Congress to assemble a proposal. Republicans refused to participate in making a good bill until Nancy Pelosi got it passed in the House. Then, rather than wake up and try to make changes they might need in the Senate, they launched a campaign of slander and fiction against health care.
Lou, you, particularly, should appreciate what is going on here. You worked for Procter & Gamble. Would it be fair to claim you are a satan-worshipper, as Procter & Gamble’s old logo “proved?” Of course such a charge is bizarre, ungrounded in fact, and damaging to people who have no intention to worship satan (I hope!). Since you worked for a company that literally had to change its logo due to unfair and wild claims, you should be particularly sensitive to wild and unfair claims against others. And yet, here you are with a letter read by more than a half million people, passing along wild and unfair claims.
Did you at least blush when you realized what you had done?
Control? Obama has given up a great deal of control in order, he hopes, to get the reform that will keep our nation from going bankrupt (more than 60% of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to excessive health costs). This is the mark of a leader. Did you read Goodwin’s book on Lincoln? You should. Obama did. It shows how a true, flag-waving patriot leads this nation.
Lou, we survived eight years of George Bush and his assault on the Constitution. Your dissenting views will be honored far more than any dissent was ever honored by Bush — and if Obama has his way, your life will be better, more secure, and your dissent more free, in four years, six years, and eight years.
You could have learned all of that by reading Obama’s two books, by reading his extensive profiles in newspapers and magazines, by watching his well-known speeches and campaign appearances. Lou, you’re a bright guy, a successful guy who should be reading newspapers and gathering information about how to vote.
It scares me mightily that despite these many opportunities for you to get the facts, you don’t have them, and you promote wild and scurrilous claims across the internet. If you don’t know better, that’s your fault. You should know better.
And if Lou Pritchett, with all his money and information gathering ability, smarts and charm, has such a distorted view of America, America’s election process, and our president, then I truly fear for my nation.
James Madison told us why it’s important to have a good public education system and why it’s important to use that education:
A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
- James Madison in a letter to William T. Barry, August 4, 1822; Library of Congress, Letters of James Madison
How many others like you might there be, Lou, literally endangering our republic with disinformation and wrong ideas about what is going on?
Is this the result of the slashing of library budgets begun in the Reagan administration? Is your lack of information due to a lack of a library? Is this a result of the reduction in news holes in newspapers as that industry struggles to survive against electronic competition?
In any case, shouldn’t a citizen know what the citizen does not know, and seek that information out before making unfounded charges based on false information?
Madison said knowledge governs ignorance. But Kin Hubbard or someone like him noted that it’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble: It’s what we know that isn’ t so. You “know” a lot of stuff about Obama that is wrong. If that misplaced “knowledge” governs, America is doomed.
You wrote that letter months ago. Please tell us you’ve learned in the passed time, and that you now know better.
(I’ve e-mailed this letter to Mr. Pritchett.)
Update: Pritchett responded, sort of. Like poking a hog.
- The Snopes.com confirmation that Pritchett wrote it
- Ha! Real History Blog took Pritchett’s letter apart before I did — more rebuttal
- David Emery at the Urban Legends blog had a lively discussion on the letter
- Trial and Error worries about Pritchett, too
- WallStreetJackass worries, too
- Pritchett on the letter, on Fox News’s Cavuto interview program; Pritchett confesses: “I’m not even a student of politics.” Master of understatement. “And when I started hearing all these words during the campaign about hope and — it really began to upset me.” Oy. A true cynic. Doesn’t even like hope.
- Original Draft at Say Anything (a parody, we might hope)
- Ironic Surrealism — read the comments
- This one is good – You Go Live in Utah (written by a current or former Texas resident, interestingly) takes Pritchett down point by point. Youth talking truth to senescence.
- [September 15] Tom Degan’s response is worth reading.
- [April 24, 2010] A reserved, erudite response from Real History
- [March 12, 2012] A 2008 news story in the Seattle Times that collected comments from many of the people who knew President Obama in his younger days, especially at Occidental college; see also this post at Oh, For Goodness Sake, “That Red Hotbed, Occidental College”
- Heh; at his website, Mr. Pritchett advises “leaders”: “Build a more sensitive culture where power and influence derive from ability and commitment, not from title or rank” — something his letter completely ignores.
Spread the good words instead: