FLINT - If I had the chance to say one thing to President Obama about his leadership and the actions of his administration in recent days, it would be "You're better than this."
If I had the chance to say a bit more, I'd say:
Mr. President, I was there that day four and a half years ago when you first took the oath of office. Like everyone else, I stood for six hours in the freezing cold with numb feet and frostbitten hands because you - of all the politicians I've endured in my lifetime - seemed different.
You said you were the guy who would do this governing thing better, more openly, more honestly. I believed in you. And for the longest time you seemed to justify my faith.
In fact, if you had asked me six months ago to give you a letter grade on how you were doing, I'd have given you a solid B-plus. True, you weren't able to keep all the promises you made that day. But no one expected you, too. We're grownups here. We understand.
Besides, you kept enough of them. Osama bin Laden is dead. We're largely out of Iraq. Health care reform is underway. The auto industry has rebounded. Things are better.
More to the point, though, you seemed to govern like a man who was focused on doing the right thing in the right way for the good of the country and not the good of your party.
Now? Well, now I'm so disappointed by the revelations of the past few weeks and your reaction to them that I would change my aforementioned grade to an incomplete.
First, there's Benghazi. The president I thought I knew wouldn't have perpetuated the myth that the deadly attack on our embassy was over an anti-Muslim video. Not for one second. Nor would he have tolerated any quibbling over "talking points."
The guy I voted for twice would have been the first, not the last, to say, "Terrorists are to blame, but we are at fault. We didn't do enough. We didn't heed the warnings. We didn't act swiftly enough. Then, when it was too late, we focused on damage control instead of solutions. We have to do better. And we will."
Then there's the IRS. Oh, brother. After we learned that the IRS was scrutinizing conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status more closely than liberal groups, you demanded the resignation of the guy in charge and said you were "angry" about it.
But were you? Anger tends to happen right away. It's not something you coolly declare days later after half the country beats you to it. Someone who is angry doesn't ask someone to resign. He fires them. On the spot.
The obvious also needs to be stated: Someone is responsible for the culture in government that tells an entire agency that it's OK to politically discriminate, and that someone is you. As president, you need to own up to that.
Finally, and most troubling of all, is this business of the Justice Department secretly subpoenaing the phone records of the Associated Press to find out who within the government leaked information about a CIA operation in Yemen to stop an airliner bombing plot.
"Leaks related to national security can put people at risk," you said, without apology.
Indeed, they can. But if you're so darned proud of what the Justice Department did in the name of national security, then why the secrecy? That tells me this is an administration that needs more scrutiny, not less, and ironically freedom of the press is perhaps the best protection we have against government over-reach.
You, Mr. President, may not have subpoenaed those records yourself. But in defending the indefensible, you've lost points with me.
You're better than that.
Or at least I thought you were.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Write to Andrew Heller at email@example.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.