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An open letter to President Obama, before the last debate

I watched Tuesday's' debate in my own living room.
A sign along the highway near Grand Isle, La., on July 11, 2010, lays out the problem many struggling fishing families now face: With their fishing grounds closed by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, they are forced to find something other than...
A sign along the highway near Grand Isle, La., on July 11, 2010, lays out the problem many struggling fishing families now face: With their fishing grounds...

I watched Tuesday's' debate in my own living room. And I'll be honest, I took a moment to stand on my couch and give our nation's leader a well-deserved round of applause for a job well done at the second presidential debate. But I thought I would go one step further and put pen to paper for our commander-in-chief.

Dear President Obama,

It's me ... Melissa.

I just wrote to say thanks. Thank you for bringing your A-game on Tuesday.

Energized, caffeinated, prepped with data points and comeback arguments. Thank you for reviving the base and showing the country that you can carry the burdens of the presidency and still have room for a little swagger. You made clear arguments for why you should be re-elected and cogently packaged the argument against your challenger. All told, a good night of politics for you. But ... just a few things.

Remember when you said this?

"We've opened up public lands. We're actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration. And my -- the previous president was an oilman."

I get that running away from a strong national energy policy is hard in this recession era election. But touting an aggressive oil drilling directive as an achievement with no mention of the real life, death and livelihood costs of the "drill, baby, drill" mentality -- is, shall we say, troubling. I know many Americans have already forgotten the devastating effect that BP's drilling in the sensitive ecosystem of the Gulf Coast had on human and animal alike. But I wanted you to remind them and your opponent.

That wasn't simply a case of a few birds killed. The biggest national oil spill in history didn't even get a mention Tuesday night. How could it be that nearly five million barrels of crude oil that gushed into open water and the two million gallons of toxic chemicals used to prevent the oil from flooding onto our shores weren't worth a mention when talking about the pros and cons of our national energy policy? Or what about the billion dollars that the job creator oil giant, BP, had to cough up to clean up their mess?  Those of us who live on the Gulf Coast know how important oil is for jobs, but we also know how important a healthy coast is for our lives.

And what about this moment, Mr. President?

"We're not going to eliminate everybody who is mentally disturbed, and we've got to make sure that they don't get weapons."

I'm not sure if you meant to imply that the mentally ill are primarily responsible for gun violence. But you said that not once, not twice -- but three times during the debate. Mental illness is all too often criminalized and far too often stigmatized in this country. And while some high profile cases of gun violence are traced back to an individual struggling with a mental illness, statistically only 3% to 5% of violent acts are attributable to serious mental illness, and most do not involve guns at all. In fact, those with mental illnesses are four times more likely to be the victim of violence, not the perpetrator. The shameful violence snatching the lives of young men in Chicago -- which you mentioned on Tuesday -- is not about so called "crazy" shooters, it is about guns being easier to access than economic opportunity. Let's keep our focus on changing that equation.

So once again, great job -- and as you warm up for Monday, just remember that what you leave out can be just as important as what you get in during the debate.