See no evil


As a Jew who lives among conservative, Bible Belt Christians, I was astonished by Peter Beinart's argument that I should distrust their friendship with Israel ("Bad Move; May 20). I've discussed Israel with at least a hundred conservative Christian patients, colleagues, and neighbors in the last year. Religious beliefs color some of their political views, but few couch their support for Israel in religious terms. Most simply feel that Israel is a righteous democracy that is under attack by dictatorships. Most also despise moral relativism and the appeasement of evil. Only one or two have suggested that Israel should expel Palestinians from the West Bank or have otherwise resembled the conservative, evangelical leaders mentioned by Beinart.

Beinart is correct that Israel's security has come to dominate the political agenda for many Jews. In this regard, many of my secular or "liberal" Democratic acquaintances consider Israel the aggressor or even an apartheid state. Unless Democrats start to clearly support Israel and take an aggressive stance on Iraq and Iran, I will hold my nose, switch parties, and donate very heavily to the Republicans for the first time in my 44 years. If the election were held today, I'd already be a Republican.


Charleston, West Virginia

Hear me out


One of Jason Zengerle's reasons for not giving George W. Bush's nominees a judiciary hearing and an up-or-down vote is that a president who was not popularly elected by a majority should not ultimately be allowed to move the courts to the right ("Judge Not," May 20). Thus Zengerle seems to attach some importance to the popular will. However, he then goes on to defend the practice of not having hearings and up-and-down votes (stalling) because to do otherwise would expose Southern Democratic senators to electoral risk. He is troubled that these senators might feel pressured by interest groups, opposing candidates, and ultimately constituents to support conservative nominees.

But isn't this what the democratic process is ultimately about? One reason stalling is not as costly politically is that it tends to keep low the level of information available to the general public. If Zengerle is so concerned about the will of the popular electoral majority, then why shouldn't senators of both parties be responsible for publicly going on the record with their position on these judicial nominees? Otherwise, Zengerle is simply advocating yet another end run around the popular electoral majority he appears to implicitly celebrate.


Assistant Professor of Political Science

University of Notre

Dame Notre Dame, Indiana

Anchors aweigh


Rob Walker's article "Anchor Steam" does not significantly differ from the network news he is critiquing: It leaves a lot to be desired (May 20). First, let's be clear: The shallowness of the network-news programs is hardly news to any TNR reader. Indeed, other magazines have made the same point; at least a few of them (journalism journals) have made a far more scientific effort to tabulate the hard- and soft-news aspects of each of the network programs. Beyond this, Walker can't quite seem to decide what to criticize-just that criticism is needed. For example, he criticizes the networks for assuming their viewers are more knowledgeable than they really are (on economic matters) but also for being "gullible ignoramuses." Which is it?

Walker makes the point that the networks are all too interested in getting us outraged rather than informing us. There is truth in this observation, but I would suggest that a primary personality characteristic of most journalists is (and, I think, we should want it to be) skepticism, particularly skepticism of the government and of others in control of our lives. Dan Rather's "populism" (as Walker describes it) seems precisely what a "free press" should be all about. This characteristic can lead to excesses--skepticism that turns to mindless cynicism--but I think it is worth the risk.


Frank R. Strong Chair in Law

Michael E. Moritz College of Law

The Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio

Air control


Franklin Foer's article implies that The Rendon Group is running "the p.r. war against terrorism," but credit goes to President George W. Bush's counselor, Karen Hughes, who created the Coalition Information Center with her British counterparts ("Flacks Americana," May 20). Indeed, the credit (and the nation's collective admiration) belongs to the president, our armed forces, and personnel from the White House, Pentagon, State Department, and other agencies who every day make tough decisions and place their lives in harm's way. Contrary to your article, I have consistently advocated that the United States confront terrorists in the information war--daily and on a medium- and long-term basis. At all times the United States must vigorously refute terrorists in the media and information environment and voice objection when they hijack Islam as justification for their horrific actions.

I am extremely proud of all my current and former colleagues. Some may have been young, but all were professional, dedicated, nonpartisan, untiring, and effective. Our efforts, while not as influential as Foer's article suggests, have been commended by our clients and have earned us their trust. Finally, with respect to Foer's characterization of me as "doughfaced" thanks to diet and exercise I have dropped 70 pounds since the TNR cover photo was taken in September 1998.



The Rendon Group

Washington, D.C.


Thank you for the only coherent account I have read of the U.S. government's fumbling efforts to launch a public relations campaign aimed at the peoples of the Middle East. It is apparent to me that what the government should have done--in fact, should still do--is hire one of the large multinational p.r. agencies with substantial experience in the Middle East. Such an agency could provide not only a broad array of staff with varied experience in p.r. and public affairs, but also some central management--a commodity that seems to be totally lacking in the Bush administration.


New York, New York

Speech class


Although I have been concerned about the advent of so-called "free speech zones" on college campuses since my days in college, I feel that I must clear up one misconception in Diane Roberts's article ("Zoned Out" May 13). Roberts specifically mentions Kansas State as example of a school with such a zone and later comments that free speech zones are "often located in obscure corners of the campus--safely out of sight of deans, donors, and the general public." Although the free speech zone at Kansas State is disappointingly small, I can speak from experience as a 1993 graduate that the free speech zone there is in a very prominent place, just outside the main entrance to the student union. On more than one occasion, there were vibrant and colorful debates that occurred there, well within the view of administration officials and involving many students who happened upon the event during the normal course of the day. I like to think my alma mater has made an effort to accommodate the obvious need for free speech on campus with a reasonable need to ensure safety and some level of order. And I personally never saw campus police round up anyone and haul them off to jail because they were protesting somewhere on campus.


Wichita, Kansas


It's not just free speech that's eroding at universities; it's also freedom of the press. For example, Washington University in St. Louis recently revised its "Media Guidelines" which require reporters to get advance permission before entering the campus and which assert the right of a Public Affairs Office representative to be present at interviews between a reporter and a student or faculty member--a little bit of the Soviet Union, right here in the United States. To wit: Last fall a reporter covering a demonstration was expelled from campus.


Professor of Physics

Washington University

St. Louis, Missouri

Acid test


Michelle Cottle asserts that the "government must level the playing field" in the public's anti-fat campaign but argues that the inherent complexities make reform unworkable ("Heavy Duty," May 13). She fails to recognize, however, a clear target for life-saving reform: trans-fatty acids. Evidence clearly links these industrial fats with increased rates of cardiovascular disease, our nation's leading killer. A 1999 New England Journal of Medicine study implicated trans-fatty acids with a "substantial number of deaths from coronary artery disease." Trans-fatty acids are used widely in fast foods, margarine, and commercially baked goods as a result of their low cost and convenient properties. The force of law is the only counter to this industrial allure. Currently no food-labeling requirements exist on trans-fatty-acid content, a simple first step in battling this underemphasized killer.


Charlottesville, Virginia

Unbridled passion


I want to compliment Jason Zengerle on an extremely well-written article about the Kentucky Thoroughbred industry ("Horse Trade" May 13). I am a native Kentuckian, now five years transplanted to Northern Virginia. Zengerle managed not only to shock me--the horse industry sure has changed its views about slots since I've been away--but also to write a great magazine article. I have now read his last two paragraphs about the "racino" in West Virginia and the stunning race to the finish numerous times over.


Via the Internet

This article originally ran in the June 24, 2002, issue of the magazine.