What Becomes a Leader Most?
David Von Drehle's cover story "The Five Faces of Barack Obama" reassured me that Obama would be a good choice for President [Sept. 1]. The reason: he has the curiosity to look deeply into controversial issues. I am 80 years old and was raised in Wisconsin, where folks rarely considered anything from another perspective. Luckily for me, I did not go down that path. I opted to live in Alaska from 1949 on into its statehood. I can well appreciate Obama's ability to examine an idea or a policy that has been suitable and then move on if it no longer fits. The value of this trait escapes most Americans. Sadly, the very positive attributes Obama possesses appear to be fodder for voters to doubt his abilities. The only salvation I can see, if any, will be when the older folks die off and the young realize our mistakes and embrace a candidate like Obama.
Your writer says essentially that Obama tells each of his supporters what he or she wants to hear from him, regardless of whether Obama actually shares that belief. A great leader, which Obama claims to be, would not grovel for political advantage. Even at the risk of losing the acclaim of the masses, a great leader would tell us what he deeply and sincerely believes we need to hear.
Obama's campaign slogan is "change." However, his actions are not consistent with this message. For one thing, his running mate has been in the U.S. Senate for the past 30 years. What kind of change will an Obama-Biden ticket bring for voters? Obama is full of hot air and will soon deflate when American voters realize that he stands for nothing and that his campaign has been filled with self-congratulation and egotism. Obama should be judged not by the color of his skin but by the content of his policies.
When I saw Obama once again on the cover, two words immediately came to my mind: shockingly predictable.
Fort Worth, Texas
Enough Obama mania on your covers!
White Bear Lake, Minnesota
As I read your cover story, it struck me that this presidential election is not about politics or who is the best man for the job of leading the U.S. It's about how America wants to define itself as a nation. Both the candidates possess qualities and espouse policies that are relevant for the role of President. However, this election is not about choosing someone who can steer the U.S. through difficult times. It is a challenge to U.S. voters to prove to the world that they do not see individuals in terms of race, color, religion, gender or any of the categories that divide us. Can they look beyond issues like tax, health care and Iraq and show that the U.S. is a democracy in reality, not just theory? The world is watching.
S. Roy Chowdhury,
You asked readers whether they see Obama as a black man, a healer, a novice, a radical, the future, or "all of the above." You left out the perhaps most important alternative: a leader. The U.S., as sole remaining superpower, needs all the international support it can get for that difficult role. Obama as President would convey an important message to the world: We are your leader not because our military is strong but because we represent your aspirations for freedom.
Your issue should have been titled "Our Tribute to Barack Obama." I especially enjoyed the "Five Faces" story. Yes, he's everything: healer, novice, radical, the future! I felt like I was watching an infomercial for OxyClean stain remover.
Your "Five Faces" omitted the one I consider most salient: the wimp. Having backed down on the things he should have stood up for peace, the environment, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, separation of church and state Obama is now a Republican lite, like John Kerry was. That's not change I can believe in, and I am afraid it will cost him the election.
Obama's speech accepting the democratic nomination suggests a sixth face: con artist. Obama has clearly learned the politics of the blank slate. The objective is to take power by duping voters into believing the candidate shares their views.
Obama the candidate represents all things to all men. He is the kind of man we need as "President of the World," one with a demonstrable history of crossing boundaries, creating possibilities and redefining perspectives.
Fix the Vote
Re the quote in "Back & Forth" about letting thousands of voting machines stay broken for November's election because of a scheduling backlog [Sept. 1]: We can find water on Mars and land a man on the moon, but we can't produce a working voting machine in eight years? Heads should roll.
Long Beach, California
You, Too, Can Adore the Snore
I enjoyed your piece "The Snore Wars" [Sept. 1]. I would like to share a remarkable discovery I made while traveling the country for several months a year selling Australian Stock Saddles and sharing hotel rooms with a male colleague with a snore like an outboard motor. You cannot win a snore war by fighting the noise. But you can win by embracing the sound. Simply set your breathing rhythm to the rhythm of the snore, and the sound becomes a sleep aid. Now I like it when my colleague goes to sleep first because I fall asleep faster.
A New Cold War?
Re Zbigniew Brzezinski's article on Russia and its Georgian incursion: one consequence of the conflict is that we will have to get ready for a new era of confrontation between U.S. and Russia [Sept. 1]. It is clear that the inclusion of former Soviet states in NATO, the independence of Kosovo and the anti-missile shield to be installed in Poland have led to distrust on Russia's part. The plight of Russians in ex-Soviet nations, together with a more buoyant Russian economy and strong political support for President Vladimir Putin, makes easier for Russia to further its aim of enhancing its international standing by whatever means necessary. For these reasons, something like the invasion of Georgia was inevitable. Let us now hope that history does not repeat itself. Relations between Russia and the West have always been based on mutual fear rather than cooperation. It seems that this is not going to change.
I appreciated Samantha Power's commentary on Russia's wounded pride [Sept. 1]. My wife is from Ukraine, and in the past several years we have traveled extensively in Ukraine, Russia, and other former Soviet states. Most of these new nations are in effect banana republics, run by wealthy elites. They treat their Russian minorities very poorly. Russians in these countries feel abandoned by ardently nationalist politicians. They see no advantages in democracy quite the opposite, in fact. In focusing on politics and the machinery of democracy, the West is forgetting about these people, which only fuels their humiliation and resentment. If a Russian leader should emerge who says he will save the Russian people and restore their lost honor and respect, then we had better prepare for the worst, because the Russian people will follow him.
When the Soviet Union sent missiles to Cuba, within range of the U.S., President John F. Kennedy responded resolutely. Now that the U.S. is bringing countries in Russia's sphere of interest into NATO, why should we expect Russian leaders to react any differently?
Rio De Janeiro
No to Class War
Michael Kinsley is right to condemn affirmative action based on social class [Aug. 25]. This proposal is a logical extension of the compassionate but misguided urge to reward human inadequacy and punish achievement so as to achieve an egalitarian leveling of success in life. From childhood we learn to try to behave in ways that will be rewarded and avoid behaviors that will be punished. Class-based affirmative action would perversely ensure that this value system was turned upside down. American greatness was built by honoring the natural order, which rewards competence and punishes failure. Reversing this order will guarantee America's decline.