Hopalong Hentoff

Re Nat Hentoff's column speculating that Bill Clinton may be the illegitimate heir of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ["Why Clinton Gets Away With It," February 2]:

There seem to be a few stages in a columnist's career: the first where they struggle to find a voice, and so are largely straightforward and imitative; next, when they find their voice, and make themselves distinctive; and then the voice takes them over, reducing their muse to rhetorical flourishes so detached from reality that they sound for all the world like the rantings on the sides of Dr. Brauner's Peppermint Soap bottles.

It seems, sadly, that Hentoff has joined William Safire and A.L. Rosenthal in the final stage. Neither Safire nor Hentoff can fathom any possible rational reason why the American public supports the president, and so they resort to theories that are increasingly and absurdly grandiloquent. The Masons have not been blamed yet— perhaps because that would make too much sense.

Brian Gygi
Bloomington, Indiana

Nat Hentoff replies: The clear evidence is that Clinton is a perjurer and that his agents are persistent obstructors of justice. I deal in facts, not speculation. I joined the Voice in 1958. I was just as controversial then.

'Family' Values

Nat Hentoff, in a reply in your January 26 letters section, writes: "If a president cannot be removed from office for sending his agents to threaten his disposable women lest they testify against him, then I suppose a member of the Mob as president could not be thrown out of office."

Is Hentoff suggesting the president should be convicted by the Senate based on crimes he has not been charged with— based on, perhaps, evidence senators read in a newspaper column? That's an interesting position for a civil libertarian.

In the same reply, Hentoff defends Georgia Republican congressman Bob Barr as someone who "has a strong record on protecting the civil liberties on privacy and has worked with the ACLU to that goal." That may be true, but Hentoff might have pointed out that in 1996 Barr's votes on civil liberties earned him a 0 rating from the ACLU.

Jim Naureckas
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting

Nat Hentoff replies: As my columns have indicated, there are more than enough affidavits, interviews, and court papers to warrant witness-intimidation charges. Some are in the prosecutors' record, but the cowardly Republicans are afraid to bring them up because of the backlash against the sex material in the Starr Report. As for Barr, the ACLU volunteered his civil liberties support of privacy to me. And that is all I cited. My point was that with the press attacking Barr, it should have at least mentioned one decent thing he has done. By the way, as United States attorney in Georgia, Barr prosecuted brutally racist cops and white supremacist groups.

#1 With A Bullet

I'm a college student at North Carolina State University, majoring in criminal justice. I want to congratulate you on Peter Noel's great article on Ol' Dirty Bastard ["A Bullet for Big Baby Jesus," February 2]. I do believe O.D.B. (Russell Jones) is innocent. I believe the only charge he is guilty of is being black after dark. Despite his criminal record, which does account for a lot of his legal problems, I believe he is a target. I'm not sure about the CIA assassination plot Noel speaks of. I think Dirty is probably overreacting again, but I believe if he had not driven away, he'd be dead. All I hope is that we don't end up with another Tupac situation. If the police can kill famous rappers and entertainers, then killing normal black kids like me will be no problem.

Jarvi Woods III
Raleigh, North Carolina

Pretty Fly For a White Guy

Re Peter Noel's article on Ol' Dirty Bastard: The O.D.B.-and-the-cops thing is bogus. Where I live, cops do the same thing. I get pulled over all the time for no reason. I'm not even black. I got a nice car, tinted windows, and a huge Wu-Tang sticker on the back. Every time a cop is behind my car, I get pulled over. They always have some lame-ass excuse. They pull us out, frisk us, and everything. I'm probably just as paranoid as O.D.B., but not to the point where I think they're going to kill me.

The cops in my town and the surrounding areas— especially Boston and its suburbs— are so blatantly racist it's scary.

As Noel notes, it's highly suspect that they can charge O.D.B. with possession of an illegal weapon when none was found. If I was Dirty, I would be scared shitless driving around there.

I hope O.D.B. makes it through this okay, but he also has to calm down his shit. Stealing shoes, terrorist threats, stuff like that will get the cops after you.

Justin Mcpherson
Attleboro, Massachusetts

Jesus, Christgau

Y'know, that Christgau kid sure can write ["Dakar in Gear," February 2], but you know what I miss? Raw, spiritually cleansing hostility, that's what. I have no idea what you pay him, but I feel certain it's too little and I am prepared to kick in 25 dollars if he will stop writing such elaborate and laudatory and musicologically sound pieces about West African funk soul bruthas for just long enough to write a whole column cutting on Peter Gabriel. You can tell he wants to; you can just feel it. It would be fun. An accompanying photo montage of Pete's awful hairstyles would be the cherry on top.

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