Letters

Mike Gill
Manhattan


PATRIOT ACTS

Nat Hentoff's column "The Patriotism Enforcers" [January 8] was horribly lopsided in its argument against reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. Hentoff's position appears to be that the pledge should not be recited at all because that might be McCarthyist, and makes the kids who choose not to stand feel left out. However, society cannot function if we are forced to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The fact remains that most students support the values and ideals expressed in the pledge, and to deny them their right to express that support of their country is fascist. Let the children who disagree (or whose parents disagree) sit. If Hentoff is concerned with how other children will behave, then improve the quality of the history and political science classes so that all children know about the privilege to conscientiously object. The privileges of the few cannot be defended if they trample upon the rights of the many.

Chris McGuckin
Fairfax, Virginia

Nat Hentoff replies: I wrote about theDaily News andNew York Post editorial writers' insistence that those who object to compulsory flag salutes are unpatriotic. That would include the Supreme Court, which ruled that there should be no orthodoxy of individual belief or conscience in this country. That is anti-fascism.

Re Nat Hentoff's "The Patriotism Enforcers": It thrills me to pledge allegiance to the American flag. Anyone who was alive during World War II will know how I feel. I just don't think we need a law requiring the pledge.

The post-September 11 flag-flying enthusiasm can be a demonstration of patriotism, but I believe patriotism does not begin or end with waving the flag. I believe patriotism is best demonstrated by defending what our nationand our Constitution stand for.

It might be instructive for the Pledge of Allegiance enforcers to ponder that the president of the United States takes an oath of office, as prescribed in the Constitution (Article II, Section I, Clause 8), which states: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." We might note that the president swears to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States"; he does not swear to protect and defend the American flag. There is no mention of the American flag in the Constitution. The American flag is a symbol we have come to love and are proud to have as a symbol of our democratic form of government. But it is the Constitution that we, and our president, must "preserve, protect and defend" to the best of our abilities.

Lois Erwin
Waldwick, New Jersey


KUTTNER-WRONGS

I am writing to correct a serious misimpression that Cynthia Cotts created with her recent Press Clips column on The American Prospect, my former employer ["Bob Kuttner's Prospect: How Not to Run a Liberal Magazine," January 1]. The column stated that "former Kuttnerites Jonathan Cohn, Jonathan Chait, and Jason Zengerle left to work for The New Republic" and that "at least some of it has to do with [Prospect co-editor Robert] Kuttner." This is, Cotts says, part of "a suspicious pattern of turnover that has taken place in the past few years."

There are several problems here. For starters, Jonathan Chait and Jason Zengerle held one-year, entry-level positions at the magazine. They left the Prospect because these internships had ended. As for me, I left the Prospect after working there for five years, a veritable eternity in this business, primarily because I was eager to try something new. I cannot speak for other Prospectemployees. But I can tell you that I left, after serving as executive editor, with warm feelings toward both the magazine and its editors, including Bob Kuttner, who played an instrumental role in my education as a journalist. It is one reason that I remain on the Prospect's masthead, proudly, as a contributing editor.

I'm sorry Ms. Cotts didn't contact me beforehand. I would have been happy to set the record straight on these matters.

Jonathan Cohn, Senior Editor
The New Republic
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cynthia Cotts replies: In reporting that Chait, Cohn, and Zengerle had all left theProspect for The New Republic, I tried to distinguish them from staffers who had left citing their dissatisfaction with Kuttner. Indeed, I noted that in some cases, "it's natural for staffers to move on."


FLOWER POWER

Thanks for Richard Barr's article "Giuliani = La Guardia? NOT!" [January 8]. Comparing Fiorello La Guardia to Rudy Giuliani, there seems to be a mistaken impression that Rudy was a real crime fighter in going after the Mafia, while La Guardia concerned himself with slot machines and organ grinders. Who do you think owned those slot machines? La Guardia was no joke when it came to fighting crime. He appointed a police commissioner by the name of Valentine who went after mob-run slot machines and various other criminal activities. In fact some 3000 dirty cops were fired by Valentine, with La Guardia's support, to clean up the force. Rudy talks the talk, but La Guardia went after crime, the mob, police brutality, and corruption at the same time. Rudy is no La Guardia, you got that right.

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