Letter to the Editor


Re Jarrett Murphy's "How the CBS Memos Helped Re-Elect George W. Bush" [Press Clips, January 19-25]: What is missing here? Did anyone ever find out who wrote the bogus memos—or where they came from?

Seriously, I wondered when the exposé first came out if this couldn't have been a setup. I reminded myself how "smart and cunning" Karl Rove is reported to be.

I am not a medium (at least not that I am aware of), but my instincts are often "on target." I don't understand how I could have missed hearing it reported as to "who" wrote and released these bogus memos.

Are there no investigators out there anymore? Someone, somewhere, somehow must make this administration accountable for its nasty deeds. Hand-wringing is as far as we get.

Sally Bookwalter
Fairview Park, Ohio

Higher education

We respond with regret to Nat Hentoff's January 18 column "Intimidated Classrooms" [Liberty Beat, January 19-25]. Hentoff has long been a friend and supporter of the NYCLU and of free speech. But Hentoff's column misses the big picture respecting academic freedom on the Columbia campus. He is wrong on some facts; and in the end, he misinterprets the NYCLU's position.

The major academic-freedom problem arising out of the current Columbia controversy is that a film produced by a Boston-based advocacy group has provoked public officials and others to demand the punishment of certain identified Columbia professors based largely on the ideological positions that these professors have advanced in their writings and lectures. One congressman has called for the termination of one of the professors and the disciplining of another professor "for errors in his book." The sponsor of the film has called the views of the professors "Arabist propaganda" and has urged that Columbia "move against" such scholars. According to The New York Times, one professor has received death threats. One professor has canceled a course he was to have given because of the current climate at Columbia.

The NYCLU certainly supports the right of individuals to criticize what they regard as the wrong-minded views of these professors. That right extends to the sponsor of the film. It also extends to students, who may engage in such criticism within the classroom and, of course, outside class. Hentoff is wrong to suggest that we believe that professors may limit participation in class to those who share the professor's views. Our letter to Columbia's president on this controversy made no such statement, and that is not the position of the NYCLU. We noted that professors should, of course, treat students with respect and try to create an environment conducive to open exchange of ideas.

Arthur Eisenberg, Donna Lieberman, and Udi Ofer
New York Civil Liberties Union

Nat Hentoff responds: In its letter to Lee Bollinger, the NYCLU said clearly that students can criticize professors in class only "if permitted by the professor to do so." In addition to misstating its position here, the NYCLU ignores intimidation of students by some professors that resulted in certain students appearing in the film Columbia Unbecoming only if their faces and voices were masked. The major academic problem is not the wrong-headed public official demanding punishment of professors. It is the disrespect of students' academic freedom.

All about eve

Rick Perlstein's "Inauguration 2005: The Eve of Destruction" [January 19-25] is a scary essay. Its essence of truth makes one's skin crawl. While Bush should be undergoing impeachment proceedings, he squandered millions of tax dollars for a second inauguration.

My mind will not allow me to accept that the American people, of their own free will, re-elected G.W. Bush. He is capable of every deviant action described by Perlstein. He is also capable of fixing elections.

Bush is of an imperialistic mind-set with an ego like a bomb. I have long believed that his intentions are to wage war against Iran, and this would set the entire world against America. His underlying desire has to be that he is first to see how much of mankind the nuclear bomb would annihilate.

It is a sad day for the world.

Sylvia Barksdale
Lynnfield, Massachusetts

Re: "The Eve of Destruction": The Bush-Rove cabal has been doing its own thing since the very undemocratic "election" of 2000. The world has watched America sit on its electoral hands and let the Bushites get away with murder—literal, not figurative murder—along with treason, theft, innumerable impeachable offenses, and so on. . . . Bush is not a patriot, nor are his henchmen. They are America's enemies, and it apparently takes non-Americans to see it. Just watch as he guts what's left of your once proud democracy. When he leaves office, the good ol' U.S.A. will be a penniless, third-world, rogue state. Gee, just what Bush called Iraq.

Bush and his pals have feathered their fat nests far beyond a commoner's imagination, at the expense of all America holds dear. They won't be fiddling like Nero, but hoisting fat Cuban cigars and expensive booze, and chuckling while America burns.

I'm very sad for you all.

Barbara Jordan
Toronto, Canada

Thank you, Rick Perlstein, for saying what many of us have believed for some time: that the Bush administration learned its PR from Joseph Goebbels, who practiced his wiles in Germany before and during WW II. Old Joe believed in telling the Big Lie and telling it over and over again so that the masses believed it must be so. In the same way that the Patriot Act is not in the least patriotic, and the No Child Left Behind program has little to do with helping children, so will the "Save Social Security" movement involve the demise of the safety net provided by FDR, the pillaging of the national treasury, and the continuing enrichment of George Bush's "base."

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