Letters to the editor

Conason on Bradley; Tapper on Gore and Naomi Wolf; plus Doonesbury and those $&%#@ loud kids!

Published November 9, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Brilliant Careers: Garry Trudeau



David Rubien's piece on Garry Trudeau and "Doonesbury" was excellent in every way.

However, I take exception to his portrayal of the character B.D. as merely a conservative, comic foil. In the late-'70s, B.D. was in Vietnam, and, to my mind, his dialogues with his Vietnamese counterpart were the most trenchant, astute and screamingly funny things Trudeau has ever done.

I can't make a similar claim for Boopsie, but she did get in some pretty good digs when possessed by that ancient warrior-spirit ...

-- Andy Jukes

Hopkins Landing, British Columbia

Years ago during my "liberal period" it was recommended to me to read "Doonesbury," which I did. Liberals always do what other liberals tell them to do. I tried, I really tried to find something of humor in "Doonesbury" and came up empty. Where I looked for political satire I found nasty, mean-spirited attempts at humor. Reagan, to those on the left, was an easy target.

Certainly, there have been better targets for Trudeau. Jimmy Carter and Slick Willie come to mind. Yet Trudeau continues to dance around the same fire. He is hardly the "voice for truth and justice." He's nothing more then an unfunny left-wing cartoonist. To elevate him any higher than that is really an injustice.

-- Jack Bradley

Hazlet, N.J.

At 29, I know that "Doonesbury" has shaped my political and moral sensibilities. First as a primary source on the cultural landscape of the '70s that I was too young to remember, then in the '80s as a daily installment of grounding perspective. Finally, in the '90s, it has been a keen lens to keep my own moral slide into adulthood somewhat in check. Garry Trudeau has created a parallel world so complete that truth seems an effortless result. And did I mention that it's totally hilarious? Bravo.

-- Cesar Baptista

I am woman, hear me Gore



Where can I get one of those $15K per month campaign consultant jobs? Heck, I'd settle for $5K. Naomi Wolf is always entertaining, and though she doesn't seem able to dive down into the nuances of the issues she raises, let's give her credit for having the guts (as Ben Stein would say) to go on national television and say things like "William Safire is a mean sexist pigdog journalist" -- or something like that.

What I really want to know is: What the hell is Gore doing? Now, I am a woman who really went for Bradley in a big way a few months ago, just before you media types discovered him. But lately, I have found myself drifting back to the Alster. I was even thinking about sending him a check for $1K. But seeing as how that would only get him from one-fifteenth to one-fifth of one month's worth of some info-babe drivel, maybe you nice folks at Salon could pass on this piece of free advice instead:

Mr. Gore, I cannot stand you when you emote over the injuries and deaths of your family members for the sole, obvious purpose of drumming up some votes. Ick. Women generally do not like it when men use the family pain for the professional gain. But I fall in love with you (as a potential president) when it is clear to me that you really are the only viable man (and I do mean man) in the running who will not play footsie with those creeps in the Republican leadership who would not blink as they dismantle the social infrastructure. I like it that you support Tipper when she speaks out about mental illness and shares her own experience with depression. I like it that when President Clinton would go off on myriad tangents, you would reel him back in and put him on task.

At the end of the first campaign, when it was obvious that you were going to win, you spoke at a college campus somewhere. I saw it on C-Span. You were loopy, exhausted and hilarious. Find the tape. It was quite appealing. It must have been that natural humor people say you show in private.

As far as the alpha-beta stuff goes, if you want to impress the girls, do both. The truth is, we want both dogs, the ones who work well with others, and the ones who take charge in a crisis. The best thing about Clinton is that he will stand up to bullies. You have that quality. If you can put a blustering Bill back on track, handling a snideley Trent Lott should be a pleasurable piece of cake.

The really funny thing is, you just might become a great president. I like Bradley, but I can see him becoming bored with being president. You have always been a good soldier, a hard worker. I am ready for a nerd, a solid, honest good guy, to be president. Someone who, if he ever does get bored, never lets us know it, doesn't quit and keeps doing his job well.

P.S.: I guess I don't really mind that you overpay Naomi. It's about time women got overpaid for their idiotic opinions as much as men do.

-- Linda Rigel

Meet the screamers



Salon is one of the few Web sites publishing intelligently researched and written work. It adds depth to my workday and has provided fodder for many conversations, both in the office and beyond.

I am disappointed by the inclusion of the unfunny essays of Jennifer Moses. She is the worst of Erma Bombeck, Tony Kornheiser and Cathy Guisewite all combined in one nauseatingly self-absorbed essayist. I had the misfortune of reading about her son Sam's gassy antics in the Washington Post before encountering these redundant tales in the New York Times Magazine and Salon.

Yes, working mothers are harried, yes, Venus & Mars, and yes, kids are hedonistic, unintentionally unnerving little imps, but let Ms. Moses limit her descriptions to holiday missives for friends and family to leave room for the many writers who actually have something worthwhile to share with their audience.

-- Kate Papacosma

I am appalled at the casual use of filthy language in your columnist's writing. The Salon site is not listed as rated X and I do not appreciate coming across such words as P -- -ed and F -- - in your articles.

I was reading the Mothers Who Think column today about loud children and was only on the second page and already I had read such bad words. There is no reason to have such language in the columns. If these people can't write without using such filthy language then they need to study some more and let respectful and responsible people have their jobs.

And you as editors should be ashamed to publish such garbage, and AOL should be punished for allowing it on a family page.

-- Kerry Herrington

The faker



The reason the liberals are going for Bradley is quite simple -- better a left-of-center liberal Democrat than a right-of-center conservative Republican.

The reasons are:

1) If Gore is the nominee, Bush wins; if Bradley is the nominee, it's a tossup.

2) Gore is tied to Clinton -- for good and evil, and many are tired of Clinton (and Gore).

3) Many Republicans do not really want "W" and would vote for Bradley.

4) Even more, my 16-year-old, after hearing Bradley interviewed on "60 Minutes," got excited about him. ("Seems honest -- rings true, you know?")

Listen to the children.

-- Stephen P. Horgan

People vote for a legislator on a linear scale, left middle right, and for president on a direction. Which way will Bradley lead the country? This is dictated from the constitutional powers of the office of president. Risk-taker or protector?

Bradley seems to have grown from his days as a legislator. But he has to put his programs together into a direction for the country. Is Bradley a leader? Is the national soup cooking at the right temperature for Bradley? This is why the dynastic aspect of the vice president ascending to the throne just won't work. Albert Gore was right for '92, but fairly or unfairly, he's wrong for '99.

-- Eric Mauro

Joe Conason asserts, "Back when Ronald Reagan was president, the New Jersey Democrat capitulated instantly to the 1981 budget cuts, with all their devastating impact on poor children and minority communities."

Since social spending is three-quarters of all government spending, how could Reagan viciously slash spending, yet run up the huge deficits he gets blamed for? Which one is it? Did Reagan slash social programs or run up the deficit?

The fact is Reagan did neither. He slowed the rate of increase. A 9 percent increase in spending and a 6 percent increase in spending are both increases! One is not a 3 percent cut (or vicious slash), but rather a reduction in the proposed increase!

That is all the Republicans manage. They never truly cut anything. They just barely manage to slow the growth of government. The slow path to socialism, if you will.

I got to hand it to those who want government as the ultimate ruler over a once free people. Their strategy clearly works, as Americans (working families) get conned out of more coin every time, and are made to feel guilty if they want to keep more of what is rightfully theirs.

By the time Americans do wake up, it'll be over and we'll be nothing more than another socialist dump on the scrap heap of history.

-- Steve Lucier

Bolingbrook, Ill.

Not being a Democrat, I don't pay that much attention to the ramblings of the left. However, Conason's article caught my eye. Could I possibly be that out of sync with the progressives?

Virtually every negative that Joe Conason listed about Bradley I considered a positive. Reagan's budget cuts, his support for the freedom fighters in Nicaragua; these were great acts by a great man. If Bradley was wise enough to see the wisdom of these acts perhaps he is presidential material. As for Conason, it smells like that same old stinky '60s progressivism is still being peddled to the brain-dead.

-- Chip Schoch

Joe Conason writes, "Otherwise, when [Bradley] faces the voters, he may turn out to be just another beautiful loser."

May?! Here's a question for all those sunshine Democrats who, like their hero of the hour, Sen. Bradley, stood on the sidelines while Bill Clinton and Al Gore went 15 rounds with the Gingrich bully-boys. Just what do you think all those banks and financial firms are giving all those millions to Bill Bradley for? Do you seriously think they would be giving that much money to someone who would go against their agenda?

Or, here's another theory, perhaps more paranoid, but, given what we have seen the last two years, not beyond the realm of the possible. Suppose, just suppose, that these big-money boys know that Bradley, if he is the candidate, will be, indeed, "just another beautiful loser"? What better way to break the rebuilt Democratic Party and destroy the new Democratic coalition? Do you really think that the big-money boys want a liberal Democrat as president? That they don't prefer George W. Bush? What better way to secure the election of the candidate they want then to engineer the nomination of a sure loser by the opposition party? And is that scenario more far-fetched then the one we have seen enacted over the past two years to bring down the Clinton presidency?

Think about it.

-- Ann Davidson


How, pray tell, could Bradley get elected without money? The people with the money happen to mostly be rich. The snide subtext of the article implies a corruption in Bradley that the article does not prove. I support Bradley because he seems to me to have a sense of what's wrong with the country as it is currently constituted. He is only being realistic as he reaches for the money he needs to be an effective, possibly winning candidate. I learned in the '60s that all political purity gets you is the satisfaction of losing well, without effecting the changes that one espoused. I'll take a guy whose message I believe and who has the smarts to get elected.

-- Mike Spindell

I think Mr. Conason misses the mark when he questions why liberals such as myself support Bradley.

It is not so much that we favor Bradley as that we dislike Gore, and Bradley is, at least currently, his only opposition.

I cannot agree that there is no difference between the two on the issues, since I perceive in Gore (and Tipper) a long-standing lack of understanding of anything outside of their rich, white, Protestant ethos.

The day Gore declared, "Freedom of religion need not mean freedom from religion," I signed up with Bradley.

-- Patrick O'Neill


What, asks Joe Conason in a piece so pathetically pro-Gore that it might have been ghostwritten by Marty Peretz, has presidential candidate Bill Bradley ever done to deserve the support of liberals?

Simple. While the vice president has tried to market larger labels on prescription medication and other micropolicies aimed at appealing to the affluent middle class as the future of progressivism, Bradley has brought back the Big Idea and dared us to question whether we as a nation are ready to return to an era of liberal activism and civic renewal.

Clinton and Gore would have us believe that the era of big government is over and that free markets are the be-all, end-all of a Democratic foreign policy. Bradley instead encourages us to think big, and to recall the time when an activist federal government rallied the nation against poverty, injustice and intolerance.

In his bid to make race relations a dominant issue of the 2000 campaign, Bradley is appealing to the better angels of our nature. In contrast, by enlisting bean-counting rhetoric and conservative catch-phrases to evoke the usual anti-liberal paranoia in a desperate bid to retain his lead, Gore has appealed to the same Atwater-style leftist-bashing that has infected our politics since 1988. Are you telling me that Gore somehow deserves the support of liberals?

As for the "stay and fight" argument, I have yet to understand how any self-respecting liberal could say that Al Gore held the banner for liberalism during the Republican revolution. To my mind, saying idiotic things like "the era of big government is over" and passing an atrocity like the 1996 welfare reform bill is much more of a surrender of progressive ideas than is Bradley's choosing not to run for another term.

Conason states that the gestalt of the times "has been marked by the struggle of Democrats and progressives to contain and defeat a powerful, ambitious and well-funded right-wing movement." He neglects to mention a concurrent trend marking our era -- the consistent weakening of progressivism by A) Clinton-Gore attempts at electoral triangulation and B) the damage done to our party by the frequent bouts of pathetically obvious Clinton-Gore obfuscation ("that woman" or "no controlling legal authority," for example).

Conason trots out that pathetic Gore warhorse of the 1981 budget cuts -- without mentioning that A) Bradley was chosen by the Democratic Party to publicly refute the Reagan administration in the first State of the Union and B) Bradley voted against the corresponding Reagan supply-side tax cuts -- his deficit hawk position was one staked out by many Democrats of the time, including ones supporting Gore. To attribute the "devastating impact on poor children and minority communities" to Bradley's vote and yet to say nothing of the effect of the 1996 Clinton-Gore welfare bill smacks of intellectual dishonesty.

As an in-house writer and aide-de-camp for James Carville for the past two years, including throughout the pathetic Lewinsky imbroglio, I have dedicated my working life to this struggle against the right that Conason deems our "gestalt." It depresses me to no end that such a talented and courageous progressive as Conason has joined the ranks of the Bradley-bashers and turned that struggle against his own party.

-- Kevin Murphy

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