Readers respond to recent articles on Joseph Wilson, Bill O'Reilly and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Published October 16, 2003 9:48PM (EDT)

[Read "'A True American Hero,'" by David Talbot.]

Thank you for this interview with Joseph Wilson. Since his Op-Ed in the New York Times that sparked the yellowcake controversy, I've been reading a great deal on Wilson and his career. At every turn, he has been incredibly impressive, and consummately diplomatic, displaying a great strength of character. As we saw with Rudy Giuliani after 9/11, publicized adversity can bring great men and women to the public's attention, but only intelligence and integrity can keep them in the spotlight.

I hope that the investigation into this administration's criminal acts against Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is successful, and I have one more hope: that Wilson seeks elected office as a representative of the Democratic Party. Until a few days ago, I had a "dream ticket" in my head for 2004; I've changed that roster. Is www.DraftJoeWilson.com up for grabs?

-- Chris Lepley

The fact that a man of Joseph Wilson's integrity must endure the questioning of his character (from the oh-so honorable chairman of the Republican National Committee, no less!) is a terrible reminder of the fractured political discourse in this country. Wilson is a reminder of the most noble of American ideals, the idea that there is no contradiction between supporting your country in her time of need and helping her acknowledge and mend her mistakes when she has slipped up. It's little wonder that Ed Gillespie has been trying to smear him; Wilson actually stands for something greater than the win-at-any-cost rhetoric that the modern RNC specializes in.

This whole incident has never been about Iraq and what the Bush administration did or did not tell us. This is about the relentless and ruthless attempts by Ed Gillespie, Karl Rove, and Co. to ensure that all Americans stay "on message." Heaven forbid we become apprehensive and/or distrustful when our president lies about his reasons for engaging our country in war. Oh no, it's better to remain in a state of perpetual fear, indebted to our president for "protecting" us from all the evil that exists out there (and seeing what's going on in Iraq these days, I'm not sure how protected I truly am). To question is to expose cracks in the system, cracks that Gillespie and Rove wish we would ignore and overlook so that their boy can have another four years in office.

Wilson's "mistake" was that his sense of decency and fairness were more important to him than Rove and Gillespie's idea of loyalty. He thought it was more important that the American people know what was actually taking place than being fed a sugarcoated representation of reality. It might not be in Gillespie and Rove's interest to confront these ideals of character, but their loss is our country's gain. Joseph Wilson's courage has made this country a better place, I have no doubt about that.

On the RNC Web site, one can access a rather pious document entitled "The Republican Oath." One section includes the following statement, one that supposedly should be adhered to by all Republicans. It reads: "I believe that good government is based on the individual and that each person's ability, dignity, freedom and responsibility must be honored and recognized."

It's a nice idea. Too bad Ed Gillespie and Karl Rove are willing to sell their own ideals out in the name of political revenge. That said, I can't wait to see how this letter goes over in the Department of Homeland Security. If Gillespie and Rove are willing to go on the offensive against a dedicated public servant, what's stopping them from coming after a lowly college student like me? Besides my ACLU membership, I mean.

-- Westby Mize

[Read the most recent "Right Hook," by Mark Follman.]

I listened to the full interview of Bill O'Reilly by Terry Gross on NPR. I'm no big fan of O'Reilly, but I must admit that I agree with him on this. The interview had very little to do with his book. Gross was mostly trying to get his reaction to passages from Al Franken's book about him. If Bill agreed to appear on NPR to discuss his book, he had a right to be angry.

On a subsequent show, Gross revisited the interview and read the part of the People magazine article that she wanted O'Reilly to comment on. It was not significant and certainly not worth insisting it be used in her interview over O'Reilly's objections.

-- Larry Scanlan

I listened to the entire "Fresh Air" interview and am astonished at O'Reilly's behavior at the end. He said he'd spent 50 minutes defending himself against defamation, but most of the interview was about his childhood and his dad -- about who Bill O'Reilly is and how he came to be who he is now. There were parts addressing Franken's book and O'Reilly had nothing but prevarication and lies in rebuttal. As soon as he came to something where he didn't have a prepared story, he ran away.

-- Stefan Krzywicki

It should be noted that while this long interview was contentious, it was also civil and O'Reilly did get to talk about his book and his own view of himself for much of it. The tone changed when O'Reilly must have known that the allotted time for the interview was running short, and he calculatedly turned things ugly so he could martyr himself for his fans by walking off. A sense of humor would have nicely parried Gross's challenges, but she was right that O'Reilly resorted to bullying, as those who listen to the NPR archive can now hear.

Still, I was disappointed with Gross's fumbling response -- and it proves how little threat O'Reilly faced from her "hatchet job." The next day, he was opportunistically calling for withdrawal of public funding for NPR.

-- David Irwin

Bill O Reilly's blowup on "Fresh Air" sounded rehearsed, as if he were reading from a teleprompter. His tantrum was obviously carefully planned to prevent Gross from reading any unflattering reviews and then having to respond to them. These spoiled right-wing blatherers have been indulged too long -- and even the most indulgent parent should reach the end of his or her patience eventually.

-- Corrine Hunter

Just letting you know: I love "Right Hook." It sure shortens up my regular, though agonizing, forays into the sweaty armpit of the American right. Thanks for doing that dirty work for me.

-- Peter MacKay

[Read "The Moviegoing Voter," by Cary Tennis.]

Reactions on the left to Arnold's triumph leave me unimpressed -- disparagement of the voters, talk of moving to Alabama, and endless predictions of disaster.

I voted against the recall and for Bustamante, and I phone-banked in support of those choices. But, come on. Even if Arnold were simply Dubya with more muscles he would still have to deal with an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress. He wasn't elected king.

And Arnold isn't Dubya. He ran as a moderate. Perhaps he will be one. Democratic leaders have given rather positive reports of their initial conversations with him. One remarked that Arnold's policy ideas may face more opposition from his own party than from Democrats. In fact, Arnold could be free to pursue more liberal policies than Davis (like, say, his notion of developing a hydrogen economy) because he will be less vulnerable to being labeled a "liberal."

The greatest danger of this election is that Arnold could become a puppet for the extreme-right political machines of Dubya and Pete Wilson. But I'm not convinced that he actually wants that role. There was something deeply innocent and sincere in his reaction to winning the election -- like he really believes he is going to rush on set in Sacramento and save the budget from bureaucratic bloat, while protecting the children, and the little people, and inclusively representing the whole of California in all its wonderful diversity.

At that moment I felt almost sorry for him. I suspect he has many rude awakenings in his future, not the least being the vengefulness of the social conservatives that rule the modern Republican Party. The fact is, he would never have won his party's nomination in the normal election cycle.

The role of liberals now, I believe, is to take his moderate message and run with it. Hold him to it and work with him. Provide a foil to the undoubtedly bad advice he will be hearing from some on the right.

Of course the other thing liberals must do now is figure out why they couldn't put a compelling candidate on the ballot.

-- Brian Craft

California got its action-figure governor. Already many Republican notables stand ready to help, and Bush has extended his hand, despite his own enormous problems. Clearly big money talks in California and throughout America.

Personally, I could have thought of better things to do with Issa's $1.7 million used to launch the recall effort, not to mention the $58 million of taxpayer money (squandered in this election) that could have addressed: homelessness, health care, education and a looming drug problem, for starters. Was it really anger that motivated voters, or were they beguiled by the cameras, lights, action and the star-studded performance this brought? At the cost of speaking in generalities, the American electorate seems to have a preference for personalities over character, and dazzle versus an honest appraisal of the issues. It also appears the Republican Party's top tier does a good job on its lower tier. Playing on fears of the more deprived Republicans lulls these souls into believing their interests are being served, too. It is clear: We are soaring into uncharted territories in California, possibly with repercussions of biblical proportions. With a team made up of Bush, and now Gov. Arnold, What's next, the collapse of California and the decline of America?

I recently heard a local reporter state that only 20 percent of the public reads editorials anymore. Could it be because cartoons are easier to comprehend? I commend those in the local media whose coverage and analysis, throughout this disgraceful period in California's history, went against popular sentiment and offered a sense of direction for discerning voters.

I can only hope some part of our Legislature will remember that a sizable number of Californians (44.6 percent) voted no on the recall. It's true, the election and the circus that led to it are history. However, the serious repercussions that could return to haunt us are not. Despite how amusing our predicament appears to the rest of the nation, millions of Californians do not find political sabotage funny. I hope we can recover and stop being manipulated and, above all, get the star dust out of our eyes.

-- Lara DeLuz

By Salon Staff

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