• U.S.

Letters: Oct. 18, 2004

11 minute read

>>TIME’s cover headline “Who Owns the Truth?” drew strong reactions from readers, many of whom rejected the inquiry out of hand [Sept. 27]. “What kind of question is that?” asked a Pennsylvanian. “Truth isn’t about ownership; it’s an obligation. You in the media need to start reporting the truth, or you will end up like the dinosaurs–extinct.” A Canadian wrote, “Your question points to what is deeply wrong in the U.S.–the overblown attention given to the messenger to the detriment of the message. Real debate over serious issues is lost as reporters sell their souls for scoops and scandals.” And a Californian grimly observed, “There’s no such thing as truth anymore–red state, blue state or otherwise. There’s only spin.”

Who Owns the Truth?

“Journalists should be advocates for truth, not a bunch of ‘he said, she said’ stenographers just writing things down.”

HENRY PERRIN Vashon Island, Wash.

IT IS LAUGHABLE AND TRAGIC THAT CBS’S failure to authenticate documents affirming what we all already know about George W. Bush’s questionable National Guard duty would be used by some as proof of liberal bias in the media [Sept. 27]. If the media were truly leftist, they would be clamoring for the indictment of Bush and John Kerry for launching an illegal war on Iraq and for crimes against humanity perpetrated against Iraqis. CBS’s Dan Rather may be an idiot, but it’s an insult to true progressives to label him a leftist. He’s just one more in a line of celebrity journalists.


RATHER PUSHED SO HARD TO ACHIEVE the status of Walter Cronkite–the trusted conscience of America–that he jumped at the opportunity to be a part of history and lost sight of his duty to report the facts. Unfortunately, the history books aren’t reserved for heroes alone.

JEFF SPRINGS Santa Clarita, Calif.

WHILE IT WAS OBVIOUS THAT CBS AND Rather aired this story before they looked at their source closely enough, they should be commended for admitting their mistakes. Still, the story should not end there. Bush should come clean and let us know the truth about his military-service records.


PERHAPS RATHER CAN LEARN HOW EASY IT is for a good leader to act on bad information produced by a normally reliable staff. Rather and President Bush have more in common than the CBS anchor would probably like to admit.

BOB BAIMA Dunwoody, Ga.

EVERYONE IN THE U.S. IS BEING HELD TO a higher standard than the President. The same people who are so vehement in their criticism of CBS and Rather continue to overlook the fact that Bush took us into war on the basis of faulty intelligence. Rather has apologized. Bush has expressed no regrets. But nobody died as a result of the CBS program.

MARSHA BUDZ Boulder, Colo.

THE MEDIA CANNOT BE PERMITTED TO manipulate the outcome of a national election. The Justice Department must investigate how CBS attempted to sway public opinion with phony documents from the Texas Air National Guard.

JIM GAGLIOLO Clarkesville, Ga.

SINCE REPUBLICANS CAN NO LONGER blame the nation’s troubles on communists, Democrats in Congress or the White House, they attack the free press. Problems in Iraq? It’s because the media report only the bad news. Economic woes? It’s because the media do not acknowledge the recovery. The same goes for Bush’s record with the National Guard. Instead of answering the charges, Republicans attack the media for their coverage. And we still have no definitive answer to the question of whether Bush did his duty.


IT IS SHAMEFUL THAT U.S. VOTERS MUST make their decisions on the basis of lies, half-truths, accusations and innuendos. Our election process has turned into a dirty game. We have no confidence that our votes will even be counted. And we wonder why more citizens don’t vote!


Why Are We in Iraq?

AS A SOLDIER’S MOTHER, I SAY BRING the troops home from Iraq now. The American public was deceived by the Bush Administration about the reasons for the invasion of Iraq [Sept. 27]. And now our leadership is stubbornly adhering to a destructive course. Many Americans do not want our troops there. They are stuck in a quagmire largely of our government’s making. There ought to be honest and compelling reasons for the risks to our service members and for the hardships imposed on their families. The explanations given for the occupation of Iraq do not rise to that standard.

JOANN SOHL Palisades Park, N.J.

BEFORE THE INVASION OF IRAQ, THE U.S. was facing a far more dangerous world than anyone could conceive of. The 9/11 attacks were proof of that. What if Saddam Hussein had paid terrorists to explode a nuclear bomb in New York City? Anyone who believes that was not possible does not understand that rich, powerful killers like Saddam and Osama bin Laden do not respond to moral persuasion, international sanctions or reasoned arguments based on civilized precepts.


Political Reality or Fantasy?

JOE KLEIN’S COLUMN “BUSH’S IRAQ: A Powerful Fantasy” [Sept. 27] was accurate and frightening. It was scary not because President Bush is living in a fantasy world but because so many Americans are blindly following him. The Republican strategy to win this election is to incessantly spread fear. From NASCAR dads to security moms, the consensus seems to be that they don’t care whether Bush is lying to them. They will wrap themselves in that dishonesty like a security blanket because they want to feel safe. If parents want to truly protect their children, however, they should start acting like responsible adults and demand answers that have a basis in reality.


THIS ELECTION IS NOT ABOUT ASSIGNING blame but about who can best lead and protect the country going forward. Americans are aware all is not perfect in Iraq, but we also know where Bush stands and that he will at least confront threats to the U.S. What would Kerry have done in response to 9/11? Kerry’s problem is not that Bush has fooled the American people with some fantasy but that most voters don’t want to take a chance on Kerry.


To Withstand the Wind

AFTER READING ABOUT THE DAMAGE THAT recent hurricanes have caused in Florida and other coastal states [Sept. 27], I think we should set up stricter building codes in hurricane-prone areas. Those who wish to live in Hurricane Alley need to build houses that are more wind- and water-resistant so my tax dollars don’t have to subsidize federal insurance for their beachfront housing.

DOBB MAYO Holland, Mich.

I FEEL IMMENSE SORROW FOR THE HURricane victims in our coastal areas. I was stationed on the island of Okinawa in Japan for three years. The island regularly got hit with typhoons that caused only minimal damage. We did not evacuate; we had typhoon parties inside our houses and rode the storms out. Our structures were made of steel-reinforced concrete and had metal protection for the windows. The U.S. government should require stricter building codes in hurricane areas if inhabitants want continued monetary assistance from the U.S. government after a hurricane.


Provena Health Responds

WE WOULD LIKE TO RESPOND TO YOUR report “Sick of Hospital Bills” [Sept. 27], about class actions against hundreds of nonprofit hospitals. The reference to Joseph and Laverne Dumas’ suit against Provena Mercy Center in Aurora, Ill., included information that Provena disputes. Laverne Dumas claims that the hospital refused her offer to negotiate a payment plan. Provena maintains that its records show it offered a payment plan on two occasions that was refused. Additionally, the hospital maintains that its records show that Laverne Dumas, while a patient, was given a financial-assistance form and instructions on how to complete it. If the Dumases were to apply for financial assistance today, their claim would still be considered. Also, you reported that the state of Illinois revoked a tax exemption for one of our hospitals. The state’s decision was restricted to property taxes, and that issue is under appeal. Our hospitals treat everyone who comes to us, regardless of ability to pay–and this includes the Dumases. We provide millions of dollars in free or heavily discounted care to the uninsured every year.


Big and Fuel-Efficient

MICHAEL ELLIOTT’S WELCOME FEATURE on our report Winning the Oil Endgame [Sept. 27] had a headline, “Kicking the Big-Car Habit,” that did not correctly reflect the thesis of the team at Rocky Mountain Institute. We support Americans’ right to drive any type of vehicle they want, but we suggest they be offered safer and more fuel-efficient choices. Ultralight but ultrastrong materials now remove the contradiction between big and efficient: cars can be big but also light and safe, saving oil and lives without compromising comfort or pep. For example, a midsize SUV made of carbon fiber could cut fuel use 72%, and the vehicle’s extra cost could be repaid from fuel savings in about three years. Our proposals would expand car buyers’ range and freedom of choice and increase automakers’ profits and competitive strength.


YEARS AGO, CONSUMERS WERE WARNED that small cars were unsafe. I got a bigger car. Now I’m supposed to give up the safety of my SUV for the better mileage of a lighter car? No way. My wife and I worked long and hard to be able to afford a larger, safer car and we’re not about to give it up!

DOUGLAS LENT Citrus Heights, Calif

The New U.S. Ally

YOUR ITEM ABOUT HOW SYRIA AND THE U.S. are holding talks to try to keep insurgents from crossing Syria’s border into Iraq was both informative and amusing [Sept. 27]. President Bush famously said, “You are either with us or against us” in the war on terrorism, but by cooperating with Syria, a well-known harborer of terrorists and a suspected developer of weapons of mass destruction, Bush seems to have changed his mind. Sounds like a flip-flop to me.

WILLIAM PASS Kansas City, Kans.

IT IS FRIGHTENING TO THE CITIZENS OF A country when war and chaos are prevailing right outside its borders. Syria shares a long boundary with Iraq and is highly interested in having a stable Iraq. There is no basis for the charge some are making that Syrians back Iraqi terrorists and support them with weapons.


I’m O.K.; You’re an Idiot

JAMES PONIEWOZIK’S ESSAY “THE AGE OF iPod Politics,” about Americans’ ability to fashion their own insular world, was right on target [Sept. 27]. With the smorgasbord of available media coverage of presidential politics, we can see to it that even the news can be personalized to jibe with our own particular reality. America’s endless supply of niche media outlets has given us the option of selecting a news source that suits our specific political ideology, leaving us with a narrower perspective and a brazen contempt for opposing viewpoints. Individualism and dissent are the lifeblood of our democracy. We have to remember, however, that we are all in this together, and the cacophony of so many angry voices vilifying one another is stifling informed debate rather than promoting it.

TYLER P. BURKE New York City

ONE IRONY OF THE TECHNOLOGICAL AGE is how a plethora of choices has served to separate and isolate us. We have become electronic and ideological shut-ins. Nowhere is this willful know-nothingism more apparent than in the current political quagmire, in which candidates and their rabid supporters ferociously cleave to their ideological realities. It’s not only on Election Day that most of us will decide we don’t care what our neighbors think. As the U.S.’s pre-emptive war in Iraq has taught us to ask: What neighbors? The hell with them.

EDWARD C. PEASE Petersboro, Utah


More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com