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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

The Dominance of Politics

June 14, 2003

Neal Gabler's "Bush's Scorched-Earth Campaign" (Opinion, June 8) should be required reading for all Americans. By exploiting national fears after 9/11, President Bush's advisors have quickly moved America toward a one-party system with fundamentalist Christian overtones. Not even FDR was given this much leeway in a crisis: Despite his immense popularity, Roosevelt's National Recovery Administration was rejected by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. Moreover, Congress slapped the president down when he attempted to pack the court for political ends.

The democratic system of checks and balances was alive and well in the 1930s; in 2003, it is all but dead. Presidential advisor Karl Rove's agenda may be legal. But that does not excuse the media for swallowing it whole, nor the Democratic Party for its embarrassingly halfhearted efforts in mounting an opposition.

Bonnie Sloane

Los Angeles

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Several thoughts that occurred while reading Gabler's article: Does Gabler still sleep with the light on because of the boogeymen under the bed? As humans, we tend to criticize in others that which we dislike most about ourselves. Gabler has discovered the shocking fact that political parties tend to act in their own best interest. Shall I alert the media?

Dennis Surak

Fullerton

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To suggest that the Bush administration created the marriage of policy and politics is laughable. What does Gabler think Teddy Roosevelt was doing with antitrust policy during a Populist era? Or FDR with the New Deal? Or LBJ with the Great Society? They were carving out constituencies to win elections -- it's called smart politics, and yes, it often leads to bad policies.

Rove is a political operative, as was James Carville before him, and Roger Ailes and Lee Atwater before him. Rove's sin is that he's good at his job.

If one accepts that good government in a liberal (as opposed to tyrannical) society helps people help themselves, then a test for good policy is how much does it displace private resources with public resources (e.g., day care for parental care) -- the less the better -- and whether there is a sunset provision (i.e., does it really solve the problem?). Most policies fail this test miserably.

It seems to me that the Republicans would like us to be economically dependent on the corporation and the Democrats would prefer we be dependent on the federal government. How about neither?

Michael Harrington

Santa Monica

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I agree with Gabler that Bush's policies are nothing more than preemptive strikes at his perceived political enemies. But I think he's missing the even larger picture. It's not just the Democratic Party Bush sees as a potential threat to the religious and corporate interests he represents; it's the entire middle class.

Steve Boulanger

Irvine

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Kudos to Gabler for clearly articulating the ruthless sociopathy at the heart of Rove's political agenda. What makes many on the Bush team so dangerous is their rampant narcissism. Like Bill Clinton, they apparently lack any capacity for shame or self-doubt -- but these people should engender far more fear in us. They appear to have only one bottom line, and that is a Nixonian craving for absolute power -- which, as we all know by now, tends to corrupt absolutely.

Harry Shannon

Studio City

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Re "Democrats Will Have to Hop Onto Security Wagon," Opinion, June 8: Americans overwhelmingly believe, according to Laurence J. Hass and Richard Klein, that the Republican Party will best keep them safe. Safe from what? Safe from rogue nations? Safe from international terrorist groups? Safe from independent terrorist cells hiding in America? Safe from evil enemies of America, liberty, democracy or whatever the popular media decide to invent?

How many Americans were harmed in the past year by a foreign group here in America? I didn't read or hear of any. Yet how many Americans were killed by other Americans here in America just last week? I can't answer that question, as I do not read or hear about it. That's not for lack of trying.

Washington annually spends billions of dollars on the military but asks local authorities to keep a lookout for terrorists and largely ignores the terrorism that is happening in our cities every day. Americans are not being terrorized by foreigners but by other Americans. Local law enforcement agencies are weakened when their attention is focused on national defense rather than local problems. They are further hindered by budget shortfalls and their own city councils, as were the police in L.A. ("A Thinner Blue Line," Opinion, June 8).

I ask the powers that be and the overwhelming majority of Americans who believe that the Republicans will keep us safe to please worry not so much about foreigners but turn their attention to domestic problems.

Tom Ciril

Long Beach

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