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Rough Talk in the Campaign

August 14, 2004

I agree with Ronald Brownstein in his column ("American Needs an Antidote to the Election's Partisan Venom," Aug. 9) that it's nice that we seem to be much more excited about this election than we were in 2000. But I disagree with his conclusion that "the differences between Bush and Kerry are policy disagreements, not moral failings." If things were that simple, people wouldn't be getting as excited as they are.

President Bush's efforts to cut taxes while the budget deficit mounts, gut environmental protection in spite of scientific consensus about global warming, preemptively invade Iraq when he could just as easily have waited until the weapons inspectors finished their job, secretly collude with energy providers to determine our energy policy and ignore impending baby-boom Social Security payments that are soon to be due and payable cannot be considered anything but moral failings.

These policy decisions are based on a moral (or amoral) foundation, and that's why people are getting so excited.

Michael Zonta

San Francisco

Brownstein's view on current political vitriol is probably accurate. But he takes the wrong angle on allegations made against Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. There is plenty of evidence to enable the public to judge Michael Moore's accusations in "Fahrenheit 9/11," and Brownstein obviously reviewed this evidence before he concluded that portions of Moore's movie are "loopy and crude."

Brownstein then points to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as an example of the same on the political right. Maybe Brownstein's right about this too, but he states his conclusion without seeming to have reviewed the evidence presented by Kerry's accusers. I saw some of those Swift boat guys speaking out last weekend. It is obvious they are no friends of Kerry, but it's also obvious they are not professional politicians. The serious accusations they make, if true, certainly reflect on Kerry's qualifications to lead our country. And more important, they, not Brownstein or Sen. John McCain, were actually on that Vietnamese river.

Kerry made his service record a centerpiece at the Democratic convention. By doing so, he also made it fair game for his critics. Kerry could help matters by releasing his entire military record and addressing the issue. The media could help by doing the same intensive investigation that they so vigorously pursued when Bush's military service was questioned by the left.

Edmund M. Aleks

Pacific Palisades

Brownstein calls for but unfortunately fails to propose an antidote to extreme election partisanship. Instead of going after Moore, who supports neither Democrats nor Republicans, Brownstein should cite the partisan rhetoric of Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor," which regularly and deliberately slanders individuals, political ideologies and entire countries in a Hitler-esque manner. One obvious antidote is to reinstate the FCC's "equal time" rule.

Michael Haas

Los Angeles

The huge sums of money being given to candidates for mayor by contractors and developers with business in City Hall ("Race Brings Donor Issues to Fore," Aug. 8) show that a change is desperately needed. Our current partial public financing system of campaigns used to be the pride of the nation, but investigations by federal prosecutors into "pay to play" allegations at City Hall show that an obsolete system that requires candidates to get nearly 80% of their campaign funds from private sources is ripe for abuse.

Los Angeles and California need a full "clean money" public financing system instead. Candidates should be making news based on their stands on the issues, not on how much special-interest money they raise.

Trent Lange

Vice President, California Clean Money Campaign

Los Angeles

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