Mail Call: Is Bill an Asset or Liability for Hillary?

Readers had decidedly mixed reactions to the prospect of an ex-president's spouse running for the White House, the subject of our May 28 cover story. One Clintons fan, who looked forward to a Hillary presidency, wrote, "I believe our Bill will be a smart and wise helpmate." Most agreed that Bill Clinton casts a large shadow over his wife. "One thing I know is that Hillary is a very smart woman. She knows Bill is the biggest asset to her campaign. She also knows once elected, he could become her greatest liability," one said. For another reader, a possible win resonates this way: "A vote for Hillary is a vote for up to 16 years of Bill Clinton. Some may think that's a good thing, but it treads heavily on the concept of term limits." And one pondered the implications for her running mate. "Can you imagine what it would be like to be the vice president in a Hillary and Bill administration?"

Looking at how former president Bill Clinton would affect a Hillary Clinton presidency is compelling ("His New Role," May 28). The relevant question one would ask is: do you feel better about the way the country is going now as opposed to the Clinton years? There is much to be said about the economic expansion and the other accomplishments of Bill Clinton's administration. Policy matters are much more important than personal issues, and I for one would love to go back to those days after what the Bush administration has done to our country.
Steven M. Clayton
Ocean, N.J.

I am a Democrat, but more important, I am an American. I support a presidential candidate who focuses on bringing America back together, rebuilding from the divisiveness created over the past six years. I remember the '90s as the longest economic-growth period in American history, with a debt surplus, a stronger middle class, peace and world admiration of our president and country. I remember the Dayton peace accords and peace in the Balkans. I remember peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, with the United States leading the way. I was in downtown Oklahoma City when the Murrah Federal Building was bombed and I sang onstage during the memorial service when President Clinton spoke to the nation and the world. I remember our nation's coming together and FEMA's taking immediate action, and our city and citizens being cared for. This is the era I remember and yearn for again—and I believe Hillary will make it happen, with the help of Bill. This is truly two for the price of one!
John Zimmerman
Tulsa, Okla.

I turned 18 in October 1984 and was very proud to cast my first vote, for Geraldine Ferraro as vice president on the Mondale/Ferraro ticket. A short leap from vice president to president seemed certain. I never would have dreamed it would take 24 years for a woman to be on that ticket again. While I certainly believe a female president is long overdue, I am sad to say that I don't believe Hillary Clinton will be it. While she certainly has the ambition, intellect, political experience and money to win, she also has many polarizing traits. Why should I vote for Hillary? From a feminist perspective, any woman who stays married to a man who lied about an extramarital affair can hardly be admired. And from a political perspective, Bill Clinton's baggage will drag Hillary down. Will every move she makes be compared with those of her husband? Unfortunately, yes. Finally, will voters in Middle America be willing to elect a woman to the White House? From my perspective here in Wisconsin, the answer is yes—as long as she's not Hillary. There must, and should be, other qualified women out there willing to run.
Noreen Smith
Neenah, Wis.

Bill and Hillary Clinton are portrayed as together but they are actually on parallel tracks—not the same track—to return to the White House. And they have different goals: Hillary to make history, Bill to return to the limelight and strengthen his legacy. Hillary is described as tough. But she is scripted with prearranged and packaged appearances allowing only pre-approved questions. Tough people are not scripted. They take action, lead others and influence situations through the strength of their personalities. With her scripted style could Hillary face up to world leaders, a divided Congress or China with nuclear ambitions?
Calvin W. Vraa
Bloomington, Minn.

All Those in Favor of Hillary

Anna Quindlen's assessment of Sen. Hillary Clinton's woman problem fell short of identifying the real reason the response to her candidacy has been so guarded ("The Brand New and Same Old," May 28). It's not that we think Clinton is calculating, unapproachable, too ambitious, too polished, lacks authenticity or is no fun to have a beer with. Women are uncomfortable with a woman who is so comfortable with compromise. We think it's important to hold on to our ideals and those high standards Quindlen mentions. We still want a president who will turn the whole lousy system inside out and upside down. And we are sure Senator Clinton won't be the one to do that.
Nancy Petersen
Shady Side, MD.

Anna Quindlen is right. We are electing a president not a drinking buddy. But I do not know of anyone who has voted for a president because he was someone that he would like to have a beer with. The mainstream media came up with that rationale for voting for a president in 2000 in order to justify their support of George Bush, in the same way that voters were once asked if they would buy a used car from Richard Nixon. The truth is, most people vote for the candidate who they believe is most capable of enacting their own political priorities.
Reba Shimansky
New York, N.Y.

Your May 28 issue, with its "My Turn" article " 'I'm Sorry' Shouldn't Be the Hardest Words," arrived just as my husband sat shiva after the passing of his father. I was once again filled with gratitude for the ancient wisdom of the Jewish tradition, which provides a structured framework for grief. Mourners stay at home for a week, while members of the community come to comfort them. Comforters are instructed to remain silent until the mourner speaks and to follow his or her emotional cues. A full array of customs and traditions supports the mourner from the death and through the stages of grief, and makes remembrance a part of nearly every holiday season. There is so much denial of mortality and grief in modern American culture. Jess Decourcy Hinds has done a service with her article. I was very sorry to hear of her tragic loss and wish her true support through the lifelong process of mourning and healing.
Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan
Chico, Calif.

I agree with Jess Decourcy Hinds that no one wants to let you grieve for the loss of a loved one. My wife was only 56 when she died of ovarian cancer. She battled it for seven years, but in the end it won. The last four months of her life were spent bedridden at home. I cry for her because the last months were very painful for her and I could do nothing to alleviate the pain. She has been with the Lord now for just over a year, and it seems like no one misses her but me. I just wish someone could say they're sorry and that they miss her, too.
Robert F. Illig
Carrolltown, Pa.

Unlike Jess Decourcy Hinds, who took exception to some of the comments from people following the death of her father, after the deaths of my father, mother and husband, I was grateful to hear from anybody. It didn't matter what they wrote or said. The fact that they thought about me was a comfort. Though some may have made what seemed like strange comments, I was nevertheless moved that they cared enough to reach out to me.
Barbara C. Bernard
Holyoke, Mass.

What Goes Into Making a High School Great

Thank you for recognizing that there is more to successful high schools than a standardized test score ("Why They Are the Best," May 28). Sometimes the measure of a school's success cannot be compared by the test scores the students receive. A successful high school serves the needs of its community and propels the students to the highest level they can achieve. In some schools that means also sheltering them from harm and helping them withstand a less than stable life. In an inner-city school like Oak Ridge High School, where I teach, I measure part of my success by the number of students who make a better and more positive choice in their lives. I celebrate the learning gains, or how far they progress, during their time with me. We receive students who are much farther behind grade level than a lot of schools. In the end, our students may have lower test scores, but they travel a lot farther to get there and even farther by graduation. As faculty, we work this magic while mentoring and cultivating many more aspects of their lives than teachers in more-affluent schools would even dream of.
Keith S. Kolbo
Orlando, Fla.

I read your "Top 100 High Schools" package and thought Hallelujah! Someone is finally pointing out that when urged to meet high standards, students will rise to meet the challenge. As a college educator, I see students increasingly coming in with a sense of entitlement—that education is a right rather than a privilege, and therefore it should be given to them without their having to earn it. Sadly, these students do not realize that the only ones they are cheating is themselves; for the knowledge they will retain best is the knowledge they have worked to gain. What if we allowed (indeed, even encouraged) any student to enroll in AP courses? As news-week pointed out, passing the test at the end might be less important than what the students learn about learning.
Krista Miller
Oklahoma City, Okla.

While the schools on your "best high schools" list clearly deserve kudos, there is no perfect formula for determining that excellence. The American tradition of attempting to educate all children means that, given the same number of AP, IB and Cambridge courses successfully completed, a school with a very low dropout rate would necessarily score lower on the scale. That, too, may show excellence. The article is to be commended for making the public aware of the relatively recent surge in the offerings of such courses. None of these was available 18 years ago when I retired from my high school, where there are many disadvantaged students. Our public schools are not the failure many perceive them to be.
Wayne I. Myers
Palm Springs, Calif.

I agree with Jay Mathews that we should recognize schools that trust their students with challenging work, and test programs like AP and IB certainly reflect this ethic. However, I'm concerned that AP and IB have overshadowed an equally important quality in schools: adequate and thorough teaching. Like many schools across the nation, my old high school has dramatically expanded its AP course offerings, and even replaced some regular honors courses with AP equivalents. The problem? Student schedules are so packed with APs that they don't allot for the time and background knowledge necessary to prepare for the exams. AP and IB may make a school system more "demanding," but they hardly make it more "supportive."
Brian Johnson
Haverford, Pa.

In "Innocent Until ... When?" (May 28), we reported a comment from the head of the Cook County Sex Crime Unit that "the people who are really suffering [from the delay in Kelly's criminal trial] are the victims." While there have been other allegations concerning Kelly's sexual conduct with young women, the open Cook County criminal case involves only one alleged victim. In that case, Kelly faces 14 charges involving child pornography; in 2004, prosecutors dropped seven of the original charges.