Mail Call: Prince, Not Leader

Our year-end report on Rahul Gandhi led many readers to send in their own views on his ability as a future leader. One said, "A soft-spoken prince charming, he behaves like a foreign tourist." Wrote another, "It remains to be seen if he can emulate his father's leadership qualities."

I found your Dec. 25, 2006-Jan. 1, 2007, cover story about Rahul Gandhi, a person who has achieved nothing in life apart from being born to a successful political family, an atrocious choice of subject ("India's Crown Prince"). I shudder to think of a nonachiever, a mediocre person like Gandhi, heading anything whatever; yet this is now a tormenting possibility. India's claim of successful democracy is nothing but a façade if such undeserving people come into the limelight. After all, meritocracy is the soul of democracy, and exorcising the demons of feudalism should be essential in a developing country.

Bhupendra S. Manot

Kolkata, India

Rahul Gandhi's legendary background has helped him have an edge over his political rivals. But let us not harbor the illusion that he could morph into an able leader simply by virtue of his iconic political legacy. Great leaders are often shaped by hardships and the ironies of life--in this case, Rahul Gandhi's privileged upbringing has done nothing for him. Since most of the GenNext leaders have been unable to shake off their elite tastes, a huge rift exists between them and the ordinary citizens whom they wish to represent. By contrast, the ability of yesteryear's leaders to speak the language of the masses helped them strike a deep bond with the man on the street. Those who are supporting Gandhi--Congress Party sycophants rather than real well-wishers--have their own vested interests for doing so. They believe that Rahul's rise might be the lifeline for their sagging political careers.

Arvind K. Pandey

Allahabad, India

Ironically, even though he lacks any worthwhile political, social and cultural credentials, Rahul Gandhi's dynastic charisma has landed him on NEWSWEEK's cover even as you insinuate that Indians have an inborn weakness for dynastic rule and hero worship. But, ignorant of Indian history and culture, Gandhi never cared to see our vast country or get to know its people or its languages. A soft-spoken prince charming, he behaves like a foreign tourist. By contrast, his cousin Varun, Maneka Gandhi's son and the other great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, is every inch an Indian and is shaping up to assume a major political role. He knows India intimately at the grass-roots level and is connected with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

Sharad C. Misra

Mumbai, India

Given the sorry state of internal affairs of Indian political parties, it may not be difficult for Rahul Gandhi to occupy the highest executive post in the land. But there is a difference between occupying the prime minister's chair and becoming a leader in the truest sense. Gandhi is in the same position of privilege as his father was some 25 years back. But before he falls for the temptation of holding the reins of power, he ought to prove his credentials as a candidate with a difference by making public his stands on some of the burning issues in the country: corruption, criminalization of politics and the definition of secularism. So far, we haven't heard him address these grave issues that are threatening Indian democracy. All he's done is take digs at some political opponents. At the Hyderabad Congress Party session, he reportedly rebuffed some sycophants. (Sycophancy has been such a deep-rooted cultural malaise in the Congress Party that it could be compared to the worst personality cults of authoritarian and despotic regimes.) But politically, Rahul has simply concentrated on his parliamentary constituency; it would seem he is interested only in wresting power for his party in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Clearly, he's not the kind of visionary that one would expect a national leader to be.

R. K. Sudan

Jammu, India

For a nation that hero-worshiped Rajiv Gandhi, his son Rahul might seem a natural choice; and for the Congress Party, Rahul would be a worthwhile investment, as he commands enviable admiration from the masses. With so much diligent grooming, Rahul might also live up to his mother's expectations. But it remains to be seen if he can emulate his father's leadership qualities.

K. Chidanand Kumar

Bangalore, India

Your assumption that Serbia's "malodorous preamble" to its new Constitution--declaring Kosovo a "constituent part of Serbia's territory"--will be "snuffed out as soon as Kosovo is cut loose" fails to appreciate how much the overwhelming approval of Serbs was an affirmation of Kosovo's significance as the spiritual and cultural heart of their nation ("Dealing With Serbia," Nov. 6). Should the international community attempt to forcibly detach Kosovo from Serbia, further expecting Serbia's government to disregard its Constitution and the views of its own citizens, efforts by Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica to nurture a state based on democracy and the rule of law would be seriously undermined. If, as the U.S. Institute of Peace's Daniel Serwer says, "the big question is how to get the Serbs to accept it," then the discussion over Kosovo's independence is over. The Serbian government and its citizens have absolutely no intention of allowing the detachment of Kosovo and the creation of an Islamic rogue state in Europe. Furthermore, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 guarantees the territorial integrity of Serbia with respect to Kosovo, which has been part of Serbia since before the establishment of the former Yugoslavia. Moreover, as long as rampant criminality and organized crime--including the trafficking of women, drugs and weapons--as well as jihadist terrorist elements and the unabated Muslim Albanian violence against Christian Serbs and their holy places continue, the international community must end this unwise path to Kosovo's independence. If the United Nations and NATO have been unable to stem the Albanian violence against non-Albanians, how would Kosovo's independence accomplish this once the terrorists and organized-crime kingpins are empowered as a new "government"? How would the war on terror and respect for human rights and international standards be served by allowing jihadists to complete their efforts to eradicate Kosovo's Christian Serbian community?

James George Jatras

Washington, D.C.

Serbia is an independent sovereign state, and nobody has any right to cut it into pieces, not even Martti Ahtisaari from Finland and his group--all hostile to Serbia--the EU or the United Nations. They need to be honest, neutral and approved by both Serbs and Albanians. While they are all deeply pro-Albanian, they do not know Kosovo's Albanians, who were never invited to occupy the cradle of Serbs. They have been terrorizing Serbs and expelling them at gunpoint for decades. We Serbs are not a minority in our country. We are ready to give them full autonomy controlled by international organizations. Albanians have proportionally more children than any other nation. Kosovo has always been Serbian; it has never been an Albanian Muslim state. Unlike Albanians, we were pro-Western in both world wars. We like Finland and all the free world. But unlike foreigners, we know our history, our old culture.

Svetislav B. Kolarovic

Hirsila, Finland

How very silly of the Serbs not to acquiesce in constitutionally giving up Kosovo. But why is there no mention of the West's original demand that Kosovo's Albanians exhibit civilized standards of behavior prior to discussion of the province's status? The Albanians, having won outright, were expected to accept the return of the many Serbs, Roma and other non-Albanians whom they expelled during the early days of the NATO occupation and to stop harassing those Serbs who stayed behind. The subsequent decision to ditch "standards before status" is to appease the Albanians in their nonnegotiable demand for an independent and ethnically pure Kosovo. So much for Gen. Wesley Clark's comment during NATO's bombing of Serbia: "There is no place in modern Europe for ethnically pure states. That's a 19th-century idea and we are trying to transition into the 21st century, and we are going to do it with multiethnic states." There was, to add to the irony, no ethnic cleansing in Kosovo prior to NATO's bombing.

Yugo Kovach

Twickenham, England

The explosion of the Mark Foley scandal caused many Christian Republicans to rethink their political standing ("For the Faithful, a Trying Time," Oct. 16). But why did they wait so long? President Bush and the Republican Party are responsible for countless sorrows overseas due to the administration's ill-advised Iraq invasion. And still, many Christians continue to cling to the party as the "champion of family values." Surprise, America: simply wearing the elephant suit will not make us an ethical country. When we vote, we vote not only for ourselves but for the world. Losing the façade of moral justification, we are left to face the issues of government as they truly are.

Greg Coles

Bandung, Indonesia

Republicans said that they wanted to get to the bottom of the Mark Foley sex scandal and that they would not try to cover it up. Well, then, why were the Foley hearings held behind closed doors? When they were roasting former president Bill Clinton, they did it on live TV and made it as public as possible. But when it comes to their sex scandal, we do not get to see that. Foley was co-chair of the Exploited Children's Caucus while he was trying to have sex with underage boys. But then with Foley hiding out in an alcohol-rehab center and the investigation hidden away till after the elections, Republicans were hoping that voters would soon forget it.

Marc Perkel

San Bruno, California

Some of the furor that surrounded Mark Foley's predatory sexual behavior reflects the ambivalence and hypocrisy that have characterized American attitudes regarding religion and sex from the very beginning, from the Salem witch hunts through the Founding Fathers and the Ken Starr inquisition. While NEWSWEEK rightly points out that 97 percent of predatory sex is perpetrated by males against females, many so-called Christian Americans consider homosexuals to be more prone to such behavior than heterosexuals. They consider homosexuals as perverse. When will such Americans grow up and accept the fact that not everybody is made the same way, but that doesn't mean these aren't decent, moral people? Everyone knows the mayor of Paris is a homosexual, and nobody considers that to be an issue. The only issue is whether he is a good mayor or not. (Of course, he doesn't prey on young people.) If homosexuality were accepted as being just one of the many variations of nature, there would be more honesty and clarity in American political and religious life. And a lot more Christian charity.

Jef Westing

Isle Sur La Sorgue, France

Foley's reprehensible behavior and the Republican leadership's inaction are part of a pattern of obscene abuse of power by Republicans, beginning with the president and vice president. This administration has systematically weakened the protections and the balance of power set down in the Constitution, violated the Geneva Conventions, ignored the separation of church and state, and defiled the environment. Its most catastrophic offense has been the criminal war of aggression in Iraq, based on lies and arrogance. It has killed and maimed many Americans and thousands of innocent Iraqis. The outcome of all this agony and destruction, according to our own and British intelligence agencies, has been to increase terrorism, destabilize the region and produce unprecedented hatred and fear of the United States across the globe. It's time for Americans to wake up and kick the bums out.

Diana Arezzo

Arlington, Massachusetts

Even amid his humiliation, disgraced House page chaser Mark Foley proved himself to be a skilled manipulator ("A Secret Life," Oct. 16). Caught red-handedly pursuing online sex with boys, he said all the right things to pave the way for a return to civilized society: claiming to be an alcoholic, to have suffered from behavior problems (obviously) and to have been molested by a cleric as a teen. Voilà: he's transformed himself from a child predator to a sympathetic figure. We should avoid any impulse to show sympathy to a man who knew he was doing something wrong and who cast yet another black eye on Congress.

Oren M. Spiegler

Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania

So it took a sexual predator to make us question our leadership? Lies about WMD and thousands of U.S. and Iraqi deaths were not enough. Nor was Abu Ghraib, a multibillion-dollar no-bid Halliburton contract, the denial of glob-al warming, tax breaks for the wealthy, 47 million uninsured citizens, Katrina's aftermath, the outing of a CIA agent, nor a declaration from 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that the Iraq war has increased terrorism. These weren't enough to call into question the party of morality?

Steve Kronen

Winter Park, Florida

Let us not lose sight of the fact that Congressman Mark Foley preyed on teenage boys who were away from home and their parents, all while he was chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. They were there to learn and do a job, not to be ogled and flirted with by a perverted old man. The fact that Republicans covered up the story is reprehensible--and this from the party that champions moral values?

Connie Purdy

Owings Mills, Maryland

I'm one of Sacha Baron Cohen's many victims ("Behind the Schemes," Oct. 16). Because his handlers told me he was Borat Sagdiyev, "a TV journalist from Kazakhstan," I booked him for a live studio interview on our news show in Jackson, Mississippi, thinking he was a legitimate reporter. I checked out his company's Web site and met his publicist--both seemed genuine. But once the camera was on him, Cohen destroyed our credibility. Because of him, I lost my job. Now I'm thousands of dollars in debt. How upsetting that a man who leaves so much harm in his path is lauded as a comic genius.

D. A. Arthur

Panama City, Florida