Readers trying to size up the presidential candidates said they found our Aug. 2 cover story very helpful. "Thank you for your thoughtful, well-reasoned evaluation of John Kerry," one said. "As one of many disillusioned Republicans, I would rather vote for a serious, cautious politician who is flexible enough to change his mind about important issues than a cowboy with a 19th-century mind-set who is too quick on the trigger and shoots from the hip." Others were unimpressed. " 'In Search of John Kerry'? Good luck! A phantom is hard to find and impossible to define." But some defended the senator: "Where did the notion come from that candidates should be as simple and easy to know as sitcom characters?" asked one reader. Another said, "I can't help wondering what kind of negative story would be written about Lincoln if he were a candidate. He didn't seem to be comfortable in his skin. He didn't smile much. And that wife of his!"

The Roots of Kerry's Character

In October 1962 I was a young lieutenant commanding a tank platoon in Germany when the Cuban missile crisis broke ("In Search of John Kerry," Aug. 2). We were vastly outnumbered, staring across the East German border at the Soviet forces, fully expecting the shooting to start at any moment. Yet I can still remember that I felt confident in and proud of my commander in chief, fully believing he was looking out for me. A big part of it, I'm sure, was that I knew he had commanded men in battle and knew what it was all about. Fortunately, in President John F. Kennedy we had a leader with the knowledge, temperament and wisdom to deal with the complexities in the crisis at hand. He could see and seize creative alternatives that defended our country but didn't launch a war. I believe beyond a doubt that Sen. John F. Kerry has those same defining qualities and character as the earlier JFK. We now know that his opponent does not. That's why I'm voting for John Kerry.
Alan Fleishman
San Carlos, Calif.

Millions of Americans served honorably in Vietnam. I commanded a company of 200 such men for almost a year. I can recall vividly how I felt betrayed, frustrated and angry every time I read the frequent antiwar statements of Sen. J. William Fulbright. I wrote my wife that this noted American was encouraging the enemy, endangering those of us in Vietnam and spitting on the graves of those who died there. At the time, I had never heard of John Kerry. Today I know that Fulbright, Kerry and other antiwar activists brought dishonor to a multitude of serving Americans. This old soldier will never forget, or forgive.
Rowland R. Holcomb
Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Pensacola, Fla.

Of course John Kerry has traits that anyone looking closely enough could regard as contradictory; all real people do. And of course he has a strong ego. Name a president since Washington who hasn't had one.
Wayne Somers
Delanson, N.Y.

I am removing myself from "independent voter" status, and will be voting for John Kerry. I vowed not to vote for him, having been influenced by the big ado made of his "flip-flops." Yet I have been impressed by his courage in combat, and then the courage in his flip-flop to speak out against the unjust war in Vietnam. When a person makes a wrong decision, and it becomes evident, it is time to flip-flop. I was taken in by the lies regarding Iraq; I was in favor of a pre-emptive war to get Saddam before he gave WMD to terrorist groups or used them against us. I now realize how deceived we were by our president and vice president. There is no virtue in blind, stupid stubbornness (neither my nor our current administration's) and staying with an untenable position. I am flip-flopping.
Stewart Perry
Wayzata, Minn.

I am a 24-year-old college student cynical about politics. I may dislike Bush, but Kerry seems to stand for everything I hate about our leaders. I have heard few real plans toward making our country better. When I see how he contradicts himself (the one about whether he actually owns an SUV was my favorite example), I can't help but become more cynical. I can at least respect Bush for having guts and making hard choices. Your article only made me lean farther away from Kerry. I don't think popularity equals leadership, and I have never liked the results of pandering to the highest gross total of voters. Sadly, I see my undecided vote going to Ralph Nader, even though I know that he won't win. And I don't want another Democrat telling me that I am wasting my vote by giving it to Nader.
Samuel Zmolek
Parker, Colo.

If I believed that John Kerry is as completely self-absorbed and unduly impressed with money, clothes and position as you painted him, I could never vote for him. If I had any doubts about his character I would be convinced by the fact that his stepsons, who clearly adore their mother, have a great deal of affection and respect for him. Those are real family values.
Dorothy Aspinwall
Eureka, Calif.

I will not vote for John Kerry because he is Mr. Personality. I plan to vote for him because he is strong and principled. He thinks before he speaks.
Susan Buckner
Austin, Texas

Having just finished your article "The Solitary Soldier" on John Kerry, I can't wait to read a similarly critical piece on the incumbent, George W. Bush. William F. Weld's "Kerry 'Will Have It Both Ways' " made for a well-placed companion piece, too. The timing of your upcoming Bush backgrounder will not only greatly assist readers in deciding whom to vote for come Nov. 2 but also restore my confidence in your magazine's being nonpartisan.
Jos Backus
Sunnyvale, Calif.

In the spring of 1967, near Vietnam's Mekong Delta, I landed at a brigade headquarters to refuel and rearm my helicopter gunship after a combat sortie. I was parked next to a heartbreaking sight. Not 20 feet away were the bodies of 10 to 15 young Americans. They had been killed when their patrol was ambushed by the Viet Cong. This horrible image was burned into my consciousness forever and has now been joined by similar images from Iraq. I support John Kerry wholeheartedly because there is no question in my mind that with his intelligence and combat experience, he will never consider our finest young men and women as commodities to be expended in "pre-emptive" conflicts, and will treat the precious lives and limbs of our brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons and daughters with the respect they must deserve.
Rick Roll
Captain, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Chattanooga, Tenn.

In response to the William Weld statement that President Bush "should run proudly on his record [of] sound achievements in peace and prosperity at home," I would say that the war in Iraq is not peace and the net loss of 1.4 million jobs is not prosperity. If the statement is referring to peace at home, that is a result of the terrorists' not attacking us again, likely not due to any efforts by George W. Bush and his administration.
Dennis R. Burnside
Salem, Ore.

Older, Wiser and Retired

My husband of 53 years retired as vice chairman of a large Chicago bank 14 years ago, and I could identify with Jan Zeh's Aug. 2 My Turn, "The 'Golden Years' Are Beginning to Tarnish." The first two years of his retirement were a challenge. He had difficulty giving up the executive life for an unpaid, poorly defined position with no clout, and I grew frustrated by his newspapers, long naps and perpetual boredom. But then something wonderful happened. He got a life. A new life. He is a volunteer adviser at a large community foundation in Chicago, and raised more than $1 million to extend its outreach to our county. He is chairman of an agency that helps the homeless, serves on the board of the Nature Conservancy and has held leadership roles at his alma mater. My husband is sharing a career's worth of leadership and talents with his community. He is busier now than when he was working. A nap is a luxury and two papers a day a stretch. I would even welcome his company on an occasional trip to the "grocery store." The golden years tarnish only if you let them.
Mary Reusche
Lake Forest, Ill.

I say to Jan Zeh, look around you at the single, divorced and widowed women of all ages who would love to have a husband who can retire and drive them crazy all day. I can't believe the younger generation has to tell the older generation to be happy with what you have before it is taken away. Be glad he and you are healthy and have such problems!
Y. Geyer
Mt. Carmel, Tenn.

Reading the Aug. 2 My Turn saddened me. Jan Zeh could move beyond her self-absorption by volunteering at a school, nursing home or by offering child care to a harried mother. She might also visit a lonely widow or widower who likely could remind her how blessed she is to have her lifelong companion.
Jo Ann Rasmussen
Westminster, Colo.

My husband and I laughed till we were exhausted and had to go early for our obligatory afternoon nap when we read Jan Zeh's My Turn. While my adorable spouse of 62 years doesn't precisely fit every characterization in this wonderful piece, he comes pretty darned close. We both agree, though, that growing old ain't for sissies, and we're going to continue to negotiate the differences and keep on having fun.
Fernel Gilstrap Downing
Hanford, Calif.

My husband and I, both in our mid-50s and with personalities similar to the Zehs', want to thank Jan Zeh for her forthrightness and honesty. Her straightforward appraisal of their situation helps people deal with reality rather than suffer in isolation and shame when life is not all they expected. I could easily see our situation at retirement mirroring the Zehs'. This article sparked communication and brought an awareness into the issues we need to consider.
Janice Nunn
Garden City, Kans.

Jan Zeh's article was delightfully succinct and resulted in much robust laughter from all the women who read it in our office. We have the perfect solution for Jan: get a job (outside her home, of course--to maintain sanity) writing a column at a Houston paper titled: "Dear Jan," and become the "Dear Abby" for the senior set! With her wit, she will definitely be a hit.
Judy Patton
Irvine, Calif.

Having spent 35 years as a gerontologist, I have heard Jan Zeh's tale of woe hundreds of times. Many successful businessmen never take the time to develop any interests outside of their business lives. When they retire they are lost souls. They prepare for their retirement financially but forget about filling all those hours that they had spent working. It is never too late to develop hobbies both physical and mental. Physical activities can become problematic with age so Zeh should assist her husband in acquiring some new interests or face the consequences of having him joined at her hip.
Irma L. Hausdorff
Caroga Lake, N.Y.


In Tip Sheet's Aug. 2 "Back to College Edition" we misstated the name and price of one of the items. The T-Mobile Sidekick II will be available later this fall at the manufacturer's suggested retail price of $299. NEWSWEEK regrets the error.