Mail Call: Debating Hillary

Readers of our March 17 cover story on Hillary Clinton's historic campaign were divided. One wrote, "I got choked up reading your essays." Another asked, "What's with all these love letters?" A third said, "At 18, I had voted for Hillary. Later, I beseeched her to oppose the Iraq War … she did the opposite."

Hillary and America ' s Women
I'm a 38-year-old female executive who is embarrassed to admit that I cannot remember the last time I voted ("What Women Want," March 17). Recently, I've been eagerly anticipating primary results, feeling a surge of solidarity when watching Tina Fey on "Saturday Night Live" and getting choked up while reading your essays about Hillary Clinton, especially the one titled "Just Leave Your Mother Out of It." Perhaps our historical voter lethargy was due more to the lack of a personal connection than disgust with the political status quo. Regardless of the outcome of this Democratic primary season, I hope this mini-revolution continues to inspire our nation to stay involved.
Careen Yapp
Woodland Hills, California

What is with all the love letters to Hillary? I should be a part of her natural constituency, as I am white, 56, struggling to make $40,000 a year and a feminist. It is not an antiwoman backlash that has cost Senator Clinton; it's the sleazy nature of her campaign. Not a week goes by that I'm not appalled by its tenor: her spokesman essentially says, "We won't bring up Sen. Barack Obama's drug use but the Republicans will"; Bill Clinton makes not-so-subtle racist remarks in South Carolina; Hillary says that Obama might be qualified to be her vice president. And then there are Geraldine Ferraro's statements. I'm an alternate delegate to the Colorado state convention for Barack Obama, and if Hillary Clinton receives the nomination, I will not actively support her.
Karen Johnson
Aurora, Colorado

In "What Women Want," Tina Brown states, "What saddens boomer women who love Hillary is that their twentysomething daughters don't share their view of her heroic role. Instead they've been swept up by that new Barack magic. It's not their fault and it's not Hillary's either." As one of the many twentysomething females who support Obama, I take exception to this reasoning—that I do not support Hillary is indeed her own fault. At the age of 18, I helped vote her into the Senate and then two years later wrote to her, beseeching her to oppose the Iraq War Resolution and to support the Levin Amendment. She did the opposite. Obama spoke out against the Iraq War and has offered to end our cold- war-like policy of isolation against Iran as a genuine step toward repairing U.S. foreign relations. Brown's assumption that my motivation for being an "Obama girl" is founded sheerly on his magic and not on the candidates' differing records exhibits an all-too-familiar condescension toward my generation that cements my distrust of the Hillary boomers.
Emily Sullivan Sanford
Berlin, Germany

I dutifully read every word of the 14 essays in "What Women Want," even though I am a white male Democrat. I found them disturbing. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are terrific and I intend to contribute to, work for and vote for whomever wins the nomination. My position is not the stance of the "Femocrats" supporting Clinton. They have forgotten that this is a primary and that the object is to win the election.
Lew Baker
Salt Lake City, Utah

Your articles on how women view the Democrats' Clinton-Obama conundrum highlight the double standard permeating contemporary politics: African-Americans can vote for Obama as a manifestation of black pride, and women can vote for Clinton, and many think that's "hear me roar" wonderful. But suppose white males voted for McCain simply because he is a white man. They would be labeled David Duke clones or worse. I think the world probably would be a better place if all heads of state were women. And I look forward to the day when we elect a woman president, though I hope it's not this November. I am, however, against applying a double standard to one segment of the population but not to others.
Andrew Fine
Concord, California

I worry about Hillary's motives and where she would take America. Americans should realize that the Clintons would do anything and say anything to win the White House. They've lost their sense of values and are not really concerned about serving people or helping the less fortunate. As powermongers, their minds are set to win. If they really cared for the Democratic Party, they would have stepped aside, as Obama seems to be the winner. They're destroying the party—their best bet would be to walk away from politics. Like everyone else in the world, I am tired of hearing of her "experience." Being a president's wife, having a law degree and having met foreign dignitaries do not give her the experience to run a country like the United States.
Helen Javenes
Kristiansand, Norway

If there is one thing Democrats should learn from the past eight years, it is this: good intentions are not enough to make a good president. Many in my generation are enthralled by Barack Obama's idealism, but idealism is not synonymous with positive change. As a twentysomething woman, I support Hillary Clinton not because she is a woman but because I want a president with proven competence. As a country, the United States can afford no less.
Leah Christensen
Missoula, Montana

I am a white woman who came of age in the 1950s and am grateful to Gloria Steinem and people like her who helped give me the courage to live my life fully and to stand up for what I believe in. Yes, I would love to see a woman lead our country in my lifetime. But I am supporting Barack Obama. For me, feminism is about taking charge of one's own life and making intelligent, responsible choices. Until the women's movement transformed my life, I lived too much under the sway of what my culture told me women "should" do or be. I deeply resent anyone who now tries to tell me—or any other feminist—that because we are women we "should" support Hillary Clinton.
Linda Plaut
Golden, Colorado

Your essays' discussion of gender highlights for me, a 30-year-old Democratic white woman, that Senator Clinton is not handicapped by being a woman. Rather, she has used gender and race to drive a wedge between core constituencies of the Democratic Party, fostering suspicion and distrust of a candidate who has just as much foreign-policy experience and concrete solutions as she does but who has not been married to a two-term president. If Hillary Clinton wins the nomination on this platform of fear and division, I will vote for her, but only because I recognize that future judicial and constitutional decisions weigh in the balance. However, I fear that the politics of power-mad alienation and hatred will continue; a mere change from Bush to Clinton will not stem the tide.
Susan Davis
Dublin, Ohio

As a woman who has finally seen the day when a woman is running for president, I am happy. I am 86 years old, a retired clergywoman, a mother and a grandmother who happens to be a feminist. After struggling with the issues, I voted for Barack Obama in the Maine primary. I believe in hope and I am certain that people will respond to his leadership when he is the president. His way of reaching the goal of being elected touches us deeply.
Fran Truitt
Blue Hill, Maine

I admire Hillary Clinton for her feistiness and her "it's not over until the fat lady sings" mentality, but I fear for the Democratic Party if it pitches itself with Clinton as its flag bearer against John McCain and a resurgent Republican Party. My country doesn't seem ready for a female president, and neither does America. How about the parties agreeing to make it an all-female affair? Then we could watch Clinton slug it out with Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi and maybe even Oprah Winfrey. But that won't happen—perhaps because the U.S. Constitution was written by "Founding Fathers"?
Cosmas Uzoma Odoemena
Lagos, Nigeria

Being a fortysomething woman, I'm resentful of the fact that I'm expected to be a Hillary supporter. I'd like to think that I can vote for the candidate with whom I most agree, not the one whose gender matches mine. Instead of lamenting that the twentysomething daughters of boomer women are for Obama, why not applaud the fact that these women, whom we have raised to think for themselves, are doing just that?
Jacqueline Duckworth
Fairhaven, Massachusetts

I am an older white female who has believed for many years that a woman president would lead this country and the world in a different direction. Hillary Clinton, however, is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with our political system. Granted, she is tough, a fighter and will do anything to get elected. But once she is in office, not much would change. We need a leader who has the character, intellect, vision and temperament to tackle our tremendous problems. A leader who can bring opposing interest groups together and attract the best minds to find solutions. I have experienced firsthand in South Carolina how Obama's message resonates across race, gender, age and class. I am for him not because he is black but because he will make change possible. This race is not about gender or race, but about old politics versus a new way of thinking.
Gaby Kloiber
Bluffton, South Carolina

Reaching Out to Hamas?
News of an Islamic terrorist's shooting of eight defenseless teenagers while they were studying in the school library was reported blandly as "eight people" and rated a mere 11 words in your full-page article about Hamas ("Talking to the Enemy," March 17). Your description of Islamists firing "a few well-placed rockets" belies the fact that hundreds of Kassam rockets target the city of Sderot daily, killing civilians and traumatizing children who have a 15-second warning to run for cover. Compare this cold-blooded reporting with your sympathetic descriptions of the people of Gaza who support Hamas, and it is no wonder that "international public opinion [has] turned sharply critical [of Israel]." Your few well-placed nouns and adjectives are part of the problem.
Judith Shapiro
Hod Hasharon, Israel

Now that Shlomo Brom, former Israeli military chief of strategic planning, has arrived at the earth-shattering conclusion that Hamas is "not going to disappear" as "they're a national political movement," one has to wonder at the level of competence, intelligence and reason that pertains within the Israeli military. Given this example, is it any wonder that the conflict escalates and the hatred increases by the day and the funerals by the week?
S. M. Halpern
Westbourne, England

Israel withdrew from Gaza to further the "peace process." In return for this land-for-peace gesture, Israel received anything but peace: it was rewarded by seeing former Jewish towns, villages and synagogues turned into Palestinian terrorist-training camps and platforms from which to launch missiles and mortars into Israel. While many thousands of such missiles were landing on Israeli civilian areas, traumatizing children and wounding and killing innocent people, the international community and media were largely silent. Now that the Israeli military has responded against Palestinian rocket and mortar crews, the international community and media have broken their silence, since Palestinian civilians are sadly and inevitably becoming victims. Inevitable because groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad are deliberately using civilian areas and human shields to launch their attacks upon Israel, knowing full well that any military response may result in civilian casualties for which the world will vilify the Israeli side. This is a well-worn route that continues to pay dividends for the terrorists and their agenda of eradicating the Jewish state.
D. Roberts
Tredegar, England

Europe, Making Itself Heard?
Timothy Garton Ash makes the kind of error in his article "The Crisis in the West" (Issues 2008) that is typically seen among U.S. neoconservatives: a refusal to accept the answers given to questions proposed. For instance, he says: "If Europe wants collective action on climate change, it should figure out how to make it happen." Excuse me? The European answer to this question is crystal clear; what does Ash want Europe to do to bring the United States up to speed? Should Europe attempt to threaten the United States to comply? Would such an answer be heard? What was the U.S. answer in Kyoto or Bali? The truth is, the United States did not respond to the rest of the world. Instead, it stalled multilateral progress. Similarly, why was weapons inspector Hans Blix not allowed to complete his work in Iraq? Because the U.S. government would not accept the answer to the question "Does Iraq have weapons of mass destruction?" The European answer to bad relations between the Middle East and the West is also crystal clear: solve the Israel-Palestine conflict and everything else will become much easier. Why does the United States continue to support Israel, even when Israel does not live up to its responsibilities to ensure peace, as has happened again and again? The real question that Ash should be asking is this: when will the United States begin listening to reason? If the United States does not, it could entail a fatal crisis between Europe and the States, one unlikely to be overcome for many years.
Halfdan Abrahamsen
Aarhus, Denmark

A Coal Miner's Life in China
In your Dec. 17, 2007, Periscope item "Panda Lovers Love Coal," you reported that the World Wildlife Fund's climate-change-program head in Hong Kong believes that coal should continue to be used over the next three decades. Experts on the environment will be able to evaluate the cost of this to the region's already failing air quality. I would like to draw attention to the human cost. In China, thousands of coal miners die in horrific underground accidents each year. Many more are maimed or permanently incapacitated while undertaking their daily unhealthy work. Legions of other miners will live a shortened life only to die a painful death as a result of lung diseases, such as emphysema, contracted in the mines. Few of these miners have any alternative employment options, and their wages are very low in comparison with the remuneration deemed appropriate to other dangerous jobs, such as those of oil-rig workers. Nor, sadly, are their bereaved relatives generously looked after. Clearly, China's rapid industrialization comes at a great human cost, and it is China's miners who pay that price. While large sums are spent on preserving the panda and other animal species, thousands of Chinese miners meet their deaths at work each year, after short and unenviable lives. Those situated in comfortable Hong Kong offices may be cocooned from this unpleasant truth. Are we spending more on protecting some endangered species of animal while ignoring the degradation of human life, which every coal miner knows all too well? It is high time that nonmined sources of energy were developed—not only for obvious environmental reasons, but also to save future generations of Chinese miners. One would have thought that the World Wildlife Fund would have been the first to say so.
Paul Surtees
Hong Kong