MAIL CALL: O'CONNOR STEPS DOWN

Readers reacted to our July 11 cover story about Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's resignation by considering her career. One hailed her as a "woman for all seasons." Another said, "She will be remembered as one of the most powerful justices whose swing votes, one by one, helped change America for the better." Others saw it differently, given O'Connor's evolution in voting on issues ranging from abortion to gay rights to affirmative action. "It's a good thing her name is not John Kerry or she might be called a 'flip-flopper' instead of a 'centrist'," wrote one. But most cited O'Connor's fateful swing vote that halted the presidential-election recount. "She cast the deciding vote in 2000, effectively putting George W. Bush in the Oval Office," one said. "This exercise in political partisanship trumps all her other votes." And another noted ironically, "As this graceful lady steps down from her pedestal, the future of a new court hangs in swing-vote limbo."

The Legacy of a Historic Supreme Court Justice

Before the ink dried on Sandra Day O'Connor's resignation, political adversaries fired the first shots of what will undoubtedly be an unprecedented, uncivilized war over President Bush's nominee to replace her ("O'Connor's Odyssey," July 11). The troubling conclusion is that the court is too powerful. We should remember that Thomas Jefferson was deeply concerned that the federal judiciary would usurp power from the states, consolidate all government power in Washington and "become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated." Unfortunately, Jefferson's fears are becoming prophetic. Most disturbing is that the three branches of our government have all but abdicated their constitutional responsibilities to political extremes and the seduction of personal power. Our government was never intended to be exclusive to the few.
Daniel B. Jeffs, Founder
The Direct Democracy Center
Apple Valley, Calif.

You describe Sandra Day O'Connor as "a deep believer in the sensible center." Could there be any higher qualification needed in a Supreme Court justice? Remember, justice is supposed to be blind, balancing scales rather than tipping them toward one of the "ever-edgier extremes." You say she was attentive to the "chattering classes." Would that be NEWSWEEK's new moniker for the silent majority?
Marti Davis
Knoxville, Tenn.

Moveonpac and its leftist cheerleaders in the media call on President Bush to avoid appointing a conservative justice for what it claims is for the good of the country ("The Holy War Begins"). Where were its concerned pleas when Clinton appointed extreme leftists Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer? Liberals still don't seem to understand that they lost the presidency, the House and the Senate. President Bush's obligation is not to replace the ideological bent of outgoing justices for some misguided sense of "balance." It is to appoint justices who he believes will best serve the country.
Tom Harrison
Glendale, Calif.

Your cover story quotes Sandra Day O'Connor as calling Al Gore's near electoral victory in 2000 "terrible," shortly before she sided with the other conservative justices on the Supreme Court in putting a stop to the recount. Four pages later the picture caption reads: "O'Connor has never allowed herself to be swayed by politics, Red or Blue." On the bench, Justice O'Connor may have been many things--shrewd, reasonable and brave, for example--but she was not immune to political influences. Your article acknowledges as much.
Laura C. Bornstein
Bryn Mawr, Pa.

Journalists and Their Sources

I find myself in the unusual position of disagreeing with Jonathan Alter on the topic of journalistic ethics ("You Shield Us, We'll Shield You," July 11). While in the midst of all the hand-wringing about the bravery of Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper in not revealing their sources, one must not forget the essential distinction between the Valerie Plame case and Watergate. In the case of Watergate, journalists protected sources in pursuit of the truth and to expose governmental wrongdoing. In the Plame case, journalists subverted the truth and hid governmental wrongdoing by protecting their sources. Their actions reflect complicity in the criminal act of "outing" a serving CIA operative. Until the broader media establishment takes a more nuanced and self-critical view when dealing with such topics, we are unlikely to progress the cause of truth in journalism.
Sid Valluri
Pasadena, Calif.

The media comments about Valerie Plame's outing only in terms of the negative impact it will have on the public's ability to learn about information critical to our nation's well-being. No one mentions that Robert Novak did not need to publish the information leaked to him. Knowledge about Valerie Plame's job has not made Americans aware of a problem or issue that should not have been secret, nor has it shed light upon illegal activities we should know about. It has, however, ruined Plame's career and probably endangered people with whom she had contact under cover. Robert Novak would have better served this country, and Plame's contacts, had he written an article about the appallingly illegal behavior of his informant, without identifying Plame, and why integrity dictates that he not be his informant's pawn. Instead Novak chose the greater headline. As such, he is as guilty of a felony as his informant.
Jackie Sergent
Oxford, N.C.

Recalling the A-bomb

Danielle Woerner's My Turn article about nuclear energy and her father's role in the Manhattan Project struck a chord with me ("Struggling to Make Peace With the Atom," July 11). My father, too, worked on the project, as a Columbia graduate student in physical chemistry, with an expertise in heavy water (used in nuclear reactors). I am a liberal in disagreement with many of our present government's policies and very concerned about the status of nuclear weapons internationally. Unlike Woerner my three siblings and I knew about my father's role in the Manhattan Project from our earliest childhood and we remember his participation with pride and respect. His monograph, personally signed by Gen. Leslie Groves and proudly preserved by us, remains a wonderful testimony to his contribution to the difficult war effort. My father, who can no longer communicate with us after suffering several strokes, always quietly remembered the Manhattan Project as his patriotic duty well done as much as he abhorred war and wished that nuclear weapons were never created. I wish there were no nuclear weapons, but as a physician and scientist, I realize that the Manhattan Project did not open Pandora's box. The nuclear era and nuclear weapons in particular were not a technology that would have stayed in the box. It was, rather, a question of who would develop them first.
Howard D. Kirshenbaum
Sudbury, Mass.

When I grew up in Japan, numerous programs on World War II aired on TV every August, the anniversary of the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My high-school farewell trip was to Nagasaki and included a visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum. There was substantial effort made in order to remind the postwar generation of the cruel nature of the war. However, it was all done mainly from the perspective of the victims. We did not learn about what Japan did to other countries during the war. The same observation applies to my new country. It is more sensational for the American media to focus on America as the victim. We humans are sensitive to our own pain but do not recognize the pain we have caused others. Every August, I wait to see how the American media will portray the events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It has never satisfied me. My mother is a Nagasaki survivor. Many of my American friends cannot relate to that. "Struggling to Make Peace With the Atom" is a profound reminder that we should never sacrifice so many lives in the name of war.
Masako Yokota
Mountain View, Calif.

Hollywood Staying Power

David Ansen wonders what films we will be watching by our leading stars in the years ahead ("Is anybody making movies we'll actually watch in 50 years?" July 11). The problem is not so much that they aren't good actors, but that Hollywood is more interested in making money than in creating art. The actors of an earlier generation--Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, etc.--came out of the ' 70s when there was more of an auteur mind-set in Hollywood, so films were more director driven than studio driven. If Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe et al. want to make long-lasting films, they should get in touch with Mike Leigh, Jean-Pierre Jeunet or some other European directors.
Glenn Corey
Royal Oak, Mich.

Brad Pitt was no less spectacular in "A River Runs Through It" than in "Thelma and Louise," and Johnny Depp's role in the underappreciated "Benny and Joon" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" rivals his finest work, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape." Let us not be so quick to omit the truly fine work of today's entertainers, and to forget their true and passionate commitment to their profession, even if there are occasional mistakes. Do we criticize Picasso for his experimental, lost or forgotten works? Do we render his so-called batting average low because he was so prolific?
Joanna Nagy
Horsham, Pa.

When was the last time I saw a Betty Grable movie? Oh, about a month ago on a classic movie channel David Ansen might have heard of. Can I think of the name of this movie? You bet I can, and I'm sure millions of other movie buffs can also. Grable was top billed along with two other actresses whose names Ansen may have forgotten. The name of this movie? "How to Marry a Millionaire." Grable's costars? Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall. Need I say more?
Thomas Mannarino
Lake Elsinore, Calif.

Corrections

In "O'Connor's Odyssey" we said that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was president of Arizona's State Senate, when, in fact, she served as majority leader. In addition, a photo caption said that O'Connor was on the Arizona Supreme Court. She served on the Arizona Court of Appeals.

The July 11 My Turn, "Struggling to Make Peace With the Atom," stated that the half-life of depleted uranium is 4.5 million years. It is actually 4.5 billion years.

Our July 4 Periscope graphic "They've Got a Lot of Drive" on celebrity cars used in TV and film said that "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" was a Disney movie. In fact, it was a United Artists movie (part of the MGM library). NEWSWEEK regrets the errors.

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