Letters to the Editor
I received my hard copy of the latest CCT two days ago — and hope to continue to be able to receive it in that format — but wanted to say that this [September/October] issue is among the best in years. I’ve yet to get through it all. Nice job!
Ken Haydock ’67, ’72 Business
Thank you for the magazine. What a quality publication! Like everything that Columbia does, it is the best.
John T. Griffin ’75, ’79 Business
New York City
A great issue [September/October] of the magazine — that I hope you continue to publish in hard copy. Those marvelous photos of the Obama campaign could not have been as well conveyed online.
Peter Ehrenhaft ’54,’57 SIPA, ’57L
Excuse me, but I felt my Columbia-honed intelligence insulted by the September/October issue of CCT, what with its eight pages of kitschy campaign iconography, topped by seven more of poli-sci-fi “narrative” wherein the author provides closure on an “era” in some History Channel Beltway saga we’ve been watching. Serious people know better than to bathe in received ideas; the sparkly tingle doesn’t mean anything’s clean.
Bruce Heiden ’72
I enjoyed “Conservatism Exhausted” [Columbia Forum, September/October] by Sean Wilentz ’72 and its analysis of the end of the Reagan Era. However, I believe that the ruinous state of conservatism in the Republican Party is not a failure of politics, but simply a reflection of the corrupting and insidious influence upon our populace borne from the pursuit of the social, financial and cultural entitlements that are now an everyday fact of life in America.
Reagan represented for many the last of the rugged individualists who rose to prominence on ability only, and not through dint of wealth or education or family or powerful connections. As such, he personified the ideal, in theory if not in practice, that the best form of government is a small and unobtrusive one whose sole function simply is to provide each individual the opportunity to live life freely and happily.
Today our political system is quaking beneath bloated and increasingly unmanageable obligations, most of which it helped to inspire and create over decades of enablement. It’s no surprise then that people no longer are satisfied with merely the opportunity to live life successfully, but instead feel entitled to that outcome and so demand (and receive) it from their government. Given the tremendous stress this largesse has had on our financial system alone, I agree with Mr. Wilentz when he writes, “What kind of political era will arise over the years to come, of course, remains unknown and unknowable.” I think it’s fair to say that our future as a Republic lies in the balance.
Damon Winter ’97’s commentary on his portfolio in the September/October CCT seemed as much sad and disturbing as it was poignant and appreciative of its subject.
Regarding his shot of the rally in Wilmington, Del., Winters said that “this is what I imagined a rally might look like during the time of Kennedy.” He has a good imagination. It does indeed resemble a John F. Kennedy rally from nearly 50 years ago. Too bad he doesn’t think through his observation to its logical conclusions. Kennedy’s soaring words and promise of change might have generated a renewed sense of possibilities in 1960s America, leading to the moon landing and significant civil rights legislation. But they also gave us the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban missile crisis, escalation of the arms race, expansion of the world’s nuclear arsenals and Vietnam.
In that framework, the picture above the rally becomes more problematic. The gauzy, silhouetted human figures behind a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire appear more like restive detainees in a post-nuclear world than they do enthusiastic high school kids in Duncanville, Texas. And that shot of Barack Obama on the facing page, a cloud framing his upheld hand in Pueblo, Colo., expresses more the magic of charlatanism than it does the promise of hope.
Perhaps the Pulitzer Prize Committee and the Columbia Board of Trustees read these pictures as Winters did. But I suspect that many others, like myself, looked at them, read Winter’s notes and felt disheartened.
Charles Saydah ’67