November 2, 2012

In his Nov. 1 op-ed column, “Willy Loman on the stump,” George F. Will grasped at straws to criticize President Obama in a viciously personal way. Mr. Will called Mr. Obama “energetic in body but indolent in mind.” Indolent? Here’s a man who made it through a single-parent childhood to Harvard and on to the presidency, largely by applying his mind. Mr. Will cast aside all the accomplishments of Mr. Obama’s first term without giving a single example of that “indolent” mind that holds up to scrutiny, as he then directed his vengeance at the vice president and the Democrats.

Mr. Will also said Democrats are urging women to “not worry their pretty little heads” about issues such as the economy but instead to be concerned about reproductive freedom. What he didn’t say is that reproductive freedom is an economic issue for women. When he ripped Mr. Obama for taking credit for saving General Motors, Mr. Will noted that the company assembles 70 percent of its vehicles outside the United States, but he didn’t acknowledge that most of those cars are sold in the countries where they are assembled.

By comparing the president to Willy Loman, Mr. Will did no credit to his good reputation as a thoughtful commentator.

Frank Schowengerdt, Alexandria

George F. Will is right: Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” provides an apt lens for looking at the presidential campaign. But Mr. Will didn’t get why. The play is worth noting now not for its description of a salesman but for its eloquent defense of the common man: “He’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.”

Throughout his presidency and this campaign, President Obama has been the one to pay attention to the plight of the common man, focusing on policies that restore dignity to the middle class, provide health care and educational opportunity to a greater number of our citizens, and build a more just and equitable society.

Miller’s play is a cry against a society that favors the powerful, the very part of society that Mitt Romney promotes. His is the campaign of the “smile and a shoeshine” that Miller describes and Mr. Will quoted. Mr. Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) offer an economic plan that is all shine but pays no attention to those who need it the most.

David Bradley, Philadelphia

Regarding George F. Will’s Oct. 28 op-ed column, “The Gimme Society”:

When my sister was diagnosed with cancer, we brought her from Florida, where she worked as a dive-shop manager, to Oregon, where she had family. Her job was not one in which she’d been able to save a lot, and the effects of the disease made working again impossible. Thus my sister and I came to know the people who care and help arrange payments forpeople with disabilities who depend on government help.

I was so impressed. Everyone treated us with skill and respect — whether it was the people at the cancer institute, the Medicaid caseworkers, the assisted-living facility personnel, the nursing home and hospice staff, or the Social Security claims examiner.

I suppose my sister became a recipient of the “geyser of entitlements” that has earned Mr. Will’s disdain. I don’t doubt his claim that some people game the disability system (although I doubt that many think of themselves as doing so). But if, while helping to take care of others as my sister was taken care of, I end up paying for the undeserving, then I’ll pay my share without complaint.

Frank Gibson, Eugene, Ore.

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