In his July 26 op-ed column, "Looking Past the Base," Robert D. Novak said former Georgia senator Max Cleland's untouchability in the Senate "ended two years ago with Republican then-Rep. Saxby Chambliss's campaign, which pointed out that [Mr.] Cleland bowed to organized labor's demands to vote against the homeland security bill because of union representation questions."

I question whether Mr. Cleland's voting against the Republican version of the bill was "bow[ing] to organized labor" rather than a personal conviction about collective bargaining, but that is not why I write.

Mr. Novak does not tell the entire story. During the campaign in 2002, Mr. Chambliss ran an ad that likened Mr. Cleland to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. The message was: You can lose three limbs fighting for America, but if you are a Democrat and believe in union rights, your patriotism is suspect. No wonder Mr. Cleland became so outspoken. This over-the-top Republican tactic probably did more than anything to account for the former senator's transformation.

Mr. Novak's recounting of the facts would have been more credible if he hadn't left out some crucial details.

ROBERT PAYNE

Frederick

*

Harold Meyerson ["The Introducer," op-ed, Aug. 1] said that Max Cleland was "head of President Bill Clinton's Veterans Administration."

From 1992-1994, I served as deputy director of mental health in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Mr. Cleland's tenure preceded me by 15 years.

M. RAE BARNES

Charlottesville