Gary Alan Fine's article ["Ire to the Chief," op-ed, Aug. 6] is a perfect example of bad sociology. In arguing that people's hatred of George W. Bush stems unfairly from Bush's "follies of youth," Fine reduced the feelings of hundreds of thousands of people to one grandly simplistic narrative, for which he offered not a shred of empirical support.

I imagine that different people have different reasons for their animosity toward Bush. An African American may be outraged by what seem like continual assaults on hard-won voting rights in Florida. A gay voter may resent Bush's attempt to write bigotry into the Constitution. A humanitarian may abhor the needless war deaths induced by incompetence or lies. An abortion rights advocate may loathe the use of breast-cancer disinformation to scare women about abortion. A civil libertarian may despise the denial of counsel to hundreds of people secretly locked up for months but never charged with any crime. Or a fair-minded American may be disgusted by a seeming personality trait -- utter shamelessness -- that links all these things.

In the nearly three years since Sept. 11, Americans have experienced a dizzying swing from unparalleled though bittersweet social harmony to simply bitter division. Some may blame the destruction of that unity on Bush, who exploited that goodwill to push a brazen right-wing agenda.

-- Stephen Clark

Washington

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I am surprised that an otherwise well-written opinion piece had such a poor concluding sentence. It isn't Bush's follies of youth that inspire disdain for him as much as that "mediocrity, error and failure have had no consequences other than to produce success."

I wonder how Bush would have fared in the world in which most Americans live. Would he have been accepted at Yale and Harvard? Would he have escaped service in Vietnam? Would his failed business ventures have been rewarded? I doubt it.

-- Susan Ruberry

Midlothian, Va.