I was disappointed to read of former senator Robert J. Dole's criticisms of Sen. John F. Kerry's war record [news story, Aug. 23]. Questioning Mr. Kerry's service on the basis of partisan accusations disgraces Mr. Dole's carefully cultivated reputation for fairness, respect and statesmanship.

I find it hard to entertain the notion that Mr. Kerry, Mr. Dole or any young man engaged in bloody and confusing combat thousands of miles from home could think too deeply about the political gain to be had later.

Moreover, continuing to dwell on the severity of wounds or whether medals or ribbons were thrown away misses the proverbial elephant in the room: While John Kerry was risking his life in a jungle overseas, there is little evidence that Mr. Bush even reported for duty in Alabama. I feel foolish for admiring Mr. Dole for so long.

ERIC W. MACAUX

Falls Church

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The interesting thing about the Swift boat anti-Kerry commercials is that they ran in only a few states for just $600,000 worth of air time (against the more than $93 million spent so far by President Bush and John Kerry), yet the media picked up on the ads as a top news story, with the result that they now air all over the United States for free.

I have always said the media is guilty of sensationalism, not liberalism.

DAVID FLANDER

Charleston, S.C.