The president's margin of victory is not a mandate, despite Charles Krauthammer's use of the word nine times in his Nov. 5 op-ed column.

A mandate is described in most dictionaries as "authoritative," and 51 percent of the vote is far from that, as is a margin of 286 electoral votes to 252. President Bush's father, in beating Michael Dukakis in 1988, received more than 400 electoral votes. Now that was a mandate.

-- Adrian Havill

Reston

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Amid the news of Republican chest-banging, coupled with the sappy plea of "let's stop being so divided; let's be united" (read: "we won; agree with us or shut up"), a telling short item appeared on Page A20 of The Post on Nov. 4.

Apparently, the Wednesday celebrations were only slightly interrupted by the administration's announcement that "it will run out of maneuvering room to manage the government's massive borrowing needs" and will ask Congress to raise the debt ceiling when it convenes for a post-election session.

Is this the "four more years" we have to look forward to: The administration continuing its tax-and-spend game (something the Republicans accuse the Democrats of quite regularly)? Do we also have to look forward to your paper keeping the administration's on-message, rosy-colored politico-bytes on Page One while burying important information about political maneuvers much deeper in the paper?

-- Peter J. Pizzolongo

Washington

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Michael Kinsley [op-ed, Nov. 7] claims that liberals are more tolerant and less arrogant than conservatives because they "don't want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same gender, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us."

He would do better to address the merits of the questions he mentions rather than to engage in group name-calling.

Is abortion-on-demand with no restrictions good?

Is intolerance a vice if what is not tolerated is vicious?

-- Phillip R. McDonald

Arlington

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In her Nov. 7 Outlook gloat-fest, Kate O'Beirne derides Democrats for supposedly being condescending and hostile to ordinary people. And she proves herself an authority on the subject: While theorizing that 59 million people voted for Bush because he believes "Americans are smart and unfailingly decent," she implies that the 56 million Americans who supported Kerry not only lack those qualities but in fact are mostly liberal elitists who dine regularly at the home of Tina Brown (presumably the owner of a very large table).

Silly generalizations aside, O'Beirne might consider that some folks have a different standard than hers for what constitutes decent behavior.

For example, I was taught that a decent person doesn't comment on the religious faith of others, not only because such judgments are reserved for God but because the energy required to monitor the state of another person's soul is better used to improve one's own. Yet O'Beirne blithely asserts that John Kerry merely tried to "pass himself off" as a faithful Catholic.

No decent person would call a decorated combat hero an inauthentic veteran, as O'Beirne hints Kerry is.

-- Nick Lanyi

Washington