David Crutchfield, Ellicott City
Beware false equivalence
Of all the news of Sept. 27, the lead front-page headline in unusually large print was “Trump, GOP hit back as coverup is alleged” above a photograph of acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire testifying in Congress. How did that headline represent the photo and the accompanying articles? I fear The Post was demonstrating false equivalence, as it did in the 2016 election. I hope to see more serious headlines as the impeachment inquiry proceeds.
Julie Walker, North Potomac
A snapshot of history
Patrick F. Morris, Bethesda
When the lens distorts
The headline and first paragraph of Dan Balz’s Sept. 26 The Take column, “Adversaries seize day, head into epic battle” [front page], framed the piece as being about the adversarial relationship between the House speaker and the president. Indeed, the first sentence emphasized the win/loss achievement of individuals.
Such language and focus exacerbate divisions among us. Balz, as a keen observer of our government and the political climate today, has the capacity — and opportunity — to zero in on the impact of events on the future of our single, fragile democracy. This is of far greater concern to me and many other Americans.
I hope future efforts show such a shift in lens — especially at the beginning of a column. First impressions, you know.
The killing of Bijan Ghaisar
Thanks for keeping up the heat on this issue. It is a mystery, and we are owed an explanation. I don’t know how a member of Congress can be ignored with impunity by the FBI. What is going on here?
The Post is keeping the issue of the dark mystery surrounding the Bijan Ghaisar killing in the public eye. This spotlight coverage is invaluable. Next, let’s dig to learn why the FBI has refused either to investigate the incident or release any information about it. This smells like a despicable coverup, but of what? Why?
Don't knock 'ordinary Americans'
The impeachment story is confusing, and Kessler’s column provided helpful context for the president’s shameful untruths. But Kessler’s subtle suggestion that “ordinary Americans” aren’t capable of sorting out the story was offensive.
Elizabeth Pierce, Kensington
Thomas's unifying theme
Having read Corey Robin’s “The Enigma of Clarence Thomas,” I was not surprised that Kenneth W. Mack’s Sept. 29 Outlook review, “Clarence Thomas’s contradictory conservatism,” would reflect the bafflement of Thomas critics: Answering the reviewer’s predilection for “a unified philosophy [that] ties together Thomas’s complicated life,” it is summed up in one word absent from the review: freedom.
The writer was special assistant to then-chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Clarence Thomas from 1986 to 1990.
Another 'voice in the wilderness'
When I was a young boy growing up in Albany, N.Y., my paternal grandfather, Clifford Plumb, was the director of the Bureau of Foods for New York state. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, my grandfather led state-government efforts to eliminate the use of antibiotics in feed for commercially raised chickens. Stuart B. Levy was not the only “voice in the wilderness” [“Microbiologist increased attention to antibiotic resistance,” Obituaries, Sept. 22]. The poultry industry in New York state stonewalled my grandfather’s efforts. Despite my grandfather’s degree from Cornell University and his long experience in agricultural practices, he was deemed unqualified to raise such concerns by the powerful poultry industry.
Levy’s important work came several decades after my grandfather raised concerns in New York state. If only my grandfather, a policy person and regulator, and Levy, a physician and microbiologist, had been able to join forces, perhaps they would have been able to bring about “prudent use” of antibiotics with farm animals. It is a cause that still deserves our attention today.
A whistleblower's story
As a former federal whistleblower — and a former federal employee because of my whistleblowing — I can’t help but reflect on my own motives for engaging in that pursuit after reading Robert G. Kaiser’s Sept. 29 Outlook review of two books on whistleblowers [“Two new books ask what drives people to become whistleblowers”]. In my case (and in many others, I suspect), it was a matter of reluctant idealism and an equal dose of naivete that caused me to act. I say reluctant because when I decided to take my formerly internal complaint outside of my agency, the Defense Department’s Uniformed Services University, it was not something I was exactly gung-ho about.
The 2010 complaint concerned a colleague, the director of our clinical pathology laboratory and one of our most distinguished African American scientists, who was being subjected to malfeasant actions by the university. After much internal correspondence and after voicing my opinion loudly at numerous meetings, I remember thinking at the last such meeting where the issue was being discussed, “If they throw my colleague under the bus, I will have no choice but to take the matter to my congressional representative.” It was one of those thoughts that you sort of voice in your head, word for word, so as to lock yourself into doing something that actually requires more courage than you possess. Well, they threw her under the bus, so my next actions were almost by rote. I had no choice in the matter.
As to the naivete, when the congressperson’s office contacted me to say it would look into it, I was informed that I could remain anonymous but was also told that doing so might make it more difficult for the congressperson to address the issue. I was too starry-eyed at the prospect of seeing justice done to object to identifying myself. My credulity in the matter lasted right through to the filing of a more comprehensive formal complaint to the Defense Department inspector general on which both my colleague and I put our John Hancocks right there on the first page. The rest is boilerplate: I lost my office and was banished to a basement cubicle off campus. My colleague lost her laboratory and was banished to an office inside the animal facility that stank of animal waste. I was eventually fired.
I suspect what drove me to act drives many whistleblowers to do what they do: a sense of obligation paired with a false sense of security. It may be called many things, but I wouldn’t call it heroic.
Donald F. Sellitti, Montgomery Village
Something to get excited about
In the 14-page Sports section on Sept. 29, much attention was given to Christian Coleman winning the 100 meters in the world championships in Doha, Qatar, after his apparent avoidance of a ban for missed drug tests [“American Coleman wins gold in 100 meters weeks after avoiding drug ban”]. Meanwhile, buried deep in the article about Coleman was coverage of DeAnna Price, a gold medalist at these championships and the first U.S. woman to “win a world championship throwing event with a victory in the hammer throw” at the International Association of Athletics Federations competition.
Why not lead with this, or is a woman winning the hammer throw not exciting enough?
News the news could use
Margaret Sullivan’s media assessments with respect to practiced Trumpian tricks of the trade are usually spot on. Her Sept. 25 Style column, “The media continues to facilitate Trump’s lies,” rightfully asked our national news editors for how long will they remain complicit.
“Privileging the lie” story-framing tactics must be exposed whenever discovered. One simple sentence stating the facts — i.e., the current absence of merit of President Trump’s Ukrainian corruption claims against the Bidens — will not significantly balance matters. Trump and his allied media sycophants’ multilayered and repetitious attempts to dirty up former vice president Joe Biden and his presidential aspirations are blatant. Unfortunately, the American people, low-information voters in particular, consistently buy in too easily in response to these sly, masterful tactics. Sadly, the list of political examples herein is long and recent.
Is the bully pulpit — as in the extreme and seemingly corrupt exploitation we see today — now beyond adequate honest qualification with regard to the truth? Headlines are in order when a president is the sponsor, are they not?
Sullivan’s columns should be considered for location in the A Section with The Post’s other national news. It is not too late to start.
Elena Spiotta, Woodstock, N.Y.
Boswell's literary line
Who would expect 17th-century English poetry in the Sports section? In Thomas Boswell’s Sept. 27 Sports column, “Nats’ dilemma for wild card: Too many excellent options,” an analysis of the Nationals’ postseason options, his concluding phrase “they may have world enough and time,” was borrowed from the first line of Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” published in 1681. It was certainly not the first popular reference to this famous (at least to English majors) poem but possibly a first for The Post’s Sports section. Thanks to Boswell for more great writing.
Time for young blood
I’m 72, and not done yet. On the other hand, I certainly have benefited from being retired, both physically and psychologically. Perhaps the greatest benefit to my well-being has been being in control (reasonably) of my own time and efforts. But I don’t want my next president to be of my generation/age. Setting President Trump aside, not former vice president Joe Biden, not Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), not even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — unless it’s between Trump and her in the political process; then I’m all hers.
We need to figure out both winnability and new ideas, and that’s not where my demographic is. I’ve had my shot on civil rights and investing in education as a route to social justice.
I need a new voice that is not all rhetoric. I need someone who is thoughtful and basically kind, with smarts and empathy but who does not spout platitudes, who has the moxie to get things done and who can last two terms, which it will take to stabilize the country after Trump.