This week’s “Free for All” letters.


Then-Rep. Charles Schumer (D-NY) jokes with reporters about House Speaker Newt Gingrich's likeness on the front page of the Daily News during a press conference on Capitol Hill in 1995. (RICHARD ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Who called him a "Cry Baby"?

I read with great interest Ed Murawinski’s Jan. 13 Outlook essay, “I drew the ‘Cry Baby’ heard round the world,” about the origin of the famous “Cry Baby” Newt Gingrich cartoon in the New York Daily News about the government shutdown in 1995.

Murawinski recounted how the paper’s editor in chief, Martin Dunn, asked him to draw the cartoon and that Dunn already had the headline “Cry Baby.”

Here’s the rest of the story. That afternoon, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston (R-La.) had testified before a televised hearing of the House Rules Committee about a bill to keep the government funded.

In the hearing, a Rules Committee staffer handed me an Associated Press article about a reporters’ breakfast meeting that morning at which then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said the government shutdown occurred because he had been treated badly by then-President Bill Clinton when he was part of a delegation to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral.

Here is the exchange I had with Livingston: Bob, I was a part of the funeral delegation, and I happen to know that Gingrich was the only person who was permitted to take his wife on the trip. Actually, he was treated very well by Clinton. Don’t you think he was acting like a crybaby?

I guess someone from the Daily News was watching the hearing on television.

Martin Frost, Washington

The writer, a Democrat, is a former representative from Texas and was a member of the House Rules Committee from 1979 to 2005.

Putting this on the front page toed the line

The Jan. 16 front page carried the article “It’s all fancy footwork for these NBA players,” about basketball players’ pedicures. Meanwhile, one had to burrow into the newspaper to find what were considered less interesting articles, such as one about the difficulties Native American tribes are facing due to the government shutdown, an article about the Mueller investigation and an article about Russians and Ukrainians accused of hacking the Securities and Exchange Commission. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I don’t consider the details of NBA players’ foot-care regimens particularly interesting, and honestly could have done without the details of their calluses and “dead toenails.”

Robert Edwards, Falls Church

Far from forgotten

Michael Lindgren’s Jan. 13 Arts & Style review, “Two men who turned up the volume on rock,” about Ian S. Port’s book, “The Birth of Loud,” certainly caught my eye. The story of Les Paul and Leo Fender and the development of the electric guitar and amps would be an interesting read. But Lindgren lost me when he wrote of the “now-forgotten surf icon Dick Dale.”

Forgotten? Dale is rightfully cited as “the King of the Surf Guitar” as well as its founding father who has inspired countless guitar players along the way. As a surfer, he had a lot of cred with his growing audience of beach bums, and his breakneck staccato picking grabbed the attention of budding new artists, such as the Beach Boys and the Ventures. As rockabilly and its rougher cousins made way for the more corporate teen-idol sound, it was Dick Dale and his Del-Tones, and many of the great surf bands to come, that gave rock a much-needed kick in the pants. Though the subgenre of surf music is somewhat overlooked these days, the music of the 1960s leading into the punk era wouldn’t have been the same without it, and it still has a strong following today with many new bands carrying the torch (or would that be twang?).

Dale is still going strong at 81, still bringing his talent and passion for his music on the road and melting guitar picks along the way. I suggest Lindgren go see Dale. It’ll be a show he won’t soon forget.

John P. Williams, Alexandria

One successful intraparty battle

In his Jan. 13 Sunday Opinion essay, “Primary Trump in 2020,” Stephen F. Hayes made an excellent case for a Republican to run against President Trump in a primary. Hayes’s case is even stronger as he said serious intraparty battles at the presidential level are rare and “never successful.” In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy entered the Democratic presidential primary and thereby caused incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson not to run. It’s irrelevant that Hubert Humphrey became the nominee. The point then was to remove Johnson — and now to remove Trump.

Donald A. Tracy, Bethesda

Is anybody listening?

In her Jan. 12 Free for All letter, “Demeaning descriptors,” Shelley Reid complained about the “demeaning, dated, often sexist and unnecessary” practice by Post writers of describing the clothes, jewelry or cosmetics worn by women in the news. The letter writer noted that the page has often carried letters that made the same point and begged The Post to quit doing that.

So what’s The Post’s response? Nothing. Nada. Silence.

Don’t serious complaints such as that deserve a reply? The Free For All page serves as a safety valve for readers irked enough by what they’ve read to write a letter. But no safety valve works if nothing happens in response. I’m asking not for a prolonged debate about the paper’s practices but simply for an explanation of why they persist — or at least an acknowledgment that the editors have considered the complaint.

Otherwise, Free For All is Good For Nothing.

Mike Feinsilber, Washington

Remember what it was like before Southwest Airlines?

The Jan. 6 obituary for Herb Kelleher, “Visionary leader took Southwest Airlines to new heights,” was enlightening. As a federal transportation economist, I was aware of him and his peanuts fares (the obituary omitted mention of his flight attendants in “hot pants”) from the start, and have been a longtime admirer of and traveler on his fine airline. However, there were two important words missing from the text: airline deregulation.

Although I joined the Transportation Department just a month after the Airline Deregulation Act was enacted in 1978, I was heavily involved in its implementation, as well as for similar legislation deregulating trucking and railroads. If that act had not passed, Kelleher’s airline would still be flying routes wholly within the state of Texas, or small, less regulated planes all over the United States, and his obituary would have been much shorter.

If the Air Cargo Deregulation Act of 1977 hadn’t been enacted, Frederick W. Smith and his FedEx would have suffered a similar fate. 

The Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 regulated the entry and rates of interstate airlines. Airlines operating within Texas and California did not fall within its purview.

Ed Rastatter, Bethesda

Levittown's co-conspirator: The Federal Housing Administration

I was pleased to meet, posthumously, Samuel Snipes through his Jan. 10 obituary, “Pennsylvania lawyer represented first black family to live in Levittown.” But the obituary made no mention of William J. Levitt’s co-conspirator in the institutionalized racist policy that undergirded the Levittown developments: the Federal Housing Administration. It took guts and an acute sense of social justice to do what Snipes did.

The FHA had adopted a racist policy that made it difficult for black people, including my father, a World War II veteran, to move into a Levittown development. The FHA’s underwriting manual, used to evaluate communities suitable for mortgage insurance, stated, “If a neighborhood is to retain stability, it is necessary that properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes.” The manual went on to suggest that “subdivision regulations and suitable restrictive covenants” are the best way to ensure such neighborhood stability. Restrictive covenants of this kind, written into property deeds, required that no person of African descent be allowed to live in FHA-insured properties except as domestic servants or laborers.

This government-based, racist policy drove the Levittown admissions criteria and emboldened residents to misbehave. FHA policy continued to be the law of the land until a 1948 Supreme Court decision relegated this policy to the trash can. Remnants of this policy remained when Snipes represented Daisy and Bill Myers to open Levittown to all.

Bill Brooks, Newark, Del.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) smiles while talking with reporters. (Win Mcnamee/Getty Images)
Was that the right word?

Regarding Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) Jan. 18 Friday Opinion essay, “H.R. 1 is really the Democrat Politician Protection Act”:

The word “Democrat” is a noun, not an adjective. “Democratic” is the adjective. For years, partisan Republicans have used this shortened word “Democrat” as a calculated slur, as in “Democrat Party,” even though the name of the party is the “Democratic Party.” The intentional misstatement should not have appeared in a headline, even for an opinion piece, or the phrase “the Democrat Politician Protection Act” should have been in quotation marks so it was clear they were McConnell’s words.

Steve Raabe, Annapolis

The use of “popular prelate” in the Jan. 15 Metro article about the Rev. C. John McCloskey, “Priest was a luminary before fall from grace,” was a good example of alliteration; however, it was wrong in the use of the term.

A prelate is defined as a bishop or other high ecclesiastical dignitary. The Rev. McCloskey is neither. The correct alliterative term should have been “popular priest.”

Edward Jones, Springfield

I found the reference to a lack of “gawking tourists” at the White House during its partial shutdown offensive [“Where have all the flowers gone? 1600 bears up during shutdown.,” Style, Jan. 17].

The dictionary defines the term as staring stupidly or gawping; a gawk is “an awkward, foolish person.” Interested, curious, maybe, but “gawking”? No wonder Washingtonians are regarded as a supercilious lot.

Elspeth Nunn, Wheaton

A Trump administration spokesman, who preferred to remain unnamed in the Jan. 13 front-page article “Officials in dark on Putin talks,” was quoted as saying that in 2017 then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “gave a fulsome readout of the meeting immediately afterward to other U.S. officials in a private setting, as well as a readout to the press.”

Perhaps this unnamed source was being ironic in using the word “fulsome,” which does not mean “full” or “complete” but rather “flattering.”

More likely, the use of the word shows the true nature of the president’s press flunkies and begs the question of the propriety of Trump’s insistence that no one else be privy to his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Fannie Mallonee, Richmond

Inspiring stories in a suffering world

Often while I am reading my morning Post, I find tears welling in my eyes as I read articles that report the suffering in the world and the insensitivity of a good part of our citizenry. On Jan. 13, the tears welled again but because of hope, not grief. The paper reported on the lives of two remarkable women: Patricia Wald, a jurist of great intellect and compassion [“Judge was first woman to serve on D.C. Circuit,” obituary], and Grace Gosar, a physician who continues to serve others despite her own ovarian cancer [“Congressman’s politics lead to a house divided,” front page].

As long as there are people like these in my world, there will be hope. 

And to top off those two stories was Jenny Rogers’s Metro article, “I left my wallet on a bus in D.C. Here’s how I got it back.,” recounting that Erin Ball went out of her way to return another woman’s lost wallet. These articles brightened my day and gave me inspiration to be kinder and better to people.

Patricia Yates, Washington

Which one is it?

The photo caption with the Jan. 11 National Digest was an exercise in oxymoronic reasoning. It said, “Smoke from a steam pipe obscures the Empire State Building in New York.” Smoke, by its nature, contains particulate matter; steam, by its nature, does not. So “smoke from a steam pipe” defies logic.

This caption was smack in the middle of the page, making it difficult to ignore. I guess you might say the egregious error just got me “steamed.”

Rocky Semmes, Alexandria

Caregiving is work — hard work

A caption for a photograph that accompanied the Jan. 12 front-page article “On first payday without pay, anxiety sets in” said, “Lisa Sachs doesn’t work, serving as the main caregiver for their disabled daughter.”

Everything is wrong with the assumption that Sachs doesn’t work! Anyone who has been a primary caregiver at home knows that this job is 24/7 with no pay, no vacation, no sick leave and very few safety nets. This is one of the hardest jobs in our society and is rarely dignified or honored by any medals or recognition from the community.

Our societal refusal to dignify this work makes it possible for The Post to perpetuate painful and demeaning attitudes.

It would have been perfectly factual to state, “Lisa Sachs works at home caring for their disabled daughter. The family depends on Gordy Sachs’s paycheck.”

Jacqueline M. Erskine, Charlottesville

Once a felon, always a felon

This Jan. 14 editorial “Triumph, and tremors, in Florida” used the expression “former felons” five times. I have seen “ex-felons” in other articles and headlines in The Post.

There is no such thing as a “former felon” or “ex-felon.” If you commit a felony, you are a felon, and you will always be a felon. It doesn’t matter if you were convicted, served your time and were released; you are still a felon.

Raymond F. Kearns, Washington