This week’s “Free for All” letters.


People cheer for then-GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump at a 2016 rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images North America)
Repeat after them: It's not always about Trump

Several Oct. 21 Book World reviews caught my attention.

I was born in Luzerne County in Pennsylvania. When I read “Why a fading Pa. county was crucial to Trump’s victory,” Arlie Russell Hochschild’s review of “The Forgotten” by Ben Bradlee Jr., I finally expected to see a pro-President Trump and pro-Luzerne County piece. I knew before the election that Trump would carry Luzerne County and Pennsylvania, especially after Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said she would shut down all the coal mines. I expected the central part of the book review to be about those brave citizens willing to vote for Trump and try to turn around decades of progressive decline in Luzerne County. Instead, all I got was an anti-Trump screed (this man is even breaking up marriages) and a concluding statement mentioning the Russians and the Koch brothers.

I was also interested in “A narcissist’s blunder led Marines into a horrific trap,” Blaine Harden’s review of Hampton Sides’s “ On Desperate Ground: The Marines at the Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle .” My wife lived through the Korean War. She is forever grateful for what Gen. Douglas MacArthur and his troops did by risking their lives (some died) to save her life and the lives of her fellow Koreans. Instead of concentrating on the bravery of all these Americans, we got a review reeking with anti-Trump rhetoric. At least Trump was not blamed for any negative outcomes in the Korean War. Why not also mention former president Bill Clinton and all he did to avoid serving in the military?

But what happened with Aram Goudsouzian’s review of Jane Leavy’s “The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created”? The reviewer did not blame Trump for Babe Ruth’s never flushing the toilet in the Yankee clubhouse. 

Frank J. Nice, Derwood

Regarding “ A narcissist’s blunder led Marines into a horrific trap,” Blaine Harden’s Oct. 21 Book World review of Hampton Sides’s “On Desperate Ground: The Marines at the Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle”:

Well, sure. Let’s tie President Trump to Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s debacle in the Korean War. While we are at it, let’s somehow tie Trump to Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg and to the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

Cal Sutliff, Washington

I was surprised Ben Bradlee Jr. did not mention in his book “The Forgotten” the devastation in Luzerne County, Pa., from the Hurricane Agnes flood in June 1972. It also wasn’t mentioned in Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Oct. 21 Book World review.

The Wyoming Valley, a large portion of which makes up Luzerne County, was recovering from being a “depressed area” when the flood broke through a dike along the Susquehanna River. The “Valley with a Heart” really never came back. While the flood doesn’t support the narrative of the book, it was, I believe, a pivotal influence in the present state of affairs. Businesses and homes are still boarded up from that time. The city of Wilkes-Barre is a ghost of its past.

Elizabeth Lloyd, Alexandria

He gave the world — and Blair House — the gift of style

Adding to the fine Oct. 19 obituary of interior designer Mario Buatta, “English country style Americanized by ‘Prince of Chintz,’ ” it must be said that one of the most notable achievements of Buatta’s distinguished career was his decoration of Blair House, the president’s guesthouse, which occurred during the Reagan administration when the house underwent a complete restoration.

Buatta’s decorating genius created many of the beautiful, welcoming spaces for which Blair House is known. 

His legacy, not only as an interior designer but also as a devoted friend and counselor to Blair House over many years, will remain at the very heart of the president’s guesthouse.

Selwa "Lucky" Roosevelt, Washington

The writer is chairman of
the Blair House Restoration Fund.

Music's #MeToo movement has begun

The Oct. 22 Style article “Lending their voices to change” discussed how the #MeToo movement has established itself in the music industry, noting that “the behavior of powerful figures has been accepted for so long” and that, so far, the music industry has not seen a cataclysmic event similar to Harvey Weinstein’s downfall.

Victims find it difficult to open up about their experiences; the trauma can be too much to address. Over the past two years, it has been inspiring to see female artists speak up and use their music to address their experiences with sexual harassment. Music is a powerful platform for self-expression and should not be underestimated. The music industry has a long way to go in addressing sexual harassment and abuse, but it is exhilarating that artists are doing what they can to partake in the #MeToo movement.

Sophie Uy, Annandale

Race, too, has a role in false accusations

I don’t know who the target audience was for the Oct. 21 Washington Post Magazine article “In the Middle: Are mothers of sons the key to a Me Too solution?” about women helping their sons and other men in their lives negotiate the #MeToo era and avoiding false accusations of sexual assault. The piece ignored the aspect of race. The 20th century was full of incidents of violence resulting from white women falsely accusing black men of rape, such as lynchings and towns being burned, including Rosewood, Fla., and Black Wall Street in Tulsa. Black parents today still warn their sons about the perils of interracial dating. In fact, Petula Dvorak recently wrote about black men disproportionately being falsely accused and being presumed guilty [“Black men and the presumption of wrongdoing,” Metro, Oct. 9]. The magazine piece missed the mark. 

Steve Brown, Bowie


The New York Giants' Odell Beckham celebrates a catch in an Oct. 7 game in Charlotte. (Jason E. Miczek/AP)
A sip does not a water fan make

The Oct. 24 Early Lead article “To pee or not to pee: Beckham had to go” [Sports] supported the speculation that New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. departed the field to go to the locker room early before halftime in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles because of “displeasure with his team’s game plan” rather than a need for intravenous fluids, as the Giants coach told the media.

There is not enough evidence.

When asked about this after the game, Beckham said, “I really don’t like water. I’m trying, [but] I really just don’t like it. You get that stomach feeling, like it’s all slushy. I’m trying to stay hydrated but sometimes I got to get an IV; it’s necessary.”

The article raised questions about the validity of his reply by providing an instance of Beckham taking a sip of water. However, water is a basic necessity of life, and that he took one sip of water at a specific moment does not mean he can’t dislike water.

Ajit Kadaveru, Fairfax

Way too cute for the topic

I enjoy Monica Hesse’s columns. But she, like many Post writers, sometimes sacrifices her point in the name of stylistic cuteness. In her Oct. 23 Style column, “Hashtags are cutesy; incidents are serious,” she pointed to recent infamous police shootings  and noted that police being called on minorities all too often ended, “Not with a wah-wahhhh but with a bang-bang.” No. These incidents did not end in a cartoonish, funny noise. They ended in a gunshot or, more likely, multiple gunshots. And life-altering or life-ending bloodshed.

I dearly wish The Post would ensure that enchantment with cute turns of phrase won’t undermine — or in this case actually contradict — articles’ theses.

Jon Frandsen, Takoma Park

Beyond the unfair myth about Ulysses S. Grant

The Oct. 18 Retropolis article about Ulysses S. Grant’s alleged drinking, “Gen. Grant’s long battle with liquor,” drew upon Ron Chernow’s biography of the general and president. It is a regrettable blow to Grant historiography that a writer of Chernow’s influence should fall into a strange obsession painting Grant’s relationship with alcohol as a defining element in his life.

Allowing that focus to dominate the narrative results in a distorted portrait of Grant’s character and leadership. Diagnosis of his medical condition at this distance is impossible, but it is likely that although he had no physical dependence on alcohol, he did have a low tolerance for it. He partook of alcohol in the White House temperately, if at all. The scrupulously honest Secretary of State Hamilton Fish said Grant’s “use of wine is as moderate and proper as that of a gentleman need be.” No credible witness alleged that it impaired his executive or political judgment. Suggesting otherwise, alas, tends to validate many other myths regarding Grant’s presidential service.

But, as scholars have shown, rather than a detached, naive, uninformed or bibulous executive, Grant was a hands-on president, an effective legislative leader and an adroit politician, who won a landslide reelection and came within a hair’s breadth of winning a third nomination in 1880.

Charles W. Calhoun, Washington

The writer is the author of “The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant.”


Amy Schumer (Jordan Strauss/Invision)
Schumer's pregnant, and that's not political

The Oct. 24 Reliable Source headline “Amy Schumer announces she’s pregnant in a political way” [Style] certainly caught my attention. I wondered whether “in a political way” was a variation of “in a biblical way.” After reading the article, I realized it was just a grammatical goof that could have been avoided by placing “in a political way” in another place.

Michele Downey, Arlington

He didn't expect to be thriving in the postseason or even pitching in October

I see The Post has again misused “let alone” in comparing a remarkable (unlikely, surprising) occurrence with an even more remarkable one. In the Oct. 23 Sports article on baseball pitcher Ryan Madson [“After all that, Dodgers’ Madson is still standing”], the passage that read “it did not seem possible for him to be thriving in the postseason, let alone pitching in October at all” got it backward. Either the two things that did not seem possible should have been switched, or “let alone” should have been replaced by “or even.” Time for a style-guide memo?

Perry Beider, Silver Spring

Paul Allen's artistic side

In all the articles following the death of technology magnate Paul Allen, including the Oct. 16 obituary “Microsoft co-founder invested billions in sports teams and philanthropy,” I was disappointed to see no mention of his incredible art collection. I was privileged to see a selection on display at the Phillips Collection two years ago. I since have learned that he made many contributions to the arts. He was truly a friend of the arts, and that deserved recognition.

Cathy Tunis, Reston


Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in Season 3 of Netflix's "House of Cards." (David Giesbrecht/Netflix)
'House of Cards' is about bad Brits, not bad Americans

Reid Standish’s Oct. 28 Outlook essay, “Abroad, ‘House of Cards’ feeds dark views of the U.S.,” painted a dire picture of what the American “House of Cards” series has done to the image of U.S. politics in the eyes of the rest of the world. But the show is not based on American politics; it is based on the original British show of 1990, featuring Ian Richardson and taking place in the Margaret Thatcher era. That show was based on the book of the same name by Michael Dobbs. 

The wonderful, Machiavellian story was based on one man’s determined quest to attain the rank of prime minister. American TV simply took the plot and adapted it to the United States with a few alterations. So the rest of the world is actually seeing British machinations, not American ones. And it is the result of a fertile literary mind. 

Our image in the world is already sullied enough (justifiably) that we don’t really need other countries to think the incidents portrayed on the show actually happen here.

We don’t murder our opponents, though we might like to, but defeat them by other possibly dirty tricks and maneuvers — much as other governments do.

Rosemarie Rauzino-Heller, Rockville

Confirmed to court, not proved innocent

In his Oct. 21 Outlook essay, “The Saudis knew they could get away with it. We always let them.,” Simon Henderson noted that President Trump seemed to compare “the royal family to Brett M. Kavanaugh, saying they were presumed ‘guilty until proven innocent.’ ” A Senate confirmation never found now-Justice Kavanaugh “innocent” of the allegation made very credibly by Christine Blasey Ford. Please stop repeating that falsehood. Only a court or jury can make such a finding.

James Graham, Falls Church

North by Southeast

Regarding the Oct. 20 Local Digest item “Man killed in three-car crash in Southwest” [Metro]:

If a car is traveling north on South Capitol Street, the car is in Southeast Washington, not Southwest.

Scot Stone, Washington

The truth about 'Amos 'n' Andy'

The Oct. 25 Reliable Source article “A red-faced apology from Megyn Kelly for defense of blackface” [Style] noted that Al Roker said, about Kelly, “I’m old enough to have lived through ‘Amos ‘n’ Andy,’ where you had white people in blackface playing two black characters.” It appeared that he was misremembering. While it is true that the radio version was voiced by white actors Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, the television series was cast with African American actors Alvin Childress and Spencer Williams.

Frank Barroso, Burke

The Spanish Civil War was a prelude to World War II

After reading the Oct. 20 front-page article “Spain unearthing a painful past,” I felt something significant was missing. The article suggested, perhaps by accident, that the Spanish Civil War was a clash between two competing, albeit problematic, views.

The Spanish Civil War was launched by a fascist coup attempt against a democratically elected government. The “Republicans” were not, as the article stated, “a leftist democratic faction” but, in fact, the elected government. Gen. Francisco Franco organized within the military what was hoped would be a quick coup against the Popular Front government. The coup was not successful and resulted in a prolonged civil war that was won largely as a result of military aid from Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, and the silence and complicity of so-called democratic governments such as France, Britain and the United States.

A disservice is done when the Spanish Civil War is presented as something other than what it actually was: a prelude to World War II.

Bill Fletcher Jr., Mitchellville