Hillary’s History

To the Editor:

Re “Hillary’s Iraq: Ambiguous Hawk in a Fog of War” [Ben Smith, Nov. 28]: Vietnam analogies are of limited—if any—use when looking at the current situation in Iraq; but the analogy between the Democrats in 1968 and the Democrats in 2008 is more flawed than most.

Yes, as Mr. Smith points out, Hubert H. Humphrey, not Eugene McCarthy, got the nomination. But how? Back then, many states did not have primaries, and so party bosses picked the candidates. In fact, the uproar over 1968 led to the wider use of primaries. If there had been the number of primaries then that there are now, Humphrey would never have had a chance at getting the nomination—since he didn’t even become a candidate until Lyndon B. Johnson withdrew.

Even with that obstacle, an anti-war candidate—Robert Kennedy—probably would have won the nomination had he not been shot.

And whatever else the McCarthy backers did or did not accomplish, they did force out the major pro-war candidate: L.B.J.

But even if one is to accept the analogy, it’s hardly reassuring for hawkish Democrats like Hillary. In 1968, they did win the nomination—but they lost the election.

Maybe if Democrats in 2008 nominate someone who has been correct on the disaster in Iraq, they can avoid that fate.

Gail Robinson


To the Editor:

Come now! In Mr. Smith’s piece, he correctly points out that the junior Senator from New York’s calibrated stance could leave her behind; however, saying that her “complex position on the war is moving into the political foreground” mischaracterizes her position. Her position is not complex; it is strictly based on whichever way the political wind is blowing at the time. One characteristic of the junior Senator is that she is disingenuous on several issues, among them abortion, her religiosity, the Iraq war and more.

She is more concerned about trying to position herself to please as many voters as possible than saying what she really thinks. Mr. Smith was also correct in saying that national politics in recent years has not favored nuance. Mrs. Clinton is filled with nuance and duplicity. Anyone who thinks her position on the war is heartfelt and sincere is extremely naïve, and I have a bridge to sell you.

The details laid out in this piece should convince any objective voter that Mrs. Clinton neither instills any sense of confidence, nor any sense that she would be a capable leader.

Nancy Barell


Let Me at Laura

To the Editor:

I enjoyed Ron Rosenbaum’s article “Dear Dmitri Nabokov: Don’t Burn Laura! Let Draft Gather Dust” [The Edgy Enthusiast, Nov. 28] and agree that it would be a shame to lose Nabokov’s final (albeit unfinished) work. I always feel as though readers aren’t given enough credit—I can certainly appreciate that the work is unfinished and wasn’t ready for publication, but would enjoy seeing what the man was working on in his last year. However, with the current celebrity climate that Mr. Rosenbaum mentions, Dmitri’s fears are well-based. Thanks for the Nabokov news.

Michael Novak


To the Editor:

I read Mr. Rosenbaum’s article with interest. I was surprised that in his comments about the title, he omitted mention of perhaps the most famous literary Laura of all: Petrarch’s muse. From Mr. Rosenbaum’s description of Nabokov’s last work, it would seem that relationship was much on his mind, as it certainly related to Vera and multiple other women, real and fictive. I certainly hope Dmitri decides to reject his father’s command—Mr. Rosenbaum’s solution seems a reasonable compromise. Ah, to have an hour alone with that safe-deposit box (and the key).

Paul Witcover


Potter Deserves Better

To the Editor:

My mother used to say that she thought The New Yorker hired critics who hated the subjects they covered. Now I believe the same is true of The New York Observer.

Rex Reed obviously fails to understand or enjoy films. In his most recent crotchety non-review, he managed to trash Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which is clearly one of the best films of the year [“Goblets of Ire,” On the Town, Nov. 21].

Mr. Reed said he might be too old for the movie? Well, I’m about his age, and I’ve read all the Harry Potter books and seen all of the movies. I, too, am a writer; I’m also a film historian and work in a bookstore. I think J.K. Rowling belongs on the same shelf as J.M. Barrie, E. Nesbit, L. Frank Baum and Lewis Carroll.

Mr. Reed isn’t too old—he’s just completely out of touch, locked in his insular Upper East Side world, and has utterly lost his sense of wonder and imagination.

I feel sorry for him.

John Kaufman

Allston, Mass. Letters