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To the Editor:

Re “Sharpton Dances and Madison Ave. Raids Campaigns” [Ben Smith, Jan. 9]: Here in California, the national capital of staggeringly big big-money campaigns, the debate between traditional advertising agencies and their political-advertising counterparts has been raging for years. And, to be fair, there’s some truth on both sides. Madison Avenue is right that the quality of most political ads is skin-crawlingly embarrassing. The political folks have their own point that in the political world—which is, after all, home of the ultimate “one-day sale”—most agencies have a hard time operating within the time, budgetary and cultural limits of campaigns.

Having been on both sides of the argument for better than 15 years (political experience in California, Maryland, Washington State, Nevada; brand credentials in health care, travel and leisure, technology, financial institutions and the like), I firmly side with the position articulated by Ellis Verdi, and for two reasons. First, most political advertising tends to fall down based on a general lack of compelling ideas that are written with even marginal skill. Second, the historical record—from Doyle Dane Bernbach’s work for Lyndon Johnson to Hal Riney’s “Morning in America”—is pretty clear in demonstrating that ad agencies can be highly effective in this category.

No disrespect to Mr. Garth—his skills and track record are legendary. But when agencies with DeVito and Verdi’s chops opt into the political world, I think the quality of work in the field is about to enjoy an uptick, in part because of a central truth: People don’t hate most political advertising because it’s bad politics—they hate it because it’s bad advertising.

Jef Loeb

San Francisco

Rights and Wrongs

To the Editor:

In Martin Garbus’ Wise Guys column, “Police-State Powers Are Our Biggest Threat” [Dec. 26–Jan. 2], he wrote: “The legal system to treat the new prisoners of the war on terror, created out of thin air, disgraces us. No one ever before suggested such a legal system—not during the Civil War, not during World War I or World War II, and not during the Cold War.”

Isn’t it true, however, that Lincoln did just that against Confederate spies—the suspension of habeas corpus? Certainly an ugly possibility, but the administration would love to point to that example and say: Whatever it took to reunite the country and liberate the slaves, right? You’re either with the slaveholders or you’re with the abolitionists.

The same could be said for the Japanese-American internments: There was a slim chance that it stopped a few spies from their work, so what the hell …. I am embarrassed by these decisions past and present, so I don’t want to see arguments like Mr. Garbus’ that imply that George W. Bush is the first to ignore the Constitution. Perhaps I just don’t understand the legal nuances of these actions, or the reasons they don’t fall under the category he describes.

David Milkes

Basking Ridge, N.J.

To the Editor:

I am writing to thank Mr. Garbus for writing, and your publisher for publishing, his very well-done article. I want you to know that there are many other citizens in our country that share his views. Our nation is slowly but surely evolving into a police state that has little regard for civil liberties.

What is most troubling to me, though, is the apparent willingness of so many citizens and political “leaders” to give up or modify our Constitutional freedoms in the name of protection from terrorism. I have argued until I am blue in the face with some friends and co-workers who believe these actions are justified. The Bush machine has done such a good job in the mainstream media instilling fear in our country that millions of citizens are willing to give Mr. Bush any power he desires to combat the terrorism fear he has implanted.

Far too many of our citizens have forgotten the words of Benjamin Franklin when he said, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” That statement was true then and is, if possible, even truer today.

Fortunately for our nation, there are still voices that can be heard challenging the recent direction taken by our President and Congress. Unfortunately, we currently appear to be in the minority ….

Our nation needs more people like Mr. Garbus.

James L. LaGarde

Pocomoke City, Md.

Much Ado About Munich

To the Editor:

I enjoyed Andrew Sarris’ review of Munich [“Spielberg’s Munich Suffers From Curse of the ‘Significant’ Film,” At the Movies, Dec. 26–Jan. 2] very much and, as a fairly right-wing Jew, I honestly don’t know if I’ll see this film. I go to the movies to be entertained, not to be aggravated. But let me make three points. First, I’m tired of the stereotypical Israeli Mossad agent who is always torn by doubt and angst. It’s boring already. Second, the veracity of the book that this film is based on is more than a little suspect. Third, if you’re Golda Meir in 1972, and not directing a movie in 2005, the question is: What do you do? Do you absorb the hit? (Remember, your Olympic team got wiped out.) Do you surrender? Or do you engage the enemy? She chose to engage the enemy, and much like Harry Truman with Hiroshima, it was the right decision at that time.

Bill Pearlman