Letters from our readers.
Feb. 6 1998 3:30 AM

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To Everything, Intern, Intern, Intern

I used to really like Slate and I used to point it out to friends who were new to the Internet as an example of the best of the best. I used to read everything and really enjoyed doing so. Now I am disgusted. In fairness, I am disgusted with other media outlets, too. It's just that I thought you guys would not run with the pack so quickly on the Lewinsky scandal.

There is other news going on. Some of it is pretty darn interesting. We are probably going to have Gulf War II, and it has every promise of being a hell of a lot nastier, with more civilian and more military casualties than ever before. We have problems in Bosnia, Ireland, and the Middle East. Something interesting will probably be developing around Cuba, too. If it's sex you must talk about, talk about the pope standing on an island and coming out against birth control (again).

Even if there were no other news, I just do not care about anyone's sex life this much. If there are other crimes, they will surely come out in the form of sound evidence, and then there might be a story.


I look forward to seeing Slate again as a thinking person's media outlet, for people who have a life and need not read such junk. Get back to work. You are going to get hair on your palms if you keep this up!

--Geoffrey Feldman

Friends Don't Let Friends Tape Conversations

I'd like to ask Jacob Weisberg to explain the astonishing remark in his Jan. 26 "Dispatch" that Linda Tripp's bugging of Monica Lewinsky "is among the worst personal betrayals I can imagine--much worse, in moral if not in legal terms, than anything Clinton is accused of doing." Surely Weisberg sees that adultery is the ultimate personal betrayal: It is the breaking of a vow of permanent sexual fidelity. For those married by a religious authority, such as Bill Clinton, it is moreover a betrayal of one's community of faith and one's God. Secretly taping a friend is bad, but friendship is less serious a relationship than marriage.


But I begin to see in the public's indifference to the myriad accusations of presidential adultery that Weisberg speaks for the majority. Whatever the reasons for this deplorable twist in public morality, America's loss of its moral compass is a tragedy even more consequential than Bill Clinton's adultery.

--John M. Owen IV

Mommy Dearest

In "All the President's Women," David Plotz lists the women frequently linked to President Clinton and the qualities they share, he may have omitted something. Many of the qualities attributed to Clinton's women also describe his mother, Virginia Kelley.


She was a big-haired brunette with a fleshy face, full lips, and large teeth. Her clothes were perhaps not exactly revealing, but flashy nonetheless. She enjoyed music, too, and above all, she was loyal to him.

Perhaps Clinton has an Oedipus complex? There could be a Freudian angle to this whole saga.

--Liesl MassaroFairfax, Va.

Nightmare in Glen Oaks


M.G. McCormick of Glen Oaks, N.Y., informs us ("E-Mail to the Editors") that the Irish Republican Army "always notifies ahead of time when a bomb will be set off in a civilian area." That's bloody nice of them, isn't it? But suppose, M.G., that a group with a legitimate grievance against the United States set off a bomb in a "civilian" area in Glen Oaks. Would you condone such an action, provided that the group had given prior notification?

--Tom ConnellyDumont, N.J.


In "Partial Truths in the Partial-Birth-Abortion Debate," Atul Gawande attempts to reduce our natural, profound revulsion at the thought of the procedures used in abortion to an aesthetic response: All abortions are "grotesque," or "gross." His own viewpoint might be termed the anaesthetic approach: As long as a fetus isn't conscious of any pain--isn't, in his terms, a "sensate, aware creature"--it's OK to kill that fetus. Such reasoning isn't much of a basis for policy, either. What distinguishes his unconscious fetus from someone under general anesthesia? Obviously, Gawande is employing other criteria to make that distinction.

In fact, he follows the same aesthetic that has worked so well for the so-called pro-choice movement for decades. It can be summed up in a cliché: out of sight, out of mind. What makes the focus on partial-birth abortion relevant is not its statistical impact but the vividness of its picture of the real horrors of abortion. Gawande himself admits that "as a medical technique, nothing makes partial-birth abortion fundamentally different from other forms of late-term abortion."

Gawande tries to gloss over his discomfort--everyone's discomfort--with the cruelty and injustice of abortion by comparing it to other unpleasant surgical procedures. There is an obvious difference, however, between amputating a leg and aborting a fetus: The former will not, left to grow in its normal course, become an independent human person.

Gawande admits that "knowing whether we have the technology to keep [the fetus] alive doesn't answer" the more fundamental question of when a fetus becomes a conscious being. Medical science cannot now, and perhaps never will be able to, answer that question. Still less is science competent to pronounce on the existence of the human soul. It is for these reasons that the rights of the fetus must be defended as strongly as those of any other person.

--Darren Raymond

San Diego

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