The New York Times
229 W. 43 Street,
New York NY 10036
June 16, 2001
Dear Mr. Lewis:
First, allow me to say that I am a longtime admirer. I've read two of your books, "Gideon's Trumpet" and "Make No Law," and am a fan of both. And when you titled one of your New York Times columns "The Feeling of a Coup," I jumped with joy to see a respected journalist use that word at all -- even if it was in a metaphorical context -- since so many in the media refuse to even acknowledge the extraordinary political terrain on which the nation's highest appellate court (I no longer call it the "Supreme" anything) has stranded us all.
But Mr. Lewis, I have to tell you that your most recent column, "The Closed Mind," struck me as either highly disingenuous, highly satirical, or highly misinformed.
In your column you express frustration that Mr. Bush can believe in something that lacks any scientific support (the workability of space-based antiballistic missile defense systems), while refusing to believe in something with a strong scientific foundation (global warming caused by greenhouse gases).
You framed your discussion of his policies in term of Bush's beliefs.
You describe Mr. Bush as, "a man of strong opinions stubbornly held, in defiance of reason:"
"What President Bush has been telling European leaders this week can be readily summed up: I am not going to do anything about global warming because it needs more scientific study. But I am going to act urgently to develop a missile defense system although none have any proven scientific basis and every test so far has failed." - Anthony Lewis, "The Closed Mind." The New York Times, June 16, 2001
There has been much written and spoken about the man's proud lack of intellectual curiosity -- a fancy way of saying he doesn't care, doesn't know, and doesn't care to know -- so why would you imply that his policies are informed by scientific passions?
Mr. Lewis, do you really believe that Bush's environmental and defense policies have anything to do with his "deeply-held" beliefs on these subjects and their relative scientific merits? I cannot believe that you do.
To even the most casual observer, science (or the lack thereof) is not the common denominator when it comes to Bush's policies on these issues.
I needn't tell you who benefits from these two Bush policies -- a quick trip to opensecrets.org, "Your Guide to Money in American Elections," will make that clear.
Bush's refusal to protect our environment from a scientifically established threat, while at the same time pushing forward with a costly and scientifically unsound missile defense system (a provocative move that violates treaties America freely signed), is not a matter of his personal scientific stubbornness, or a matter of honest disagreement about the relative scientific merits of either.
It is not even an indication of Bush's disrespect for our environment, or his disrespect for our nation's credibility in the international community.
It is about the only Republican ethic that really arouses Republican passions of late: It is about money. It is about payback. It is about the kind of back-scratching that used to be called by its right name -- political corruption. (I've often wondered why, when reading media reports on campaign finance reform, we often see the word "abuses," but almost never see the word "corruption." If there is no corruption -- "dishonest exploitation of power for personal gain" -- then why the crying need for reform?)
Mr. Lewis, I appreciate that you have been courageous enough and principled enough to write articles critical of the Bush administration. As I mentioned before, I admire your work, I really do, and have for a long time. I am not trying to be a "squeaky wheel" here, or to parse your words.
I recognize that your column was an important contribution to the public dialog on these issues, and to our national discussion about the man who now squats in the nation's highest elective office. I applaud that.
But since you chose to write about the man's motivations -- and about the content of his character as reflected in his administration's policies -- why not tell us the ugly truth? You danced right up to the edge of that truth -- that Bush is a hypocrite who says one thing and does another -- and then danced away.
I think we both know that the problem with Bush's mind isn't that it is closed, or empty, or lazy, or small. I think we both know that the problem with Bush's mind is that it has been bought -- as have his political policies.
"The Closed Mind," you say? I think not. Say, rather, "The Mercenary Mind."
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