Although I was very young when these events unfolded, I appreciate the historical perspective your article about LBJ ["The Unmaking of the President"] gave me. More important, at a time when we are so divided over so many issues, the article has shown me that we, as a country, have faced turbulent times before and gotten through them.
Meredith A. Wayant
Clay Risen's article is well researched, but I disagree with his thesis that President Johnson was ready to unleash a major new series of domestic initiatives and pulled back only because of the riots that followed the King assassination. The immediate lift to the president's popularity following his withdrawal from the 1968 election allowed LBJ and his aides to dream, momentarily, that they could recreate the heady days of 1964-65, which produced the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and aid in education. Those triumphs were the most important social legislation since Franklin Roosevelt's first 100 days. But by the end of 1966, when the Democrats suffered huge losses in the House of Representatives, the political climate had changed, and the votes in Congress for large, expensive social initiatives were already gone. A conservative backlash against civil rights and social reform brought a counterrevolution against social change that began not in 1968 but as early as 1964 with Barry Goldwater. The circumstances that had created the revolutionary changes of the mid-1960s were unusual: a masterful president, a great civil rights leader, a massive movement, a large Democratic majority in Congress and a national feeling that it was time to end racial discrimination. One wonders what will make the country take another giant step toward progressive reforms.
Author, Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and The Laws that Changed America
I am glad that Tom Fiedler is pleased with his exposé of Gary Hart [Presence of Mind: "Those Aren't Rumors"]. In the "New Journalism" no person in the public eye has any privacy. Frankly, many of us citizens care little about our politicians' private lives, as long as they do the job we elect them to do. Most of this so-called journalism is done strictly for prurient interests. We no longer can avail ourselves of the best possible candidates because many choose not to be exposed to such reporting, which may or may not be true. Are reporters any purer or more trustworthy than public figures? Reporters such as Tom Fiedler and Jim McGee have helped bring down the political climate.
Marshall H. Cossman
Wild things proved to me once again the value of this excellent magazine. The unfortunate ant that contributed, willy-nilly, to the propagation of a nematode via an almost incredible natural selection process, and the romantically driven hummingbird that, more happily, tail-chirped his way to a potential mate in a power dive, were a delight. Visions of an ant that took on the appearance of a luscious berry and of the undoubtedly successful courting ritual of a four-gram bird quite haunted me.
James "the amazing" Randi
James Randi Educational Foundation
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Seeing in Reverse
If Ellis Weiner ["Mind Games"] will allow it, I offer craind—that drained feeling in the cranium that comes from trying to create an anagram for rancid.