Email To The Editors

The Life and Vines of Tarzan

What’s Wrong With Being a Momma’s Boy?

Michael Lind (” Tarzan“) needs to get a grip. It’s a kids’ movie, my friend, and it is as true to the original text as it can be in our politically correct times. A more “feminized” society is not the repressed, horrible existence Lind portrays–why are less violence, less aggression, less machismo, less extremist Darwinism, and greater sensitivity bad things? Let’s face it, people like Hitler took their “survival of the fittest” theory out of hand and the result was far from pretty.

And anyway, a guy who knows how to treat his mother well is way sexier than a guy who thinks he’s too cool and manly to care for his family. Maybe Lind is grumpy because he wouldn’t look quite so hot in a loincloth by conventional standards of beauty.

Ann Stanton
Euclid, Ohio

Book Clubbing

Might I respond to Eric Alterman’s sarcastic remark (” Book Club“) that I “graciously declined” to reply to a column by him in The Nation attacking my New Republic “Diarist” on Yale University Press and its series on communism? For the second time–the first was in a letters exchange in The Nation–Alterman has somehow inferred that my silence connoted acquiescence with his article. Since Alterman did not point out any factual inaccuracies in my Diarist and since he defended the notion that Russians were sent to the Gulag legally, I thought his article too trivial and silly to merit a response. But because Alterman ungraciously persists in depicting me as having repudiated my own article, I feel obliged, for what it’s worth, to note that I think it holds up perfectly well.

Jacob Heilbrunn
Senior editor, the New Republic

Eric Alterman replies: Jacob Heilbrunn has messed up yet again. I intended no sarcasm in crediting him with sensibly refusing to defend what was clearly a shoddy and indefensible piece of work. I thought he was showing some class.

Heilbrunn calls my objections to his Diarist “trivial” and “silly.” Let’s say he’s right. Why, then, did conservative historians Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes feel a need to condemn Heilbrunn as well in letters published in TNR’s own letters section? Why did the equally conservative Richard Gid Powers call Heilbrunn’s accusations against Yale “absurd” and existing “only in the minds of the pathologically suspicious” on the same page? Why did even the venerated anti-Stalinist historian Robert Conquest call Heilbrunn’s article “unfair” and “exaggerated”? Why did the director of Yale University Press, John Ryden, insist in a letter to more than a hundred people that, “TNR’s Editor-in-Chief Martin Peretz has admitted that Heilbrunn’s piece is unfounded and should not have been published.” (Peretz denies this.) Are the criticisms of Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, Robert Conquest–and if Ryden is to be believed–even Heilbrunn’s boss, Marty Peretz, among many others, all too “trivial” and “silly” to merit a response as well? Or was a strategic silence really the right response for Heilbrunn after all?

Criticizing the Kosovo Critics

Thank you for William Saletan’s brilliant analysis (“The Lessons of Kosovo“) of the war. As a lifelong conservative and Republican, who feels that President Clinton defamed the office of the presidency, I was amazed that all the major conservative commentators and politicians were against the U.S. action. After all, the previous Republican administrations had sent troops into Somalia for humanitarian reasons, and yet the operation was largely a failure.

I believe the prevailing Republican opinion was largely generated from an anti-Clinton feeling, particularly after a failed attempt at removing him from office. One commentator said that we should have provided the Kosovo Liberation Army with weapons but not sent our troops. Imagine if the United States had adopted this isolationist policy during World War II. The face of Europe might look quite a bit different.

Gary Spiegel
Los Angeles

Retire the World’s Policeman

William Saletan showed more than a little bias in the piece about the Republican condemnation of the Clinton administration’s actions in Kosovo (“The Lessons of Kosovo“).

What were we really doing bombing Serbia? Maybe extending the ideas of a “New World Order” in which hard-working Americans are expected to pay the price not only of our freedom, but of the freedom of the whole world. We had no business in any of the NATO actions; there was no real possibility of this expanding throughout the region as everyone in the administration was spouting. It didn’t concern our energy supply–not much oil comes out of Kosovo. They were not a direct threat to our national security. They were not a world threat such as Germany or Japan was in World War II. So what were we really doing there?

And what of the atrocities? Were they going on before the bombing started? Do we have proof of that? Maybe these atrocities began from the outrage of the Serbians knowing that their cities, homes, and factories were getting bombed, and their brothers and sisters being killed.

Gary W. Meadows
Spring, Texas

Buckley Barks Back

Last week, William F. Buckley Jr. read a Slate “Book Club” about his latest novel, The Redhunter: A Novel Based on the Life and Times of Senator Joe McCarthy, and decided enough was enough. One of the Clubbers, Eric Alterman, had called Buckley’s book “a lumbering, themeless pudding of a novel that forces one’s eyelids shut like an invisible vise.” The other, Ronald Radosh, had described it as “heavy and plodding, without any real juice to it.” Buckley weighed in, defending his work against all charges aesthetic, historical, and ideological, and quoting a critic writing in Buckley’s own National Review, who deemed the book “wonderfully readable … a witty, fast-moving yarn.” Now Buckley has asked Slate to run the following excerpt from the book, so that readers can judge for themselves. We are delighted to oblige. Click here for the excerpt.