Courage, not polls, should guide candidates

The last presidential debate may have shown some differences between the two men running for US president, but as your front-page article states ("The last debate is now critical in drum-tight Bush-Gore race," Oct. 17), it also reaffirmed the carefully constructed personas they are presenting to the public. Their political differences are predictable - like an edition of "Crossfire."

There isn't a whiff of courage or imagination. The race isn't close because the competition is good. Instead, polls and focus groups rule the day. And it seems they'll rule after the election.

Stewart Lewis Toronto

About the debates: I have a hard time believing analysts who say George W. Bush has the capacity to respond to issues intelligently. I found most of his answers were either so evasive or so general that one could not tell exactly what his position was on the issue or how his policies would affect most Americans.

On tax relief, Mr. Bush says, "People who pay taxes will get tax relief." Why can't moderators or journalists ask what he means by that? A simple follow-up question would make our decisions as voters easier.

Caroline Spaeth Santa Fe, N.M.

Middle East lacks true herald of peace

The only way that peace could be achieved in the Middle East would be with the appearance of a Ghandi or a Mandela. As long as each side insists on demonizing the other, and as long as both sides continue to escalate the rhetoric of hate and suspicion, the peace process will get nowhere.

Unfortunately, I don't see anyone currently functioning as a Ghandi, certainly not Arafat on the Palestinian side. Nor do I see anyone in Israel who would be courageous enough to promote a nonviolent philosophy.

Donald Draganski Evanston, Ill.

Gambling ban tinged with self-interest

Your recent article regarding the regional effects of South Carolina's video-poker ban ("Video-poker ban reveals two sides of the South," Oct. 10) shows the real reason thatneighboring states seek to regulate small-time gambling operations: They want to get rid of competition.

Most of the states mentioned already have state lotteries, and South Carolina isseriouslyconsideringone.Is it any wonder, then, thatstate, local, and law-enforcement officials are trying to crack down on illegal gambling operations? They areprotecting current or anticipated profits from state-run gambling operations.

Whenstate and local officials, who stand to gain from these crackdowns, spout moral invectives against an activitythat the state itself has monopolized, it should at least make us wonder ifthey are motivated by something other than protecting citizens from their own poor choices.

Thomas Pearson Washington Competitive Enterprise Institute

Contradiction in US foreign policy

The bountiful corn harvests in the US may be beautiful, but they contradict American foreign policy ("Bountiful harvests cast shadow on US cornucopia," Oct. 11). The US forced Mexico to end subsidies to farmers and likewise is demanding that China end subsidies, but it goes on providing them here at home.

Furthermore, if there is a serious desire to reduce the number of immigrants crossing our borders, it is essential to address the economic crisis caused by ending corn subsidies in Mexico, and to change policies rather than pressuring China.

Grace Braley Yonkers, N.Y.

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