Does the right to privacy ring a bell?
Regarding your Sept. 29 editorial "Saving Do-Not-Call Lists": The issue is not one of freedom of speech but rather the fundamental right of privacy in one's home. When I sign up for phone service, a discrete telephone number is assigned to me for which I pay a monthly service fee. Until I have informed potential callers (i.e., commercial entities) that I do not want them to call my number, thereby causing a bell to ring in my home, I must suffer the intrusion; however, upon notice to these persons (e.g., through the do-not-call list) they are made aware that I have revoked their license to call my number, and their calls are a violation of my privacy.
Ringing a bell in my home is not speech! The free speech argument is a red herring and in no way similar to the right to publish an ad in a newspaper, which I purchase and read at the risk that I will not like the content.
Why don't telemarketers welcome the do-not-call list? Doesn't it help them concentrate on people more likely to buy? Do people on the list buy much? I sure don't. If a telemarketer calls me, I become less likely to buy.
La Crosse, Wis.
David Greenberg understates the importance of issues in presidential primary campaigns in his Sept. 29 opinion "In politics, image is substance." While less numerous perhaps than voters motivated by feelings and impressions, those for whom issues matter are more reliable voters, and more likely to participate in ways beyond casting their ballot. Candidates ignore such voters at their peril. Moreover, the proportion of voters who pay attention not so much to the particulars of candidates' positions but rather to the ability of candidates to articulate a clear and consistent understanding of the issues, as well as cogently respond to criticism, are certainly more important at the primary stage than Mr. Greenberg acknowledges.
While it may be true that image is more important than substance as a matter of actual voter behavior, Greenberg's contention that this is as it should be is unconvincing as a matter of principle. Certainly the electoral process functions poorly as a barometer of the public's policy preferences, but to suggest that taking positions on policy issues as a component of campaigning is beside the point further lowers our flimsy civic expectations of responsible citizenship.
Jerald C. Mast
Assistant Professor of Political Science Carthage College
Finally, somebody gets it! Having worked as a congressional aide/lobbyist in Washington for 17 years, I understand the natural focus on issues. Now that I've spent the past seven years outside the Beltway, I'm more familiar with how "real folk" think and vote. When we support Gen. Wesley Clark, we do so because of his positions on a couple of key issues (national defense and foreign relations), his character, his intelligence, and his values.
I (and I suspect many other voters) don't expect General Clark to have a healthcare plan now or even in a few months from now. I do expect, however, that he has a general vision for America, can communicate it to the citizens, and can marshal our support. Mostly, I am eager for him to go around the country, to listen and learn. By demanding answers now, members of the media short-circuit that valuable learning process. By demanding that positions never change, the media deny candidates the opportunity to grow. In the process, the public is poorly served.
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