Letters to the Editor

Your article (The Best Care Anywhere by Phillip Longman, January/February) should be required reading for a) every member of Congress and the administration who continue to underfund the best health-care system in the country, and b) your colleagues in the print and broadcast media who appear to be interested in the Veterans Health Administration only when we have a problem.
Patrick J. Doyle, Ph.D.
Associate Director for Research, Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System

I am not a veteran, but I am employed as a nurse for the VHA in the outpatient prime medicine clinics. I cannot use the VHA for health care; therefore, I have a private sector physician. I cannot remember when, if ever, I have received the quality and detailed care that we are required to give the veterans with each and every visit.
When I converse with colleagues in the private sector, they are amazed at our per year in-patient and safety education requirements, as well as at the details we are required to handle within the clinic. As a result of this, our skills are sharpened every day as well as our thirst for the most updated knowledge in healthcare. In the private sector, it is the patient’s responsibility to update their health-care providers about changes in their health. In the VHA, each visit to a specialty clinic, admission and consult are followed back to the patient’s primary healthcare provider via electronic files. The primary health-care provider is really the primary, unlike in the private sector.
Colleen Goessling
St. Louis, Mo.

I find it curious that Phillip Longman, who had so much to say regarding the quality of the care and the quality of the economics found in the Veterans Health Administration, would omit any mention of the fact that VHA physicians do not carry malpractice insurance and the VHA follows strict algorithms in its prescription of medications. The VHA is completely insulated from expensive medical lawsuits and considers carefully the cost of medications when approving prescriptions.
The VHA offers a powerful example of the efficiency and real health benefits of a strongly centralized and managed health-care system. However, the VHA, like Kaiser Permanente, also severely limits the choices of the physician and patient.
Damien Ellens
New Haven, Conn.

Amy Sullivan’s piece on the status of Democratic consultants (Fire the Consultants, January/February) was interesting and enlightening. As someone who has worked at the periphery of this business in the Midwest, I am constantly amazed at the number of consultants (primarily D.C.-based) who continue to stay in demand cycle after cycle while piling up horrendous win-loss records.
You mention one excellent consultant, David Axelrod, who, in my view, could be our party’s next national superstar in this field. As pollster Peter Hart pointed out during a stop in the Quad Cities last month, the Democrats’ best hope lies in shaping a heartland strategy to move the Midwest into the Democratic column. To do that, our party had better look to the talented young party and policy advisers who live inand know the values ofthe heartland.
The time has come for our party to give a new generation of consultants an opportunity. The fleet of high-priced consultants who have helped our party lose the House, the Senate, and the White House have had their day in the sun.
Porter McNeil
Moline, Ill.

Thank you very much for your wonderful article about Democratic consultants in the recent issue of The Washington Monthly. I think you hit the nail on the head: The Democrats love to recycle people whose best days were 30 years ago. As a young adult active in Democratic circles in North Carolina, I’m amazed at how the state and national parties keep picking retreads for candidates and staffs, and how the party really tries to block young talent from emerging.
John Quinterno
Via email

Amy Sullivan’s recent piece on consultants is riddled with inaccuracy, innuendo, half-truths, and just plain foolishness. What she fails to report overwhelms in significance what she does write.
Good reporters should have good sources. Sullivan fails that test. Her characterization of my advice is both completely inaccurate and completely unsourced. In connection with another subject of her story, she mentions by name one, and only one, campaign sourcea second level operative who was fired by his campaign manager part way through the one Senate campaign on which he worked. As every serious Senate campaign will attest, Joe Hansen provides an invaluable service helping these operations set up shop and plan intelligently for the rigors to come. The campaigns he has assisted would be far worse off without his wise and experienced counsel. He and his partners also produce outstanding direct mail.
Bob Shrum hardly needs me to defend his illustrious career. Dozens of people here and abroad whose names start with president, prime minister, senator, and governor can provide far more eloquent testimony than can I.
Examples of highly selective reporting abound. Sullivan praises one of my fine winning colleagues for helping to take back the Oregon state legislature, but fails to mention our role in recapturing the North Carolina House. Nor does she note our work for Brian Schweitzer, who won the governor’s chair, in Montana, a state that usually oozes red. Nor does Sullivan report our third winning effort as part of Barbara Boxer’s team, this time assisting her in garnering more votes than any other Senate candidate in history.
Perhaps some people hire us because we have helped take away at least one Republican seat in every election cycle but one for over 20 years. Perhaps others hire us because we are the only polling firm never to have lost an incumbent race for Senate or governor. But I have a business only because people who have far more at stake than Sullivan spend a lot more time, effort, energy, and care thoroughly assessing our strengths and weaknesses.
Mark Mellman
President
The Mellman Group
Washington, D.C.

Kenneth Baer’s critique of Don’t Think Of An Elephant is ultimately unconvincing because it argues against Lakoff’s politics instead of taking on Lakoff’s theory (Word Games, January/February).
What Lakoff claims is that the manipulative power of language framing is ultimately more important to a successful political message than the ideas behind it. This new insight resonates with Democratic populists, like me, who are frustrated by conservatives’ use of deceptive language to malign Democratic ideas and erode American values while Democratic leaders appear powerless to defend them.
I don’t care if Baer agrees with Lakoff politically. What I care about is Lakoff’s argument that language framing is relevant to create a more successful progressive message that will help Democrats win back the political advantage. Apparently, Baer agrees with that part of Lakoff’s book by taking credit for it. Then, he slams him as a left-wing liberal which is exactly the language framing Republicans use to malign good ideas with irrelevant ideological bashing.
When will the New Democrats and DLC get it? The grassroots uprising in the Democratic Party is not about extremist ideology, as bombastic DLC egomaniac DINOs (Democrats In Name Only) such as Baer keep arguing, along with right-wing talk-show hosts. It is the natural insurrection of average patriotic Americans who can’t sit around anymore and watch the country we love fall apart.

By the way, you may dismiss what I have to say by assuming that I am one of those Birken-stock liberals that Baer claims are pulling the Democrats too far to the left. Wrong again.
I am, in fact, a Christian, stay-at-home mom, and recovering Republican red-stater, who can’t stomach what the GOP is doing to this country. If a former Republican like me is part of the lefty fringe as Baer defines it, then Baer is the one who is misleading Democrats, not Lakoff.
Wendy Foster Dickson
Manchester, Mo.

Because I have always enjoyed the fact-filled material in your magazine, though often disagreeing with it, I have a modest bone to pick with an article in your January/February issue (Tilting at Windmills by Charles Peters). The Tee fees are on us headline implies that the golf was paid for by sources other than judges themselves. This is a flat lie. While I do not play golf, at conferences or otherwise, it is simply untrue that golf or other recreational activities were paid for, or reimbursed by, the conference sponsors.

Your error is exactly the same as if a right-wing writer saw judges attending a law school conference in New York going into a Broadway play (or a strip club) and attacked the law school and the judges for being paid for such activities. I have a number of disagreements with the other arguments and implications made in your article, but those, at least, are matters of dispute. The financing of golf (as well as the more time spent language, though I would assume that most readers would believe that one was stated hyperbolically) is simply untrue.
Danny J. Boggs
Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
KentuckyTennesseeOhioMichigan
Louisville, Ky.

Charles Peters replies: I am happy to concede that judges pay for their own green fees. Unfortunately, the fact remains that most of the expenses room, meals, and travelof the judges who attend these conferences are often paid by groups that have an interest in litigation.

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