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September 24, 2004

In Bush We Trust

Columnist Leonard Fein finds it difficult to understand why 46% of voters “imagine that Bush is more trustworthy than Kerry regarding Supreme Court nominations” (“Heads I Win, Tails You Lose,” September 17). As a member of that 46%, let me explain.

A president’s Supreme Court nominations are more likely to be related to his overall ideology than to his personal trustworthiness. Bush, as a conservative, will pick conservative justices. Conservative judges are typically more deferential to state and local governments on moral issues — that is, more likely to allow state and local governments to decide that marriage should be limited to man-woman relationships, to give police more discretion to enforce the law, and to allow state and local governments to regulate abortion more closely.

By contrast, Kerry’s voting record on social issues is solidly liberal. So Kerry appointees are more likely to use the Constitution as a tool to force states to allow gay marriage, or to adopt liberal policies on crime, abortion and other social issues.

So even if you generally believe that Kerry is a more trustworthy and better human being than Bush, or think Kerry would be a better president in every other respect (perhaps because of skyrocketing budget deficits, growing poverty, the situation in Iraq, etc.), you still might consider Bush “more trustworthy” as to Supreme Court nominations if you are not a 100% liberal on social issues, or believe that even if judges are personally liberal they should give state and local governments the benefit of the doubt. And if you believe all these things, you just might be a swing voter.

Michael Lewyn

Visiting Associate Professor

Southern Illinois University School of Law

Carbondale, Ill.

What the Survey Says

Your article about the study I conducted with Steven Windmueller on the merger that created United Jewish Communities needs clarifying on two points, which I apparently did not explain to your reporter clearly (“Merger of Communal Groups Yields Disappointment,” September 17).

In our research for the study we interviewed about 80 people. Only one person we approached refused to be interviewed, and he was not a major participant in the merger discussions. Another 10 people were sent questionnaires, and five of them responded.

I also want to emphasize that while the article cited me mentioning the Jewish communal work of Howard Rieger and Martin Kraar, I was simply conveying what others we had interviewed said about them. In our study we did not, as its authors, offer an opinion of their work or discuss any other individual by name, except to convey what others had said.

Gerald Bubis

Los Angeles, Calif.

Perennial Questions

Zackary Sholem Berger credits the book “Golems Among Us” with presenting novel parallels between the golem figure and biotechnology issues (“Letting Loose the Golem on Society’s Dilemmas,” September 10). It’s interesting to note that Norbert Wiener’s “God & Golem, Inc.,” published in 1963 by MIT Press, examined the religious issues inherent in cybernetics (a term he coined). Clearly, questions about the Maker and the made are continuously compelling.

Alex Silberman

High Falls, N.Y.

Mistaken on Massacre

Because there were some Arabs who rescued Jews during the Hebron massacre of 1929, Russell Miller writes in his September 3 letter to the editor that “the Hebron riots are a story of hope, as much as they were one more nightmare for the Jews” (“Story of Hope in Hebron”).

Does Miller also believe that the Holocaust is “a story of hope” because there were some Christians who rescued Jews?

Michael Spielholz

Bayside, N.Y.

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