Political disgrace

"Judicial hopefuls treading the line," by Emilie Lounsberry, April 28, correctly points out the atrocious turn our electoral processes have taken. How could the public and our elected officials allow a beautifully designed democratic system to become something akin to a banana republic?

Judicial candidates accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from interest groups? Presidential candidates spending hundreds of millions? Partisan gerrymandering of districts to create permanent safe seats instead of fair representation? And we wonder why such a small percentage of Americans vote.

We need draconian changes to our electoral system. How can we run about the globe proselytizing about free elections and "the American way," when our own system has been sold to the highest bidder by lifetime-elected officials?
Paxton W. Riddle

Strong signal on Iraq

Re: "Mixed on Murphy: His stand leaves voters divided," by Larry King, April 27. I'm 32, an opponent of this war since day one, and I voted enthusiastically for Rep. Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.). I'm not convinced a congressionally mandated timetable for withdrawal is a good idea, but vigorous opposition to this war is a good idea.

Inasmuch as this vote sent a strong signal to the administration that Americans are disgusted with the war, it was a good idea. Inasmuch as it forced the administration to negotiate with Congress, it was a good idea. As a military tactic, it is a terrible idea.

I doubt that many of the Democrats who voted for this measure would have voted for it had they thought President Bush would sign it. This bill had the quality of the numerous constitutional amendments against flag burning that Republicans have put up for years - it sent a message without any real desire to make law.

What makes this vote different, however, is that the Iraq disaster is the highest profile political issue we've had since Vietnam and Watergate. This war is fanning passions around the world. Yet here, in Rep. Murphy's district, some people didn't even know his position on the war. Such political ignorance is disappointing in a democracy.

Chris Duckworth

Academy's values

Kudos to Kevin Ferris for his commentary, "Respect and appreciation, in the military tradition," April 27. We attended the festivities on the same day, as our son is a college freshman and in the regimental band. Ferris captured the essence, ambience and meaning of the day in honoring Lt. Col. John C. Church Jr. on his return from Iraq.

The day's rituals he described embody the philosophy of Valley Forge Military Academy and College: academic excellence, character development, personal motivation, physical development and leadership. The culture on so many college campuses now is highly questionable.

Valley Forge has much to offer all young men and women, whether they pursue a military career or not. The values reinforced there carry them to much success in life.

Mary Hernandez
Timonium, Md.

Honest talk

In the Democratic presidential candidates' debate April 26, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico admitted that he had at first hesitated to call for Alberto Gonzales' resignation as attorney general "because he's Hispanic." In about a half century of watching the American political circus, it was one of the most refreshingly honest statements I have heard.

If we had more people in public life who recognize their biases, admit them and rise above them when they get in the way of their duty, the country would be in better shape. We'd have a Supreme Court that accepts the wall between church and state. We might even be able to pick up The Inquirer every day and not see that once again, more Americans in Iraq have died for their president.

Paul Jablow
Bryn Mawr