Obama, two years in; Tim Rutten on the midterm elections; Michael Hiltzik on Social Security and teachers

Second-guessers miss their mark

Re "How Obama lost his voice," Opinion, Nov. 3.

All of the Monday-morning quarterbacks such as Marshall Ganz, who now decry President Obama for failures in leadership, overlook the horrendous obstacles he faced going in, plus various disasters such as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and a minority in Congress resolved to see him fail.

The initial problems were enough to topple anyone: a huge military complex committed to an unwinnable war; eight years of George W. Bush's coddling of failed lending institutions, including a last-minute bailout; tax concessions for the wealthy; and a healthcare system seriously underwater. Obama knew he had only two years to tackle healthcare, and that's what he did.

My answer to these pundits: Let's see you try.

Maralys Wills

Santa Ana

Ganz says it all in my view. Obama abandoned the "transformational" model of his campaign and governed as a "transactional" leader, choosing compromise, horse-trading and the status quo rather than advocacy, moral argument and public education.

I just hope the White House is listening.

Amanda Seward

Los Angeles

Obama committed the mortal sin that damns any president: He lost his swagger.

George W. Bush swaggered across that aircraft carrier but lost it with Hurricane Katrina. In 2008, Obama oozed it from every pore. But he tried to appease Republicans during the healthcare "debate," letting it drag on aimlessly.

The American public will forgive a lot, but not the loss of swagger.

Raymond Freeman

Thousand Oaks

In 2008, I was one of those Obamaniacs who supervised a phone bank in Culver City, flew myself and my grandson at my own expense to Nevada to canvass in 100-plus degree heat, and harangued everyone who crossed my path to vote for this

intelligent, insightful and dynamic man.

Once the euphoria of the presidential election wore off, I tried hard to follow up. I was referred to the Democratic National Committee, in which I had never been active; I had little interest in working under that umbrella.

I still believe Obama has the potential to provide the leadership this nation desperately needs;

I just wish he hadn't discarded those of us who would have helped him do that.

Barbara Bergen

Los Angeles

It won't be pretty

Re "Make way for gridlock," Opinion, Nov. 3

Now that voters have returned Republicans to power on Capitol Hill, what lies ahead? How about congressional deadlock?

The Republicans have already vowed to continue to reject compromise. They've set repeal of healthcare reform at the top of their agenda. That assures months of congressional warfare, sidelining other issues.

And what then? Even if the GOP were to succeed, Obama would veto the legislation. Ergo, congressional gridlock.

Get out the shovel, folks. We're about to resume digging ourselves a deeper hole.

Paul McElroy

Laguna Woods

So elected members of the House are now referred to as insurgents? Perhaps Tim Rutten doesn't imagine that many readers soldier through his columns until the final paragraphs. I have trouble believing that he does not recognize that his choice of words serves as an improvised explosive device in an already inflamed dialogue.

This is just what we need to pull the fragments together on the road to recovery.

Way to go!

Vicki Moore

Brisbane, Australia

Medi-Cal waste

Re "$10-billion boost for Medi-Cal," Nov. 3

By throwing more federal funds at an always underfunded and understaffed Medicaid program, we are led to believe that $10 billion will help California modernize and expand its Medicaid program for the poor, "pushing the state to the forefront of the national effort to implement the new healthcare law."

But many physicians have left Medi-Cal and will not return until it is made competitive with Medicare and private healthcare. That $51 billion now spent yearly on Medi-Cal is both chilling and appalling. We are not getting our money's worth.

Single-payer healthcare is the answer to integrate Medi-Cal, Medicare and the myriad private health insurers into a transparent system we can all trust and rely on without the need for all this rhetoric.

Jerome P. Helman, MD



Re "Social Security rules fail teachers," Business, Nov. 3

I was glad to see Michael Hiltzik's informative column on the provisions denying earned Social Security benefits to teachers as well as police officers, firefighters and certain other public employees in California.

In my case, as a retired teacher living on a minimal pension, having those benefits denied has affected my finances in a big way. My net pension is barely above the poverty level, and I've had to make major changes in my standard of living.

Both my late husband and I earned Social Security benefits, and I don't see one penny of those benefits. In addition, I must pay for Medicare Part B out of my meager pension, and that amounts to $100 a month.

It's time for the Congress to right this injustice.

Ellie Doud

Sherman Oaks


Re "Iraqi Jewish heritage in search of a home," Oct. 31

How ironic that Iraq wants the rare Jewish books returned. How ironic that Saad Eskander, the director of Iraq's National Library and Archive, said: "Jews are Iraq's oldest community. They are a significant part of the history of establishing Iraq."

There is no longer a Jewish community because it was destroyed by the hatred of the Iraqi Muslims. It should be noted as well that Jewish people lived in the area years before the establishment of Islam. Is the plan to put the books into a museum for the departed?

The books do not belong to the Iraqi government. They belong to the Iraqi Jews who were thrown out of Iraq, and they have the right to decide where the books should be housed.

Lydia Eagle-Kaplan



Re "Santa Monica wants new bridge at its landmark pier," Nov. 3

The Santa Monica Pier bridge is a hazard. Before roller-blading down the pier, I have to search for loose debris and take note of the newest potholes. I know every inch of that pseudo-bridge. Plus, as a landmark, the pier fails in comparison to other cities'. That pier could bring in money big time.

Leave the pier bridge the way it is? Lunacy!

Hank Baylis

Santa Monica

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