We were pleasantly surprised by the response to our March 22 articles on Jane Fonda (Tom Hayden’s “You Gotta Love Her” and Carol Burke’s “Why They Love to Hate Her”), nearly a third of which came from veterans, who were evenly divided over whether to love or hate Fonda. Overall, positive mail outnumbered negative two to one. Of women who wrote in, 100 percent supported Fonda, then and now.    –The Editors

Columbus, Ohio

Thanks for your articles on Jane Fonda. For thirty years I’ve wanted to thank her for her courage and sacrifice with regard to her antiwar commitment. Tell her this Vietnam veteran said “Thanks.”

Peace: Bring it on!


Jackson, Mich.

Thank you for the articles on Jane Fonda. I’m a Vietnam infantry veteran. I closed that whole chapter of my life, until last year. Then, like a volcano, I erupted–not in violence but in research and activity. I joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Vietnam Veterans of America, Pax Christi and several other groups. I’ve learned much about war, peace, justice, politics, religion, law, geography, psychology, business, humanity and cultures. I’m learning every day. Please advise your authors to preface their comments about veterans with the word “some.” Veterans are individuals. Some choose not to say anything. Some speak out. Some love the military. Some don’t. Some love war. Some love peace. Some are homeless. Some are wealthy. The only universal that can be applied to veterans is that we all had military experience.


Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Even if the story of Jane Fonda touring the “Hanoi Hilton” isn’t true, the way she protested the war–by flying to North Vietnam and fraternizing with and letting herself be used as a propaganda ploy by the North Vietnamese–borders on treason. The Vietnam War represents the darkest chapter in American history, and the protesters against the war and the actions of Daniel Ellsberg probably helped save thousands of lives. They did this through political pressure, rallies, marches, etc. and are, in my mind, heroes. Had Fonda simply stayed home and protested the war in a more conventional and intelligent way, the military would not hold her in such contempt.


Colebrook, Conn.

Yes, some vets hate Fonda. Most think she’s a jerk or don’t care. Few soldiers knew that Denise Levertov, an important American poet, visited North Vietnam. Probably all of them did know the music of Joan Baez, and many were singing it. A lot of soldiers didn’t want to be in Vietnam any more than she wanted them to be there.

Jane Fonda went a lot further. While American soldiers and fliers were being shot at and killed, she sat on an antiaircraft gun near Hanoi wearing a helmet, watching the sky for the next American aircraft. It’s not a fake photograph. No doubt, there are all sorts of cultural associations that attach to the transformation of that photograph into legend; no question that her celebrity as a high-status, sexy movie star fueled the transformation; no question that women are still a big problem for the insular, male military culture.

But Fonda offered herself for the role of international moral hero. The North Vietnamese made of her offering a successful propaganda coup. No surprise that US soldiers reacted badly. She had gone over to the enemy. And no surprise that she is now used by the American right as a symbol of the American left.


Amherst, Mass.

In evaluating attitudes toward Jane Fonda, one must recognize that in 1972 the Vietnam War was winding down, but the Women’s Liberation Movement was gaining strength, challenging patriarchal control over women’s lives and bringing to the surface male insecurities about changes in the established order. In the patriarchal belief system, the independence of women has always been the ultimate no-no.

Of course Fonda’s stardom made her a target, but she came to be hated because she challenged the twin patriarchal orthodoxies–waging war and controlling women. Not only did she criticize patriarchal aggressive behavior from within the so-called enemy’s camp; she also acted on her own outside patriarchal control (where was the man who was supposed to be keeping her in line?).


Maybe you have to be a woman of a certain age to take offense at the pillorying of Jane Fonda. As a woman who marched for peace in the 1960s and ’70s, I was used to being attacked by classmates, family members and most famously Nixon, when he called all of us “bums.” (As Fonda said, “Hello, fellow bums!”)

To this day, I have never seen any public male attacked the way Fonda was. Nor, for that matter, any other woman. The sexist root of the attacks on her have always been apparent to me. It’s to her credit that Fonda has never let her critics silence her and continues to be at the forefront of issues (most recently speaking out to draw attention to the many “disappeared” women of Juárez). Thank you for addressing this issue, and thank you to Fonda for blazing a trail that I’m sure inspired many but surely motivated me personally.



Washington, DC

In his March 1 “An Idea Factory for the Democrats” Robert Dreyfuss mistakenly asserts that the Center for American Progress’s reluctance to sign on immediately to well-worn policy positions somehow indicates timidity and equivocation on progressive principles. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are actively engaged in producing sensible policies on many issues of concern to progressives, including the role of religion in American life, reform of the Patriot Act, media concentration, military reform, universal healthcare, education and tax reform.

In doing so we will not adopt stale answers of the past, which would be strategically obtuse and politically counterproductive. We are not interested in rehashing old debates between centrists and populists that have hobbled progressives for far too long. Our fight is with the radical right controlling this country. We’ll put our communications arm up against any conservative organization around. Our rapid response efforts consistently and effectively push back against the Bush Administration and its conservative allies on important issues ranging from jobs and the economy to national security and civil liberties–all within the twenty-four-hour news cycle.

Our Progress Report–distributed to more than 30,000 subscribers daily–routinely highlights and features solid progressive ideas from existing organizations and groups, including the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Tax Policy Center, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Citizens for Tax Justice, Demos, the Century Foundation, the Center for Public Integrity, the Economic Policy Institute, People for the American Way, the Institute for America’s Future, MoveOn.org, The American Prospect–and yes, even The Nation.

We have co-sponsored a major progressive national security conference with the Century Foundation and The American Prospect to bring together disparate elements from the center to the left and collectively develop and articulate alternative security strategies for the nation.

In all these efforts, our goal is to generate and promote new ideas that can help build a viable progressive coalition that honors the diversity of opinions in our community while recognizing the need for a common front in responding to the rightward drift of the nation. We look forward to working with you and your readers in advancing this agenda in the future.

Center for American Progress


Alexandria, Va.

Laura Nichols says, “Our fight is with the radical right controlling this country.” Well, everyone (except the radical right) is for that, which is one reason the left, liberal Democrats, conservative Democrats and even some Republicans (those unhappy with the Patriot Act or the Bush Administration’s alliance with Christian conservatives) are uniting in 2004. But if she expects the left to submerge its agenda in one developed by the “center-left” Center for American Progress, I hope she’s wrong.

In fact, the radical right isn’t controlling the country. America is controlled by a capitalist, corporate elite. Much of it–including Robert Rubin, the darling of the Center for American Progress–is not happy with the Bush Administration’s far-right tilt, from radical tax cuts to the war in Iraq. In my article, I suggested that universal, single-payer healthcare and public financing of elections are two ideas that need a lot of help getting traction in the current climate. Now, sounding suspiciously like the Democratic Leadership Council, Nichols says that such ideas are “stale answers of the past…strategically obtuse and politically counterproductive,” just “old debates between centrists and populists that have hobbled progressives for far too long.” I say: Long live the old debates!

I attended the “major progressive national security conference” Nichols talks about. If she thinks a conference with Zbigniew Brzezinski, Senator Chuck Hagel, Gen. Wesley Clark, Sandy Berger, William Perry et al. registers on the “progressive” scale, well, I guess she thinks Bill Clinton’s bombing of Sudan’s aspirin factory was progressive.



Washington, DC

I want to correct a false impression left by Marc Cooper’s “Florida…Again?” [March 22], that People For the American Way Foundation is involved in partisan activity. PFAW, which works with individuals, churches and organizations in the state to conduct voter registration and turnout activities, is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that does not, indeed could not, conduct activities intended to influence the outcome of elections.

Since our founding in 1981, PFAW has worked to increase citizen participation in the political process, particularly among African- Americans, Latinos and other communities of color, young people, the poor, individuals with disabilities and others underrepresented and discriminated against. Before the 2000 elections, PFAW worked with labor and civil rights leaders to develop and conduct the Arrive with Five program (AW5), designed to maximize voter participation in African-American communities around the state. AW5 can be credited with helping produce high voter-turnout rates among African-Americans in 2000. However, the goal of the program was not–as the article implies–getting candidates elected or defeated. Like all PFAW election-related work, AW5 was, and remains, a strictly nonpartisan program whose goal is empowering the entire black community.

Similarly, the goal of Sanctified Seven (S7), another of our election-related projects, is not a partisan effort. S7, a project of our African-American Ministers Leadership Council, does not tell people how to vote or advance a viewpoint or issue.

President, PFAW Foundation