Correspondence

by TNR Staff | March 6, 2006

Artful Administrator

Most leaders in the arts, regardless of their discipline, are currently challenged to discover, cultivate, and negotiate new relationships with audiences; work with new forms of media and technology; immerse themselves in the work of contemporary artists from all over the world; and strengthen and maintain their institutions ("Arrivederci MoMA," February 6). This calls for a new kind of leadership, one that breaks down barriers inside and outside of organizations. So it is unfortunate that Jed Perl's article offers such a one- dimensional portrait of the Museum of Modern Art's director, Glenn Lowry. He is that rare individual who combines artistic vision and a deep knowledge of modern and contemporary art with strong managerial and administrative skills. His work has been dedicated to reinforcing the museum's mission--that includes opening the Education and Research Center this fall and encouraging artistic discovery and debate across all curatorial departments. He is not only a visionary, but also an intellectual who can speak as eloquently about a work of art or architecture as on issues facing the art world. Lowry is a charismatic leader with unending curiosity and an enormous capacity to energize and bring out the best in those around him. That is what's required to present art in our ever more complex world. I don't work in his discipline, but I constantly find inspiration from him.

Anna Deavere Smith

Trustee

The Museum of Modern Art

New York, New York

 

Latin Liberalism

Peter Beinart overlooks an obvious counterpoint ("Special Interest," February 13). If you believe that a particular political movement or leader plans to use the forms of liberal democracy to eviscerate its institutions-- whether Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Hugo Chavez, or Jacobo Arbenz--then an idealistically democratic foreign policy can quite easily encompass opposition to that leader and his party. One can even say, as Jeane Kirkpatrick did, that we should support authoritarianism over totalitarianism when there is no middle ground immediately practicable, with the expectation that authoritarianism is more fertile ground for democracy. (Hence the support for a coup against Chavez in order to short-circuit his deepening leftist dictatorship.) One can argue against the various assumptions in this argument--or in its particular applications--but the argument itself is not intellectually dishonest.

David Randall

Brooklyn, New York

 

Spy Games

The ongoing debate between the administration and its critics about the legality of domestic spying is anything but "esoteric," as Richard A. Posner calls it ("Wire Trap," February 6). At stake is our fundamental identity as a liberal democracy committed to the rule of law. Posner may be right to argue that the existing statutory framework--the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (fisa)--for counterterrorist intelligence is anachronistic. But this by no means justifies his belittling of civil libertarians worried about the weak legal basis for the administration's spying activities by ascribing to them a view of law tantamount to a "Platonic abstraction." If fisa is anachronistic, then we need to develop a new legal framework. The fact of the matter is that the administration has instead focused its energies on circumventing existing law, rather than reforming or modifying it. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, one might see why administration officials opted for this path. But four years have passed, and the Bush administration has had more than ample time to advance a reasonable legal change. Instead, it appears to accept Posner's disturbing view that the legal basis for its actions in the war on terrorism is somehow an "esoteric" concern.

William E. Scheuerman

Professor of Political Science

Indiana University

Bloomington, Indiana

 

With all due respect to Posner, his article downplays a salient point: FISA is the law of the land. Why is the president, four years after September 11, choosing to ignore a statute that he could so easily have asked the Republican-controlled Congress to change?

Desmonde Printz

New York, New York

 

Posner argues that, under FISA, the government must cross a high bar in order to eavesdrop on a "U.S. person" and that "it must already have a reason to believe he is [a terrorist]." But the secret FISA court has granted thousands of warrants since its inception--while denying only a handful. Does this mean that there are possibly thousands of terrorists living in the United States?

Jon Schwartz

Los Angeles, California

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This article originally ran in the March 6, 2006, issue of the magazine.

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