Portrait of a Lady
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MIMI SWARTZ CAPTURED my attention with vivid descriptions and endearing characterizations; she depicted the Connallys in such a way that Texans should feel proud of them [“The Witness,” November 2003]. The photography by Dan Winters was superb, especially the photograph in which Mrs. Connally appears to be focusing on the suit she wore that day in 1963, while a thousand thoughts flood her mind. Such a beautiful lady, then and now.
IN 1993 I WAS one of many visitors paying their last respects to Governor John Connally. I was 26 years old and had recently started working at one of the state agencies. That visit has been one of the defining moments of my life, not because of the great Texan who lay there in state, but because of the woman standing next to his casket. I shook her hand, offering my condolences, and wished the governor Godspeed. As I walked away, all she had done and endured for that great man instantly struck me. I marveled to myself what a fine Texas lady she was. If I can be one tenth the Texas woman she is, I will have lived a good life.
S. C. GWYNNE MAKES the case that Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, has had his share of hits and misses [“Weapon of Mass Communication,” November 2003]. But in seeking an example of a Bartlett-choreographed success, Mr. Gwynne’s choice of the president’s May 1 carrier landing left me scratching my head. The landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln provided some instant gratification for victory-charged Bush supporters, but the positives end there. From Ari Fleischer’s double-talk explanation to the administration’s recent lame disavowal of the “Mission Accomplished” banner in the background, the landing may well be a move that President Bush and Mr. Bartlett would like to take back. The image of the carrier landing provides perfect fodder for those accusing the Bush administration of not having planned beyond the main military campaign in Iraq. It also offers the added bonus of the speech itself, rife with pre-war contentions of WMDs, the al Qaeda—Saddam link, and grateful Iraqis welcoming our troops into their country, all of which are looking questionable at best these days.
I WAS HAPPY TO SEE someone address the limited amount of resources available to our mentally ill children [“‘Their Last Good Chance to Get Better,’” November 2003]. The state is sorely lacking in even basic services. Of note in the story was that the parents of 241 mentally ill children gave up their parental rights to Child Protective Services (CPS). Our family made this excruciating decision three and a half years ago. I had thought (hoped?) we were fewer in number. Although we had “full” private health-care coverage for our family, we were unable to provide the necessary treatment for our son, and there was no coverage for residential treatment. I certainly agree that we were desperate and unable to come to any other conclusion that would help our nine-year-old child. Our son will be thirteen in December and continues to reside in a residential treatment facility (his fourth) under the care of the CPS.
I READ PAUL BURKA’S opinion about Texas Supreme Court justice Priscilla Owen [Behind the Lines: “Judging Priscilla,” November 2003] and wondered, “What am I? A potted plant?” Mr. Burka falls prey to the technique of selecting those few controversial court-case opinions that happen to have been written by Justice Owen and proclaiming her to be out of the mainstream of judicial thought. But those not interested in the truth ignore the undeniable fact—Justice Owen was not writing alone. For her opinions to become the opinions of the court, a majority of the nine-member court has to agree to the opinions. Those writings, about which Mr. Burka complains, are the court’s, not Justice Owen’s. I served for many years with Justice Owen, and I’ve disagreed with her view on particular cases, but I’ve never doubted her commitment to the rule of law.
Justice Craig Enoch (Ret.)
Paul burka responds: I respect Justice Enoch’s views of the judicial process, but I must dissent. First, just because a majority of a court agrees with an opinion doesn’t mean it’s in the legal mainstream. For example, I doubt that opponents of abortion would concede that the 7—2 majority in Roe v. Wade proves that the opinion was in the legal mainstream. Second, I recognize that judges discuss cases among themselves, but I disagree that this process absolves the author of any responsibility for the words that appear over her signature. Accountability is as important in the judicial branch of government as in the executive and legislative branches.