ONE HAS ONLY to read Paul Burka’s hatchet-job article “The Man Who Isn’t There” to relate to Evan Smith’s assertions in “The Other War. ” Yes, it is best to “Ignore the Media.”

PAUL BURKA’S ARTICLE “The Man Who Isn’t There” was outstanding. My only disappointment was its ending, where he concludes that he will probably vote for George W. Bush because he hopes that in a second term, free from reelection concerns, Bush will once again manifest the qualities Mr. Burka admired during Bush’s term as Texas governor and as president following 9/11. If that comes to pass, fine. But what if we see a continuation of Bush’s weaknesses and mistakes of his first term? That’s a serious risk that I’m not willing to take.

MR. BURKA CLEARS up some mysteries about George W. Bush’s personality and gives insight into what makes him tick. I, too, had begun to wonder “where is the guy we sent to Washington?” I’ve sent him three letters, all ignored. Every other president I’ve written to, including his father, has responded to my letters. I thought I was losing my touch. Instead, it seems that George W. has lost his touch with the American people. Perhaps when he doesn’t get the popular vote again, including mine, and is not reelected to office but retires to Texas, he will begin to listen to the people again and get back on track. I hope so. I hate to think that I was so totally wrong about the man who was my governor and the only politician I have ever contributed money to.

A BOLD MOVE Looking For a Place To Happen is the way I would characterize George W. Bush. But I would quickly add that he was also The Harp Looking To Be Played. Mr. Burka hints at what I believe was key to Mr. Bush’s “going missing.” With respect to whether and what action to take in Iraq following 9/11, Mr. Bush in a cabinet meeting faced “aides who have a long history of intellectual and ideological loyalty to specific policy positions.” Being a neophyte in international affairs and foreign policy, Mr. Bush, looking for a place to display boldness, was no match for and easily succumbed to being played by ideologues far more sophisticated and experienced than he in seizing the moment. The political tension in Mr. Bush’s strings said “be bold,” while the harpists plucked away. Together all misread, misinterpreted, and misused the sheet music (intelligence). Together all turned out to have hit a badly strident foreign policy note, and the other Mr. Bush remains lost in the din of rationalization.

OF ALL THE things to love about the February issue, I found the relationship between the articles particularly illuminating. “We definitely knew what he did was criminal, but we did admire the way he pulled it off.” Although attributed to the neighbor of a convicted thief whose actions were motivated by SUV-requiring “family values” [“The Family Man”], this line comments equally well on the fact that George W. Bush will probably get Paul Burka’s vote. Why? Because Bush is a good-hearted fellow whose affability trumps his demonstrated contempt for workers, the press, the environment, and the international rule of law. Mr. Burka “never imagined” that Bush “would kowtow to the extremists in his party,” even though a photo features Bush in a pulpit at the undeniably extreme Bob Jones University. Combine this with the profile of an unemployed professional seeking temp work and the moving piece about the familial effects of sending soldiers off to die in an unnecessary and illegal war; what emerges is a bitterly ironic object lesson about the grave dangers of preferring personality over performance.

THE INSIGHTFUL REPORT on George W. Bush in your February issue is magnificent. Paul Burka’s observations of young Bush are highly incisive and most astute.

BEFORE YOU GET down on Bush, you need to ask who you would rather have ridin’ herd on Iraq and company. Bush is a take-charge kind of fellow that we need during the reign of terrorists of the new century. He knows that if you put out meat to appease the coyotes that you only get more coyotes!

PLEASE CONVEY TO Mr. Burka my personal sentiment lies with his “chagrin” over the changes in Mr. Bush. Please think about it this way, Mr. Burka. Texas is a very large state, but our country is much larger and more complex, with many more people, problems, and day-to-day decisions. This would change anyone. Not many men I know could handle the pressure this job entails. Certainly, he has changed. The nature of his job demands change!

PAUL BURKA FINALLY managed to poke a hole in that wool that was firmly pulled over his eyes to see the real George W. Bush. Bush wasn’t thrown into the clutches of the far right, he ran with eyes wide open. This is a man who prides himself on never reading a newspaper; he chooses instead to have his aides read the news for him because he trusts their objectivity. No wonder he can write that he feels “no sense of the so-called heavy burden of the office.” Mr. Burka questions the administration’s attack on the environment, the blurring of the line between religion and government, and the restraint of stem cell research, but he still might vote for another four years because then the nice George W. might emerge. Mr. Burka is either the most naive “member of the national media” in the country, or was so brainwashed by Bush-Rove-Hughes during their Austin days as to be useless as an objective observer of the disastrous possibilities of a second term.

AS FOR THE article, President Bush did everything possible early in his administration to unite the Democrats and Republicans toward common goals, but the Dems would have none of it. The first person courted was Teddy Kennedy and look what that got the president.

I, TOO, HAD the highest regard for Bush as governor, even though I only met him once through my daughter. I have the highest regard for Paul Burka as an objective and conscientious reporter and agree entirely with his conclusions.

AFTER READING PAUL BURKA’S article about his sadness and disappointment in George Bush’s performance as president, I can’t help but wonder why he would still vote for him? He’s voting for a person who doesn’t exist. I find that very saddening.

PAUL BURKA’S APOLOGETIC defense of George W. is pathetic. Whatever happened to the mythical, liberal media bias? It’s a myth all right. “In the tank for Bush?” Mr. Burka has obviously drank the Kool-Aid. For what? To be on a first name basis with Karl’s Kommandos? Mr. Burka might as well be on their payroll. He never imagined the Bush who’s emerged in Washington? But he’ll still conveniently vote for him in 2004. Give me a break. How could you publish that crap?

PAUL BURKA’S DISILLUSIONMENT with George W. Bush matches my disillusionment with Paul Burka. It is puzzling to me how a man of Mr. Burka’s experience and integrity could have thought that Mr. Bush had done anything to truly qualify him to be president of this country. Most bewildering, however, is his statement—after citing very frightening facts about Mr. Bush’s presidency—that he thinks he will still vote for him. How sad!

IT WOULD APPEAR MR. BURKA is suffering from Battered Voter’s Syndrome, a plight identical to Battered Victim’s Syndrome, in which the victim perpetuates a cycle of betrayal and abuse by believing that the perpetrator (usually someone once trusted and admired by the victim, i.e. former Texas governor Bush) will one day be the person he was once believed to be. Despite mounting injustices and proof to the contrary, the victim continues to cling to the notion that “hope springs eternal.” Mr. Burka confirms this diagnosis when he reports that he will probably vote for Bush in the next election as he hopes the man he once knew “. . . will reappear after a four-year sabbatical. I’m betting he’s still around; we just haven’t seen him for a while.” Face it Mr. Burka, what you see is what you get. When it comes to my family and my country’s future safety, I’m not betting. End the cycle now.

I AM CONFUSED. Paul Burka writes a fairly scathing article about his puzzlement over why President George Bush is not the man he knew as Governor George Bush. He goes into detail over his disappointment with Bush’s environmental policies, his blurring of religion and state, his polarizing move to the ideological right wing of his party, and his foreign policy missteps. Yet, he closes by writing he will vote for him again, generously giving him the benefit of the doubt and hoping the man he knew will suddenly reappear and all will be well. I would suggest Mr. Burka think long and hard about the article he may well be writing in 2008, lamenting his choice, and chronicling the additional harm inflicted on this country by four more years of Bush.

HAVING VOTED FOR Bush in 2000 and then becoming increasingly disappointed that the governor was not the president, I found Paul Burka’s article to be dead-on. During the past four years, I have gradually been overtaken by a feeling I can only describe as a sort of sadness in response to the actions of George W., my fellow Texan and president in Washington. Like Mr. Burka, I, too, am perplexed by the disappearance of Governor George, a man I thought seemed destined to rise up and take a lot of the BS out of Washington politics, replacing it instead with good old-fashioned common sense. Instead it appears that it is, as usual, politics as usual.

PAUL BURKA SEEMS to believe (hope?) that W. will do better during a possible second term. While one might argue that Bush could hardly do worse during the second four years than he is currently doing, don’t underestimate him. He is infinitely capable of sticking it to the working people of this country even more severely than he currently is doing.

WE READ THE article “The Man Who Isn’t There” in a doctor’s waiting room and were dumbstruck. It mirrors our feeling exactly! It is uncanny how Mr. Burka has expressed our frustrations with a president we liked and voted for. It appears the only group of Republicans Bush is concerned for is the right wing. If the American people had wanted Gary Bauer for president, we would have nominated him. Where is the Bush who governed our state? Guess we’ll sit the next one out, or perhaps be so disappointed we’ll vote against him.

THANK YOU, PAUL BURKA for expressing my own bewilderment and ambivalence about George W. Bush so succinctly. I voted for him and I’m still glad he was president on 9/11. But most of what has happened since then—especially the war in Iraq, which seems to me to have stripped the United States of moral credibility—has left me floundering in search of someone to vote for in 2004. (My mother drilled it into my head from the time I could talk that it was a citizen’s duty to vote, so not voting is not an option.)

I had hoped that Joe Lieberman would give me a comfortable way to vote for the Democratic candidate, but his run for the presidency has been shut down. Maybe Mr. Burka’s article will remind President Bush of all of us who voted for him, in Texas and across the nation, so that the Governor Bush Mr. Burka knew will come back before November.