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International Mail Call

Arnold’s Ascension
/ Source: Newsweek International

Our Oct. 20 cover story on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s election win split our readers’ responses. “I can’t believe it—he’s the image of violence!” gasped one. Cheered another, “His victory is proof of democracy.”


Congratulations are in order for a striking cover page and photograph. Newsweek’s Oct. 20 cover not only reflects the gubernatorial election in California but also the hopes and dreams of America’s friends abroad. The excellent photograph represents a new wave of bipartisanship, which is an example not only to California but to the rest of the world.

E. F. Sonnekus

Pretoria, South Africa

I have subscribed to your magazine for eight years and was taken aback by your extensive coverage of the election of an actor as governor of one state of one country in the world (“Arnold’s Earthquake,” Oct. 20). While your magazine dedicated many pages to a self-confessed groper of women turned politician, the selection of a Muslim woman for the Nobel Peace Prize received no more attention, and provided no more information, than a simple and unrevealing interview (“Democracy and Islam,” Oct. 20). With so few female role models who excel at the international level, Shirin Ebadi and her work deserved more. I wish you would give a second thought to your international readers’ interests and the messages you’re sending.

Fabiana Travieso

Montevideo, Uruguay

The election of Arnold Schwarzenegger confirms it. The United States is a Mickey Mouse society, a joke. Randy Newman’s wonderful song “Follow the Flag” sums it up: voters not thinking, voters ill-informed. Conned by those with too much money. NEWSWEEK, you could start a move to get U.S. citizens to watch public TV and listen to public radio. You could even push for more funding for public TV.

Frank O’Brien

Melbourne, Australia

I’m astounded by the election in California. I just cannot believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected. He is the image of violence. I mourn for my fellow citizens whom he calls “Brownies.” And this guy is not even American-born. Imagine having as governor a man who confesses to being an admirer of Adolf Hitler. Are you so feeble-minded as to have forgotten the horrors of concentration camps? To have a man who has been denounced for sexual harassment by 17 women? Did Californians buy his image of justice through violence like his “Terminator” movies? Who needs more violence? As J. Krishnamurti said, “Our world is on fire and we don’t do anything about it.” They say, “People choose the government they deserve.” I hope this is not true.

Carmen Pouliot

Mexico City, Mexico

I can’t help but think of the treatment of Clarence Thomas years ago. If only he’d been a rich, white movie star married to a Kennedy, he could have laughed off accusations of sexual harassment like Schwarz-enegger did. But, unlike the latter, Thomas is a real conservative, which is why the media tried to lynch him.

Scott Petersen

Longjumeau, France

Are the waves of immigrants who are flooding to California a huge liability? If it is such a tsunami-size negative, consider what shape the state would be in if these immigrants did not cross the border into the States. Make them instantly legal and immediately subject to taxation. That way, you’d give them—and California—a fair deal.

Michael G. Driver

Ichihara City, Japan

Ronald Reagan, an American-born mediocre actor, made it to the top because he had a vision and he used the tools he acquired through his job to impress his audience. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an immigrant, won the headlines because though he may not have a particular and personal vision to propose, he embodies the willingness and the energy to invent the solutions for the hard challenges that we will surely have to face in the years to come. As they say, “For the times, they are a-changin’.”

Sergio Cigliuti

Eilat, Israel

Schwarzenegger’s victory is a proof of democracy, for though Schwarzenegger is not an unknown, he is an immigrant and a self-made man. I hope that those countries where democracy still does not prevail, or those where only dynasties can rule, will follow the example of California’s electorate.

Rishy Bukoree

Curepipe, Mauritius

Schwarzenegger was in the right place at the right time with the best recipe for a political career: fame, determination, brilliant directors and his Kennedy connection. I hope he can transform California into what Californians have been yearning for, and that he will prevail the way he does in most of his movies.

Ditas A. Fernandez

Dagupan City, Philippines

Schwarzenegger seems to be a decent enough guy, and anybody, experienced or otherwise, has the right to run for governor. The issue here is a voting public that made Schwarzenegger an instant favorite in an election to lead America’s biggest state based only on knowing of his body-building exploits and Hollywood movies. The ignorance and irresponsibility of the voting public never ceases to astound me.

Jonathan I. Klein

Huntington Beach, California


I was sad to read Fareed Zakaria’s Oct. 20 column, “Why the War Was Right.” If policemen started killing criminals in the streets they might get rid of a problem. But they also create insecurity, fear and lawlessness. Vigilantism is forbidden everywhere except in U.S. international relations. Saddam Hus-sein’s fall was good, but how it was achieved is as important. Saddam was wrong, and so was the “war.” Ends do not justify the means. President George W. Bush has done more damage than Saddam. International rogue cops aren’t my idea of “right.”

Jose Guilherme Soares

If Zakaria had ever participated in a war, he would never have used the word “right,” as war is never right for those who suffer through it or die for it. Furthermore, he accuses the French of being “perfidious,” which is almost equivalent to being treacherous. This is not appropriate because the French merely said plainly what millions of people felt—that war is never right.

T. Stanek

Chatellerault, France

Those who demonstrated against the American-led invasion of Iraq reminded me of the many who had opposed Britain and the United States when they took a military stand against Hitler. Chamberlain’s appeasement had been their way. We will never know for sure how much more evil would have been perpetrated by Saddam had he kept his grip on power; in the case of Hitler, we know.

Esa Aittokallio

Piikkio, Finland

So, you “persiste et signe”—”persist and sign”—as we perfidious French used to say. Were you right in saying that the war “would create a new Middle East where Israel could survive in security, where borders would open, trade would flourish, the road to peace between Israelis and Palestinians would go though Baghdad... as the city would become an example of prosperity, tolerance and coexistence”? Every reliable journalist knows what happened in Iraq. One question: what’s the meaning of that war when the obvious victor does not prepare for peace?

Therese Remlinger-Toure

Paris, France

America has never acted in the interest of other nations and their peoples, whether they be Iraqis or Afghans. It always acts in its own interests. We are living in a global village where everyone knows what is happening. The arrogance in Zakaria’s article indicates how little he understands—or cares about—world sentiment. If America still does not know why the world resents its foreign policy, it never will. Zakaria’s column is all about “we, we, we.” Will it take another World Trade Center tragedy for America to finally realize how arrogant it looks on the world stage? Who selected America as savior of the world? It wouldn’t dare try “saving” Tibet or Chechnya: or getting in the face of Russia or China. But Afghanistan and Iraq are not protected by strong allies and the Arab world is not united. It’s time now for the old refrain “Yankee, go home.”

John Sampson

Windhoek, Namibia

Calling Saddam a threat is ridiculous. That might have been true 10 or more years ago, but after so many years of sanctions, Saddam had nothing left but old-fashioned tanks, no Air Force and an Army that would not fight. The real threats are North Korea and America’s friends Pakistan and Israel, all of them possessing nuclear weapons or nuclear-weapon technology. But then, you do not have the guts to write about Israel’s crimes against humanity.

Paul Spreuwenberg

Landgraaf, Netherlands

Zakaria’s attempt at maintaining that the invasion of Iraq was right only serves to highlight the reasons that that invasion was wrong. He concedes that all the reasons invoked by the United States and Britain for war were false or unjustified, and yet he says he has no regrets about supporting the invasion. His only argument for this boils down to a need to “transform the Arab world.” It is precisely this idea that the world needs to be shaped to the will of the United States that makes this invasion all the more an unjustifiable act of pure arrogance.

Miguel Prudencio

Leiden, Netherlands

The united states has no right to exercise its will on other countries; no-body has given it the right to demolish regimes that are not to its liking. It is up to the people of a country to dispossess the tyrannical regime without outside interference. America needs to mind its own business. The country that has committed the worst crime against humanity by dropping atom bombs on Japan has no moral right to preach good behavior to other countries. Let America destroy its own weapons of mass destruction before pointing fingers at others. It won the war with Iraq but lost the good will of people worldwide. If it continues in this fashion, it will become friendless in the future.

Anantharamiah Srikantaiah

Bangalore, India


With the ills of the world pressing on Americans like a severe case of pleurisy, it is unfortunate that NEWSWEEK chose to focus on the sitcom “Friends.” With the war in Iraq and domestic issues such as unemployment and health care at the forefront of American minds, who cares about Monica, Chandler, Ross and the rest? Many Americans, out of work and out of luck, can’t relate to actors who receive more than $1 million per episode for “working” in television.

Barry J. Palm

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

The “Friends” recipe for success seems to be three socially stunted men, two self-absorbed neurotic control-freak women. Blend in tasteless sexual and bathroom humor, marinate for 30 minutes and repeat weekly for 10 seasons. You say the future of the TV sitcom isn’t pretty. And this was ?

Wendy Dackson

East Aurora, New York

After your excellent coverage of the current research of autism affecting children and adults and the heart-wrenching report on American families devastated by the continuing unrest in Iraq, I was disgusted by your story on the pampered, egotistical actors on a show that has yet to convince me why it has merited so much hype all these years. Of all the possible news stories, I cannot imagine why NEWSWEEK, to which I have subscribed for many more years than this program has been on television, would waste so much paper on this sitcom.

Tim Cartwright

St. Cloud, Florida

Hallelujah! Finally the end of one of the most dimwitted, shallow sitcoms in TV history. This show has contributed to our national dumbing down by spawning a deluge of nitwit imitators (“Coupling” is the worst). “Friends” is one of the reasons laughter is so scarce and sitcoms are in intensive care on life support.

Dan O’Neill

Los Angeles, California

How disturbing that foul language was considered relevant to the article on the final season of “Friends.” I work with sixth graders and can assure you that for some there is already a lot of foul language going into their heads and out of their mouths. By writing articles that will likely be read by teens, you assume a measure of stewardship over them.

Marlies Buchmueller

via internet

The glowing, flattering tone of your story on “Friends” failed to recognize that there are many who think the show has overstayed its welcome by about three seasons. The cast, a group of attractive, talented comedic actors, cannot overcome inferior scripts. The sophomoric humor relies way too heavily on the recurring theme of casual sex. The story line involving Ross and Rachel’s on-again-off-again relationship and their dating exploits with other partners, despite the birth of their baby, is offensive. There is not now, nor was there ever, believable chemistry between Monica and Chandler. (Who in her right mind would choose Chandler Bing over any character portrayed by Tom Selleck?) Whiny Monica, ditzy Phoebe —and self-centered Rachel have become tired, annoying cliches, and the guys are basically clueless buffoons. I used to love watching the show. Now I’d just love to see it go away.

Katherine Robbins

Baltimore, Maryland

If the networks are so desperate for a sitcom that Americans will watch, then they should give us a chance to submit ideas. Hollywood shows are created by folks living in an artificial world, and the door is closed to anyone outside it and without representation. The freshest ideas exist out in the real world, where we viewers live. I’m a real person who has created a show about love that has demographic appeal crossing age, gender and racial divides—and it’s damn funny, too. Producers, your next big hit is sitting on my desk.

Elizabeth Berke

Brookline, Massachusetts

You write about “Friends” with such praise and awe. Yet everyone I know agrees that, though the show was once very good, it lost its touch and should have ended some time ago. In the earlier seasons viewers could relate to the characters, but not since the show turned into a poorly written soap opera. One of the smartest decisions made by the “Seinfeld” cast was to end the show after its ninth season, leaving viewers wanting more. That’s why I stick to watching “Seinfeld” reruns: the networks haven’t produced any other quality sitcoms, and I’m all “Friends”-ed out!

Erin Green

Cambridge, Massachusetts

The loss of “Friends” is very sad, but it is not devastating. Bigger and better sitcoms (for instance, “Seinfeld” and “Cheers”) have come and gone, and we have gotten along just fine without them. Though “Friends” has shaped the way my generation has viewed sitcoms, there will be other shows. The “Friends” characters themselves, however, are some of the finest ever invented. Forgetting Chandler or Joey or the rest of the gang would be a crime among “Friends” de-votees. I wish the “Friends” actors and actresses all the very best for gracing the screens of America’s living rooms for nine wonderful years.

Erin Sucher

via internet

Oh, dear, what is America going to do now that we’re running out of good sitcoms? In the past nine years I’ve watched perhaps five of the 223 episodes of “Friends,” and I could never figure out what it was that drew the audience back every week. Yet somehow my life is filled with joy and wonder. Maybe once all the “good” sitcoms have gone away, millions of Americans will discover what I’ve known for years: a good book beats a great sitcom any night of the week.

Susan Docksey Gunnin

Breckenridge, Colorado


The scandal over a white house leak resulted in the loss of a valuable undercover agent and endangered those with whom she worked. These people make the decisions for my country?

Leeza Holguin-McBride

San Antonio, Texas

© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.