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Still an Enigma
I was just rereading National Review’s Dec. 29, 2008, cover story, “Vision, Honor, Action,” by Mark Steyn. I see that on that date, he wrote, “George Bush is who he is, and he never pretended to be anything but. Do you know how rare that is? If you don’t, you surely will after six months of Barack Obama’s enigmatic cool.”

I have long thought Steyn one of the best writers in America. Now I now know him to be a seer as well.

Tom Signorelli
Via e-mail

Remembering Joseph Rainey
I read my new copy of your October 4 issue this morning, and the very first sentence in “The Week” caught my eye. There is an error in it that needs correcting.

It says jokingly, in reference to John Boehner, that “soon the Republicans may be able to claim the first nonwhite Speaker of the House.” I am afraid that they already have a stake to that claim. There was a black Republican who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1870 to 1879 by the name of Joseph Rainey; he was the first black American to serve in the House, and he was also the first to preside over it. He fought hard for the rights of black Americans, as well as those of American Indians and Asian immigrants.

Charlotte H. Laborde
Livingston, La.

The Editors Reply: Rainey was Speaker pro tempore — but we’re still happy to claim him.

On a First-Name Basis
I was greatly pleased to read my thoughts in Jay Nordlinger’s words, in his recent commentary on the use of first names (“Barack and I,” August 30). It reminded me of a phone call I received in which the caller asked to speak to me using my first name. Since I have an unusual name, prone to mispronunciation, and the caller had pronounced my name correctly, my housekeeper summoned me to the phone, saying it was a friend calling. When I answered, the caller said, “Good morning, Maida. Have I got a deal for you today.” With controlled irritation I responded, after a pause, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

He then introduced himself, and I said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t recall meeting you.” After he recovered from that small setback, he confessed that we hadn’t met. “Well, generally,” I said, “friends and family use my first name.” Whereupon he quickly asked what I would like him to call me. Without further ado, I responded, “Frankly, I’d rather you didn’t.” He hung up.

Keep up the good work.

Maida Smith
Memphis, Tenn.

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