Biden’s Fist Bump With the Saudi Prince

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  • Merrick Garland’s Decision About Indicting Trump
  • The Erased Secret Service Texts
  • Let’s Make Changes to Our Political System
  • Columbia, Unranked

Credit…Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace

To the Editor:

Re “For Biden, Uneasy Visit to Saudi Leader” (front page, July 16):

President Biden’s controversial trip to Saudi Arabia, which may have conferred undeserved legitimacy on an autocratic regime that suppresses human rights, was nevertheless intended for the broad strategic goal of Middle East stability and for American interests in the region.

Horrific as the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi obviously was — with the undeniable responsibility for it resting with the highest levels of the Saudi government — the president’s unpopular mission may yet prove to have been a good strategic decision.

Historically, presidents have negotiated with unsavory and even brutal heads of state for the advancement of our interests. Decades of arms control talks with the Soviets were a prime example.

Now, keeping us involved in strengthening opposition to Iran and solidifying Israel’s relationship with the gulf states dictate that we swallow our pride and deal with a regime whose practices we obviously do not condone. President Biden has correctly elevated the importance of his trip to the level it belongs.

The optics of his fist bump with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, unsavory as it was, will fade as the benefits of America’s role in the Middle East become more evident both for the stability of the region and our own national interests.

Roger Hirschberg
South Burlington, Vt.

To the Editor:

President Biden’s fist bump with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman turns one’s stomach. This humiliation should inspire all of us to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy as soon as possible.

Tom Miller
Oakland, Calif.

Merrick Garland’s Decision About Indicting Trump

Credit…Pool photo by Kevin Lamarque

To the Editor:

Re “Merrick Garland Should Investigate Trump’s 2020 Election Schemes as a ‘Hub and Spoke’ Conspiracy” (Opinion guest essay, nytimes.com, July 11):

Andrew Weissmann suggests that Attorney General Merrick Garland should prosecute more aggressively everyone connected with the attempt to overthrow the 2020 election. But I’m not holding my breath.

Mr. Garland is the very picture of a milquetoast moderate. That’s why President Obama nominated him for the Supreme Court in the first place, naïvely assuming that Republicans would be more accepting of him.

A wealth of prima facie evidence exists to indict Donald Trump. For example, anyone else pressuring an official to manufacture phony ballots would have been facing charges by now. But apparently Mr. Garland is wary of igniting violent protests if he actually does force Mr. Trump to appear in court.

I didn’t hear Justice Samuel Alito worry about the potential social unrest that his recent weighty decision on abortion might cause.

Mr. Garland, remind me again how your timidity squares with the cherished notion that no one is above the law?

Bryan L. Tucker

To the Editor:

Andrew Weissmann understandably decries the approach and slow pace of the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 investigation. Might an explanation be that the Justice Department and the Biden administration tacitly agree that the prosecution by a Democratic appointee-led Justice Department of a former Republican president is an undesirable precedent for the American political tradition, and that the best course is for the Jan. 6 committee’s fine work to condemn the former president to political irrelevancy and drive him and his minions from the scene?

If true, whether this is sufficient justification for not holding the alleged conspirators legally accountable is, of course, another question.

Roliff Purrington

The Erased Secret Service Texts

“It’s important for us to get as much information about how this discrepancy occurred,” said Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House Jan. 6 committee.Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Secret Service Erased Texts Jan. 6 Panel Requested” (news article, July 15):

The explanation that these messages were erased because of a “device replacement” sounds so fishy you could wrap it up and serve it with chips.

I worked in I.T. infrastructure for 30 years, 10 at the federal level, and this is incredible to me. My understanding is that all information produced at a federal level should be discoverable. The infrastructure should be redundant, backups taken regularly and archived off-site, and information properly classified and length of retention determined.

That a “device replacement” can result in the eradication of key information is not acceptable. No major organization trusts its information to infrastructure with single points of failure; it needs to be designed to function in case one or more pieces fail.

Kathy Stolte-Sawa
Columbus, Ohio

Let’s Make Changes to Our Political System

Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Losing Faith in Government, Many Americans Say It’s Time to Change the System” (news article, July 14):

It is not time to change our democratic system, but it is time to make changes to the system.

Donald Trump’s contribution to this country was to show us the weaknesses in our political system. We assumed that there were sufficient guard rails to keep an errant elected official from doing much harm. We were wrong.

Mr. Trump didn’t follow the law, had no ethical core and was blatant in his flouting of the system for his personal benefit. And since then, dark clouds have shrouded our democracy.

Just a few of many changes needed: The Electoral College has to go; presidents should be elected by popular vote. Senate rules have to be reformed, so that one senator cannot hold up legislation indefinitely.

Campaign finance rules need updating, as well as redistricting rules to reduce gerrymandering. Supreme Court justices should have a code of ethics and a defined retirement date. Adding to the court should be considered. The attorney general’s independence should be codified into law.

Mr. Trump showed us that we are not the sophisticated, educated country that we thought we were. A coup can and almost did happen here. We were warned. Now it’s up to us to see that it doesn’t happen again.

Carol Kraines
Deerfield, Ill.

Columbia, Unranked

U.S. News & World Report has acknowledged that it relies on universities to vet their submitted data, and does not have the resources to conduct independent audits.Credit…Andrew Kelly/Reuters

To the Editor:

Re “Columbia Loses College Ranking as U.S. News Peeks Under the Ivy” (front page, July 9):

Columbia University has decided not to submit data to the annual U.S. News rankings of national universities, saying it has not had sufficient time to review their accuracy. This comes after one of its own professors claimed that the information submitted in the current ranking is either incorrect or misleading. None of the data submitted by any institution is audited by a third party.

Universities are inherently complex educational and social institutions that cannot be judged by a simplistic numerical ranking. It is long past time to put this nonsensical system, which has been the cause of so much unnecessary anxiety among applicants and parents alike, to rest.

David Benjamin
Carmel Valley, Calif.

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