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Comments: Week of July 23, 2018

1. In his cover story, Jonathan Chait put forth a worst-case scenario of Trump’s Kremlin connections, even asking whether it’s possible the president has been a Russian asset for decades (“Collusion,” July 9–22). Max Bergmann, director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Moscow Project, wrote, “Like the presidency of Donald Trump, the Russia scandal once seemed utterly implausible. But the fact pattern has become undeniable and it is increasingly apparent that the president of the United States conspired with a hostile foreign intelligence service to win the 2016 election. Jonathan Chait’s piece effectively captures the urgent need to stop treating the Russia story as a series of individual developments and begin looking at the bigger picture.” John Dean, former Nixon White House counsel, described the story as “a fascinating read, and frighteningly plausible!” And Trump ghostwriter Tony Schwartz added, “Journalists need to start taking seriously the possibility that the Russians have owned Trump for many years.” Not everyone was sold on Chait’s argument. The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Willick wrote, “I think the easiest way to understand this is as center-left birtherism,” and Rush Limbaugh called it “insane — I’m telling you, they’re losing their minds.” On the other end of the spectrum, Ezra Klein at Vox wrote, “The circumstantial evidence Chait amasses for this theory is chilling in its quantity, even if it remains far from proving the theory.” And after Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, reader Robert Bentley wrote, “Unfortunately, the questions you raised in your excellent piece on how Putin might be Trump’s handler were underscored by the way the Putin-Trump summit was organized and by Trump’s performance in the press conference.”

2. In response to Adam Sternbergh’s warning of “The Extinction of the Middle Child” (July 9–22), Michele Van Volkom at Monmouth University wrote, “I appreciated his look at the potential effect of the dwindling numbers of middle children. He covered ample research on middle children, while reminding us about the possible influence of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Recent research from my Family Dynamics lab has revealed additional positive attributes of middle children. For example, we have found that middle children place a high value on the sibling bond, and they were the most likely to say that they would be friends with their siblings if they were not related. Our research has also revealed that middle children in particular look forward to closeness with their siblings when they reach later stages of adulthood.” Reader Joel Grossman said, “After 25 years as a lawyer I became a full-time mediator, and only then did I realize that as a middle child I was born to mediate. Whether it was an argument between my two brothers, or even sometimes between my parents, I always worked to calm things down and hear both sides. Very sad to think I will soon be joining the dodo bird.”

3. Lisa Miller profiled Amber Tamblyn, whose debut novel attacks rape culture (“The Weaponized Amber Tamblyn,” July 9–22). Deborah Tolman, a professor of women and gender studies at Hunter College, responded, “Tamblyn is doing much more than modeling feminism; she is embodying it and, in so doing, turning the idea of provocation into reclamation and celebration. She provides a unique window into how the personal is indeed political. Insisting on keeping that visible hair on her chin — because it is hers and because it helps her think—reflects an unabashed refusal to comply with ‘appropriate’ femininity.” Some readers, though, took exception with Miller’s portrayal of Tamblyn: @hiwildflower tweeted, “Who would write 35 is hurtling toward middle age?” Michelle Materre at the New School wrote, “It is quite distressing that this book and Tamblyn’s recent behavior are what this magazine is electing to amplify. As an African-American female growing up during the civil-rights movement and the very beginnings of the feminist movement, I would hope that by now mainstream media’s messaging would have become a bit more conscious. Tamblyn and other celebrities reveling in the #MeToo movement, with few exceptions, continually ignore and omit the ongoing violence and cruelties being committed against black women and all people of color on a daily basis, even when they have the opportunity to speak up and speak out on our behalf.” But Katy-May Hudson, founder of the Brooklyn Women’s Film Festival, wrote, “I’m so glad to see this piece on Amber Tamblyn, an artist who tirelessly persists at moving the feminist agenda forward by creating work that subverts the norms of what it is to be a female storyteller. When that is done by a woman with a profile, a woman who has something to lose by putting herself out there, she becomes a lighthouse for other women to tell their stories.”