Long before Trump the Outrageous and Ventura the Bombastic, there was Jill the St. Bernard, our mascot at Kappa Sigma fraternity on the University of Minnesota campus. In the fall of 1961, we entered Jill as an official candidate for Dean for a Day. Jill ran a spirited campaign, drawing impressive crowds to her (outsourced) speeches, often delivered on the steps of Northrop Auditorium. She had a platform, but no one paid much attention to it. It was a prank, pure and simple, and everyone wanted in on it. Of course, she won. A week later, Dean E.W. Ziebarth, in his crisp white shirt, pocket square and David Niven elegance, welcomed a victorious Jill to his office, shook her hand and flashed a good-sport smile to the camera. Jill did what she did best — she slobbered on his desk. There never was another Dean for a Day contest. And today, every time I see Donald Trump frothing at the mouth, I smile and remember Jill the St. Bernard, who ran as a joke. And won.

Steven Blons, Minneapolis

• • •

As I was in the midst of watching the “debate” on Fox News, I wondered what happened to the meaning of the word. Thursday’s event certainly was not a civil exchange of points of view, pro and con, as I understand debates to be. Rather, it appeared to be a circus of 10 people trying to capture attention with outlandish rhetoric rather than well-thought-out arguments substantiating their positions on any issue, issues that should be important to viewers, Republican or Democrat.

The questions from the Facebook responders seemed sincere and reasonable, but I’m hard-pressed to cite anyone who addressed those questions at all. The interviewers seemed more intent on generating conflict among the respondents than on garnering substantive answers. And the audience loved it. I felt like the audience was the same audience that shows up for tapings of “The Voice.” I had great expectations of seeing something of merit from the 10 “candidates.” I stopped viewing after the first hour, exhausted by the tedium and self-aggrandizement. So sad.

Michael Fiala, Minneapolis

• • •

Where is the furor over Trump’s description of making campaign donations in return for special favors? As he said, the system is broken. Did any of the candidates offer ways to fix it? No, they just invited Trump to donate to their own campaigns.

When will we address this corrupting influence by limiting campaign length, campaign donations and recognizing that corporations are not people? Billions of dollars are simply wasted in this entertainment spectacle that could be used for roads, bridges, education and health care. It’s beyond disgusting. It’s immoral.

Ruth Bures, Winona, Minn.

• • •

Republicans are dead-set against abortion, with the inevitable comparisons to annihilation of Jews by Nazis. Fair enough, I guess. But I suggest that they put their outrage and bravado where their mouths are and support equal restrictions on gun sales and the NRA, quid pro quo. This way both sides can claim victory, and not much will happen either way, because, as we all know, no law has ever gotten rid of the problem it was aimed at. Let’s see how resolved our illustrious leaders really are.

Frederic J. Anderson, Minneapolis

• • •

Poor Mr. Trump and those who admire him are confusing crass, juvenile behavior and insults with rejecting political correctness. When, I wonder, were we represented by statesmen and dignitaries who demonstrated such ill-mannered, uncivil discourse in the “good old days?” If Donald is the best we have to offer, because he can wittily call a woman a pig, we are indeed in a sorry state.

Deborah Hyk, Elk River

• • •

I thought I might watch some of the Republican debate. Looked at the TV listings — not on TV unless you pay for it. Oh, well, I must be able to find it online — nope, not unless you pay for it. So the Republican Party must believe that these debates are not about informing the American populace but about making money for Rupert Murdoch. Now I know how they plan to “make America great again.”

Thomas Conlin, Apple Valley

• • •

I am not a political partisan, but I do think the Republican presidential debate worthy of advance coverage as a news item in Thursday’s paper. The concept of what is “news” is apparently a subjective assessment when the front page ignores this event in favor of a such subjects as gay-teen pregnancy, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, a Famous Dave’s menu problem and a climate-ranking study. The debate was only referenced on the opinion pages, with pictures of the top 10 Republican candidates, a letter to the editor on the topic and a commentary from the editor of the Nation. All the news that’s fit to print, it would seem.

Jeff Peterson, Minneapolis

 

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

With friends like Schumer, who would ever need enemies?

I nominate U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., one of a long line of congressional traitors, to take Israeli spy Jonathon Pollard’s prison cell when Pollard is released on parole. Schumer leads the parade to kill the Iran treaty in response to orders from the crazed leader of Zionist Israel. Wonderful! More U.S. body bags, more innocents killed, more hatred, more money for Dick Cheney and the war industry. We need true patriots who will stand for peace.

Bill Sorem, Minnetonka

 

U.S.-RUSSIA RELATIONS

We needn’t praise Putin to see in him a shred of good sense

Russian President Vladimir Putin may be a killer and a proto-Nazi, and he would love to see the U.S. humiliated in the Mideast (“Common goals can’t unite Russia, U.S. on ISIL,” Aug. 6). But he is right about Syria.

We need a stable Syria. We need to help Syria, by any means necessary, to recreate a stable secure country. True, Syria isn’t our friend. But neither is Turkey, which has played us like a fiddle and is doing so again.

Sure, Assad isn’t much. So? Who in that area is? Our policies have led to a hell. Change policies.

Further, Syria is one of two countries with a Christian population (rapidly being destroyed by Islamists). Iraq was the other one. A million Christians in Iraq were either killed or forced out of the places where they lived for a couple of thousand years. Assad at least protects Christians.

Michael N. Felix, Grand Rapids, Minn.

 

CHURCH ABUSE CASES

Tax exemption must end

After considering the many claims in the clergy abuse scandal (“Church abuse claims top 400,” Aug. 4), it is clear that there is another group of claimants who are unrepresented: the taxpaying citizens of Minnesota who are footing the bill for prosecuting cases and claims in our various courts. It is time to end tax exemptions for religious groups, particularly those that lie, abuse and bilk their parishioners, and who, in the process, expect that their millions of dollars of tax-exempt properties and other assets continue to be protected. To continue to allow tax-freedom for organizations who behave criminally is irrational.

Jane Hovland, Duluth

 

MINNEAPOLIS, UH, PLACE

Oh, Mia, oh, my …

Today I received an e-mail from the organization formerly known as the MIA — the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The name has stood for 100 years and is known and supported as a destination worldwide.

I was “one of the first to be informed” that the name was being changed to Mia — pronounced “mee-ah.” The idea is to separate it from missing in action and to be known as “mine” and “the people’s museum.”

The group wanting to change the name of Lake Calhoun presents a solid argument. The MIA? Not so much. Oh, well, only an artist group could dream up such a “creative” initiative, so hee-ah to mee-ah.

Michael Tillemans, Minneapolis