- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

Gore's support of Clinton a legitimate issue

In his talk with 11,000 ministers last week, President Clinton said "no fair-minded person would blame [Vice President Al Gore] for any mistakes that I made" ("Clinton says blame for affair with intern is his, not Gore's," Aug. 11).

Other Clinton apologists have since jumped on that bandwagon. They are right. Unfortunately, they also are quite misguided if they think that is what people are trying to do.

Mr. Clinton's specific misdeeds or patterns of wrongdoing should not be an issue for the upcoming election, but nobody can deny that those misdeeds helped clarify differences between the two major political parties.

Republicans (and some Democrats) took the position that character, integrity and honesty are important, even vital, for the person who occupies our highest elected office. Democrats, with some exceptions, made the case that those traits are secondary, at best, to job performance and the state of the economy.

We watched the endless parade of Clinton defenders, such as Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, trying to make the case that Mr. Clinton's sexual escapades were a private matter and that lying about them under oath didn't matter.

As columnist Don Feder wrote, with the impeachment issue the Democrats defined their "values tree," which has as its roots "an elitist disdain for Middle American mores" and as its trunk "the denial of personal responsibility" (Jewish World Review, Sept. 13).

We are not blaming Mr. Gore for what Mr. Clinton did. We are blaming him for standing up in front of the nation after the impeachment vote and calling Mr. Clinton "one of our greatest presidents."

Some might say that statement was just political rhetoric and that of course no vice president would say anything else. That may be true, but if that is the way Mr. Gore is going to play politics, he and his supporters should not start whining when they are forced to pay the political price.

MICHAEL POXON

Crofton, Md.

A liberal 'meathead' for Al Gore

In reading your article about actor Rob Reiner, a "self-described adviser to Al Gore," I realized one can learn something interesting about liberal thinking by examining one of his quotes ("Reiner says Gore's qualifications equal Nixon's, Johnson's," Aug. 14).

While lambasting Texas Gov. George W. Bush about using a slogan in his campaign that the Children's Defense Fund had borrowed from popular culture ("We will leave no child behind"), Mr. Reiner said, "You are not allowed to make that statement if you're not going to put any money into education, you're not going to put any money into health care, you're not going to put any money into the environment."

When will the thinking stop that merely throwing money around will solve the problem? Problems are solved by competitive solutions formed in the arena of ideas (as Rush Limbaugh would say). Taking money from the citizenry and throwing it in greater amounts at problems that previous money didn't solve has got to stop.

Archie Bunker was right; he is a meathead.

NATHAN ROBERT BEVERIDGE

Baltimore

Army is taking care of manpower problems

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, supported by former Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney, pointed out during the recent Republican National Convention that entire divisions of the Army were not fully manned and ready.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other Defense Department representatives responded that all Army divisions were ready for combat duty. As expected, support for this view of Army readiness was evident at the Democratic National Convention this week.

Who is right? Why the difference of opinion?

Within months after assuming his job as chief of staff of the Army last summer, Gen. Eric Shinseki set about to shore up combat readiness and correct the problem of understaffed operational forces. The details of the directive he implemented to restore personnel readiness were announced in a Nov. 8 message that was distributed throughout the Army.

In the past few months, thousands of soldiers have been transferred from support jobs to combat positions. The 10 active divisions will be fully manned by Oct. 1, if not before. Gen. Shinseki's plan also calls for correction by early next year of the skill and rank imbalances created by the mass redistribution of support personnel to the divisions. Shortages in the rest of the Army will be corrected by 2003.

It's time to call a halt to the rhetoric and let the people in uniform do their work. They have the problem well in hand.

TOM HALE

Fairfax

Mr. Hale is a consultant on military personnel and manpower issues.

Columnist gives an unfair assessment of AmeriCorps

I was aghast after reading James Bovard's column "Americorps as Clinton farce" (Commentary, Aug. 15). My family has subscribed to The Times for several years, but never before have I read anything so blindly insulting and unfounded as Mr. Bovard's column.

I recently graduated from the University of Virginia, where I was ranked in the top 5 percent of students in the class of 2000. I graduated with highest honors, including membership in Phi Beta Kappa, and received special recognition for my senior thesis in biological research. Beginning next month, I will become a member of AmeriCorps Cape Cod. This local program supports the environmental needs of the region. Cape Cod is a national treasure of coastal resources, and many of those resources are being neglected or destroyed. The amount of good work the program has done in its first year is amazing. I urge your readers to contact Barnstable County, Mass. for a list of the more than 100 difficult service projects already completed.

Members of AmeriCorps have worked more than 60 hours a week, in every form of terrible weather, covered in poison ivy and waist-deep water, to complete the work. Mr. Bovard writes, "AmeriCorps recruits almost anyone age 17 and older. Many recruits are unskilled, and their pay and benefit package is more than they could earn in the private sector." This is false.

To become a member of the program, I went through a lengthy interview process. Only 24 of the 100 applicants were accepted. All of the members have vast accomplishments in community service and education that would impress even Mr. Bovard. We are all college graduates from outstanding universities, most with majors in biology, chemistry and environmental science, and we have volunteered hundreds of hours during college for various charities. My salary with AmeriCorps will be close to $100 a week, and my medical care will be deplorable. In the biotech industry, I easily could earn 10 times that even as a recent college graduate.

I also have friends from college participating in the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps and other local programs. Their qualifications are similarly high and their projects invaluable to the communities they serve. Blanket statements degrading a program of national community service are insulting to those of us who will be working hard next year through AmeriCorps to make our country a better place to live in and enjoy. That is more important to us than any amount of money or recognition.

Perhaps there are people involved in AmeriCorps who do not meet the ideals that it espouses, but that often is true in every sector of life. I have seen no evidence of anything but dedication, grit and hard work from AmeriCorps members, and I am certain that next year I will be very far from another "government employee standing around with their hands in their pockets."

KRISTEN NOVOTNY

Fairfax Station

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