- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 22, 2000

Michael Jordan, who can be at once intensely driven and quite disarming, is the newest sports hero to hit Washington. The city does not have a long list of true professional sports heroes. Unlike other famous players, Mr. Jordan is expected to rule on and off the field of play.

As part owner and chief of basketball operations, Mr. Jordan will decide, for the most part, who shall stay and who shall go and that is no small challenge. One of the worst-performing franchises in the NBA, the Wizards have not won a playoff series since 1982, and this season ranks 14th of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference. In the ironies of all sports ironies, the only conference team with a worst record is the Jordanless Chicago Bulls.

Measurable, as well, will be Mr. Jordan's drawing power. Consider this scenario: The inimitable tenor Placido Domingo became artistic director of the Washington Opera in 1995 and, instantly, upped its star quotient. So shall it be with Michael Jordan, who fans, players, coaches and NBA officials say brings a new level of respect for and interest in Washington's floundering NBA franchise. Mr. Jordan has promised to deliver in short order, and anxious Wizards fans are certainly in his corner. Washington and the Wizards will surely be the richer for his presence.

m THATCHER IN THE DOCK? Liberalism's soft-spot for socialism is often obscured under a cloak of feel-good rhetoric, but occasionally the words slip away and expose the beast beneath. Consider: Richard Cohen's recent call for the extradition of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Mr. Cohen wants her to stand trial for the crimes of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who was recently ruled too sick for prosecution in Spain.

Spain now wants a second medical opinion, but Mr. Cohen's proposal in The Washington Post reveals the diagnosis many have already made this case is to be used to punish conservatives.

Certainly, Mr. Pinochet is no angel. He is responsible for the "disappearances" of more than 3,000 people during his 17-year reign. And stories of his regime's brutal torture cannot be dismissed.

"Bring out the victims of torture, collect the gruesome photos, let the 3,000 dead howl from their graves and put Margaret Thatcher in the dock. She has much to account for," Mr. Cohen wrote.

What exactly does Mrs. Thatcher have to account for?

Mr. Cohen offers very little. He mentions her coziness with the general while prosecuting the Falklands War and her defense of the feeble man now, but astute observers will note the truth behind the left's hatred of Mrs. Thatcher is far more political than humanitarian.

She earned the left's scorn by leading a Tory government in Britain from 1979 to 1990. She instituted free-market economic reforms, which were similar to President Ronald Reagan's economic policy. Her reforms cut marginal tax rates and indexed the tax code to inflation. The effect was to stem what many called a "brain drain," the habit of industrious people to stagnate high-tax economies by leaving the country.

The Reagan and Thatcher era helped turn the political tide against centralized government in favor of individual freedom. In short, Mrs. Thatcher is an icon of the right and target for the left. Mr. Cohen's small-minded column is evidence the liberals are still smarting.

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