- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2000

Readers take issue with paper's coverage of candidates

As a longtime Washington Times fan, I'm distressed to hear you sounding less like a fountain of truth, than like a water-carrier for the Republican Party establishment.

Your Feb. 28 editorial, "Straight smear express," is only the latest symptom of this problem. In it you go after Sen. John McCain for running ads criticizing Gov. George W. Bush's appearance at some school in South Carolina with an unsavory reputation. Your characterization of the McCain ads as "smear tactics" is as flimsy as Mr. Bush's explanations (before he admitted to making a big mistake).

In your editorial you take Mr. McCain to task for his defense of those ads during a television interview. I saw that interview, as many of your readers may not have, and can say your version of it is not what the people watching my television set saw. I'm not worried about the honesty of The Washington Times (yet), but I do wonder about your objectivity as journalists.

On Feb. 27, at a rally outside his campaign headquarters in Alexandria, with the brass bands blaring, Mr. McCain frankly warned voters that some people might not want the kind of sweeping change he promised in his campaign. It was one way of urging them to "read his lips." His campaign amounts to a pledge that there will be no feckless, "kinder-and-gentler" to use former President Bush's expression rag dolls in a McCain White House. Plainer than that you cannot get. With questions that big at issue, mature newspapers like The Washington Times have no business being persnickety over campaign ads.

JOHN S. MASON JR.

Alexandria

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In her March 6 column, Suzanne Fields refers to George W. Bush's failure to address the "anti-Catholic bigotry" of Bob Jones University ("Amphetamine of the people," Op-Ed). This is the standard formula adopted by the press, following the example of the McCain campaign, but it is seldom explained. So what does the "anti-Catholicism" consist of? Bob Jones University is cited as having said the pope is the antichrist and called the Roman Catholic Church a cult.

I am a cradle Catholic and lifelong papist, and I am not alone in my reaction to this media-brewed brouhaha: What, I ask, is so remarkable about this revelation? These have been the positions of Protestants since there have been Protestants, and the vast majority of non-Catholics regard the Catholic Church in effect if not in so many words as a cult. Secular opponents of the church's teaching especially those regarding the family and sexual morality would also sign on to the pope-is-the-antichrist team.

Bob Jones' opinions represent serious theological differences with Catholic doctrines, but they are mostly that: theological differences. Alan Keyes, as a Catholic, properly challenged the Bob Jones University community not to let its theology be a source of bigotry. But why should Mr. Bush get involved? Somehow, I doubt that the church's sudden defenders in the press are suggesting that when Mr. Bush next addresses a Jewish group he should explicitly distance himself from any teaching that Jesus Christ is not the Messiah and repudiate the practice of designating years as "before the Common Era (BCE)" and "Common Era (CE)" instead of "before Christ (B.C.)" and "anno Domini (A.D. year of the Lord)"? And I won't hold my breath waiting for the editorials chiding Al Gore for not reminding the American Association of University Professors that the church is neither the cause nor the unchanging product of the Dark Ages.

This whole flap would have been laughable does believing that vouchers for parochial school students is constitutional make me an anti-American Civil Liberties Union bigot ? except that it shows how incoherent our public discussion of religion has become.

SEAN FITZPATRICK

Johnson City, N.Y.

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There is no comparison between George W. Bush's unconscionable campaign tactics and John McCain's efforts to stay afloat against overwhelming odds ("McCain's falling fortunes," Commentary, March 6). I support his attack of the Pat Robertson element in the Republican Party. I left it to become an independent because of the rigid religious right. Unless John McCain is the GOP nominee, the Republicans have lost my vote across the board. I have no use for a party that chooses to lose.

DIANA G. BURKE

Ocala, Fla.

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When I read the March 6 editorial headline, "Exploiting tragedy," I thought that you were finally going to inject a little fairness into your coverage of the Republican primary. Alas, it was only about President Bill Clinton .

"Once again," you quote Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson, "as has happened for the last seven years, Americans have have had to endure their president's tasteless exploitation of an American tragedy to score political points for himself and Al Gore."

The same points you make (and I am in agreement with them) could also have been made about George W. Bush's shameless exploitation of the tragedy of breast cancer in his astonishing New York campaign commercials.

The allure of campaign cash must be a mighty thing to cause you to so carelessly toss away your principles for its protection.

WRIGHT TRUESDELL

Golden Valley, Minn.

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