- The Washington Times - Friday, November 17, 2000

Florida Secretary of State under fire

Your Nov. 16 editorial "Target: Katherine Harris" is excellent.

The people of Florida elected Mrs. Harris and should be willing to live with her decisions. I am concerned by the challenges to both Mrs. Harris' rulings and the election process in general. By allowing election results to be challenged (and potentially overturned) by those who are not happy with the outcome, we are setting a dangerous precedent.

If the courts are allowed to repair a "broken" election process after the process is halfway done elections will become something less than democratic. Both parties knew of the problems with the current system before the election began and both sides chose to leave it as it is.

CLIFF BRANSON

Atlanta

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The Nov. 16 editorial "Target: Katherine Harris" is at best disingenuous and misleading and at worst an exercise in sophistry.

The main point of contention with the editorial, as with Mrs. Harris herself, is not that she is a Republican as the issue is framed in the editorial's rhetorical questions: "So what? What state official involved in this political circus is not a member of one party or another?" The issue is that she is the co-chairman of George W. Bush's Florida campaign. Nowhere does the editorial note this fact, although it does take note of Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth's having served as state chairman of Mr. Gore's campaign.

The import of Mrs. Harris' service as co-chairman of the Bush state campaign is that it creates a conflict of interest with her duties as secretary of state of Florida. She is responsible for overseeing elections within Florida. Yet she took one of the most active and involved partisan roles in the presidential election. How can someone so clearly aligned with one of the sides adequately serve as an impartial state administrator of that election? She can't.

Given that her duties overseeing the elections in Florida require her, as we all undoubtedly are aware, sometimes to exercise discretion and make judgments on election matters in lieu of statutory guidelines, it is impossible for her to adjudicate the matter fairly. She is not a disinterested party. While most Floridians are interested in the election outcome, few are as interested as she, from a partisan standpoint, and no one else has formal authority in the matter. She should recuse herself. She should have done so immediately after Election Day, just as Florida Gov. Jeb Bush laudably did. She should not have taken on a formal role with any campaign, given her responsibility for overseeing Florida's elections.

The conflict of interest between being a state election official and a Bush campaign official is what makes Mrs. Harris such a target of opprobrium. Rather than addressing this centrally important matter, your editorial evades the main thrust of Democratic criticism and instead subjects the reader to irrelevant ad hominem attacks on Richard and William Daley and asides about other figures involved in the Florida election. While the editorial opines that Mrs. Harris will not be bullied by the likes of William Daley, surely she will be remembered in this election for her clear conflict of interest and partial and partisan behavior.

JOHN SCHWARTZ

St. Paul, Minn.

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Katherine Harris, Florida's elected secretary of state, has done her job as required under state law and upheld the deadline for manual ballot recounts.

I find it ironic that she now will be attacked as a communist-style "commissar" by the left-wing jackals of the Gore campaign. This is beyond chutzpah. It is time for people of good will to stand up to this usurpation of the laws. These laws were written to maintain the integrity of the electoral system in both ordinary times and in time of crisis, such as our current one.

ROBERT DUDOLEVITCH

Springfield

Pretty picture of Vietnam ignores regime's crimes

I write this letter as a former F-4 fighter pilot who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969.

In The Washington Times special report "Vietnam" (Nov. 12), your reporter would have us believe that happy Vietnamese peasants are eager to greet American tourist and their tourist dollars. After all, the article reasons, there are sure signs that the Vietnamese are becoming more "Americanized."

The article neglects to report that those in power today in Vietnam are the same criminals who ordered the torture and execution of American prisoners of war. No American who watched the Nov. 13 PBS documentary, "Return With Honor," should doubt what suffering and hardships U.S. servicemen endured as guests in the "Hanoi Hilton" at the hands of these same communist thugs, not to mention the emotional and financial hardships endured by their families.

These same leaders, whom the article implies have mellowed, are the ones who put the names of 58,000 GIs on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and are responsible for the death of millions of Vietnamese on both sides.

While I hold no animosity toward the Vietnamese people God only knows what they have endured for decades I violently object to treating their government as anything other than the oppressive, totalitarian regime that it is. The article states that, "The government seems more paternalistic than oppressive, ruling like a stern but loving father who is convinced he knows what is best for his children." This is the same pap we've heard about other totalitarian states, reported by someone who hasn't had to live under their thumb and who can leave whenever he wants to.

Or is it an excuse to treat Vietnam differently than we should? Why is it that we keep sanctions on Cuba as long as Fidel Castro is in power, or we bomb Iraq because Saddam Hussein still rules? Or why did we inflict heartless suffering on the Serbian people because of Slobodan Milosevic? But now, why do we fall all over ourselves to do business with the same Vietnamese government that murdered Americans and enslaves its own people?

This also is the same Vietnamese government that has yet to account for nearly 2,000 U.S. servicemen who are missing in action (MIA). Many of those pilots, about whose fate the Vietnamese government claims to know nothing, ejected and landed safely and were captured in good health; yet, they are unaccounted for. Anyone who knows anything about communist regimes knows that they keep meticulous records. In the case of the North Vietnamese, U.S. pilots were a valuable commodity for propaganda and bargaining purposes. It is impossible that they don't know what happened to them.

Think of it this way. Would we be doing business today with Germany if Adolf Hitler or his Nazi successors were still in power? I think not; yet your reporter writes about "Letting go of the past." Is he telling that to the MIA's families?

How convenient it is to forget the past when there is business to be done and profit to be made. As though importing communist goods from China made by slave labor isn't enough, shelves in U.S. stores now include communist products made in Vietnamese sweatshops, to further compete with our own labor force.

Should we also tell Holocaust survivors to let go of the past? There should have been no normalization of relations with Vietnam until every MIA was accounted for. Sadly, our politicians abandoned them, just as we abandoned our South Vietnamese allies.

Now I read the headline in your Nov. 14 paper "U.S. pilot's suspected crash site on Clinton's Vietnam itinerary.". I'm sure we can expect a miraculous discovery of some bone fragments to add to President Clinton's legacy.

Every day a POW/MIA flag flies in front of my house. The motto on that flag reads,"You are not forgotten." There appear to be fewer and fewer of us who still remember. I was one of the lucky ones; I came back whole, but many did not. This letter is to remind your readers that we have an obligation to them and their families.

COL. GEORGE JATRAS

Air Force (retired)

Sterling

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