- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2001

Conservatives should welcome debate over judicial nominees

While I understand your concerns about Sen. Charles Schumer's attempts to make it a requirement that nominees to a position on the federal bench must hold politically correct opinions to be confirmed, I think it a mistake to run from the debate ("Schumerism," Editorials, July 24). Indeed, I think it perfectly appropriate for Mr. Schumer and others to question nominees about their views of the Constitution, including whether they consider themselves "strict constructionists." After all, these nominees are asking for a lifetime appointment. Moreover, the nominees themselves should welcome the opportunity to explain both their constitutional outlook as well as their jurisprudential philosophy.
Far from running from such a debate, conservatives both in and out of Congress should welcome the opportunity to engage in an open and healthy debate about the proper role of our un-elected judiciary in the constitutional framework.
Let Mr. Schumer and others challenge Mr. Bush's nominees on ideological grounds. The American public would benefit from the discussion - as long as both sides are willing to engage the debate on the merits. After all, the proponents of the "living Constitution" are going to oppose these nominees for purely political reasons anyway. At a minimum, therefore, they ought to be forced to lay their objections on the table, and the public ought to be given the opportunity to judge for itself which side is "out of the mainstream."

MATTHEW P. HARRINGTON
Alexandria

Closing of military bases should be viewed as opportunity

While reading the July 24 Op-Ed "Overcoming obsolescence" by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, I was reminded once again how the military and politics don't mix.
When confronted with the possibility of base closures in their districts, members of Congress try to prevent what is universally viewed by them and their constituents as change for the worse. Certainly, base closures will bring change to communities that rely on a local military presence. Initially, the population base of the area will decrease due to the transfer of military personnel, and federal dollars in the form of military paychecks will disappear.
However, the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment has a long list of prior base closures that can be easily accessed through their Web site (http://emissary.acq.osd.mil/oea/home.nsf). A review of their resources reveals that in the majority of cases, the void left by base closures was filled by economic growth and growth potential beyond what a military community could provide.
The Cold War is over and modernization of the military is required. President Bush is pointing us in the right direction. More military bases will have to close in order to make create a more efficient and effective fighting force in the 21st century. Congress needs to view this as an opportunity, not an end, and lead their districts through positive change.

RICHARD J. CALANTROPO
Virginia Beach, Va.

Wearing Muslim garb in Saudi Arabia a matter of respect, safety

Thank you for your July 17 front-page story "U.S. women ordered to put on Muslim garb, " which discussed women in the service and the dress code required by law in Saudi Arabia. My family and I had the opportunity to reside in Saudi Arabia as civilians on a non-military compound during my high school years. We enjoyed traveling within the kingdom and learning more about the Saudi culture. As visitors, we were not required to fully cover our heads, but it was encouraged that we wear the abaya. The abaya is a lightweight black robe that covers the clothing and is long enough to adhere to the minimum outer dress code. Normally, my mother and I would wear our American jeans or pants and shirts, but we got into the habit of putting on our abayas as well, like one would wear a jacket, to go out.
Those who do not follow the dress code restrictions in Saudi Arabia make themselves stand out. Unfortunately, for a woman, that could result in being targeted by the religious police.
Regardless of where you work or who you are with, the Islamic laws are enforced in Saudi Arabia. If one cannot take it as an issue of respect, then it should be considered a matter of safety - not an attempt to convert visitors to Islam. I am sure that visitors are briefed (as we were) before entering the kingdom on the cultural policies.
Saudi Arabia is not the United States. Traveling to foreign places with cultures, dress codes and policies that are sometimes unfamiliar or not to our liking should make us more thankful of the freedoms that we have within our own country.

NADJA Y. JOHNSTON
Virginia Beach, Va.

NASA meeting wasn't partisan, says congressman

In the "Inside the Beltway" column, you have made several mentions of the recent congressional NASA budget town hall meeting held near Houston in support of our nation's space program. However, these columns are perplexing in their portrayal of events.
On June 30, I hosted a meeting with my constituents to discuss the future of the space station program. This was held in response to proposed major cuts in our nation's space program, including reductions in key Johnson Space Center programs and a scaling back of crew size and the amount of scientific research conducted aboard the station.
As you pointed out, the event was attended by many local Democratic supporters. Not reported was that it was also attended by many Republicans. There were also NASA employees, business leaders, teachers, labor union members, shop owners, students, retirees and so on. The meeting was most definitely nonpartisan and was open to everyone interested in the future of the space program. I invited elected officials of all political stripes. In fact, those who spoke - including Republicans - reflected the diversity of support for a strong space program and an increase in the NASA budget.
The descriptions of the event as a partisan attack on the president does a disservice to the local southeast Texas citizens who worked so hard on the town hall meeting.

REP. NICK LAMPSON
Member of Congress
Texas, 9th District
Washington

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