- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Howard Dean and the presidency

I agree with all but two statements in Lawrence Kudlow’s piece about the presidential candidacy of Howard Dean (“Counteroffensive imperative,” Commentary, Monday), in which he urges Republicans to campaign against him starting now.

The implicit message that a President Dean would be bad for America is backed up well with the listing of Mr. Dean’s ultra-liberal domestic policy positions and his defeatist foreign policy stance, which Mr. Kudlow, minus two unfortunate references, discusses with his usual temperance.

Mr. Kudlow, perhaps unknowingly, goes too far and demonstrates some insensitivity by suggesting that a Bush counteroffensive should bring out “some long knives.” The Night of Long Knives, German dictator Adolf Hitler’s purge of other Nazis in 1934, is not something that should be referenced by a lover of freedom as something to emulate, even as indirectly as Mr. Kudlow did. Besides the insensitivity issue, this type of reference plays into the latent socialist mentality that President Bush is a reactionary and is manipulating the polity instead of leading it.

Mr. Kudlow, however, makes an even bigger gaffe in suggesting that if Mr. Dean were elected president, he would ruin America’s foreign policy “credibility for at least the next 50 years.” Change “50” to “five” and I would agree completely, but “50” years is, as it sounds, hyperbolic and ludicrous, and discounts the renewal capacity of America.

Moreover, the “edge of a cliff” rhetoric is the weakest form of political rhetoric and usually (and appropriately) is confined to leftist ranting. President Lincoln once said, more or less, that no president screws up this country for long — and his statement lives on as one of the greater truths of our citizen-run government.

Mr. Dean’s candidacy is a menace to the Democratic Party, American society and liberty-loving people the world over. There is simply no need to go over the top with intemperate analogies to ugly, past political purges or doomsday predictions about several decade-long consequences of a Dean victory.

These tactics are those of Mr. Dean and his Socialist and Socialist-leaning crowd. Exposing both Mr. Dean’s tactics and politics as extreme cannot be done as effectively by Mr. Bush or anyone else when his scare-mongering tactics are emulated.

KEVIN R. LEWIS

St. Croix, Minn.

Land of the free?

The Washington Times reported two news stories on Monday without the slightest hint that they raise serious questions about civil liberties.

The U.S. government is seeking to strong-arm other nations into adopting biometric standards when issuing passports — a move the United States is making with nary a whisper of protest from Congress, the news media or the public (“U.S. seeks OSCE pact on biometric passports,” Page 1).

The Transportation Security Administration plans a computerized screening program that will give every airline passenger a terrorist-threat rating (“Computer screen would ‘rate’ air passengers,” Nation).

OK, I lied. The second story — although not the first — contains quotes from activists who see the screening measure as infringing on the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches.

But, why so little criticism? Why is there no criticism when the government requires biometric material in order to issue a passport to a citizen?

Apart from the obvious civil liberties issues, I would point out that every one of the Sept. 11 airline hijackers carried identity documents issued in their real names.

ROBERT F. DORR

Oakton

Act locally

In his screed to the editor, Christopher McKeon bemoans the “semi-squalid ghetto” that Adams Morgan has become (“A ‘semi-squalid ghetto’ in D.C.,” Letters, Aug. 20).

My response to Mr. McKeon would be: What have you personally done about it?

It constantly boggles my mind that here, in the capital of the free world, where your next-door neighbor is just as likely to be a deputy cabinet undersecretary or senior World Bank bureaucrat as a teacher or a truck driver, people can live in such naive or even willful ignorance of how to improve the community around them.

These are people who work daily to better the nation and the world around them, but who remain entirely disengaged from the neighborhood that surrounds them. They can cite the gross national product of Brazil, or list the names of all nine Democratic presidential challengers, but are stumped when asked to name their Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner or know when their local neighborhood association holds its monthly meetings.

Thankfully, there are a dedicated but tiny minority of D.C. residents who, in addition to their grueling day jobs (whether blue- or white-collar), set aside a substantial segment of their limited free time to tackle issues of neighborhood importance.

So, those of you like Mr. McKeon with a raft of complaints about your neighborhood, instead of leveling unfounded complaints at dedicated and hardworking public servants such as Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham, I would urge you to take one or more of the following actions:

1. Sign up for your neighborhood listserv. Most D.C. neighborhoods have e-mail newsletters known as listservs that allow you to debate issues of neighborhood importance, keep track of neighborhood events and more broadly educate yourself about the efforts of neighborhood activists to improve the community (to sign up for the Adams Morgan listserv, just send a blank e-mail to adamsmorgan-subscribe@yahoogroups.com)

2. Find out when your neighborhood’s ANC meets. ANCs are a unique-to-the-District innovation, the level of the D.C. government closest to the people. ANC commissioners serve as liaisons between the neighborhoods and the D.C. government. You may agree or disagree with the actions and opinions of your local commission, but at least you will understand the issues at hand.

3. Find out when the local civic association meets. Adams Morgan has at least three. These are another way to get involved.

4. Take part in a neighborhood cleanup.

5. Even better, instead of going with a once-a-year conscience-cleansing organized cleanup, take responsibility for part of your own neighborhood. Keep the streetlight in front of your house free from expired posters. Clean the trash out of the tree boxes on your street. Or think of a certain kind of litter that particularly irritates you (liquor bottles, fast food wrappers, whatever), and pick that up wherever and whenever you find it.

As the bumper sticker states, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” Here in the District, we’re good at the first part. Here’s hoping that Mr. McKeon and many like him will undertake local action in their community with equal fervor.

JOSH GIBSON

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, 1C07

Washington

Safety first

I have to disagree with your statement that AAA is “perhaps the most respected advocate for traffic safety in the country” (“D.C.’s abusive traffic laws,” editorial, Sunday). On the contrary, it has not done enough in my eyes to make our roads safer and our driving experiences more pleasurable. What bothers me especially is that when it comes to important traffic safety issues, AAA seems to be watching its bottom line by trying not to offend too many of its members.

The organization always prefers to put a “spin” on things, when it clearly should come out on the side of traffic safety:

For example, the recent issue with elderly drivers causing fatalities in California and Florida: The AAA spokesperson should have stressed that we need mandatory testing for drivers over age 70, say every two years. (This has been the law in all Western Europe for more than 30 years, and clearly has saved lives). Instead, the spokesperson went into a lengthy explanation, saying that we have to balance the needs of all parties involved.

Also, consider cell phone use while driving. I do not care what any study suggests. It is obvious to me that you cannot drive in a safe way and at the same time be involved in a cellular conversation. (Unless perhaps you use special devices, and you can keep both hands on the steering wheel.) Again, AAA has not come squarely out on the point of safety.

And now, back to Washington: I have driven in the District daily for some time, and I assure you that there has been an epidemic in red light running for numerous years. AAA knows that and should be on no other side than the safety side of this. I really don’t care how much money the D.C. government stands to collect from the red light cameras. If it saves one life, or prevents a serious injury, it has been worth it.

I think the AAA should quit criticizing local governments.

MARTIN SINGELENBERG

Chevy Chase

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