- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 12, 2004

Great communicators use the Good Book

The last week has appropriately brought widespread replay of Ronald Reagan’s sonorous speeches. Drawing numerous citations has been his vision of America as “a city on a hill.”

But it should be noted that the “city on a hill” phrase came not from the Great Communicator (or from John Winthrop) but from the Good Shepherd (Matthew 5:14: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.”), just as Abraham Lincoln’s “house divided” speech was based on Jesus’ words (Mark 3:25).

Without question, neither Mr. Reagan nor Lincoln intended to supplant Christ. Rather, both presidents fit comfortably among generations of our leaders who knew their audience both understood and appreciated references to the Good Book. The use of Scripture by American leaders dates to the Mayflower Compact.

Sadly, today’s politicians are more likely to refer to pop-culture colloquialisms (“Bring it on”; “Read my lips”) than to Scripture. And if today’s leaders quote the Bible, they are likely to face either criticism or illiteracy to the point that journalists will cite them as the source of a biblical phrase. (Does one journalist in 100 know Mr. Reagan’s source?)

Among other things, the departure of Mr. Reagan from the public scene indicates a body politic that lacks its forebears’ grasp of and comfort with the Bible as a guide to daily life.

GREGORY C. MCCARTHY

Arlington

Reconsider stem-cell research

I applaud columnist Deborah Simmons for her touching testimony to the caregivers of Alzheimer’s victims (“In faith and deed,” Op-Ed, Friday). Ronald Reagan’s death has brought some long-overdue public attention to this devastating disease.

I hope that this will prompt the Bush administration to reconsider Nancy Reagan’s request for government-supported embryonic-stem-cell research, which could lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s and countless other diseases.

MARY T. SHAW

Norristown, Pa.

Preserve civil liberties

I am baffled and amazed by the failure of Washington Times editors to recognize the irony of running an editorial (“Terrorism and the courts,” June 4) defending the Bush administration’s assaults on civil liberties (advocating the sacrifice of our freedoms in order to save lives) right before the D-Day anniversary (in which we sacrificed lives in order to preserve our freedoms).

This editorial highlights the differences between the current generation of Americans and the World War II generation. Sixty years ago, America was at war to defend freedom, and Americans willingly put their lives on the line to preserve their rights, not least of which are their rights to due process. Other Americans uncomplainingly made smaller sacrifices, such as paying higher taxes, enduring rationing and postponing more personal goals such as careers and families in order to serve their country.

Too many of today’s Americans are all for a “war” on terror, as long as they don’t have to give up their tax cut, their new car or their low mortgage rate. Obviously, to a generation that selfish, the idea of actually being willing to offer even a handful of lives in defense of liberty is out of the question.

The thousands who were martyred on Normandy’s beaches on June 6, 1944, didn’t do so in order that their grandchildren could indulge in infantile, self-centered efforts to undermine our civil liberties. They did so knowing that our freedoms are safe only as long as we are prepared to make even the ultimate sacrifice in their defense. I don’t think many of them saw themselves as heroic — they were just defending the legacy of freedom they inherited so they could, in turn, bequeath it to us. Some of us still value it enough that we aren’t willing to quietly hand it over to Attorney General John Ashcroft for disposal.

GREGORY SMITH

Stockholm

A dubious dichotomy

Despite the Bobbsey Twins at the seashore, Jacques Chiraq and Gerhard Schroeder, remaining adamant about providing forces to support the coalition in Iraq, President Bush held the most upbeat press conference of his presidency in Savannah on Thursday (“‘Momentum’ building in Middle East,” Page 1, Friday).

There was a noticeable dichotomy, however, between Mr. Bush’s analysis of the results at the G-8 summit and the dire, doom-and-gloom opinion given by former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke when he was interviewed by CNN’s Judy Woodruff shortly after the president spoke to the media.

Mr. Holbrooke, in his continuous attempt to pin down a Kerry administration’s secretary of state slot, saw not one iota of good that President Bush was able to garner for the United States and the coalition in Georgia. Mr. Holbrooke, without wincing, assured Miss Woodruff that the only one with the magic wand to pull President Bush’s chestnuts out of the fire in Iraq is Sen. John Kerry.

WILLIAM H. SMITH

Palm Desert, Calif.

Sovereign squabbles

Roger D. Leonard’s letter (“Compromised sovereignty,” Friday) is misleading and far from the truth. He speaks of “Anglo-American common law” and how agreements made under duress are null and void, and thus the 1991 armistice with Iraq is void.

First, American law is independent of “Anglo” (presumably English and European) law. Second, the concept of “common law” as referenced to Anglo-American culture (the only possible meaning of Anglo-American in this case) is entirely different from American law. And what makes Mr. Leonard think this has any bearing on international policies in the first place? Nations and states do not have “rights,” and there are no “common laws” that apply in such cases. Iraq was “under duress” as a result of a war Iraq provoked. Lastly, cultural common laws actually support the armistice’s validity in this case: the laws of honorable surrender in order to end a conflict without further unnecessary bloodshed. Anglo-American common law, such as it is, would imply that any nation that enters into an agreement in order to cause an ending of hostilities is bound by those agreements on pain of resumption of hostilities. This isn’t simply “Anglo-American” but international: The concept of armistice and surrender is recognized worldwide.

His second idea, of “sovereign equality” and the United States being unfairly allowed to keep weapons of mass destruction while other nations are not, is equally silly. First, the idea of the U.N. Charter having any bearing on U.S. actions directly contradicts the U.N. Charter. We have “sovereign equality,” which would mean we have an equal right as any nation or people to prosecute our national security when threatened. To say that we should be inhibited by the very charter that gives us such a right creates a circular, self-canceling logical flaw.

Additionally, the U.N. Charter is not U.S. law. The president, our military and our government are moved by the people under the guidance of our Constitution. And the U.S. Constitution mandates (this word, in addition to the popularly held definition of giving of power, demands that power be used) that the government is established for, among other things, providing for the common (that’s the U.S. not the world, the U.N. or even Mr. Leonard’s “Anglo-American” culture) defense.

Iraq had (despite the liberal media’s policy of ignoring that fact) weapons of mass destruction, had used them in the past and had threatened to use them against the United States and its allies. It had been courting international terrorists and supporting international terrorists. This means that Iraq posed a clear and present danger to our interests domestically and abroad. The U.S. Constitution (the highest law that the United States is beholden to) demanded action. We can, must and (hopefully) will stop any nation, people or organization that threatens us from acquiring nuclear power.

THOMAS SHIRK

Springfield

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