- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

For the Record

Having the Kennedy surname carries with it a lot of weight. Beyond that, it doesn’t hurt to have “Uncle Ted” as a leading senator.

When Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote a recent op-ed highly critical of President Bush’s “inhumane” treatment of war prisoners, it more than caught the eye of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

The senator last Friday proceeded to have it published in the Congressional Record.

“Mr. President, the Los Angeles Times … carried an important op-ed article, ‘America’s anti-torture tradition,’ by my nephew Robert F. Kennedy Jr.,” said Mr. Kennedy, who saw fit to add that “Bobby is senior attorney for the Natural Resource Defense Council, and is also chief prosecuting attorney for Hudson Riverkeeper and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance. In addition, he is clinical professor and supervising attorney at the Environmental Litigation Clinic at Pace University Law School in White Plains, N.Y.”

But leaving the environment and going back to the article at hand, it recounts that Gen. George Washington during the Revolutionary War insisted that his troops treat their British prisoners humanely — “even though American civilians and prisoners were treated brutally by the British,” the Irish-American senator accurately pointed out.

“I believe that Bobby’s article will be of interest to all of us in Congress who care about this basic issue, and I ask unanimous consent that it may be printed in the Record,” he said.

The first paragraph of the younger Kennedy’s op-ed reads: “It is nice that the Bush administration has finally been pressured into backing a ban on cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners. But what remains shocking about this embarrassing and distasteful national debate is that we had to have it at all. This administration’s newfound enthusiasm for torture has not only damaged our international reputation, it has shattered one of our proudest American traditions.”

Chinese Christmas

Before we write the final politically correct chapter on 2005 — this one surrounding the just-concluded holiday season, when our nation’s own government leaders struggled with calling a “Christmas tree” by its real name — we call your attention to a most intriguing Christmas card we received from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China.

That’s right, the Communist Chinese.

“Merry Christmas,” reads the card from Chinese Embassy Minister Zheng Zeguang.

And yes, this Christmas card was made in China.

Broken windows

One congressman who has grown weary from the increase in partisan fighting is Rep. Dennis Moore, Kansas Democrat and a founding member of the House Center Aisle Caucus.

As the lawmaker notes, this unusually named caucus “seeks to bring greater civility and moderation to the actions of the House and to the interactions between its members.”

This week, Mr. Moore wants colleagues on both sides of the center aisle to heed the words of lawyer Eugene G. Bernardo II and his commentary published in the Providence (R.I.) Journal regarding the breakdown of civility that “is equally applicable to the legislative process at the federal level.”

As Mr. Bernardo concludes: “By encouraging us to see as equals even those with whom we disagree vehemently, civility lets us hold the respectful dialogues without which democratic decision-making is impossible.”

The writer quoted noted criminologists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling, who developed the “broken windows” theory of crime. The premise is that when a broken window in a building is left in disrepair, the rest of the windows are soon broken by vandals, who get a signal that no one is in charge and that breaking more windows has no undesirable consequences.

“The broken window is their metaphor for numerous ways in which behavioral norms can break down in a community,” explains Mr. Bernardo. “In short, once people begin disregarding the norms that maintain community order, both community and order unravel — sometimes with alarming alacrity.”

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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