Noble: Incoming Republican National Committee chairman, Virginia Gov. James Gilmore.
It is an old and venerable piece of Virginia lore, handed down from one political generation to the next, that there is no higher office in the land than that of the governor of the commonwealth. The corollary is that a governor would never leave office before his four-year term is up. Whether for that reason or some other, Virginia Gov. James Gilmore declined to take a position in the Cabinet of President-elect Bush that was surely his if he had wanted it.
Fortunately, Mr. Bush and the governor negotiated another high-ranking national position that won’t compromise Mr. Gilmore’s work in Virginia in the last year of his term: chairman of the Republican National Committee. The governor has much to offer to Republicans, as well as to others.
As this newspaper’s Stephen Dinan reported Friday, “The governor has signed the largest tax cut in state history, boosted education spending, and promoted Virginia as a high-tech mecca. Most importantly, he gave Republicans a historic breakthrough in the legislature, delivering to them a one-time Democratic stronghold.” Thanks in part to his efforts (the work of incoming U.S. Sen. and former Virginia Gov. George Allen as well as one-time Senate candidate Oliver North also come to mind), Virginia no longer has a statewide Democratic official and both the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate are controlled by Republicans.
Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Gilmore has also stayed true to his most “controversial” pledge, to cut the state car tax because, he says, “I just feel a sacred trust to that.” His belief that he should honor the trust committed to him has compelled him to continue to support tax cuts. As he told The Washington Times, “I think sometimes that people who are very well-to-do that become members of special-interest groups, fail to understand the concerns of working men and women every day. That’s why tax cuts are so important.”
For his dedication to honoring the promises he made to the citizens of Virginia, Mr. Gilmore more than deserves to be the noble of the week.
Knave: The Department of State and the Department of Justice for allowing, and occasionally abetting, overseas parental child abductions.
Elian Gonzales was only the most photogenic example of the despicable way in which both departments handle such cases. Although more than 1,000 children are kidnapped from the United States each year, a recent expose in The Washington Post pointed out, “The vast majority of children abducted abroad never come back.”
It isn’t that the departments lack the necessary authority. In 1993, Congress passed the International Parental Kidnapping Act, which made it a crime for parents to remove or retain a child outside the United States. Moreover, the United States was also one of 48 signatories of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in 1998, which requires member countries to “secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in” other member countries.
However, both departments tend to ignore such statutes. Reader’s Digest pointed out last year that the “United States rarely puts much pressure on other countries to abide by the (Hague) treaty.” It also found that the State Department considers a “case closed when a foreign government denies a return request.” It reported that if the parents do approach Washington, “They are far too often met with delays, empty promises, even outright hostility.” The hostility does not seem to apply to the abductors, since a recent report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) found, “Since 1993, Justice has indicted 62 parents under the (Parental Kidnapping) act, and obtained 13 convictions.”
Both departments have made worried noises about the problem, but the same GAO report cited above noted, “State and [Department of Justice] have not developed a clear strategy or plan that defines measurable goals, objectives, and resources required to fully implement their planned actions.”
The reason for the appalling apathy? An anonymous State Department official told The Post, “Top officials see (parental demands to retrieve children) as a needless irritant in bilateral relations.”
Yet the United States was founded on the belief that the rights of the individual cannot so easily be superseded by the demands of the state, and that the government was established by the people and for the people. Moreover, the governments established on the idea that individuals are simply cogs in the great machine of state have inevitably ground up their children.
For the calumny of placing the scribbled paper of diplomatic relations above the cries of abducted children, the State and Justice Departments deserve the knave of the week.