Monday, February 14, 2000

The lesson of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wheelchair is that he went to great lengths during his lifetime not to let his handicap define him (“Presenting FDR as a man in full,” Life, Feb. 9).

Most Americans living during his presidency were unaware of FDR’s disability.

His braces were painted black to blend in with his shoes and socks. He went through elaborate but unobtrusive protocols when he was required to speak from a podium to appear to stand, look and move “normally.” His wheelchair is almost unrecognizable as such: It was a plain kitchen chair to which a handyman at Hyde Park had added small wheels to the front legs (his Navy boat cloak would often cover both the president and his chair). When possible, he addressed crowds, inspected facilities and took part in other ceremonies from the seat of an open convertible. News conferences and his radio chats were carried out from behind his desk.

FDR was not ashamed of his condition, but it would have been unthinkable for someone of his time and patrician background to call public attention to it.

Although it took tremendous effort and stage management, FDR never let the world see him sweat. The stoic philosopher Epictetus noted that “the gods allow one to be superior to all things not under your control,” and that the loss of one’s legs did not proportionately diminish one’s will. FDR could not walk, but he could hardly be considered handicapped.

If FDR had to be honored with more than a marble stone the size of his White House desk, which is what he requested, it should have been with a transcendent work of art on the order of what could be produced by an Augustus Saint-Gaudens or a Maya Lin.

Instead, we have a sprawling, politically correct embarrassment the trademark cigarette holder is airbrushed out but a wheelchair he took care to camouflage is made obvious.

Paul Fussell observes specifically about contemporary public sculpture in his book “BAD: or, the Dumbing of America,” that in the current crop of monuments, one thing seems to be missing on the part of the public taste; and one thing seems to be missing from the artists talent. FDR exuded both.

President Clinton thinks that adding a statue of FDR in a wheelchair is a “no-brainer.” That FDR would be embarrassed by this addition to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is really the no-brainer.



Judging by Times article, justice continues to be blind

The Feb. 10 article in The Washington Times, “New probe ordered in judicial assigning,” tells us that the Judicial Council for the D.C. Circuit has “ordered acting Appeals Court Chief Judge Stephen F. Williams to determine why a random computer assignment system … was bypassed” when Chief District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson assigned five cases “potentially embarrassing to the president, the [Democratic National Committee] and Democrats in general” only to judges appointed by President Clinton.

Judge Johnson, in true Clinton style, has clammed up about why she took such unusual actions and is now planning to weather the storm of criticism. Having a reputation for integrity for the judicial process does not seem to concern her. Evidently, in Judge Johnson’s mind, only Clinton-appointed judges have the mental acumen to understand the complexities of breaking the law, assuming of course that the lawbreakers are the president and his fellow Democrats.

Unfortunately, the judge ordered to investigate the matter, Judge Williams, is the same judge who in November dismissed Judicial Watch’s complaint in the case, labeling it frivolous. It doesn’t take much of a rocket scientist to see that justice will be blindsided again.



Let’s close the book on ‘Silent Spring’ terminology

Kenneth Smith, deputy editor of The Washington Times editorial page, is right on target in attributing so much of what has gone awry with the nation’s health and safety standards to the book “Silent Spring” (“Rachel Carson’s curse,” Op-Ed, Feb. 10).

“Silent Spring’s” influence can’t be understated. Thanks to the book’s popularity, the public became accustomed to hearing about “cancer-causing” industrial chemicals. This in turn led to the notion that these chemicals are inherently toxic, an implication without scientific merit (the dose makes the poison).

Indeed, public discussion of environmental issues is replete with references to “toxic” chemicals or “toxic pollutants.” In reality, these are regulatory terms with no basis in science.

Unfortunately, this unscientific use of terms made its way into the nation’s environmental statutes, beginning with the Clean Water Act of 1972. It defines a “pollutant” so broadly as to include almost anything (including rocks and sand) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might decide to regulate.

The act also requires the EPA to publish a list of chemicals to be designated as “toxic pollutants.” When the EPA failed to come up with the list on time, the agency was sued in 1975 by the Natural Resources Defense Counsel, the Environmental Defense Fund and other green groups.

The suit was settled with a consent decree in 1976, resulting in a list of 126 chemicals that henceforth came to be known at the EPA under a variety of regulatory labels, including “priority pollutants,” “toxins” and “toxic pollutants of concern.”

These designations had nothing to do with the chemicals’ inherent toxicity but were made to satisfy the requirements of a consent decree. Litigation trumped science, and the nation has been paying for it ever since.


Senior fellow

Lexington Institute


In defense of Arthur A. Coia: Round 2

Is the news so slim these days that you have to take shots at the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and Arthur A. Coia twice in six days?

We barely get time to correct the errors of Arnold Beichman (“And he keeps the Ferraris,” Commentary, Feb. 2), when you repeat them, and get even more wrong in your editorial (“Another convict for Clinton,” Feb. 8).

Well, as many times as you get the record wrong and we stopped counting a long time ago we will try to correct it. So here it goes, for the umpteenth and hopefully last time:

m A 1996 congressional inquiry concluded that there was no “sweetheart deal” for the LIUNA, and your paper reported that. You’ve raised the issue and we’ve refuted it, attempting to set the record straight over and over. Isn’t this enough, already?

m Mr. Coia’s salary as general president was $250,000 a year, and no matter how many times you misreport it, it won’t be higher. That salary was voted on by 1996 LIUNA convention delegates, and is provided to the position of general president (not specifically to Mr. Coia) by the LIUNA constitution. Our board did not increase the salary for Mr. Coia by 34 percent, or even 1 percent. What are you folks smokin’ over there at The Times, anyway?

m As general president emeritus, Mr. Coia receives the difference between the pension he earned with 42 years of service to our union, and the former salary he earned as general president. You keep misreporting this, and the amount of his compensation, over and over again. But that doesn’t make it true.

m Mr. Coia was the subject of multiple investigations, grand juries hearings and depositions for the past five years. The Department of Justice was relentless in examining every facet of his life. How anyone can even suggest that the Justice Department kindly gave him a “parting gift” simply boggles the mind and stretches the imagination.

m Mr. Coia never slept in the Lincoln Bedroom, never flew on Air Force One, never played golf with the president and has not spoken to him in more than a year. He was a strong supporter of the Clinton administration because of its stand on issues affecting working families. It is a ludicrous and erroneous assumption that their relationship constitutes a close personal friendship.

The Washington Times plays fast and loose with the facts whenever it suits your purposes. Well, at LIUNA, we think enough is enough, and yes, that is our final answer.


Director of public affairs

Laborers’ International Union

of North America


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