- The Washington Times - Friday, October 27, 2000

Military endorsements have political consequences

Franklin Margiotta's Oct. 22 Commentary column, "Retired military's right to speak out," does considerable personal injustice to professor Richard Kohn and to the argument he and others myself included have made.

Because The Washington Times itself has criticized Mr. Kohn in these pages, I wish to note here that he served with distinction for nine years as chief of Air Force History, was president of the Society for Military History (an organization of scholars in this field) and is well-known as an authority in several fields of American military history. His views are shared by a number of scholars and retired four-star officers, Republicans and Democrats alike. To dismiss his position as aberrant or reflective of mere political partisanship is incorrect and unfair; by introducing an attack ad hominem into public discourse, it does a disservice to an important debate. Read Mr. Kohn's original article, and you will notice that he (rightly) excoriates the Clinton administration for having crossed a line by orchestrating political endorsements by retired military officers in 1992.

Mr. Margiotta similarly misstates the position that Mr. Kohn and others of us share. No one denies the right of officers. In the case of the most senior retired flag officers, such as former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak who orchestrated a military endorsement of a presidential candidate the issue is one of norms and custom. The arguments belong in a lengthier format, but let me point to just one here: that of consequences. Now that we have established the precedent of generals doffing the uniform one day and denouncing an administration and signing up with its opponents the next, a president would be a fool not to think about politics when appointing his senior military advisers. If retired Adm. William Crowe can become an ambassador by cozying up to a candidate, what ambitious generals will refrain from similar behavior?

In short, those generals who have taken this course have, intentionally or not, put us on the path to a politicized senior officer corps, and that cannot be good for the defense of our country.


Professor and director of strategic studies

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies

Johns Hopkins University


Clinton campaign assist would be risky for Gore

In response to your Oct. 24 editorial "The Big Me,", I must say few of us would be surprised to see President Clinton enter into the political fray to help Vice President Al Gore as the campaign gets more desperate. Predicting whether it would help or hurt is difficult, however.

Both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore have enough baggage, including policy flip-flops and personal shortcomings, to give a counteroffensive by Texas Gov. George W. Bush against any Clinton rhetoric every likelihood of success. Mr. Bush so far has stayed on message and directed the bulk of his criticism against Mr. Gore.

In the event of a late Clinton entry into the campaign, I would expect Mr. Bush to expand his target range to great effect and satisfaction among his admirers.

If Mr. Clinton believes he can help, he also should strongly consider the Senate race in New York state. A win against an upstart congressman by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is far from certain. Because she remains aloof and refuses to give issue-oriented interviews, perhaps he might volunteer information as to what her candidacy is all about.


Montclair, N.J.

Robb is wishy-washy in interview with the Times

Sen. Charles S. Robb, in his interview with The Washington Times, ducked obvious conclusions and was the essence of wishy-washy ("Robb: Make decisions 'based on mission accomplishment,' " Nation, Oct. 25).

Our military, he admitted, is "stretched too thin," but he does not want to reduce commitments or increase military budgets to match those commitments, contenting himself with "bringing home the bacon" for military installations in Virginia. He sloughed off the question of how we should extricate ourselves from overcommitment, giving the typical feel-good answer that "we're doing the best we can" when obviously we're not.

He continued to avoid straight answers throughout the interview.

He said we should allow women to serve in the armed forces, but he did not touch the women-in-combat issue: Let the services decide, Mr. Robb said (and then he surely would carp about any decision they would make).

Term limits? Mr. Robb responded coyly. He doesn't "intend to die in the Senate." He admitted that the Boy Scouts have the right to select leaders using their own criteria but said he's "disappointed" that they do so. Was this stance news to him? Does he support homosexual Scout leaders?

He apparently regrets his vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, but he didn't say why. He wants the federal government to spend money hiring teachers, buying computers and fixing buildings, all responsibilities of local government. It is better that this money never leave the state. That way, we could avoid losing part of it on its way to Washington and back and avoid the federal strings attached to it.

What exactly is Mr. Robb for? He seems extremely reluctant to take and hold a position on anything but more federal spending. Someone needs to remind him of the observation of"Cactus Jack" Garner, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first vice president, that the only things you find in the middle of the road are dead skunks and a yellow stripe.


Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Secret evidence compromise bill balances security and rights

An Oct. 20 editorial in The Washington Times makes many points concerning the "Uses and abuses of secret evidence" and a bill that I helped to draft and introduce, H.R. 2121 the Secret Evidence Repeal Act of 1999. The editorial correctly cites the fact that "individuals affected are denied one of the most sacred rights of the judicial canon, the right to due process," but errs in concluding that H.R. 2121 and an outright ban of secret evidence is the wrong approach.

As the editorial notes, H.R. 2121 addresses abuses in our immigration system whereby a person legally in the United States is denied basic due process rights and, in some cases, detained for years on end.

Under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is allowed to arrest, detain and deport noncitizens on the basis of secret evidence evidence whose source and substance is not revealed to those who are targeted, or to their counsel. Secret evidence has been used to arrest, imprison and even deport individuals here in the United States without their opportunity to review or challenge it.

Your editorial fails to mention the bipartisan compromise amendment, sponsored by Republican Rep. Bob Barr, which passed in the Judiciary Committee by the overwhelming margin of 26-2 on Sept. 26.

Under the able leadership of Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, the compromise bill was reported out of the committee by voice vote, and companion legislation, S. 3139, was subsequently introduced by Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham. In addition, both major party candidates for president have taken high-profile positions endorsing reform of our government's secret evidence practices. Texas Gov. George W. Bush even mentioned these secret evidence abuses during the second presidential debate.

By incorporating the Classified Information Procedure Act (CIPA), a mechanism that has been used for years in criminal cases, the compromise legislation does nothing to jeopardize our national security it merely provides these aliens the same rights as people who are charged with a crime.

People should know the crimes with which they are being charged and should be given a chance to challenge their accusers in court.

The Washington Times should note that the compromise bill represents a bipartisan and workable solution that balances due process rights with national security concerns, and deserves full consideration by Congress.


House of Representatives


Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide