- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2001

Jefferson-Hemings authority has active imagination

It is a sad day indeed when a Pulitzer Prize-winning author resorts to lying about military service in Vietnam ("Around the Nation," June 19). Joseph J. Ellis, a Mount Holyoke College professor, never went overseas while in the Army, according to the Boston Globe and the Associated Press. Apparently, he also embellished his involvement in the anti-war and civil-rights movements, among other things.
Let us not forget that Mr. Ellis also misrepresented the results of DNA studies of the descendants of Thomas Jefferson and a female slave named Sally Hemings. An article in the Nov. 5, 1998, issue of the scientific journal Nature, which Mr. Ellis co-authored with Eric S. Lander of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stated, "Now, DNA analysis confirms that Jefferson was indeed the father of at least one of Hemings children."
Dr. Eugene A. Foster, the scientist who performed the test and whom I assisted as a Jefferson family historian, wrote in the same issue, "The simplest and most probable explanations for our molecular findings are that Thomas Jefferson, rather than one of the Carr brothers, was the father of Eston Hemings Jefferson, and that Thomas Woodson was not Thomas Jeffersons son." Dr. Foster did not put the family information I had given him in this article, but in a Jan. 7, 1999, article, he wrote, "We know from the historical and the DNA data that Thomas Jefferson can neither be definitely excluded nor solely implicated in the paternity of illegitimate children with his slave Sally Hemings."
Mr. Ellis also wrote a two-page article in the Nov. 9, 1998, issue of U.S. News & World Report in which he tried to link President Clintons problems with the purported problems of Jefferson. He even stated that the "Foster study seemed impeccably timed to arrive like a comet that had been winging through space for 200 years before landing squarely in the middle of the Clinton impeachment inquiry." The full U.S. News story on Jefferson and Hemings ran eight pages, plus a cover page announcing Jeffersons "secret life."
Speaking with me on the phone, Mr. Ellis said, in reference to his Nature article, that he knew nothing of the younger brother of Thomas Jefferson, Randolph, and his five sons, who could have fathered the Hemings children. He also asked why no one had pointed this out before.
The Library of Congress chose Mr. Ellis to edit and write a chapter for its recent "Thomas Jefferson: Genius of Liberty," in which he states, "A DNA study confirmed that Jefferson most probably fathered a child by Sally Hemings." And again, as in two earlier articles, he dwells on the Clinton-Lewinsky affair instead of doing what a historian should do: state facts.
To quote from Byron W. Woodsons new book, "A President in the Family": "I viewed Dr. Fosters explanation of Ellis role as a farce. For me, all he brought to the situation was an element of mistrust." There are more interesting details regarding Mr. Ellis in this book.
For the full story of the Jefferson-Hemings DNA fiasco, visit www.tjheritage.org (where you can read a review of the new book "The Jefferson-Hemings Myth, an American Travesty" and read the full Scholars Commission report of April 12, 2001.) and www.angelfire.com/va/TJTruth.

HERBERT BARGER
Fort Washington

Any missile defense is better than none

Deroy Murdock is right on the mark with his June 19 Commentary column "Missile defense imperatives."
How ludicrous it is that critics of the proposed missile defense system rely upon their belief that it simply could not work. Any system, even one only 25 percent or 50 percent effective, is better than what we have now: nothing. Unlike Russia and despite the apparent conviction of a majority of Americans we do not have a national antiballistic missile system.
Would such a system be costly? Well, how much is New York City, Washington or Los Angeles worth? Would such a system be 100 percent effective? We wont know until we try. Any missile defense system adds to our deterrent capability, and ridiculing it does not make it any less important.
Today, if a terrorist group or rogue nation wants to attack the United States, all it has to do is build a missile with a nuclear, chemical or biological warhead and launch it. Once the missile is in flight, there would be nothing to stop it from striking its target. After that, the offending nation or group would merely await a U.S. response.
Mutually assured destruction, or MAD, works only with rational leaders who have tight control over their nuclear forces. Dictators such as Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini have shown an utter disregard for the welfare of their own countries. Countless terrorists have shown an utter disregard for their own lives. Are we willing to risk entire cities and the lives of millions and simply hope that a dictator or terrorist will never possess intercontinental ballistic missiles and the will to use them?
Any nuclear retaliation after an attack, of course, compounds one ecological disaster with another. Environmentalists in the United States and Europe would surely argue that we should not respond to a nuclear attack with a nuclear attack of our own. Therefore, for the good of the environment, we ought to try to build a missile defense shield. This might well prevent the explosion of any nuclear, chemical or biological weapons over our territory, thereby eliminating the need to launch our own strike.
Lets put the onus on the dictators and terrorists to factor into their plans how to defeat our missile defense system. Lets make them wonder if their warheads would even get through. Lets make it as difficult for them as possible. And lets force these madmen to calculate if it would be worth risking the destruction of their own countries for the slim chance of successfully destroying an American city.
During the Gulf War, Israelis were happy to have our Patriot missiles in action against Iraqi Scuds. Were they 100 percent effective? No, but they were better than nothing. Why do American liberals want to deny the United States the same protection we gave Israel a decade ago? Why are so many Democratic politicians willing to leave their countrymen vulnerable to the most destructive weapons ever invented, while they afford themselves and their families a deluxe bomb shelter in the hills near the District? Why are they afraid even to try a new approach something other than MAD and give the rest of us a fighting chance to survive? Is it truly possible that loathing the military has so impenetrably clouded their vision?

JAMES TERPENING
Washington

President isn't only one going wobbly on price caps

While I agree with your June 19 editorial "Wobbly on price caps" that federal price caps on wholesale electricity are a bad idea, your recommendation that President Bush overturn the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissions (FERC) imposition of price caps may not be legally possible.
FERC is an independent agency, similar to the Federal Communications Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission, with quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative functions. The president cannot order FERC to do anything, much less overturn its decisions. The president cannot remove commissioners without just cause. Independent agencies are the so-called fourth branch of government and exist outside the executive branchs chain of command.
What is saddest about FERCs decision on Monday, which extends price caps to 10 other Western states, is that the vote was 5-0, with the two commissioners recently appointed by Mr. Bush voting with the other commissioners for more price caps. Both the president and FERC seem to be going wobbly on price caps.

JOHN MARTIN
Arlington

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