- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 3, 2001

Iranian president is demagogue, not hero or 'reformer

The depiction of Irans president, Mohammed Khatami, as a "national hero" for Iranian women and youth is absurd ("Khatami: Reform is inevitable," May 30).

While in the past four years, Mr. Khatami´s PR campaign has been very much centered around hollow slogans of "rule of law" and "civil society," in practice, he has only paid lip-service to aspirations of Iranians, particularly youth and women, for a free and democratic Iran.

Under Mr. Khatami´s watch, many women have been sentenced to death by stoning, publicly hanged, flogged and imprisoned for "immorality." As for students, on many occasions he betrayed their just cause by calling them "extremists." In a major test of Mr. Khatami´s allegiance toward democratic aspirations of students, he, as the head of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, ordered the bloody suppression of the six-day student uprising in Tehran in July 1999.

This, of course, should not come as a surprise. After all, on numerous occasions, Mr. Khatami has declared that he is fully loyal to Iran´s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and that he wants to "reform" the regime only within the framework of its constitution.

This is the very same constitution which, among other undemocratic measures, considers women second-class citizens, essentially sanctions use of torture for extracting information and gives unlimited power to a cleric the supreme leader who can override all three branches of government. This is the law to which Mr. Khatami refers when he talks about "rule of law."

Mr. Khatami is no reformer. Like his true mentor, the late Iranian supreme leader Ruholla Khomeini, he is just a demagogue. And, notwithstanding those who are bused to stadiums for special PR occasions, Iranians in numerous anti-government demonstrations have shown their rejection of him when they shout "down with Khatami," as well as "down with Khamenei."



Columnist makes too many assumptions about immigration

In his predictable May 24 Commentary column, "Immigration on the other side," Ben Wattenberg makes several unjustified assumptions.

The first is that European women will keep bearing children at the current rate. On the contrary, their projected fertility could change as rapidly as Americans´ did when baby boomers stopped postponing their families or just as the projected budget surplus might vanish in a changing economy.

The second is that Mr. Wattenberg makes it sound as though Earth´s population is declining, when it is only the rate of population growth that is slowly declining worldwide. However, because so many of the more than 6 billion people are young, we are still increasing by 73 million people per year, mostly in the developing world.

Mr. Wattenberg is also wrong in assuming that immigrants are always treated as being unwelcome that they are always seen as a problem rather than a solution. Americans remember their origins and how their ancestors were treated when they first arrived in this country. As a result, many work hard to make newcomers feel welcome. And many in Europe already understand how much they stand to gain from importing a motivated work force full of new ideas and energy.



Jeffords is no champion of the disabled

I am the chairman of the Republican Disability Coalition (RDC), a disability outreach organization within the Republican Party. As chairman of the RDC, I worked closely with Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont independent, and his staff to achieve a bipartisan consensus on issues important to people with disabilities.

I did this knowing that Mr. Jeffords´ views were more liberal than my own and that of the RDC. Our support was instrumental in the passage of the Work Incentives Improvement Act, which allowed people with disabilities to accept employment and not lose their health benefits. The members of RDC now feel personally betrayed by Mr. Jeffords´ self-serving action.

Mr. Jeffords claims that the Republican Party has become "too conservative" for him to remain a Republican. When did the Republican Party become "too conservative"?

Was it "too conservative" when the majority in the Senate allowed him to serve as chairman of the important Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee despite his liberal views? Why didn´t he switch parties when the Republican Party first took control of Congress in 1995 if this bothered him so much? Why did he run for re-election in 2000 as a Republican in a party that he found to be "too conservative"? Why did he accept money from the National Republican Senatorial Committee if the party´s views offended him so much?

The fact is that he was a chairman of a major committee because of the conservative majority. Of the 50 Republicans in the Senate before his defection, only five could be considered moderate to liberal. What has changed? The time was right for Mr. Jeffords to sell out his Republican colleagues and cut himself a better deal.

Mr. Jeffords claims that he left the Republican Party because support for funding for special education for children with disabilities was lacking in the party. The facts, however, indicate quite the opposite. The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Reauthorization was pushed through Congress by the strong support of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and his staff. It received overwhelming Republican support.

The disability rights movement has historically enjoyed strong bipartisan support and has been successful because of it. The Democratic Party, beginning in the Clinton administration, has attempted through the politics of fear to frighten people with disabilities into voting for them. It is their sinister strategy to divide America into groups dependent on government to build a voting majority.

Mr. Jeffords will now join that effort.

While we are discussing the rights of Americans with disabilities, why has the Democratic Party been so strangely silent on the rights of children with disabilities to even be born, or to live? Princeton University professor Peter Singer has proposed infanticide for babies up to 30 days old born with disabilities. While leading Republicans such as former presidential candidate Steve Forbes and Rep. Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey have spoken out publicly against the bizarre views of Mr. Singer, no major Democratic politician has seen fit to do the same. By their silence, they help these monstrous views gain credibility. This is the party that Mr. Jeffords believes should have the majority in the Senate. Will he now join them in their conspiracy of silence on this life-and-death issue?

President Bush, in one of his first acts in office, followed through on a campaign promise to people with disabilities. On Feb. 1, less than two weeks after taking office, Mr. Bush proposed his "New Freedom Initiative" in a White House ceremony before hundreds of people with disabilities and before members of Congress of both political parties.

The initiative proposes: low-interest loans to people with disabilities to buy assistive technology equipment, tax incentives and matching funds for companies to buy telecommuting equipment for employees with disabilities to work from home, and a pilot program for alternative methods of transportation for people with disabilities.

Mr. Bush´s proposal attempts to restore the bipartisan tradition that had been the strength of the disability movement before the Clinton administration attempted to politicize it.

Mr. Jeffords has chosen a different path. To the extent that he helps the Democrats make this issue a divisive partisan issue, the losers will be Americans with disabilities.



Republican Disability Coalition


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