- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Washington is still No. 1

I agree with the point raised in Wesley Pruden's column "Hard lessons from dead white men" (Nation, Nov. 19) regarding celebrity versus merit in determining the greatest figure in a country's history. I must respectfully disagree, however, with his naming Thomas Jefferson instead of George Washington as our nation's greatest and most important figure.
Jefferson is best known as the author of the Declaration of Independence. Yet, the Revolution had already begun before its creation; Richard Henry Lee's resolve to declare independence and the affirmative vote by the Continental Congress were of greater importance. The content of the document was created largely by committee; Jefferson created the language, not the ideals. More important, the document would have been nothing more than evidence in a treason trial (if there had been such a formality) had the British army not been defeated by America's under Gen. George Washington.
Along with the Declaration, Jefferson wanted to be remembered as the founder of the University of Virginia and author of the Virginia Declaration of Religious Freedom. The former is indisputable, but not worthy of earning him notation as the greatest American; the latter is debatable because, again, Jefferson was the author of the document's language, whereas many of its ideals were borrowed (primarily from George Mason).
Jefferson, by his own admission, was a failure as a governor. The British army invaded Virginia three times during his tenure; county officials called out their respective militias to successfully ward off the advances, but Gov. Jefferson never did.
As president, Jefferson did nothing spectacular. His Embargo Act was ridiculed for furthering economic hardships in America and the dangers faced by our sailors overseas. His administration is best remembered for the Louisiana Purchase, but given the desperation of Napoleon to sell cheaply in order to raise money for his wars in Europe, Jefferson's role was accidental rather than active. Washington was a more astute politician than Jefferson, uniting competing factions to create a country.
Outside politics, Washington changed agriculture and animal husbandry in ways Jefferson never did, influencing his fellow farmers to switch from single cash crops to multiple grain crops, being among the first to experiment with fertilizers and introducing mules to America. The only field of endeavor in which they can be compared as equals would be as inventors: Each is credited with inventing one type of plow. (Many of the contraptions at Monticello that Jefferson is said to have invented were based on ideas he had seen in Europe.)
Jefferson may be long remembered for quotations, but Washington, who wanted to be remembered simply as a farmer, will be remembered eternally for deeds.

GREGORY GLUBA
Williamsburg

New potential for government abuse

So, Michael Scardaville really believes Adm. John Poindexter's crew at the Total Information Awareness program will "strike the right balance" between security and privacy because they're starting off saying all the right things ("Targeting terrorism or privacy?" Commentary, yesterday). Some examples of government agencies abusing their power might disabuse him of this notion: FBI records sent to the White House, IRS audits targeted against President Clinton's political enemies, a federal anti-racketeering statute used against abortion protesters instead of the Mafiosos it was designed to target, 80-year-old ladies being singled out for bomb searches at airports. Examples of governmental inefficiency, idiocy and abuse are endless.
I have no doubt Adm. Poindexter's intentions are good. However, long after he's gone and the war on terrorism is no longer front-page news, the American people will be dealing with the unintended consequences of such good intentions. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, those who are willing to trade liberty for security deserve neither.

MICHAEL REED
Goffstown, N.H.

Hail, Victoria

Contrary to several hundred people who complained to the Federal Communications Commission out of an audience of 12.4 million I think the "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show," which aired on national television Wednesday night, was just beautiful ("Victoria's no secret: Prime time TV show riles viewers, FCC," Page 1, yesterday).
Since when is a beautiful woman obscene? These ladies represent creation at its finest. It's too bad there are a bunch of homely women and uptight, so-called men who no doubt are jealous of them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the human body. After all, it was created in God's image.

A.J. GEAR
Williamstown, Ky.

The ACLU's beef

The article "Frederick religious marker stays put" (Page 1, Saturday)reports: "The ACLU sued the city Aug. 23, saying the 5-foot-high granite marker in a city-owned park violates the Constitution's First Amendment ban on state-sponsored religion."
In fact, the First Amendment does not ban "state-sponsored religion." That amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." Note the reference to "Congress," not anyone else, including state legislatures and local government. What does Congress have to do with the Ten Commandments being posted on publicly owned land in Frederick, Md.? Did Congress pass some law authorizing the posting of the Ten Commandments? Of course not; Congress has no business telling the city government of Frederick what to do.
Maybe the American Civil Liberties Union was referring to Maryland's state constitution? Article 36 from that document's Declaration of Rights states: "Nothing shall prohibit or require making reference to belief in, reliance upon, or invoking the aid of God or a Supreme Being in any governmental or public document, proceeding, activity, ceremony, school, institution, or place." So the state should not require the posting of the Ten Commandments in a public place, but neither should there be a prohibition thereof. This is the essence of neutrality: not to require and yet not to prohibit.
So what is the ACLU's beef? Is it simply uninformed that its suits have no legal basis?

RAYMOND W. JENSEN
Notre Dame, Ind.

Tax rebate fact-check

While I agree that tax rebates do little to stimulate economic activity, Bruce Bartlett is incorrect in labeling the recent $300 tax refunds as one-time rebates ("Reassessing rebate rewards," Commentary, yesterday). Those checks were to refund citizens for overwithholding by way of a retroactive and permanent tax-rate reduction. The lowest tax bracket was changed from 15 percent to 10 percent, and that is a permanent new rate, the very sort of tax rate reduction for which Mr. Bartlett argues. The taxpayers who received a $300 check in 2001 will see their tax bill for 2002 reduced by $300 also, but instead of getting it in a single check, they will see it in reduced payroll withholdings throughout the year.

JOHN THOMAS
Slidell, La.


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