- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003

On Dean and the military

I take exception — strong exception — to Cal Thomas’ suggestion (“Muddled score,” Commentary, Saturday) that a President Howard Dean would weaken America. In fact, the opposite is true. Mr. Dean understands something President Bush and Mr. Thomas do not: Strength comes from military might and from constructive multilateral international relationships and from having an open, free society that others around the world envy and emulate. Mr. Dean has been very, very clear about his readiness to defend U.S. interests around the world wherever and whenever they are attacked.

An open society starts at the top. Mr. Dean’s suggestion to Diane Rehm on Dec. 1, referred to inaccurately by Mr. Thomas, was that as long as Mr. Bush stonewalls the September 11 Commission, there will be questions about what the president knew and when he knew it. Mr. Dean explicitly told Diane Rehm that he does not believe anyone in the administration knew about the September 11 attacks in advance, but that as long as the president is less than open, others will continue to question him.

JAMES WARE

Berkeley, Calif.

Power, politics and peace in the Mideast

So, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is not “comfortable” with the idea that Israel probably has nuclear arms (“U.N. nuclear watchdog urges Israel to jettison any weapons,” Page 1, Saturday). He fears that “the region’s countries [will] develop weapons of mass destruction to match the Israeli arsenal.”

Accordingly, Mr. ElBaradei and the IAEA, a U.N. agency, seek to level the nuclear playing field between Israel and its neighbors. Yet the situation is already heavily weighted against Israel. As comedian Dennis Miller has observed shrewdly, in terms of population and real estate, Israel is a box of matches in the middle of an Arab football field — and now the Arabs want half the matchbox, too.

It’s unclear how Israel’s abandonment of its nuclear arsenal would “promote Mideast peace.” What is clear is that Israel’s Mideast neighbors have waged an incessant and bloody campaign to destroy the tiny nation since its establishment in 1948. Forty years ago — before the wars of 1967 and 1973, the Lebanon War and intifadas I and II — Tom Lehrer, musical humorist and Harvard math professor, sang about the bomb and Israel’s rationale in “Who’s Next?”:

Egypt’s gonna get one too,

Just to use on you-know-who.

So Israel’s getting tense,

Wants one in self-defense.

“The Lord’s our shepherd,” says the Psalm;

But just in case, we better get a bomb.

Today, it can be argued credibly that Israel’s nukes serve as the ultimate guarantor of its existence.

It’s not surprising that Mr. ElBaradei, an Egyptian, manifested his concerns from his office in Vienna, Austria. In 2001, the Guardian newspaper reported that a social science institute in Vienna had found that nearly a quarter of the Austrian population believed Austria would be better off without its Jewish community. Similarly, the United Nations, through numerous resolutions condemning Israel for defending itself against its neighbors’ unrelenting attacks over more than five decades, seems to believe the world would be a better place without the Jewish state.

Presumably, Israel is more concerned about its survival than Mr. ElBaradei’s level of comfort. A significant step toward real peace will occur when U.N. bureaucrats stop pretending there is any moral equivalence between democratic Israel and the surrounding Arab tyrannies that seek its destruction.

SAMUEL R. LEWIS

Oak Hill

The evolution of the Democratic Party?

In “Battle for the Democratic soul” (Commentary, Monday), Donald Lambro writes, “The paradox in Al Gore’s endorsement of Howard Dean is that he embraced an agenda that is the opposite of what he and Bill Clinton ran on in 1992.”

This column seems to frame Mr. Gore’s position on basic constitutional rights and their defense as partisan. The Patriot Act is a dangerous piece of legislation that already is sparking a government crackdown on basic human rights — it has been used to shut down strip-club owners in Nevada and drug dealers in Oregon. However, we have yet to see it used extensively on terrorists.

We are, as a country, attacked by al Qaeda — whose intent is to destroy our nation’s very basis. President Bush, unable to think for himself, has sent our country upon a snipe hunt in the Iraqi desert, searching for weapons of mass destruction that are not there.

Howard Dean opposes Mr. Bush and, moreover, opposes the Patriot Act, as does Mr. Gore. I would recommend that Mr. Lambro carefully reconsider the use of an outdated idea of what the Democratic Party stands for — Bill Clinton is, frankly, irrelevant. Mr. Gore, through his courageous stance, is not.

If Mr. Gore’s message has changed from 2000, is it not so that we have changed with it?

TURNER RENTZ III

Atlanta

What’s wrong with the energy bill?

Doug Durante needs a lesson in reality if he believes the current energy bill is the answer to our energy problems (“Energy bill needs recharge,” Commentary, Monday). He is correct that Congress uses the tax code to achieve many goals, but taxpayers should beware that not all tax credits are created equal.

The problem is that too often, special interests and corporations convince Congress that lowering taxes on their specific good will resolve a problem. Archer Daniels Midland has used millions of dollars in advertising and campaign donations to convince some in Congressthatethanolwill dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Studies show ethanol actually requires more energy to make than it produces, and although it already has received $10 billion in subsidies, America depends more on imported oil than ever before.

Most perniciously, tax subsidies warp the marketplace, even though the benefits of ethanol — and other subsidized items in the energy bill — may be of dubious benefit. Imagine the lost opportunities for start-up firms and technologies that might have thrived had Congress simply cut corporate tax rates across the board. If Congress wants to “do something” about our “energy problem,” it should focus on clearing regulatory and tax impediments in an effort to improve the decaying infrastructure that originally caused the blackout. Rather than subsidizing politically chosen energy producers, Congress should leave fuel choices up to consumers and pass along the savings by cutting everyone’s taxes.

PAUL J. GESSING

Director of government affairs

National Taxpayers Union

Alexandria

Doug Durante hasn’t met a tax break he didn’t like — but tax breaks for a favored few impose higher taxes on the rest of us. They are particularly objectionable when granted for energy fuels such as ethanol from corn or biodiesel from soybeans, which require more energy to make than they deliver. It does nothing for energy security, and it raises the cost of fuels and of food.

Tax breaks and subsidies, once set up, are hard to eliminate. They seem to live on forever. Just look at the synfuels credit, enacted nearly a quarter-century ago during a so-called energy crisis. It’s a boondoggle, shamelessly exploited by some energy companies and even a hotel chain. According to a recent Wall Street Journal story, the synfuel “producer” buys coal for $25 a ton, crushes and sprays it with some chemical binder, sells it for about $15 and then collects a federal tax credit worth $26 a ton. Not bad. The IRS is still trying to stamp it out but is meeting political opposition. The new tax breaks in the current energy bill are likely to burden our children and grandchildren.

S. FRED SINGER

Arlington


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