- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2003

No unrestricted visits for Hinckley

John Hinckley Jr.’s psychiatrists claim that the man who shot President Reagan hasn’t shown any evidence of psychosis in the past 16 years and should be allowed to visit his parents without supervision (“Hinckley freed for day trips,” Page 1, yesterday).

They have their wish.

Isn’t it relevant that Hinckley showed evidence of psychosis and violence on that one occasion in 1981? Do 16 years of being a good, cooperative patient in a mental hospital in any remote way compare to the reality of living on your own and becoming both violent and insane? Aren’t there enough problems in the world, especially for U.S. presidents, without setting loose a would-be assassin of 22 years ago?

This whole episode shows why elevating insanity above legal responsibility for crimes is dangerous and senseless. It’s just a ploy to escape legal responsibility for one’s crimes. If somebody is so insane that he can’t control his violent impulses, he shouldn’t ever be let loose. If you want to have him locked up in a mental hospital forever, that might be OK, but he shouldn’t be set free or allowed unrestricted visits to his parents. Psychiatrists who need to feel good about themselves and enjoy the illusion that they’re actually doing something to cure such people have a vested interest in letting the Hinckleys of the world be released. We shouldn’t sacrifice our safety or the safety of our elected leaders to indulge a psychiatrist’s sense of professionalism.

MICHAEL J. HURD

Psychologist and psychotherapist

Chevy Chase

In defense of Bambi

I’m writing in regard to the Inside the Beltway item “Longing for Yogi” (Nation, Dec. 9) by John McCaslin. There is nothing wrong with Disney’s affiliation with animal rights groups and having its characters represent how innocent animals really are.

I think it is awesome that the movies, posters and such are coming out now to make people stop and think of the mistake they are making by killing for sport or perhaps for fur.

What kind of a sick person thinks killing is fun? Educating children to be kind and compassionate to animals is something Disney has been doing for years through the messages of its movies, and it is a much less gruesome way to support animal rights than by showing them beaten, bleeding to death, skinned or tortured alive. Kudos to Disney for its actions.

LAUREN MORINE

Newark, Del.

Saddam: convenient timing?

In regard to the article “Albright’s ‘joke’ joins growing list of Bush theories” (Page 1, yesterday): I have some news for you. Madeleine Albright is not the first American to posit the theory that just in time for the elections, or when the polls need a bump, Osama bin Laden will be “found.” This has been out there in everyday conversation since those Bora Bora days, when he wasn’t “caught.”

ELAINE CORN

Carmichael, Calif.

“Do you suppose,” Madeleine Albright asked, “that the Bush administration has Osama bin Laden hidden away somewhere and will bring him out before the election?”

The most important insight about Mrs. Albright’s recent comment is what it indicates about her. She came from an administration in which deceptive political scheming on a grand scale was a regular event. So why wouldn’t she project that mode of operation onto others?

ROBERT SCOTT HARRISON

Orzignano, Italy

To set the record straight

In Sunday’s article “Officer says China aided air defenses,” Con Coughlin of the Sunday Telegraph accused China of helping Iraqi air defenses during 2002 and the early part of this year.

Those claims are groundless and irresponsible.

China has always abided strictly by all U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iraq. China has not had military contact and exchanges of any kind with the regime of Saddam Hussein since the Gulf War crisis began in 1990.

SUN WEIDE

Press counselor and spokesman

Embassy of China

Washington

The dangers of push polls

When Mark Twain quipped that there are “lies, damned lies and statistics,” he must have been making a prophetic reference to the poll that was offered by Gary J. Andres and Michael McKenna in Monday’s Op-Ed column “Judging the Bench” as evidence for their hypothesis that voters are upset about Democrats’ obstruction of President Bush’s judicial nominees. The American Survey — conducted by the right-leaning Andres-McKenna Research organization,whichwas co-founded by the column’s authors — should more appropriately be dubbed “Honesty is the best disguise.”

Reference to the principal question posed by Andres-McKenna to the survey’s participants reveals that it is a prime example of a “push poll” question that is designed to suggest to the participant the answer sought by the pollster. The survey asked participants, “If you learned that the Democrats were using the Senate rules to prevent straightforward votes on the president’s judicial nominees, which of the following would be closest to your thoughts?” The survey reports that 38 percent and 48 percent, respectively, of respondents surveyed in April and November 2003 would label such tactics as “obstructionism.”

In the first instance, the premise that Democrats are preventing “straightforward” votes not only suggests at the outset that Democrats are doing something unreasonable, but also begs the question of what constitutes a “straightforward” vote. Is a cloture vote — a vote to end debate on a nomination — not a “straightforward” vote? If not, and if demanding such a vote constitutes prima facie evidence of obstruction, then it must have been so when Republicans employed the same tactic — albeit unsuccessfully — in an attempt to defeat several of President Clinton’s judicial nominees. Even less “straightforward” were the numerous secret holds that were used to prevent a large number of Mr. Clinton’s 63 blocked nominees from ever receiving hearings in the Judiciary Committee, much less votes in that committee, or on the Senate floor.

Responses to poll questions are inextricably a function of the context given to the respondent, especially with an issue such as judicial nominations, which is studied in detail by just a small percentage of the electorate. Can anyone doubt that the responses would have been different if Mr. Andres and Mr. McKenna had asked the question, “Given that Republicans in the Senate used secret holds and similar tactics to block 63 of Mr. Clinton’s judicial nominees, and that the vacancy rate on the federal bench is now at its lowest level in 13 years, do you think it is unreasonable that Democrats, and independent Sen. Jim Jeffords, recently used long-standing Senate rules to block six of President Bush’s most extreme nominees?”

The conclusion of Mr. Andres and Mr. McKenna also ignores other results of their own poll. Specifically, in response to the question, “Thinking about next year, what issues would you like to see Congress focus on?” only 1 percent of the survey’s participants cited judicial nominations. Thus, regardless of whether Americans see the issue of Democrats and Mr. Jeffords blocking six nominees as “obstruction” or an exercise of their “right under the rules,” they overwhelmingly do not see it as a process that is broken, or one that requires more consideration than issues such as health care, energy and the environment.

JAMES R. COX

Judicial Research Counsel

Earthjustice

Washington


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