- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 4, 2004

Guaranteeing the right to know

In your editorial on the Supreme Court’s decision in Cheney v. U.S. District Court (“In support of executive privilege,” June 25),You miss the crucial issue: The way to protect our democracy is not to give the executive branch broad authority to frustrate openness in government, but to insist on a strict construction of legal guarantees for the public’s right to know.

In 2001, Judicial Watch petitioned for access to the vice president’s energy task force participation lists, notes and other documents, which the administration had kept secret. The records should be open, we said, because private individuals participated in the task force’s deliberations, triggering the federal “open meetings” law. When access was denied, we sued.

The district court granted us discovery. The administration repeatedly refused to comply, even after losing an appeal. Now the Supreme Court has sent the case back to the court of appeals for review.

The case is not about the president’s ability to receive advice, but about special interests accountable to no one participating in the formulation of public policy, which also happened in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health-care task force.

The rule of law is the bedrock principle of our democracy and the central tenet of conservative constitutional thought. The people’s right to know about the operations of their government comes in a close second. In Cheney, both are at stake. We believe both will win in the end.

TOM FITTON

President

Judicial Watch

Washington

Dangers of drinking

We are very disappointed in Pete Coors’ assertion that the federal government should allow states to decide the legal drinking age (“Coors urges lower drinking age,” Page 1, June 24). Mr. Coors has been quoted previously as saying that lowering the drinking age might help young people learn to drink responsibly, and he stated at a debate on June 23 that “we got along fine for years with the 18-year-old-drinking age.”

In fact, we didn’t. Before the federal government strongly encouraged state legislatures to pass laws raising the age to 21, the No. 1 killer of people between the ages of 14 and 25 was accidents caused by young people driving under the influence.

Further, Mr. Coors stated that “people mature at different ages” and that some 18-year-olds are “ready” to drink alcohol. We agree that individuals mature differently, but given the serious public-health and -safety consequences related to binge drinking by young people, Mr. Coors needs to rethink his developmental analysis. With the drinking age at 21, we are not, as Mr. Coors says, “criminalizing our young people”; we are helping ensure safe communities for those young people and providing laws to ensure appropriate developmental and legal sanctions over our most abused drug in the United States — alcohol.

This is just the latest in a long line of irresponsible actions by Mr. Coors and the Coors Brewing Co. when it comes to young people and alcohol use. The Coors brewery continually markets to children in its advertising through movie placement in PG-13 movies and sponsorship of children’s charities. Mr. Coors, in a self-serving move, stands to gain much financially if the drinking age is lowered in any state.

Shame on you, Mr. Coors.

MAUREEN SEDONAEN

President and chief executive

Youth Leadership Institute

San Francisco

Another chance

Is it outrageous that people with felony convictions would be hired to register voters, as apparently has taken place in Florida, Missouri and Ohio (“Missouri voter drive under attack,” Nation, Wednesday)? Not really.

People living in the community while on probation and parole have been released from prison by a judge or parole authority. They are required by corrections authorities to be actively seeking work in the community because gainful employment is one of the best predictors of success. Would they — and we — be better off if they were working in dead-end fast-food jobs or prohibited from working?

Voter fraud has a long history in American politics. It’s not generally the burglars and car thieves who engage in it, but rather the political machines and their hired operatives. This usually is accomplished by people who have no felony convictions themselves.

Finally, it seems odd that in a nation where half the population will stay home on Election Day, an effort to encourage often- shunned people to become engaged in the political process is perceived as somehow undemocratic. Wouldn’t we be better off exploring more avenues for increasing the voter rolls?

MARC MAUER

Assistant director

Sentencing Project

Washington

Respect the flag

As one who testified beside Lawrence Korb in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s March hearing on the flag amendment, I must say I was appalled at his conduct there as well as his understanding of the Constitution, as shown in his article “Flag desecration fissure” (Commentary, Tuesday). Mr. Korb brazenly used his testimony to denounce the “anti-veteran measures proposed by the Bush administration” at the hearing as he did in this article.

Many veterans were outraged that he would show such contempt and so little compassion for an issue so constitutionally meaningful to them. His article also shows contempt for our Constitution and the will of the people. Mr. Korb must believe that the majority counts only when it wears black robes, not when it wears working clothes.

Eighty percent of the people, all 50 states and every chief justice in the past century disagreed with Mr. Korb, and so did James Madison, the author of the Constitution, and his friend Thomas Jefferson. As for Mr. Korb’s statement that “Congress has consistently opposed the amendment,” well it, too, disagrees with him, as evidenced by the fact that the amendment has passed the House five times in five Congresses and is within two or three votes of passing in the Senate.

Does Mr. Korb believe the Supreme Court would have changed the Bill of Rights if it had voted to protect the flag by upholding the Flag Protection Act of 1989? I am not impressed when Mr. Korb says he gets a “lump in my throat” over the flag. I get a lump in my throat when people like Mr. Korb desecrate our Constitution by calling flag burning “speech.” I get angry when people like Mr. Korb condemn Americans working to correct an obvious error of the court by saying they will cause America to be less free and “more like the former Soviet Union, Iraq under Saddam Hussein or Afghanistan under the Taliban.”

MAJ. GEN. PATRICK BRADY (retired)

Citizens Flag Alliance

Indianapolis

Hollywood hypocrites?

A Tuesday letter, “Hollywood heroes,” commends the stars who staged a pageant in autumn 1941 urging American military intervention to oust Hitler before the United States entered World War II.

Not everyone remembers that World War II began after Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a pact late in August 1939. Within weeks, the two nations invaded Poland and divided it between them. Their alliance held for nearly two years — while the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland and Nazi Germany conquered Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Holland and France. Left alone to fight the war against Adolf Hitler, the British asked for aid, but most of the American left opposed giving it until June 22, 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union. By the night of that autumn pageant, peaceniks had abruptly reversed themselves and demanded pre-emptive military action and a second front.

Did most of those Hollywood heroes call for the ousting of Hitler in the years he was a Soviet ally? If not, we should ask whether they were motivated mainly by opposition to Nazism or by feelings for the Soviet Union. Many show-biz celebrities regarded it as the linchpin of a forthcoming international utopia.

EDWARD STYLES

Wilson, N.C. 252-296-0023 [email protected]

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