- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Tarheels for Bush

In “Battleground trilogy” (Op-Ed, Tuesday), Barry Casselman lumps North Carolina with the likes of Oregon and Wisconsin as one of the so-called battleground states. This would come as a surprise to most analysts, including pollster John Zogby, who defines a battleground state as one in which either President Bush or Al Gore narrowly won in 2000. This excludes North Carolina.

According to the latest polling data from the News & Observer of Raleigh, Mr. Bush leads Sen. John Kerry 50 percent to 44 percent in North Carolina.

As a North Carolina native, I do not need a poll to tell me how the Tarheel state will vote. For the less knowledgeable among us, however, I will refer to the fact that North Carolina resisted Bill Clinton’s overtures in 1992 and 1996. If Tarheels refused the flirtations of a sweet-talking fellow Southerner such as Slick Willie, it is extremely unlikely that they are going to be snookered by a clone of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy such as Sen. John Kerry.

It has been 28 years since the Old North State fell for the sweet nothings of a Democratic presidential candidate. It took a Georgia peanut farmer to win them.

Whatever he is, Mr. Kerry is not Jimmy Carter.

ROBERT BRANTLEY

Alexandria

D.C. public school woes

A day after you editorialized on dismal after-school care management in the city (“Overpriced and overpaid babysitters,” Tuesday), Mayor Anthony A. Williams opined that government is no cure-all and cannot stand in the place of families and communities (“Government no cure-all, mayor tells peers,” Metro, Wednesday).

Ironically, aftercare can be a great boon to both: In a city generally too dangerous for our children to hop on their bikes and ride to a friend’s house, aftercare provides a great place for them to play safely, do homework and receive enrichment — and reflects the reality of working city parents from all social classes.

At my son’s last public school, Hyde Elementary, students received no on-site arts, music or foreign-language instruction during the day. The nonprofit parent-managed aftercare was a place for all the above, plus a gathering point for parents to get to know one another and one another’s children.

This aftercare was made available to low-income families (of which there were many) through a parent-funded scholarship program. The policy of D.C. Public Schools is to subsidize (and apparently mismanage) aftercare in only those areas of the city where a majority of the children are “low-income.” Not only does this discriminate against low-income families who may refuse to live in convenient clusters, but it also flies in the face of the city’s efforts to encourage movement and contact among children of all incomes and backgrounds — especially through vouchers and school-lottery choice.

The District should either subsidize quality aftercare at all schools on a sliding scale or attach portable aftercare monies to all children in need to take with them to the setting of their choice. This would support the family and community strength to which the mayor so wistfully alludes.

Finally, kudos for actually reviewing D.C. Public Schools’ performance on your editorial page. Would that you would do so every day until this school system demonstrates reform.

SKAIDRA BLANFORD

Washington

Mullah penetration in Iraq worse than WMD threat

Ayatollah Jalal Ganje’i’s warnings about Iran’s mullahs should be taken very seriously (“Two Islams face off,” Op-Ed, Monday).

Many mistakenly assume that the mullahs’ quest to acquire weapons of mass destruction is their biggest and deadliest ambition. Wrong.

No doubt the international community must expend every effort to stop the mullahs’ nuclear threat; WMDs in the hands of “the most active state sponsor of terrorism,” as the State Department calls Iran, is simply unacceptable.

But the mullahs’ deepening penetration in Iraq is a hundred times deadlier. That’s a warning originally lauded by Maryam Rajavi (president-elect of the National Council of the Resistance of Iran). Many in Washington haven’t gotten that message yet.

If the mullahs succeed in Iraq, the whole region will be threatened by Iran’s religious fascism, and the terrorism we are observing in Iraq we will witness in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere.

HOSSEIN SAIEDIAN

Lawrence, Kan.

On Iraq and bin Laden, credibility not the issue

David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey offer an odd argument to support the war with Iraq: that U.S. credibility and prestige in the Middle East required Saddam Hussein’s removal from power (“Stopping an outlaw,” Op-Ed, Tuesday). They suggest that Saddam’s survival would reinforce Osama bin Laden’s belief that the United States was a “weak horse,” easily intimidated or defeated.

Beyond their sweeping oversimplification of Islamic culture’s ideas about honor, their argument might have more credibility had the United States not launched a ferocious strike against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan more than a year before the Iraq war. If that offensive did not convince bin Laden that the United States was not “weak and decadent,” it is unlikely that Saddam’s survival would make much difference in his calculations.

Rather, evidence increasingly indicates that radical Islamists are profiting from the invasion of Iraq in the recruiting of supporters and jihadists.

Ironically, though the authors note that the concern with honor led to disaster in Europe in 1914, they fail to see how a conflict driven by a concern for credibility could produce a different type of disaster today.

VINCENT A. AUGER

Associate professor of political science

Western Illinois University

Macomb, Ill.

New leadership needed on Medicare

All the heavily touted new prescription drug options under Medicare are hopelessly complex (“GAO faults Bush on Medicare,” Nation, yesterday). No wonder frustrated seniors with large drug bills are following the path of least resistance and filling their prescriptions through Canadian pharmacies.

Why are drugs from American companies cheaper in Canada (and, for that matter, in most of the world)? It’s simple: Every other country negotiates with companies over drug prices. Yet thanks to President Bush and the RepublicansinCongress, Medicare is forbidden to bargain with drug companies even though it would be the companies’ biggest single customer. This is unwise public policy — unless you care more about drug-company profits than about the pocketbooks of seniors or the deficit-ridden federal budget.

Year in and year out, the drug industry is one of the nation’s most lucrative; even with somewhat reduced profits, it would have more than adequate incentive to keep producing new drugs. In any case, most drug discoveries come from university labs and are brought to market by industry. (Not to mention that the industry could reduce its advertising costs by delivering us from its endless TV commercials.)

The current mess is a financial disaster for Americans and introduces us to needless risk. The longer the road your drugs travel, the greater the risk of garden-variety adulteration from improper storage or transportation conditions. Far more frightening, counterfeit drugs are epidemic in much of the world. Even 5 percent is a serious risk. Canadian pharmacies have started to meet the demands of U.S. residents by importing drugs from third countries. Why is this a tolerable situation?

We need new leadership in Washington that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices on our behalf. That is, after all, the American way and would best assure that prices — and profits — are fair and reasonable. The Bush administration made sure this didn’t happen.

For lower drug prices and the safety and convenience of shopping at pharmacies inside this country — cast your vote for change.

MARSHA N. COHEN

Professor

Hastings College of the Law

San Francisco

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