- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

‘Each according to their gifts’

I realize that your column, “Culture, et cetera,” is meant to be a reflection of our society, not of the opinions of The Washington Times (in fact, sometimes just the opposite).

I must comment on the item you ran about Johnny Carson (“Fleeting fame,” Jan. 27) by Terry Teachout, who writes at www.artsjournal.com. This was one of the more “over the top” articles I’ve read about Mr. Carson since he died. The only point well taken was one Mr. Teachout didn’t even emphasize: that the media might have overplayed his death.

Writing that Mr. Carson’s life was insignificant and not memorable, etc., was pointless. We all do what we have to do or what we “fall into.” Very few of us decide at an early age to shake the world. I married a lawyer/Navy man, moved 11 times and am now doing editorial contract work and helping with three grandchildren. Boy, compared with Mr. Carson’s, I guess my life is even more meaningless.

Lucky breaks come to some of us; many deal with them in a successful manner. Mr. Carson’s life turned out in such a way to add a bit of entertainment/relaxation to our lives. Even if we sat down only from 11:30 to 11:45 p.m. on occasion, his banter afforded us a few laughs, a few brain-calming moments to help us get to sleep and forget about our hectic days.

I am thankful for those who provide a stimulating news article, a good movie, a good short story, a pretty picture, and yes, even a few laughs. So what if we don’t remember any of it years later? Together, it all helps to make life bearable and enjoyable. We all contribute in ways according to our (sometimes limited) talents.


Earlysville, Va.

Terri’s Law

By any definition, Terri Schiavo is alive. She has now been issued a death sentence by the courts (“Save Terri Schiavo,” Commentary, Saturday).

Terri’s Law was enacted in October 2003 when a disabled and brain-damaged woman was being starved to death by judicial order in Florida. Mrs. Schiavo had collapsed in her apartment from lack of oxygen in 1990 at the age of 26. She had never executed a written living will.

There were questions regarding whether the judge and justices in this case had actually followed Florida law. There were differing statements given in court about her end-of-life wishes. There was conflicting medical testimony as to whether rehabilitation could help Mrs. Schiavo. This was the climate in which Terri’s Law was enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor.

Florida citizens were justifiably concerned that a disabled Florida woman was being put to death by court order under extremely questionable and horrific circumstances. If the proceedings that led up to the execution of serial killer Ted Bundy had been handled in the same way, his conviction would have been overturned.

Capital felons on trial for their lives in Florida are entitled to independent counsel, competent representation, trial by jury and automatic review of their death penalty case by the Florida Supreme Court. Yet Mrs. Schiavo, utterly innocent of any wrongdoing, received none of these protections.

Additionally, had Bundy been ordered to slowly die by starvation and dehydration (as Terri likely will), his penalty would assuredly have been reversed by the courts as “cruel and unusual” punishment. The governor has the ability in a criminal death sentence to grant clemency. The legislature sought only to extend the same type of protection to Mrs. Schiavo.

The legislative and executive branches have equally important roles to play in protecting the handicapped. The state’s duty is to preserve life, not arbitrarily end it.


Florida state senator

Tallahassee, Fla.

Messy democracy here and abroad

Tony Blankley’s column “Iraqi ballots and bombs” (Op-Ed, Jan. 26) makes many valid points about the importance of democracy in Iraq and the significance of the Iraqi elections to the ultimate achievement of a free society in that war-ravaged country.

But Mr. Blankley’s partisan rhetoric went way over the line of acceptable political discourse when he attempted to equate terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi’s violent opposition to those elections with the opposition of “Sen. Barbara Boxer and the rest of Mr. Bush’s political opponents” to the president’s policies in Iraq.

Mr. Blankley’s column accurately describes Zarqawi as “the infidel-beheading terrorist butcher of Baghdad.” Can he really believe that Zarqawi’s violent and ruthless attempts to sow the seeds of anarchy and civil war in Iraq are of a piece with the words of Mrs. Boxer and others who oppose President Bush’s policies? To make such a comparison is, on its face, absurd.

And who are the “opponents” of Mr. Bush to whom Mr. Blankley refers so caustically? The implicit suggestion is that they are all Democrats — but that is hardly true. What of Republican Sens. John McCain, Chuck Hagel and Richard G. Lugar? All of them have expressed concern (and, yes, perhaps even opposition) to at least some of the president’s policies in Iraq.

Such supercharged rhetoric as used by Mr. Blankley runs the risk of replacing reasoned discussion of the war and the administration’s policies with emotional name-calling, where it becomes “un-American” to voice opposition or even concern over the direction in which things are going.

But such discussion — even when it is politically motivated (and even when it comes from Democrats) — is classically American and is at the heart and soul of our democracy. As Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said early in the Iraq war, democracy and freedom often are messy.

When Mr. Blankley rightly points out the importance of establishing democracy and freedom in Iraq, he should not forget our own messy democracy here at home. It is, after all, because of the values and principles embodied in that democracy — and the desire to make them available to others — that brave Americans are fighting and dying every day in Iraq.



Both sides guilty

John McCaslin makes an interesting point in reference to an admittedly obscure federal statute that requires sitting members of Congress to forfeit a portion of their pay because of absenteeism (“Cough it up,” Inside the Beltway, Monday). Mr. McCaslin cites John Kerry, John Edwards, Bob Graham, Joe Lieberman, Richard A. Gephardt and Dennis J. Kucinich, Democrats all, for violation of the aforementioned statute.

He then goes on to state, “And there’s numerous other sitting senators and congressmen — too many to list here — who improperly accepted salaries while off stumping for votes.” What a pity Mr. McCaslin ran out of space. Had he been afforded just a few more column inches, he might have found room to mention Margaret Chase Smith, Richard Nixon, Arlen Specter, Phil Gramm and John McCain, among others, who as sitting senators took time away from their responsibilities to run for national office. Of course, each of those august politicians is or was a Republican. This apparently mitigates their transgressions or at least renders them unworthy of mention.



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