- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2006

Oh, bother

I wish your paper would stop erroneously blaming the liberal media for the troubles of Sen. George Allen’s re-election campaign (“Nasty in Virginia — and what to do about it,” Editorial, Sept. 26).

He had planned on a smooth re-election campaign this year and a possible presidential run in 2008 until he welcomed one of his own constituents to America. After this misstep, he took his time apologizing, prolonging focus on the issue and its coverage.

Regardless of how the various media organizations spun the intention of his use of the word “macaca,” no one disputed the interpretation of his “welcome to America” line as patronizing. For that single reason, the Democrats have successfully called into question Mr. Allen’s integrity. Meanwhile, Republicans are claiming that the incident was unfortunate but insignificant.

Mr. Allen proved impervious to this sort of attack in his previous campaign for governor when he shed the stigma resulting from his support for the Confederate flag and went on to win. However, Virginia has become more diverse and moderate since he was elected governor, making the issue very significant.

The Allen camp has exacerbated the situation by running a negative ad that questions James H. Webb Jr.’s use of a personal endorsement from President Reagan. Although the Webb ad does not state or insinuate that Mr. Reagan would have endorsed him as a Democratic candidate, Nancy Reagan responded by asking that the Webb team take it down. Appropriately, the Webb team refused.

Mrs. Reagan has shown poor taste by saying anything on the issue, as permission from family isn’t needed to use a public personal endorsement of character for any purpose.

Mr. Allen has played the hand to his own demise. As former Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore proved in last year’s run for the gubernatorial seat, feeble, negative campaign ads no longer hold clout in Virginia, where independents are more empowered.

If Mr. Allen is wise, he will switch the direction of his campaign in this final stretch or risk the same fate as a growing number of political partisans attempting to win office in Virginia. Thanks to his own words, he can kiss a run for the White House goodbye forever.



Lawyers and lawsuits

Woody Zimmerman has it backward when he argues that the two legal movements I helped start — using lawsuits against smoking and obesity — will cost so much money that they will “wreck” our economy (“Litigation frenzy,” Forum, Sunday). Actually, they already are saving millions.

The seven fat lawsuits that have been successful so far have cost about $30 million (much of which went to charity), but they have helped end supersizing at McDonald’s, get deadly and fattening trans fat out of everything from Oreos to major fast-food offerings, force schools to stop selling fattening “liquid candy,” pressured fast food and other companies to offer less fattening menu items and more nutritional information, etc. Because obesity costs the American economy more than $115 billion annually, these moves are likely to save us all billions — at a relatively small temporary cost to big business.

Similarly, the lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers have brought in tens of billions of dollars (most of which have gone into state treasuries), forced smokers to begin paying more of their fair share of the $140 billion smoking imposes on all of us all annually and helped (by raising the cost of cigarettes) slash the percentage of adults who are smokers — all moves that already are saving hundreds of millions of dollars in health care and related costs, not to mention lives.


Professor of public interest law

George Washington University

Law School


Funding HIV/AIDS programs

Frank Gaffney correctly, perhaps unintentionally, draws attention to the paltry level of official development assistance provided by the U.S. government in the effort to fight global disease and poverty (“Soak the Americans,” Commentary, Sept. 26).

Though many industrialized nations, including the United States, agreed to fund international development programs with 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product, the U.S. has not met that pledge, and gives a mere 0.15 percent.

The announcement of the International Drug Purchasing Facility, UNITAID, funded by taxes levied on airline tickets, undeniably demonstrates the creativity and innovation needed to address the challenges of the global AIDS pandemic.

Brazil, Chile, France and Norway are to be commended for initiating this distinctive public-private partnership, which will ensure the sustainability of treatments for thousands of children living with HIV/AIDS.

Given the enormous cost of these treatments, the billion-dollar business of international travel seems to be a fine place to start. Mr. Gaffney’s concern that U.S. participation in UNITAID would lead to “U.N. taxation without representation” is unfounded. Rather, it would give the United States an opportunity to re-engage the global community and demonstrate its commitment to the international development agenda.


Regional director

International Planned Parenthood


Western Hemisphere Region

New York

Cherry picking cherry pickers

Friday’s editorial “The war against the war” states that Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe “joined with all six Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats to issue a report concluding that Saddam Hussein was ‘resistant’ to cooperating with al Qaeda.” In reaching this conclusion, the “panel voted 8-7 to remove from the report a statement by Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq …” The statement refers to receipt of information by coalition forces that “reinforces the likelihood of links between [Saddam’s] regime and external terrorist organizations, clear links with common interests.”

One would think it unbelievable that any U.S. senator would stoop to such duplicity to sandbag the president of the United States during a time of war. That two members of the president’s party were complicit in the deceit should astound. Actually, it is a sign of the times.

Years ago, I read a speech Dean Acheson, President Harry Truman’s secretary of state, gave to a group of historians, in which he commented upon an initiation ritual of the Oxford Club.

He observed that each initiate was given a spoon and a dish containing prunes and asked to eat the prunes. The rub was what to do with the pits. Presumably, the initiates would deposit the pits on the dish. But how? Mr. Acheson concluded it did not matter. What did matter was how each individual handled the predicament.

Friday’s editorial concludes by observing that “the committee majority’s flawed, tendentious treatment of the issue” and the media’s reliance upon “its findings as authoritative” illustrates that in matters of intelligence “these days, the real ‘cherry-pickers’ are on the left” and that they “choose to pick … the pits — not the cherry.”

Like the Oxford Club initiates, how our senators handle themselves is what really matters. The manner in which they dispose of the pits will be self-evident. In the case at hand, the action of the committee majority is a reflection of their dishonesty and in the final analysis does not support their opposition to the war in Iraq. They would have been better off swallowing the pits.



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