- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 29, 2006

Webb’s disrespect for women

I have watched with interest James Webb’s run for the Senate in Virginia. I have known of Mr. Webb for many years as I served in the Reagan White House at the same time Mr. Webb was at the Department of Defense.

In my position as special assistant to the president and deputy director for the Office of Public Liaison, I was one of the highest-ranking women in the White House at the time. My job was to serve as liaison for the president with various constituency groups with particular emphasis on women’s organizations.

In my interaction with women from all over the country, I frequently used an address I had written entitled, “The Reagan Years, The Golden Age of American Women.” In my remarks I showed how, as a result of the president’s policies, women-owned small businesses were growing three times as fast as any other segment of small business, and that the wage gap between men and women, for so many years stuck at 59 cents on the dollar, had moved to 64 cents during the president’s first term. Soldier of Fortune magazine for the first time had a woman on the front cover, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, Playboy magazine lost money that year.

In spite of all of this positive news, there was one nettlesome problem that arose time and again in the question-and-answer portion of the sessions with these women’s groups. While I was discussing the president’s successful policies promoting equal opportunities for women, I was asked to explain the many sexist comments made by one of his high-ranking officials, James Webb. I bitterly resented the fact that a president who had opened up so many opportunities to me and so many other women was being blatantly undermined by one of his own appointees.

In good conscience, I could not defend Mr. Webb. I could only offer assurances that he was an aberration, that he did not speak for the entire administration — certainly not for President Reagan — and that he was completely out of step with the president’s policies.

And now I see Mr. Webb wants to serve Virginians, both men and women in the U.S. Senate. As a woman, I do not want him to represent me. Mr. Webb has made it very clear that he does not consider women up to an array of tasks, whether at the service academies, in the military or in prominent positions in the civilian sector. He certainly has a major problem with women as strong leaders.

I am furious to see Mr. Webb try to desperately claim the Reagan mantle, which included using our country’s beloved deceased President in his ads, as an “endorsement.” This in spite of the wishes of Mrs. Reagan that he refrain from doing so. Perhaps this is another example of his disrespect for women.

Thankfully, I am no longer in a position to have to make excuses for Mr. Webb as a part of the Reagan Administration. I could barely do it in the 1980s when it was my job.

LINDA SKLADANY

Alexandria

Confronting jihadists

Chuck Woolery doesn’t believe that Osama bin Laden (and by implication, other terrorists) is hoping for Democrats to win next week’s elections (“Defeating bin Laden,” Letters, Saturday).

Yet, consider the words of Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali, Muslim cleric in Australia, who suggested that women who dress immodestly invite being raped. Replying angrily to calls that he resign for his remarks, he said he would do so only “[a]fter we clean the world of the White House first.”

Is there any doubt that bin Laden — and Mr. Woolery — would agree?

ROGER JOHNSON

Kensington

Asserting that “terrorists will be stopped when we have more friends in the Muslim world than enemies,” Chuck Woolery suggests a suicidal scheme in which, to avoid “collateral damage,” U.S. forces must be willing to put their lives even more at risk. He urges that we “demonstrate … we are far more willing to die for what we believe than kill.”

Showing weakness in the Arab and Muslim world is precisely the formula for (1) encouraging more terrorism and (2) putting at mortal risk those intrepid Iraqis who, through their country’s alliance with America, envision a brighter, freer, safer future for their nation.

Mr. Woolery’s accusation — that America’s efforts to build democracy in Iraq is responsible for the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi deaths — parrots Islamofascist propaganda and is an inversion of the facts. All the evidence points to Ba’athists and Iranian-backed terrorists as the primary source of the bloody violence in Iraq. Beating a hasty retreat, as most Democratic leaders demand, is a prescription for further short-term chaos and long-term tyranny.

Instead, the United States should stop trying to fight a war against Islamofascism dressed in a dangerously-restrictive suit of political correctness and immediately: (1) take out any anti-American leader, for example, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and destroy as much of his forces as can be done quickly; (2) stage an air fleet in eastern Iraq and bomb as many Iranian nuclear sites in no more than a two-day assault as we can identify; and (3) have the president instruct Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to cease and desist from coddling the destructive anti-Israel, anti-American terrorist groups in the West Bank and Gaza.

SAMUEL R. LEWIS

Oak Hill, Va.

Student-loan realities

I applaud Leslie Carbone for her column “Student loan mayhem” (Commentary, Oct. 23) that draws attention to some of the most egregious abuses of taxpayers by student loan lenders. As a decidedly free-market Republican, I am perplexed that more fiscal conservatives have not come to see that the lender-based Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) is just as much a government program as the department-run Direct Loan (DL) program — and a far more expensive one at that. In fact, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr.’s own “Statement on the Budget Results for Fiscal Year 2006” confirms that FFELP consolidation loans cost taxpayers more than double ($15.55) the same loans made under the DL program ($7.14).

In 2005, along with Rep. George Miller in the House and Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and Gordon H. Smith, I introduced the Student Aid Reward (STAR) Act to encourage greater competition and efficiency between the two student loan programs. There is tremendous potential for taxpayer savings by simply rewarding schools which participate in the program that is most cost-effective each year. The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that the STAR Act (H.R. 1425) would save taxpayers $13.4 billion in wasteful subsidies and instead devote $10 billion toward increased Pell Grant aid to low-income students while further dedicating $3 billion toward deficit reduction — all at no further expense to taxpayers.

Fiscal conservatives, and indeed all American taxpayers, should be concerned about this inappropriate fleecing of scarce financial-aid dollars. We should support the free market but also recognize that the guaranteed loan system is anything but.

REP. THOMAS E. PETRI

House of Representatives

Washington

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