- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2007

The sideshow at CPAC

In the latest outrage of ultra-conservative firebrand Ann Coulter, she used a crude and hateful anti-gay epithet against Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards (“CPAC fallout,” Inside Politics, yesterday). Her outrageous comments are indicative of all that is wrong in the world of politics today.

Miss Coulter’s arrogant pronouncements have served to mortify honorable fellow Republicans and have assisted in pushing many of us away from the party. She garners attention through the politics of slash and burn, and her modus operandi does not include listening to anyone whose views do not square with her radicalized version of the world, in which liberals are portrayed as mentally diseased individuals who should be shunned.

It is regrettable that such a significant amount of media coverage is provided to an extremist like Miss Coulter. I suppose that her continued prominence, through which she has garnered vast wealth, is triggered by the desire of the American people to view a freak show.

It is astounding that Miss Coulter touts her Christian faith and surely believes that she appropriately represents the party of family and moral values. There is no value in being a flame-thrower and it diminishes us as a people. When the Ann Coulter circus finally leaves town, America will be a more civilized and better place.

OREN M. SPIEGLER

Upper Saint Clair, Pa.

Eminent domain hurts poor

Mindy Fullilove is right about the effects of present-day eminent domain usage, and though it hurts all, it disproportionately hurts the poor, with the present incarnation as a result of the Supreme Court’s Kelo v. New London decision (“Eminent domain race ripples,” Commentary, Friday).

If a government, local or otherwise, can condemn property that it considers “blighted” in order to foster a better tax base, what it is doing in effect is saying the homes and businesses of poorer people are not as valuable to the community as a whole as more upscale development. This is an offshoot of the same mentality that allows the present tax structure to seize assets from one class of people (the rich) in order to provide more services to another class of people (the poor or sometimes minorities).

Anytime you allow government the power to seize private assets for redistribution, inequity follows as sure as morning follows night.

NORMAN HENDRICKSON

Bowie, Md.

Miracles and courage at Walter Reed

Two nights ago at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I had the distinct honor to visit some of the Army Rangers and Air Force Pararescue forces who were seriously injured in Afghanistan when their helicopter crashed in inclement weather. A number of things about my visit stand in stark contrast to how most of news outlets are reporting on our war effort and the state of affairs at Walter Reed (“Fix Walter Reed,” Editorial, yesterday).

A parent — the father of a Pararescue airman — marveled at the courage and heroism displayed by his son and his Ranger comrades. Taking a break from checking in on his son in the intensive care unit, this father stated, “I have never been in the military, but I know that what my son and others are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq allows us to watch football games and enjoy life in peace here in the United States.” This dad — who understands sacrifice — is not confused about why we are fighting the long war. His other two sons also are on active duty. Where do we find such men?

The doctors, nurses and medics at Walter Reed who work tirelessly around the clock to provide expert and loving care to the injured men and women in their charge are nothing short of amazing. The families and parents of the injured soldiers and Air Force members with whom I visited all praised the staff for their dedicated concern. I stopped a young resident to thank him and his team, telling them they are heroes. His eyes welled up and he told me, “No sir, the soldiers we are treating are the heroes.” Where do we find such men and women?

The latest public uproar — focusing in on the supposed “substandard” housing at Walter Reed — is yet another example of those choosing to wallow in bad news stories in the face of all the good news around them. Focusing on the substandard conditions of three rooms in an outpatient housing facility when true miracles and acts of courage are occurring daily at Walter Reed is akin to complaining about a stitching flaw in the leather interior of a Rolls Royce. This is doubly true in light of the fact that Walter Reed is on the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list and is, therefore, unlikely to obtain funding for new military construction projects. The command and staff at Walter Reed deserve our prayers, thanks and support, not specious criticism.

This injustice is compounded by Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey’s decision to relieve Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman of command of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command, the parent command of Walter Reed. I served with Gen. Weightman in the 82nd Airborne Division in Operation Desert Storm and have followed his career since then. One would be hard-pressed to find a more caring, competent and conscientious Army surgeon. To relieve him as an act of political expediency is cowardly. It was not the hard, right decision but rather the easy, wrong way out for those too timid to face a handful of America-hating journalists and politicians who will never “get it.”

DAVID BOLGIANO

Severna Park, Md.

The resignation of Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey and his firing of Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are unfair. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates has overreacted and caved in to the outrage of some members of Congress even before the commission he appointed to find the reason for the situation has reported its findings. Mr. Harvey and Gen. Weightman are scapegoats for the mismanagement of facilities maintenance by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Office of Management and Budget and Congress.

I worked many years in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and saw the multimillion-dollar Backlog of Maintenance and Repair (BMAR) that the department carried for decades. Congress handles the budget for new construction separately, and that money cannot be used to maintain existing structures. Facilities maintenance has been at the bottom of the priority list for many years and still is. The problem of underfunded maintenance was so bad in the past that base commanders had to use troop labor to perform even the most elementary tasks, such as mowing the grass and painting the old wooden buildings left over from World War II. That problem has been resolved, but funds for base operations and maintenance are still reduced arbitrarily during the budget cycle to make room for things that are deemed more important. Because Walter Reed is scheduled to be closed in a few years, it is likely that some anonymous persons thought it would be wasteful to spend money on old facilities such as Building 18.

I served 29 years in the Army, and most of that time our facilities were shabby. This was not because we wanted them to be shabby or were poor managers but because we were not provided enough money to take care of our facilities properly. It is commonplace for budget examiners required to reduce the Department of Defense budget to make arbitrary reductions in the operations and maintenance appropriation. It is very likely that Building 18 was in bad shape not because the commander and his staff overlooked it but because they did not have enough money to fix it. I hope the commission that is addressing this issue delves into the money and the work orders to find and disclose the real cause of the problem. Unfortunately, the truth will come too late to save the sacrificial lambs to Mr. Gates’ premature version of “accountability.”

COL. JOHN R. BRINKERHOFF

Army (retired)

Burke

As an Army veteran, I am appalled at the insinuations and accusations levied in recent days against Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Nothing could be further from the truth. Having served four tours of duty from 1964 to 1979 and having been treated at Walter Reed from 1979 through today, along with my family, I say the accusations are pure hogwash.

Walter Reed is one of the finest and most renowned medical facilities in the world and has been since 1909. Soldiers from World Wars I and II,Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom have received nothing but top-notch medical care.

I stand behind Walter Reed Army Medical Center and count it as one of the best institutions for medical care in the world.

AL EISNER

Wheaton

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