Monday, April 26, 2004

Medals are medals — period

I am a regular reader of The Washington Times and applaud the “other view” approach of your newspaper. I do not often write to publications but could not stand idly by without indicating my distress at one of the most scurrilous pieces of yellow journalism I have seen anywhere in a long time.

I refer to your Page One article by Charles Hurt in Thursday’s edition raising “questions” about Sen. John Kerry’s Vietnamdecorations (“Records on medals spark questions”). Mr. Hurt quotes nonentities (albeit some of them apparently Vietnam veterans), none of whom apparently was anywhere near the events described, to cast into doubt the accounts in the Kerry citations.

I do not know the facts, but it certainly is clear that after reading Mr. Hurt’s article, I am not any better informed. This is not news and should have been marked opinion. I am surprised and disgusted that The Times would print such an article. I am not necessarily a Kerry fan, but I am a fellow Vietnam combat veteran.



COL. WOOLF P. GROSS

U.S. Army (retired)

Arlington

A gross mischaracterization

The Washington Times has published a Commentary piece that grossly mischaracterizes a statement I made last May.

On April 18, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican, wrote in these pages, “The House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, is on record going so far as to call the alternative proposal by [Budget Committee] Chairman Jim Nussle, Iowa Republican, to cut just 1 percent in waste, fraud and abuse ‘senseless and irresponsible’ ” (“Budget repair,” Commentary).

The proposal referred to was an instruction by House Republican leaders to all committee chairmen to “find enough instances of waste, fraud and abuse to reduce by 1 percent those programs that have levels of funding set by law rather than the annual budget process” — including Medicare and veterans’ benefits.

Here is what I said about this proposal (as was accurately reported by James Lakely of The Washington Times on May 16): “Arbitrarily cutting federal programs that are important to people is a senseless, irresponsible Republican way of avoiding making the tough decisions and governing. It’s Congress’ responsibility to determine the value of federal programs, and rather than simply cutting all programs, we should evaluate each program on its merits.”

I unequivocally stand by my statement. Cutting all programs by an arbitrary percentage is a charlatan’s pretense of fiscal oversight without having to take responsibility for cutting any particular item.

Furthermore, I should note that when it comes to eliminating waste, fraud and abuse, the Republican Party is all talk and no action. Consider that last year House Republicans introduced a budget that said it would eliminate $470 billion in waste, fraud and abuse. And yet today there is no evidence that Republicans have reduced the deficit by even one dollar by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse — even though they’ve controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress for most of the past three years.

Instead, Republicans have turned “waste, fraud and abuse” into nothing more than a gimmick that they use to make their budget numbers add up — a fraud of enormous proportions.

Politically clever? Maybe. Dishonest? Without question.

I know of no member of Congress on either side of the aisle who takes claims of government waste, fraud and abuse lightly.

Finally, let me say that it’s a shame that my House colleague Mr. Diaz-Balart chose to waste his energy making baseless, scurrilous claims about Democrats. It certainly would be more productive if Republicans worked with Democrats to get us out of the fiscal mess that their party’s policies have created.

It’s easy for Mr. Diaz-Balart to state platitudes such as “Republicans fervently believe the spending of taxpayers’ money is a sacred trust.” It’s much harder, of course, for Republicans to face the facts: In just 3½ years, the Republican Party has turned a projected budget surplus of $5.6 trillion over 10 years into a deficit of $4 trillion, including a record budget deficit of more than half a trillion dollars this year alone.

REP. STENY H. HOYER

Democratic whip

U.S. House of Representatives

Washingtonabout Pat Tillman’stragicdeathin Afghanistan, I was reminded of A.E. Housman’s poem “To An Athlete Dying Young”:

“The time you won your town the race/We chaired you throughthemarket-place;/Man and boy stood cheering by,/And home we brought you shoulder-high.

“To-day, the road all runners come,/Shoulder-high we bring you home,/And set you at your threshold down,/Townsman of a stiller town …”

Mr. Tillman certainly was a hero on the “friendly fields of strife,” in the words of Douglas MacArthur, and a true warrior on the battlefield. God bless Pat Tillman, his family and the rest of the sons and daughters of America who are fighting for freedom around the world.

MIKE FABER

Vienna

•

I didn’t know Pat Tillman but I am grateful to have gotten to learn about him in the past few days. I cried for joy when I learned how he lived and about his patriotism. It is interesting that he came into the public’s consciousness at the same time as pictures of flag-draped coffins returning from the battlefield were revealed. Why? Because his death has shone a light on all the other men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It is their sacrifice that protect our peaceful lives. As one who knew him said, “He should not be an exception, but the norm.” Pat Tillman would be pleased.

MICHAEL J. HANLEY

Park Ridge, Ill.

•

As we have learned about both the death of Pat Tillman and the character of the man, I have wondered not only about how he and others could be honored but also how a permanent message could be left for generations to come.

I was fortunate to fly in the “peacetime” Navy after Vietnam because of all the men and women who went before me and placed their lives on the line, and in many instances, gave their lives so that others may not have to make that ultimate sacrifice.

Any sports fan recognizes how frequently we hear the terms “hero” and “courage” applied to athletes almost every game. We need to understand that athletes are stars who make great plays. Yes, it takes guts for a receiver to cut across the middle to catch a pass. Yes, it takes guts to dive into the stands for a foul ball. Yes, it takes guts to be a goalie and face 100 mph hockey pucks. And yes, it takes guts to dunk over Shaq.

But it takes courage to face the potential of dying for one’s beliefs.

To Pat Tillman and to all who have laid down their lives for our freedom, I say: “Thank you, courageous heroes.”

DON FLEMING

Waukesha, Wis.

•

I was struck by the irony of theweekendsports coverage. On the one hand, there was the coverage about the death of Pat Tillman, a “ham and egger” playing for a third-rate NFL team. In spite of this, he was humble, loyal and devoted to his team, his values and the sport of football. He ultimately saw that there were bigger things in the world than himself, and gave his life proving that.

On the other, there was the coverage about Eli Manning (“Giants pull deal to land Manning,” Sports, Sunday), crying because he might get drafted by another third-rate NFL team that desperately needs his skills at quarterback. I hope Congress does reactivate Selective Service; then crybaby Eli might really have something to whine about, and then he may finally realize how lucky he truly is. God bless Pat, and may God protect all those in harm’s way.

JOHN W.C. TINDALL

San Antonio, Texas

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