Part of speech was borrowed, Sarbanes admits

December 11, 1990|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes captured public attention last week with his eloquent challenge to President Bush's Gulf policy, disputing the administration's conclusion that sanctions against Iraq weren't working and its apparent preparation for war without congressional sanction.

But some of the eloquence wasn't his own.

One passage was derived from a statement given the day before to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

In his Dec. 4 statement, Dr. Schlesinger said:

"I notice that the president, in his moving remarks last Friday about the anguish of sending young kids to war, said, 'It's only the president that should be asked to make the decision.' I hope he will reconsider that remark. If anything is clear about the original intent of the Constitution, it is that, as Abraham Lincoln said, the Constitution was written precisely to ensure that 'no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us.' "

The following day, in questioning Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who appeared before the same committee, Mr. Sarbanes said, according to a transcript by Federal News Service:

"The president, in fact, said, in a moving statement, when he spoke about his concern about committing American men to war, said, and I quote him, 'It's only the president that should be asked to make the decision.' I would hope the president would reconsider that remark, because I think if anything is clear about the Constitution, it is that, as Abraham Lincoln said, 'The Constitution was written precisely to ensure that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us.' "

In a telephone interview yesterday, Maryland's senior senator readily acknowledged having borrowed the passage.

"I should have probably said, 'As Dr. Schlesinger pointed out to our committee yesterday.' . . . I'm perfectly happy to accede to the fact that what I used came from Dr. Schlesinger."

Senator Sarbanes said he delivered his remarks without a prepared text and drew in part from what he thought were important points made during Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Armed Services testimony -- all of which he heard or read on transcript -- over the previous week.

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