Pragmatic ClintonA perhaps crude distinction between...


August 02, 1993

Pragmatic Clinton

A perhaps crude distinction between pragmatism and morality is that the former looks for immediate results, while the latter is concerned with effects over the longer term.

When President Clinton called ending the ban on gays in the military a matter of principle, we saw the closet moralist in him, for equal treatment of individuals under the law is ultimately a moral notion.

On the other hand, when he caved in to Sen. Sam Nunn and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he showed that it is the pragmatist in Clinton which we can expect in a pinch.

This failure of nerve will, as does all morally blind governance, bring us woe. We all come to suffer in some way when some of us are treated unequally, because equality has come to be understood as a sine qua non of America's greatness.

The Clinton policy will not bear moral scrutiny because it does not treat gays equally: They, unlike their straight counterparts, may not signal their sexual preference.

Often, however, bad policies perversely engender good reforms, and no doubt this mistake will one day be challenged successfully in court.

Thus the bad effects of the policy will not be felt in the end result, I think, but rather in the unnecessary anxiety, intolerance and turmoil which will blight the American scene while we are waiting for the matter finally to come to a head.

The moralist Clinton could have gotten us past much of that in one fell swoop.

The pragmatist Clinton will look like a genius in history books as the author of the grand compromise which breaks the budget deadlock, since budgetary matters, of course, always defy easy moral categorization and are best handled pragmatically.

Here, then, is Clinton's forte: pragmatism just when the country needs it. His reputation's downfall, however, will be his lack of wisdom, his absence of courage to be a leader rather than a barometer whenever the circumstances demand it.

Eric P. Stewart


On Bartlett

I and several other members of an organization to which I belong recently had the opportunity to meet with Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, D-Md., and hear from him and present questions on a variety of issues. Given The Sun's fairly critical reporting on Representative Bartlett to date, I feel compelled to share the perceptions I came away with after meeting him for the first time.

Representative Bartlett impressed me as an intelligent man with a sound comprehension of the numerous issues that he was asked about during the course of the evening.

Each time he was asked about a particular position he had taken on a specific issue, he provided a cogent, well-supported reason for his decision.

Even those who did not agree with the position he ultimately took had to concede that it was not taken on a whim, but rather after deliberate thought was applied to the matter.

Representative Bartlett also referred in passing to the reference that he made to young men and women with "Asian-American" names, which was first reported in The Sun and garnered much subsequent attention.

While I was not personally present when those remarks were made, Congressman Bartlett told us that he made those remarks only in the context of referring positively to the perception of greater nuclear families in such communities and the positive impact strong family values have upon the success of their children.

At worst, he seemed guilty of being unaware of the appropriate politically correct terms to use to present those thoughts.

In sum, I have the impression that the citizens of Maryland are well served by having Representative Bartlett in Congress. In fact, I suspect that the remainder of his term will provide further proof that he is indeed a credit to this state.

Aron U. Raskas


Taxing Matters

Joseph Sterne's July 24 column on Rep. Dan Rostenkowski either purposely or through lack of fact misleads readers by alleging that President Reagan's "huge tax cuts undercut the government's revenue base."

Tax revenues soared as a result of the Reagan tax cuts. Unfortunately, Congress, dominated by liberal Democrats, found TC ways to spend those tax revenue increases and more in exponentially increasing entitlement spending.

The Reagan tax cuts fostered the creation of 19 million jobs. The idea for these tax cuts was not Republican in origin, but was adopted from a similarly successful plan engineered by President Kennedy, a Democrat.

One wonders why President Clinton is promoting a tax increase plan which contradicts the efforts of his hero, President Kennedy.

Mr. Sterne's statement that we will be the "losers" if Mr. Rostenkowski is not left in his current position does not entirely wash. While we could lose his expertise, no one gains by being represented in this debate by someone accused of fraud and misuse of government funds.

I wonder if Mr. Sterne would maintain the same position if Mr. Rostenkowski were a conservative Republican.

Jonathan Dickey


Population Control

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