Right-Wing GleeI wish I could be as optimistic as you...


May 25, 1994

Right-Wing Glee

I wish I could be as optimistic as you about Stephen Breyer as Bill Clinton's choice as replacement for Justice Harry Blackmun on our court of last resort (editorial, May 14).

But when such right-wing extremists as Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., Sen. Orrin Hatch R-Utah, and Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., practically turn handsprings over it, I see it as cause for concern rather than rejoicing.

I also disagree with your description of the court as having a "newly emerging moderate-to-liberal majority." Where are the "liberals"?

Without Blackmun, and if you include Justice Ruth Ginsberg with Justice John Paul Stevens, there are only two.

On the hard ideological right, there are Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

The latter will need only two votes from among Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice David Souter and Breyer to swing the decisions their way.

The former would need three of these supposed moderates. Surely you don't believe O'Connor and Kennedy lean more to the left than to the right.

Given the right-wing glee, confirmation seems a done deal. But I will be watching to see how Breyer actually votes in those instances where our individual freedom under the Bill of Rights is at stake.

Unless he votes at least as good as would Harry Blackmun, Bill Clinton need not bother to contact me as regards 1996.

Kenneth A. Stevens


Pocock's Example

In his May 15 Perspective article, historian Thomas DiBacco complains that scholars in his field produce works that "are often qualified and defensive" in language that is "often jargon, understood only by initiates to the specialized field."

To overcome this state of affairs,he suggests that the Americana theme park proposed by Disney for Northern Virginia may be a salve to remedy ill historical studies.

How ironic. The history profession is stigmatized as practically irrelevant in the wake of Richard O'Mara's story, just three days earlier, on the distinguished career of John Pocock, who is retiring this year after 20 years in the Hopkins history department.

His work, described as giving the public "a new way to understand the thoughts that were alive in the minds of the men who founded the American republic more than 200 years ago," has profoundly extended our knowledge of what life, thought and language were like in the 18th century. Thus we, at the end of the 20th century, now have a better understanding of who we are and where we may be headed.

Professor Pocock has vastly contributed to the sophistication and depth of historical studies, and he has trained an entire generation of scholars whose work is, unlike Mr. DiBacco's perceptions, accessible and, for the most part, of high quality.

The world, not only of historical inquiry but at large, needs more historians like John Pocock to explain the nature of the past and to give us a deeper understanding of our roots.

What we don't need is trying to solve the problem by transforming a portion of Northern Virginia into a Disney Project Historic America theme park.

Jack Fruchtman Jr.


The writer is associate professor of political science, Towson State University.

No Guarantee

This is in reference to Mike Littwin's May 10 column.

The brash teen-ager who asked President Clinton about his underwear could offer adolescence as an explanation for her behavior. What excuse does Mr. Littwin have for his column? Wittinessand cleverness with words at any price?

I am disappointed that a newspaper of The Sun's standing would publish such an article. Is there no longer respect for the office of the presidency and for whoever is the current occupant?

Think about it -- are we (writer and publisher, and readers, too) trying to self-destruct? There is no guarantee that a democracy will last forever.

O. J. Steidle


Crime and Punishment

Recently we experienced the relatively peaceful death of John Thanos and found it easy. It is easy. It's too easy.

The apparent simplicity and painlessness of this death disguises the enormity of what we are doing. Even less does it have a deterrent value.

Perhaps we should draw and quarter in the streets. At least it would be a honest display of what is, in the end, nothing more than vengeance and blood lust.

I want a Maryland that stands above this. We need to put killers away forever to protect our people, but we must not destroy our own hearts by becoming a society that kills. The needle makes it easy.

Heyward Macdonald


6The writer is rector of Saint James Episcopal Church.

Re the execution of John Thanos: Intrigued by the statistic that the national recidivism rate three years after release from prison is 66 percent, I recently conducted an independent statistical analysis which concluded that the recividism rate of executed criminals is near 0 percent. Perhaps the oft cited ''ineffectiveness of capital punishment'' is due to the slow and costly appeals process.

Mike McCrea


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