Precious LibertiesI realize that I am one lone voice among...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

May 11, 1995

Precious Liberties

I realize that I am one lone voice among the rising chorus calling for action in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, but I oppose the new expansive powers being proposed for the FBI and other federal agencies.

The thought of giving up some of our precious liberties frightens me more than a thousand mad bombers.

We seem to have a permanent disease in this country called "short-term memoryitis." We forget our history and the history of other countries so easily.

The aggrandizement of power in a centralized authority has always led to the inevitable abuse of such power. We fought a war against the abuse of power over 200 years ago.

The FBI had these proposed powers once before, and they were taken away 20 years ago because of abuse. Why do we seem to have to learn the same lessons over and over?

The worst consequence of the Oklahoma bombing would be our voluntarily giving up some of our liberty. Then, and only then, the nuts who did this heinous act will have finally won.

Tucker Clagett

Upper Marlboro

Public Courage

Robert McNamara's public mea culpa has stirred a lot of comment, mostly adverse, but it seems to me that almost all the rejoinders miss a crucial point.

Mr. McNamara explains his public silence on the futility of the Vietnam war as the result of his "loyalty" to the president. He seems unaware that such "loyalty" is inappropriate in the American system of government.

Mr. McNamara's defense is the same defense offered by Adm. John Poindexter and Lt. Col. Ollie North. Each of these gentlemen seem oblivious to the difference between an American commander-in-chief and Augustus Caesar.

An American citizen's loyalty is owed to the Constitution and the best interests of the American people, not to a president or any other officer.

Some might acknowledge the validity of this principle but then cynically question whether or not anyone has actually acted in accord with it.

There are at least three easy examples.

President Andrew Jackson summarily dismissed two cabinet officers because they would not support his program to destroy the Bank of the United States. They foresaw a financial panic if Jackson's order was executed.

Within living memory, a youngish Dean Acheson resigned his sub-cabinet post because he disagreed with Franklin D. Roosevelt's policies.

There are probably other examples of similar profiles in courage.

Mr. McNamara's "loyalty" to temporary occupants of the White House has obviously left him with a taste of bitter ashes which decades of otherwise good work could not dispel.

As an exemplar of what Americans should not do in public office, Robert McNamara has displayed a stark and instructive instance.

Nicholas Varga

Baltimore

The Real Cause for Alarm

Ron Smith's reputation as a popular local talk show host is well-known, yet his April 30 "Rejoinder" column offered another example of the polarization which characterizes late 20th century America.

Mr. Smith, like many other talk show hosts, is a master of labeling and using language to color the meaning of seemingly innocent statements.

He remarks on the widening gap between government and ordinary Americans. He phrases it as the ruling establishment and the "majority of ordinary Americans." At once, we are set up to see an adversarial relationship between the implicitly oppressive federal government and ourselves, the helpless, average citizens.

Perhaps it is this clever, prejudiced, language to which President Clinton referred in his speech.

Increasingly, the politically oriented talk shows exhibit a distrust of any centralized authority, unless it has to do with the military. Thus the need for militia groups to keep watch against the "dangerous" agencies of the federal government.

Moreover, it is only the "liberal" federal government which, because of its supposed encroachment on individual rights, will one day become a virtual dictatorship and turn the nation into a sort of monarchy. This, of course, must be stopped.

It is ironic that in the 1960s and early 1970s the federal government was viewed in much the same way by extreme left-wing liberals, hippies, college students, free thinkers and others who saw the impending doom and waved the banner of "trust no one over 30." They, too, feared centralized authority, especially the military.

It is difficult to know what to make of all of this. It is obvious that the rise of "push-it-to-the-limits" behavior concurrently with the growing paranoia around issues of authority is leading to more suspicion and distrust.

With it all is the escalation of violent behavior by individuals and groups, frustrated in making their views heard and respected.

Finally, there is the obvious economic aspect to what talk show hosts do on radio or television. Ratings are everything and the shows with the highest ratings succeed, while others go off the air.

Mr. Smith is a successful talk show host. So are Jerry Springer, Jenny Jones and many others.

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