Consistent, credible political criticismAs first lady, and...

LETTERS

January 25, 1996

Consistent, credible political criticism

As first lady, and as an active participant in her husband's administration, Hillary Clinton is obviously fair game for public criticism. Beyond this fact, anyone in public life should be subject to public scrutiny regarding the propriety, and the legality, of their activities.

Criticism and scrutiny, however, are frequently all too appropriate for at least some of the critics.

Too often, there exists an enormous gap between those who criticize and the consistency or credibility of the criticism. The recent attacks on Mrs. Clinton by William Safire and Mona Charen, unfortunately, illustrate this point.

Mr. Safire has described Mrs. Clinton as a ''congenital liar'' in one of his New York Times columns. (So much for the theory that liberal papers don't print the ''other point of view.'') As much as I dislike ad hominem arguments, it isn't unfair to note that Mr. Safire once produced speeches for Richard Nixon, whose administration was not famous for truth-telling.

This shouldn't prevent him from criticizing anyone in public life. But it should encourage him to bring more humility and humanity to the process. And, perhaps, it should make him ask himself: Am I the most credible spokesperson for this argument?

Of equal concern should be the grotesque inconsistency between Ms. Charen's character assassination of Mrs. Clinton and her previous column attacking ''hate speech'' (against conservatives, of course, and not liberals). In the earlier column, Ms. Charen denounced liberals for the capital crime of describing certain talk-show hosts as ''extremist.''

Well, excuse me. I guess they should have followed the example of Ms. Charen regarding the first lady, and called them ''dissembling talk-show hosts whose word cannot be trusted.''

Whether one is a liberal or a conservative is not the point here. Leaders on both sides of the debate could do a great deal to restore public confidence in the political process by eliminating the inconsistencies in their statements and in their lives. It is not enough to talk about the need for values and civil discourse.

Anyone can talk about what needs to be done. Doing it, however, takes courage and conviction. One can only hope that Mr. Safire's and Ms. Charen's future work will reflect those qualities.

Stephen R. Rourke

Baltimore

The real tragedy in the shooting of Betty Keat

I am writing in response to Stefan Goodwin's Jan. 18 letter, ''Shame that police shot to kill woman.''

It is a shameful day that Betty Keat is dead. It is also a shame that the Baltimore Police Department is once again chastised and criticized by someone who has no conception of what being a police officer is like.

For five years, Northern District Community Services had worked with the neighborhood complaints about Mrs. Keat. They worked with the family seeking help for her. Police officers also sat on the telephone for endless hours talking to her when she was lonely or afraid.

They did not just walk in and arbitrarily shoot Professor Keat for the sake of doing it.

Here is the human reality of the situation. You are standing in front of a woman threatening you with a knife. In a split second, it becomes your life or hers. What do you do?

If you don't decide fast enough, you are now dead. The fact that Professor Keat was 60 and had gray hair had nothing to do with the situation.

Let us place the blame where it really belongs, on the failed mental institutions, failed psychiatrists, and in the failed system that cannot begin to comprehend the realm of mental illness.

Another tragedy is that these two young officers will have to live with their decision for the rest of their lives. If you look into the history of Betty Keat, you will find that the biggest tragedy of all was that she was our friend as well.

Julie Morgan

Baltimore

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The writer is a retired Baltimore City police officer.

Teens could have kept busy shoveling

Without doubt, our world soundlessly shut down in the wake of our new year's onslaught of snow. It is that sound-LESS-ness that I wish to address and so sadly question.

Where was the sound of youthful energy so often criticized by letter writers to editorial pages? That audible exhibition is often overly abundant when fair weather welcomes its unwanted exuberance. The ease of warmth and woofers broadcast the energy of neighborhood youths in their great numbers.

Much later comes the next month to begin with the letter J -- January -- and where does that July jubilation hide? In these five winters in Woodbridge Valley, we older folks have yet to see a shovel beyond our own, much less a teen-ager hauling one, even his or her own four-by-four.

Cardiac candidates of Catonsville looked longingly at teen-agers who drove by to friends' basements as we continued to hope for an entrepreneur on foot to even offer assistance for pay. And we 45-year-old old folks would have paid, but no one even asked.

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