If perjury's a crime, will Congress charge tobacco...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

January 03, 1999

If perjury's a crime, will Congress charge tobacco executives?

Lying under oath before Congress must not be impeachable. House Speaker Newt Gingrich lied to Congress about GOPAC.

And the tobacco executives lied before Congress. Because they all testified the exact same way, they are probably guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice, too.

These lies are similar to those alleged to have been committed by President Clinton because all occurred under oath. (It would be utter hypocrisy to suggest that the president must be convicted for his dishonesty while many members of Congress have admitted to extramarital affairs and thus lied to their spouses and broke their vows.)

The situation of tobacco executives differs from that of the president in that Mr. Clinton never testified before Congress.

Had the president lied before Congress, the Republican majority may have attempted to punish him with the same $50 billion tax break with which some Republicans attempted to punish those lying cigarette hucksters.

The president is alleged to have lied in a civil deposition and before the grand jury. Therefore it appears that the Republicans' burden to go forward must depend on their ability to demonstrate that the president's lies are of greater significance to the rule of law than lying before Congress.

It appears that the Republican majority is asking the American people to accept their attempted removal of a twice-elected president, not for what he did, but for where he did it.

Michael G. McFadden

Baltimore

Constitution does not give Senate authority to censure

All the talk I have been hearing about the use of censure instead of a Senate trial has me confused.

Article I, section three, paragraph seven of the Constitution looks pretty simple to me and is pretty easy to understand:

"Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States; but the party convicted shall, nevertheless, be liable and subject to indictment, trial, and punishment, according to law."

I see nothing that says the Senate has choices other than to find President Clinton totally innocent or completely guilty -- nothing at all allowing for censure before trial or protection from prosecution afterward.

Robert A. Rudolph

Reisterstown

Makeover for Tripp and other Marylanders

What a glorious new year we can expect -- a new image for Maryland's own Linda Tripp ("Tripp tapes up tattered image," Dec. 21).

Why would anyone who is referred to as "valiant" and "courageous" need a makeover? I am looking forward to the new family portraits, slimmed-down photos and the homey sound bites.

Why do we stop with Ms. Tripp? Former Marylanders could use a public relations boost to soften their niche in history. John Wilkes Booth, the Harford County boy, was misunderstood. All he wanted to do was save the Confederacy. His solution was harsh, but he was handsome, a good actor and he loved the South.

Alger Hiss, the Baltimore City boy, wanted to share his knowledge with another country. A few films placed in a pumpkin up in Carroll County and his memories of Yalta were full of good intent. He was well-educated and loved Russia.

Spiro Agnew, the Baltimore County boy, was our governor and vice president. Could he help it that some brown paper bags showed up at his office, and they happened to contain money?

I suggest that the image makers take Ms. Tripp to Fort McHenry. Dress her in a plain, simple, everyday print smock, topped with a smudged apron. Have her pointing to the American flag while munching on a low-calorie apple pie. Use this photo on a slick brochure called "I am one of you."

Olin L. Yoder

Linthicum Heights

Enforce existing ethics laws before crafting new ones

I read the column by the fine writer, Barry Rascovar, "Ethics bill won't go far enough" (Dec. 23).

I studied legislative ethics in Maryland last summer. The laws are there. Enforcement was the problem.

So, the leaders of Maryland's General Assembly hired an ethics counselor this fall. Maybe he will change things, maybe not. Neither he nor the legislature is working together yet.

The ethics counselor should work on the workable things first, not campaign finance reform, but, instead, improving awareness of the laws among legislators and deciding which laws are needed and which should be revised.

The ethics laws in Maryland are complex, too technical.

For instance, the laws cover "direct interests." There is no clear definition of that term. There should be.

There was a study commission on legislative ethics. Give the lawmakers a chance.

Do not criticize them yet.

Jack T. Feldman

Bel Air

Dilapidated city schools should be fixed or closed

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