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Jewish World Review Oct. 14, 1998 / 24 Tishrei, 5759

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell A strange word

WHILE READING A RECENT EDITORIAL in the Detroit News, I came across a word that startled me -- "duty." It seemed like ages since that word was used anywhere.

The editorial said: "It's your duty to make a judgment" about the current impeachment issue. It has also been quite a while since the word "judgment" was seen all by itself -- naked as it were -- instead being wrapped up in the more fashionable notion of being "non-judgmental."

It is one of the signs of our times that words like "duty" and "judgment" have become so rare and so dated. The editorial didn't say that making a judgment about the impeachment issue would be enjoyable or fulfilling, or even "exciting," to use one of the more popular fad words. It was our duty.

With everyone from pundits to politicians and ex-politicians trying to find some way to "get this behind us" so that we can "move on" to other things that are more interesting to us, there has been very little discussion of why we should give impeachment the serious and careful thought it deserves, even though we are sick and tired of hearing about the events that led up to it.

Copping out just sets the stage for more problems. If Richard Nixon had paid the full price for all his violations of the law -- spent years behind bars and paid fines that decimated his personal fortune -- then that might have kept future presidents from trying to see how much they could get away with. If Nixon had not been pardoned "to spare the country," then maybe we would be spared the present mess.

We have spent a whole generation learning the basic hard lesson that letting criminals off the hook leads to higher crime rates and locking them up brings the crime rate down. It is infinitely more important to deter presidents than to deter some local hoodlum. A president can do lasting damage to a whole country with the enormous powers of his office.

Already we are seeing growing evidence that the recent air strike against a pharmaceutical company in the Sudan was by no means what it was claimed to be -- but the people who were killed will not be brought back to life by any revelations that this was a way of getting the Monica Lewinsky scandal off the front page.

Remember how we were told that the top military brass would never have gone along with any such "Wag the Dog" scenario? Well, now it is starting to come out that most of the top brass never heard about what was going to happen until after it was all over. Neither did the head of the FBI or the Attorney General, even though FBI evidence was supposed to be the reason for the air strike.

Slick Willie presented them with a fait accompli. And, if it killed a few people in the Sudan, what does he care? They don't vote here and they are not even polled.

People who "approve" of the president's job performance, even though they do not "trust" him -- as the polls keep telling us -- do not seem to understand that trust is a major part of a president's job.

A president not only can kill people in other countries, he can get Americans killed in wars we have no business fighting, long after he has left office, because he signed treaties and made deals to involve us in places like the Balkans, where we have no vital interests and where the Russians have gone to war twice within the past century. Indeed, the Russians have already equipped the Serbs with missiles that can shoot down American planes -- and they have warned us of worse if we intervene militarily.

Maybe the clever people in Washington think they can just keep on ignoring warnings from the Russian government. Even if they can with this government, there are far more belligerent Russian leaders waiting in the wings and they could very well be in charge before very long.

We are not just talking about foreign policy "mistakes." We are talking about international involvements cooked up so that Clinton could "look presidential" to take our minds off his disgraceful behavior at home.

Too many Americans do not want to look below the surface or think beyond the moment. But it is our duty.

We enjoy freedom and the rule of law on which it depends, not because we deserve it, but because others before us put their lives on the line to defend it. Are those who come after us to have less, because we couldn't even be bothered to think about it?

10/09/98: Impeachment standards
10/08/98: Alternatives to seriousness
10/07/98: Heredity, environment and talk
10/02/98: A much-needed guide
10/01/98: Starr's real crime
9/24/98: Costs and power
9/18/98: Are we sheep?
9/16/98: Judicial review
9/15/98: Hillary Rodham Crook?
9/14/98: Taking stock
9/11/98: Moment of truth
9/04/98: Random thoughts
8/31/98: The twilight of special prosecutors?
8/26/98: "Doing a good job"
8/24/98: America on trial?
8/19/98: Played for fools
8/17/98: A childish letter
8/11/98: Hiding behind a woman
8/07/98: A flying walrus in Washington?
8/03/98: "Affordability" strikes again
7/31/98: Random thoughts
7/27/98: Faith and mountains
7/24/98: Clinton in Wonderland
7/20/98: Where is black 'leadership' leading?
7/16/98: Do 'minorities' really have it that bad?
7/14/98: Race dialogue: same old stuff
7/10/98: Honest history
7/09/98: Dumb is dangerous
7/02/98: Gun-safety starts with
parental responsibility
6/30/98: When more is less
6/29/98: Are educators above the law?
6/26/98: Random Thoughts
6/24/98: An angry letter
6/22/98: Sixties sentimentalism
6/19/98:Dumbing down anti-trust
6/15/98: A changing of the guard?
6/11/98: Presidential privileges
6/8/98: Fast computers and slow antitrust
6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.