The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 16, 1998 · Page 20
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 20

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Saturday, May 16, 1998
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C2 SATURDAY. MAY 16, 1998 THE SAUNA JOURNAL George B. Pyle editorial page editor Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. .:.. To join the .conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: ' P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (785)827-6363 '• E-mail: i SJLetters® saljoumal.com Quote of the day "Anaboveboard discourse is a vital component of our governing ' process. Public • business should , be conducted in } public view." Gov. Bill : Graves ••' • in his message 'accompanying his veto of a bill that • would have made an exemption in the Kansas Open Meetings law for "serial communications." TCOMMENT By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal People who are here THE ISSUE Help for legal immigrants THE ARGUMENT Kansas senators on the right side of this vote W ednesday in this space, Sen. Sam Brownback received a well-deserved smack for allowing himself to be used by dishonest anti-tax crusaders to repeat their bogus concept of "Tax Freedom Day." Today, though, the senator from Kansas deserves congratulations for a serious and somewhat courageous vote he cast on the Senate floor Tuesday. Brownback and Kansas' other senator, Pat Roberts, were among those who opposed the more radical and coldhearted elements of their own Republican party, elements that wanted to stop a measure restoring food stamp benefits to qualifying legal immigrants. A few senators led by Texas' Phil Gramm claimed that allowing legal immigrants the same benefits as citizens would signal that America was seeking to import lazy bums. But that, of course, is absurd. The food stamp benefits, along with disability payments that were restored previously, are only for people who have come to America in accordance with our laws, and with our tradition of welcoming people hungry, not for a hand-out, but for a second chance. If America is admitting too many immigrants, that's not the fault of those few who are in need. If they are here illegally, or don't really meet the qualifications for receiving benefits, that's another problem. But if they have their papers and if they are disabled, or in need of help to feed their families, they are people, and they are here. And, as John Adams said, those are the only requirements for being considered Americans. It would have been an easy matter for Brownback or Roberts to vote along with Gramm on this, earn a few fundraising points from the far right, and get away with it. It is likely that no one in Kansas would have noticed. The vote was one of those thousands of procedural matters the Senate considers all the time. Of the 23 senators who voted with Gramm to send the bill back to committee, and thus kill it, only eight actually voted against final passage. Those who voted first one way and then the other can claim to have opposed benefits for legal immigrants when it suits them, and still claim credit for the passage of the larger agriculture bill that contained it. Brownback and Roberts refused to play that game. And for that, Kansans should be proud of them. Whitewatergate? TOM TEEPEN Cox News Service Comparison to big Nixon-era scandal just does not hold water T he mocking background chant of "Watergate, Watergate" has grown louder in Washington now that a federal court has disallowed President Clinton's attempt to stretch executive privilege to keep two of his White House staffers from testifying to Kenneth Starr's grand jury. Will Clinton appeal, as Richard Nixon did in a similar setback? If he does, the chorus is making clear, it will chant all the louder. The once-distant sound of a few Republican zealots and a rabble of dedicated Clinton- haters has now been taken up by the Washington press. Indeed, rhetoric is rising all around. It has somehow become permissible for Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., to call the president a scumbag and admit he's out to get Clinton — and still chair the committee investigating White House political fund-raising. House Speaker Newt Gingrich has returned to his familiar lectern. Reports have it that the professor of partisan trash talk is tutoring Republicans to quit referring to Clinton "scandals" and start using the word "crimes." This from the man who, should impeachment ever become a reality, would bear the sober charge of managing the process. No small part of the blame for this turn falls to Clinton himself. When the Lewinsky mess was first flushed into sight, he promised he would hustle to clear it up. Now he equivocates and delays. Even V granting that his fate rests with men who are out to do him in — Starr, Gingrich, Burton — the president owes the nation an expeditious resolution. Is it coincidence that the Clinton-equals-Nixon cry comes at a time when there apparently is less rather than more reason to suppose that's so? Starr .has closed down his Arkansas grand jury without, it seems, having got any goods on the president or on the backup target, the president's wife. This left Clinton insisting recently that there are differences between Watergate and Whatever- gate. No kidding. President Nixon and his crew were engaged, in office, in their official duties, in a panorama of illegal and unethical activities designed to subvert democratic processes and break the basic instruments of government. They secretly sabotaged the campaign of the Democrat they most feared as a challenger to Nixon's re-election. They set up a band of burglars and bagmen in the White House basement to do the president's dirty work. The phones of "enemies" — that is, citizens who disagreed with Nixon — were tapped. Nixon signed off on mail tampering. Private offices were broken into and ruled. The FBI and CIA were suborned into aiding an illegal cover- up. In all, more than 30 went to prison, including Nixon's closest White House aides, a former commerce secretary and a former attorney general. Another attorney general had to resign. If Whitewater is in fact out of the way, that leaves Clinton suspected only of lying, and maybe asking others to lie, to hush up a sexual incident that was judged irrelevant to a court case that was found to have no legal merit. If true, nasty business. But Watergate? Please. T AT HOME ABROAD Lama: China should not be isolated Exiled Dalai Lama says the only way to approach China is as a friend W ith President Clinton going to China next month, attention is focusing again on the question of how the United States should try to improve the human rights situation there. I raised . the question in an interview * """ with the Dalai Lama, who for 40 years has been a pre-eminent symbol of resistance to oppression by the Chinese Communist government. "China should not be isolated," the Dalai Lama said. "It must be brought into the mainstream of international life. Now the next question: How?" He laughed heartily at his own question. Then he continued, emphatically: 4 "Confrontation or condemnation: I don't think it works. The only practical way is to be a genuine friend. Within that framework, the American stand on issues like human rights, democracy, liberty and Tibet should be made very clear to them. "So I feel the American administration's current policy of engaging the Chinese and establishing friendly relations is right." When Clinton came to office in 1993, he first adopted a policy of pressure on the Chinese government to end its violations of human rights. But then he decided that that approach T ESSAY ANTHONY LEWIS Tlie New York Times was ineffective and changed it to a policy of "engagement." In recent months, Beijing has released and sent to the United States its two best-known political prisoners, Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan. The Dalai Lama, who was here visiting Brandeis University, took a similar view of his own relations with Beijing. "At this moment," he said, "meaningful dialogue with the Chinese government is crucial." Attempts to open a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Beijing were broken off in 1993. The Chinese government has treated his current effort in that direction disdainfully, suggesting that his talk of autonomy rather than independence for Tibet is a sham. He said the United States, "knowing my view, can help dispel the suspicions of the Chinese." "Inside Tibet things are really bad," he said. "There are human rights violations, damage to the environment, degeneration of spirituality. Talks with the Chinese government are the real hope to solve these problems." He said he was "very optimistic" about the trend of conditions in China. "It is comparatively more open," he said. "Now some critical articles about government policy regarding Tibet are appearing. They may not be in big-circulation journals, but they are there. These are very, very positive factors." The Dalai Lama made clear that his support of a friendly U.S. approach did not mean silence on human rights issues. "If you are only concerned about the economic side," he said, "that would be a terrible mistake. President Clinton should not go there and just forget about the issues of human rights, freedom and Tibet." : ' A strikingly similar view was taken';by Wang Dan, who spoke at Harvard University soon after his release from prison last month. He said he thought improved U.S.-Chinese're- lations "will help economic and political 'reform in China." But he added that the United States must keep emphasizing its "moral standards." : Wang Dan was a leader of the democracy movement crushed in Tiananmen Square' in 1989. Clinton has agreed, at the Chinese government's request, to visit Tiananmen Square next month. That seems a craven concessibri, a violation of the principle that America should hold fast to its ideals. " : ' But it is equally true, I think, that we should avoid gestures likely to do more harm than good. An example is the proposed Freedom From Religious Persecution Act, which'the House takes up this week. Designed to please the Christian right, it would largely duplicate existing human rights laws, except for a shameful provision making it easier for those claiming religious persecution to win asylum in this country than for those tortured" or threatened with death because they want political freedom. I have always believed that Americans c6m- mitted to human rights should follow the advice of the oppressed in any country, as in the Soviet Union and the old South Africa. In the past I favored sanctions on China. Now there are signs of change: much greater freedom of movement, local elections, some lawsuits against authority. I think we should follow the advice of Wang Dan and the Dalai Lama. ' The Clintons' amateur night diplomacy To be the Comeback Kid in the Middle East, Clinton needs some help off the bench W ASHINGTON — Stipulated: Hillary Rodham Clinton weighs her every public word to advance her husband's policies and interests. So her decision last week to declare via global satellite "I think that it will be in the long- term interest of the Middle East for Palestine to be a state" must be taken as a calculated move by both Clintons to ratchet up the pressure on Israel. "We have been waiting for such a signal from any American administration for a long time," responded the leading Arab spokesperson here. Hillary's signal was unambiguous; she used the word "state" nine times in promulgating the Clinton policy. On cue, the presidential press secretary then dismissed the first lady's carefully crafted statement as the uncleared mouthings of some ditzy spouse who would not again be "venturing into the Middle East peace process anytime soon." Supposedly not official administration policy. But the Clintons' message was received exactly as the presidential couple intended: unless Israel obeyed the Clinton summons to a summit at which Washington would decide exactly how much territory Israel would hand over to the Palestinians, the United States WILLIAM SAFIRE The New York Times * would escalate its intervention. Not only would the world's superpower "reexamine its approach," as Secretary of State Albright warned. The Clintons have signaled they are prepared to go further — to dictate not just the scope of interim steps, but to impose terms of the final settlement. Palestinian statehood is an issue that has up to now been reserved for the final talks. Israel takes the position that Palestinian autonomy should suffice for self-government, and that statehood's sovereignty would enable Yasser Arafat to make alliances with Iraq and others to threaten Israel's security. To be realistic, statehood is in the cards. But no responsible Israeli leader can let it be taken for granted because it is a significant card to play. That major concession to Palestinian aspirations would demonstrate Israel's willingness to take a great risk for peace. Pundits like Tom Friedman and me can include statehood in a mock "final agreement," and even Arik Sharon can hint at something like it if circumscribed with conditions and defensible borders. But Prime Minister Ne- tanyahu cannot throw away that enormous concession while Arafat demands the whole West Bank and Jerusalem as his capital. Nor can any mediator, especially the superpower that will have to guarantee a final agreement, allow itself to show any bias in these final, comprehensive negotiations. That's plain bad mediating, betraying a prejudice to determine the outcome — an intrusion into the negotiation that precludes agreement between the parties. That's what the Clintons have just done. They must have thought it was pretty shrewd, DOONESBURY sending her out with a message to weaken the Israeli position that the president could then deny. But the denial was not merely implausible; it was laughable. A little duplicity in diplomacy is sbmetime^ tolerable, but this was Amateur Night. ' .': Does a professional mediator subtly lean 1 on both sides, creating formulations that save face and encourage movement? Yes. Should the mediator lose patience, abrogate a solemn assurance recently given one side, trap itself into a fixed-percentage criterion, and tell that side take-it-or-leave-it? Not unless it wants'a scapegoat. ', The Clintons' calculated fit of pique was an invitation to impasse. Could any Israeli leader come meekly, hat in hand, to accept terms — after being publicly humiliated first by Albright on an interim step and then by. the powerful Clinton on the final agreement?' Of course not; mediation by paroxysm was doomed. In the Middle East, if anybody loses, nobody wins, and if anybody wins, everybody loses. This is no time for a reassessment snit or to let loose Carville on Bibi. How can we help Clinton be the Comeback Kid? Hire a heavyweight pro. Dennis is tired and Madeleine needs help. At the Reagan Building dinner, there was George Shultz. As secretary of state, he made two huge pro-Arafat mistakes, but still the Israelis trust him. A skilled negotiator with an iron butt, he has the good sense to credit the president with the glory. ., Clinton's statehood statement through Hillary launched final-status talks inavispi- ciously. But the mediation game can still be won if he gets some talent off the bench. * * By G.B. TRUDEA& 7HANK5A THAT&fTFQRA

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