The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on January 20, 1996 · Page 10
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 10

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Salina, Kansas
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Saturday, January 20, 1996
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Page 10
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B2 SATURDAY. JANUARY 20. 1996 THE SALINA 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: (913)827-6363 E-mail: SalJournal @ aol.com Quote of the day "Steve Forbes' idea of a fundraiser is taking his wife out to dinner and signing the bill." Sen. Bob Dole GOP presidential candidate T COMMENT OPINION By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Only in America THE ISSUE Democracy THE ARGUMENT Low voter turnout threatens legitimacy F aced with no chance of defeating Yasser Arafat today in the first real Palestinian election, a small but vocal group of rivals hopes instead to challenge the legitimacy of the vote. Leftist and Muslim militants are boycotting the election. And they will claim they succeeded in denying Arafat a mandate to rule if voter turnout is less than 50 percent. That's not very likely for a group of people who are getting their first taste of democracy after a generation of occupation and a long history of foreign and feudal rule. Voter turnouts of less than 50 percent? Don't be ridiculous. That happens only in America. In the big-time elections, such as those for president, Americans usually manage to drag between 70 percent and 75 percent of the registered electorate out to the polls. Kansas, the last time it had a chance . to choose a governor, saw a turnout of 64 percent of registered voters. Not too bad, perhaps. Though, when you consider that many citizens of voting age are not registered, the real turnout of those who could vote often dips below 50 percent in state elections, and usually hovers around 55 percent in national elections. And those are veritable outpourings of democratic fervor compared to the response to many local elections. Really hot questions — corporate hog farms — can draw 80 percent voter turnout. We know the way to the polls. But in the last round of local elections in Kansas, the statewide turnout was 32 percent of registered voters, and only 23' percent of the voting-age population. In Salina, the last time voters were asked to approve an increase in local schools spending authority, it seemed to be an important issue about which many people felt strongly one way or the other. But, come election day, those who put their ballots where their mouths were amounted to 48 percent of registered voters. What if backers of quality education in Salina would claim that, because turnout in the vote blocking the school board's plan to spend more was less than 50 percent, the balloting doesn't count and the spending hike should go through? So, are local elections in Kansas illegitimate? Are those elected falsely clinging to power? In some countries, especially those just getting started on the road to democracy, the answer might be yes. Apparently, democracy isn't so important except to people who don't have it. Bush made the right call TOM TEEPEN Cox News Service To pursue the Iraqis to Baghdad would have been sadism T he recent fifth anniversary of the start of the Persian Gulf war set off some powerful armchair generaling, and the clear loser in the second-guessing game was former President George Bush. Bush is now held to severe account for his decision to call the war off once it had been won. U.S. troops, it is all but universally said, should have been sent on to Baghdad to hunt down Saddam ^ Hussein and have * their unpleasant way with him. That would have been nice. Only Idi Amin and Pol Pot stand between Saddam and the coveted title Worst of His Times. And Sad- dam isn't through yet. That conceded, Bush still seemed right at the time to whistle the war dead, and even in retrospect the decision was sound. In part, the president was responding to advice from some of his generals. The Iraqis were in panicked rout. To have kept killing them would have been pointless slaughter. Unless they are sadists, military pros are revolted by that. Happily, sadism in the U.S. military is pretty much confined to boot camp. But there were abiding geopolitical reasons, too, for ending the war. Bush had managed to acquire United Nations imprimatur. That made it possible for the United States to assemble an astonishingly broad coalition for the war, and it let Saudi Arabia soldier along side U.S. troops without risking its bona fides in the Arab world. The UN endorsement called only for freeing Kuwait from Iraq's aggression, the primary U.S. goal, too. To then have gone on to a further objective — unburdening Iraq of Saddam — would have overstepped that charter and betrayed some coalition partners in the pursuit a secondary U.S. goal that abraded their domestic political interests. What is more, the violation likely would have closed out all hope of ever again acquiring UN cover when that would suit American interests. It would have been an act of political wastefulness to forfeit that option on a nonessential goal. And as desirable, as Saddam's removal remains, it is not essential. The Gulf war achieved its important aims. It threw Iraq out of Kuwait and kept Saddam from getting the drop on Saudi Arabia and its oil. And more, it set militant Islam back and opened the way to Jordanian and perhaps Syrian accord with Israel. Saddam, still a domestic monster, is now only an international pest. The war cost ^raq its capacity to menace neighbors and, closely watched, Iraq is unable to rebuild on the sly. Beating up on Iraq hardly justified the manic vainglory it ignited in George Bush, but it was a solid piece of work. We shouldn't grumble our way out of satisfaction in that, or deny Bush credit for it, just because Saddam Hussein hangs on. The only party Saddam is spoiling is poor Iraq's. WHAT DOES /r T CAN SHE SAY THAT? The great spirit of Jordan is gone Barbara Jordan wore her dignity as armour — and, in Texas, she needed it ' A USTIN — Barbara Jordan, whose name was so often preceded by the words "the first black woman to ..." that they seemed like a permanent title, died Wednesday in Austin. A great spirit is gone. The first black woman to serve in the Texas Senate, one of the first black women in Con- •gress (she .was elected in 1972 without Republican opposition).and the first black elected to Congress from the South since Reconstruction, the first black woman to sit on major corporate boards, and so on. Were it not for the disease that slowly crippled her, she probably would have been the first black woman on the Supreme Court - it is known that Jimmy Carter had her on his short list. And long before she became "the first and only black woman to ... ," there was that astounding string of achievements going back to high school valedictorian, honors at Texas Southern University, law degree from Boston University. Both her famous diction and her enormous dignity were present from the beginning, her high school teachers recalled. Her precise enunciation was a legacy from her father, a Baptist minister, and characteristic of educated blacks of his day. Her great baritone voice was so impressive that her colleagues in the Legislature used to joke that if Hollywood ever needed someone to be the voice of the Lord Almighty, only Jordan would do. V UNCOMMON SENSE MOLLY IVINS Fort Worth Star-Telegram .But the real secret of her rhetoric, the reason she jolted everyone who ever heard her into respectful attention, was that her choice of words was just as precise as her diction. She used words to construct thoughts with the exactitude of a skilled craftsman building a limestone wall. She wore her dignity like armor — and she needed it. When she first came to the Texas Senate, racism was still common and open. One senator regularly referred to her behind .her back as "that nigger mammy washerwoman." Others treated her with the sort of courtly condescension then deemed appropriate for Southern gentlemen toward a "little lady." ,; Butin an astonishingly short time, she won first the respect and then the affection of her colleagues. As a legislator, she could do it all — spellbinding orator, quick debater, conscientious committee member and just as good at the back-room wheeling and dealing as any I've ever known. _ A regular joke in the Capitol was to take your racist friends into, the .Senate gallery. "Who is that?" they would demand. Then, she'd open her mouth, and they'd get the lesson of their lives. She cut the deals that got Texas its first black congressional district in 1971, dealing with the good pi' boys of the all-white establishment as though she were born to it. And that was long before Supreme Court decisions made such a thing almost easy. She could deal with the Bubbas and even make them laugh — her wit was as dry as West Texas — but she always knew who she was and whom she was fighting for. She was born and raised in the Fifth Ward of Houston, and she always on the side of those who never got a fair break in life. She never suffered fools gladly. I once asked her a dumb question, right after she got elect-^ ed .to Congress. "Have you ever considered' running for statewide office?" I inquired, car-" ried away by enthusiasm. "Bar-bar-a Jordan run for statewide office? i In Tex-asT' she said. "A black woman run for statewide office, in Tex-asT' K I picked myself up off the floor and said defensively, "Well, Sissy Farenthold ran for statewide office, and she almost won." £ Jordan snapped, "Sissy's whitel" ?.', Years later, I reminded her of that passage* and she laughed that surprisingly silvery- laugh of hers and said: "Well, since Ann has'.: been elected, perhaps I am now ready to admit;: anything can happen — even in Tex-as." < Jordan's presence was so strikingly magis-* terial that only her good friends knew how much fun she could be in informal situations. Before multiple sclerosis crippled her hands, she loved to play guitar, and she loved to sing to the end of her life. Jordan singing "The St. James Infirmary Blues" was just a show-stopper. This past Christmas, her old friend Bob Armstrong came over to play guitar for her, and the group started singing spirituals. During a break, Armstrong gazed at Jordan by the fireplace and started singing, "I looked over Jordan, and what did I see?" Broke her up. As a citizen, politician and lawyer, Jordan^ was the kind we seldom hear of anymore; her' faith in the Constitution was, as she so.'; famously said, "whole, complete and total." She believed that law had to be made carefully and thoughtfully to bring about greater justice. From Texas' first minimum-wage law to, Clarence Thomas' appointment to the^ Supreme Court, Jordan was never a knee-jerk anything or influenced by the fashionable or : ' thodoxy of the day. '; She moved deliberately but with great force to use the law to create justice. Where have you gone, Tom Landry? National Football League should do something about players' use of foul language T hose concerned about the language and general depravity of much that is on television these days should take note of two incidents last weekend on the Fox and NBC Television networks. Two professional football players — one a Dallas Cowboy, the other a Pittsburgh Steeler — used obscenities during live locker-room interviews following the game. On Fox, Cowboy player Michael Irvin referred to criticism that coach Barry Switzer has received from fans and in the press during the year. Irvin said Switzer "took all of this (obscenity)." Earlier, on NBC, Pittsburgh's Greg Lloyd exhorted his team during a post-game interview to "(obscenity) the Super Bowl." NBC's Greg Gumbel attempted to dilute the obscenity with a joke, when he should have issued an apology on behalf of the network, though it wasn't the network's fault. Live remarks can't be edited. Former Education Secretary William Bennett told USA Today he was watching the con- CAL THOMAS Los Angeles Times Syndicate ference championship games with his son. Bennett said the incident shows swearing is "in the mainstream" and that "it's one more notch .... Civilizations don't collapse all at once, they do it one degree at a time." Joe Gibbs, former head coach of the Washington Redskins and an analyst during the game between the Steelers and Indianapolis Colts, told me he was embarrassed by the remarks. "It's embarrassing to the team and the sport," said Gibbs. Football, he said, is not an individual sport like boxing. "The players represent a team, and what one player does reflects on the others and the organization." Gibbs also noted there is more bravado among some coaches than when he was active. "When Barry Switzer says 'we kicked the (obscenity) out of 'em' (a remark made after the playoff game with Philadelphia), or 'We kicked their butts' (after Green Bay), he didn't kick anybody or anything. He wasn't even playing." Tom Landry, the former Cowboys coach some observers mistook for stoic when what they saw was self-control, tells me, "There have to be standards when kids are watching or the message is conveyed that swearing and other bad behavior is the right thing to do." Landry believes the use of obscenities during interviews and • on the field is getting worse. He notes that most people can read the lips of coaches when they are cursing. Landry thinks the NFL ought to do something. So do I. Currently, the league has a rule that fines players for making obscene gestures during a game. There are no rules for vulgar or obscene language after the game (though an unsports- manlike conduct penalty can be imposed if an official is cursed). There should be. ; When Landry and Gibbs were coaching, they set personal and professional standards 1 that are unsurpassed. Because of their exam-, pie, players knew not to cross certain bound-' aries of behavior during and immediately after games. Out of respect for the coach/ 1 or out of their own convictions, most players' refrained from using bad language in situa-. tions that might offend the coach or embarrass' the team. That's called leadership. The NFL should extend its rule against crude gestures to include bad language, on the field and while representing professional foot-;; ball during post-game interviews. Coaches like Barry Switzer should clean up their act. His behavior is boorish and juvenile and shows 4 what my grandmother would call "bad breeding." What the players and coaches do and say on their own time is their business, but people' watching these games at home have a right to" expect that they and their children won't be." verbally assaulted and personally offended. Sponsors should weigh in. They're not spending millions of dollars to offend viewers. '\ Professional sports is a major entertainment '. industry and healthy escape for many of us. The NFL would do well to make sure that any' mud stays on the field and out of the mouths of some of its players. DOONESBURY FLASHBACKS By G.B. TRUDEAU. UM... MR.CWWAH, THAT CON&&&!ONAt, UNP0&6HT! ZDUNPS&R! GeTAGtlP ONWI&N& FRQMTHZ OU?flAY- MOK...

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