Presidents Day is a diminished observance.
On this Presidents Day, it is beholden upon us to look backward in time and reacquaint ourselves with those outstanding contributions made by two of America's presidents, Washington (the first) and Lincoln (the 16th).
It was predestined that each would be selected to play a dramatic role in America's birth and destiny. It was Washington who had a major role in the creation of a unique form of government that had no previous counterpart in history, while Lincoln, a century later, at a time when we sought to tear that great entity apart, fought courageously to preserve it.
Dutifully we have erected monuments that memorialize their images, and each one serves as a reminder to remember, but the true understanding of what their contributions have been lies not in the stone and granite that meets the eye but in those freedoms we take for granted.
Fortunately there were a few others among our 41 presidents who arrived at the moment when they were needed most, but unmatched were the arrivals of a Washington and a Lincoln, the former at a nation's birth, the latter at its near demise; yet the impact of those two moments somehow often escapes us.
So, in our infinite wisdom, we decided to diminish the individuality of each by combining Feb. 12 and Feb. 22 into a Feb. 17 observance, an economic decision that denies to two great leaders the earned privilege of being honored separately _ and individually _ and for that reason, Presidents Day does not fully reflect the homage that is due to each.
Sadly, in these latter days, we see many attempts to rewrite history and to diminish the images of those whom we look upon as heroes and role models. The task to further do so to a Washington and a Lincoln will be difficult indeed.
Edward G. DiPanni Sr., Clearwater
Yes, it does matter
Re: Did he? Didn't he? Does it matter? by Ellen Debenport, Feb. 9.
Poor Bill Clinton. Yes, it does matter! Perhaps now, the truth will begin to surface.
In answer to the question _ does it matter if a candidate served or did not serve in the military, volunteered or was drafted, or avoided being drafted _ yes, it does matter!
How can you say "for some, the decision not to fight was as difficult, heroic and patriotic as the decision to enlist"? My dictionary says: A hero is one who is admired for his achievements and qualities; a patriot is one who loves his country and zealously supports its authority and interests. You ask, "Is there some character flaw in evidence of his draft dodging?" Yes, there is!
There were many 22-year-olds from all over America who did not want to go to war, but they did go when they were called. And, yes, we also lost some 22-year-old friends in that war. Yes, it does matter. A presidential candidate should be of good moral character.
Yes, Gov. Bill Clinton does have character flaws:
Strike 1: the Gennifer Flowers affair.
Strike 2: the "draft story."
Will Strike 3 be the New Hampshire voters striking him out as a candidate?
Yes, it does matter! And yes, I am a World War II veteran.
Charles Sorochty, Seminole
Re: Did he? Didn't he? Does it matter?
After reading the article by Ellen Debenport, I have to wonder where the Times and said reporter were during the Korean "police action," "conflict" or whatever it is presently called. For those of us who were there, it was a war.
It was also an unpopular war, like Vietnam, and there were approximately the same number of lives lost (58,000-plus) as Vietnam, and we were not welcomed back when we came home.
In addition, we are still trying hard to get a memorial built in Washington but have been sidetracked by everyone who has any say-so in such matters. At the present time, we have the money to build the monument but do not have permission to do so.
I and a lot of other Korean vets would appreciate it if we were at least remembered by the country we willingly fought for. The Times could help in this by including the Korean War when referring to past conflicts. Too often, it is omitted.
Charles R. Grauel, Seminole
Re: Did he? Didn't he? Does it matter? by Ellen Debenport, Feb. 9.
It does matter a great deal to me. If he (Bill Clinton) is innocent, it's a deadly personality assassination. If he's guilty, his credibility is lost. Is honor not a requirement for presidential qualification?
Eileen Choate, Clearwater
Re: Quayle wants Clinton draft case looked at, Feb. 8.
Isn't this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?
Bill Hoth, Clearwater
I cannot say if Bill Clinton is the right or wrong person to be president, but what I would like to say is: How about interviewing all the people griping about Clinton's past about their own past? Get down to the nitty-gritty background of all politicians.
It is my belief that more than 90 percent of these people probably have had something in their past to feel so strongly on judging another person.
The Democrats don't have enough fortitude to really try to find the dirt; if you don't believe that, think back to the Thomas-Hill hearing.
To give people something else to grumble about: How about airplane ditching, along with draft dodging? How about a mistress instead of a "First Lady" in the White House?
Get off all the candidates' backs and start thinking about what each one is saying, and if they can accomplish what they say.
Carrie E. Tobin, Port Richey
Cash on the line
When I was a little fella in the 1920s, my father had a small clothing store in a town of about 4,000 people in a farming area. He had a suit club _ his customers would come in, give him 50 cents or $1 a week, and after a certain number of weeks, the customer would get his suit. If he could not afford to keep up his payments, my father would give him his money back.
Down the street was a lunch wagon where people in the area would eat quite frequently. In front of the cash register was a sign, "In God we trust. Everyone else pays cash." There were no MasterCards, American Express or Visa cards.
What happened to cash on the line?
Maurice Broden, St. Petersburg
Facts speak for themselves
I was pleased to read over the past weeks that someone _ namely, the St. Petersburg Times _ was able to tell the truth about our judges and attorneys and how they protect each other. The facts speak for themselves.
The attorney who wrote a long letter and referred to specific meetings of the Florida Supreme Court and the Second and Third District Courts of Appeal was trying to justify the decisions made by these judges and attorneys. What more proof do we need that the cover-up goes all the way to the top? These courts must protect their own.
We have the same thing in the Legislature.
J. Carlson, Largo
Re: What fathers fail to teach sons, by William Raspberry, Jan. 24.
Raspberry dismisses the conclusions of Myriam Miedzian (in her book Boys Will Be Boys), who argues that "the notions fathers traditionally tried to convey to sons _ toughness, competitiveness, holding back the tears _ reinforce in their sons just those qualities that serve to desensitize them, and make them more prone to commit violent acts, or condone them." Raspberry embraces the undocumented conclusions of David Blankenhorn that "boys raised by traditionally masculine fathers generally do not commit crimes."
Where is the logic and/or empirical data for this simplistic conclusion? Are we to believe that there were no violent criminals in the United States, or the rest of the known world, prior to 1960? Please don't insult our intelligence.
Perhaps what the world needs more of today are those strong, nurturing fathers who teach their sons (and daughters) to protect those who are vulnerable ("the widow, the orphan and the stranger") and also "to show mercy, seek justice and walk humbly." These ancient ethical values have provided a moral force which has had intermittent success in giving direction to Western civilization for several thousand years. These values _ which should qualify as being sufficiently traditional _ represent recurring themes in the ethical teaching of the Torah (Old Testament). They encapsulate the quintessential qualities that distinguish human beings.
This is what my late father taught me, by his acts and deeds, and that is what I hope to teach my children, as well. The late Harvard historian George Santayana reminded us that "those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it."
Saul Korn, St. Petersburg
Re: CIA gets green light, Feb. 8.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Although $30-million is probably an overkill to assassinate any world leader, it sure is cheaper than $100+-billion squandered on Operation Desert Storm. Bush based this aggressive move under the guise of stopping this "Hitler" (whom we supported until he stepped on the toes of American oil companies). What Bush accomplished was the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent civilians, the economic destruction of a country, and an ecological holocaust from massive oil spills and burning oil wells.
One hundred billion dollars could really boost our sagging economy, needy school systems, health programs, the homeless situation, etc.
Furthermore, to announce an operation of this magnitude is not covert, it is a publicity stunt for re-election.
Mike Paul, St. Petersburg
While reading your Jan. 16, editorial, The gulf war's dubious legacy, in which you admit that "Saddam Hussein had to be stopped from devouring his neighbors, controlling a good chunk of the world's oil supply and building a deadly war machine that might eventually have threatened global stability," I could not help but compare those words with what was being said by liberals in Congress and the media in the months before the war began, when, taking a cue from such as Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sen. John Glenn and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the media gave voice to every nay-saying "military expert," political hack and professional protester that it could find. If ever there was a time in the history of this nation that it could be said, a fifth column exists, it was in the months prior to Jan. 15, 1991.
Robert Weiss, St. Petersburg
Share your opinions
We invite readers to write to us. Letters for publication should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, 33731. Or they can be sent by facsimile machine by calling the Times' fax number: 893-8675. They should be brief and must include the handwritten signature and address of the writer.
Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length. We regret that not all letters can be printed.