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Letters to the Editor

the whole record

While Mary Ann Sorrentinoís article "US Military Should Go Beyond ĎDonít Ask, Donít Tell,í " (This just in, News, November 25) rightfully points out the glaring inequities of "Donít Ask, Donít Tell," she incorrectly writes that, "Under DADT gay soldiers and sailors must face dishonorable discharge if they are outed in any way." In fact, "Donít Ask, Donít Tell" discharge characterizations are based on the service memberís overall military record. A service member with a good military record should receive an honorable discharge under "Donít Ask, Donít Tell." An honorable discharge makes a significant difference in terms of benefits such as the GI Bill and veteran health benefits. While the "homosexual conduct" stamp on discharge paperwork often negatively impacts the service memberís quest for civilian employment, the honorable vs. dishonorable distinction is still important in distinguishing a service memberís overall record in the armed forces.

Rebecca Sawyer

Communications Associate

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

Washington, DC

r.i. gop should embrace conservative values

Rhode Island Young Republican President Mia Caetano description of herself in the Phoenix ("The young and the restless," News, December 9) as a "fiscal conservative and social moderate" ó the classic hedge offered by Republican country club liberals and business-oriented moderates seeking to disassociate themselves from the Republican Partyís conservative wing ó should delight Rhode Island Democrats. Republican self-disassociation from conservatism can only negatively impact the fortunes of the Republican Party.

In states where the Republican Party is strong, business-oriented moderates and social conservatives find a way to work together. And, contrary to popular belief, there are social conservatives in Rhode Island. As the New Republicís Franklin Foer recently explained, social conservatism has at least two distinct components; "Evangelicals supply the political energy, Catholics the intellectual heft."

In a very Catholic, not very Evangelical area like Rhode Island, Foerís formula can be discouraging to Republicans; no evangelicals implies no energy. "No energy," unfortunately, describes the persistent state of Rhode Islandís Republican Party.

The problem for Republicans in Rhode Island is not that Catholics lack energy. The problem (not really a problem at all, many would agree) is that Catholics possess a wariness of mixing religion and politics not shared by Evangelicals. By convincing a large segment of the population that not everything done by government is political ó Democrats believe that programs in areas like poverty relief or health-care can be managed by "experts," who will run things in a way that rises above politics ó the Democrats have built a governing coalition that appeals to social conservatives who donít like any mixing of religion and politics.

But no government program is apolitical. The supposed experts, well meaning though they may be, become corrupted by the political process and come to see success in bending government to their will as an end to itself. This corruption of focus is how you end up with the present situation in Rhode Island ó high taxes, a $60 million shortfall (when most other states are running surpluses), generous social service benefits, and high poverty rates all at the same time.

Big-government liberals, undaunted by the contradictions, are always ready to argue that a little more spending, paid for with higher tax rates, can ameliorate any problems. Republicans who reject any conservatism but fiscal conservatism are woefully ineffective in countering this message. This is because the "socially moderate but fiscally conservative" position is not nearly as popular as moderate Republicans imagine that it is.

Combining laissez-faire social moderation with programs for cutting budgets produces a message that sounds as harsh as any "judgmental" message delivered by social conservatives; go ahead and behave any way you want, just donít expect government to help you through any negative unforeseen consequences of your actions; youíre on your own if you make a mistake. The other alternative for moderate Republicans, redefining fiscal conservatism as spending just a little bit less than big government liberals, leads Republicans to become pale, unnecessary shadows of their opponents.

Either way, socially moderate, fiscally conservative Republicans, standing alone, lack a compelling case for why they should lead. To attract voters to their party, the Republican Party in Rhode Island must tap into social conservatismís energy and the intellectual heft. The way for them to start is to stop reflexively running from the conservative label.

Rhode Island Republicans need to more robustly embrace the arguments that define American conservatism ó [including the idea] that bringing instant gratification to individuals today can have dangerously negative impacts on society tomorrow. Republicans willing to take up these arguments in their politicking will find that they can only broaden their partyís appeal.

Carroll Andrew Morse

Contributor, Anchor Rising (www.anchorrising.com)



Issue Date: December 30, 2005 - January 5, 2006
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