One of America's finest examples of loose lips in action has accused Massachusetts Gov. William Weld of being too "loose with his lips" to become US ambassador to Mexico.
It's a free country, and Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is entitled to speak with characteristic frankness. There's only one problem: Governor Weld would make a first-rate ambassador to Mexico.
There are really two matters at issue here: (1) Should Washington send one of its best diplomats to Mexico City, as it usually does to Germany, Japan, Russia, China, and other big players on the world chess board? (2) Is Weld such a candidate?
The answer to (1) is decidedly yes. Not because Mexico is a neighbor, but because it is an increasingly important neighbor. Most Americans realize that, on matters ranging from immigration to jobs, drugs to crime, and the prices of consumer goods, vegetables, fruits, and oil, Mexico matters a lot. So do the effects of its long, foot-dragging march to true multiparty democracy and the rebellions accompanying it. Furthermore, how the US deals with Mexico is closely watched in the rest of Latin America.
The answer to (2) is also a flat yes. Weld has been an effective governor. His policies, beguilingly sold to a reluctant Democratic legislature, have put the state's once-shaky financial house in order. His background as Ronald Reagan's assistant attorney general running the criminal division provides a strong credential for dealing with intertwined issues of drugs, crime, and corruption, issues that bedevil US-Mexican relations. He is known for the winning affability with which he pushes tough policies. And he speaks Spanish.
We differ with Weld on his support for casino gambling and medical use of marijuana. But neither is at issue in this case, and he's otherwise tough on drugs and dealers.
It's good news that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, another charmingly frank member of the loose-lip honor society and lately a buddy of Senator Helms, will intercede on Weld's behalf. And yet another blunt speaker, conservative Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, supports Weld. But in the end the best salesman will be Bill Weld himself, meeting Helms in a loose-lips summit. We hope the courtly North Carolinian will invite Weld to such a summit soon.