Abuse of Power Didn't Peak With Watergate

I appreciate the Monitor's high level of journalism, but I wish to take issue with a point in "Anniversary-gate" (June 17), the editorial on Watergate and Clinton's campaign finance woes. There is a widespread problem with the news media using Watergate as the pinnacle of abuse of executive authority (as evidenced by the overused "gate" suffix).

We have a more recent and far graver case in the Reagan administration's Iran-contra scandal. While Watergate was clearly a serious criminal abuse of power, the National Security Council (NSC) under Reagan not only sold weapons to Iran to fund the Nicaraguan contras, both illegal activities, but it also made the NSC an extra-constitutional shadow government, complete with budget and foreign policy.

Cloaked in "patriotism," this resulted in virtually no repercussions for the actors, thanks in part to George Bush's unconscionable pre-trial pardon of Caspar Weinberger. The lack of consequences for the criminal activity of the NSC and probably the executive branch should give us pause when considering whether our democracy can be threatened from within.

The Iran-contra scandal has made little impact on the public consciousness. Part of the responsibility lies with the news media's passing references to it and fixation on Watergate. I would hope the Monitor would give Iran-contra the infamous place it deserves.

Rafael K. Reyes

San Francisco

Another vote for Amtrak

As a member of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) and a Future Travel Professional member of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), I must respond to your "Getting Amtrak on Track" (June 19) editorial.

I have used Amtrak for three long-distance round trips in the past seven years and experienced the difference that capital improvements can make - new coach/sleeper cars, delicious food service, and friendly staff who truly enjoy their jobs.

On these routes, 79 miles per hour is unfortunately the rule. Confined to the miserable freight tracks, Amtrak has no dedicated swift rails of its own.

Did you know that 70 percent of business travel between Washington and New York is via Amtrak, not by air or car? Just imagine what the future might bring to the Northeast Corridor (Washington to New York in under two hours)!

The Monitor correctly states that Amtrak will get a "barely sustaining subsidy" from Congress this year. I have written my elected officials in support of H.R. 1437 and S. 436, which would earmark part of the federal gasoline tax for passenger rail capital improvements. Sen. John Warner (R) of Virginia is one of the co-sponsors of S. 436, and I am grateful for his dedication to the cause. I challenge all NARP/ASTA members, rail fans, and travel buffs to do the same.

Just say NO to planes and automobiles! If you have not ridden the rails recently and want to experience a relaxed, pleasant mode of travel, next time (to quote an old railroad slogan) try the train!

Anne Marie Gunther

Springfield, Va.

Crediting African-Americans

Thank you for printing "Black Businesses Get Boost From Jewish Custom" (May 22), the wire service article on the work being done in Seattle between the African-American and Jewish communities.

There was one serious error to be corrected. Campaign 5000 was not started by the Jewish community. It was the brainchild of Robert L. Jeffrey, executive director of The Black Dollar Days Task Force. Dr. Jeffrey has worked tirelessly since 1986 to help develop a vibrant, economically solid African-American business community in Seattle.

The credit needs to be given to the African-Americans who on a daily basis are building economic self-sufficiency, the very essence of the project.

Stefan Merken


Co-chair of the African American/Jewish Coalition for Justice

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