Clinton warrants more forgiveness, less censure

Although Bill Clinton has been out of office for months, Godfrey Sperling keeps rehashing the same old stuff ("Bill Clinton's star rises anew," Aug. 7, opinion page). He contrasts President Bush's integrity to Mr. Clinton's low ratings in the moral realm. But the jury is out as to what kind of president Mr. Bush will be. He is certainly no mental giant, and he may have character faults as well. With all Clinton's imperfections, his presidency had many positives, not the least of which was a balanced budget. After buying our votes with his tax cut, Bush will need awesome luck to avoid a return to deficit financing. Should we sink into another financial mess, I would forgive Clinton all his faults more quickly than I would forgive Bush.

John Keau Old Saybrook, Conn.

Once again, I am disappointed to see Godfrey Sperling speak negatively of Bill Clinton. To be sure, Mr. Clinton displayed unfortunate character faults during his presidency - but it is important to look at the whole person before sitting in judgment. In Clinton, we also find a devotion to those less fortunate and less powerful.

Certainly sexual morality is important to preserve a civilization - but civilization will not survive without compassion that binds up the poor and brings peace to the world. These moral assets were obvious in Clinton, and I regret that Mr. Sperling ignores these qualities.

Steve Loher Boston

Challenging US policy in Middle East

Helena Cobban speaks for many Americans ("The US should take a stand for principle in the Mideast," Aug. 9, opinion page). Bill Clinton tried to take a firm hand with Israel, urging fair negotiation with Palestinians - but he did not go far enough. I do not like supporting a nation that uses our money as Israel does, or violates our requirements that weapons we provide be used only for defense.

Allan M. Herdman Branchville, N.J.

Helena Cobban's commentary seems to place blame for violence mostly on the Israeli side, and misses several key points. When discussing US tools to reach a de-escalation of violence, Ms. Cobban explicitly states that President Bush should examine the Israeli government's policy of "extra-judicial killings" of terrorists and explore whether US arms are used in those killings.

Strangely, Cobban does not request that Mr. Bush examine the Palestinian Authority's approval of Palestinian terrorism or question whether US funds are going toward weapons used in terrorist attacks against Israel.

Additionally, Cobban states that both Palestinians and Israelis need to find a way to live together "within the land that each claims." She conveniently ignores the fact that many Palestinians, including those in Arafat's own organization, still claim that Palestinian land includes all of Israel proper.

Eric Most New York

Helena Cobban's claim that the Bush administration is "trying to ignore the [Middle East] violence in the hope that it will simply go away" is inaccurate. The Bush administration is simply waiting for Ariel Sharon to break the Palestinians' will to continue their resistance to Israeli occupation. As long as Sharon does not resort to large-scale slaughter of civilians, the current US stance will probably stay the same.

Unless the Bush administration pressures Israel to end its occupation, violence will continue: History teaches us that no people resisting foreign occupation ever had their will broken.

Salah Ezz Cairo

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