Cheney's right to frank advice in private

"Cheney's Obstinacy" (Jan. 30, Editorial) addressed Dick Cheney's refusal to reveal information about the creation of the energy plan. I agree with his actions. It is essential to conduct frank conversations with private individuals in order to assist in policy creation. Congress certainly knows this, and by asking Mr. Cheney to reveal information may be attempting to score political points. I applaud Cheney for his principled stand. He could take the easy path of releasing the information. His refusal to do so was not a good political move, but a refreshing stand for principle.

Kiki Lang
St. Louis

Vice President Dick Cheney should be allowed to keep the actual names of the participants of his energy meetings secret. All one needs to do to find out what advice he was given is read the energy plan. What I would like to know is how much Enron stock each of these anonymous "advisers" owned at the time of the meetings, at what price each of them bought the stock, the date they sold the stock, and the price of the stock when they sold it. Mr. Cheney would have his "privacy" protected, as would the participants in his meetings, and the public would have more than it needs to know.

Ronald Rubin
Topanga, Calif.

Your editorial states, "Members of Congress wouldn't want to reveal details about meetings with big donors to their campaigns or political parties. Why shouldn't there be as much sunshine on all contacts between lobbyists and policy makers as Democrats are now demanding of Cheney?" It has to do with the essential and practical differences between the legislative and executive branches.

Even if a lobbyist persuades a member of Congress to adopt a particular position, that lobbyist knows that he's persuaded only one legislative vote out of several hundred. But if the lobbyist persuades the president or vice president, he's gotten the backing of the entire executive branch, which is no small advantage. The potential for abuse of the system is much greater when the target of influence is a president or vice president, so the standards for disclosures of such attempts should be greater, too.

Steven Randolph
Lakeland, Fla.

Big Brother in the neighborhood

"Tapping volunteers in a war" (Jan. 31, Editorial) which addressed the Bush administration's plan to call on volunteers, shook me a bit. You stated the plan would "... double the size of the Neighborhood Watch program in which citizens report suspicious activity." This brought to mind Fidel Castro's Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.

While serving in Cuba in the diplomatic service, I learned how fear can go far astray. In Cuba, committees were on every block, and neighbors spied on neighbors to be sure there was no suspicious activity. What was considered suspicious activity became wide indeed. While I'm sure President Bush is no Fidel Castro, nor is our national Neighborhood Watch wrong-intended, I see need to take real care in expanding this program.

June Sullivan
Lawrence, N.Y.

Prenatal care, not fetus's rights

The Bush administration announced it wants to let states classify a fetus as an unborn child so low-income women can qualify for prenatal care. This is a frightening proposition. It chips away at abortion rights, while pretending to be doing something helpful for women. To be really helpful to women, simply change the intent and language of this proposal to expand prenatal care to all women who want it. Period.

Gail G. Murray
West Greenwich, R.I.

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