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A Depressing Day's Reading

May 01, 1985

I laid aside this morning's Editorial Pages (April 23) with a renewed conviction that the man occupying the Oval Office is both stupid and ignorant, that he is obtuse and insensitive, and that, above all, he is a liar.

Saul Landau and Daniel Siegel ("Reagan's Penchant for 'Stretchers' ") refrained from using the word "liar," but they left no doubt as to what they meant.

Even their generous comparison to Huck Finn was withdrawn when they said that "Unlike Mark Twain's character, Reagan's deception is not a case of benign fibbing." That the President has "a boundless habit for telling stretchers," that he and his Cabinet "have deliberately, if not obsessively, misstated the nature of Central American realities," that he has sounded "exaggerated alarms," that the Administration has "fabricated quotes," that a "vast deception" has been practiced by the Reagan Administration, that "Congress has been deceived and misled" 77 times, according to a report by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and John M. Kerry (D-Mass.), all add up to a picture of an unconscionable liar.

Columnist Joseph Kraft ("Virtuous Motives Stumble Over a Tragedy of Errors") was equally discomfiting when he described Reagan as a "cheerful, shallow" man who suffers from "moral flabbiness." It is not reassuring to be told that our President has good intentions when we are informed that he "has frequently said silly things about the German visit, including the observation that most Germans didn't remember World War II" or that he made his shockingly offensive remark that the SS men "are victims of Nazism . . . just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps" three times before his moral blindness caught up with him. And I can only cringe at the ignorance of a man who believes "that most Germans didn't remember World War II."

Christopher Layne ("Unlimited Thirst for Quagmires?") once more reinforced my perception of Reagan as a dangerous zealot, too limited in his world view to realize that his stance on Nicaragua could lead to another Vietnam. As Layne correctly points out, "the Administration's rhetoric arouses fear that it will." He suggests that "the Administration should rethink its declaratory policy. It isn't believable, it's potentially dangerous, and it makes support for policy objectives more difficult--not easier--to achieve."

Finally, your lead editorial, "Straight Talk," reminds us that "Americans deserve some straight talk from President Reagan when he addresses them on his 1986 budget . . . ." You ask for truths that the American people want to hear from their leader in areas where, thus far, they have received pious mouthings and shallow optimism. Your plea, "Just give it to us straight, Mr. President," says, in effect, Mr. President, you have been lying to us.

A depressing day's reading. And I didn't even have Jack Smith to counteract the gloom in which I was left. My greatest consolation is that I live in a country where I can voice these opinions and even get them printed.


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