A Letter from Washington; Resistance and Submission the legendary RAW DEAL Steaks, Chops, Chicken open lunch and evenings 605 Sabine, Austin No Reservations A Gang of Cut-Throats Tristram Coffin publishes the bimonthly Washington Spectator, a fourpage newsletter in which the seasoned Washington reporter and author usually zeroes in on one aspect of the neglect and abuse of the public interest in the capital. The paper is available for $10 a year from PO Box 442, Merrifield, Va. 22116; I subscribe and learn much from it. However, as with most of us, so with Coffin sometimes it is in an off-hand, deeply-felt letter that we best communicate the larger truth. Coffin wrote such a letter to his friend Barney Rapoport, who shared it with me; I have Coffin’s permission to quote from it. “Dear Bee,” Coffin wrote in midMarch on both sides of a page: “You must sometimes wonder, as you read the headlines, what in hell is going on in Washington? The answer is, a counter-revolution from the right, one that aims to wipe out the social progress of the last half century and bring us back to the days of Cal Coolidge. “This is a very sophisticated operation, taking advantage of the way the electronic media may influence or even control thought. The most prized possession of the counter-revolution is Reagan, for he is what we call in the game, ‘a media freak.’ He is a perfect media salesman, friendly, simple, folksy, the kind of guy who will give the same sort of message whether he is peddling a salve for piles’ itch or a tax cut. “He is being exploited by a gang of real cut-throats the military-industrial complex; those who want to cut down the forests, mine the mountains, use the water for their own immediate profit; the multi-nationals who want to milk the system, and the simpletons of the religious right. “The economic program is obviously whacky. For all the budget cutting, this is simply a transfer from such social programs as the school lunch to the military, for huge, out-moded weapons with a cost-plus contract. To accomplish this steal, Reagan and Haig talk of the Soviet `menace.’ This, again, is simply not true. The Russians are in great trouble at home and are not in any adventurous mood. The State Department document on El Salvador is simply hokum. “There is a strange and somewhat frightening comparison. When Germany was in trouble economically, Hitler and Goebbels shouted ‘communist’ and `jew’ and lied in a very authoritative voice. You begin to see this pattern emerging, with the Administration very upset by what Haig calls ‘disinformation’ by the media, as it tries to look through the veil of lies. “I think that the Administration is running into trouble on two fronts. Those who will be hit hardest by the Reagan-Stockman economic plan are shouting and shouting loudly, and this is at least confusing the politicians. But perhaps more significant, the Catholic Church is very angry at the U.S. arms and manpower shipment to El Salvador. The ruling junta, which thinly veils military control, has arrogantly decided its number one target is the priests and nuns who have been counseling and organizing the poor. So the slaughter of Catholic clergy in El Salvador has been ghastly. Actually, there are few Communists there; the opposition has been largely from the Catholic Church and has been financed by Social Democrats from Western Europe. “The mail from Catholics to Congress and the White House has been enormous, the greatest outpouring since the Vietnam war. So much so that Haig complained to the State Department press that the media has exaggerated El Salvador. “The real need today is two-fold: to get information out to the people, factual information, hard information. This is what I try to do with the Spectator. “Second, to arouse the Democratic leadership to opposition and imagination in a social and democratic program for change.” Appreciations John Jay Chapman, in On Practical Agitation, says we should not despair that there are so few reformers. In any community, it only takes one. Despite the laughter and contempt of others, this one sounds on the tuning fork of principle the highest note, and everything changes. In truth and fact everyone else in the community orients himself and herself toward the existence of that one, high note of principle, and everyone’s behavior is modified to some extent. This is Lanny Sinkin of San . Antonio. For many years he has been one of the guardians of the city’s conscience. The common term for such a person, vaguely depreciatory, is “gadfly,” but I don’t like the metaphor. First Sinkin held a position from which he was occupied with the rights and opportunities of the city’s minorities. More recently he has been the leading alarmsounder concerning the San Antonio commitment to the South Texas Nuclear Project. In this work he has been relentless, even though he has gotten nothing from it but flak and moral satisfaction. Thomas Jefferson said that the person who corrects him, points out his error, is not his foe, but his friend, for that person has told him a truth he had not known. This is the gift of the critic when he or she is right or turns out to have been right. Lanny Sinkin, who has the strength to shrug off a snicker, to bear up under his sensing of another’s contempt, is one of the best friends San Antonio has. If the city’s lucky, when Sinkin gets his law degree from The University of Texas he’ll take it on home. Lying-Down Democrats Speaker Clayton, in the Observer this issue, says the cruel budget cuts of the most reactionary American President since McKinley are OK. Good, in fact. The Democratic Speaker of the Texas legislature says we should turn over the public lands west of the Mississippi to private interests a sellaway of public treasure, the Louisiana Purchase in reverse. Yet when the Observer’s Mary Lenz asked Billy Clayton why the Texas Democrats have been losing ground to the Republicans, he said it’s because the Democratic candidates are too liberal. His idea of “a real choice of philosophy” is a choice between “conservative” and “more conservative,” and he wants the Democrats to be the “more conservative.” If this is what a Democrat is, who needs it? In Texas and in the country Democrats must start fighting for the people again. Except for a few like Doggett in Austin and Kennedy in Washington they certainly aren’t doing it now. R. D. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29
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