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Mark Shields is a nationally known columnist and commentator.

Stupidity is not a resignable offense

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WASHINGTON (Creators Syndicate) -- The U.S. Senate voted 77 to 23 to authorize the use of force by President George W. Bush against Iraq.

Of the nine Democratic senators voting that day who were Jewish, five of them -- Carl Levin of Michigan, the late Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Barbara Boxer of California -- voted against committing American troops to combat in the Persian Gulf.

Apparently, some people just never get the word.

If anybody asks you what Reps. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts., Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, Sander Levin, D-Michigan, Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, Susan Davis, D-California, Bob Filner, D-California, Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, have in common, you will win both the clock radio and the Vegematic by answering that all those House members are Jewish and, last October 10, every one of them voted against authorizing President Bush to use force against Iraq.

You have to agree it's a pretty lousy Jewish conspiracy when so many of the most respected and prominent public officials of that faith are not in on it. So Rep. James P. Moran, D-Virginia, did not have his facts straight when he told an antiwar forum at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in his district, "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community, we would not be doing this."

Moran has "wholeheartedly apologize(d) to anyone whom I unintentionally offended with my insensitive remarks." House Democratic leaders distanced themselves from Moran and his statement. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called Moran's words "shocking," while House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, not surprisingly found Moran's comments "very damaging."

Both Fleischer and DeLay stand accused of selective outrage. Neither man uttered a critical word about Rep. Howard Coble, R-North Carolina, who publicly stated recently that the internment of Japanese Americans during WW II was the appropriate thing to do.

But six Washington area rabbis have now called for Moran to resign from the House. For Moran to resign would be both wrong and a terrible precedent. To criticize the Bush administration's own uncritical embrace of and unswerving support for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's repressive policies toward the Palestinians is not evidence of anti-Semitism, despite the best efforts of New York Times columnist William Safire.

Any more, that is, than the questioning and criticism of the Bush administration war policy in the Persian Gulf would be evidence of anti-Americanism.

American ethnic groups -- including but not limited to Greek Americans, Irish Americans, Chinese Americans, as well as Jewish Americans -- have a specific interest in shaping U.S. policy toward the "old country." That is an honorable and established American political tradition.

Most dangerous of all would be the precedent of a public officeholder who makes a dumb and erroneous public statement being forced to resign that office. Here are just a few of those whose resignations under this rule would have been demanded: Former Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina, who said, "Democracy used to be a good thing, but now it has gotten into the wrong hands," or former Attorney General Ed Meese, who with great sensitivity said: "You don't have many suspects who are innocent of a crime. That's contradictory. If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect."

More recently, on January 27, 1998, on the "Today" show, now-Sen. Hillary Clinton, when asked about published reports accusing her presidential spouse of infidelity with a White House intern, had this to say: "The great story here ... is the vast right wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president."

Ronald Reagan was wrong when he told us that trees cause more pollution than automobiles. And even the admirable Barry Goldwater was wrong when, arguing in support of college eating and drinking groups, he said that "where fraternities are not allowed, communism flourishes."

If this dangerous Moran "Be Wrong and Resign" rule is adopted, what are we to do about a president of the United States who, on February 18, 2002 in Tokyo, offered this inspired passage of historical revisionism: "For a century and a half now, America and Japan have formed one of the great and enduring alliances of modern times." Would it be impolite to mention Tarawa, Saipan, Corregidor, Guadalcanal or Iwo Jima?

Click here for more from Creators Syndicate.

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