Limit on Reagan's Policy Moves

The article by Cheney and Fein is an insult, both to the memory of Abraham Lincoln and the intelligence of your readers. They state that the "constitutional prerogatives asserted by President Reagan over national security or foreign policy parallel venerated paths pioneered by President Abraham Lincoln . . ." This outrageous distortion would be comical had it not come from the ranking Republican on the House Iran-contra committee.

First, President Lincoln was dealing with men committing acts of treason against the United States, while the nation was in the midst of a bloody war against itself. The country's very survival was far from certain. To compare that situation with the Iran-contra fiasco, with its overtones of personal profit motives, is ludicrous at best.

Second, Lincoln had the integrity to recognize and admit he was skating on thin constitutional ice in suspending habeas corpus. He never claimed he "didn't know" or "didn't remember" he had jeopardized an important constitutional safeguard. In his judgment, and in the judgment of his countrymen for whom he saved the Union (to paraphrase the inscription as the Lincoln Memorial), suspending habeas corpus was a necessary evil required to preserve a United States at war. He was open and honest about what he did, and why.

Third, the thrust of Cheney and Fein's article is that Reagan acted well within the law, and not in disobedience of it. Yet, while they claim Lincoln's acts were in "disobedience" of the law, they cite his actions as support for Reagan's. In other words, "Reagan didn't break the law, because Lincoln did and it was all right." I realize the authors are politicians, but does that put them above the laws of logic, too?

By exploiting the names of Lincoln, and F.D.R., Cheney and Fein use the oldest trick in the political book. "Innocence by association." But it doesn't wash. Lincoln never secretly sought the backing of foreign governments or private individuals to undermine an independent, sovereign state, or anything even remotely resembling such activity.

RUSSELL S. KUSSMAN

Beverly Hills

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