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President Fires Joycelyn Elders

As a Clinton supporter, I am very disappointed that the President fired Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders for speaking on masturbation (Dec. 10), while Ronald Reagan let Surgeon General C. Everett Koop speak his mind on AIDS, birth control and condom use--all positions with which Reagan disagreed--for both of the former President’s terms. Perhaps Reagan recognized that doctors speak of things, in clear, uncensored language, in a way that politicians cannot.

I have never seen such sore winners as the Republicans are this year. Their call for Elders’ head heralds some very dark days to come. Clinton needs to learn a lesson from this, a lesson he seems loath to learn: You cannot appease your enemies by sacrificing your friends. You will lose your friends and your enemies will call you a coward.

DAVID VAN CHANEY, West Hollywood

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It is good to see Clinton moving to the right. He may not have, as yet, fully embraced “Three strikes and you’re out” but at least “Three faux pas and you’re out” is a start.

WARREN M. LENT, Los Angeles

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“She Pulled No Punches” (editorial, Dec. 10) is surprisingly acute and on target, both as to the rationale for Elders’ dismissal as surgeon general and as to the lamentable restraint on public discourse in our country--suffered by those who do their homework well and let us know what they think.

I think it cheeky of you to offer kind words at all for one who frequently shoots from the lip. She is the Jesse Helms of the left, though with far kinder heart and broader perspective. I will miss her in the way one misses sitting on the edge of the chair when someone rises to speak, half-afraid yet hoping some truth will out.

On the masturbation comment that got her canned, the practice needs no encouragement from the classroom. Bravo, Dr. Elders, and keep talking straight. You are in the grand tradition of free speech.

VERNON STORY, Community United Methodist Church, Desert Hot Springs

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Being outspoken is not a virtue worth defending when what you have to say is just plain dumb. Which is why I can’t believe you would write an editorial supporting Elders. This woman has embarrassed herself virtually every time she has opened her inarticulate mouth. Have you not been listening?

Whatever has kept Clinton from firing her before this is a mystery. The number of mind-numbing statements made by this surgeon general over the last two years is far too extensive to list here but to me, her most classic remark had to do with violence in America: “We need safer weapons and safer bullets,” said she. No further comment.

JUDIE GAUGENMAIER, Studio City

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It fascinates me that we will accept political babble and allow ourselves to go into denial, and when we are confronted with the truth as given to us by Elders we rebuke the truth and the messenger.

BEN BOELMAN, Placentia

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Dr. Jack Kevorkian would have been a better choice for surgeon general than Elders.

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DWIGHT M. CATES, Ventura


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