Letters to the Editor

Congress would be wise to reconsider women in combat

The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.:

For whatever reason, Republicans in the House of Representatives felt moved recently to sharply cut back on the ways in which female soldiers could provide support for combat units.

The misguided effort lasted barely a week, its sponsors retreating under a barrage of complaints from the Pentagon, which pointed out the proposed restrictions could seriously impede women's military careers by locking them out of nearly 22,000 positions.

The reality of Iraq got through to the bill's sponsors, including Rep. John M. McHugh, R-Watertown. He amended his original measure so that it now spells out the Defense Department's current policy banning women from combat units and requires a vote from Congress to permit women to serve in direct combat units.

Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee wanted to ask for a new study of women's role in the military, which makes more sense than the amended bill. Given the drastically changed face of war, the dramatic contributions being made to the effort by women and Defense Department plans for a smaller, more mobile military units, Congress would perform a valuable public service by revisiting the subject of women in combat.

Court's decision on wine deserves toast

The Herald, Rock Hill, S.C.:

Last week's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down some states' rules against direct shipments of wine from the winery to the customer was cheered as a victory for wine lovers everywhere.

But the ruling does address the unfairness of giving in-state vintners an advantage over out-of-state competitors. The goal of the majority in this case was, in effect, to level the field. If states are going to allow some direct shipments from winery to customer, everyone must play by the same rules.

Some critics argue that loosening the restrictions on out-of-state shipments will make it easier for underage buyers to purchase wine. But we doubt that many minors are going to go to the trouble and expense of trying to buy out-of-state wine when they can buy beer with a fake ID at the corner stop-and-shop.

Judicial compromise only a short reprieve

San Francisco Chronicle:

It is a measure of the current state of dysfunction in Washington that a passing breeze of rationality is hailed as something consequential, let alone statesmanlike.

The partisans on the right and left were both losing in the stalemate over judicial nominations. The average voter may not be able to define cloture, but knows the meaning of gridlock. Monday's compromise won't make it vanish. It just offered a short reprieve - with a high cost.

The future of this conflict rests with the White House. If President Bush wants to continue to nominate judges with open contempt for the environment, reproductive freedom or civil rights, then Senate Democrats should not flinch at using extraordinary means to stop them.