Since the attack of 9-11, we've won two wars, liberated millions of people from monstrous regimes, presided over one election in Afghanistan and are about to see elections in Iraq and among the Palestinian people. Focusing like a laser beam on the big picture, liberals are upset that, during this period, the secretary of defense used an autopen.
An autopen is a mechanical arm that actually holds a pen and is programmed to sign letters with a particular person's precise signature. Imagine a President Al Gore, with slightly more personality, signing all official government letters ? that's an autopen. (You can relax now, there will be no more exercises imagining a President Al Gore.)
There are 300 million Americans who have a constitutional right ? an actual right, not a phony one invented by Harry Blackmun ? to write to government officials. Every government office you've ever heard of in Washington, D.C., uses autopens with abandon.
As president, Clinton sold burial plots in Arlington Cemetery and liberals shrugged it off. What really gets their goat is the autopen. Evidently, the important thing was that every one of those pardons Clinton sold for cash on his last day in office was signed by Bill Clinton personally.
It occurred to someone (who obviously has the best interests of America at heart!) that among the letters Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sends out there must be condolence letters to the families of servicemen who died for their country. So liberals are in a lather that those letters were signed by autopen.
On the bright side, this is the first war America has been in where the number of casualties is small enough that it would even be theoretically possible for a Defense secretary to sign each condolence letter personally. When Democrats were running the Vietnam War, letters of condolence often began, "To whom it may concern" and were addressed to "occupant."
Most politicians were mum about Autopen-gate, inasmuch as they respond to letters from constituents with dying children in letters signed by autopen. Not Sen. Chuck Hagel, D-Neb. He criticized Rumsfeld for the autopen, saying: "My goodness, that's the least that we could expect out of the secretary of defense, is having some personal attention paid by him."
It would save everyone a lot of trouble if the New York Times would just go ahead and put Hagel on the cover of the Sunday magazine with the headline: "COURAGE." Even now, Hagel can apparently count on no reporters dropping by his office to investigate whether he uses an autopen.