Several words were dropped from a sentence in yesterday's article by Elizabeth Drew on the op-ed page. The sentence should have read as follows: "The verification issues would, it seems, be no different from those involved in arms reductions negotiations--they may even be more difficult, since they would be dealing with harder-to- verify things like technological improvements than more easily countable things like launchers and warheads."

One of the less inspiring, if not uncommon, spectacles is the sight of politicians rushing to get to the head of a parade. The Democratic candidates' attempts to stay in front of the freeze movement--for the purpose of capturing its support, or of not getting run over by it--is just such a sight. It is an exercise that could bring both the politicians and the movement to grief.

A declaration that one is four-square in favor of a nuclear freeze is a guaranteed applause line, but that's about all it is. It doesn't answer the hard questions about arms control, questions that the candidates know exist. In that sense, they are not leveling with the public, or with the following they are courting.

The politicians know, and some of them even say, that the freeze movement is a rallying point. It is, truth be told, more of a cri de coeur than a policy, an understandable cry to stop it. When the freeze idea was taken to Capitol Hill, in search of sponsorship, the members of Congress who agreed to back it imposed their own requirements in order to give it political protection: the freeze must be bilateral (not unilateral), negotiated and verifiable. What the original freeze resolution said was that the United States and the Soviet Union should "decide when and how to achieve a mutual verifiable freeze, on the testing, production, and further deployment of nuclear warheads, missiles and other delivery systems." The "when and how" clause was put in deliberately to allow for some force modernizations. The necessarily vague wording is where the hard questions come in. Thus, when the freeze resolution came under tough questioning during the long House debate, it nearly collapsed. What in the end emerged from the House was a mishmash with which all sides could claim satisfaction.

Surely, all of the Democratic candidates know that negotiating a freeze would take a very long time to achieve. Many months could pass while the negotiators wrangled over which weapons would be frozen, over verification, over timetables (as of when would a weapon be frozen? while the negotiations are going on? can testing go on?), over improvements of subsystems (for example, changing a computer program to improve a missile's accuracy). Then, such an agreement would have to meet with political acceptance in the United States-- which, history tells us, does not happen easily. (Would a freeze agreement be considered a treaty? Certainly, Congress would insist on some sort of voice in what was to be agreed upon.)

So, one big question is--and the Democratic candidates should give us an answer on this--if it comes to a choice, is it more worthwhile for a president to use his time and his political capital focusing on negotiating a freeze, or on getting on with arms reductions talks? What would be his priority? Or would he settle for a limited agreement--one that doesn't go nearly as far as most freeze supporters have in mind-- while talks continue?

One answer that has been offered by some politicians who say they support the freeze is that freeze negotiations could happen quickly. How do they know that? It would take a fair amount of time to decide whether, say, cruise missiles or the new Soviet submarine should be included. The verification issues would, it seems, be no different from those involved in arms-reductions negotiations--they may even be more difficult, since they would be dealing with harder-to-verify things like launchers and warheads. In fact, the more one thinks about it, the more the freeze negotiations sound like arms-reductions negotiations, without the reductions. And some of the things that even people--including the candidates--who truly favor arms control want to do in the name of "modernization" are precisely the kinds of things that backers of a freeze want to stop.

That brings up a second big question. What weapons would the candidates like to proceed with, and how do they square that with calling for a freeze? There are variations among them, but the candidates do want to go ahead with new weapons. They are against the MX, but they are for various versions of the cruise missile, some of which could be difficult or impossible to detect and could add to anxieties and uncertainties over the nuclear balance. Some are for the new Trident II submarine-launched missile, which is to have a warhead that can destroy hardened Soviet silos and, therefore, can be a first-strike weapon. Alan Cranston is for the B1 bomber, and others oppose that but are for the Stealth bomber (Cranston and Gary Hart say they favor the development of the Stealth technology). Several of them are for the single-warhead missile that is now all the rage, but which may also cause arms control (not to mention political) problems, down the road. They are for making land-based missiles still more accurate.

The Democratic candidates racing to the front of the freeze line haven't spent a lot of time talking about these things. They are pandering to, and therefore not really showing respect for, a movement whose intensity they seek to capitalize on, or at least not get in the way of. They have allowed themselves to get trapped between the political urge to appeal to emotions and the less gratifying (as yet) task of dwelling on hard choices. But since they know better, don't they have a responsibility to educate their following? (And please let's have no more talk about how soon they would meet with Andropov: too soon is not without its risks.)

This country has had enough experience with politicians ducking the hard questions, and setting it up for disappointment. It would seem that the last thing our political system needs is yet another bout of cynicism.

Elizabeth Drew writes for The New Yorker. that with calling for a freeze? There are variations among them, but the candidates do want to go ahead with new weapons. They are against the MX, but they are for various versions of the cruise missile, some of which could be difficult or impossible to detect and could add to anxieties and uncertainties over the nuclear balance. Some are for the new Trident II submarine-launched missile, which is to have a warhead that can destroy hardened Soviet silos and, therefore, can be a first-strike weapon. Alan Cranston is for the B1 bomber, and others oppose that but are for the Stealth bomber (Cranston and Gary Hart say they favor the development of the Stealth technology). Several of them are for the single-warhead missile that is now all the rage, but which may also cause arms control (not to mention political) problems, down the road. They are for making land-based missiles still more accurate.

The Democratic candidates racing to the front of the freeze line haven't spent a lot of time talking about these things. They are pandering to, and therefore not really showing respect for, a movement whose intensity they seek to capitalize on, or at least not get in the way of. They have allowed themselves to get trapped between the political urge to appeal to emotions and the less gratifying (as yet) task of dwelling on hard choices. But since they know better, don't they have a responsibility to educate their following? (And please let's have no more talk about how soon they would meet with Andropov: too soon is not without its risks.)

This country has had enough experience with politicians ducking the hard questions, and setting it up for disappointment. It would seem that the last thing our political system needs is yet another bout of cynicism.