ONE OF THE cartoonists in the Drawing Board two Saturdays ago depicted Interior Secretary James G. Watt making, one after another, some of his most inflammatory and tasteless remarks of the past couple of years, while President Reagan did nothing more than stand by and look bemused. Only when Mr. Watt uttered his now-famous slur on the Beach Boys did the president finally react, observing that this was a "stupid" thing to say. More people than Mr. Reagan have responded this way to our ineffable interior secretary. The correspondence we have received at The Post on this question greatly outweighs any previous burst of letters concerning Mr. Watt, and we note that we ourselves have let some of his worst remarks go by on more than one occasion only to be provoked to criticism by the Beach Boys episode. This odd phenomenon has been on our mind ever since we read some further comments Mr. Watt made in his interview with Phil McCombs of The Post on a subject of vastly greater importance than that which set off the previous squall.
You will have guessed that what has troubled us --the Watt-isms we have decided we just can't let go by--were those he made in connection with the commemoration of the Holocaust and the discussion going on about establishment of a Holocaust memorial museum. Both the secretary and his wife were quoted in an interview concerning all this, and we need to say at once that it was not the remarks of Leilani Watt comparing the death camp horror to what she regards as the crime of abortion with which we take issue. Although we do not see the connection the same way Mrs. Watt does, we do respect the view of those for whom abortion is an issue of intense moral meaning and horror. No, the offense lay with Mr. Watt. Is there anyone else in public life today capable of so tasteless and insensitive a failure of humility as his? Could anyone else addressing the lot of those cast into the Nazi extermination camps suggest that his own "persecution" at the hands of the American media and various political critics gives him special insight into the forces that produced the Holocaust? It really requires a breathtaking inability to feel or even understand what those people endured and what the meaning was of those death camps to relate it in any way, even so tangentially, to one's own tribulations as secretary of the interior in the Reagan administration and member of a flourishing American Protestant church. Try to imagine yourself contemplating the Holocaust, reading the stories of what the survivors went through and then saying that you really do have a special understanding of their plight because you yourself have had to put up with so much.
Now there is a remark worthy of the volume of mail the secretary's last indiscretion generated. Compared with his feelings about the Holocaust the Beach Boys are real kid stuff.