In a week that was all President Reagan's, from birthday songs and thunderous applause in Congress to hand-wringing confessions by the Democrats that he rules supreme to his call for a "second American revolution," it was interesting to learn more about the president and the Scriptures.
They're for him, too. At least, that's how the president puts it.
With his customarily breezy manner, Reagan twice told audiences that they "might be interested to know that the Scriptures are on our side in this." His "this" means his request for a vast increase in military spending while everything else gets slashed.
Reagan's authority for this astonishing assertion is Jesus, as recorded in Chapter 14, Verse 31, of Luke's New Testament account of the Gospel.
Until this revelation, I had always thought Luke 14 most memorable for the passage where Jesus says:
"Salt is good but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned?"
Now, thanks to the president, we discover what we've been missing all the millennia. There it sits, hidden among all those words, in Verses 31 and 32, after Jesus speaks about the importance of laying a foundation and being able to finish it:
"Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?
"Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace."
Well, there you have it. Jesus thinks we ought to increase the Pentagon budget, obviously to check the Soviets.
Now some biblical scholars, when queried about the president's reading of that passage, politely suggested that his interpretation was off-base, if not all wet. Luke's reporting of Jesus in that chapter recounts His telling of parables in a house of one of the chief Pharisees, and parables can be read many ways -- and, down through the ages, always have been.
Actually, Mr. President, there are other interesting verses in Chapter 14 that you didn't cite. They, too, appear to have a certain relevance to the debates you have ignited with your all-for-defense budget priorities.
Verses 11, 12, 13, 14:
"For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
"Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee.
"But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
"And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just."
Then there's that business about laying the proper foundation. It seems Jesus was concerned that people take into account the cost of what they plan to build. At least, that's how I read these passages:
"For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
"Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
"Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish."
Those, by the way, are Verses 28 through 30. They came just before the one you say endorses your big Pentagon budget buildup.
NOTE: Not surprisingly, my intemperate remarks in last Sunday's column about the lessons young lawyers can take from the confirmation process of Edwin Meese III -- there's profit to be made in public service cases -- drew a strong response from some members of the bar who have been involved in these kinds of cases. They deserve reply.
One such attorney, E. Robert (Bob) Wallach of San Francisco, who describes himself as a friend of Meese's for 26 years, finds my remarks "biased" and "improper" and a "misuse" of the position of a newspaper columnist. He writes: " . . . The application for fees was presented in accordance with prevailing legal costs in order to avoid any implications of special treatment for Mr. Meese." He adds: "The fee will be determined by the court pursuant to a statute that has not been previously utilized." Wallach is one of two attorneys arguing for Meese's reimbursement.
My point had nothing to do with the possible appearance of special treatment for Meese nor specifically with the statute. It was about what the lawyer delicately calls "prevailing legal costs."
Another attorney, of eminent credentials and national distinction, asks: "Is your complaint with Meese, his lawyers, the Congress that enacted the amendment to the Ethics in Government Act allowing fair fees if there is no indictment or is it the statute itself?" The answer is a bit of all of the above. But my real main concern is more generalized. As with the earlier case of Hamilton Jordan, it seems to me there's something wrong with a process that requires the expenditure of such huge legal costs by people seeking to serve the country, whether paid ultimately by the high public official or by the public itself.