[Refers to 'Get of the public payroll,' letter submitted by Stephan Eberhardt, TBT #584, Nov. 29]
Countries who manage to find a person with the qualities required to steer them out of trouble in times of necessity are indeed fortunate.
In Britain, Churchill and Margaret Thatcher come to mind although others preceded them. Ex Irish President Mary Robinson is widely acclaimed as having kick-started a going nowhere economy and giving birth to the Celtic Tiger. And even Vladimir Putin's detractors might reluctantly admit that he has lifted his country from chaos to comparative stability, potential prosperity and freedom from debt 's no mean feat.
It is not unusual for grateful nations to bestow a combination of titles, honors, pensions or grace-and-favor accommodation on those deemed worthy.
The French appear to have gone over the top:
The celebrated palace of Louis XIV at Versailles was once home to 20,000 aristocrats. Today, its illustrious apartments are inhabited rent-free by a new kind of nobility 's lucky employees of the French Republic.
So for someone to be scandalized by the provision of a state-owned, renovated flat for use by an ex-President who demonstrated veracity and rectitude during her tenure is, in my opinion, pretty narrow, mean spirited and graceless. And it is certainly not a view shared by rank and file members of the public. One middle-aged lady I spoke to showed surprise when told the flat was only a loan, she understood it had been given as a gift from the nation, and seemed disappointed.
Regarding the cost, Vike-Freiberga's very presence in office was, no doubt, instrumental in preventing even greater ministerial excesses than those already perpetrated 's sufficient to pay for the flat many times over.
Her reversal of legislation designed to rid the country of it's gatekeeper (KNAB) and hurried through by a now disgraced P.M. and his fellow trough dwellers was a stroke worthy of the highest echelons of statesmanship, and deserving of huge public gratitude.
If Stephan Eberhardt is really interested in political integrity and is not just pouring scorn on something with which he has an agenda, then instead of making sweeping statements which few will find conciliatory he could perhaps tackle one of the many real scandals at his disposal.
I offer for his attention the slow, tragic demise of Presses Nams and the job losses entailed, caused by ...yes, you've guessed it. Now that is a scandal worthy of his vitriolic indignation. Go for it!