When the Chinese head of state visited Clinton in the White House some time back, the question of Taiwan came up. He said that during his visit he was surrounded on all sides by momentos of and memorials to Abraham Lincoln. He pointed out that Lincoln had dealt with a problem identical to that of Taiwan. If someone is part of the Union and tries to act otherwise, he said, Lincoln had a solution. A Final Solution.

Clinton said the situations were absolutely different, but he failed to name a single difference. Now East Timor is seceding from Indonesia, and the Indonesian forces are in there killing them. Once again, the Lincoln Solution. Clinton says East Timor should be independent because they VOTED for independence.

They had referenda on secession in Virginia and Tennessee in 1861. The vote was better than two to one for secession. Lincoln never claimed the Southern States didn't WANT independence. He said specifically that he was not fighting the war about slavery or anything else. He was invading the South in order to force them, against their will, to be part of the Union. Every respectable conservative, North and South, would be happy to kill anybody to preserve the Union. But they condemn China's threat to use force to reunite Taiwan to China. Respectable conservatives are also upset that Indonesia is using the Lincoln Solution against East Timor. To be a respectable conservative, each of these opinions is required. If you have a logical mind, being respectable is terribly complicated.

Let's see if I can list the respectable conservative positions without a scorecard in my hand

Independence for the South was the Ultimate Evil. But East Timor deserves full United States and world backing. Independence in Europe is OK if we make sure that every independent state is ethnically balanced (See June 12 article, "Busing By Bomber"). As I make clear in "Busing By Bomber," the United States is willing to use force to integrate all European countries.

On the other hand, the United States supports the reunification of China, which is a racially homogeneous country. All Chinese should be united, just as no European country must be allowed such racial homogeneity.

"Asia for the Asians, Africa for the Africans, and Europe for everybody."

And for each of these goals, all respectable conservatives are ready to fight. As for me, I can't even keep all this straight, much less fight for it.

Maybe I'm just not clever enough to be respectable.

The problem is, of course, that I think in a straight line.

By contrast, one who wants to be respectable must have his eyes exclusively on what liberals consider acceptable. Since what passes for liberal thought is snakelike, you cannot stay within the limits they lay down for respectability at any given moment unless you are able to curve and switch around behind them. Respectability allows no room for a straight line.