July 14, 1997 12:00 PM

HE JUST DIDN’T GET IT. BUT LUCKILY for him, comic-strip characters don’t have to answer to ethics committees, only to readers—which means that after a quarter century of shameless ogling, double entendres, single entendres and blatant sexism toward his secretary, Gen. Amos Halftrack is getting off easy.

For years Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker, 73, stood up to feminists who complained that the doddering soldier’s passes at the shapely Miss Buxley were less than humorous. Then came the recent slew of Army sex scandals. “I began to worry about people linking my strip to what’s happening in the military today,” says Walker. After considering retiring the general, Walker opted for a more ’90s solution: Send him to sensitivity training.

Walker’s wife, Catherine, 64, insists the cartoonist is no sexist but thinks he would benefit from such a course. “It would give him a different perspective,” says Catherine, who told him that the general’s behavior reflected “an attitude that was not acceptable to people anymore.” Rumblings that s some papers were considering pulling 5 the strip—which Walker, a World War K II veteran, created in 1950—accentuated her opinion. “I hope I’ll make a point,” says Walker of Halftrack’s July 10 apology to Miss Buxley.

But without the sexual innuendo, will the general be able to get a laugh? Walker promises that Halftrack will still be a bad golfer, a hopeless tippler and an inattentive husband. And that’s the whole point. “He has a lot of the weaknesses that many people have,” says Catherine. “And the way Mort portrays him, it allows people to laugh at themselves.”

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