For almost two years, I have written a national column. At first, the piece was strictly my opinions. As a friend once said, it was "just another column from a middle-aged white guy." She was right, but of course, the "middle-aged" part hurt the most. The columns would attract a few e-mails or letters each week from readers, but clearly, my weekly writing was just another in a sea of national columns. Reality is tough.
When the column became "Inside the Numbers" -- a revelation and analysis of exclusive weekly polls on all sorts of topics -- I was taken aback at the reaction. The first few columns under the new format were too heavily focused on polling results. But after a trusted editorial page editor said, "Add your opinion," I was suddenly faced with a truly enjoyable situation -- endless letters and e-mails from readers across the United States. Some agree; some are downright nasty in their disagreements. Either way, I love the feedback.
So this week, I'm taking a moment to respond to a sample of reader reactions. Please take my responses with a dose of good humor, as I do all of your letters, no matter how serious:
On the poll revealing that Americans greatly preferred George W. Bush to names like Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter or Al Gore as the leader of any possible war in Iraq:
A reader in Barstow, Calif., writes: "Given the choices in your poll, aren't you kinda stacking the deck?"
Dear Barstow: Yes, I forgot to add Gerald Ford. Thanks for reminding me.
A reader from Grand Rapids, Mich., responded to my point that Al Gore had supported the 1991 Gulf War: "What closet are you living in? Gore supported the Gulf War only after he obtained an agreement from Senator Simpson (Alan K. Simpson, then Republican senator from Wyoming) that he could speak on the Senate floor for an hour. The (expletive deleted) sold his soul for an hour of politics."
Dear Grand Rapids: You are probably right, but look where it got him. Few if any in our survey said they wanted Gore as their leader in this war. Still, I try to be fair and thought his vote should be noted.
And if you thought trying to be fair to Gore got me into trouble, just look at the reaction to my suggestion that former President Jimmy Carter -- who scored miserably in our poll of "Who would you want to lead the war" -- nonetheless should have received the Nobel Prize in the 1970s for brokering the Camp David Accords:
A reader in Stewart, Texas: "I enjoyed your article right up to the point I threw up when you advocated President Carter get the Nobel Peace Prize. I 'hurled.'"