The e-mails and letters I receive from readers around the country are truly appreciated -- even the ones that are downright insulting.
They are also instructive. They demonstrate that I am still able to view things from different angles. That's critical for someone who analyzes the public's pulse.
A column from just a few weeks ago on former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed led to some e-mails that called me a traitor to the conservative cause.
In last week's column, I suggested that President Bush may have bottomed out in the polls and that Democrats might be overreaching in their incessant attacks on the White House. Those words earned comments accusing me of being a blindly conservative hack.
These reactions are healthy because public opinion shifts, and objective analysis of it sometimes requires upsetting one side or another.
The following are a few takes on prominent current events. They may help to illustrate how telling it as one sees it can often cut both ways.
In France, rioting Muslims are being portrayed in much media as people whose only distinction is that they have been unfairly neglected by the French government and most of its people.
As rioting continued night after night, news reports finally started pointing out that the rioters were primarily of one religious faith. But the media insistence continues that the main reason for the violence is that the French nation is somehow unwilling to instantly and completely accept and absorb what is now about 10 percent of its population.
This is nonsense. Anyone who knows the makeup of the French population understands that these enclaves of Muslim immigrants never wanted anything to do with France or its effete, secular culture. This song eventually will refrain elsewhere in Europe.
At the same time, some conservative commentators are refusing to admit that some young people among the native French are joining in the unrest because of their anti-everything attitude.
Also, no one wants to admit what polls have long suggested -- the French are finally reaping what they sowed with their longstanding, loose immigration laws and their egalitarian snobbishness.
Here in the United States, Republicans are finally waking up to the fact that we too have the makings of a serious problem from excessive immigration. Even before the French riots, the subject has been weighing more and more on the minds of the public and its political leaders.
It's too late this year, but next year, look for Congress to act on its understanding that America has for too long left the barn door wide open.
France isn't alone in hosting more new people of a foreign culture than it can assimilate. There are places in America where you can't function if you don't speak Spanish.
That's not diversity. It's a lack of common sense by governments local, state and federal.
And don't be fooled. The American public overall isn't wild about the situation.
Meanwhile, in the world of Washington, D.C., there is always turmoil and intrigue. Several days ago, CNN reported extensively on an alleged rift in the White House between President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Here's the likely truth: There is no genuine rift, but there is a genuine need to float that perception. What if Cheney's legal problems should grow? The president might then need to separate himself from his vice president in order to keep governing effectively.
Another widespread perception is true, though. Dick Cheney has controlled this White House from the start -- that's not going to change.
For Cheney fans, that's good news. For his enemies, it may be good, too, if they can make him a useful and perpetual target of widespread political scorn.
Congress is finally starting to "get it" on another important issue -- its out-of-control spending.
It still lacks the needed leadership to engineer the concerted effort required to put the lid on spending. But at least some GOP leaders are now willing to admit that spending has gotten out of control -- something that public opinion polls told the rest of us over a year ago.
Perhaps the biggest worry is that the voters turning out the spendthrift Republicans would empower the historically spend-happy Democrats.
The limits the Democrats put on spending in the 1990s were a direct reflection of GOP pressure that turned the public in favor of fiscal restraint. Now the Republicans need to rekindle that spirit -- and train it on themselves.
Here's one final issue: Why would anyone bother to ask the question, or conduct a poll, on whether the American public approved of Prince Charles' wife's appearance on the royal couple's recent visit to America?
Asking that question invites a comparison of Camilla to the late Princess Diana, and we all know who will win that popularity contest.
The only useful lesson from such a poll is that even the usually fickle public can be consistent on a few issues -- unimportant as some of them may be.
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