I WROTE THAT the editorial writer who composed the "Yes, Virginia" editorial probably resented being given that chore.
Lucille Ferrari of E. Rochester, N.Y., complained that I took an editorial "conveying love and joy" and "destroyed it and turned it into something sour and ugly." She has a point. At the very least my timing was bad. The column appeared in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on Christmas day.
Wells Mears of Baltimore noted that I called that editorial "the most famous and enduring ever," and asked if I knew anything about the most enduring letter to the editor ever. It was a request from a lady about calculating centigrade from Fahrenheit. Mears said he had read that the letter appeared every day for 18 years and five months in the Paris Herald. I've heard that story, too, but can't actually confirm it.
And then I wrote about race-based scholarships that "Everyon believes there should be more blacks in college."
"I don't," complained a Maryland reader who prefers to be un-named here. "I believe there ought to be more people in college who have earned the right to be there, regardless of their skin color," he said.
Okay. Many people believe there should be more blacks in college.
And then I wrote that "so far as I can tell no California journalist or politician predicted" that Gov. Pete Wilson would name John Seymour to fill out his term in the Senate.
Michael Harris, a fellow editorial writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, responded, "Though John Seymour's appointment came as a surprise to most Californians, Susan Joachum put his name at the head of the list of potential candidates in an article she wrote Nov. 10 in the Chronicle. The fact that your piece ran BTC in the Chronicle in the form that it did is one more piece of sad evidence that people who edit newspapers don't always, or even often, read editorials."
And then I wrote that Congress was belatedly taking up the Persian Gulf issue and implied I thought it was going to fudge the issue.
I was wrong. The debate in the House and, especially, in the Senate, where debaters get more time, was forthright and to the point by most members of Congress on both sides of the party-dividing aisles. With few exceptions it was also eloquent, patriotic, informed, serious and good-spirited. I don't recall anything like it in 30 years of Congress-watching.
I watched some of this debate on public television and listened to some on public radio. I was especially impressed with Sen. Paul Sarbanes and Sen. David Boren, a couple of Rhodes Scholars, who stuck pretty much to current events, and Sen. Robert Byrd, largely self-educated, who ranged back and forth across the history of wars and civilizations in the fashion of the theatrical orators of yore. I closed my eyes and imagined him in a swallow-tailed coat.
Television was supposed to have killed off such oratory. In fact, ,, Byrd's speech was grand television.