Well, I've just answered my last election-connected letter, and I must say: This has not been a Goldwater election year. By that I am referring to the 1964 Barry Goldwater vs. Lyndon Johnson contest for the presidency, when some readers of The Christian Science Monitor were as upset as I've ever known them to be over what they had been reading in our paper about their favorite candidate.
Indeed, our editors in 1964 had even gone so far as to measure the length of stories about these candidates to see to it that the Monitor gave equal play to the contestants. But the angry letters kept pouring in, mostly from fans of Goldwater who felt the Monitor wasn't giving their man a fair shake.
Then came an unsolicited letter-to-the-editor from one of our readers - Barry Goldwater - who was thanking the Monitor for its fairness to him during the campaign. The complaining letters stopped abruptly.
Shortly before this November's election I quipped in my column: "Where are the angry letters?" I was commenting on the general lack of voter interest in the outcome that I was sensing.
Well, that observation sparked a good many letters. But I would describe almost all of them as being more thoughtful than really angry.
Most of the letters came in response to a column in which I had tried to explain why such a large majority of women were going to vote for Clinton: "To me," I had written, "it is very odd that the new tolerance for what could be called breaches of personal morality is coming more from women than from men."
A woman from Ohio writes: "That misses the mark, sir. It [the women's vote] has to do with the issues and the greater public good."
She goes on: "The 'feminine factor' really relates to women's recognized greater unselfed concerns, such as education, the environment, social injustices. In general, male voters have professed and shown their priorities to be capital and profit enhancement, unregulated exploitation of the environment, and their fiercely defended 'right' to guns of any description and purpose."
CRITICS who thought we hadn't been tough enough on President Clinton were more disturbed. Here's a sample from a letter from Texas:
"Heaven help our country if the majority of people of this country choose a president who is unethical, doesn't keep his word, twists the truth, lies, and whose conduct and lifestyle are a terrible role model."
It's interesting that some letter writers with exactly opposite positions on Clinton cited the Bible when underscoring their positions.
Wrote a reader from Massachusetts:
"I think you're too hard on Bill Clinton and overlook the evidence of good character that he does display. Moses murdered a man, yet led the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt and gave us the Ten Commandments. David lusted after Bathsheba; yet as a man he gave us many of the beautiful and inspirational Psalms."
Another reader saw it another way:
"Clinton reminds me of the Bible account of Absalom [David's son] who wanted to be king - so he sat at the gate and everyone that came through the gate with a problem he embraced and said in effect: 'Oh if I were king [reelected president], I would rule in your favor.' "
Finally, I received some letters from readers that I can only describe as "perplexed" - such as this one from Massachusetts:
"Doggone it, Mr. Sperling, if I am forced to choose between (a) a candidate whose personal morals appall me and (b) one whose policies appall me or (c) Ross Perot, is it fair of you to conclude that my weighing of policies for the country over personal morality means that I choose, prefer, or deserve a morally flawed president? I don't see all that many choices out there."