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Robert Bennett: How I came to write a weekly column

Published: Monday, May 28 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Many readers have been kind enough to tell me they enjoy the column and ask me to talk about its origin and my experiences with it. Because I must write this one well ahead of the normal deadline — I will be in Europe when it goes to press — I have decided to depart from normal procedure and respond to those inquiries.

The origin of it was very simple — I was asked to do it. After I had agreed, the folks at the Deseret News told me, "First rule, don't read the comments." So, naturally, I read the comments every week. After four statewide campaigns, I am used to "comments" of every kind.

Those responding to the column, either in person or online, come from all across the spectrum of the voting public, beginning with those who agree with me. Naturally, I always like to hear from them.

Then there are those who ask questions for which they really do want answers. I like to hear from them as well, assuming that they are open minded enough to listen to what I have to say. In politics, there is nothing more satisfying than to be challenged by someone who is willing to change his mind, and then, after a full discussion, see him do it.

Other commenters tell me things that I didn't know. Many of these are not of my political faith. My career and my column writing have been blessed by comments that give me facts of which I was previously unaware, new perspectives I had not previously considered, or both.

Then there are those who have made up their minds that I am wrong even before they have read the column. I used to try to carefully explain to these people why I took the position I did, in an effort to win them over to my side, but I soon learned the best thing to do is simply not to intrude on the certainties which give them comfort.

Finally, there are those who tell me what my motives are. Having uncovered my hidden agenda, they recite it to me in detail. I am corrupt, along with all other members of Congress. We voted ourselves a life pension at full pay and an exclusive gold-plated health-care plan, excused ourselves from paying Social Security taxes and then raised our own pay. Although I have assured them that none of these things are true, and can prove it, I doubt that any of these folks voted for me last time around.

Recently, in the on-line comments section that accompanies the column, where people go back and forth with each other in their reactions to it, one commentor requested that I log on and participate in the discussion. I have considered doing it, but have been reluctant because I think that could be a bit of overkill in behalf of my opinion. Having made my point in the column, I have been content to stand aside as my defenders and attackers each have their say.

However, now that I've raised the subject, I seek some guidance by means of a totally unscientific poll. I would be grateful if those who use the comment section would let me know if you would welcome a post from me from time to time, or prefer that I continue to stay out of it. Please let me know by taking the poll attached to this column. I will consider all views, except for those who think I should stop writing the column altogether. I'm sorry to have to disappoint them, but I'm having much too much fun to do that.

Robert Bennett, former U.S. Senator from Utah, is a part-time teacher, researcher and lecturer at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.

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