A few days ago I wrote about broadcaster Pat Buchanan and his habit of not letting other members of a discussion panel finish a sentence.
Reader response has been interesting.Rosalie M. Biggs of Springfield wrote: "Thank goodness someone said it! When Channel 9 began that program, I was delighted at the idea of hearing healthy give-and-take among people of different views. I made it a point not to miss the program.
"But as time went by, it became increasingly clear that Mr. Buchanan had not the slightest interest in any kind of discussion on any topic. He seemed to consider the program his own private podium.
"Gradually I became discouraged and shortened my viewing time. The last time I watched was the night you referred to.
"One does not have to watch a person who is rude and boorish toward others under the guise of participating in a discussion.
"There are such things in the world as courtesy, listening and showing respect for others, but there is a great shortage of these qualities."
A somewhat different view of the matter was taken by Gertrude Wannall of Silver Spring who wrote:
"I hve been a fan of yours for something over 28 years (at which time we were both young and you addressed our PTA meeting at Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park).
"I don't always agree with everything you say, but more often than not I find my head bobbing up and down in agreement.
"This morning, for the first time, I found myself really annoyed by something you wrote. I rather like Pat Buchanan. Your criticism of him as a 'motormouth' didn't bother me at all, but to characterize Drinan as a 'philosophical priest' who lost patience only under great provocation is to lend an aura of sanctity to one of the most objectionable left-wing political creatures this country has ever known.
"His use of his priesthood to push his radical views and browbeat anyone who differs from his opinions is a disgrace.
"Had you ever been privileged to hear his diatribes during committee hearings when he was a congressman, you might not have felt so outraged by his put-down by Buchanan.
"I know that your reply would be that, word for word, you could stand by your statements in today's column. But your inference that Drinan was a persecuted innocent was unmistakable and nauseating."
Anna Mittleman of McLean sums up for the majority. She wrote: "Thank you so much for your column about the behavior of Pat Buchanan on the TV show with Father Drinan.
"It was despicable and I was very happy to see that it was put in print.
"Buchanan gets away with murder, especially on WRC on his show with Braden. His wit and humor are lost when compared to his rudeness. I have stopped listening to the WRC show and it was only to hear Father Drinan that I tuned in to the TV show."
Inasmuch as I commented in the original column about Buchanan's intelligence, quick wit and quicker tongue, there is no need for me to repeat those opinions. But I would like to make several fresh comments:
I did not feel outraged, nor did I express outrage. I limited myself to the restrained observation that interrupting others in mid-syllable "is rather generally thought to be unfair and ill-mannered."
When I am outraged, I say so. You don't have to guess.
I accept responsibility for what I write, not for that which readers think I might have written or should have written. I try to choose my words with care to minimize the need to defend carelessly chosen words.
I did not call Father Drinan a philosophical priest, I wrote, "Even a philosophical priest can lose patience."
I did not pass judgment on anybody's political views. The subject was Buchanan's debating technique -- his interruptions that deny opponents a chance to be heard. Drinan's liberal views were not pertinent.
When everybody talks at once, the listener doesn't know what is being said by anybody. The views expressed may be brilliant, but they're as useful as a hand-knitted Thermos bottle.
If panelists would learn to yield the right of way to the mouth on the right, listeners would have a better chance of following, understanding and profiting from the discussion.