Tom: ‘The duplicity of your 9/11 column is unparalleled. You have classlessly heaped your political bigotry on the backs of 3000 innocent victims. They did not perish so that you might seek partisan advantage. You are worthy of equal parts pity and revulsion.’

☞ Oh, give me a break, Tom. Or else write at least as strong a letter to everyone associated with choosing to hold the 2004 Republican Convention in New York on September 11. (Or was that, in your view, just coincidence?) I know that holding a nationally televised convention can’t compete for importance with a paragraph in my Internet column but still, I can tell you this: it was done with a lot more forethought and motive.

I wrote: ‘No one can rightly blame President Bush for September 11. But I sure wish he hadn’t ignored the direct warning he got January 7, 2001.’ I believe both those sentences are fair. I’m sorry that some found the timing inappropriate.

Tom R: ‘I find that this is a particularly bad day to question Bush’s intentions and effectiveness at protecting us. And I say that, even though I agree with you. I think talk is cheap when we talk about heeding the warnings. Sure, there were dire warnings, but there are many dire warnings every day, as I read in a New Yorker article a few months ago. The problem is that there is too much information to sift through to know which to act on.’

☞ As hard as it is to sift through a thousand dire warnings, what about this: what about when, in your key CIA briefing shortly before you assume office, the head of the CIA sifts through it for you and boils it all down to just two or three really, really important, ‘tremendous,’ ‘immediate’ threats? Would that not catch your attention if you were about to assume responsibility for the safety of 280 million people?

Derek A: ‘To insinuate that Bush could have stopped the attacks is way out of bounds. First off he wasn’t even President on Jan. 7, 2001. Second, the ongoing events of Clinton/Gore?? How many terrorist attacks did it take for Clinton to do anything (overtly) about terrorists?’

☞ It’s true he wasn’t President on January 7. But surely he knew he would be President 13 days later – no?

As for President Clinton’s unsuccessful efforts to deal with bin Laden . . . according to Bob Woodward’s Bush At War, those failed attempts were part of the briefing.

Faced with a ‘tremendous,’ ‘immediate’ threat to the United States, and knowledge of the thus-far failed efforts to avert it, would it not have been your inclination to improve and redouble these efforts rather than shut them down?

Derek continues: ‘One last thing. I am sure you would demand full disclosure of financial analysts on CNBC, but you rarely mention your position with the Democratic national party. This should be stated in EVERY column so readers know where this commentary is coming from. I guess I should not expect such honesty from someone who works for the Clinton/McAuliffe team.’

☞ Busted! I am treasurer of the DNC (as has been disclosed in the site BIO every day for the past four years). That said, I would hate to have anyone think what I write here is ‘official’ in any way. It is not, and none of it is seen by anyone at the DNC before it appears. The truth is, I would be writing the very same things (and would have a lot more time to write them) if I held no such position.


J Sheff: ‘I assume that the current top Federal Tax Rate is as low as I will see it in my lifetime (I’m 62 now and retired). Ditto for state taxes (I live in California). I’m afraid that they may be quite a bit higher in five or six years and after, when I will have to start withdrawing from my tax-deferred accounts for living expenses. If this is the case, would it not be wise to convert as much of my tax-deferred accounts to Roth IRAs as I have cash to pay the taxes in 2003?’

☞ I doubt the top bracket would rise above 40%, and the California rate rise by more than 2%, so the difference will not be huge . . . but why not? It’s basically a way to increase the size of your retirement assets (you are in effect investing more by paying the tax on them now). Especially if the Roth is invested conservatively (e.g., TIPS and such), it could make sense to do this. For eligibility, and other good Roth IRA info, click here.


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