Weekly Column

POTUS perfect model to

lead philanderer Congress

by William Gibson White



"There is no distinctly American criminal class—except Congress."  —Mark Twain


            When I worked as a supervisor in The Washington Post composing room, many interesting tramp printers showed up for a night's work. I got to know them pretty well if they took a situation (job). One was a World War II Marine, Francis, so as Marines we had much in common. He had just retired from the Government Printing Office (GPO) and gave me insight into the criminal class mentioned in Mark Twain's quote.

            "Bill, have you ever considered working for the GPO? Retirement is great and with all the overtime—you can make a lot more money there."

            "I never thought of that. You think they'd hire me."

            "With three years active military service and a college degree, you're a cinch. Why don't I take you down and give you the tour."

            "I'd appreciate that."

            Located at 732 North Capitol Street Northwest, it looked like a huge warehouse painted navy-gray with a flat roof. It reminded me of a large Camp Pendleton mess hall. A guard sat at a desk in the lobby checking employees in and out. Francis got us visitors' passes.

            We went to the proof room first. When Francis introduced me around, I didn't see one smiling face.

            "Aren't these printers happy?" I asked.

            "Maybe they're just bored," Francis said. "The drill is: your partner reads as you both follow copy for an hour and then you switch."

            "For eight hours? I think that might drive me nuts."

            "It's good money with the overtime." You learn a lot about how the government works—or doesn't work. It was an eye-opener when Congress was in session, and we printed the Congressional Record."

            "I'd bet that would be interesting," I said.

            "Yeah, especially when a congressman decides to change what he actually said in that session."

            "What? They can do that?"

            "Of course. They make the laws and can do whatever they like."

            The rows of Linotypes ended at what looked like a barred door in a military prison. An armed soldier stood guard. Beyond that there were more Linotypes manned by operators.

            "What's that?"

            "Where top-secret typesetting is done. Before you can work there you'll have to be investigated by the FBI, NSA and any number of government agencies."

            "Wow! Sounds interesting. I wonder what they work on."

            "Embassy printing, manuals for secret military weapons, proposed foreign policies, is all I can tell you without going to federal prison. To work in this area, you have to sign a pledge not to reveal anything specific you have seen."

            "That piques my interest."

            "We'll get you an application on the way out."

            I hung on to it for a while. Then, just for the heck of it, I filled out the eleven-page application and mailed it in.

            I'd forgotten about it, until a few months later, when my sister, Lucy, called. "Mama is upset. What have you done? The FBI has been asking questions about you."

            "It's about that bank I robbed in Arlington," I said. "Don't tell them anything. They can't prove a thing!"

            "Knock it off, Billy. Mama'sworried. You don't have to put up with her like I do. What's going on?"

            "I applied for a job at the Government Printing Office. I guess they have to check me out. Just don't tell Mama about my bank job."

            She laughed. "Goodbye, I'll send you a cake with a file in it."

            Six months later, I was hired at the GPO as a proofreader. I had three months to decide if I really wanted to work there.

            I'm glad I didn't!

            Why? Advance knowledge about what our elected officials do would not have been good for my mental health. It's worse today because they are led by a man who bragged on tape about his sexual abuse of women. Plus, a politician running for the senate with a history of abusing young girls has full support of his party! Now I wonder how long it will be before Congress makes pedophilia and sexual abuse perfectly legal for everyone?

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