Santa's presents for Washington politicians

By Colbert I. King
Friday, December 24, 2010; 8:00 PM

In the spirit of the season, and with an outsize desire for transparency, I believe the time has come to disclose a secret that has, amazingly, survived in a city that leaks like a sieve: Santa Claus is a giver of gifts to Washington politicians.

Yes, that jolly old white-bearded fat man, the one decked out in a red coat and trousers, black boots, and leather belt and riding in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, has been calling upon Washington's leaders since the federal government came here from Philadelphia after the Revolutionary War.

This gift-giving to politicians has gone unnoticed because Santa, not wanting to distract from his obligatory concentration on children during the overnight hours of Christmas Eve, surreptitiously visits the domiciles of our nation's leaders in the week leading up to Christmas.

And, it should be noted, Santa fills their stockings without regard to party affiliation or standing in this town's political food chain.

As he does with children, Santa draws his conclusions about bestowing his largess according to behavior - that is, whether would-be recipients have been good, naughty or not the least bit nice. "Good" and "nice," of course, are broadly defined, as they must be when applied to grown-ups.

Still, "naughty" or "nice" determines whether the stockings of politicians are stuffed with gifts or coal.

Unlike with kids, however, Santa doesn't just make a list and check it twice. With Washington pols being the clever little devils that they are, he demands that Mrs. Claus and the elves at the North Pole cross-check his list for evidence of chicanery.

This Christmas Day is no different than the others. Some politicians woke up this morning and squealed with delight when they saw what Santa had left behind. Others took a peek, grumbled and went back to bed.

So how did they make out today? Here are a few of today's results:

The White House is a happy place. President Obama got just about everything on his wish list: a gold-plated replica of the newly ratified New START Treaty, repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, the tax and stimulus package, and, to boot, a taxpayer-provided family holiday in Hawaii. Just for being nice.

Harry Reid's household is all smiles, too. His toys came in the form of a certified scroll that memorialized his come-from-behind reelection victory, and the original white flag waved by the vanquished Senate Republican leadership in the lame-duck session of Congress. Santa is nonpartisan, but he thought Reid, not exactly a warm and fuzzy majority leader, did a rather nice job.

Santa was good to the Senate Republicans who put country above party and joined with Senate Democrats to ratify the START Treaty. The stockings of the 13 GOP senators who voted for ratification were stuffed with thank-you notes from people around the world who don't care to see their globe blown to bits. Santa added a little cash, too, to help them fend off firebrands in their party who are now attacking them as sellouts. Nice folks need campaign money, too.

Vice President Biden didn't send Santa a wish list, but he got a stocking full of goodies anyhow. Mrs. Claus, the elves and Santa believe that Biden is one of Washington's all-around nice guys who do great work without taking credit or taking themselves too seriously.

Santa, always the diplomat, tucked a nice greeting in the stockings of the incoming Republican House leaders, wishing them well and urging them to at least do no harm to the nation.

Among the politicians who woke up this morning, looked in their stockings, found coal and ashes, and immediately returned to bed were:

Santa also bestowed some of his fanciest gifts upon Mayor Adrian Fenty and Mayor-elect Vince Gray for the classy way in which they handled the transition.

Santa Claus is now back at the North Pole. But he's sure to return next year. Will Santa find a naughtier or nicer Washington?

© 2010 The Washington Post Company