Memo To The Media: Federal workers, postal employes, retired civil servants and their families are tired of being kicked around.
They don't appreciate the word "bureaucrat," don't like the image that they are fire-proof drones (they have RIF notices to prove people can and do get canned) and would like to remind politicans and pressies that they are taxpayers, readers, viewers and voters, too.
Civil servants expect (though they don't appreciate it) to be hunted by politicians because kicking bureaucrats is easy. (Like deer, they don't shoot back.)
Feds are accustomed to being berated by members of the public (and lots of times they deserve it). They expect to be pummeled for enforcing some silly, pointy-headed, don't-stick-beans-up-your-nose law or regulation, with the pummeling coming from the senator or representative who probably wrote or approved it.
A couple of years back a federal policeman at National Airport got into hot water because a member of Congress hit him with a car. National is federal property, you see. That means members of Congress, Supreme Court justices and diplomats can park free, close to the terminal, while the dummies who pay for parking get not-so-handy spaces sometimes as far from the terminal as some of the flights, or so it seems.
Anyhow, the cop at National got a good going-over because he asked a gentleman who was illegally double-parked (blocking traffic) to move on. Words, don't-you-know-who-I-am?, were exchanged. The gentleman who happened to be a member of Congress bumped the cop with his car.
Because Congress controls National's budget, the cop got a reprimand from his superiors and was told he was lucky he didn't dent the member's car with his body or he could have been in real trouble.
Feds expect a certain amount of abuse. It goes with the job. Indeed, there are snotty postal clerks who should be boiled in stamp glue for the way they treat patrons--but not many.
There are park rangers who act like field marshals--but not many.
There are Social Security aides who treat customers like idiots--but not many.
All of the above is by way of answering dozens of complaints that came my way because a colleague--whose name and network shall remain nameless--ticked off an awful lot of U.S. workers last week in an evening news show. He was talking about one of the men who dove into the icy Potomac and rescued a half-frozen survivor of the Air Florida crash from almost certain death.
In his report, the TV man noted the act and finished with the well-intentioned comment that the heroic deed was performed "by a bureaucrat, of all things!" His network told irate callers that the comment was meant in praise of civil servants. It probably was. But feds are a little touchy these days. It did not go down well.
Because they are public servants, and because they have some unpleasant jobs to perform, bureaucrats (oops!) get a lot of heat. Reporters, of the pencil and television variety, do too. It goes with the territory. Some of us are clucks--but not many.
The public probably has stronger stereotypes of bureaucrats, politicians, journalists, used car dealers, than of other occupations. Those of us who fall into one of those categories know that the image is nearly always wrong, often blurred.
Veteran that I am, I have never met an editor like Lou Grant, a journalist like Sally Fields or an investigative reporter whose teeth were anywhere near as good as Robert Redford's.
U.S. senators are more apt to look like IBM executives than big-bellied, loud-mouth politicians. A whole lot more of them worry about their kids' grades, their constituents or their weight than about making an extra fast back at the public trough.
My uncle was a used car dealer.