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Opinion: An Absolutely Truthful Christmas Card From Congress

This is the message lawmakers wish they could send

If we trimmed back the hyperbole from congressional Christmas cards, Shapiro asks, what would be left? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
If we trimmed back the hyperbole from congressional Christmas cards, Shapiro asks, what would be left? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Long before Donald Trump declared war on “Fake News,” there existed a form of communication so exaggerated and untrustworthy that it united Democrats and Republicans in universal scorn.We are, of course, referring to the annual holiday or Christmas letter, filled with boasts of on-the-job triumphs that make Warren Buffett seem like a piker and tales of marital bliss certain to embarrass Cupid. In these mass mailings, every nine-year-old child is on the fast track to become a Rhodes scholar, and the Instagram snapshots from the family vacation to Disney World will soon be made into a major motion picture.But in this era of media scrutiny and scrupulous fact-checking, members of Congress put themselves at risk by indulging in this end-of-year hyperbole. So let’s imagine how a congressional holiday letter might read if the unnamed legislator actually told the truth:

Dear Donors Who Think They’re Friends,

I guess I better start by explaining why there is no family picture to go with this letter. I was all set to use the one from last year (who’d notice?) when my wife’s divorce attorney told me that reprinting it would cost me in the final settlement. On a congressional salary, what choice did I have?

I guess I could have used a more typical photo of me stuck in a middle seat on a long Thursday night flight back to my district. On these flights, I can’t even move my hands from my lap for fear somebody would claim on Twitter that their elected representative hogs the armrests.

Airlines have gotten so stingy about upgrades. Just my luck that nobody in the caucus supported me for that vacant seat on the House Transportation Committee.

So it’s time to say goodbye to 2017. And that means I’m another year closer to fulfilling my lifelong dream of making seven figures as a lobbyist or a strategic consultant to a D.C. law firm. Admittedly, it would help if I had bothered to go to law school.

With these K Street ambitions, you may wonder why I announced that I’m running for another term in 2018. With a wave election coming, the last thing I want is to be another distinguished — okay, backbench — congressmen trying to make it in the influence-peddling racket in a crowded year.

Often during boring committee hearings (are there any other kind?), I fantasize about my future life as a lobbyist. I get giddy thinking about being free of pushy voters, annoying ethics rules and the ludicrous fiction that I actually live in some far-off small town without a Whole Foods.

I sometimes worry that you, my devoted friends, think I am exploiting you with my constant demands for campaign money. But think of it from my perspective.

Five tedious hours a day sitting in a cubicle at party headquarters begging strangers for money. I guess it’s useful experience if I wanted someday to work in a call center in India.

I’ll be honest, the constant fund-raising gets to me. I had a dream the other night that I ran into Santa as he was coming down the chimney. You know what I asked him? “Do you have a super PAC?”

But even worse is having to make small talk with donors. As if I care about some elderly guy’s lumbago or what some woman just saw on cable TV.

What really kills me are all the questions about why I’m not on TV more. Trust me, it’s not because I’m fighting off bookers from CNN and the Sunday morning shows with a stick.

You’d think there would be more TV demand for a paunchy middle-aged member of the House Agriculture Committee who recites staff-written talking points in monotone. At least C-SPAN sometimes picks up the back of my head when I reluctantly have to leave the gym to go to the floor to vote.

I guess you’re wondering what’s up with my kids, Kendall and Jackson. Let’s just say it’s complicated.

Well, there was that business about the Fourth of July parade. As I’m sure you know, we always march as a family. Or, since I’m getting older, we ride in a borrowed convertible as a family.

This year Kendall pulled a nuclear-war-level temper tantrum (“Who cares about your career? Why can’t I be with my friends today?”) when we got to the parade route. Luckily, my communications director convinced everybody that Kendall was having a bad reaction to the poison ivy she picked up while cleaning litter from a highway.

Jackson, on the other hand, is great with the political stuff. He’s even developing an adult handshake. His problem is that little thing called school. I wonder if I pulled a few strings, I could get a 14-year-old into the Marines.

This has been a historic year in Washington. Or so everybody says on TV. I’ll have to take their word for it, since all I do is vote, dial for dollars, fly back to the district and feel sorry for myself. Even my junket … err … fact-finding mission to Paris got canceled for terrorism reasons.

Here’s hoping you had a good year. In any case, it’s a safe bet that it was better than mine.

And please don’t tell President Trump that I wished you “Happy Holidays.”

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