Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sergeant at Arms!

There are many disparate pieces that must fit into the structure of the machine known as the bureaucracy: procedures, protocols, regulations, organizational structures, as well as the rituals and beliefs that are sometimes known as the core values. But the most important part of any bureaucracy are the human components known as bureaucrats. And when that bureaucracy is Congress, these cogs can be bigger than life.

Meet Terrance W Gainer, Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the United States Senate, not a man to be trifled with since he is in sole possession of certain specially vested powers.

"You can call me the Marshall Dillon of the Senate," quips Gainer. "I worked my way up from the Chicago police department to the U.S. Capitol police, and now here I am, Sergeant of Arms for the Senate, with all the remarkable power that the title endows."

"Did you know that I can request the attendance of any absent Senators? How awesome is that? Of course, in actual practice they can just turn down my request, that is if I can get hold of them to begin with, which you usually can't because they just have some aide answering the phone and covering for them. Still, it's a lot of fun and these days I make a show of it, march right up to the podium and request the presence of the esteemed Senator So-and-So. It's a job perk."

"I also have the power to arrest any person that violates the Senate rules. Never done it. You've got to have the Senate approve it by a two thirds majority before you can so much as reach for your handcuffs. The last Sergeant at Arms to make an arrest was David S Barry, back in 1926. He arrested two Senators for attending a session drunk. I know what you're thinking, the Senate usually takes a laissez-faire attitude on that sort of thing, but this was back during Prohibition and those guys were setting a bad example."

"Now I've got one duty that I do perform all the time - holder of the gavel. I hate it. A grown man standing there holding the danged gavel until the majority leader decides to start the session? Seriously, I think you could bring in an intern who would be more than thrilled to do that."

"What did I do today? Glad you asked... It was not an uneventful day. I held the door open for President Obama. You know, that's part of my job description, Doorkeeper of the United States Senate, but most people don't understand the scope of that particular duty. I don't open the door for just anybody, just the president and dignities of the highest magnitude. Sometimes these big shots treat you like crap. As you can see in this picture, Obama blocks half my face from the camera. As president, that's his prerogative. But do I have to open the door for Vice President Biden? Hell no, he's president pro tempore of the Senate, so no dice. That's still Senate, and these Senators have to open their own doors, so they can remain in touch with the common man. The Queen of England, the Prime Minister of Russia, whatever, as long as it's included in the Senate Doorman rules of protocol. Although, I must stress, I have my own discretion as an option."

"Funny story. After John McCain lost his presidential bid a couple years ago, I thought it would be a nice gesture if I opened the door for him on the first day he returned, which I did, and everyone applauded. Very nice bureaucracy, the Senate. But the next day, he came into the Capitol and just stood there waiting outside the door. I marched right up to the podium and announced 'John McCain, your attendance is requested'. Hey, I may be collegiate, but I'm not subservient."

"Last year, I opened the door for Bono when he came to testify about epidemic disease relief in Africa. I thought, now the kids are going to realize just how hip their old man is, but hey'd never even heard of him. I don't know, maybe if it was Lady Gaga, I'd get a little more respect."

1 comment:

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