- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 28, 2001

So, you didn't win the Powerball drawing? Bummer. Neither did I. I could have used the extra cash to pay off some bills, eradicate world poverty and disease. And maybe go to Atlantic City.
But we losers can still feel each others' pain, correct? Besides, think of the taxes.
Meantime to distract you, and maybe restore some of your self-confidence, take this not-so-simple test. The question is which name does not belong in this group:
Joan of Arc, Newman (not Paul, or that Cardinal, just "Newman"), Neil Armstrong, Monica Lewinsky, Cliff Clavin, Linda Tripp, George Washington Carver, Gary A. Condit, Aldrich Ames, Leslie Coffelt and Jimmy Carter.
Mr. Carter (the president between Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, remember?) and Mr. Armstrong should be the best-known. But probably aren't.
Mr. Armstrong was the Grade 14 federal civil servant who, among other things, was the first man to walk on the moon.
Being a bureaucrat, who was covered by the civil service's Blue Cross family option plan when he blasted off from Earth, isn't what you think of when you think first man on the moon.
Carver (like Mr. Carter, a son of the South and an expert on peanuts) is the revered, up-from-slavery, self-taught scientist long associated with improving agriculture, and with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Mr. Condit is a congressman from California (see People magazine).
Mr. Coffelt was a GS 5 White House guard who was killed in the line of duty when terrorists tried to break into the Blair House to kill President Truman.
Ames is a convicted traitor.
Newman, Klaven, Miss Lewinsky and Mrs. Tripp are probably the best-known of the group. Newman and Klaven are not real people, which is why we can identify with them. One played the nutty postal clerk in the TV series "Cheers" while the other played the nutty postal clerk on "Seinfeld."
They are the reason so many of us now prefer e-mail. Or Federal Express.
The other two played White House staffers. In real life. Their TV series, and it will probably happen, won't be called "West Wing."
Anyhow, Mrs. Tripp (see People magazine) and Miss Lewinsky (see People magazine) you probably know. They are real.
Although they worked at the White House, and later at the Pentagon, they are not your ordinary civil servants. Mrs. Tripp is still having problems paying off her legal bills. Miss Lewinsky is selling or designing clothes (see People magazine).
While most Americans identify most civil servants with their jobs, Mrs. Tripp and Miss Lewinsky are best known for activities well outside their official position descriptions, or PDs.
If you're thinking what I think you're thinking, you have very dirty mind. I didn't even think about it that way until I thought maybe you thought … forget it.
The point is we are talking civil servants here. Or at least people closely associated (as in hired, elected, appointed, invented) with the government in some way.
You know Newman and Klaven, the counterfeit but funny postal clerks. But you probably don't know the name of your real-life letter carrier who has, or will, bring you your tax rebate.
The problem is that most Americans can't name a single decent government worker (though most are hard-working, smart and decent) except one who is famous for being out-of-line, off-the-wall or the undigested bit of pudding that inspired a sitcom writer. Unless the rare, honest fed is a neighbor. Or friend. Or relative. A real person, not a face on the screen.
You could add many names to the above list. Like William Faulkner or Albert Einstein. Lots of others. One was a postal employee, the other a government clerk for a time. But we usually never hear about "ordinary" feds until they screw up. Or get their own TV show. Or get killed. Or land on the moon.
Oh, the name that didn't belong on the list. Joan of Arc, you silly. Hey, she was too young to get a civil service job. She's never had her own series. And she was French.


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