Off the short list

Art Buchwald

February 11, 1993|By Art Buchwald

I HAVE lunch occasionally with a female lawyer in a Washington cafeteria. Her name is Maria Tantamount, and last week she was extremely excited ` and it wasn't because there were chicken dumplings on the menu.

"I think that I'm on the short list for a very important job in the Clinton administration," she whispered.

"How important?" I asked.

"It's so important that only a woman is qualified for it. Hillary told Bill that if a lady doesn't get the position, she's moving out of the White House."

"What makes you think that you're a contender?" I wanted to know.

"Because I am the only woman in Washington who has never hired an illegal nanny."

"That's hard to believe," I said. "How come?"

"I don't have any children."

"They're going to have to come to you.

"I don't imagine that you want to tell me what the job is."

"I can't because the FBI is still grilling my parents under a hot light."

A few days later I saw Maria and she was glum.

"What happened?"

"They found out that I signed up for belly-dancing lessons when I was in college."

"That's not a big deal. I know half a dozen women lawyers who did the same thing."

She was practically in tears. "They said that I had done nothing illegal, but if 'Saturday Night Live' ever found out about it, I wouldn't be able to live it down."

I was inclined to agree with her, but I said, "Hang tough. Your defense is that you never danced for money."

She looked at me in a funny sort of way and didn't say anything.

After that I kept on scouring the newspapers, hoping to see Maria's name, but it was never there. The next time I saw her we shared meatloaf and gravy, which was the plate of the day.

"Anything I should know?" I asked.

"I'm falling off the short list. I don't have any anti-trust experience, and most of my practice has been defending defense contractors who cheated the government. They're afraid that I might have to recuse myself from 85 percent of the cases now pending before the Justice Department."

"That's not a lot if you can get convictions in the remaining 15 percent."

"They also found out that my mother worked as a housekeeper to a wealthy South American family in Baltimore."

"What's wrong with that?"

"Not one member of the family had a green card. Everyone, including the great-grandmother, was an illegal."

"They shouldn't hold that against you."

"I'm thinking of withdrawing my name."

"You can't do that," I warned. "If you bow out now, everyone will assume that you did something terribly wrong and you'll have to live with it for the rest of your life."

The last lunch Maria and I had was on Friday, and we ate chipped beef on a shingle.

"I didn't get the job," she said, hardly touching her food. "They gave it to a male lawyer who used to work as a topless waiter in a women's singles bar, and who never paid Social Security taxes for his maid. Apparently when it comes to political appointments women are judged by a higher standard."

"You got a dirty deal," I told her.

"It's worse than that. Each time I walk into a room everyone asks me to belly dance."

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